§ Mr. Spring Rice
presented two petitions from the city and county of Limerick, praying for a Repeal of the Union. The hon. Member said, that he was sorry he could not, consistently with his sense of public duty and personal integrity, give any support to the prayer of the petitioners. He was well convinced that a repeal of the Union would not benefit the people of Ireland, but that it would materially injure that country, and inflict the greatest evils upon the empire at large. As he gave the petitioners credit for honourable motives in forming the views they entertained upon the subject, it was but reasonable that they should extend the same liberality towards him, and that they should concede to him what he willingly yielded to them—the right of forming private opinions upon the subject.
§ Mr. O'Connell
, at the request of the petitioners, supported the petition. He had been accused of being the instigator of the petitions upon this subject, but he denied the charge, and appealed to the hon. member for Limerick for its fallacy. The petitions were, in fact, produced by great distress, which made men cast about for relief. He had announced last year that the distress was great, and it continued. It was impossible, indeed, to give an adequate idea of the distress and misery of Ireland. In Limerick it was frightful. He regretted, that the hon. member for Limerick disagreed with the petition; for he thought a repeal of the Union was the only measure that could possibly relieve 1001 the distress. Hon. Members could know nothing of the extent of this distress, as the London Press carefully avoided mentioning it. In fact, he wished for a Parliament in Ireland, because the Press of England, being governed by self-interest, had no motive to attend to the affairs of that country; and the condition, opinions, and sentiments, of the Irish people were, therefore, little known on this side of the Channel. Were the Union repealed, Irish opinion would find its weight. He feared that the opinion delivered by the hon. member for Limerick would be the means of depriving the House of the talents of that hon. Member.
§ Mr. Maberly
was convinced, that if agitation were not artfully kept up by designing persons, Ireland would be tranquil, and would excite a confidence that would occasion a flow of capital into that country. He had the means of knowing that the petitions asking for the repeal of the Union did not express the sentiments of the people. He thought the hon. and learned Member for Waterford might do something to remove the agitation which now prevailed, if be were so disposed.
could say nothing of the petitions, but he knew them to be signed by most respectable people.
§ Mr. Briscoe
thought, that the hon. member for Waterford ought to give Government fair play in its efforts to meliorate the condition of Ireland, and not throw difficulties in its way, by agitating that country. The only argument, indeed, which the learned Gentleman used in that House for the repeal of the Union was the neglect of Ireland by the King's Government. The charge always made by Irish Members- was, that Government neglected the affairs of Ireland. But now we had got an Administration, the members of which had always shown themselves friends to Ireland, and they stood pledged to do what they could to promote its prosperity: he thought, therefore, that the new Administration ought to get time to arrange their movements before any thing should be said as to their future intention in regard to Ireland.
§ Mr. Ruthven
said, that he was not desirous of troubling the House at any length, but he could not allow the opportunity to pass without expressing his opinion on the subject. Many individuals had told him that it would give them the greatest pleasure if he would undertake to support their 1002 petitions to this House, but he could not, consistently with the feelings he entertained for the interests of both countries, act in compliance with their wishes. At the same time he must tell the House, that it was in its power, and in that of his Majesty's Ministers, to put an end at once to these discussions. Let them, as the hon. and learned Member for Waterford said, do justice to Ireland, and we should hear no more of petition on petition for a repeal of the Union. He trusted, however, that Ireland would exercise patience, and allow Ministers time to consider what could be done further; and, on the other hand, he hoped Ministers would not delay relief too long, and that if they could not immediately assist the people of Ireland, they would at least let them know that they were not forgotten. He agreed with the hon. and learned member for Waterford, that the people of Ireland had not had justice done to them by the Parliament of this country. The people of England knew little of the wretched and abject state of the people of Ireland; they had not an opportunity of knowing it,—there was no Press to make them acquainted with the real state of the country,—Ireland had no means whatever of making its wants known. With regard to this discussion, he apprehended, be it right or wrong, that it would be of great advantage to the people of Ireland; and he hoped that, whenever a discussion of this nature took place, it would not be attended with taunts or provocations of which we had recently had several specimens. The more this question was agitated, the more it demanded from Government such exertions in favour of the people of Ireland as should produce real and beneficial results. What had been done for Ireland by former Parliaments was a proof that not much attention had been paid to its interests. He did not, indeed, see how it could by possibility be well attended to, for, with a population, equal to more than one-half that of Great Britain, it had not one-sixth part of the representation of the empire vested in it. That Ireland had improved, he was ready to admit, but further improvement was required before it could arrive at that state of happiness and prosperity in which it ought to be placed. Ireland was better situated for purposes of commerce, than any other country in the world; it possessed every possible means of becoming rich, as far as local advantages were concerned,— 1003 how was it, then, that the country was in its present deplorable condition? The two countries were very, very differently situated: England had grown old in riches and prosperity—Ireland was destitute of every comfort; while those who had the means in their power of increasing its welfare, remained voluntary exiles from its shores. Living much in Ireland, he was able to affirm, that a very good feeling subsisted between the two countries, and he must also say, that he had witnessed a good feeling generally in that House, when the affairs of Ireland had been under consideration; he, therefore, placed a strong dependance on Government, and even a firm reliance, that it would take immediate steps to adopt those measures in respect to Ireland, which were so much required to relieve its great distress.
§ Lord W. Powlett
had heard many debates in that House on Irish subjects, and night after night debates on petitions for a repeal of the Union. He could not see on what the complaints of the Irish people were founded, as compared with the people of England. They were lighter taxed; in fact, he might say, they were not taxed at all, for they paid no assessed taxes. If hon. Members for Ireland complained, why did they not introduce measures to that House?" For his part, he did not know what Ireland needed more than she had already obtained. But whatever she needed, it was the business of Irish Members to introduce suitable measures, not complain that it was not done by others.
Mr. R. More O'Ferrall
said, he would not trouble the House with any observations of his on the present occasion, were it not necessary to reply to the speech of the noble Lord who spoke last, and not leave uncontradicted the assertion that Ireland was not taxed; he begged to assure the noble Lord, that Ireland was not only taxed highly at the present moment, but would have been taxed more by his Majesty's late Government, and with the concurrence of the late Parliament, were it not that the demise of his late Majesty prevented the measure being carried through that House. Ireland had no reason to be obliged either to the Government or Parliament for her escape on that occasion, and if she was not more taxed, it was only because she was unable to bear more taxation. The assessed taxes, it was true, were taken off, not so much as a measure of relief, but because, they produced, so 1004 little as not to be worth the expense of collecting. The noble Lord said, he did not know what Ireland wanted. That was the only strong argument he had yet heard urged in that House in favour of the repeal. What! was it possible, after all the evidence given before so many committees, after the repeated declarations of Ministers themselves, of the wants and misery of Ireland, of which the noble Lord was ignorant, that such a declaration could be made. That showed distinctly that the noble Lord paid little attention to the country which he was so often called on to legislate for. If Irish Members did not introduce specific measures of relief, it was owing to the assurance they had so often received, that Government would, take up the subject. When some hon. Member did introduce motions to repeal obnoxious laws, they were met by strong majorities against them, of which it was not unreasonable to suppose the noble Lord formed one. He trusted this was the last time any hon. Member would rise in that House to assert that Ireland was not taxed, and the more so when so little informed on the subject as the noble Lord appeared to be.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that Ministers felt the deepest interest for the condition of Ireland, nor could he agree that either that House or the Government had neglected the affairs of that part of the empire; for since he had had a seat in Parliament, a very great portion of the time of the House had been occupied every Session in discussing subjects relating to Ireland. It was right that this should be the case, for the attention of Parliament, and of the executive Government, ought to be peculiarly applied to Ireland, as it was a part of the empire that most demanded relief. For himself, he had no property in Ireland, and no personal connexion with it whatever, and yet he had always attended as closely to the affairs of that country as any Irish Member. It was he who had moved for the committee on the state of Ireland; and from the labours of which so much benefit was acknowledged by all parties to have been derived, particularly as the Report of the Committee had produced such a change of feeling upon the subject. He could assure the House, that his Majesty's Ministers were duly impressed with the importance of Irish affairs, and would pay to them the utmost attention.
§ Sir G. Warrender
thought himself as 1005 much bound, as a Member of Parliament, to attend to Irish affairs as if he were a native of that country.
§ Mr. O'Connell
regretted to hear much of what had fallen from hon. Members. With regard to the observations of the member for Abingdon, who had stated from his own peculiar sources of information, that those persons who urged the repeal of the Union appeared to him chargeable with sinister motives; he could, not avoid complaining that the hon. Member should so traduce those men. The hon. Member should have made some inquiry before he ventured to make such a charge. The Irish people had much confidence in the new Administration, but their confidence would never induce them to give up the question of a repeal of the Union. A noble Lord (Lord Wm. Powlett) had said, that Ireland was not grievously taxed. The noble Lord must have strange ideas of taxation. Ireland was taxed one million to Grand Juries, two millions for the support of the Church establishment, and four millions were paid into the Treasury. Was this taxation not grievous?—In addition,—although to a certainty the tax was paid in England,— the duties on tea were to be included. They were not considered as part of the Irish revenue, but they were substantially so. Since the war, thirty millions of taxation had been taken off England, while only 500,000l. had been removed from Ireland. This showed the want of a resident Legislature. But since this sum was taken off, 300,000l. had been added. It had been asked by the noble Lord, why did not the Irish Members propose some measures of relief for Ireland? Twice had he brought forward questions of great importance to Ireland, and on each occasion he was left in a minority. The two questions were, the Subletting and Vestry Acts; and on the occasions of both divisions, the noble Lord voted against him. Could it be urged that Ireland had not the means of forming a local Legislature? Ireland had in former times flourished under her own Legislature, and why should she not do so now? From the year 1782, until the Union, Ireland was never in such a state of prosperity—far, far different from what she was now. The equalization of duties had ruined her manufactories. Until the Union should be repealed, he despaired of seeing Ireland flourish, and he implored his Majesty's Ministers to consider well the measure.
§ Sir Robert Wilson
said, that the hon. and learned member for Waterford had said a great deal, on various occasions, of the happiness and prosperity enjoyed by Ireland under its Parliaments; he had described its state then as one of the highest prosperity, and the hon. and learned Member affirmed, that the greatest benefits had accrued to Ireland from being represented by its own Parliament. He could take upon himself to say, that a more unreal picture was never drawn than that of the prosperous state of Ireland under that Parliament. A more miserable country never shocked the eye of civilized humanity than Ireland under that system,—a more miserable country never existed than it was at that time. He could bring the most incontestible proofs of what he asserted. The greatest abuse of legislative power prevailed— monopoly of every kind existed to the greatest extent—the most venal patronage that can possibly be conceived was tolerated—and a total neglect of the interests of the people existed to a degree that debased and disgraced the country. Of these facts he was an eye-witness, having been much in Ireland at the time of the existence of this much talked of Parliament. From Ireland he went to Egypt; and he could assure the House, that wretched as were the natives of that country—miserable as the Egyptian was,—in fact, he was as abject, poor, and miserable as a human being could be who had the means of existence,—it was his feeling, and the feeling of every one who accompanied him there, that the Egyptians were not so abject, poor, miserable, and indescribably wretched, as the Irishmen whom they had left. In such a state of things, the Union was hailed, not as the means of usurping the dominion over Ireland, not as the means of checking its prosperity, but as a measure of mercy and benevolence; it was hailed with satisfaction, because it was considered that it would be the means of correcting the abuses which existed, and it was the wish of every intelligent man to afford esential relief to that suffering country. If the country was in such a state as the hon. and learned Member represented, what induced the people to rebel? Who were those that engaged in the Rebellion, and what induced them to rise against the Government? It was not on account of religions—the Catholic Church did not 1007 patronize the rebellion in any way. What, then, induced the people to commit the outrages they did? Why, the dreadful state of the country. The Rebellion, taken by itself, without any other fact, was a sufficient proof of the wretchedness of the people. He could refer the hon. and learned member for Waterford to documents which would convince him that his statement was founded in error,—which would prove to him that the country was not in the flourishing state he described. What Ireland now wanted was repose, which might permit capital to flow into the country, and be the means of furnishing employment to those peasants who at present sought it on our shores, beating down the price of our labour in our market. If the country, however, were to be kept in a state of agitation—the higher classes would not return to it, and the peasantry must remain destitute of employment. As long as there was nothing but division and discord, absenteeism would continue. An Irish gentleman naturally said, "I would rather live in peace on a crust of bread than live in plenty in a country in a state of anarchy." Would any hon. Member take his wife and children to a country in a state of perpetual agitation? If there were peace in Ireland—if they would allow the experiment to be made, whether, with the country in a state of peace, absenteeism would not be removed, they would soon enjoy the beneficial results of the trial: on the contrary, if the agitation of this question were persisted in, he was convinced that the country would be plunged into even greater calamity than it had yet suffered. It was not pursuing a fair course towards the friends to the Catholic Bill, that immediately after it was passed, Irish Members should say, "You have granted one measure of conciliation, but that is nothing; we require from you further measures of conciliation; the passing of that bill was only one step in your advance." What would be the consequence of that? Why, they would be reproached by their countrymen for having led them into that measure. This was not honest in the hon. and learned member for Waterford and his friends. If the Union were repealed, we should find ancient animosities renewed with additional violence; the ancient feuds between Catholics and Protestants would be rekindled; and the next step would be, an 1008 attempt to establish Catholic ascendancy, —a measure that must necessarily be attended, not only with spoliation of every description, but with all the horrors of a civil war. The hon. and learned member for Waterford—for the petition was understood to be his in fact—had much better withdraw it, and give a fair opportunity to the government to carry its plans into execution for the advantage of Ireland. The hon. and learned member for Waterford had raked up the circumstances of former times for the purpose of representing Englishmen as the most cruel and oppressive tyrants: he had put his hand to a charge of the most unwarrantable description that could possibly be made; he had not only traduced the militia regiments which served in Ireland as enemies to that country, he had also traduced one of the greatest ornaments of this country in the most unwarrantable manner; he had declared that the individual to whom he alluded—a nobleman whose character could bear even the calumny of the hon. Member—who was as remarkable for his benevolence of conduct as his love of justice—the hon. and learned Member accused the Marquis Cornwallis—of having sold the life of a criminal to the yeomanry of the county of Wicklow, in order to obtain their assent to the Union. That was the most unwarrantable, unfounded, and unjustifiable accusation that was ever made by any man in existence. The character of that noble individual belonged to his country. If he had the honour of being a relative of his, he would compel the hon. and learned member for Waterford to establish his charge. There never was a man who joined the standard of rebellion more deserving of punishment—there never was one who better deserved the vengeance of the law—than the individual whom the Marquis Cornwallis was said to have sold to the yeomanry of Waterford.
§ Mr. Maberly
was desirous, as a pointed allusion had been made to him by the hon. and learned member for Waterford, of saying a few words in explanation. He begged to state, that he received his information from a person as well acquainted with Ireland as the hon. Gentleman. There could, however, be no doubt, that if agitation were put an end to, and Ireland were allowed to repose, prosperity would begin. How could capital flow into a country where there was no security 1009 for its inhabitants? Would absentees return to a place where they were prevented from living in quiet? Let the hon. and learned member for Waterford deny the truth of the proposition if he could. Individuals of property would not return to Ireland until they could live in a state of security. He did not accuse the hon. and learned member for Waterford, individually, of being the cause of the agitation. The hon. and learned Member was not, however, correct in his statement of the taxation of Ireland, when he contradicted the noble Lord. He wished to see taxation reduced; but he must say, that Ireland, proportionately, was not so much taxed as England; the people of the former being taxed at 12s. per head, while those of the latter paid 3l. 12s. each; not including local taxation, amounting from twenty to twenty-five per cent more without tithes. How then could the hon. Gentleman say, that Ireland was as much taxed as England? He had always been mindful of the interests of Ireland, and always would be a supporter of her interests; but for that very reason, he was opposed to the agitation of this question, which only increased the distresses of Ireland.
§ Mr. Leader
was of opinion, that the hon. members for Southwark and for Waterford met on pretty nearly equal terms—they had both been aspirants for popular favour— they had both assisted in fanning the flame of patriotism in their respective countries, and giving it a practical direction; and the gallant General could not consistently condemn altogether in another the course which he had, in some degree, pursued himself. He regretted deeply that his hon. friend the member for Waterford, should have a stronger claim to allowance for anger and irritation than any other public man. After being returned for an independent county, an Act of Parliament was made to exclude him from the highest honour which his countrymen could confer. The beardless boys of his profession, and the incompetent men had, in unnecessary and extraordinary numbers, been advanced before him; and though nothing could deprive him of public support, yet everything had been done, even whilst engaged in the legitimate and glorious endeavour to emancipate millions of his countrymen, which the most rancorous personal hostility could devise, to deprive his family and himself of the fair 1010 emoluments of his splendid talents and acquirements. Minds which could allow personal animosities to stand in the way of international interests never could expand to the consideration of the interests of a great empire. It had been the fashion to undervalue Ireland; and when Gentlemen called on his friend the member for Waterford, to name a day for the discussion of the Repeal of the Union, it would be well that they should recollect, that the magnitude and importance of the question were too great to allow it to be forced into premature debate. Until the peace, Ireland had, as appears from official documents, been an exporting and importing country with Great Britain, to the amount of twenty-one millions annually. It was stated by Mr. Foster, twenty years ago, that the remittances to absentees exceeded three millions, and they had most probably greatly increased. Absenteeism was a perennial abstraction of so much of the national income, and impoverished the classes dependent on labour, in the same degree as a sum of equal amount, when dispensed by resident landlords, vivifies and cherishes domestic industry in all its departments. The produce of Ireland was of little value to the husbandman after being thrashed out for the payment of local burthens and remittances to the absentee. The high aristocracy were all absentees, and too many of the gentry had followed their example. It was immaterial to Ireland how the money was spent. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, from]802 to 1816, had drawn from five to eight millions annually from a country which, before this Union, never paid more than one million in taxation, the rest being supplied by lottery, and a tax on absentees. Whilst the war rents were paid, Ireland was a picture pleasing to behold; and whilst double the present prices for the produce of land secured the content of the land-owners, and a magnificent patronage existed in a gorgeous Church establishment, the government of Ireland was not very difficult to be conducted. When Gentlemen came down to this House after rehearsing and preparing speeches against the member for Waterford, and taunted him with all the agitation and all the discontent in Ireland, they shewed that they were wholly ignorant of the country; and they must bend to the labour and the drudgery of making themselves acquainted, 1011 with the facts before they could understand it. Was no allowance to be made for the discontent and embarrassment occasioned by the reduction of prices of landed produce by the transition from war to peace? Was no allowance to be made for that discontent being aggravated by the change from a paper to a metallic currency? Was no allowance to be made for the discontent occasioned by the necessity of transmitting double the quantity of produce to England to pay absentees the same rent as before those reductions? He admitted the discontent, but could any one expect it to be otherwise, who knew that the resources of Ireland consisted in its trade of provisions, the price of which had fallen half,—in cattle which had for many years been sold at a most ruinous reduction,—and in its corntrade, which had also experienced a reduction in value corresponding with that of its other exports,—and in the linen manufacture, which had almost disappeared; would any one, he asked, expect it to be otherwise who knew that the resources of Ireland had been diminished one-half, while her wants had augmented. He believed in the existence of great discontent, but it was impossible for any man to see a large circle of friends, and extensive family connexions, suffering from poverty and want, and not be discontented. Ireland not possessing the affluence of England, the calamities he had enumerated had fallen on her with a deadly and almost insuperable pressure. Allow him to tell the gallant General, that personal rancour was a bad restorative, cither to the health of a State or the complacency of an individual—that abuse would not heal what magnanimity, diligence, industry, and honesty, might possibly alleviate, —and allow him also to say, that when public emergencies, and when public interests loudly called for it—enmities ought to be forgotten, and personal asperities discountenanced. It had been re-echoed again and again, that if the member for Waterford were to hold his tongue, no one else would open his mouth to agitate the question of the Union. He did not agree in that opinion. The means of Ireland were unequal to her burthens; a crisis was approaching when engagements could not be kept, and both wisdom and humanity, demanded that every possible national resource should be developed. If a flame was already spreading in Ireland, he 1012 knew no way of quenching it but by accumulating benefits, and by a demonstration of increased affection. For the last fifteen years, he had advocated the principle that England had as deep an interest in the prosperity of Ireland, as Ireland itself. If they compared the trade of Ireland with Great Britain, and the trade of Great Britain with the rest of the world, they would find that the trade of the eastern coast of Ireland, from Waterford to Belfast, was equal to the most valuable trade which England had with the south of Europe, namely, that with the Italian States; the trade of Cork and Limerick was equal to the trade with France; the trade with the rest of Ireland was fully equal to that of Spain and Portugal. The ambition of his life was to cultivate the resources of Ireland; to make her a partner in the concern of the empire, whom it was impossible to overlook, and to obtain for her a fair share of profits and advantages. He had often contrasted the trade of Ireland, in times of Irish prosperity, with the trade of the north of Europe, the south of Europe, and with the trade of the East Indies, or of America and the West-Indies; and he could assert fearlessly, that Ireland held a proud, and, in point of value, a successful comparison. It had occurred to him, that it would not be impossible to make up the deficiency of the price of Irish commodities by an increase in the quantity. If for twenty years he had devoted his leisure to supply a remedy for the frightful depreciation of the prices of landed produce, by extending the sphere of improvement, it would be hard if he required more than twenty days to consider whether great legislative attention and honesty might not correct the evils which long misrule and criminal neglect had created. His principles had not been hastily taken up, and would not be lightly abandoned. He had obtruded himself on no constituency—he had, as a public man, no claim on his country, but his attachment to her interests, and his endeavours to promote amelioration and improvement. His life had been devoted to political principles which had at length obtained a triumph. He begged leave to press on the attention of the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the reduced value of the landed produce of Ireland—the decay of manufactures— the little dependence which was to be placed on the dreams about British capital, the 1013 embarrassed state of landed property in Ireland, the impoverished condition of the people, the absence of the great landed proprietors, the admitted recurrence of periodical distress, the weight of local taxation, the increased pressure of tithes and other exactions, and the now urgent necessity of, at all events, removing, to the fullest extent, every reasonable and admitted ground of complaint. If that were not done, if the distress of Ireland were not alleviated, no man living could contemplate without dismay and sorrow the consequences to which the present discontent must inevitably lead.
said, the measure which was the subject of the prayer of this petition would require, and he trusted would receive, from an English Legislature that consideration and attention which every measure should receive, when acknowledged to be of considerable importance. He should not, however, be doing his duty to the persons who had requested him to support their petition— to those who had been entitled designing and interested men, if he did not state, that the thousands who had been so designated, and whom he had seen assemble for no other purpose than to benefit their country—were as patriotic as the hon. Member who censured them. [Mr. Maberly; I did not say thousands, but merely a few, who agitated.] He would give the hon. Member's argument the benefit of those interested few, since he exempted the many from the charge, and he would tell him, that thousands in Ireland had pledged themselves to make this the only Irish question of importance till it was attained. He would give the hon. Member the few to whom he had alluded, and would then add, that there were millions with those thousands in Ireland, who had, and who could have, no other motives in agitating the question, than a principle of love and affection for their native land. Accepting these as admitted premises, it would not be unimportant to inquire how it happened that the gallant knight should have made, in the few observations he addressed to the House, so great an historical mistake as he had made. The hon. and gallant Member observed, in reference to the Irish rebellion, that it was caused by distress; but if the gallant knight would only refer to the page of history, he would find that he was incorrect. [Sir Robert Wilson had said, that 1014 the Rebellion itself was a proof that great distress existed.] So he understood the hon. and gallant Member, and he was, therefore, prepared to contend, that the distress which existed in Ireland was not the cause of that rebellion. It would appear, upon an inquiry into the facts, that the distress at that period was not greater than at present; and he had no doubt, that distress had increased tenfold since the Union, taking into consideration the subsequent increase of population. The latter had increased many-fold, and there had been at the same time a proportionate diminution of the resources which had been previously available to the maintenance of the people and their employment. Absenteeism had increased—the people suffered mighty exactions — resources were drawn from the country, which, if retained, would be sufficient to maintain their families—a fund to sustain foreign luxury was torn from the people, was wrung from their distresses, and all they cried for was, that the Legislature would grant them the means of obtaining future competence. Was the hon. and gallant Member aware of the exactions in the shape of tithes to support a Protestant Church where there was no Protestant? Was the gallant Member aware that those exactions had arrived at a magnitude in amount that had never been paralleled? was the gallant Member aware that the complaint of the Irish was, that all these exactions were drawn from them without their receiving any benefit in return? They were stripped of money on the pretext of repairing churches where no churches existed,—for building churches where no churches were ever built, — for the administering of sacred elements where there was no parson to administer, and no Protestant to receive them! Could hon. Members, being aware of these extortions be surprised that Ireland was discontented? But at the period the gallant Member alluded to, Ireland was systematically goaded into rebellion by Government tools, the ready agents of mischief. The use to be made of history was, to inquire into the causes of evil events, in order to apply the proper remedy, should they threaten again. The Rebellion was the result of a plan of the then Government, concocted to press that country into a premature revolt, in order to promote the carrying of the Union. If rebellion had not been excited, would those extortions he had referred to have 1015 been existing now? Would the people have been stripped of their food as they were at present? Would an Irish Parliament have endured, that so much of the produce of the land should have been taken from it without any return? Would Ireland have ever allowed such a grievance as tithes to exist, without a proportionate advantage being conferred in return? There was no man acquainted with the real state of Ireland now, and with its history, who would not be ready to admit that those frightful scenes of distress and calamity that had since occurred would not have happened if there had been an Irish Parliament. Could it be said, that Ireland was not capable of governing herself? To that he would reply, by referring to the great men who had been subtracted from that country, and who had assisted with honour, credit, and success, to govern elsewhere. Before he concluded, he wished to bear testimony to the courtesy and attention with which Irish business was listened to in that House. He would say, in justice to hon. Members, that he had met with kindness and attention which he had little anticipated. Not only had Irish Members and Irishmen had fair play, but Englishmen had been occupied more with Irish affairs than with any other, and he sincerely trusted that Ireland would never fail in gratitude, but that the hearts and hands of his honest countrymen would be always ready to support a country in alliance that had listened to their complaints. He would call on the House to mark how Ireland stood at present, with all these causes of complaint which he had enumerated. Captain Rock had transferred his commission to Captain Swing. Ireland was tranquil! England disturbed! He should, as he always had done, disclaim that popularity which might be had by throwing himself into the scale with any popular man, but no consideration should induce him to withdraw his support from any measure of benefit to Ireland, come from what quarter it might. No personal inconvenience, no feeling of personal wrong should operate against his sense of duty. He would always support measures, and not men; and he was certain that a speedy settlement of this great question would have the effect of promoting the interest of both countries. The same evils afflicted Ireland — the same wretchedness prevailed as on former occasions, and yet was Ireland in a state of 1016 tranquillity. The gallant Officer said, that Ireland was agitated; but by what species of agitation? There was no violent attack upon private property—no destruction of the instruments of husbandry or industry—no destruction of merchandise — no riotous assemblages marching by day and night through the country, bearding the authorities, and telling them that they would have their own measures and their own prices—and no demanding of money with threats of violence. The conduct of the Irish was the direct reverse; Irishmen came respectfully to the bar of that House and implored it to inquire into and remedy their wrongs. They did not attempt to intimidate, but merely requested a redress of their grievances, and the contrast was highly favourable to Ireland. Would it not suffice that men should be exposed to starvation equal to that now complained of in England, to give them a just claim to instant remedy? Yet what Englishmen complained of, and called starvation, would be absolute feasting to the poor of Ireland. They would be satisfied if they could get only half what Englishmen had. They had three or four meals a day, but give Pat the certainty of only two, or even one meal a day for himself and wretched family, and he was content, if not cheerful. The gallant Member alluded to a late measure as not having had the beneficial effect that was anticipated from it; but was it nothing, in these perilous times, that this measure had kept the people tranquil? and he hoped the hon. member for Waterford would still use the unbounded influence he possessed in keeping them so. Contrary to what had been asserted, he would maintain that Englishmen need not be afraid of carrying their capital into Ireland, for it would give them an ample return. But the gallant Member, in speaking of the Catholic measure, said, that a war would occur in Ireland on the repeal of the Union,—that the Catholics would combine for the purpose of driving the Protestants out of the country—such was the sense of what he said—into the waves of the Atlantic? There never was a greater calumny, or a more unfounded imputation cast upon any body of men. The Catholics never would participate in such a project, and even a feeling of hostility against the Protestants would meet with the reprehension of every Catholic of every class. Catholics, both 1017 layman and clergyman, would unite to repel any attempt to prevent Catholics and Protestants from living in the bonds of amity, affection, and concord. Such was his opinion; and he would have preferred being a slave for ever, to accepting liberty with such a base project as that in view.
Sir John Bourke
expressed a decided opinion against the repeal of the Union; but he could not hear the observations of the hon. member for Abingdon, without rising to deny that the agitation in Ireland was caused by interested and designing persons He must admit that many of the ablest and most honorable men in Ireland supported that measure, and he feared, by not supporting it, he had lost so much of the favour of his constituents as to endanger his success on a future occasion. He entirely agreed with his hon. friend, the member for Clare, and denied that the object of the Catholics of Ireland was to tear down the Protestant establishment, and set up their own in its place. He believed in his heart that the Catholics had no such desire. He ever should, as a Catholic, discountenance any attempt to give power to the Clergy of the religion which he professed. The Catholics only desired that their religion should enjoy the same impartial protection as all religions did in America and France.
Sir Robert Bateson
hoped that his Majesty's Ministers would take the state of Ireland into their serious and immediate consideration. There was one point to which he wished to advert, and it was this—after the passing of the Relief Bill, confident hopes were entertained on all hands, that peace and tranquillity would be restored to Ireland; it was producing such effects, till the agitation of the repeal of the Union commenced; it had produced the best effects till that arose. As a resident of the north of Ireland, he. could assure the House, and the hon. member for Waterford, that this agitation was again arousing bitter feelings of hostility and party dissension in that part of Ireland. The party contests in that part of the country were again commencing, in consequence of that agitation. He spoke advisedly when he said, for he knew that the fact was so, that the Orangemen of Ireland would rally again—that they would make this a party-question, and that the former dissensions between Catholics and Protestants in the north of Ireland would 1018 be again fomented on account of this question. He knew that such had been the case already, and he would therefore implore the hon. member for Waterford to exercise the influence which he certainly had in Ireland, to stop the agitation of this question. Whether the Union was or was not a good measure, it had now existed thirty years, and a repeal of it could not be effected without revolution and a bloody civil war. He implored the hon. Member to stop that agitation, and to exert the great talents he possessed in some other way. It was in his power to stop it, and unless he did so, he would be answerable for the blood which would be spilt. The hope of the return of tranquillity to Ireland had been cherished, and he believed that party feeling had subsided until the agitation of this question within the last few months. He wished as well to his country as the hon. Member, and he was as independent as he was, and he therefore opposed this agitation, because he thought it ruinous to Ireland. He spoke for the good of the country, and he would tell the hon. Member, that in the province of Ulster, every respectable man —every man of common sense—every man who had any thing to lose—men of all religions, deprecated the agitation of this question, because the people of Ireland were easily excited concerning it; and because that excitement was most injurious to Ireland they opposed it. He thought the repeal of the Union was a most idle and mischievous measure, and that the agitation of it would be attended with the worst consequences. He repeated his conviction, that if it were carried, it would only produce separation, revolution, and bloodshed. He again implored the hon. member for Waterford to stop the discussion of it. He thanked the House for the attention with which he had been heard, and he was sure that in an Irish Parliament greater attention would not be shown to an Irish question. He was ashamed to say, as an Irishman, that since the beginning of the Session they had discussed nothing else but Irish questions, and heard nine Irish Members every night. If the hon. member for Waterford possessed the unbounded influence which the hon. member for Clare said he did over the people of Ireland—that hon. Member, he believed, said, that the people of Ireland were in his hands, and that he could wind them as he wished;—if he possessed 1019 that influence, and there was no doubt that his influence was very great, he implored him to exercise it in the stopping the agitation of this question. He would call the attention of Government to the meetings which were now being held in Dublin. It was not to be wondered at that such excitement was easily created amongst the lower orders of the people in Ireland. He was sure that the repeal of the Union would not benefit them or the country, but that bad as they were in Ireland, it would throw them back twenty years, and make every thing worse. He trusted, therefore, that the hon. Member would use his influence in stopping the agitation, and that he would employ his great talents in effecting some practical good for Ireland. The curse of absenteeism was the only argument he ever heard urged in support of the repeal. He repudiated the absurd doctrine of the political economists, that absentees were not an evil to a country; absenteeism was the misery of Ireland, but a repeal of the Union would not remedy it. He thanked the member for Abingdon for the observations which he had made; that hon. Member had truly said, that Ireland only wanted repose to induce the British capitalists to invest their money in Ireland. If tranquillity was restored they would much rather send it to Ireland, which was so advantageously situated to receive it, than send it to South America and other distant countries. They only wanted repose in Ireland, and British capital would flow into it. He again called the attention of the Government to the meetings which were taking place in Dublin; the most inflammatory speeches and statements were made at those meetings, which must have the worst effects upon a starving population. Not later than a week ago speeches were made at one of those meetings full of sedition, if not of treason. An appeal was made to physical force—the working classes were told that they were the men who could carry it—that they were the men who could work the cannon—and that it was by them that the Union flag would be taken down from the Castle of Dublin, and the green standard hoisted in its place. If such things were allowed to go on, there was an end to all government, and if such conduct was suffered, the worst consequences would follow from it.
said, that the statement which had fallen from the hon. Mem- 1020 ber, as to the effects produced by this agitation, should not be allowed to go uncontradicted, as it would produce greater mischief in Ireland than any thing which had been said that night. He denied the statement that party feelings and dissensions had been again brought into play in Ireland.
Sir Robert Bateson
explained, that he had only deprecated the agitation of the repeal of the Union, as it would be productive of religious animosities.
§ Petition laid on the Table. In moving that it be printed,
§ Mr. O'Connell
said, that the gallant member for Southwark had again attacked him; but on the three points on which he attacked him he was ready to meet him. He said, that he (Mr. O'Connell) had traduced the English militia: he had never done so in any genuine document that had come from him, and he had not charged it with any thing that he was not able to prove. If the gallant Member would point out any thing untrue with regard to the English militia, which had been stated by him (Mr. O'Connell,) he would retract it. His assertion with regard to Byrne, and the conduct of Lord Cornwallis, he was ready to prove at any time; he could prove Lord Cornwallis had made the compromise he had stated in that instance with the yeomanry. He meant, in spite of the advice of hon. Members, to continue the agitation for the repeal of the Union. He was grateful for emancipation, but he had always said at Catholic meetings, that he sought emancipation with a view to get back their Parliament, and at a meeting in 1810 he had offered to the Dublin Corporation to give up the demand for emancipation if they would join for a repeal of the Union. The repeal of the Union was the object of his whole political life.
§ Sir Robert Wilson
said, that the previous crimes of Byrne rendered his execution indispensable, and he had documents in his possession which would prove the incorrectness of the assertions of the hon. and learned Member.
§ Petition to be printed.