§ Mr. Brougham
said:— In rising to submit to the House the proposition of which I gave notice last night, I feel the anxiety naturally to be expected in an individual who, in the absence of a more powerful advocate, undertakes to call the attention of the House to one of the most important subjects that has ever been brought forward. At almost any other period, and with almost any ordinary measure, so far from regarding the motion with which I shall conclude as matter of argument and grave moment, I should rather have considered it a mere matter of course. In all common cases it seems to have been consistent with the forms and practice of the House, and befitting its wisdom and its justice, never to condemn any party until they have been heard. If accusation has been brought forward, the course, I apprehend, has been, not to refuse the party an opportunity of refuting what had been laid to his charge. But, from some symptoms of a disposition to hurry and impetuosity, which I fancied I discerned in the manner in which the measure against the Catholic Association was propounded, my mind has received 545 the most painful impression, that the pro-position I am about to make, instead of being conceded as a matter of course, is about to be resisted with as much pertinacity as any the most controverted part of the question. I find to my unspeakable astonishment, that some hon. gentlemen are not satisfied with having made up their minds upon a hasty, in part refuted, in part corrected, statement offsets, the only basis upon which the measure can be rested at all, are determined to go still further, and to refuse to be convinced. When the facts adduced ate proposed to be investigated—when the parties charged demand an inquiry—when the accused come before you, and say, "Strike, but hear!" those same hon. gentlemen who so readily swallowed the statement, already found capable of disproof to a great degree, even without inquiry, are prepared to go much further, and to say, "Decide against you we will, but hear we will not. "This one sentence is the cause of the alarm and anxiety I feel; for I cannot disguise my conviction, that a question of more fearful import never was submitted to parliament, if the House shall be disposed immediately and at once to reject the prayer of the petitioners. Good God! are you to resist the prayers of six millions of people who claim an opportunity of vindicating themselves from unjust aspersions? Are you to throw the doors of this House wide open for the hearing of private complaints— to allow counsel and witnesses in matters of comparatively small moment— and in this great case, to convict, sentence, aye and execute at once, without trial? I cannot bring myself to believe that this House will incur so frightful a responsibility. Then, let us look to the situation in which we are placed. I propose attempting once again to go into this great and portentous subject; and I derive to myself even a sort of encouragement from this circumstance, that the more monstrous the alternative, the more impossible for me to believe that I shall find it adopted. And, notwithstanding the time and attention which this House has devoted to this subject, notwithstanding that night after night petitions have been presented, and discussion has taken place in every stage of this ill-omened measure, it is my opinion, that further discussion is necessary, because the question I am now about to submit, with all the earnestness which I think the importance of its reception, and the tremendous conse- 546 quences of not granting this demand, call for, seems to me to stand clear from all other questions upon the merits of the bill. If this bill is to pass, I should be most anxious to pave the way for it by hearing the parties at the bar. The more important the question—the more dreadful the consequences—the more anxious do I feel to adopt this course; because, if you bring in the measure after this, you take away all possibility of cavil from 3'our door, and prevent any man from saying, that you have condemned the Catholic body unheard; because these rights of the Catholics can only be consistently abridged and taken away upon the ground of facts. Facts have been stated to exist; but I am authorized to tell this House, that there is a cloud of witnesses ready to disprove them. This is not like any ordinary question with respect to foreign trade. It is unlike a question as to the consolidation of the Excise and Custom laws, or any other question on which a man who reads the statutes on the subject would be sufficiently informed. It is not like the abuses in the court of Chancery. And here came in the argument as to notoriety. When the hon. member for Lincoln presented his statement as to the abuses in the court of Chancery, he laid facts before the House, and backed those facts with all those powers of eloquence, ingenuity, and ridicule, which belong to him. Is it not too much, then, to refuse the admission of facts on the present occasion? The Catholics of Ireland are anxious to meet this question fairly. They have got evidence to contradict the allegations against them; and they authorise me to tell this House, that they have a cloud of evidence, parole and documentary, with which they are ready to substantiate every particular of their most crying wrongs. It is much, then, to refuse to hear them. It is much, on the statement of an individual, pledging himself that he is so authorised to produce evidence, to say "we must go on; we don't care one rush for your evidence; a delay of even forty-eight hours would be dangerous; we don't want to see these petitions; we have ill-treated the Catholics—we had rather not come face to face with them—we have done them harm enough already—we are determined to carry the bill, and therefore we will add insult to injury." Sir, I entertain no manner of doubt, that if you open your doors to this evidence, you 547 will shut them to this bill. Now, Sir, example is worth more than reasoning; and, I think I can shew you, that even a slight subject may admit of a good deal of light. The House cannot forget the choice collection of facts introduced by the right hon. gentleman. In the case of Hanley the soldier, when I first heard of it, I understood it was a case of prosecution by the Association, overwhelming this poor man by a combination of all the weight and influence of the Catholic body, and supported by the purse formed by the Catholic rent. That was the gist of the argument; and when you were told that all this religious feeling was armed against him for the purpose of overwhelming him, would not every man in his senses have supposed that Hanley was both a Protestant and an Orangeman? I never doubted it for a moment; but, Sir, he was a Catholic and an Irishman. The Association prosecuted this Catholic for administering unlawful oaths; and thus, you see, how good it is to inquire into facts, and not rush ignorantly into opinions and measures when evidence can be adduced; and I challenge the strictest inquiry—I invite the closest cross-examination. When that evidence is thoroughly sifted, I pledge myself to quiet the assertion that the Association is decidedly hostile to the church establishment. So far from that being so, the most eminent individuals among those who compose that Association, however sincere their love may be for their religion—how much so ever they may smart under the established church, deprecate the idea of transferring one tithe part of one tithe sheaf from the Protestant to the Catholic hierarchy. Why, Sir, this speaks volumes. Now, these are samples of the evidence we are prepared to produce; and I desire to be distinctly understood, that there is no pretence for saying that delay is our object—that we wish to postpone the second reading. I desire it to be understood that the witnesses are all here in London. Between twenty and thirty of them have already arrived, and before the House has gone through the examination of them the rest will be here. It is not to make a speech that they come here. The most splendid talents have never been denied them. But, it is not to hear them declaim, or to hear them reason, that they wish to come to the bar of this House; but to clear their conduct; to explain their motives; to vindicate their Associa- 548 tion; to vindicate their countrymen; and to maintain their own religion; all which have been aspersed. These are the objects they have in view. But, however unwilling you may be to hear them clear themselves at your bar, I am morally certain, if you acquiesced in the prayer of their petition, that you would come out of the inquiry much better satisfied with yourselves; and those who represent the Catholics would depart from your bar, whether successful or not, carrying to their countrymen, affection, gratitude, and delight at your treatment of them. With this measure, all that you can do is to gag the people of Ireland. You increase their penal disqualifications, while you refuse them justice. I am not now talking in the language or spirit of party; but I ask when, in the history of this country, had you a better opportunity of conciliating the Catholics? You have the most distinguished members of the Association; you have, in fact, all the Catholics of Ireland offering to solemnise a compact of conciliation. If you refuse to accede to this proposition, you incur consequences which the youngest man among you may live to deplore. It may be well for you to wish to get rid of this Association. It may be well for lord Liverpool not to see Mr. Macdonnell; though one day he receives the Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries, another day the Secretary of the Bible Society, another day the Secretary of the Society of Arts, and several others, no one of which, with the exception of the Society of Arts, is chartered, any more than the Catholic Association. Now, Sir, I cannot help thinking, that this will be the greatest mistake that ever you committed: even greater than the one you committed in 1776. You did not then know the character of Dr. Franklin. You did not then know that he enjoyed the confidence and regard of his countrymen. The principal charge now is, that these men are unanimously chosen as the representatives of the Association. We know they represent the Association; but the Association virtually represents the Catholic body. And that, you say, is the reason why they must be put down; but I say, when they are known to possess the confidence of the Catholics you ought to be glad of an opportunity of making a treaty with Ireland, through the medium of these men. This may be done easily and speedily, if you hear their statement. If you examine evidence, one of two 549 things will of necessity happen; either you will grant the prayer of the petition, or you will reject it; but you will reject it, after a kind and consolatory process. Now, Sir, I am here met with one objection. I am told there is no precedent. For myself I fairly say, that, that circumstance would not abate the fervour of my resistance, because, in my opinion, it is an unprecedented case. Because it is a new case, the necessity to resist it is the greater. We lost America by following a precedent. In 1776, what took place with respect to the Stamp act? That was a case of petitions against the Stamp act, which was a general law. Those petitions came from the Americans abroad and in London, and were referred to a committee of the whole House. An examination took place in 1776, when the memorable testimony of Dr. Franklin was given. That examination ended in the repeal of the odious law. So that the House not only examined witnesses; but that examination was followed up by the repeal of the obnoxious measure. Afterwards various petitions and remonstrances were presented against the Boston Port bill. The learned gentleman here read an extract from the Journals of the House of Lords, expressive of the motives which induced the House not to accede to the prayer of the petition. He also read the protest of lord Fitzwilliam, the duke of Portland, and lord Rockingham, on that occasion, and proceeded to the following effect:—Dr.Frank-lin, who was here at that time, says, in one of his letters to his friends, "My object is to save the glorious fabric of the British empire from being destroyed by these calumniators," &c.; and those who preached up in those days, the governing of men by their affections, were held as fanatics, wholly unworthy of attention. The consequence was, the prayer of the petition was rejected, and an eminent man was maltreated. This, with other causes, had led to the great struggle between that country and this; and it was not until seven or eight years afterwards, and after thousands of lives had been lost in the struggle, that the government of this country awoke to its right senses, and that, as my hon. friend, the member for Westminster, had said, the brightest jewel was plucked from the British crown. For my part, I cannot but rejoice that so magnanimous a spirit was then shewn to the world on the other side of the 550 Atlantic—that millions of freemen were found unanimously struggling for liberty— and that so noble an instance was then put forth of a great community governing themselves freely and economically without tyranny either in church or state—a people uniting a degree of magnanimity with their acts of legislation, to be paralleled by nothing that was to be met with in modern times, and which went near to wipe oft' the stains that had blemished the name of a republic. Sir, I do think that these precedents are sufficient for my case; but if they be too remote, there are precedents in point within the recollection of the youngest member of the House. We can all recollect the Orders in Council of 1808, on which counsel were heard at the bar of the House, and where I had the honour of appearing before I had a seat within these walls; and though I then failed for the petitioners, it was not without its good, for great was the experience I gained on this subject from that circumstance when I had the good fortune, some time after, to destroy those very orders. I call on you, for the same reason, to admit the evidence now offered at your bar. It will throw the light we want on the situation of the people of Ireland, and give them an opportunity of ascertaining the feelings and intentions of parliament towards them. It will awake, for the first time, a mutual sympathy between us and them. Here are we, the representatives of the people of England-there are they, the representatives of the Catholic community of Ireland. Let us for the first time become acquainted with each other's feelings, wants, and power, and I promise you, Sir, that the result will be, to banish doubt and discontent, and to create better and much kinder feelings between the two countries. Surely the House should not oppose this hearing. All that I ask is, that the same favour should be bestowed on six millions of Roman Catholics that was granted to the hawkers and pedlars of England. Let them, as the hawkers and pedlars have been, be heard by their counsel and witnesses. The cases are not altogether opposed to each other. Each party came before the House complaining of grievances, and I find, in the petition of the hawkers, a sentence that might have been, with propriety, copied into the present petition:—"Your petitioners have heard, with the utmost astonishment and afflic- 551 tion, that there is a bill before your House for their utter extermination, untried, unheard, and uncondemned: we claim, therefore, as our birthright, and as free citizens of the state, to be heard by counsel and witnesses. "Now, that is the exact case of the Roman Catholics of Ireland. In 1785, you admitted counsel for the hawkers and pedlars of the country. All I ask for the people of Ireland is, that you grant them a similar indulgence. Let me implore both sides of the House to take up this petition with temper and moderation. Let us forget all animosities on the subject. Let it be recollected, in the course of this debate, that the present opportunity is given to us for the happiest purposes. Let us look upon it as a God-send, which if we lose we may never regain. And, whether we pass the bill or reject it, the safest way to pass it, as well as the only ground upon which to reject it, is to examine into the truth of the representations on which it is founded. If you hear these men personally, become familiar with their wrongs, and obtain all the information necessary on the subject, from the examination of witnesses at your bar, whether you pass this bill or not, you will lay the foundation of a lasting, and, in every respect, unexceptionable conciliation. I move, Sir, "That the Roman Catholic Association be heard by themselves, their counsel or agents, and witnesses, at the bar of this House."
objected to the motion, on the general principles of the usage which affected all these questions. The learned gentleman appeared to suppose that the opposition to his motion would arise from a desire on the part of ministers to press the bill with unusual speed. He hardly thought that a fair conclusion, after the patience that had been exhibited during the protracted debate of four nights, and though he did not attach any blame to those gentlemen who had so prolonged the debate, yet, he might fairly use it as an argument, to shew that there was no inclination in government to press the bill. Even after that debate, the second reading had not been immediately pressed, but a notice of a week had been given, and at the suggestion of the learned gentleman, a further delay had been consented to. The chief complaint of the petitioners was, that they were to be condemned unheard; but, if he had found 552 in the bill one tittle, that applied more to the Catholics than it did to the Protestants, it would never have obtained his vote. It was a general measure, and by no means applied to the Catholic Association in particular. It was his wish that all Associations should be put down, which under the garb of religion, were, in fact nothing but bodies instituted for political purposes. If they were allowed to exist in Ireland, that country would be still more divided than it was at present, and what they had hitherto witnessed would be trifling to what was to come. The learned gentleman had alluded to a local measure respecting the states of America, that they had been without their representatives; so likewise, with respect to the Catholics, it might be said that they had no actual representation, but surely there could not be a doubt that there were very many members of that House willing to support their claim. With respect to the precedent that had been cited of the hawkers and pedlar's petition, that had reference only to certain individuals; and in the same manner, if the present bill had only reference to the Catholic Association, that would have been a ground for the House to have exercised its discretion upon. An instance more in point was, the bill that had been introduced to regulate polling at elections. The electors of Westminster had, on that occasion, requested to be heard by counsel, but Mr. Pitt had opposed the prayer of the petition, on the ground, that there was nothing to affect their election more than that of any other place throughout the country. He had been the more surprised at hearing the arguments of the learned gentleman, than he should have been from any other person; for it was scarcely three years ago when he (Mr. W.), having occasion to present a petition from a person in behalf of other persons who were not able to petition for themselves, being in a state of slavery; on which occasion the learned gentleman had objected to the petition, observing, that if such a prayer were granted, any person might come forward with a similar claim, as representative of the people of England. With respect to the case of Hanley, he did not know whether that person was a Catholic or a Protestant —whether he was guilty or not guilty— but he did know that it was a subversion of the rightsand privileges of the British people for any body of men to express an 553 opinion on a case before it had come before a jury, who were bound by oath to be unbiassed in their decision. He did not rest his opinion on the private statement of facts, but on the public declaration which had been made, that one of the objects of which was to interfere with the administration of justice. He did not care whether the cases selected by that society were well chosen or ill chosen; his grand objection was to any Institution protecting one class of men and persecuting another. He would not therefore press into his service any of the facts that had been urged in the course of the preceding debate, contenting himself with the simple declaration that had been made, persuaded, that if that Association were allowed, other Associations must be allowed, which, if they were nothing at present, would shortly become real in their operations, and be multiplied tenfold throughout the country. It was upon these grounds that he formed his opinion, that no statement of facts would be sufficient to alter his feelings on the question. He thought that the House was bound to follow up what had already been done, by an act applying directly to Ireland; and that if it conceded to the prayer of the petition, the same privilege might be claimed by every Orange lodge throughout Ireland.
§ Sir Joseph Yorke
observed, that though he had not been accustomed to speak on the affairs of Ireland, he had thought much about them. If, indeed, the learned gentleman could prove to him, that by hearing counsel, the two countries would shake hands, never to separate, he would sacrifice every thing to such a result; but he had happened to hear the same thing repeated many times these thirty years, and had never yet witnessed any effects springing from it; neither did he think, that if it were rejected, it would cause any sensation in Ireland. In 1798, during the disturbances in Ireland, he had commanded a frigate off Cape Clear, for the purpose of preventing foreign supplies being landed on that island; and it had been observed to him, that that country would never be quiet until it had been twenty-four hours under water. In fact, much had been done for Ireland. Out of the fifty-four millions that were raised for the support of the state, only one-seventeenth part fell upon her; and a few years ago, when her population was in a state of starvation 500,000l. had been subscribed 554 for her out of the pockets of the English. Still, however, the Irish people were discontented; but they were told, that if they would grant them thirty representatives and allow two or three of them to fill offices in the state, they would be contented. He believed no such thing. He did not think the Roman Catholics cared two bad potatoes for such relief. He was willing to take the cabinet's word for the necessity of the present measure. Ministers had a better opportunity of ascertaining the true state of Ireland than he had; if they said that such a measure was necessary, he should feel satisfied that he was giving a right vote in supporting the bill.
was certainly surprised at what had fallen from the last speaker, though he was at the same time glad to know to what lengths he was inclined to go, knowing, as he did, how good a heart the gallant admiral possessed. It appeared to him, that the measure about to be adopted was extremely ill suited to the time, and he began entirely to despair for that ill-fated people, though he begged leave to inform the gallant admiral, that the manner in which he had supported the bill was not one for which the right hon. Secretary for Ireland would thank him. It was not the language that had been used by that right hon. gentleman, nor by the Attorney-general for Ireland, nor by the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, whose opinion must be taken in some degree as to the justice necessary for the Catholics of Ireland. He did not mean justice in its fullest extent, but the justice that was to be allowed by the Protestants to the Catholics of Ireland. Had the Catholic Association done nothing more than the promoting the present inquiry, it would have done much for its suffering country. It had been urged against them, that they had used every method to call the attention of government, and, was this to be a reason for not attending to their prayers? He thought that, instead of finding fault with such endeavours, they were rather deserving of the highest praise at the hands of the House, for their continued exertions. He had not been aware that the gallant admiral had been engaged in the cruizing party off Ireland; but such being the case, he could not but think it was a pity that his cruizing had not been to a little more purpose, for the French, in spite of all the skill displayed by the gallant 555 admiral, had contrived to effect a landing. His learned friend had very naturally supposed, that the right hon. President of the Board of Control would arm himself with precedents; but, the precedents which had been cited by that right hon. gentleman were just as good as those of the right hon. Secretary; that is, they were equally worthless and irrelevant, "Et tu vitulâ dignus, et hic." Some objection had been taken to hearing the friends of a party on a particular question. In this case, however, it was not the friends of the party, but the party themselves, who sought to be heard. When this measure was first alluded to by the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, he distinctly stated, that he did not consider the Association as representing, even virtually, the people of Ireland; and yet the Secretary for Ireland, and the Attorney-general for Ireland, founded the whole of their arguments on the presumption, that the people of Ireland and the Catholic Association were so firmly knitted together, that without putting one down it was impossible to maintain the other in subjection. He would ask, whether any man in that House was bold enough to say, that he was cognizant of what had really taken place in the Catholic Association? It was well known that the Irish Attorney-general had prosecuted Mr. O'Connell for words reported to have been spoken in that assembly; and though he must have possessed every means of ascertaining the truth, he could not get a Protestant, and probably an Orange Grand Jury to find a bill against that individual. Under such circumstances, could any case be more worthy of examination than that which the petitioners now sought to have fully investigated at the bar of that House? His learned friend had alluded to a parallel case, when the late king recommended the parliament to take measures for suppressing certain proceedings that had taken place in the province of Massachusetts, which were subversive of the allegiance due from that state to this country. There was a curious circumstance connected with the discussion on the king's Speech, which took place on that occasion, which he begged leave to state to the House. A gentleman on the ministerial side of the House produced a resolution of the assembly of Massachusetts, which was unquestionably of a rebellious character. After some 556 strong obvervations had been made on that resolution, Governor Pownall asked, whether it would not be as well to ascertain whether that resolution had ever been passed; and although he pledged himself to prove that no such resolution had been passed, the usual address in answer to the king's Speech was carried at four in the morning; from which address might be dated the downfall of the British empire in America. Let the House pause, therefore, before they proceeded to pass a measure of restriction and coercion against the people of Ireland, upon a mere allegation of words spoken during the heat of public discussion. The right hon. gentleman opposite had said a great deal with respect to the effect of the Catholic Association, in interfering with judicial proceedings and prejudging the cases of individuals, who might be prosecuted by its influence. The most erroneous notions prevailed, however, with respect to what was called prejudging the cases of individuals. What was the constant practice of parliament? In the case of the Manchester riots, were not the character and conduct of Mr. Hunt canvassed again and again in the most inflammatory discussions, months before he was brought to trial? In cases of libel, where a criminal information was filed, was not the opinion of four Judges, that the writing in question was a libel, published in all the newspapers, and could it be doubted that that opinion frequently had a great effect upon the jury when the individual was brought to trial? The coroner's inquest, the finding of a bill by the grand jury, the ordering of a prosecution by that House—all these proceedings were, to a certain degree, prejudgments. The character which had been given by the Attorney-general for Ireland himself of those who now sought to be heard at the bar of that House, was a strong reason for granting the prayer of their petition. He had not only applauded the Catholic Association generally, but had pronounced a special panegyric on the distinguished individual of that Association who now demanded to be heard by that House. The true reason for refusing the prayer of these petitioners was, that government had already made up their minds to pass the iniquitous measure. This was evident from the conduct of lord Liverpool, in refusing to see Mr. Eneas Macdonpell, who had requested an interview with him 557 on behalf of the Catholic Association. The fact was, that the bill was resolved upon at the time of that application. The conduct of his majesty's ministers reminded him of that of the Abbé Vertot, who when he had shewn his account of the siege of Rhodes in manuscript to a friend, and that friend had pointed out to him several palpable inaccuracies and misrepresentations in it, replied, "Je n' en doute point, et j'en suis faché, mais que voulez vous? Je l'ai fait." So the error was already committed; the wrong was already resolved upon by his majesty's ministers, and they were determined not to retrace their steps. He had not heard a single instance cited on the other side of the House, in which the prayer of a petition similar to that now before the House had been rejected. He implored the House, therefore, to pause before they proceeded to pass, without inquiry, a bill pregnant with danger to the best interests of the empire. The descent was easy, but a return might be impossible.
contended, that no sufficient ground had been shown for acceding to the prayer of the present petition; and that it ought not to be acceded to if it could be proved that there was such a basis of facts as warranted the House in legislating against the Catholic Association. Now, there were many facts which were admitted, or which no attempt had been made to deny. In the first place, his hon. and learned friend opposite had admitted, that the Association virtually represented the people of Ireland. Next it had not been denied, that the avowed purpose for which the Association had been formed, was the redress of all grievances, local or political, which affected the Catholics of Ireland. Consequently, the existence of a body acting not indeed in form, but virtually and substantially, for the redress of all local and general grievances, was a fact admitted on both sides. The hon. member for Westminster had taunted the government with legislating upon a mere allegation of words spoken; but this he denied. The resolutions of the Association, which had been ventilated through all parts of Ireland, furnished decisive evidence of this fact. In the next place it had been substantially admitted that the Catholic Association had appropriated to themselves a perfect financial character; for he considered the distinction which had been taken between 558 finances raised through the medium of taxation, and those raised by way of voluntary contribution, to be flimsy and nugatory. Another point which had been admitted was, that it was one of the objects of the Association to interfere in judicial proceedings, in behalf of any Catholic, whose case they might consider entitled to such interference. All these admitted facts furnished a sufficient gravamen on which to build the present measure. He begged leave to classify these data; and first, with respect to the interference of the Association in judicial proceedings. It was admitted, that the funds raised for this purpose were collected throughout Ireland, and that almost every Catholic contributed his quota. This contribution was of itself sufficient to incapacitate any man so contributing, from acting as a juror, in any case where a Catholic might be concerned. He would suppose a case, where the Association might declare that a murder had been committed by a soldier. In such a case it would be a sufficient ground of challenge against any man who might be called to serve as juror, that he subscribed to such an Association. Every roan subscribing to the Association would, in any case, civil or criminal, where the Association had taken up the case of a Catholic, be not only indirectly, but directly interested, and consequently incapable of acting either as a juror or a witness [Here Mr. Brougham expressed dissent]. His learned friend might or might not adopt his (the Solicitor-general's) opinions; he (the Solicitor-general), however, did not mean to go the length of saying, that the fact of having subscribed to such an Association would in all cases, civil as well as criminal, affect the competence of a witness. But, if the admissibility of jurors and witnesses were affected from this cause, it was equally impossible that magistrates connected with such an Association, could act as fair and impartial judges in any case where the Association had espoused the cause of a Catholic. The consequence would be, that in all questions affecting Catholics, no persons subscribing to this Association could act as jurors, witnesses, or magistrates. Again, if such Associations were allowed on the part of the Catholics, it would be impossible, without the greatest injustice, to prevent similar counter-associations on behalf of the Orange party-The Protestant party, therefore, would, interfere in like manner with the adminis- 559 tration of justice; the Protestant party would subject themselves to similar disabilities, and would be equally incapable of acting as jurors, witnesses, or magistrates. In such a state of things the greatest enormities might be committed, and there might be no possibility of bringing the offenders to justice. He now begged to call their attention to another fact—the collection of money. It had been argued, that this collection was not compulsory, but that the money was voluntarily contributed. He, however, contended, that the collection was equally unconstitutional, whether raised by taxation, or by voluntary contribution. But, let the House consider a little how far the money was freely given. It was not disputed that a register was kept, in which the names of those who contributed, and of those who refused to contribute, were regularly inserted. How far the denunciation of the Catholic priests against those whose names might appear in the black book of refusals would operate as compulsion, he would leave it to the House to determine. The argument of hon. gentlemen opposite reminded him of an answer of Dr. Johnson to some one who observed that a conge d' élire was not an order to the chapter to elect a particular bishop, but only a recommendation. "Recommendation!" said that eminent person, "yes, in the same sense in which you would throw a man out of a two pair of stairs window, and recommend him not to fall to the ground!" When the names of the persons refusing to contribute were entered in a black book, and reported, as was not denied, to the priest, it seemed to him absurd to call such a contribution voluntary. If the priests did not actually excommunicate those who refused to contribute, it was not to be forgotten that they had the power of excommunicating; and, when they considered the entire dominion which the Catholic priests possessed over their vassal devotees, it was a fact of no light importance, that a body of 2,500 priests had the power of collecting money through all parts of Ireland. Another important circumstance was, that no person was responsible for the application of this money; the Catholic Association disposed of it as they thought fit. But, whether the contribution of money were compulsory or voluntary, he contended that it was equally illegal. It was well known that bishop Atterbury who was closely connected with the Court of 560 St. Germain's, had raised money in this country for political purposes, under colour of voluntary contributions, raised for charitable purposes. In a certain church in the county of Kent, a number of children, who did not belong to the parish, were introduced, in order to induce the belief that the money raised on a particular occasion was for a charitable purpose, and the clergyman having been afterwards prosecuted for a misdemeanor, the judge who was a person of great eminence, held it to be an invasion of the king's prerogative, and a violation of the constitution, even to raise money in a church, by voluntary contribution, without the king's license. The defendant was found guilty, the counsel for the prosecution having offered a special verdict to the other side, if they had thought fit to go further; so that there could be no doubt that it was at this day illegal in England to raise money, even for a charitable purpose, without a license granted from the Crown. The constitutional principle on which this decision rested was, that if the Crown had not the power of the purse against the people, neither had the people the power of the purse against the Crown. He would now cite an opinion, which, though not a judicial one, could not fail to be received with the highest respect. Great as were the talents of some hon. gentlemen on the other side of the House, he was sure that no hon. member possessed greater abilities, or a sounder judgment than the late Mr. Sheridan. In the year 1794, a question arose whether the Crown could receive a voluntary subscription, a sum of money having been raised by an Association, and placed in the hands of his majesty's ministers, for a purpose voted by parliament; namely, the equipment of a naval and military armament. On the discussion of that question, Mr. Sheridan, adverting to the distinction, which gentlemen opposite were so fond of taking, between collections raised by compulsory means or by voluntary contributions, declared, that, in that case, one mode of raising money was not less a breach of the privileges of the House than the other; and that the chairman of the Association was liable to be taken up by the serjeant at arms. It was enough for him to know that this Association was the depository of money levied on the people, in opposition to every principle of the constitution. He should reserve an expression of his opinion 561 on the general question of Catholic emancipation, as no doubt a proper opportunity would arrive for the discussion of that question [cheers from the Opposition]. He was not aware what gentlemen meant by those cheers. He had been all his life consistent in his opinions on that subject. It was not necessary for him to explain to the House why it was that at one time he appeared the advocate, and at another the opponent of Catholic concessions, as he understood was the case with some gentlemen. Now, this was a petition, not only praying permission to bring forward witnesses, but to be heard by counsel. With respect to evidence, it appeared to him, that the House were in possession of sufficient facts to establish all the denominations he had alluded to. Now, the gentlemen in the petition told us that they were prepared to prove that no act had been done, or document issued by their body, calculated to excite alarm or exasperate animosities; so that here the House would observe, that it was not facts to which those gentlemen were desirous to speak, but to motives; and they would undertake further to demonstrate, that when the Catholic Association had circulated a declaration, that a Catholic had been murdered, it was not calculated to excite alarm. No doubt thirty witnesses might be found to state that the meaning of the word to "hate" was to "like." That to "hate" a Protestant meant to "love" a Protestant; and that to adjure one party by the "hatred" they bear another, was not calculated to excite animosities. These gentlemen did not mean to confine themselves to facts, but to matters of argument; and if a proclamation was issued, pronouncing an anticipated conviction of murder, witnesses were to be called to explain its meaning. The House must see that this was a matter of moral judgment and reasoning; and he was sure they would judge for themselves, and not take the Jesuitical interpretation of any number of witnesses, who, no doubt, were ready with a definition of the word hatred suitable to their purpose. The House would remember that about three years ago a bill was introduced regulating the mode in which public meetings should be held, popular meetings having been about that period the foci of sedition; and yet no witnesses or counsel were ordered against the bill. With as much propriety as those gentlemen, might the individual who then took the lead in those assemblies, claim to be 562 heard at the bar, with a view to prove that seditious meetings were quite consistent with the peace of England. According to the Bill of Rights, his majesty's subjects were allowed to arm; but were witnesses called to prove that military Associations for the purpose of "drilling and training" were wise and expedient? Was he to consent to have 60, or 70, or perhaps 90 men from Ireland called before him, to tell him what was consistent with constitutional wisdom and legality. If he had not heard facts enough, he should have no objection to have witnesses called, with a view to procure facts to form a basis for this measure. His learned friend had the happy knack of associating things which had no real connexion, and relying upon his abilities in that way, he had contrived to lug into the debate the court of Chancery. He was quite at a loss to know what the object of his learned friend was, in introducing this subject, unless he wished, by calling this cloud of witnesses, to make the House of Commons imitate the delay of the court of Chancery: for certainly the length of a Chancery suit would be nothing compared with the proceeding in this case, provided the House agreed to hear counsels' speeches, and the evidence of witnesses.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, he could assure the House and the hon. and learned gentleman, that if they would accede to the motion before them, very different evidence would be adduced from any thing they had yet heard; he was authorised to say that there were at that moment in London most respectable witnesses willing to submit to the most rigorous cross-examination, and whose evidence would prove that there was nothing in the acts of the Association to justify the passing of this law, not a single document proposed or accepted by the Catholic Association, from the first moment of its institution up to the present hour, that was not at present within reach of the House; and he implored the House as they valued their own characters, not to rest satisfied with the worst evidence when they had it in their power to obtain the best. His right hon. friend (Mr. Wynn) had said, that if this bill was levelled directly and solely at the Catholic Association, the petitioners might then have some right to apply to be heard: he thanked his right hon. friend for the admission, which was conclusive in favour of the motion, for he would appeal to the House, and to every 563 gentleman about him, who must answer as men of integrity, whether it was possible to believe, on the reading of this bill, that any other society was meant than the Catholic Association? Did not the whole course of the discussion clearly demonstrate that that Association alone was meant? And did not all the gentlemen more immediately connected with the Orange societies, support this measure with earnestness, as levelled only at the Catholic Association? If any other association felt aggrieved by this measure, it was in their power to petition? and he was as fully prepared to support their claims to be heard, as those of the petitioners now before the House; he was prepared to support them be they Orangemen or what else they might. It had been argued, that there was no precedent in favour of this application. He did not attach much importance to precedents, for if ever there was an unprecedented case, this was one, whereby it was proposed to inflict pains and penalties on a nation enjoying the most unquestioned, indeed, universally admitted, tranquillity [[hear]. He challenged gentlemen opposite to produce from the annals of our history a single example, in which it was attempted to fetter the privileges of the people in a season of universal peace. However, although he could not admit that precedents should control the decisions of that House in a case of this nature, he had discovered some precedents which might serve as a guide to the House. It was true they were Irish precedents, and it was the fashion with right hon. gentlemen opposite to undervalue or overrate such precedents as best suited their arguments. There was one precedent which he thought particularly' applicable in the present parliament, as it related to a Catholic case which ocurred in the reign of king Anne [a laugh]. He begged pardon; but without stopping to settle the mistake of the sexes, (though he begged leave to quote in justification of his blunder the glorious cry of the Hungarians "Moriamur pro rege nostro Maria Theresa"!), he would beg to direct the attention of the House to a bill introduced in 1698, which was an act of the Irish parliament, to "provide for the better security of his majesty's person and government." Now this was a pretty general measure; but in the provisions of the bill a clause was introduced which the Catholics considered affected them, 564 and accordingly a petition was presented by lord Mountgarrett, colonel Butler and others, on behalf of themselves and of other Catholics interested in the capitulation of Limerick, praying that they might be heard by counsel against the bill; and it was not until after counsel had been heard that the bill was passed. On this occasion, one of his own blood and name, sir Stephen Rice, had been heard, and the framer of the articles of Limerick, undertook the task of defending them. In 1703, a bill was introduced to "prevent the further growth of Popery." (The present was a bill to prevent the further growth of the Catholic Association). Lord Kingsland and others petitioned against it, and the bill did not pass into a law until counsel had been heard. The case which he (Mr. Spring Rice) was called upon to argue was, that individuals not specially named in a public and general bill, but who found themselves affected directly or indirectly by its provision, had a right to petition to be heard, and had in former times been heard by their counsel at the bar of the House. This proposition was proved by the instances he had cited: but the last precedent with which he should trouble the House was still more strongly in point. In 1715, in the reign of George the 1st. a bill was introduced for "the security of his majesty's person and government," this bill contained a clause relative to the oath of supremacy, in consequence of which the Catholics petitioned to be heard; counsel were, accordingly, ordered and heard. What was the result? The counsel prevailed, and the objectionable clause was struck out [cheers]. Let it not, therefore, go forth to the world, as it certainly would if they so decided, that Catholics had been treated better in the reigns of William, of Anne, and of George the 1st. than at the present day. Before he sat down he would advert to a most curious discovery made by the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. We have been told, within a few days, that the opposition to the Catholic claims did not altogether exist in another place, or in the breast of a certain noble and learned lord; but, all of a sudden, he has found out that the whole mischief has been occasioned by resolutions proposed by an hon. friend behind him (Mr. Hume). In those resolutions, it was well known, the Catholics had no concern; and it was curious to remember, that so far were these resolutions 565 from meeting the assent of the more immediate friends of the Catholics in parliament, that an amendment was actually proposed by his right hon. friend the member for Waterford (sir J. Newport), that amendment provoked the discussion. But, with regard to the feelings of the Catholics on the question, a circumstance had come to his knowledge which it would be gross injustice to withhold. It went to show how delicate the Catholics were respecting any interference with the Church. The House would probably recollect, that certain resolutions, which had been severely stigmatized by the individuals who afterwards made them the ground-work of legislation, were in circulation some time ago, having for their object the reform of the tithe sys-tem. In the exercise of his duty he felt himself called upon to send a copy of them to lord Kenmare, amongst other peers, and members of the House of Commons. His lordship answered, that although, as a landed proprietor, he was as deeply concerned as other people, yet, as a Catholic, he did not wish to mix himself up with those matters; and he was persuaded that when his lordship made that remark, he spoke the sentiments of the soundest part of the Catholic body. The Catholic clergy were accused of an intention of interfering with the property of the Church: on their part he begged leave, in the most unqualified manner, to deny the assertion. This matter had not escaped the attention of those whose duty it was to inquire into the state of Ireland. A question was put to a respectable Catholic clergyman, before a committee up-stairs, to this effect: "If Catholic Emancipation was granted, do you not think that the Catholics would feel desirous to obtain, if not a monopoly, at least a participation in the ecclesiastical property?" The answer was, "By no means; for although we do not pretend to be indifferent to a comfortable provision, aware that poverty has its temptations no less than wealth; yet, with the example of another Church before our eyes, we do not think it very desirable to possess extensive ecclesiastical property, either for the sake of our character as individuals or of our efficiency as clergymen." These were the words of the excellent Doctor Collins. The House had now an opportunity of conciliating the entire mass of the Catholics by receiving the evidence tendered. They might consider 566 that all Catholic Ireland was at the bar of the House humbly imploring them not to condemn unheard. If the House of Commons acceded to the request of the petitioners, whether it might lead to the rejection of this abominable measure, or whether the bill were afterwards passed in its present or a modified shape, it would after a fair hearing go forth, as it were, with the assent of the Catholics; they would be made consenting parties; but if they turned a deaf ear to the prayer of the petitioners, they would incur a fearful responsibility which they might yet live to repent [cheers].
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, he should studiously avoid those topics which were connected with the general question that had occupied their attention for four nights. He must first ask himself, is the claim of the petitioners founded in justice? Is it consistent with parliamentary usage? Is it demanded in equity? and if he should find that the demand was not supported on either of these grounds, he was prepared to resist it. He wished to meet the question fairly; was the claim consistent with justice, with parliamentary usage, or was a compliance required to supply the defects of evidence? With respect to precedents, although he did not think this should be conclusive, yet, if he found they ran in one uniform stream, it was a strong implication that the general conduct of the House had been regulated with a due regard to the interests of the country. The gentlemen opposite had, in his judgment, completely failed in adducing a precedent strictly applicable to the case. He conceived the general rule to be this —if a general measure be introduced, in which parties feel their pecuniary interests affected, they have a right to be heard; the House is then like a court, adjudicating on civil rights, and they would not proceed without hearing the parties. The splendid precedent adduced by the learned gentleman, of the hawkers and pedlars, which crowned the climax of his authorities had, in his opinion, completely failed. What was the fact? A bill was introduced, affecting the interests of a certain class of subjects, and they prayed, to do what? to be exempt from certain penalties that all the rest of the community were subject to? No, but which actually deprived them of bread. But, so far from this being a case in point, the House refused to hear them.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, the petitioners 567 were heard, as would be found on reference to the journals.
§ Mr. Peel
, having referred to the journals, said, that he admitted his mistake; but this had no reference whatever to the present question, for that was a measure to impose a great additional duty upon a certain class of persons, and in conformity with the usage of the House, the parties were heard. If the present prayer was complied with, it would be impossible hereafter to refuse when any measure was proposed for the tranquillity of the country. When it was proposed to suspend the habeas corpus act, a similar application might be made. The consequence would be, that instead of discharging their deliberative functions, the time of the House would be occupied in hearing the eloquent speeches of counsel. It was well known, that the paramount object with every counsel was, not any general interest, or any enlarged principles, but the interests and designs of his client. The propriety and absolute necessity of this practice had been very emphatically enforced by the learned gentleman himself, on the occasion of the proceedings against the late Queen. He would not stop to dispute such doctrine; but, if that principle were acted upon, what would be the situation of independent members of that House? They who were not accustomed to discussion would be overborne by the eloquence of counsel. As to the advantages that would result from such a practice, he might refer the House to what took place last year, on the occasion of the Marine Insurance bill. He should not easily forget what he felt on entering the House and beholding six counsel, with large wigs, ranged at their bar. If he were to proceed by the rule of three, he should say, if the Marine Insurance company required the attendance of so many counsel, how many would the Catholic Association require? However, on the occasion to which he referred, after four counsel had been heard, there were some very supplicating looks to the remaining two counsel; but those looks were all in vain: they said that their duty to their clients compelled them to offer their sentiments to the House; and in that several hours were occupied. But, although it had been the practice to hear counsel at the bar on private bills, if this practice were applied to public matters, what would be the consequence? He remembered having heard it urged in that House, that if the House received Mr. 568 Stephen, as an advocate for the blacks in Antigua, some other counsel would present himself at their bar as the counsel for all England, and the privilege of discussing public, proceedings would be entirely taken out of the hands of the members of that House. He remembered, when a certain bill was introduced relating to the slaves of an island in the West Indies, who were then perfectly satisfied, and in a state of subordination and quiet. The object of the bill was, to enable the owner of the slaves to remove them to another island, and a gentleman appeared on behalf of the blacks to argue against the measure; but it was determined that he had received no authority from the negroes to appear in their behalf. There was a danger of establishing a precedent against general principles; and if neither general principles nor the necessity and justice of the case obliged the House to receive the petition, it was incumbent upon them not to receive it; and if the cause of their rejection of it were explained to the Catholics of Ireland, they would, he was sure, be convinced of the justice and propriety of the determination. He for one would never entertain the bad opinion of the Roman Catholics which he heard perpetually insinuated in that House, namely, that although parliament might act upon the most sound principles, they would be dissatisfied, imitate the example of the united provinces of America, and separate themselves from England. He would enter into no such views, and could not believe that this could possibly be the case. The course the House was now pursuing was founded on good sense, was called for by the nature of the case, and arose out of a well-founded fear of establishing a most inconvenient precedent. The Catholics of Ireland would appreciate the motives of the House, and would willingly submit to the voice of reason; and, in saying this, he was only giving credit to their own assertions of their loyalty and disposition to obey the laws.—As to the next point, he could not conceive that there was any ground for receiving the petition, for the purpose of supplying defective evidence. Gentlemen on the other side of the House had asserted, that there never was an instance of a bill of this sort having passed without a committee of the House, or without some communication from the Crown. He begged leave to say, that no assertion could be more erroneous. The, habeas corpus act had been suspended without any 569 committee, or communication to the House from the Crown. The notoriety of the danger was thought to warrant the legislature in acting without any committee, without any message from the Crown, and without the production of any papers. The Convention act passed the Irish House of Commons without the appointment of any secret committee; and if Irish precedents were good on one side of the House, they were equally good on the other. True it was, that there was a committee sitting on the subject in the House of Lords; and that committee had come to a resolution, that a self-constituted body, interfering with the administration of justice, and receiving private subscriptions for the attainment of that and similar objects, was an evil not to be tolerated by government. There was then no tittle of evidence before the House; but parliament conceived the society to be a great evil, and upon the notoriety of that evil, and upon that alone, did they found their resolutions and pass their bill. Parliament also enacted the bill of 1795, for suppressing seditious societies, without any secret committee, the production of any papers, or any direct communication whatever. The preamble of that act fully proved the fact, and the doctrine he was now holding. After all the condemnation of the proceedings of secret committees, and the declamation that had been sent forth upon the subject of Green Bag. committees, now that government came forward manfully, and standing upon their own responsibility, without any select committee, without any secret committee, without partial or garbled extracts, they were assailed by the other side of the House for departing from precedents and general principles. He conceived that the only question was, whether the evil of this Catholic Association, and of other associations of the same nature, were notorious or not? [hear, hear!] He was not in the least affected by those cheers: if they meant any thing, he supposed them to allude to his support of the Orange societies, and to amount to a charge against him of inconsistency. But, he could truly say, that he disapproved of all secret associations, whether bound by oaths or signs. From his first connexion with Ireland, he had uniformly expressed his disapprobation of such societies. It was well known, that in 1822 he had consented to a measure intended to put 570 an end to all such associations. When that bill passed through all its stages, as it related to only one class of his majesty's subjects, he had heard none of those objections which were now dwelt upon by gentlemen opposite. Political combinations were then held in great obloquy, and were suppressed with almost unanimous exclamation by Parliament. If the bill for their suppression was invaded by any artifice, or if its provisions were in any respect abused, he was perfectly ready to accede to any measure which should have for its object the putting of them down. But, in passing the bill for the suppression of Orange societies in 1822, the House acted entirely upon the notoriety of the existing evil, and did not proceed upon the report of a committee, or upon any papers laid before it. What would the gentlemen opposite have said upon that occasion if alderman King had applied to be heard at the bar of the House in favour of himself or of his Orange Association? Would not the hon. gentleman opposite have treated the proposal with the utmost contempt and indignation? And, where was their consistency in being now so vociferous in favour of the opposite association being represented at their bar?—With respect to the present measure, he denied that it was a condemnatory bill. If it was a bill of pains and penalties, no person could doubt the right of the association affected by it to be heard at the bar by counsel. But such was not its character; and yet the learned gentleman had thought proper to give the bill the appellation of a condemnatory bill, in order to make out the title of the petitioners to the privilege for which they had applied. Again, with respect to Tithes; if, when the bill upon that subject was in progress through the House, the clergy had applied to be heard by counsel on the subject of tithes, as well as on the general affairs of the church, would their application have been acceded to? If it had, what delay must have resulted from the long speeches that might be expected from a subject so extensive? But, no one could think that the prayer of such a petition would be granted by the House. His hon. friend who spoke last had asked how could they have more satisfactory evidence on the subject of the association than that of the petitioners themselves? But, he would ask, in return, had they not al- 571 ready the admissions of the association? He should be able to shew, taking the public acts and declarations of the association, that the House had ample grounds for passing the bill, without hearing a single word more in evidence. He held a petition in his hand, dated the 17th of February, which had been presented yesterday. It was the last act of the Association. They had there set forth, that "the Catholics of Ireland felt the necessity of bestirring themselves in their own affairs, and it was deemed right to enter into an association to promote the general interest of their body, and to bring under the frequent consideration of parliament the various and heavy grievances of which the Catholic people of Ireland complain." Was not that like an avowal of their representative power? To his mind it admitted of that interpretation. The petition concluded with a prayer, "that no measure should be adopted against the Catholic Association, or against any portion of the Catholic people of Ireland, without first affording to petitioners a full opportunity of vindicating their principles and conduct at the bar of the House, and to be heard, if necessary, as well by witness as by their counsel." That passage, he maintained, amounted to an admission of their representative capacity at once. He did not admit the distinction that had been taken as to direct and virtual representation, but claimed for parliament the right to pass what laws they pleased. In avowing their intention publicly of addressing and petitioning parliament for the redress of grievances, they afforded at least an admission of their existence as a body, and the House should never forget, that they were a body who had assembled twenty times since the month of October. They were also a body who appointed committees of finance, of grievances, and of education, and who required no other qualification in persons desirous of becoming members, than the payment of one guinea on their admission. If parliament consented to recognize them in such a character, they might depend upon it, that the interval would not be far distant between such recognition and their assumption of all the functions of parliament. They had also professed, in their petition, "to procure for the poor, the ignorant, and the defenceless, redress from the known tribunals of the law, for outrages and injuries arising 572 from party spirit." That assumption he also considered highly objectionable; for it, was contrary to the spirit of justice, that the same body which exercised the other acknowledged functions, should institute prosecutions against individuals. The petitioners denied, that they levied contributions on their fellow-citizens. It was true that they had no legal mode of enforcing subscriptions, but if they could not exercise a legal, they had exercised a moral compulsion. Was there no moral compulsion in the fear of being registered in their black book, as an hon. gentleman had called it? Would any man say that the threat of having one's name inscribed by the priest in a book, after divine service, on refusing to subscribe, left that person at liberty to choose whether he would subscribe or not? One word more with respect to that levy, which was by far the most important part of the question. Did that body admit, or did it not, that they received funds from the people? He held in his hand the report of a committee signed "D. O'Connell," which stated that, in order the more effectually to exert the energies of the Irish people, it was necessary that money should be collected. To that assertion he objected. The intentions of the Association might be innocent; but, to say the best of them, they were very equivocal; and some acts of the Association, even giving them full credit for motives, ought never to have taken place. He could perfectly understand why words spoken in the heat of debate by individuals who, in their cooler moments, might be willing to retract them, ought not to be charged upon the Catholic body; but, the frequent use of such expressions formed a strong objection to the existence of such meetings, and could not fail to be prejudicial to the cause of the Catholics themselves. There was one resolution passed by the Association, which he thought of considerable importance. By that resolution, Mr. Hamilton Rowan was admitted as a member of the Association. He would ask, was not such proceeding likely to excite suspicion, and exasperate animosities? The secretary of the Association had addressed a letter to Mr. Hamilton Rowan, apprizing him of the fact, and stating that the resolution had been passed with more enthusiasm than he had ever witnessed on any former occasion: that, on the mention of his honoured and beloved name, it was hailed with the applause 573 which formed, at once, the testimony and the reward of a life that had been devoted to the service of his country. It was possible that the individuals who had voted such an address might not have been aware of all the circumstances connected with the life they had so described; but if a public body, collecting money to direct the energies of the Irish people, had been so unfortunate as to propose that address, and to exult at the mention of that "honoured and beloved name," on the very day on which they had adjured the Catholics by the hate they bore to Orangemen, was it not a reason sufficient to excite suspicion in the most candid mind? With respect to the name and the political character of Mr. Rowan, he should say no more than what he found in the report of the secret committee of the Irish House of Lords in 1799. It appeared from their report, that an Irish clergyman of the name of Jackson, had proceeded from France to Ireland, for the purpose of conducting a treasonable conspiracy, with a view to the invasion of Ireland by France That in 1794, he had commenced a correspondence, and held frequent interviews with Mr. Hamilton Rowan, as the leader of the United Irishmen, who shortly after was committed to prison, but had subsequently escaped, and was attainted of high treason. That he and Mr. Theobald Wolf Tone and Mr. Lewins, had frequent conferences, the former of whom was taken in a French vessel, called the Hoche, on the coast of Ireland; and the latter escaped to France, where he acted as envoy to the United Irishmen. After such a statement, would the Association maintain, that the resolution to which he had alluded, had no tendency to excite suspicion or alarm? Whatever they might think, or however they might reasons they might depend on it, that even if they had the power to bring the whole body of the Catholics to the bar of that House, the united testimony of six millions of men could not satisfy the Protestants of Ireland, or the people of this country, that there was no ground for suspicion or alarm in such a proceeding. That an Association professing to have 40,000l. a-year, and six millions of people at their command, should hail the "beloved name" of an attainted traitor, and adjure the Catholics by the hate they bore to Orangemen, as their natural enemy, was a fact which he would say afforded ground for suspicion and alarm 574 that could never be overstated. If they took credit for such an act, the voice that informed them of the danger of such a course, was a friendly voice; the man who cautioned them against the indiscreet course they were pursuing, by holding forth such a resolution as the act of the deliberative body, was a friend to the peace of Ireland. He would appeal to every man who pretended to the least regard for the pure administration of justice, to put themselves in the place of the individuals who might be prosecuted by the Association, and ask themselves whether, against such prosecution, they could think it safe to go to trial? The hon. and learned member for Knares-borough, might moralize upon the advantage of keeping up the civil war of the passions, but would he say that it would contribute to the pure administration of justice, to have that body conducting prosecutions, and prejudicing the minds of the people? A resolution of the Association stated, that the secretary had opened an account with every parish in Ireland, in order to collect subscriptions for the purposes alleged in their petition. Was not that a ground of suspicion and alarm? Could a body, consisting of 3,000 men, for whose character they had no better security than the fact of being able to pay one guinea for admission, proceed in the exercise of such functions, without awakening that sound constitutional jealousy with which it was their duty to view every political measure? After the proclamations that have been issued, the House was bound to regard them with ten-fold jealousy. But, to return to their petition; it represented their body as consisting of "Catholic prelates, peers, and baronets—of many Protestants of noble families and great possessions—of many distinguished members of high and learned professions—of commercial men of great wealth and character—of country gentlemen, farmers, traders, and substantial citizens." That it consisted of many respectable persons, he did not mean to deny; but, the more important they were, the more did he object to their undertaking the conduct of prosecutions. If prelates and peers, and baronets were of their number—if even the venerated name of earl Fitz-william appeared amongst them, the more was it unfit that they should institute prosecutions, because the prejudice excited against the defendants was likely 575 to be more strong. It was possible that they might be acquitted, even under such circumstances; but they had no right to send any man to take his trial with such a weight of prejudice operating to his disadvantage. He had grounded his opinions on extracts from public and official papers; and on these documents he meant to call on the House to support the bill without hearing any evidence against it. His sense of right and of justice dictated to him boldly and manfully to give his vote against the prayer of the petition.
said, he should not have addressed the House, had it not been for the introduction into the right hon. gentleman's speech of the names of individuals who were not present to defend themselves. The right hon. gentleman had introduced into his speech the name of Mr. Hamilton Rowan. He was in Dublin when Mr. Rowan was obliged to leave the country, and he would say for him, that there was no man more respected or beloved. Ireland he thought did not possess a better man, or one more respected, for the integrity of his public principles, and the virtues of his private life. He had not the honour of his personal acquaintance, but he spoke what was the general feeling of Ireland; and when the Catholic Association enrolled Mr. Rowan among its members, it did so, he was sure, in accordance with the opinions of all the Catholic population. He was not there to justify any man condemned by the law; but the men condemned in 1793, to which the right hon. gentleman had alluded, were men highly respected in Ireland. They met to carry an object into effect which would have been of the greatest benefit to that country—to give it the benefit of a liberal system of government. There could be no more righteous aim kept in view by any men than that professed by these gentlemen, of wishing to amend a system which had brought on rebellion. The virtue of such an action did not depend on its success; though that might make it legal or illegal. Let the House recollect that Sydney, Hambden, and Russell, who were now called virtuous patriots, would have been stigmatised as traitors, had not the cause of liberty, for which we all were thankful, flourished here, and if that despotism had triumphed in England which had been continued in Ireland up to this hour. Had these men succeeded in Ireland in 1793, 576 they would have been regarded as the benefactors of that country; and they were even now receiving approbation; for the system pursued by the right hon. gentleman and his colleagues was that which they then wished to enforce. The right hon. gentleman had taunted the opposition with receiving with approbation the measure for putting down Orange societies, and now opposing the measure for putting down a Catholic Association. The Orange societies were illegal societies; they had been so declared by the Attorney-general and the chief justice of the king's Bench in Ireland. When the right hon. gentleman compared the Catholic with the Orange Association he betrayed a state of ignorance respecting Ireland quite inconceivable. The Catholic Association was a public body. Their object was to petition parliament. And what was the object of that petition? Ministers had put into the king's Speech what evidently alluded to the Catholic Association. If there could have been any doubt that the allusion was exclusively to that body, it was removed by the noble mover of the Address, and by the hon. seconder, who made a laboured attack on the Association. The right hon. Secretary for Foreign Affairs, had also, on the first night of the session made an elaborate attack on the Association, which left no doubt of the object of the paragraph in the royal Speech. A leading minister, in another place, too, made the same sort of attack. The Association hearing all this, sent a deputation to complain that they were libelled. They prayed to be heard against a bill intended to gag the aggrieved Catholic people of Ireland. They offered to prove that what was said of them was false. He denied that there was a Protestant feeling in Ireland against the Catholics. All the efforts of the faction would not create a hostile feeling between the Protestants and Catholics. Let the wealth of England pour into Ireland; let not the cry of "No Popery" disturb the tranquil intercourse of the two countries, and Ireland would become as flourishing as England, and more so perhaps, as her resources were new, while England was comparatively exhausted. Let justice be done, and they would seal the strength of the empire by uniting seven millions of Catholics, in harmony and good-will with the rest of the nation.
The Hon. C. B. Clarke
said, he never 577 could agree that the Association should be heard at the bar. He was as great a friend of Catholic emancipation as any member, but he was not a friend of the Association. He would not say that it had disturbed the country, but it had kept it in such a state of agitation as ought not to be endured. In the county in which he lived, the people were quietly disposed, and would continue so if let alone.
Sir John Sebright
said, he felt it necessary to support the measure for putting down the Catholic Association. He thought that measure necessary; but he also thought that it was a disgrace to a British House of Commons to have a measure of this nature now to discuss. The question was one of vital importance, and would not now have arisen, but for our prejudice, injustice, and cruelty, towards the Catholics. He would vote for the petitioners being heard at the bar; for he was sure the Association had done nothing which every member of that House might not have been proud to have done in vindication of their insulted and oppressed Catholic brethren. The right hon. Secretary for Foreign Affairs had stated, that the people of this country were against Catholic emancipation. He believed they were; but there were public questions, on which it behoved statesmen to combat public opinion, or rather public prejudice. To hear the petitioners at the bar, was required by a regard to justice.
§ Mr. Scarlett
said, he should not have risen if the right hon. Secretary had not quoted a speech of his on a former occasion, and made it a reproach to the members on his side of the House, that they contended against the Constitutional Association, and for the Catholic Association. Now, he did not think that any body could confound these two societies; but, since the right hon. gentleman could not extract the distinction which actually existed between them, he would endeavour shortly to do it for him. The Constitutional Association did not prosecute offences committed against individuals, but offences committed against the state. It assumed the functions of the Attorney-general, and prosecuted for crimes against the state.—Crimes and libels, which the Attorney-general considered ought not to be prosecuted, were prosecuted by the society. He highly commended the conduct pursued towards the Constitutional 578 Association, both by the present Attorney-general and his predecessor; and if he had any blame to impute to them, it was, that they did not sooner stop the prosecutions instituted by the society. The Catholic Association never thought of prosecuting state offences; it only united to procure redress for private injuries. Between it and the Constitutional Association there was a plain and well-defined distinction. If there were any considerable portion of the people of Ireland who felt that the laws were not fairly administered towards them, he had no hesitation in asserting, that it was both just and natural for them to associate for the purpose of mutual protection. He put the case conditionally. He did not assert how the fact was. It was true that an hon. and learned member had, on a former debate, contended for the impartiality of the administration of justice in Ireland. But from all that he had been given to understand, that impression was not very general amongst well-informed persons acquainted with that country. As to the main question, whether the petitioners should be heard at the bar or not, he was so convinced by the cogent and powerful speech of his learned friend who presented the petition, that he could not see on what grounds the application could be refused. He had attentively listened to the speech of the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department; but all he had learned from it was, his statement of certain conduct with which he charged the Catholic Association. The facts might be as they were represented; but the assertion of a minister in his place in parliament was not a sufficient ground to restrain, by penal enactments, the liberties of the subject. How could the right hon. gentleman tell that those pamphlets and newspapers, in which such extraordinary confidence was reposed, stated what was true? The petitioners said, they could contradict them by indisputable evidence. He had often heard the notoriety of proceedings made a just ground for a parliamentary inquiry; but, until that night, he never heard that mere notoriety was a sufficient ground for a restraining statute against the liberties of the people. Some positive proofs were necessary to justify such a measure. Yet, here it was refused to a large body of men, highly respectable, from their rank, their talents and station, to disprove charges which they declared to be most unfounded. He should, therefore, give his vote 579 for hearing the petitioners. To meet such an application with a refusal, would be to act not only not in the spirit of conciliation and candour, but in defiance of common justice.
observed, that after the powerful speech of his right hon. friend, the Secretary of state for the Home Department, it was not his intention to go at length into the merits of the question, but to limit himself to that branch of it Which went to show that the conduct pursued by the Catholic Association as to criminal prosecutions was a direct interference with the impartial administration of justice. But first he should reply to the observations of his learned friend, who appeared wholly to have misapprehended the right hon. Secretary. His learned friend assumed that the grounds on which the right hon. Secretary defended the bill were questionable; that the facts he brought forward might or might not be true; and therefore that inquiry was necessary. Now, it was in the recollection of the House, that the right hon. Secretary had actually thrown out of his view all evidence of an ambiguous character, and had founded his just deduction on documents which the petitioners could not disprove, because they were their own recorded resolutions. "What evidence have we before us? said his learned friend. The answer was easy. They had before them facets admitted by the Association themselves. His learned friend had drawn a distinction between the Constitutional and Catholic Associations. There certainly did exist a very great distinction; though he differed from the conclusion which his learned friend had drawn. He had always contended, that the Constitutional Association was strictly legal, although he also felt that such interference of individuals in instituting prosecutions was by no means prudent. But, compare with the influence of that body the influence that the interference of the Catholic Association must necessarily have produced, and then there was no similarity in the result of their endeavours. The Constitutional Association consisted of a few individuals: some, no doubt, of great respectability; but the means of carrying their object into effect were committed to persons comparatively obscure, who conducted the prosecutions that they instituted, in a manner not calculated to entitle them to confidence. Indeed, so convinced of that 580 fact were the parties accused by them, that they considered themselves fortunate in having that society, which laboured under popular odium, for prosecutors. Let the House look at the character of the Catholic Association. They were admitted virtually to represent three-fourths of the people of Ireland. They wielded the whole force of that great population. They were the guides and directors of the whole Catholic body. Possessing such an influence, who could deny that then-interference must not be extremely powerful wherever exerted? Could any thing be more calculated to pervert the pure administration of justice than a system of that description, originating, advising, and reviewing criminal prosecutions? Interested themselves in the causes which they directed—exerting an influence so decisive—what other effect could follow, but a perversion of those principles on which the impartiality of justice was founded? Did the question depend on reasoning, on argument, or on facts? Facts of interference were admitted. The particulars of those facts he would not inquire into: the principle which flowed from them was enough; and that principle made it, for the sake of the pure administration of the criminal law, imperative to put down the Association. It was calculated, in the first place, to give rise to a system of spies and informers, and to occasion every case to be prejudged before it was brought in the regular way before the tribunals. Their own documents were a proof of the evil. From them it appeared that one of the cases alluded to, in which a prosecution had been determined on, was first referred to a committee and that committee determined on going to trial. Was not this prejudging the case? Could such a decision become known without having considerable effect on the minds of all to whose knowledge it might come? This was monstrous; and, if there was nothing else against the Association, all who were of opinion that the administration of justice should be kept pure and exempt from all improper influence, ought to give their vote for putting it down. It appeared to him an inconsistency that his learned friends opposite should have always spoken in condemnation of the Constitutional Association, while they supported such an Association as this. He could not admit the distinction drawn by his learned friend who spoke last. He had said, that all the 581 prosecutions instituted by the Constitutional Association turned on party questions. Was it not clear that every prosecution instituted by the Catholic Association must, from the very moment their determination became known, necessarily become a party question? There was no person who knew the state of the public mind in Ireland but must feel convinced that every prosecution entered upon, under such circumstances, must be conducted in the spirit of party. It was upon these grounds he should oppose the motion. He had kept his word strictly to the House, by limiting himself to one branch of the question. With him, independently of many other objections, it was sufficient to justify his vote.
§ Mr. Brougham
rose to reply. He said, he never rose to discharge his duty with greater anxiety, than at that moment. The right hon. the Secretary for the Home Department had, most undoubtedly, stated his objections in a very able and very powerful speech—a speech that was calculated to make a considerable impression, not alone from its own attractive nature, and the very sincere tone in which it was delivered, but because it was singularly contrasted both in argument and manner, from the speeches of such of his hon. colleagues as had discussed that great subject. But, impressive as it certainly was, he trusted he should be able to show that it did not drive him one inch from the ground he had taken. With respect to the hawkers and pedlars being heard by counsel, notwithstanding the denial of the right hon. Secretary, he begged to say that he was supported by the Journals of the House. He was equally borne out in the other precedents. On the Massachusets bill, a bill which, for state purposes, went to interdict the whole trade and intercourse of New England with Great Britain, and her other colonies, the parties aggrieved were heard by their counsel and agents. Not only the parties aggrieved were heard, but the traders of London and Poole: and not only these parties, for their own interests about to be affected, but the society of Quakers also, who appealed to the justice of parliament in favour of their fellow subjects of America, upon the principles of an enlarged humanity hear!]. He thanked his hon. friend (Mr. Spring Rice) for another precedent, completely in point, and which he had overlooked. It was a precedent of the Irish parliament, and which, since the 582 Union, was binding upon the imperial legislature. In that parliament, on a bill alleged to be for the security of the Protestant Succession, sir T. Butler and sir S. Rice were heard for themselves and others, against the provisions of that statute which declared that no man could hold any office who did not take certain oaths, and subscribe to certain declarations; oaths and declarations to which they, as Catholics, could not conform. In that statute the Catholics were not mentioned any more than the Catholic Association was mentioned in the present bill; and yet the legislature did not refuse to hear the parties aggrieved. But, we were, forsooth, told, that the bill was not levelled against the Catholic Association. Against whom, then, was the whole speech of the right hon. Secretary, the champion of the bill, and its ablest defender, that night levelled? The right hon. Secretary, with the exception of the Attorney-general for Ireland, was the only man who had fairly grappled with the question. Where had he rested it? What was its basis? Against whom was it to be applied? It was against the Catholic Association, and that body only, that the bill, as well as the speech of its right hon. defender was levelled. It was because that Association, increasing in power and strength, and backed by the Irish people, had alarmed the jealousy and excited the fears, and, perhaps, the envy of the executive government, that they were to be extinguished by a penal enactment—The right hon. Secretary had charged him with inconsistency in now supporting the right of these petitioners, though in a case respecting negroes, he had opposed the interference of counsel. What was the fact? In that case, a highly-esteemed friend, Mr. Stephen, offered himself at the bar to be heard as counsel. That enlightened man had come forward from his own humane suggestions. He was not connected with the parties; he was not employed by their masters; neither was he directly interested. What similitude had such a case with the present? The aggrieved parties were now at their bar. The negroes were now waiting their decision. They declared themselves calumniated and slandered; and in the name of justice, they demanded to be allowed the opportunity of refutation.— As to the supposed inconsistency arising from the opinions he had expressed with regard to the Bridge-street gang, he differed toto cœlo from the arguments of the other 583 side. The inconsistency might have been; supported had he taken any measure to put down that Association by a penal statute. Did he ever propose any restraining bill to extinguish it? No: much as he censured its motives and objects, he still thought that by the mere enforcement of constitutional law a termination could be put to the efforts of that jobbing, mercenary, mischievous, meddling gang.—He came now to the main argument; and here he must say, that the right hon. Secretary did not keep his word by confining himself to the immediate question in debate. "I care not," said he, "for your cloud of witnesses; I will listen to no refutation; I want no further proofs, neither shall this House receive any documents." And yet there was strong reason to believe, that the parliament were very near having laid before them some documents. It was supposed disorderly to know what passed in another place; and yet it had gone abroad, indeed it had been heard by members of that House, that by a minister of the Crown, the present bill was declared to be, not an English, but an Irish measure. Perhaps the difficulty was, to ascertain from what portion of the Irish government it proceeded; as that government was of as diversified and chequered a composition as the cabinet of Great Britain. "Of this," continued Mr. Brougham, "I am quite certain, that if the measure came to the English government, recommended by the noble lord at the head of the government of Ireland; if it had the sanction of the Attorney-general for Ireland, whose sincerity in the Catholic cause I never have doubted, and never can doubt, until he, by his conduct, compel me to doubt it—if, I say, there exist in the office of the British government a document from the Irish government recommending this measure, it is not the only document respecting it which is in their possession. I can have no doubt whatever, that events and circumstances induced the noble marquis to advise the adoption of such a proceeding as that which is now in progress through this House: by the same courier which brought that advice, must also have been brought an urgent representation of the necessity of accompanying the measure of severity with one of conciliation. If so, those have much to answer for who have suppressed the milder part of the communication; those have much to answer for who have stated the severer, uncoupled with the mitigating, portion of the recom- 584 mendation. They have much to answer for to the country; they have not a little to answer for to the House; but they have most of all to answer for to the noble marquis at the head of the Irish government, and to his majesty's Attorney-general for Ireland, in making them appear, contrary to their well-known and recorded principles, to recommend measures of harshness, unaccompanied by any mitigation; unaccompanied by any qualification; unaccompanied by any antidote; unaccompanied, in short, by Catholic emancipation [hear, hear!J.—Sir, the bill before the House pronounces the condemnation of the Catholic Association. It puts that body to death. But, before it is thus doomed to destruction, it has a right to be heard in its exculpation and defence. The Association are charged with instituting prosecutions, and with sending men to trial under all the disadvantages of a previous investigation, and all the odium of a declaration, on the part of the Association, of their guilt. As if such things had never been heard of before! The right hon. gentleman has said, that possibly subscribers to the rent might be on the jury; and by the by, he observed, that in this country those who paid for the prosecution could not be witnesses, appealing to myself and my learned friends for the accuracy of his opinion. As regards myself, the appeal was unfortunate; for in answer to it I must say, that the expenses of a criminal prosecution in this country are generally paid by the prosecutor, and nevertheless he is a very competent witness on the trial. However, let that pass. But we are told by the right hon. gentleman, that the Catholic Association have quite outraged the spirit of British jurisprudence, and conducted their proceedings in a manner inconsistent with justice and impartiality, by their previous investigation and declaration of the guilt of the individuals against whom they instituted prosecutions. Is it so? A similar practice takes place in the most ordinary proceedings of the criminal courts in this country, even in the highest of those courts—the court of King's-bench; for there, when a criminal information is applied for, under a statue passed in the best times for the liberty of the subject, namely, in the early part of the reign of William 3rd (immediately after that act, the credit of which, by a strange blunder, has so frequently been given to his late majesty—I mean 585 the act by which the judges were rendered independent of the Crown), when an ex-officio information is moved for, what follows? A speech enforcing the guilt of the accused is made by the counsel; and though the rule may be refused, that speech is published in the newspapers, and the injured person is thus libelled without the possibility of remedy. But, if the rule should not be refused, and the trial take place, what happens? The party having been heard against the rule, and an inculpatory speech having been made in the shape of a reply, the four judges deliberately give their opinions, one after the other, which opinions are also published. So that the poor man who is accused goes to the petty jury with all this previously published accusatory matter, hanging like a mill-stone round his neck. But, Sir, with all these disadvantages, has he no chance of escape?—A very great one. I have never yet seen a case in which a person has been tried on a criminal information, on a rule obtained in the court of King's-bench, in which there has not been a favourable disposition towards him in the court. There is a tendency to bear him up. It is the same thing when this House causes any criminal proceeding to be instituted. The party, in that case, goes to trial with all the impression that can be created by a previous vote of the House, declaring him guilty of the charge preferred against him, and instructing the Attorney-general to prosecute him accordingly. The speeches made in the House in aggravation of his guilt, are published in all the newspapers. But, does that produce any injurious effect on the accused? The instances are rare in which they have been convicted. Sir, ought not the same thing to take place with respect to those persons who are prosecuted by the Catholic Association? They send a man to trial with the same advantage of a disposition on the part of the court in his favour because he is so sent. Nay, he has a greater advantage for the probability is, that he will be tried by a Protestant jury. And what have been the actual facts? That the Catholic Association, with all the power imputed to them of oppressing innocent men by the weight of their authority—with all the means of success which money can afford —have twice tried to convict individuals, and in cases where those individuals appear to have been justly prosecuted; and in neither case have been able to 586 induce the court and the jury to concur with them in opinion. Thus, Sir, the issue of these trials is in the very teeth of the declaration, that the proceedings of the Association are injurious to the cause of justice. But, a graver charge against the Association remains behind: and I entreat the attention of the House to this part of the subject, because it relates to an absent and a most meritorious individual. That individual has already been defended by my hon. friend behind me (Mr. Hutchinson); but I wish to add something to what was stated by my hon. friend; and, Sir, if I do not convince the House that the accusation, made by the right hon. gentleman is utterly groundless, as it regards the Catholic Association, if I do not at once shew this, and from the very circumstance of the groundlessness of that accusation, derive a triumphant argument in favour of inquiry before we pass the measure which has been introduced; if I do not instantly demonstrate, from the fallacy of the statements by the right hon. gentleman, the hazard we incur by trusting to unexplained documents, and unsupported assertions in our proceedings on this important subject, I am ready to abandon at once the cause of the Catholic Association. 'We have,' says the right hon. gentleman, 'the sentiments of the Association under their own hands. No man will deny what they have said or written. Why call a cloud of witnesses to prove that which is acknowledged?' This is the right hon. gentleman's charter. Now for the merits of this declaration. The charge against the Catholic Association, is, that they talk of Mr. Hamilton Rowan as a man entitled to the respect and love of his country, 'and yet,' said the right hon. gentleman, 'Mr. Hamilton Rowan is neither more nor less than a convicted traitor!' or, I believe it was, 'an attainted traitor.' The charge, then, against the Catholic Association is, that they have treated with respect an attainted traitor. Now, Sir, in the first place, the Association state, as a fact, that Mr. Rowan's name is most highly respected and dearly loved in Ireland. For the truth of this assertion, they are therefore certainly responsible. If Mr. Rowan's name is not pronounced in Ireland with reverence and affection, then the Association have been guilty of gross misrepresentation. But, it seems that the Association not only state that to be the general feeling in Ireland, but declare that they 587 themselves join in the general feeling of respect and veneration; and this is the second and the gravest charge against them. Now, Sir, in the first place, I assert, and I offer to prove my assertion by witnesses, that the Association are not only borne out by the fact, when they assert that no man in Ireland is more respected or beloved than Mr. Hamilton Rowan [a loud 'No!' from some hon. member]. Sir, I have offered to prove it. I am therefore obliged to the hon. gentleman for his no! for he must give me his vote. I say aye! On that ground we join issue, and I am ready to call my witnesses. But I go still further. I will show, that the Catholic Association have not only asserted that Mr. Hamilton Rowan is treated with respect and affection by all Ireland, but have treated him with respect and affection themselves. By whom they have been instructed? Who does the House think have been their teachers? His majesty's government and successive lords lieutenant, in Ireland. Mr. Hamilton Rowan, Sir, was a man of large and even princely fortune, of the purest and most amiable private character, endeared to all his friends by his domestic virtues, and attached to his country by the most ardent and irrepressible patriotism. He was one of those men who, in the agitated times of 1793, 1797 and 1798, when the wisest were often misled, and when the honestest, from the very excess of patriotic feeling, were roused to frenzy by the injuries which they conceived their country was enduring, underwent every species of vituperation, and in that wretched period, were swept away in one general act of attainder, although many of them could never have been brought to trial with any hope of conviction. Fuerint cupidi,'—for the character is applicable not only to Mr. Hamilton Rowan, but to the Fitzgeralds and others, who went too far, in the times of which I have been speaking; and God forbid that I should deny that they went too far, although God also forbid that I should charge them with crimes of which they were guiltless;—'Fuerint cupidi, fuerint irati, fuerint pertinaces, sceleris vero crimine, furoris, parricidii, liceat. Cn. Pompeio mortuo, liceat multis aliis carere.' Such, Sir, are not my romantic sentiments alone, with respect to many of those unfortunate individuals. Pardoned by his sovereign, Mr. Hamilton Rowan returned to the bosom of his family. Again he 588 became the dispenser of blessings to his attached tenantry. Again he drew around him all the tender and endearing connections of life. He exercised all the functions of a country gentleman; he attended all the charitable meetings, which are so frequent in Ireland; by the manner in which he expended his liberal income, and by the whole tenour of his conduct, he became the darling of his neighbourhood; he served on the grand juries, and he acted as a magistrate [hear,]! And, under whose superintending eye did he so act? Under that of my lord Manners. Of my lord Manners, who so readily purges the commission of the peace wherever he sees any one whom he knows to be a friend to Catholic emancipation going, as he conceives, too far in the support of his opinion. Yes. Lord Manners leaves Mr. Hamilton Rowan, the attainted traitor; lord Manners—that pink of loyalty, that upholder of the church establishment, under that tutelary saint, the late chief secretary, leaves Mr. Hamilton Rowan, the attainted traitor, in the magistracy, to teach treason by his example, aided by his authority. Nor is that all. Mr. Hamilton Rowan attends the courts at the castle, and is received with uniform favour, courtesy and kindness, by one viceroy after another—men of every shade of opinion; not only by lord Wellesley, but by lord Whitworth. And this, Sir, is the man whom the Catholic Association are to be attacked, vituperated, and denounced, unheard and without the means of defence, for declaring to be entitled to, and to be enjoying, the respect and affection of his countrymen. Sir, I declared, that if I could not repel that charge against the Catholic Association—if I could not convince the House from that unexpected quarter, if I could not commend the chalice to the right hon. gentleman's own lips, which he had prepared for his opponent—if I could not elicit new arguments from his assertion on this part of the subject, to show the necessity for inquiry, I would at once abandon the cause. But, do I feel myself called upon to redeem that pledge by abandoning that course? On the contrary, I feel that the cause stands on ground a thousand times higher than that on which it stood when those tumultuous cheers followed the right hon. gentleman's statements.—And now, Sir, I ask every honest, every reflecting, every conscientious man, if he could have believed, before this explanation, that in the 589 crime of which the Catholic Association were accused by the right hon. gentleman, they were, in fact, only the accomplices of lord Manners, and of the successive Lords-lieutenant and Attornies-general of Ireland? And now, Sir, I beg the House to look at the consequences of what they are about to do. They have now an opportunity in their power, which, if they let it slip, they may never be able to grasp again. Conciliation is in their power. If the measure now in progress should pass —if it should receive the royal assent—if it should be found to accord with the unanimous voice of the country—even under all those circumstances, in order to render it a safe measure, you must have the assent and the co-operation of the Catholic Association itself. You will find this to be absolutely essential. If, therefore, you pass the measure, at any rate make it a safe, make it a wholesome measure—make it a measure which may give permanent peace to Ireland. To make it acceptable, not merely to the hundreds of thousands for whose particular interest you conceive that you are passing it, but to the millions who inhabit the country in which it is to operate, you must accompany it with conciliation. Nothing else will do. Sir, you have at this moment, at no great distance from you, within the walls of this House, the chosen delegates of the Catholic Association. In those gentlemen the Association have unanimously reposed their confidence. The Association itself possesses the entire confidence of the whole Catholic body in Ireland. If the House do not believe this, many days will not elapse before petitions in crowds will attest the fact. Here, then, you have virtually before you all the Catholics of Ireland, anxiously awaiting your decision—your commands. Depend upon it, Sir, they will comply more readily with your requests than with your orders. With far more kindly feelings will they depart from this House, and with much more kindly feelings will you regard them, and yourselves, if you consent to gratify their wishes. You can easily do so. Open your doors to their counsel. Let their witnesses be brought to the bar. If they fail in proving their case—if they fail in vindicating themselves—in God's name pass the measure: you will then pass a constitutional, a just, and effective measure; and one which may succeed in giving peace to Ireland. Of this, however, I am sure, that you cannot hear the 590 details which they are prepared to lay before you—you cannot listen to their honest exposition of the motives by which they and their friends are actuated—without entertaining a higher sense of their conduct and merits. On their parts they will be duly sensible of the indulgence. By the mutual intercourse which will thus take place, whether you pass or whether you reject the bill will become a matter of comparatively less moment; you will give contentment, and you will, for the first time, lay the foundation of peace in Ireland. They offer to prove at your bar that whatever their conduct has been, it has been strictly legal and constitutional —that it has been neither an infraction of the letter, nor an evasion of the spirit of the Constitution. They are ready to lay before you every document—every letter —every scrap that has crossed the threshold of the Association; they will read them to you, and then offer them to your inspection. Their books are here. Black book there is none. The names of their subscribers they have entered in a book; as it was indispensable they should do; for they would have been charged with dishonesty by their opponents had they not done so. But, a book of prohibition, a book of exclusion, a black book, as it has been called, there is none. They are prepared to prove the efforts which have been made by the Association to tranquillize Ireland. They are ready to prove, that when disturbances existed in upper and lower Ormond, when the Ribbon-men made an alarming progress in those districts, Mr. O'Connell and others repaired thither to check them; and that in the name of the Association, and with the address of the Association in their hand, they did check the spirit of ribbonism, and restore tranquillity. I have selected these from many other details which the delegates are ready to give. Examine them yourselves, and you will find that there is no point on which they are not solicitous to afford every possible explanation. If in the teeth of all these advantages which are held out to you; if in utter neglect and contempt of the signs of the times; you persist in the course, not of passing the bill, but of refusing to enter into any inquiry with respect to the facts on which its authors profess to found it—if, notwithstanding the most astounding instance of a misrepresentation of the truth which I have just exposed in the case of Mr. Hamilton Rowan, you still 591 persist, I beg to deliver myself from all share of the responsibility. On your heads be it!" [loud cheers.]
§ The House then divided—For the motion 89; Against it 222; Majority 133.