§ Mr. O'Brien, in introducing the Motion of which he had given notice to the consideration of the House, felt compelled to make a short statement of the motives that had induced him to bring it forward. The county of Clare was now in a state of confusion, bordering on anarchy, and he wished, therefore, to call on the Ministers to say whether they intended such a state of things should continue, or whether they meant to take some active and efficient measures to cause the laws to be respected? At present there was no security for property, and very little for personal safety, in that county. If this were permitted to continue unchecked, he feared it would soon spread into all the other counties of Ireland. The excesses that had taken place in the county of Clare within the last six months were hardly exceeded by those which afflict a country during a civil war. He would read to the House an extract from one of the Irish Papers, detailing some of the atrocities lately committed. The hon. Member accordingly read the following passage from the Limerick Chronicle. "A stern sense of public duty now impels us to assume a more serious office, and with concern we have to proclaim the awful and astounding fact, that in the county of Clare, hereto- 1285 fore one of the most tranquil and well-af-fected in Ireland, there exists at present neither security for human life, nor protection for private property, at any hour, either of the day or night! It is no less notorious than true, that a broad and deep laid conspiracy has been formed against the principal gentry and landholders of that county, who from fear of the assassin are afraid to walk their demesnes by day, and whose houses, towards evening, assume the appearance of fortresses in a state of siege. Travelling the high road is equally unsafe, and many of the country families have deserted their mansions, and are now come into town for that refuge and protection which their native domiciles are unable to afford them. Incendiary notices have been served upon the proprietors of ground, to let out and dispose of, only at certain prices which the secret dictator fixes, under penalty of death for disobedience. This mysterious personage, with the terrific signature of Terry Alts, issues his mandate, and woe to him who presumes to neglect it! The veriest Eastern tyrant never exercised over his obsequious minions a more grinding and formidable despotism than the fearful name of Terry Alts contrives to uphold in the county of Clare. No peasant will dare, at his peril, to work for the landlord who is denounced by this ruffian legislator, whose vulgar, bloody, and ill-spelt scroll has more actual sway in the county, than a volume of his Majesty's Statutes. But what is the result of this strange and unnatural state of society? Why, intimidation,—not merely general, but universal; and of a character the most terrific and appalling! Before the noon-day sun vast tracts of land are maliciously turned up with the spade, and thus an irreparable mischief is done to the property of those who are obnoxious to the Rockites,—walls and gates are levelled to the ground,—and cattle hunted to death at night over hedges briars, and fastnesses,—the usual boundaries and landmarks are destroyed,—houses attacked, burglaries committed, and a most extensive seizure of fire-arms effected!—These, however, are minor offences compared with the murders and assassinations of the last six months, for which not one of the sanguinary authors has been, to this day, brought to the bar of justice." The statement there made was confirmed by a letter which he had recently received from a gentleman of large property 1286 in the county, an extract of which he would also take the liberty of reading. "The organization of this county by the insurgents is complete, and I much fear that nothing but an increased civil and military force, aided by strong legislative enactments, will now be adequate to suppress the evil. You may form a judgment, when I mention that they meet in bodies of 4,000 or 5,000 men, and appoint 300 or 400 to dig up the ground, and station the rest as videttes throughout the country, to give notice of any force coming to disperse them. I fear that the Insurrection Act, which would only apply to cases after sunset, would be inadequate in this country to meet the mischief, as the most daring attacks and the most shocking outrages are committed principally in the noon-day. They now respect neither life nor property; in fact, the country people are so confederated, and deeply implicated in crime, that they are now desperate, and dread the worst." One of the worst features in these proceedings was, that no evidence could be obtained that would enable the Government to bring home the crime to the offenders in a Court of Justice. No man among all those that were assembled could be induced to implicate his fellows, and, in con-sequence, the ordinary laws became of no avail. This was carried to such an extent, that though many of the persons who had been guilty of these disturbances were known, though some even of those who had committed murders, horrible and atrocious murders, were more than suspected, the Magistrates were unable to apprehend them on the charge, as they could not possibly procure legal evidence of their guilt. He did not mean to accuse the Government of any untimely supineness on this subject, and he was willing to acknowledge the humane motives which had occasioned the visit of the Marquis of Anglesey to that part of the country; but he feared that the Government had mistaken the means by which these proceedings were to be put down. There was now no check upon the outrages committed in the county of Clare. He would mention one instance of this. There was near his father's residence a house that was considered to be one of the best barricaded houses in the county, and two policemen had been put into the house to guard it. At noon-day that house was attacked; an entrance was forced, and thirteen stand of arms taken 1287 from it; and though the peasantry of the neighbourhood, the tenants of the gentleman whose house was plundered, were the witnesses of this scene of outrage, and though the military arrived within a short time, there was not one man who would give information against the offenders, and not even one who would tell the direction in which they had proceeded. On a former occasion, when the disturbances had not been so extensive as they were now, the Insurrection Act had been asked for, and it had been effective; but he almost feared, that if it should now be employed, it would be found insufficient. He knew that it was the fashion in London to attribute these insurrections to the misconduct of the Clare landlords; but he felt warranted in asserting, that that supposition was utterly unjustifiable. The Clare landlords were not worse than others, and he believed that, in many instances, they were more considerate. They only took half the sum which was offered them as rent for their land; and such was the competition to obtain land in that county, that almost any sum was offered for it. The Clare landlords, however, did not wish to oppress their tenantry; and they, of course, took into their consideration the impossibility of getting such rents paid. He was not there, however, to defend the Clare landlords, though, to ascertain the truth of the fact he had just stated, he was willing that a Committee should be appointed; and he was sure that its report would establish the character of the Clare landlords. He was willing to admit that rent, generally speaking, was too high in Ireland; but while the competition was so excessive he did not see how that could be remedied. He believed that the cause of the disturbances was to be found in the poverty of the people, and that that poverty was occasioned by their too great numbers as compared with the means of their employment. Also he believed, that in the county of Clare fuel had been added to the discontents, by the effect of political and religious dissension, and that the impunity of the first outrages had been the cause of others. Under these circumstances, he asked the Ministers what it was their intention to do? He thought that measures of vigour were required from them in the first instance; but he would add, that these measures of vigour must be followed by measures of relief. He thought that these measures of relief were 1288 to be found in emigration and colonization, and he might add, too, in a qualified system of Poor-laws. In carrying these measures into effect, the Government would receive every assistance from the gentlemen of the county, who would most heartily concur in any plan that would put a stop to those outrages, which compelled them to fly for safety to the towns, their own residences being unsafe, and quite insufficient to protect them from the violence of insurrection. There was one gentleman in the county who would readily give up to the Government, for ten years, a large quantity of land, if they would undertake to colonise it, and during that period he would surrender all claim to rent of any description. Having thus called the attention of the Government to this subject, he (Mr. O'Brien) should not detain the House further, than by moving for a copy of the Memorial addressed by the Grand Jury of the county of Clare to the Irish Government, on the subject of the distresses in that county.
said, that as the hon. Member had moved for a copy of a paper, to the production of which there could not possibly be the slightest objection, he understood the hon. Member's object to be, to introduce the state of the county of Clare to the special notice of the House. He (Mr. Stanley) was far from denying the extent of the grievances of which the hon. Member complained. He acknowledged that the attacks on both persons and property were lamentable, and that the difficulty of obtaining evidence of these crimes was as great as the hon. Member had described it to be, so that the crimes remained unchecked by the operations of the law, and by all the powers of the Government. The gravamen of the charge, however, against the Government seemed to be, that on the first complaint of local disorder, the Government had not at once overthrown the constitutional rules of law, and had not had recourse to the severe provisions of the Insurrection Act. He was far from saying, that it would not be necessary ultimately to have recourse to that measure; but nothing except the most urgent necessity could justify it; and if the Government should be compelled to have recourse to it at last, it would deserve the credit of not having adopted such an extreme measure until all others had been found unavailing. The first step which 1289 the Government had taken was, to increase the military force, to augment the amount of the constabulary, and to send into the county four stipendiary Magistrates to administer justice; as it was thought that persons unconnected with the county, and consequently uninfluenced by any of the feelings of the resident magistracy, would show a proper energy in the administration of justice. In that opinion the Government seemed to have been justified by what had taken place, when, according to the hon. Member's own statement, the gentlemen of the county deserted their houses, and fled to the towns for protection, setting, as he must say, no bright example of self-devotion to the maintenance of the authority of the laws, in defence of which the country had a right to expect they would stand forward, not only at the expense of the loss of their ease and comfort, but at the peril of their lives. Now, although it was quite true, that the Government had received information from many quarters respecting the disorganized state of society in that county, it did not consider it advisable that the magistracy of Clare should be armed with such extraordinary powers, until the Lord Lieutenant had, by personal inspection, satisfied himself of the absolute necessity of applying so rigorous a measure as a remedy for the existing evils. The Lord Lieutenant, not satisfied with receiving reports from a distance of the state of the county, determined to assure himself, by personal inspection, of the real nature of the evils to which it was necessary to apply a remedy. The Government would, in a great measure, be guided by the opinion of the Lord Lieutenant, founded upon his own personal knowledge, whether it would be necessary to come to that House for extraordinary powers to remedy the existing evils. He confessed that the state of the county of Clare was one of the most lamentable that could be conceived; and not the least lamentable feature of it was the utter disorganization of society, whether that arose from political or other causes. The hon. Member said, that political and religious excitement had hitherto produced commotion; but at the present moment the disturbances were certainly connected with no political or religious feeling, for it was a war of the lower classes against the higher. He would not enter into the question as to whose fault it was, or whose conduct was 1290 the cause, that the whole of the lower classes were in direct hostility to the upper. The hon. Gentleman had confessed, that, in his opinion, the rents were too high, and that the distress of the lower classes was the cause of the disturbances; and yet all the remedy that he proposed was, that, at the first blush—at the first appearance of disorder—the Government should apply the extraordinary power given by the Insurrection Act. He complained that that Act had not been put in force six weeks ago—that the Government had not applied, as an ordinary and common remedy of the law, the extraordinary powers of the Insurrection Act. The hon. Gentleman told the House that he believed the Insurrection Act would not now be sufficient, and called upon the Government to apply some vigorous measures. They must, indeed, be vigorous measures, if he was not satisfied with the vigour of the Insurrection Act. The hon. Gentleman said, that that Act would not now be sufficient, because it did not apply to offences committed in the open day. Here the hon. Gentleman was misinformed. The Insurrection Act did apply to officers committed in the middle of the day; it did not create any new offence—it did not make that an offence in the middle of the day which was not so at present—but it gave an extraordinary power of adjudicating upon offences, by dispensing with the attendance of a Grand Jury, or a Petty Jury, and inflicting the punishment of transportation, on the finding of an Assistant Barrister and the magistracy. If that measure should be found necessary, the hon. Gentleman would perceive that his Majesty's Government were disposed to adopt all necessary means to remedy the existing evils. He was reluctant, particularly in the present state of the House, to enter more fully into the condition of Clare. The Government would be provided with the best and fullest information; and whenever if should be necessary to adopt more vigorous measures, they would be prepared to communicate to the House such information, including, of course, the paper for which the hon. Gentleman moved—as would justify them in proposing the adoption of so extraordinary and unconstitutional a measure as the Insurrection Act. He would not enter into a consideration of the ulterior measures alluded to by the hon. Gentle- 1291 man, as emigration, the colonization of waste lands, and particularly the important and delicate question of a modified system of Poor-laws. On the latter point he would only say, that as it appeared to him, a modified system of Poor-laws could in no possible way, and to no possible extent, remove the present evils of the county of Clare, which, as the hon. Gentleman told the House arose from the poverty of the people, caused by their want of employment. That could not be relieved by a modified system of Poor-laws, which could only provide that all who were out of work should be supported at the expense of the parish. This must lower rather than raise the miserable pittance which the poor of Clare now gained when they were employed, and must introduce the abuses which were complained of in this country as to settlement and other points. The Government, he would state, in conclusion, trusted that the measures which it had in contemplation, would suffice for the pacification of the disturbed districts, and these measures they were resolved to try before they had recourse to the Insurrection Act, which was so unconstitutional in its nature, that the application of it could only be justified by the most absolute necessity.
concurred with the right hon. Secretary in the opinion that nothing short of the most positive necessity could justify Government in placing such tremendous and unconstitutional powers in the hands of any body of men as would be conferred by the Insurrection Act. He deeply lamented the state of disorganization into which society had been reduced in the county of Clare; but he sincerely believed, that the evil was not deep-rooted, and he looked upon it as of a nature which admitted of a gentler remedy than some, in their overweening apprehension, were anxious to apply. The people laboured under the most terrible privations; and for disturbances, which had their origin in the general distress, the remedy which would naturally suggest itself was, in his mind, the amelioration of that miserable condition which drove the people into acts of desperation. He trusted, therefore, that in the measures which the right hon. Secretary intended to propose, the first consideration would be, the distressed state of the peasantry of Clare, and the fact that by this distress they had 1292 been goaded into that unfortunate breach of the laws of society, and of the laws of the land in which they were then engaged; and that remembering this, his Majesty's Government would diligently inquire into the causes of that distress, observing critically how far it might be calculated to arise from the peculiar state of the social system in Ireland, or the peculiar circumstances of the country—and how far from the defects, or from the mal-administration of the law; and that then the measures they submitted to the House would be addressed to the removal of those causes in which the distress was ascertained to have its origin.
§ Mr. Maurice O'Connell
was likewise of opinion, that the causes of the evil, which was of a transitory nature, lay on the surface of society. While he stated this, however, he was at the same time bound to confirm the statement of the hon. Members who had already spoken respecting the deplorable condition in which the county he had the honour to represent was at that moment plunged. It was perfectly true that outrages deeply to be lamented had taken place, and equally true it was that the peasantry was in a state of fearful organization. This dreadful state of things, however, he attributed to the distress under which the peasantry of Clare had so long groaned, but under which they could not be expected to succumb for ever. The man who deemed they could, knew, indeed, little of human nature. The distress, he contended, had originated in that complication of evils to which the Irish peasant was exposed — the tithe system—the oppressive mode of letting the land—the draining of the country's wealth for the benefit of absentees—the attempt at proselytism, under the guise of education—the Grand Jury Laws—and, above all, the maladministration of the laws in general. In addition to those evils, which might be supposed to press upon the Irish peasant in every part of the country, there were particular evils that affected the peasants of Clare. They had been exposed to the most galling persecution, in consequence of the independent vote they had given in 1828; and there was no county in Ireland, in which religious bigotry assumed a more offensive form. On more than one property—but especially on the estate of a Mr. Synge, whose name had, he believed, been before heard in that House—the tenants were 1293 persecuted, unless they consented that their children should attend the Protestant schools, and abandon the religion of their fathers. The conduct of the Magistrates, too, with scarcely an exception, was oppressive, and in many instances most atrocious. To such people, he contended, it was most improper to commit such great—such unconstitutional powers as those which would be vested in them by the Insurrection Act. They had already abused the more limited powers winch had been intrusted to them. Was that a reason for investing; them with other powers which scarcely knew any bounds? He could, if necessary, detail many instances of oppression and improper conduct upon the part of the Magistrates in Clare. There was one man amongst them, who was both a Justice of Peace, and a Chief Constable of Police. He, in fact, conveniently combined the two characters. Me seized the wretched peasant as a police constable—as a Magistrate he committed him to prison. In more than one instance it happened that people were carried to gaol on informations that were not sworn; and in one he had to state, that a Magistrate actually descended from the judgment seat, to beat the unfortunate peasant he had caused to be dragged before him. In another district of Clare, there was another Magistrate to whom he wished particularly to allude. This Magistrate sat in one room, but a higher authority sat in another room, to which he was compelled to refer, and under whose authority he was bound to decide. He might hear the case himself, but before he attempted to decide upon it, he was obliged to ask his lady what he should do. He stated this upon the authority of Mr. Malachy Duff, who was a most respectable gentleman, and certainly would not deceive him. From what he had seen and knew, therefore, he could not vote for intrusting increased powers to the Magistrates of Clare. Until of late, that county had been virgin. It never, even in the worst of times, had been stained by insurrection, much less reduced to its present lamentable state. Much of the spirit of hostility to a certain class of the gentry which prevailed, he attributed to Mr. Synge and his proselytising schools. Apprehensions that disturbances would occur had been long since entertained. Four years ago, a memorial from the landowners was transmitted to the Government, explain- 1294 ing that the seeds of evil had been sown in Clare. The Government acknowledged the receipt of the Memorial, but nothing was done, and yet in that Memorial it was distinctly stated, that the organization of the peasantry had commenced. There was no interference, and, consequently, the spirit of insurrection spread through the land, until the present state of things was induced, under which neither life nor property was safe. And now, indeed, at the eleventh hour, Government came forward to legislate under circumstances of difficulty, for that which, four years ago presented none. Had it been then attended to, a most lamentable effusion of human blood might have been spared. The insurgents in Clare now called themselves Terry-Alts—the origin of the name was this:—Terry-Alt was an old pensioner—an honest and loyal man—but he got into a quarrel with an agent named Stevenson, (it was understood) about not sending his child to a Protestant school, and Terry thought proper to beat the agent. The quarrel was merely personal; but other peasants, to whom this agent was obnoxious, thought proper to serve him with a threatening notice, and, in a spirit of jest, signed it with the name of "Terry-Alt, the pensioner," of whose personal prowess, it was presumed, he must retain an uneasy recollection. He believed that the Marquis of Anglesey's visit to Clare had been productive of great harm. If it had not been for that, he thought it probable the peasantry would have given up their arms. A deputy from one of the parishes had waited on him and Mr. Steele, and promised that all the arms should be given up at a particular spot. He had no doubt this would have been done, and that the example would have been followed by other parishes; but when the man heard of Lord Anglesey's expected visit, he said he could be no longer answerable for the performance of the promise, as the peasantry had universally declared they would not lay down their arms until Lord Anglesey did something for them. Mr. Steele and he had, however, spent a day and a night in endeavouring to get them to deliver up the arms. They partly succeeded; and, with the help of God, he trusted all the arms would be eventually given up. He hoped that Government would not, because there happened to be a calm at present, suppose that the gale would not rise again, 1295 but would endeavour to ameliorate the condition of the people. What he considered would mainly contribute to the pacification of the country was the letting of the land to the people upon fair terms, the preventing jobbing in the making of roads, a change in the Grand Jury Laws, and the Tithe System, and in the Administration of Justice. He thanked the House for listening to him so patiently, and assured them his statement was not overcharged. He most sincerely hoped, that the measures of the right hon. Secretary would restore the peace of the country.
§ Mr. Ruthven
defended the character of the Irish Magistracy generally, and thought that any instance of individual misconduct should be referred to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He regretted to believe that vigorous measures were necessary to suppress the insurrection in those southern counties, and he was reluctantly induced to believe that the Insurrection Act was perhaps necessary. As for the remedies for the prevalent distress, the Poor-laws, he was persuaded, must be introduced in Ireland sooner or latter; not in the shape in which they were now in England, but in an improved form, similar to what they were in principle when they were originally passed.
§ Colonel Trench
regretted to hear so distressing an account of the state of the peasantry in the county of Clare, to which state of distress the hon. Gentleman who had entered into a detail of it, had attributed the recent outrages and disturbances that had spread in that county. But he knew that cases of as flagrant a description had taken place in other parts of Ireland, where no such cause prevailed. He believed that they might be traced to the system of agitation which had unhappily been resorted to. He could point out instances of insubordination to the laws, instances of acts of violence having been committed where no pretence of distress could be found. He would name two instances where such misconduct was manifested by the people against a landlord who had been invariably kind and benevolent to his tenants and the people in the neighbourhood, and against a Clergyman who had equally a claim to the gratitude of the people around the place where he resided. As an instance of the means which were had recourse to for provoking agitation and stirring up insurrection, he 1296 would mention what lately occurred in Queen's county. At Montrath a gentleman presented himself to a public meeting, and made a long and inflammatory speech, of which he would read a short passage. "Those gentry say, and say truly, that if the Union was repealed, tithes would be abolished; but if they think that by pro-longing that measure they will secure tithes, they will be miserably deceived. Tithes are virtually abolished. I never will again pay a penny of tithes. Understand me, my friends,—I say again I will never pay tithe; the law, then, empowers the tithe-owner to take my property and sell it. I calculate on being esteemed by my countrymen, and I think the Irishman does not live who will buy my goods; and if the tithe-owner appropriates them to his own use, I am sure my fellow-parishioners will compensate me, and I promise them in return, that if the goods of any of them be brought to sale, I will not buy them, and that I will assist to compensate them. We will act as the society of Friends do; we will be a Society of friends. I will transgress no law; I will pay no tithe, but I will not obstruct the law. I am certain many people and many parishes will follow my example; may I not, then, say tithe is virtually abolished?" Such language was calculated to excite the people to whom it was addressed, and render them discontented. Although distress had in some cases caused the peasantry to commit excesses and acts at which every well-constituted mind shuddered, yet he was persuaded, as he had before stated, that to other causes those acts of outrage might be traced; and if the same influence were exerted, still similar acts would follow.
said, that if he was right in supposing that the person alluded to by the member for Clare (Mr. M. O'Connell) was Mr. Tomkins Brew, he could assure the hon. Gentleman that Mr. Brew, though he had been a Police Officer, and was now a Justice of the Peace, had never held the two offices together. If it could be proved that he had been guilty of the very improper conduct with which he was charged, he should be dismissed without delay.
Mr. Dominick Browne
wished it to be understood that there was no connexion whatever between the disturbances in Clare and the famine at present spreading through some parts of the west of Ireland. The people in that part, who were suffering the 1297 most grievous distress, and in whose behalf an appeal was now being made to the benevolence of the English nation, were not in a state of insurrection.
§ Mr. Brownlow
said, that whenever he heard of movements in Ireland, such as had been described by the hon. member for Ennis, insurrectionary though they might be called, he invariably attributed them to the excitement of intolerable distress; and strange as it might sound to English ears, he did not think there was a people in the world more easily governed than the Irish, if they were not goaded into disorders by oppression and misery. The distress which prevailed in every part of that country was such as would not be endured in England for a single day. He believed that it was mainly attributable to the intolerable exactions which were imposed upon the people in the shape of rent. Although Clare suffered cruelly in that respect, he well knew that other parts of Ireland were scarcely treated more favourably. The question now was, what was to be done to remedy the disorders which undeniably prevailed? Was it to be supposed that the Insurrection Act would prove an efficient remedy? Could the distresses of a starving people be mitigated by a rigorous and unconstitutional law? He hoped the House would pause before it acted on the suggestion of the hon. member for Ennis, if he had rightly understood that Gentleman to suggest the revival of that law. Measures of relief would be far more appropriate and more efficacious. No people on the face of the earth were more willing to labour than the peasantry of Ireland for their subsistence. They only wanted employment; they asked for means of obtaining food; they would be satisfied with a remuneration for their exertions which would enable them and their families to exist. They had a right to relief from the produce of that soil which they cultivated. He hoped, that the House would pause ere measures so harsh as those recommended were resorted to. He trusted that they would not be applied. There was no necessity for it. He would strongly recommend the immediate institution of a system of Poor-laws into that country. It was vain to tell him, that the exports of Ireland were becoming more valuable— that the imports were increasing—that the revenue was improving—and that these and other symptoms of national improvement were not to be denied. But he 1298 would reply, that while those signs of prosperity were to be observed, the condition of the mass of the people was fast deteriorating. To use the language of Doctor Doyle, in a pamphlet of great ability and interest, which he had recently published, the great body of the people were in a state of rapid transition from wretchedness to ruin. He admitted, that the people of England had a right to say to the Irish landlords that their soil was abundantly productive, and their revenues abundantly ample, and that they could well provide for the subsistence of their people from the resources of their own country, without coming to this country to beg for their relief. But, at the same time he hoped, that in the present appalling distress, the benevolence of the people of England would not be appealed to in vain, and that the enactment of Poor-laws would prevent the necessity of any such appeal hereafter.
Mr. Owen O'Connor
had no doubt that the disturbances were caused by distress, for the Irish were the most suffering and distressed people in the whole world.
§ Mr. O'Connell
had not intended to have troubled the House on the present occasion, but he could not refrain from adding one sentence to what he had said at other times, when the distresses of Ireland had come under their consideration. He was opposed on every ground to the introduction of the Insurrection Act into that country. An Act of that coercive nature might be a very good and effectual method for quelling disturbances and riots at the moment, but it ever left a sting behind it, in the bosoms of the peasantry, who would be readier to join in any subsequent insurrectionary movement from having suffered under the arbitrary oppression of such an Act. He entirely concurred in what had fallen from the right hon. Gentlemen on the other side, with respect to the real cause of the disturbances now-existing in the county of Clare. They were not the result of any political feeling, but the sole and only cause of those disturbances was poverty—grinding, hope-less poverty—and they had the additional stimulus to complaint, from seeing the produce of the country sent out of Ireland, to be sold for the benefit of the absentees, to the amount of 210,000l. a-year, not one farthing of which ever returned to them. He had been himself a long time opposed to the introduction of Poor-laws 1299 into that country, as he was aware of the inconveniences and evils with which they were attended. But in respect to Ireland, it had become a question of life and death, and he believed that the enactment of a legal provision for the poor, out of the produce of the soil, ought no longer to be delayed. The opposition of the people in some disturbed parts of Ireland to the exaction of tithes had been much spoken of; but he would ask, did Gentlemen think that the present system of tithes could continue? The people, for the support of the religion in which they believed, paid willingly for one Church, and the laws compelled them to pay for another with which they had nothing further to do than to support it at a vast expense. There were thus two funds in Ireland which ought to be made available for the support of the poor—one, the excessive income of the Church; the other the excessive rent of the absentees. While he was member for the county of Clare, he had made but one application for a gentleman to be put in the commission of the peace. That gentleman was a Mr. Bridgeman, a person in all respects qualified to be a Magistrate; but the late Chancellor had not condescended even to return an answer to this application. Notwithstanding what had been said of the respectability of the four stipendiary Magistrates in Clare, to whom the enforcement of the Insurrection Act would be intrusted, should it be put into operation in that county, he could assure the right hon. Secretary for Ireland that two of the four had been insolvents, and that people said, with what justice he did not know, that one of those gentlemen had not undergone a clean white-washing. But be the character of the Magistrates what it might, the powers given them by that Act were such as no man ought to possess. The necessary consequence of its operation was, to render the notion of constitutional law a matter of ridicule with the people. It turned the Court of Justice into a Court Martial, with all the arbitrary severity, but with none of the honour, of the Military Court.
§ Colonel Trench
begged to correct a misapprehension into which the hon. and learned member for Waterford had fallen, as to what he had said of the causes of the Clare disturbances. He had not attributed those riots to the existence of any political feeling in that county, but he had, in talking of the disturbances which 1300 arose from political feeling, alluded to other parts of the country where the condition of the people, as far as related to food and the other necessaries of life, was not such as to lead them to become insurgents from causes of poverty.
§ Mr. Leader
said, there was much reason to apprehend that the disturbance now prevailing in Clare would extend itself to districts only separated from it by the Shannon—districts in which there were 1,000 square miles without resident proprietors, and of which the produce was devoted to swell the revenues of absentees. There was no one, who paid the slightest attention to the altered state of the resources of Ireland, who must not be fully aware that those resources had of late years fearfully diminished; if the trade in provisions had increased, the price had fallen, and the linen trade might almost be considered at an end. In fact, at the present moment, the exports of Ireland might be looked on as reduced to the single article of corn, which annually amounted to between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 quarters—that was the sum total of export to which the labours of 8,000,000 of human beings were to be directed, and he might add, to that alone. In such a state of things, he could only look to measures of amelioration. It was the duty of the Government to adopt measures of amelioration, for, without them, life would not be worth having. It was the first duty of the Government to see that the people had support and employment—and support and employment could only be ensured to them by a large assessment levied upon the lands of absentees, and upon those of other proprietors. He felt it his duty thus to come forward, as an Irish gentleman, representing a free constituency, for he felt that it was at once for the interest of Ireland, and of the empire at large, that the battle should be fought in that House, and not at fairs with pikes and bludgeons. At once he felt bound to declare, that the Legislature had the power, and should have the disposition, to adopt measures of amelioration. He was sure he spoke not only his own sentiments, but those of a large proportion of the gentlemen connected with Ireland, when he said, that unless some measure of amelioration were adopted, they could not hope for security, nor could they be ancillary to improvement.
§ Mr. Maurice Fitzgerald
said, that if the 1301 distress was so urgent, and the disorganization of society in Clare so serious as they had been represented to be, he begged to call the attention of the House to a matter still more serious,—namely, how far the Government was prepared to arrest the progress of this state of things to other parts of the country. Ministers must and would, he was sure, do him the justice to say, that four mouths ago he called upon the Government to arm themselves with force adequate to the coming danger; for four months ago he had foreseen that danger. Would the Government now dare to tell him—would they dare to tell Ireland, that within those four months they had taken precautions adequate to the emergency? The people of that part of the country in which his property was situated were quiet and tranquil at present, and he trusted that they would remain so; but was he for that reason to be insensible to the dangers which threatened other parts of the country? He would not then inquire into the causes of disturbances,— though he was prepared to enter into the inquiry at any convenient time, and when the inquiry was instituted, he did not think there would be much difference of opinion with regard to those causes. What, however, he wanted to know was this,—had the Government used proper precautions? He was not called upon to enter into a defence of the conduct of Irish landlords generally; it was sufficient for him if he could justify his own conduct as a landlord: but he must say, that no one had a right to stigmatize the Irish landlords without knowing what they had had to contend with for the last thirty-five years. Gentlemen might very coolly and very philosophically talk about the practicability of individual defences being made against the attacks of an insurrectionary mob; but had they ever, even in imagination, made the case their own? It was notorious, that in some parts of Ireland many gentlemen had been for thirty-five years past in what was called a state of siege. He was not interested in praising or censuring the landlords of Clare; he had nothing to do with their conduct, of which he knew little; but he must say, that no Government ought to excuse or tolerate open disorganization and outrage, on the ground that landlords had not conducted themselves as well as they might have done. It was the business of a Government to uphold the laws. If it were 1302 necessary for him to state it, he was ready to state what he as an individual, should be prepared to do under the circumstances; but he objected altogether to the Insurrection Act; he had objected to it twenty-five years ago, and he objected to it now. He objected to it principally on the grounds which had been urged by the hon. member for Waterford; but he objected to it in this particular case upon this other ground also,—namely, that if the gentlemen of Clare were, as they had been represented, afraid to remain in their houses, they certainly were not persons to whom the ad-ministration of such an Act ought to be intrusted. He protested against the having recourse to the Insurrection Act, and upon this, amongst other grounds—that it was a law which was extremely liable to be abused and perverted. In his opinion, when any departure was made from the law and practice of the Constitution of the country, it should be laid upon the responsibility of the Government, and not upon that of the local Magistracy. It was much to be apprehended, if measures were not promptly taken by the Government to put an end to the atrocities which were now continually committed in the south-west of Ireland, that the evil would spread to such an extent, and the system of disorganization would become so general, that it would be extremely hard to deal with it. He would therefore urge upon his Majesty's Government the necessity of adopting some measures for that purpose without delay. He would add further, that he hoped his Majesty's Government had estimated the extent of the danger, so as to provide a sufficient force to meet it. Every measure proposed to strengthen the hands of Government in Ireland would meet the assent of the House, and the execution of whatever extraordinary powers it might be necessary to invest the Government with, could never be exercised with more humanity and generosity than by the noble Lord now at the head of the Government of Ireland. He did not concur with those who thought that the distress or poverty of Ireland palliated the enormities which had been lately committed in some parts of Clare; but he would contend, at the same time, that the Government and the Legislature should speedily set about devising measures for bettering the condition of the people of that country. He was astonished by the doctrine which, if he had not greatly misunderstood the hon. member for Kil- 1303 kenny (Mr. Leader), had been implied in the statements made that night by that hon. Member—namely, that the agricultural exports of Ireland were productive of evil to that country, and that the 3,000,000 quarters of corn which he stated was the amount exported from Ireland, would, if retained there, provide food for the now destitute and starving population. The hon. Member seemed to forget, that if a prohibition were laid upon the export of corn from Ireland, the amount which was now exported from it might not be produced there. One of the sound and common-sense maxims of political economy might have reminded the hon. Member that such would be the effect of placing a restriction upon the exportation of the agricultural produce of Ireland. In his opinion, to advocate the doctrine that the export of produce was not beneficial to Ireland, was to maintain what might lead to the most mischievous consequences. The people, if they could be persuaded that such a doctrine was well-founded, might assemble at the out-ports and put a stop to the exports, than which nothing could occur that would be attended with more fatal and dangerous results. He contended, that nothing was more desirable for Ireland than to increase the export of its produce; at the same time that no one could be more desirous than he was, that the producers should live in comfort. His acquaintance with Ireland, however, led him to conclude, that it might afford abundance of subsistence for its own population, and that there would still be an enormous amount to export. He agreed with those who thought that nothing could be more criminal, and at the same time more absurd, than the treatment of the labouring population of Ireland. There was much improvement required in the mode in which the peasantry were treated in Ireland. The real interests of the landlords of Ireland would be truly consulted and promoted by affording adequate settlements, upon fair and moderate terms, to the peasantry upon their lands. Wherever capital was thus expended on land in Ireland, it invariably gave an abundant return. He could mention many instances in proof of the fact, and in his own case he would state, that he derived a return of twelve per cent and upwards from capital so laid out. It was the interest of every landlord in Ireland to place the labourers on his estate in comfort. It was truly stated by the hon. member for 1304 Clare (Mr. Maurice O'Connell) that those peasants who occupied land in the pasture districts suffered the greatest hardships; but he (Mr. Fitzgerald) would not countenance the opinion that any disadvantages which this portion of the peasantry suffered justified those outrages, which were an aggravation of the evil. The export of corn from Ireland was stated at 2,250,000 quarters, and, taking that quantity at an average of 1l. 10s. a quarter, it amounted to no more than 3,375,000l., which was no great sum out of the income of Ireland. For his part, he sincerely hoped that the exports from Ireland to this country would daily increase, and that the two countries would be more intimately identified. In conclusion, he called upon the Government to bring forward some measure of adequate protection for property in Ireland.
§ Mr. Leader
said, that nothing could be further from his mind than to attempt to limit the exports of Ireland; but, on the contrary, his earnest wish was to see them extended; and he had complained that at present they were so small.
§ Mr. James Grattan
said, that it was easy to dilate on all the mischiefs under which Ireland was labouring, but not so easy to point out to his Majesty's Government any remedy for the numerous diseases. In his opinion, the picture that had been drawn was much distorted and overcharged. With respect to the absentees of Ireland, he thought that it was a grievance to which they must submit; but his remedy for that evil was the making a permanent relief for the poor of Ireland. That question, he was happy to say, was making great progress in Ireland, and daily acquiring advocates, in spite of the attempts of interested persons to check it; and he had no doubt that it would finally be carried into effect. The Magistracy of the country were greatly maligned, but he believed much of the misconduct ascribed to them was to be traced to the absence of those from the country, who, if they resided in it, must have influence from wealth and property. The hon. member for Clare (Mr. Maurice O'Connell) in a speech of great promise, had justly described the high rents of land held in Ireland as one of the sources of evil. He thought a return shewing the amount of rents paid for land in that part of the country would be desirable. It would justify, he was sure, dissatisfaction—he did not say outrage—and would go far to ac- 1305 count for the disturbances which prevailed. As the question of Poor-laws for Ireland had been gaining ground in that country, and. in Parliament, for several years, he hoped his Majesty's Government would take it into consideration. It would be much better they should adopt some measure of that kind than look to the Insurrection Act, which had failed, after an experience of thirty years. As to exports, he thought the export of produce was the most miserable kind of export, and that most to be deprecated, and agreed with the sentiments contained in the best book ever written on Ireland—that by the hon. member for Newark—in which he said, that when there was distress the export of corn and cattle ought to be stopped, and applied to feed the people.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that he had listened to all the speeches that had been made; and they appeared to come to this conclusion, that Ireland was in a state of great distress, yet that a system of Poor-laws was the only remedy. If this was the case, why did not some Irish Member propose such a system to that House, and not leave it to English Members to do their business for them? He had never seen any reason why the people of Ireland should not have Poor-laws; and if the House was prepared to refuse them, the best thing they could do would be, to vote with the hon. member for Waterford for the Repeal of the Union.
said, that after the disturbances which had been taking place in Ireland, the Government was bound to take steps to prevent them, and in so doing they should have his humble support. With respect to Poor-laws for Ireland, perhaps something in that way might be done; but as to transplanting the English system of Poor-laws to Ireland, that, in his opinion, was impracticable. The residence of the gentry on the estates would tend to relieve the distress of Ireland. The county he represented (Wexford) was in a very prosperous condition, and this, he believed, was owing to the great number of resident landlords.
§ Motion agreed to.