§ On the question being again put, Mr. George Dawson
said, that as it was not probable he should have another opportunity for some weeks to come, to attract the attention of the House to what he considered an important subject, he felt it necessary to make a few observations on the recent appointments and changes in Ireland. He believed that all men were agreed on the question of the fitness of the persons who were appointed to fill these offices, and he was confident, indeed, that the learned Gentleman raised to the bench of the Common Pleas, would, in a very brief space of time, satisfy all of the propriety of his elevation. It was not so much to the men who were placed in the new situations, as to the manner in which they were so placed, that the objections were taken; and he believed he spoke the feelings of the people of Ireland when he said, that the appointment of (Lord Plunkett) to the head of the Court of Chancery had excited the utmost dissatisfaction and astonishment. On a former occasion, he (Mr. Dawson) had asked a question of the noble Lord (Althorp) with respect to that appointment, and the noble Lord seemed to know very little about it. He had, however, since learnt, that Lord Plunkett had been selected for the appointment because the Government had occasion for a political Judge. Now, in his humble opinion, Ire- 1371 land had had enough of political Judges; and if the principle of selecting Judges for their politics was once to be entertained, the House would soon be visited by such a flight from the four Courts that it would soon become tired of the company of Irish barristers. It was now four years since Sir Anthony Hart had been appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland, purely because it was agreed by all parties that Ireland required a Judge who was not mixed up with politics; and they were now told, that it was necessary to displace him for a Judge who was mixed up with politics, and whose appointment was looked on by all parties, Catholic as well as Protestant, with equal dread and consternation. It was, indeed, notorious, that Lord Plunkett was not popular with the Catholics, and was looked on with distrust by all the Protestants. They were told, however, in this country, that the noble Lord's appointment was the more worthy of approbation, because he must be ranked among the most strenuous supporters of the Established Church. But it was well known to every body in Ireland, that Lord Plunkett was bred a Dissenter, and that he is not by any means likely to be extremely zealous in favour of the Church. The measure had been recommended by the assertion, that there was to be a saving of 2,000l. a year in the future salary of the Lord Chancellor. All this sounded well in words, but how did it correspond with the conduct of Ministers in that House? Some ten days ago, the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, moved for a Select Committee of that House, to report on the amount which it considered fitting to be given to the Ministers of the Crown, because they thought that course would be more grateful to the country, and prove more beneficial to the public service, than if they were to make the reductions themselves; but in this case, where the salary of a great law-officer and a member of the other House, was concerned, they seemed to have no hesitation in fixing the amount of his salary themselves. There was an inconsistency in this not a little remarkable, and even ridiculous. It appeared, indeed, as if Ministers merely intended to throw a tub to the whale, for the gratification of the popular feeling of the moment; but that, in any case where a point of patronage was concerned, they could come to a decisive conclusion at once. Either Ministers had 1372 not turned their attention to the question of economy, notwithstanding all their promises—or they did not see their way clearly to a performance of them. At all events, he was sure that such proceedings would not satisfy the country. He now came to another point—the retirement of the Chief Baron of the Exchequer in Ireland. They were told, that the Chief Baron had expressed a strong desire to retire, and that twenty-five years service gave him a title to demand it. Now, when he (Mr. Dawson) was connected with the Government, he knew that nothing was then heard of the disposition of the Chief Baron to retire —nothing of his indisposition to continue to preside on the Bench; and, indeed, he might say, that the learned Judge was considered to be as fit for the efficient performance of his duties as any other in the country; but now they were all on a sudden told, that the Chief Baron was to retire, and to be bribed with a peerage for his complaisance. He did not wish to cast any imputation on the learned Chief Baron, but he wished the House to recollect how that learned Judge was situated with respect to some of the Members of the late Administration. In 1823, his hon. friend, the member for Limerick, now a member of the Government, made a motion in the House which, if it had succeeded, would have led to the impeachment of the Chief Baron. He had voted against the motion of his hon. friend at the time it was brought forward; but was it recollected by some of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, and did they recollect the position it. placed them in with regard to the Judge? Did they remember what were the charges they brought forward against, the chief Baron, and supported by their deliberate vote in that House? Did they remember what they had urged against the Judge whom they now advised their Sovereign to raise to the peerage as a reward for his resigning his seat at the time they required it? In the year 1823 some of the hon. persons who gave this advice brought forward a motion against the Chief Baron O'Grady, charging him with taking unnecessary and illegal fees in his Court of the Exchequer; a charge which, if entertained by the House, could have had no other effect than that of subjecting him to impeachment. The motion was lost, and the Chief Baron escaped the consequences of its being carried—he (Mr. Dawson) having, as he 1373 observed before, voted against the accusation. But what was the course adopted by the supporters of the motion? They —the moment they obtained power—rewarded with a Peerage the man whom they had proclaimed by their vote an extortioner of illegal fees. And who were the persons who composed the minority to which he alluded? Who were the Chief Baron's accusers? Why, the very first name on the list he found to be that of. Henry Brougham, now Lord High Chancellor of England and Keeper of the King's conscience—the very person whose duty it became, as a public officer, to affix the Seal to the Patent of Peerage of the Chief Baron; and whose duty it became also, as Keeper of the Royal Conscience, to advise his Sovereign with truth and sincerity on his sense of the fitness of the person who was to receive such a dignity at his hands. The next name he found in the minority was that of the member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. W. Wynn), who was also one of his Majesty's Cabinet Ministers, bound to advise him on this subject. Then there were among others the names of the hon. member for Limerick (Mr. S. Rice), and that of the hon. member for Dungarvon (Mr. Lamb), both of them connected with the Government, and one of them (Mr. Lamb) the Under Secretary for the Home Department—an office through which the patent of peerage must pass, and in which the hon. Member would have, of course, the opportunity of pointing out to his brother, Lord Melbourne, the unfitness, in his opinion, of the Chief Baron, for the honour to which he was destined.* These, however, were the men, who, at this particular time, thought the Chief Baron no longer disqualified for the honours of the peerage; and who even recommended to their Sovereign, that the person whom they had once stigmatized by their vote, should be now bribed with a peerage to quit the Bench, and rewarded also for his compliance with 3,600l. a-year saddled on the country as his pension. He regretted the necessity of alluding to these matters at this moment, and of troubling the House, but he thought it of great importance, that the public should estimate properly the value of the professions of the Ministry, and that they should be informed of the degree*See Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, New Series, Vol. viii. p. 1511.1374 of respect with which a Whig Government regarded the honour of the peerage, and of the regard which they really paid to their promises of economy and retrenchment.
rose, to express his surprise that the right hon. Gentleman should have ripped up accusations—exploded accusations—of ten years' standing, in order to make a point against the Government, without giving him (Colonel O'Grady) any notice of his intention. Had the right hon. Gentleman done so, he should have been prepared to prove, that those who brought forward those charges against his father acquitted him of any criminality, and that the public were equally satisfied of his innocence. With respect to the imputation of a bribe to leave the Bench, he must say, that he never expected to be the inheritor of honours acquired in that manner. He knew, indeed, that it never would be his lot. The character of his father placed him above such an imputation, and he could say with confidence, that if he retired, and he was not yet convinced that it was his father's intention to retire, his retirement would take place without any regard to the official changes which would ensue in consequence of his doing so. The Chief Baron had been frequently offered permission to retire; and if, after twenty-five years service, he now accepted the offer, he was sure it was without the shadow of an imputation of impropriety. He trusted the House would pardon the time he had occupied in giving vent to the feelings which had been roused on this occasion; but he could not avoid expressing his surprise, that he had not received any intimation of this renewal of the charges against the Chief Baron.
Sir James Graham
began, by complaining that the right hon. Gentleman had taken the opportunity of making an attack on the Government, at a time when the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) was unavoidably absent, from a domestic calamity; and his other noble friend (Lord Palmerston) was also absent, from the pressure of the most urgent public business. The defence of the measures of the Government had, therefore, fallen on him (Sir J. Graham), one of its most unworthy members; and he must take leave to trouble the House with a very few observations on the extraordinary attack which the right hon. Gentleman had made on the whole 1375 of the conduct of Government, with respect to the legal appointments. The Government to which he had the honour to belong, was on its trial before the country. It placed its title to the support of the people, through whom it hoped to maintain its power, on three great principles— a determination to produce a thorough reform in the Commons' House of Parliament; a desire to make all practicable reduction in the public burthens, and to secure the most rigid economy; and lastly, on a zealous endeavour to maintain peace in its foreign relations. These were the principles of the Government. From the trial to which they were to be subjected, then, its members did not shrink back, for they looked forward with confidence to the opportunity of redeeming the pledges they had given to their country. The right hon. Gentleman says, the House is to take the new law appointments as a specimen of the manner in which the Ministers mean to redeem those pledges. He hoped he was not to take the speech of that evening as a specimen of the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman, or of the generosity of demeanour with which the acts of the Government were to be henceforth regarded. He said right hon. Gentleman—he at one time thought he might have said right hon. friend; but if the honour and integrity of every member of his Majesty's present Government was to be called in question, as he had heard that night, he feared he could say friend no more. He could scarcely, indeed, believe, that three short weeks could have produced so striking a change in the language of the right hon. Gentleman, and so strong an opposition to the Government, if he had not heard and seen the right--hon. Gentleman, when opposed to the Ministry of the late Mr. Canning, in the year 1827. He must say that, situated as he (Sir James Graham) then was, in the absence of so many of his colleagues, he thought he might have expected greater forbearance from the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had asserted, that it was inexpedient to make the appointment of Judges, political appointments. In the general rule he perfectly agreed with the right hon. Gentleman; but the appointment of Lord Chancellor, both in England and in Ireland, was an exception to that rule: he was the political counsellor of the Crown. The appointment of Sir Anthony Hart was an exception to the 1376 general rule in that respect. That matter had been explained elsewhere by the noble Lord at the head of his Majesty's Government. Among the many evils which had attended the non-settlement of the Catholic Question, one of the greatest (and it was so stated at the time by the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth), was, that it prevented Government from being at liberty to choose certain officers whom, under other circumstances, they would have appointed. Lord Goderich distinctly stated, only a few evenings before, that this consideration had placed his Majesty's Government under great difficulty, and rendered it expedient that Sir Anthony Hart should remain Lord Chancellor of Ireland, although Lord Plunkett would have been a preferable person for that situation. As to the expediency at the present moment of having a Lord Chancellor of Ireland, whose political opinions coincided with his Majesty's Government, when it was considered that Ireland was greatly agitated, and that a powerful party was busily engaged in that country in attempting to dissolve the Union, he thought that, all who agreed with him that a repeal of the Union with Ireland would be equivalent to a dismemberment of the empire, and that it would be as injurious as a repeal of the Union with Scotland, would concur in the propriety of having such a Chancellor. If that were the case, he begged to ask, whether it would have been sound policy for such a consideration as 1,400l. a year, at such a critical moment as the present, to deprive the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland of the valuable services of an individual, whose splendid abilities had so frequently been witnessed in that House, and of whom he might justly say, that, in point of talents, eloquence, and statesman-like qualities, no equal to him could be found in Ireland, and no superior in this country. In the appointment of Magistrates, Lord Plunkett's knowledge of the individuals, and of their qualifications, would be of great advantage. The right hon. Gentleman asserted—and the objection came with a singular grace from one who had been so staunch an Orangeman—that the appointment of Lord Plunkett to be Lord Chancellor of Ireland would be peculiarly obnoxious to the Catholics. Why, he had yet to learn. He could not, he would not, believe, that the Catholics of Ireland would view with an evil eye, one who had been among their 1377 most triumphant advocates, and to whom they were under the greatest obligation. But the right hon. Gentleman also expressed his persuasion, that the noble Lord would be equally disliked by the members of the Church of England, as his ancestors were Dissenters. But he begged to ask the right hon. Baronet opposite, whether, when the noble Lord was his colleague, he had not fought manfully in the battles which the right hon. Baronet had maintained in favour of the Protestant establishment in Ireland; and whether he had not in later years evinced an equal attachment to that establishment? Then came the expense. As his noble friend in another place had observed, it was surely no bad bargain for the public to obtain the services of such a man, and at the same time a permanent saving of 2,000l. a year, at the expense of a pension of 3,600l. a year during the life of a very old man. The right hon. Gentleman complained of a want of candour in this proceeding, and said, that the settlement of the Lord Chancellor's salary should have been left, like the settlement of other salaries, to the committee. But the right hon. Gentleman should recollect, that the appointment was to be made, and therefore it was politic to reduce the salary before Lord Plunkett accepted the office. Other offices were not under the same circumstances, and he was sure that the Administration would most readily furnish every possible information to the committee, and be able, he had not the smallest doubt, to satisfy every Member, of the propriety of the proceeding. So much for the appointment of Lord Plunkett. Of the appointment of Mr. Doherty to the office of Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, it must be unnecessary for him to say anything, as the right hon. Gentleman himself acknowledged, that it was unexceptionable. The retirement of the Lord Chief Baron, also, was an occurrence quite independent of any political consideration; and the original suggestion of that retirement did not proceed from his Majesty's present Government. The right hon. Gentleman said, that he was not aware of any intention of the Chief Baron to retire, until he was tempted by a peerage. The late Government had, however, proposed to the Chief Baron to retire; and all that the present Government had done was, to adopt such measures as might render that proposition effective. With respect to his 1378 retiring pension, the length of the Chief Baron's services had entitled him to demand that whenever he should think fit. He knew not that it was necessary for him to trespass longer on the attention of the House: if he had not succeeded in fully vindicating the Government, he was sure that it was not from the weakness of its cause, but the deficiencies of its advocate. The general disposition of his Majesty's Government to retrench as much as possible, had, in his opinion, been very unequivocally evinced. They had already reduced the offices of Treasurer of the Navy, Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance, Vicetreasurer of Ireland, and Postmaster general of Ireland.
Mr. G. Lamb
begged to say a few words in answer to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, respecting the opinions of the small minority, who, seven or eight years ago, had voted on the question to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded. As he (Mr. Lamb) believed that he was almost the only Member present who had belonged to that small minority, the responsibility of defending their conduct devolved upon him. He trusted he was not unequal to that task; but he thought it would have been more accordant to justice, although not perhaps to the right hon. Gentleman's view of it, if the right hon. Gentleman had abstained from touching upon that subject, in the absence of those who were more competent to answer. He confessed, that he was never more astonished than at the proposition which had been advanced by the right hon. Gentleman. That proposition was to the effect, that although the House had determined, on the occasion in question, that the Chief Baron should not be put on his trial, he should nevertheless be now treated as if he had been, not only tried, but convicted. Was the acquittal by that House nothing? He had always been taught to consider a person innocent before he had been tried; the right hon. Gentleman seemed to consider persons guilty after they had been acquitted. But because he had been one of a small minority who had formerly voted for putting the Chief Baron on his trial, was he therefore ever after to consider that learned person as unfit for office or for honour, and to hunt and persecute him to the end of his life? He had not a very clear recollection of the circumstances of the case; but he remembered, that after a re-con- 1379 sideration of those circumstances, he had not thought the case so strong a one as in the first instance it appeared to be. This, however, was certain, that Chief Baron O'Grady had been acquitted by the House of Commons, and under such circumstances, to have stopped the current of those rewards and honours to which he was entitled by his long services, would have been nothing less than gross persecution.
§ Mr. M. A. Taylor
was one of those who, on the occasion alluded to, had voted for Parliament's sending the Chief Baron to trial in some other place. The minority was small, but among them were the present Lord Lyndhurst, and others whose opinions were entitled to respect. But because that was his opinion ten years ago, should he be justified after Parliament had determined against it, in maintaining', that the learned person in question should not have the rewards and honours to which his long public services entitled him? Further than that, he had never thought the case a strong one; and if he had been a friend of the Chief Baron's, he would at the time have advised him to demand an inquiry into his conduct. The proposition was, however, over-ruled by the House. He had had some connexion with Ireland, and he had never known the Chief Baron's integrity as a Judge impeached, except in the instance which had been adverted to. He was quite ready to take his full share of the responsibility of his conduct on that occasion; he did not shrink, he never would shrink, from avowing the part he had taken; but he must protest against such observations, reviving forgotten imputations, as had that night been made by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Lord Morpeth
would touch upon only one or two of the multifarious points comprehended in the attack of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He had not the honour to know the Chief Baron; but the cause of that learned person had already been satisfactorily advocated by his most natural and competent defender. From all that he had heard of that learned person, he concurred in everything that had been said in his praise. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to consider, that the appointment of Lord Plunkett to (he office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland would be equally obnoxious to the Catholics and to the Protestants in Ireland. Why? No one had espoused the cause of Ca- 1380 tholic emancipation more eloquently, more zealously, more fervidly, than Lord Plunkett; and yet, in the fullest flow of his efforts, no one had more sedulously excepted, and guarded, the interests of the Protestant establishment than Lord Plunkett. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed his rooted dislike of all political Judges. It was undoubtedly true, that Lord Plunkett was a political character; but it should be recollected that he was a Judge already. He was a Judge in a Court of Common Law. Now, it was much more convenient that a political character should preside over a Court of Equity than over a Court of Common Law; for in Ireland political considerations had much greater influence in a Court of Common Law than in a Court of Equity. What was the substance of the right hon. Gentleman's complaint? That the most eminent man in the Court of Equity in Ireland had been placed at the head of that Court. He was surprised to hear the late member for Londonderry utter expressions so strong, and which were equally applicable to almost every Chancellor in Ireland who had preceded Sir Anthony Hart.
§ Sir John Newport
begged to say a few words. He was exceedingly surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman opposite say, that the Protestants in Ireland would look with jealousy on the appointment of Lord Plunkett as Lord Chancellor. Did he forget, that a most eminent member of the Protestant Church of Ireland had married his daughter; and that two of his sons were in the Church? As to the noble Lord's having been a Dissenter, did the right hon. Gentleman forget that Archbishop Seeker, and several other dignitaries of the Church of England, had originally been Dissenters? With respect to the removal of the Under-Secretary of State in Ireland, such a removal was essential to the efficient transaction of the public service, and was perfectly justifiable in principle, for that officer had often very important confidential political duties to perform at the Castle, when the Chief Secretary must be attending his duties in Parliament. He was well aware that the best devised measures of any Government might be thwarted or neutralized in their effects, by being carried into execution by unwilling instruments; for he knew, by melancholy personal experience, how unsatisfactorily business must be performed, 1381 when one had to work with such instruments. The right hon. Baronet explained his expression by stating, that when in office himself he had been greatly impeded in the performance of his public duties, by those with whom he was for a period obliged to act; and, in conclusion, expostulated on the hardship, that an Administration, but three weeks in existence, should be thus arraigned for the dismissal of one of their own officers.
§ Sir R. Peel, in what he was about to say, and he meant to advert to most of the topics which had that evening been brought before them, would avoid any reference to party. Indeed, he would not have spoken at all, had there not been a kind of personal appeal to him. In the first place, with reference to the dismissal of Mr. Gregory, he must beg to bear his strong testimony to that gentleman's merits; and he was bound to say, that whatever might be Mr. Gregory's political opinions, he (Sir R. Peel) was perfectly convinced that that gentleman would not withhold that cordial assistance which it was his duty to render to those who were at the head of his department, whatever might be their political conduct. Mr. Gregory, however, like other meritorious public servants, had been the victim of the calumnious press of Ireland. It was well known, that whatever might be the tenour of any man's conduct in that country, he became obnoxious to the severest censure from the press. Be his opinions what they might, he could not escape. He believed that all the attacks which had been made upon Mr. Gregory were unfounded. He believed that that gentleman was in capable of being swayed in his public duty by his political feelings. A man of greater integrity and honour in private life he had never met with. He was bound, however, to admit the soundness of the statement of the right hon. member for Waterford, that those who were responsible for the conduct of the Government, should be entitled to choose their own auxiliaries. No doubt, after thirty years' service, Mr. Gregory was entitled to retire. The zeal as well as the length of his services, entitled him to grateful consideration; and he hoped, that no pledge which his Majesty's Government had given of retrenchment, would prevent them from taking a just and liberal view of Mr. Gregory's claims. The right hon. Baronet had commented on what had fallen from 1382 his (Sir R. Peel's) right hon. friend near him (Mr. G. Dawson) respecting the retirement of the Chief Baron of the Court of Exchequer in Ireland. It was true that his right hon. friend had spoken of that learned Judge as "being bribed into retirement"—but what he had meant was, that his services, and the growing infirmities of years, had entitled him to retire, and to an allowance, on the appointment of his successor, but that a promotion of rank had been unnecessarily added. The right hon. Baronet was correct as to the Chief Baron's character having been untainted by the investigation which his conduct in a certain instance had given rise to in that House; and he was one of those who concurred with the decision of the House on the matter. When the subject of that learned person's conduct was before the House, he (Sir R. Peel) was in a position which enabled him to examine the circumstances of the case; and with all due jealousy for the purity of the judicial character, he could not attribute to him any undue motives. He begged to offer a few words of warning and exhortation to the right hon. Gentlemen opposite on this point. The next point he would allude to was the implied blame of the present Ministers on the late Ministry, for not having done as much as they promised to effect. The late Government had been denounced as a Government indifferent to the wants and feelings of the people, and indisposed to that rigid economy which the necessities of the times required. In fact, however, it had done a great deal towards relieving the burthens of the people. But he would ask the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, whether, short as was their experience in office, that experience did not convince them that there existed many more difficulties between them and their wishes, on the score of retrenchment and economy, than they were at all prepared to expect?—whether, in fact, it was not a very different thing, out of Office to recommend certain popular measures, and carry them into effect when in Office? Without wishing to blame Ministers for their declarations, he would say, that he drew this inference from them—namely, that they would, ere long, perceive that they had been too precipitate in pledging themselves to effect reforms and retrenchments which they would find themselves unable fully to realize. With respect to the 1383 appointment of Lord Plunkett, he willingly admitted that Lord Plunkett was perfectly qualified for the stituation of Lord Chancellor of Ireland; but by the circumstances of his appointment, his Majesty's present Ministers had subjected the country to an expense which his Majesty's late Ministers had avoided. If the conduct of the late Administration with respect to the office of Lord Chancellor of Ireland were recollected, it would be evident, that at least they were not so regardless of considerations of public economy as had been imputed to them. Sir Anthony Hart was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland by Mr. Canning. When the Duke of Wellington came into power, however, he did not remove Sir Anthony Hart, for the purpose of appointing some individual more favourable to his political opinions. Even after the Catholic Question had been carried, the Duke of Wellington acquiesced in the continuance of Sir Anthony Hart in the office of Lord Chancellor, and thereby spared the public the expense of his retiring allowance. The right hon. Baronet opposite said, that the office of Lord Chancellor in Ireland was necessarily a political office—that it was so in England, and that it was so in Ireland. Although he would not lay down a general rule on the subject, he could not agree with the right hon. Baronet, that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland must be a political character. The Lord Chancellor of Ireland was placed in a situation different from that of the Lord Chancellor of England. The latter was ex officio a Minister of State, a member of the Cabinet, and exercised great influence, the former was not the political adviser of the Crown. He undoubtedly performed some political acts; chiefly the recommendation of Magistrates; but he was not the political adviser of the Lord Lieutenant. He was sometimes called in, on great emergencies, to aid the Counsel of the Chief Secretary, who was the civil adviser, and of the Attorney and Solicitor Generals, who were the legal advisers, of the Lord Lieutenant. He mentioned this, not by way of hostility to the appointment of Lord Plunkett, but to set the right hon. Baronet right as to the nature of the office of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Indeed, as a general rule, Ministers could not take too much pains to keep the judicial authorities of the State separate from political interference; and 1384 the truth was, that the less the Lord Chancellor of Ireland interfered with politics, the better. He had stated on a former occasion, that the people must not be too vehement in their expectations of the retrenchment which any Government, however disposed, could effect. The time was come when the relative claims of public servants on that point would be judged. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham), when he had less experience on the subject than at present, spoke of the indisposition of the Duke of Wellington to retrench to the extent necessary for the public good; now he (Sir R. Peel) would honestly and frankly, but boldly assert, that no member of any Administration had ever been more sincerely desirous of true economy than the Duke of Wellington; and that few members of any Administration had ever enjoyed equal advantages for enforcing the execution of his wishes. He allowed that the present Administration had reduced the offices of Vice-treasurer of Ireland, of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance, and of the Treasurer of the Navy. [It was here intimated to the right hon. Baronet, that the last office was not abolished—that its salary only was saved by its duties being performed by the Vice president of the Board of Trade.] Well, the salary was saved, but that was a species of popularity easy of attainment, and in which they might find themselves very soon excelled. He would not enter into the question as to which Administration had abolished the office of Post-master General of Ireland; but he would affirm, that it was the intention of the Duke of Wellington to abolish that office. He attached, however, but little importance to the abolition of one or two offices, and if the present Ministers did, could they think that what they had already done would be considered sufficient? Would it not be very easy for anybody to outbid them for popularity? Would it not be very easy for any man, with more extravagant views of what was practicable than those of the right hon. Baronet and his friends, to say to the people—" I will carry on the public service on cheaper terms: I will abolish the office of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; I will abolish the office of Lord Privy Seal; I will abolish the office of Paymaster of the Army?" Would he (Sir R. Peel) join in countenancing any such declaration? Certainly not; because he knew the 1385 impossibility of carrying it into effect. Did they not feel that the efficient strength of the Government for the conduct of public business was not sufficient; and although they might wish to secure to every man throughout the country the full reward of his labours, did they not feel it was but a delusion to hold out to the country at large the expectation of any extensive reduction in the expenses of the Government; at least, that any such extensive reduction was inconsistent with the means of properly conducting the public business, considered not with reference to the individuals concerned, but with reference to the discharge of public affairs? He said with them, let every office that was not absolutely necessary be cut down—let them dispense with all those places with which they could dispense: but he hoped that no attempt to catch the shadow of a fleeting popularity would induce the Government to waste its proper strength. The question, after all, became one as to the merits of the late Government, and must be decided when they could properly sec whether the condemnation pronounced against that Government, on the ground that it had not sufficiently diminished the public expenditure was well founded [Sir J. Graham nodded assent]. If the right hon. Baronet could, as by that applauding motion of his head he seemed to intimate, show that much greater reductions than those made by the late Government were practicable, no man would be more delighted than he (Sir R. Peel) at such a circumstance. ft would certainly prove, that the late Government might have done more; and over the advantages which would be obtained by the country he should heartily rejoice, though he must at the same time share in the condemnation of not. having before conferred them. He would only caution his right hon. friends, in the most friendly spirit, not to pledge themselves too hastily to a sweeping retrenchment, before they had examined all the details of the offices with which they were connected—not to promise that reduction of salaries which they might afterwards find would weaken the public services, and not to encourage the public too much in expecting that diminution of offices which might afterwards be found inconsistent with the safety of the country. The present Ministers had pledged themselves to reform, to economy, and to the main- 1386 tenance of peace. With respect to reform, that was not the time to say anything about it. The measure was one of too much importance to be introduced incidentally into discussions of that kind. He would, however, say, that he trusted that the declaration of his Majesty's Prime Minister, that no measure of Reform, not consistent with the maintenance of existing institutions, should be introduced, would be strictly adhered to. With respect to retrenchment, that must be the profession of all Governments—it was so of the present—it had been so of the last; and though Members in opposition might find fault with the continuance of this or that office, it was his firm belief that not five years would elapse without the conviction arising in the public mind, that these professions had been fulfilled by the Duke of Wellington's Government. With respect to the maintenance of peace, though it was a popular topic, he was sorry to hear the present Ministers state it, as a distinguishing mark of policy, that they were determined, at all hazards, to maintain peace. Of course every Government must wish to preserve peace. The late Government had always stated that to be its wish, and there was no Government but what did so; it declared, that it would leave no effort untried, consistent with the honour of the country, to preserve peace. No man felt more than he did the immorality of war, and the necessity of avoiding the rekindling of its flames—no man was more deeply convinced than he was, that this country was interested in making peace —but peace was not always the only question; it was not always to be obtained or preserved at the wish of the Government, and he doubted the policy of too strong and determined a declaration, that at any hazard the Ministers of this country would preserve peace. He knew that the explanation of this was, that they would do all they could to maintain peace, but that explanation brought the matter back to what was said by every Government. All he complained of was, that, when the Government of the Duke of Wellington, which was essentially pacific, had confined its declarations to the limit of maintaining peace to the utmost extent, consistently with the honour of this country, the present Ministers should have put it forward prominently, as one of their principles of Government which was to distinguish them from the late Ministry, that they 1387 would maintain peace at all hazards. He concurred with them in thinking that every effort, consistent with the honour of the country, should be made for the preservation of peace; but let not the expressions of their determination to preserve it at all events, be too strong; for the interests of this country, or circumstances, which at this moment it was impossible to foresee, might compel them to change their determination; and those circumstances might possibly be created by too strong a manifestion of their wish to preserve peace. He called on them to show, as the late Government had done, that in the event of there being a necessity for resorting to arms, they would at once take up arms He called on them, not only to show this, but their conviction also that, in the event of such a necessity, they could repose with confidence on the belief, that the ancient spirit of the country would rally round the Government, and carry on with courage, with vigour and effect that contest which their judgment had declared to be inevitable. The right hon. Baronet had complained of the course pursued by his (Sir Robert Peel's) right hon. friend, as intended to obstruct the proceedings of the Government. He denied that such conduct could be justly imputed to his right hon. friend. The right hon. Baronet supposed, that that course of conduct proceeded from pique at the loss of office. For himself, he could assure the House, that so far as place was concerned, if he never returned to it he should not consider it a misfortune; and that if he ever should be recalled to Office, so far as his personal feelings alone were concerned, he should feel it little less than a great calamity. Having said so much with respect to the points on which he could not concur with the present Government, he was happy to be able to express his full concurrence with them in one matter of great importance; he was pleased, much pleased, with the declarations they had made, that they would support, at all hazards, the Legislative Union of England and Ireland. He suggested to the right hon. Baronet, and to the other advisers of the Crown, "whether, if those who agitated this question, but were determined not to bring it forward, since they avoided discussion, for the purpose of continuing agitation— he suggested, he said, to the present Ministers, whether it would not be better to place on record the opinion of that 1388 House—to move a resolution declaratory of the opinion of the Legislature? Those who thought that the Union ought to be dissolved, ought to submit the question, not to popular agitation in Ireland, but to the deliberation and sanction of those brandies of the Legislature which were, and ought to be, the sole tribunals for deciding it. He hoped that, the young Members of that House, the Gentlemen who, as Catholic Members, now, for the first time, sat amongst them, would show that, whatever distinctions might have once existed—whatever matters might have once created division the most heartfelt cordiality united them in preserving that important union. He would gladly sacrifice the office and power he had once enjoyed, if the present Ministry, more than the last, could secure the declaration of Parliament, that England and Ireland should share their fortunes in peace; and if war was unavoidable, that they would fight united together, and by their union attain that triumphant success which they could not hope to enjoy if they were divided. He hoped, too, that out of doors the people would not be misled by the declamation of affected patriots. He hoped that before the inhabitants of Dublin could be induced to follow the example of Belgium and Paris, they would well consider whether they had the same justifiable cause of opposition to the Government; and even when they had settled that point, he trusted that they would well consider what was the present condition of those countries in which Revolutions had taken place, and compare it with the state in which they were before the Revolutions had begun. In saying that, it was not necessary to call in question the justice of the resistance these people had offered to their late governments, it was not necessary for him (and, indeed, no circumstance could induce him to do it) to palliate the conduct of those governments; but although the resistance was justifiable, he had a right to inquire whether Revolution was not a great evil; and when he looked to the condition of France and of Paris, and particularly to the condition of the working classes, he could not help thinking he was justified even in believing, though resistance might be justifiable, that it involved those who engaged in it in almost irremediable ruin. He called on the House to compare the state of the public funds in France with their state before the Revo- 1389 lution. The resistance was right; it had been successful; the most popular men were in office; yet how was it that property was deemed insecure; that employment was almost at an end; that industry was paralysed; that strangers were withdrawing from the country, and that the condition of the lower classes was infinitely worse than it was before the Revolution? If it was so, as he believed it was, then he asserted it to be true, that great changes in any government could not take place without exciting alarm and despondency, and without materially and injuriously influencing property in the country in which the Revolution took place. He called on the House—he called on all people of property—to be fully aware of the mistake they would be committing, in dividing this country and Ireland, and to be aware of the irreparable evils that must result to both from such a measure. All people of property were interested in this question, and on them he called for a calm, considerate, and full attention to this subject. In what he had said, he had not any intention to stop the course of fair economy, but it was impossible to read the public Press of this country, and to see its appeals to the passions of the people, without knowing that while economy was put forward as the avowed object, the covert design was, to degrade and lower all the constituted authorities of the country, and to secure for public writers that power and authority which would be denied them under all other circumstances. To gain that end they were willing to create tumult and confusion, and to subject this country to the worst and most degrading of tyrannies—the tyranny of an ungovernable mob.
thought the discussion now introduced had been most unnecessarily commenced, and he entered his protest against the mode adopted by the right hon. Gentleman to prejudice the minds of the Government and of that House against the adoption of measures of Reform and Retrenchment.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, he had not the slightest intention to create any prejudice against Reform or Retrenchment, both of which he should be happy to see effected, provided they did not injure existing institutions.
maintained, that such had been the tendency of the right hon. Baronet's observations. He advised all 1390 the advocates of Reform and retrenchment, to look at the condition of France and Belgium, and he held up the misfortunes of those two countries in terrorem, over those who sought to improve our own institutions. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet, that the Revolutions in those countries had led, as might be naturally expected, to much present misery; but he believed, that timely Reform and retrenchment would be the means of preventing such a Revolution here. The right hon. Baronet had read a severe lecture to the lower classes, and to those who called for retrenchment, economy, and Reform; but had he read a similar lecture to the higher classes, who had brought this country to its present state? No such thing. Had not the Government which preceded the present, positively and distinctly refused all Reform, which the people had called for year after year? The right hon. Baronet spoke of preserving existing institutions. The people did not wish to set aside those institutions, they only wanted to reform the abuses that had crept into them. He hoped that his Majesty's present Ministers would not listen to the advice given them on that side of the House [cheers and laughter.] Oh, he knew what those cheers meant—he was sitting on that side, but then he was an exception; he. was not properly a part of that side of the House: that side of the House was now in possession of those who had recently sat on the other. He was not one of their body—he was, as he had before said, an exception to the rest. Perhaps he might differ but little from the right hon. Gentleman, as to the salaries to be paid to the efficient servants of the public, but there were others about whom some doubts might well be entertained. When he looked around him he saw numerous offices that might be reduced wholly,,or in part, without any injury to the effective service of the country. He hoped, that the present Ministers would adhere to the promises they had given of retrenchment, and not risk the advantage of being supported by the country by deserting their promises. He should be glad to know what the right hon. Baronet meant, when he spoke as if there could be no reduction of offices without injury to the public service, and when he talked of preserving existing institutions? Were there not pensions and sinecures increasing the Dead Weight, and rotten boroughs, 1391 whose occupants were put into useless places by the Government? After the explanation given by the hon. and learned member for Weymouth, on the subject of the abuses in the Court of Chancery, he feared he could not point out one thoroughly good institution, and therefore he was afraid of Reform. That speech shewed such a mass of corruption existing in that which should preserve the integrity and honesty of others, that he despaired of being able to effect Reform. The people, however, did not want to destroy existing institutions, they only asked to have some control over the taxes to which they contributed. It was only Reform that would enable honest men to act as Ministers, and to conduct the affairs of the public in that House. The right hon. Gentleman had talked of his personal feelings, as opposed to his being in office. Those feelings, no doubt, arose from the difficulties he had to contend with while in office. Those difficulties would be at an end in a reformed Parliament; and, under such a Parliament, he should be glad to see the right hon. Gentleman in office. The right hon. Gentleman said, that he did not like the distinct pledge of peace given by the present Government. If there was any one thing better than another in the conduct of a Government, it was the making a distinct pledge that they would not interfere with the affairs of other nations. It was that interference which had added 600,000,000l. to our Debt; and it was the successful issue of that interference in replacing the Bourbons on the Throne of France, on which the late Lord Liverpool congratulated the other House of Parliament; though he, and those in office with him, had frequently before declared, that the defence of our own country, and not there-establishment of the Bourbon family, were the objects of the war. He repeated that he was rejoiced at the pledge of non-interference given by this Government, and he conscientiously believed, that if the Duke of Wellington had continued in power, this country would have been at this moment, if not in actual war, at least on the verge of hostilities. He was, therefore, glad that the late Ministry were no longer in office, and that the present Ministers had pledged themselves to the maintenance of peace. "With respect to what the right hon. Gentleman had stated regarding Revolutions, he must say, that if the party who held the 1392 Government, broke the condition son which they held it, the people had a right to put an end to the Government; and that had been the case in France. Although, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman had condemned the French, he could not but admit that the government had no right to issue the Ordinances, and therefore he must admit that the people were right in resisting them. He wished the Poles as much success as had attended the French; but he declared, at the same time, that it was no part of the duty of Government to interfere.
§ Sir R. Peel
had not condemned the French—he had said that they had no alternative but resistance, and had only observed, that lawful as was the resistance, it was still unfortunately true that the Revolution thus occasioned, though successful, had been productive of much misery.
§ Mr. Leader
Sir, the hon. member for Middlesex has made so long a digression from the subject immediately before the House, that I almost regret that my connection with Ireland makes it a kind of personal duty on me to make a few observations in reply to the right hon. Baronet, who addressed the House at such length, and with so much ability, on the subject of the recent law appointments in Ireland. I admit that I have felt deeply on these appointments. I hope I entertain the opinions which an independent, considerate, and fair man, ought to feel on such an occasion. All those who have addressed the House on the subject of these appointments, have confined their observations to the personal claims and merit of Lord Plunkett. Sir, with the greatest deference, there is a person left out of the consideration of the question, whose station, whose feelings, and whose responsibility, ought not, in times of such immense public difficulty, to be treated lightly, or inconsiderately overlooked,—Sir, I mean the first Lord of the Treasury, and Prime Minister, Earl Grey. Sir, when that distinguished nobleman and statesman was called on to form an Administration, what was the state of public affairs? Will any man say, that the foreign and domestic concerns of the country were ever in so critical or so embarrassing a situation? Was not the continent of Europe exposed to a political earthquake and a moral convulsion, which bore no similitude or resemblance to anything that had happened at any former period? Will 1393 any Gentleman deny, that the state of this great metropolis had assumed an unusually agitated and almost insurrectionary appearance? Can any man deny, that the surrounding counties were not one scene of connected and apparently organized rustic combination, in which there was no respect for property, and, probably, as little even for life? With regard to Ireland, can the greatest enemies to the Administration have the courage to rise in their places and assert, that the aspect of affairs in that country was not such as to make it absolutely imperative on any Minister to feel an intense interest in adopting any practical measure, and make such arrangements as were likely to be conducive to its future prosperity and peace? If this be no exaggerated picture of your affairs at home and abroad, was it surprising in Lord Grey to repose his confidence in, and divide his responsibility, as far as Ireland was concerned, with my Lord Plunkett? Sir, that nobleman is not a stranger to either House of Parliament —he is, on the contrary, well known to both. Sir, I claim for Lord Grey, in the appointment of Lord Plunkett, the benefit of the eulogy which the right hon. Baronet, the late Secretary of the Home Department, has pronounced on his late colleague and friend. I do not look to Lord Plunkett, whose talents have been so justly eulogized, so much as I look to Lord Grey, who has a heavy weight of responsibility impending over himself. Would any man assert, that even in last summer the north of Ireland did not exhibit a theatre of frightful party and political dissensions, principally arising out of religious prejudices and aversions? And was it not at least desirable to give the Catholic Relief bill a fair trial, and impose on the principal promoter of that important and healing measure—a man admirably conversant with the artful and selfish policy of its opponents—the power, by high official situation, of contributing to its final and complete success? Called on as Lord Grey was, under the circumstances I have described, was he to be condemned for addressing himself to Lord Plunkett and saying—" Sir, you have been the great advocate and champion of the removal of civil disabilities for religion in Ireland, and your country, so far from being tranquillized by your measures, appears to be now exposed to increased agitation and excitement. Under such 1394 circumstances your counsel and assistance are essential to the measures of my Government, and I repose in your judgment and qualifications one of the highest offices of the State, in the hope that you may assist the King's Government, and share the heavy responsibility imposed on myself." Under these circumstances, in my honest judgment I must say, that Lord Grey exercised a sound discretion—discharged, to the best of his opinion, a solemn duty— and that it is utterly impossible for any person, disposed to make fair allowance for a public man, not to concur immediately in the justice of the conclusion, that no fair blame, but, on the contrary, just praise, is due to Lord Grey for a sound exercise of calm and deliberate reflection in the selection and appointment of Lord Plunkett. The next appointment is that of the late Attorney-general, Mr. Joy, in the room of the Lord Chief Baron. I believe in the propriety of this appointment: there is not in either country, or in either House of Parliament, a dissenting voice. For years Mr. Joy has held a distinguished station at the Irish Bar, he possesses public confidence, and has the strong claim of great length of official service. Mr. Joy is supposed to be inimical to Catholic claims, but, notwithstanding, there is no second opinion amongst the Bar of Mr. Joy's qualifications and legal acquirements to fill the highest judicial situation. The retirement of the Lord Chief Baron has been alluded to with unmeasured—and, after a solemn acquittal in this House, with, perhaps, unmerited—obloquy and severity. Let it be remembered, that it was in the House of Commons the conduct of Chief Baron O'Grady was most deliberately and carefully investigated—that it was in this House the charges were brought forward, and, it must be presumed, fully and satisfactorily answered, as the House dismissed all the charges. After having filled the office of Attorney-general for a number of years, and being raised from that situation to a high judicial office, I cannot say that the quiddam honorarium was improperly or discreditably bestowed; I cannot bring myself to think, that his retirement ought not to be marked by the same reward which has, in most instances, been conferred on those who preceded him, even on their judicial elevation. I have the misfortune not only to differ from right hon. Gentlemen in approving the appoint- 1395 ments which they condemn, but to differ from them also in the appointments they have so highly eulogized and applauded. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dawson) has complained that the effect of political characters—such as Lord Plunkett—being promoted to the Irish Bench, would have the effect of encouraging a flight of legal adventurers to make a perching place in this House. Has the promotion of Mr. Doherty, which the right hon. Gentleman so zealously eulogized, been such an appointment as to increase or diminish the fear of such an occurrence? Sir, I know of no appointment which could be more likely to have the latter effect. Sir, if there be any part of the arrangement objectionable in the opinion of the eminent and distinguished Bar, of which Mr. Doherty was a member—it is Mr. Doherty's elevation to the Chief Justiceship of the Common Pleas. It is not to be concealed that the opinion of the Irish Bur was unfavourable to that appointment—that it gave general dissatisfaction, and, as far as public opinion went, that it was hostile to his promotion. I shall conclude my observations on these legal appointments by saying, that I approve of that part of the arrangement which the right hon. Gentlemen (Sir Robert Peel and Mr. Dawson) have so unsparingly censured, and I disapprove of the part of it which they have so warmly praised. I cannot concur either in their censure or in their praise. It has not been my habit, and it is quite repugnant to my nature, to wound the feelings of any person; and I have the consolation, that if I have erred, I have not been singular in the expression of my dissent, to the glowing and eloquent eulogy which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dawson) has pronounced on the great legal talents, professional eminence, and distinguished forensic ability of his friend Mr. Doherty. Sir, the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) has not confined himself to an inquiry into the propriety or impropriety of the Irish legal appointments, but he has entered on a larger and more expanded inquiry—the present state of Ireland, and the necessity of the Government making it an object of their most peculiar solicitude. The right hon. Baronet has been pleased to express an opinion, that as the question of the repeal of the Union was not likely to be brought under debate by those avowedly favourable to that subject, it would be the duty of Government to come forward, and 1396 take the sense of the House and pronounce a very decided opinion on that subject. Undoubtedly, it is competent to the House to pursue such a course as it deems advisable and expedient; but, in my opinion, Sir, there is a far better course for calming the Irish mind, and reconciling the country to its present legislative connection, than a barren resolution "to lie on the Table," and cease to be recollected after it is passed. Sir, when the right hon. Baronet commenced his political life as Secretary for Ireland, every interest suffered materially by the transition from war to peace,—there was no market for Irish produce—every place was glutted with provisions—the private banks failed—and public and private credit were exposed to dangers which it was frightful to contemplate. The measures of that right hon. Gentleman relieved the country; the improvements of the right hon. Gentleman were not only effected without pecuniary loss to the public, but had the merit of being as permanent in their utility as immediate in their relief. I wish to know why measures like those which originated with the right hon. Baronet were discontinued? I ask why did the colleagues of the right hon. Baronet abandon the system which the right hon. Baronet had originated and worked prosperously for Ireland, and profitably for Great Britain; and what was the necessity or occasion for their taking up the wretched system of assimilating the taxes of a poor country to those of the richest country in the world? Why did they announce their intention to tax the Press, and assist in raising the repeal of the Union, which he now deprecates, and marshalling the whole body of the Irish Members in the ranks of his political antagonists? Sir, I readily admit the inestimable blessings which would result from a real union of Great Britain and Ireland; but I assert, that in this House the proper steps are not taken to consolidate and effect it. Sir, the right hon. Baronet knows well the evils by which Ireland is afflicted, and no person knows better than he does that the means of the country have declined materially in value, and that it is now without anything to exchange but the produce of its soil for every luxury of life, and that produce has suffered a most discouraging reduction in price. Sir, I lament the inability of Ireland to contribute much more largely to the relief of Great Britain; but the right hon. Baronet 1397 is surely aware that the duties in Ireland on Customs and Excise fall on articles which, in towns particularly, are the very necessaries of existence, and which no earnings in those towns will enable families to purchase. Sir, I contend that tea, sugar, tobacco, and other such articles, ought to be within the reach of the labouring poor; and that any deficiency of revenue, by reducing duties on those necessaries, should be made up by making the rich the contributors. It is the fashion to say Ireland is lightly taxed. Sir, the taxes on those articles, which may be called necessaries, are equal in value to all the exported corn of Ireland, and probably not less than three millions sterling per annum. It is in vain, in the cities and large towns in Ireland, to reason with workmen who have low wages, or none at all, on the necessity of high taxes. In Ireland, the great weight of taxation presses heavy on the working poor, whilst absenteeism, by abstracting from the natural annual returns of productive industry, deprives the people of the vivifying influence of that capital, which, if admitted to fructify in the hands of an industrious community, would lay the foundation of permanent prosperity and national contentment. It is the imperious duty of this House to become itself the great agitator of every measure connected with the improvement of Ireland—political speculations are inseparable concomitants of the multiplied evils arising from an unemployed population. It is easy to lose, and difficult to regain, the affections of a people. The truth is, Ireland has been shamefully and cruelly neglected. But I hope the time has arrived for removing every trace of the ruinous policy which has been pursued towards her—to foster and develop her resources—to repair the dilapidations which neglect and impolicy have produced in both the social and political system— and realize the hope which every one expresses (but which was, unfortunately, forgotten the moment it was uttered) of her becoming a wealthy, vigorous, and truly integral portion of this great empire.
believed there were but few who listened to the bad advice of the press to which the right hon. Baronet had referred, so that the poison, unless it spread widely, could do little harm to the community at large. He was persuaded that discontent would subside, and finally disappear. It had been excited by the posi- 1398 tive declaration of the last Ministry, that there should he no reform. The present Government was pledged to a reform, not only speedy, but effectual, and the people would wait patiently for the redeeming of that pledge, in the confidence that they should not be disappointed. Even if the lower orders should not be satisfied, the middle classes would loyally rally round the banner of a constitutional monarch. Much had been said on the subject of distress; and from some experience in the southern counties, he was convinced that the distress, at least there, was by no means irremediable. If Gentlemen would but return to their estates, and make those exertions which the situation of the peasantry demanded—if they would come forward to give employment to the poor during the severity of the winter, a beneficial change would be soon visible.
§ Mr. G. Dawson
explained, that he did not intend to be guilty of any want of courtesy towards the right hon. Gentleman, especially in not communicating the nature of the statement he had to make: the fact was, that it was called for on the sudden, by the unfair removal of Mr. Gregory. He, however, begged to apologise to the hon. Baronet for the use of the word "bribe," which had escaped from him, while he only meant it in the sense of inducement. In what he had said, he had not intended to express the slightest personal ill-will.