HC Deb 10 August 1831 vol 5 cc1105-31
Mr. Brownlow

, in rising to present a Petition, which was of so much importance that he had thought it necessary to adopt the unusual course of giving notice of his intention, hoped he should be allowed to trespass for a few moments on the attention of the House; and he trusted, however inadequate he might be to describe the sufferings and distress of the Irish population, which was the subject of the petition, that it would receive all that consideration which was due to a question involving so much happiness, and of so much national importance. The distresses of the Irish poor were proverbial in this House, and unparalleled in any part of the civilized world. He believed, that however melancholy, it was a fact, that that distress was increasing every day, and that it was getting worse and worse; that not even in Ireland, in any former period of its history, was to be found so much misery as at present. It was under these circumstances, and at this period, the Roman Catholic Bishops of Ireland, to the number of twenty-four, who had signed this petition in a synod, assembled at Dublin, came before this House as faithful witnesses of the great national calamity which they described in the petition. It was under these circumstances that these Bishops came forward to describe the distress, and to point out a remedy for it. They stated, that they had witnessed, during a series of years, such distress among the labouring population of Ireland, as should arrest the attention of this House and of the country at large; that they had marked the progress of that distress, which was hourly increasing; that that distress shewed itself, as it always would, in disaffection and secret and illegal combinations; that the great cause of political and religious discord having been removed in Ireland, the Government had not yet turned its attention to the state of the destitute and labouring population, so as to put the people of Ireland in a better state, and enable them to live as became the members of a free country. They declared, that the people were in a state of starvation, and that they could not think it was consistent with justice, or with Christian charity, that the population should be left to starve in the land which they enriched by their labour, and that one part of the inhabitants should be rioting in profusion, while the great majority was unable to procure the means of satisfying the common wants of humanity. In a language which, in his opinion, was, of all others, the most appropriate to the subject, the petitioners implored them, for the sake of Him who has declared himself the Father of the indigent—for the sake of Him who is provoked to anger when the poor suffer oppression—to adopt some immediate means to relieve the people of Ireland from their present condition, lest that Being should be moved to wrath at their culpable indifference. For himself he could only say, as an addition to the eloquent appeal of the petitioners, that he adopted their description of the grievances of Ireland, and that he knew their statement of the condition of the people was anything but exaggerated. Headopted, to the fullest extent, their suggestion with respect to the remedy; and he thought that the property of Ireland should be made responsible for the poverty of Ireland. All other measures would, he was convinced, prove mere palliatives, till they adopted some permanent provision for the indigent and helpless. He wished, therefore, that the Government should pay immediate attention to this important subject; it could never be said, that a Government was doing its duty when the lives of the people were in jeopardy from disease and famine. As a landed proprietor, he approved of the plan for giving Poor-laws to Ireland; and, so far from thinking that his property would be injured by it, he believed, on the contrary, that the general value of all the landed property of that country would be very considerably increased.

Colonel Conolly

supported the prayer of the petition, and expressed himself of the same opinion as the member for Armagh, that the general value of landed property would be much increased by the introduction of Poor-laws into Ireland. He hoped the Government would turn their attention to the subject, and adopt the suggestion of the petition.

Mr. John Brown

said, he had no intention of entering into the discussion of the question at that moment. He would reserve himself for a more fit occasion, when the subject should come fully before the House. He would only say now, that he should support a modified system of Poor-laws, and he was glad to find that the prejudices against them were rapidly disappearing. He had long thought, that the common laws of humanity—that the general interests of Ireland itself—required that some legal provision should be made for the poor of Ireland. This would produce that most desirable result, the co-operation of the higher classes for improving the moral condition of the peasantry; and, above all, it was desirable as a means of catching those blood-suckers, the absentee proprietors, who had been the bane and curse of Ireland. That country could never be regenerated unless the interests of the higher and lower orders were made one and the same.

Mr. Sadler

supported the general principle of the application of a system of Poor-laws to Ireland, but would postpone till another opportunity, stating the reasons why he thought that such a measure would be attended with the best effects. He had been requested by several of the right reverend Prelates who had signed it to express his concurrrence with its prayer: and he could not allow the opportunity to pass of saying, that it had his hearty concurrence.

Mr. Crampton

, as a private Member of that House, and unconnected with the Government, would say, that he was not averse to the introduction of some system of Poor-laws into Ireland, but he thought they should recollect, that it was a step which once taken, could never be recalled, and that there were two very different points connected with the question of introducing these laws into Ireland. As far as a fund raised by compulsory enactment, was to be applied to the support of the aged and infirm in hospitals and poor-houses, he thought the experiment was one which might be tried with safety; but he confessed, when they went further, and proposed to extend to Ireland those laws for the support of the unemployed which were in operation in this country, he could not very clearly see his way. He begged it to be understood, that he said this, not as connected with the Government, but merely as a Member of that House. Government, he conceived, ought to pause before it adopted so important a measure, which, once carried, could not be easily revoked. He had reason to believe that the subject was under the consideration of Ministers, who were as anxious to relieve the distresses of the people as any hon. Member of that House.

Mr. Grattan

regretted much, that on such an important question no Minister of the Crown was present, nor any one connected with Ireland or the Government; not even the hon. member for Limerick (Mr. Spring Rice,) who took up the question of the application of Poor-laws to Ireland about a-year and a-half ago, and afterwards left it where he found it. The hon. and learned Member had given Government a caution which was wholly unnecessary, as the same caution had been given, to his knowledge, every year for the last seven years. Having always been an advocate for Poor-laws in Ireland, he was determined never to lose any opportunity which presented itself of compelling the absentee proprietors to bear their share of the burthens suffered by the residents. He implored hon. Members not to give up the subject until something was done for Ireland. Many parts of Ireland, now uncultivated, were capable of being cultivated at a small expense, and would afford employment to many of the labouring population. But without Poor-laws it was impossible that anything could be done for Ireland. Individuals had repeatedly tried to improve their estates, but the moment they made any progress, a crowd of the miserable and the indigent came down on them, and destroyed by their presence the whole of the benefits derived from the labours of the occupiers of those estates. He rejoiced much, that the Catholic Bishops had taken the lead in petitioning on this subject, and he hoped the Protestant Bishops, for the sake of their Church, and of their character, would follow the example, and prove themselves ready to sacrifice a portion of their overgrown possessions for the benefit of those from whom they derived their gains. Much, however, as the opinions of the House seemed to be in favour of Poor-laws, there was no tangible proposition yet made on the subject: and as no other Member seemed disposed to take the matter under his care, he now gave notice of his intention to move to-morrow for leave to bring in a Bill to provide relief for the aged and the helpless, and to enforce the means of procuring employment for the population of Ireland. This would give hon. Members an opportunity of supporting their opinions, and he hoped the hon. member for Limerick (Mr. Spring Rice) would then condescend to be present.

Mr. O'Connell

begged it to be remembered, that this tale of misery, so often repeated, and now described by the Roman Catholic Bishops, was denied by no person—and more competent and disinterested witnesses could not be found than the Roman Catholic Bishops. These miseries had been accumulating even during a thirty-two years' Union with England, and it was said now, that the Government should pause; why, while Government was pausing, the people were starving. For two and thirty years the Imperial Parliament had afforded Ireland no relief, and what had been done or proposed by the Members of the present Administration? Nothing. He challenged any man to point out a measure since they came into office intended to relieve the evils of Ireland. Not one had been proposed; and he would not be guilty of the hypocrisy of saying, that he could continue to support them. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland said, he laboured for nine hours a day, but he was absent then; and where was the use of his labours, if Ireland derived no benefit from them? He could not, therefore, postpone his observations on the course pursued with reference to Ireland, because the right hon. Gentleman was absent. What, then, was the state of Ireland? Justice was refused, murders were committed with impunity, outrages were committed in open day, the great mass of the people were starving, and yet, on the face of all that, a Bill had passed the House of Lords for expending an immense sum in the erection of new churches in that country. The Bill might have passed quietly there, but he would not allow it to pass unquestioned here. The people of Ireland were starving. Something must be done. The time was come when there must be a Poor-rate, and the subject ought to be attacked directly. There had come an end to social order in Ireland. The bonds of society were broken asunder. Desolation stalked in her streets; and famine prowled in her fertile valleys. The cattle and the corn of the country were exporting, and the starving peasantry were looking on at the export. What part of the world was in such a condition as Ireland? But by whom had Ireland been governed?—By the English. "Oh, but," it was said, "we have good intentions towards Ireland." The Italian proverb said, that "Hell was paved with good intentions." He had expected much from the present promising Administration, but they had performed nothing; and the feelings with which he always regarded the subject were especially irritated by the Bill for building churches in Ireland, which had been sent down by the House of Lords.

Mr. Portman

admitted, with the hon. member for Kerry, that good intentions were not sufficient. He was for a properly arranged system of Poor-laws in Ireland. But he could not for a moment believe that his right hon. friend, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, was a man who could be satisfied by merely professing good intentions; and he was sure, that he was labouring hard to prepare a plan calculated to produce the most beneficial consequences. He hoped that some well-digested system of Poor-laws would be introduced into Ireland, such a system as would make it the interest of the proprietors of the soil to improve the condition of those around them. On this subject he begged leave to read to the House an extract from an opinion given by a very learned person in the beginning of the seventeenth century, as to what the operation of the Poor-laws ought to be. The writer was a member of one of the learned Professions, and speaking of the Poor-laws, he said, "The Act declareth to the possessors of property, 'your interest shall from henceforth be united with your duty; and the exercise of judicious and useful charity shall operate to increase the value of your possessions.' It telleth them to educate the young, to encourage the industrious, to restore health to the sick, and to render all their parishioners capable of being useful to themselves and to the community—these are duties, enjoined by Divine authority but we will make them the conditions annexed to the improvement and enjoyment of worldly property. If your cottagers' children are brought up in early habits of piety and industry, they will to you be a benefit, and not a burthen; and they will be useful in their own parish, or acquire a settlement in another at a tender age. If you encourage industry among your parishioners, you and your parish shall receive the benefit of it. If you are attentive to the health of the poor, your stock of labour shall be augmented; and the expense of medical attendance shall be diminished. If you give instruction and suitable occupation to the blind, the lame, the helpless, and the ignorant, you will enable them in part, if not entirely, to maintain themselves, instead of being supported at your cost. But if you neglect all these duties; if you break these conditions annexed to the improvement and enjoyment of your property; your rental shall be reduced, your burthen increased, and those possessions which promissed you rest and enjoyment, shall be the source of vexation and disappointment; when you find that, through your own default, the greater part of your worldly estate must be applied by law, as a parish rate, to give a wretched existence to vice and idleness." The writer's name was Gnigge, and his book was dated Whitefriars, in the year 1604, on the 1st of April. That was the kind of principle which he should like to see adopted in the application of any measure to Ireland; so as to make charity the interest of the person who gave, as well as of him who received relief. He hoped that the hon. member for Wicklow, whose good intentions he was well aware of, would not press his motion hastily, but that the most ample consideration would be given before a system of Poor-laws was introduced into Ireland.

Colonel Torrens

observed, that the first thing was, to ascertain the nature and cause of the disease to which they were all equally anxious to apply a remedy. All were anxious for the improvement of Ireland. The only question was, of what improvement it was susceptible. As to manufacturing improvement, that was out of the question. No one could expect, that the manufactures of Yorkshire and Wiltshire could be transferred to Ireland. The only improvement to which they could look was agricultural improvement. But in what did agricultural improvement consist? In one respect, in the consolidation of small farms into large ones. The effect of that, however, would be, to increase a population already superabundant. Poor-laws would, in his opinion, not afford any remedy for the existing evils. Their effect would be simply to make all the poor co-proprietors of the soil—to bring down the higher classes, without relieving the lower—to confound all classes in a dead level, and to leave no one at liberty and leisure to sound the depths of science, or cultivate the fields of knowledge. If the Legislature wished to avoid the extremities of disorder, if they wished to avoid the shedding of torrents of blood in Ireland, the surplus population of that country must be removed to the fertile plains of our colonies.

Mr. Crampton

hoped he might be allowed to say a few words, in reply to the hon. and learned member for Kerry. That hon. and learned Member seemed to forget, that the present Government had not been more than six months in office, during which it had been zealously employed in collecting information and devising means for relieving the distresses felt in Ireland. Whatever the Administration might think, he entertained it as his private opinion, that a provision, extending no farther than was necessary for the relief of the aged and infirm, would be a greater boon in Ireland than any poor laws. The subject, however, was one which required the deepest consideration, and from no one, he was sure, would it receive that consideration more fully than from his right hon. friend, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who had been the subject of the attack of the hon. and learned member for Kerry. From no man could such an attack come with a worse grace than from the hon. and learned Gentleman. For when did the hon. and learned Gentleman become a convert to the opinion, that Poor-laws were necessary in Ireland? Only a few weeks ago; on the appearance of a pamphlet, written by a very clever Catholic Bishop, of whom he (Mr. Crampton) should certainly never speak with any thing but respect. The hon. and learned member for Kerry had further charged the Irish government with the encouragement of dissension in Ireland; although he well knew, that the cause of that agitation, which had since spread over the whole of Ireland, originated in a county election, in which the hon. and learned Gentleman was concerned.

Mr. O'Ferrall

spoke to order. The hon. and learned Gentleman was departing from the question before the House.

Mr. Crampton

had nothing further to say, but he must assert his right to defend his friends and himself from the imputations cast upon them by the hon. and learned member for Kerry.

Lord Morpeth

acknowledged, that if, at any time, warmth and acrimony were justifiable in a discussion, it was when the subject was a starving population; but he still put it to hon. Members, whether they thought the question could be benefitted by the introduction of mutual reproaches. As a proof, that the prayer of the petition which had been presented by the hon. member for Armagh was not singular, he held in his hands petitions (which the present discussion would probably compel him to hold in his hands for a long time) from three large manufacturing towns in Yorkshire, for the establishment of Poor-laws in Ireland. They complained of the evils which they endured from the influx of the Irish poor—evils to which, they were persuaded, there was no efficient remedy but a permanent measure for providing adequate relief for these unfortunate people in their own country, by a modified system of Poor-laws.

Mr. Hume

must condemn the conversion of a general and important question into a personal dispute. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite charged his hon. and learned friend with having been the cause of the present state of things in Ireland. Why, it existed before the birth of the hon. and learned Gentleman's great grandfather. The sufferings of Ireland were acknowledged—they were proclaimed by all classes. His hon. and learned friend had justly said, that the present Administration, who, when they were out of office, promised to do so much for Ireland, since they had come into power had done nothing. The right hon. Chief Secretary talked of labouring nine hours in the day. He (Mr. Hume) would rather see one act than all his professions. The attack made on his hon. and learned friend was most unfair and unparliamentary. His hon. and learned friend complained, and he too complained, that Ministers did not do their duty towards Ireland. Were they not told the other night, by an hon. Member, that he lived in the midst of 50,000 Roman Catholics, and that an Orangeman, the Crown Solicitor, declared not one of this whole number was ever called to serve on a Jury by the verdict of which a Protestant was to be affected? The subject was one in which he felt deeply interested; and not he alone, but all the people of England. If that unfortunate country, Ireland, were relieved from her present condition, England would be placed in a state of comparative liberty; whereas, at present, Ireland hung like a log upon England, impeding all her movements. The hon. member for Armagh had done his duty; but his Majesty's Government had neglected theirs. It was acknowledged, on all hands, that the most violent party-spirit existed in Ireland; that Protestants, when charged with any offence, however criminal, were almost sure of impunity; while Catholics, when charged with any offence, however venial, were almost sure of severe punishment. Yet, in addition to these evils, his Majesty's Government had put arms into the hands of infuriated and bigotted men in Ireland; which they would, no doubt, use in putting their fellow-subjects to death. Could it be expected that Ireland would much longer bear this accumulation of injuries? Day after day, and night after night did Government hear similar statements as to the condition of Ireland, but it did nothing. Well might his hon. and learned friend say, it was a promising, not a performing Government.

Mr. O'Ferrall

observed, that he had called the Solicitor General of Ireland to order, because he could not patiently sit and hear that hon. and learned Gentleman attribute the present miseries of Ireland to a contested election. The circumstances attending the election, to which allusion had been made, might have increased the party feelings which had previously existed, but did not cause those feelings.

Lord Milton

regretted, that the hon. and learned member for Kerry had, by his remarks, introduced into the discussion of this most important subject a tone which it had not before assumed. The hon. member for Middlesex could not suppose, that he had made any great discovery when he attributed the evils of Ireland to misgovernment. But did he mean misgovernment of the present day, or of centuries? If the latter, he cordially agreed with him. But it was not consistent with justice to use ambiguous expressions, the real purport of which might be perverted. If the hon. member for Middlesex meant by misgovernment, the misgovernment—not of generations, but of the existing time—then he (Lord Milton) did not agree with him. The subject to which the petition referred was one of the greatest importance. No one who had observed the operation of the Poor-laws in England but must feel, that he would be guilty of great indiscretion who would introduce them into Ireland without great previous deliberation. It was a system, the effect of which in England had been such, that ever since he had been a Member of that House (no very short period) the state of the Poor-laws had been constantly under the consideration of Parliament. He perfectly agreed with the hon. and learned member for Kerry, that if the people of Ireland were starving, they must be fed; but that did not decide the question of the expediency of introducing Poor-laws among them. A great mistake appeared to exist with respect to the character of the poor of Ireland. Sure he was, that in Ireland there was, among the poor, a feeling of amity and kindness which might be searched for in vain among the poor of England, from one end of the island to the other. Let Parliament take care, that, by the introduction of any new system, they did not destroy that invaluable feeling.

Mr. Hume

explained. He deprecated all personal allusions, and his fixed opinion was, that the wretchedness and discontent of Ireland were to be attributed to ages of misrule, and called aloud for the serious attention of Government.

Mr. Bodkin

expressed his surprise, that when the question before the House was a petition from the Roman Catholic prelates of Ireland, the hon. and learned Solicitor General for that country had flown from that subject, and attempted to prove, that the agitation of Ireland was caused by the measures of his hon. and learned friend, the member for Kerry—forgetting that the real causes were the mal-administration of Government. He had likewise defended the Irish Government, by declaring, that when they had time, they would do great things, but no one act of theirs gave any countenance to that assertion, or justified the hopes that any amelioration would be accomplished. For the truth of that assertion, he appealed to the feelings of every Irish Member. The only object they had attempted, and for which he felt called upon to express his indignation, was, to build new churches, so that the people of Ireland, the poorest in the world, were to be compelled to build churches for the richest religious establishment in the world. That certainly was not mere promise; it was an attempt at performance, but an attempt that was not likely, either to confer any advantages on the Irish people, or merit their approbation.

Mr. North

thought, that no one could attend to the state of Ireland for any length of time without being aware of the extreme difficulty of applying any remedy to its manifold evils. It was well known, that he was no great friend to Ministers, as to the general course of their political conduct; he could not, however, but give them credit for much that they had already done for Ireland. They had called into activity the law of the land, by special commission, which had been attended with the best results. He must say, they had acted wisely and well, in putting down tumult, and preventing bloodshed. They had steadily enforced the law. While he gave them this credit, which was their due, in his humble judgment they would have acted more wisely for the interests of Ireland, and with regard to their own ultimate character as Ministers, if, instead of attempting a change in the Representation of that country, which would increase its agitation, they had confined themselves to the particular question of the Irish poor, and attempted to introduce some system of well-digested Poor-laws, by which the sufferings of the population might have been alleviated, and a foundation laid for a permanent state of national prosperity.

Mr. Ruthven

considered, that the story of the misfortunes of Ireland, had been bandied about backwards and forwards, but no beneficial results had accrued. The present question, however, was of vital importance to Ireland, and, if Ministers would not take the subject into their consideration, it was the duty of the Irish Members to bring it forward. The Irish people wanted something specific to be done, and no longer to be abused by delusive hopes. He was happy that the present discussion had taken place, for it was only on occasions like this, that the affairs of Ireland were ever attended to in the House.

An Hon. Member lamented, that the hon. member for Middlesex should apply such words as "infuriated and bigotted men," to the Yeomanry of Ireland; such language very much tended to increase the angry party spirit which prevailed in Ireland.

Mr. Wyse

observed, that in every part of Ireland, the people were anxious, not to change the order of Government, but to alter the administration of it in such a way, that every interest in the land might be truly and properly represented. He should not enter into the discussion at present, but when the question of the Poor-laws came before the House, he would avail himself of the opportunity to state his opinions on the subject, It certainly was a matter of discretion with Government, whether they would go on with the present question or not; whether the distress which now existed in Ireland was to be prevented by law, or in any other way, was for their consideration; but prevented it must be, and the sooner it was decided what measures should be adopted for that purpose, the better.

Colonel Perceval rose, for the purpose of repelling the attack made on the administration of justice in Ireland, and would fearlessly assert, that it was administered with an impartiality worthy of imitation. The great cause of the disturbances in Ireland was, the election to which the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Crampton) had alluded, and no safety would be found for Ireland, till the people were removed from under the control of those who had an interest in misleading them. He trusted, that Ministers would show a decision of character, in putting down the confusion that prevailed, which he must say they had not hitherto done. He had looked forward to the Registry of Arms Bill; but all the hopes he had formed had been blasted by the notice given by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, of his intention to take away the only clause in that Bill which was good for any thing; he referred to the transportation clause.

Major Macnamara

denied, that the Clare election, referred to by the last speaker, had been the cause of exciting ferment in Ireland. The fact was, that the people were dissatisfied and discontented, when they saw one law for the rich, and another for the poor. The latter had all the penalties of the law—all its benefits were reserved for the former. Individuals, he believed, had, in some instances, been thrown out of employment, because they would not suffer their children to be educated in a faith different from their own. They were persecuted, and plundered, and obtained no redress.

Mr. Sheil

was of opinion, that the statements contained in the petition ought to be most seriously considered by the House. They were entitled to the utmost credence, because the petitioners, in the exercise of their apostolic functions, necessarily acquired a perfect familiarity with the situation and sufferings of the poor. His hon. and learned friend had alluded to the election for Clare, to which he had attributed the ill-feeling and acrimonious spirit, which had for some time prevailed in Ireland. To the election for Clare they owed the Catholic Relief Bill—to the election for Clare, he and other gentlemen were indebted for their seats in that House, and he, for one, was proud of an election which had led to such results. He was perfectly certain, that the existing irritation did not proceed from that source. The truth was, that discontent had been produced, because the interests of the people of Ireland had been long neglected in various ways, and because, in particular cases connected with the administration of justice in that country, partiality had been manifested. Could the learned Solicitor General for Ireland deny, that at the late trial which took place at Kilkenny, every man on the Jury was a Protestant? He pledged himself that such was the case. This was no theory, no hypothesis, no vague speculation, but an undoubted fact; and he regretted much, that Government had not interfered to prevent it. He would ask Gentlemen of that persuasion, and particularly members of Yeomanry corps, how they would like to be tried by a Jury composed only of Roman Catholics? While the Catholics were so unjustly treated, was it to be expected that they should love and even honour their oppressors? He did not mean to make a sweeping assertion, that the administration of justice in Ireland was not pure: but, like Cæsar's wife, it should not only be pure, but unsuspected. That could not be the case as long as Juries were composed of Protestants alone, the Judges being all Protestants. There were forty popular Irish Members in that House, a phalanx who had sustained Ministers, who had kept them in their seats, to whom, therefore, the Government owed much obligation; and they had a right to demand of Ministers, that they would promptly and earnestly take the situation of the people of Ireland into consideration, for the purpose of devising some permanent and effectual mode of relieving them.

Lord Duncannon

was bound to admit, without making any observation on the subject, that Catholics were excluded from the Jury at Kilkenny. He had received a letter from one of his constituents relative to this circumstance, and he had been called on to state, it by the writer.

Mr. O'Connell

, in answer to what had fallen from the learned Solicitor General for Ireland, denied that he had made an attack on the Irish Government, or on the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in his absence. He had simply remarked, that this Government was, as far as Ireland was concerned, a "promising" Government, and he said so still, for it had promised much, and performed little. Notwithstanding the right hon. Secretary's nine hours' labour, nothing had as yet been done. Then the learned Gentleman had very adroitly turned round on him, and, with a degree of special pleading worthy of a Court of Law, had accused him of inconsistency, because he seemed to censure Government for not introducing Poor-laws into Ireland, he himself being rather opposed to them than otherwise. Now the fact was, that he adverted, not to Poor-laws, but to a variety of measures which had been promised to Ireland. The learned Gentleman had gone back three years, and attributed all the bad feeling which prevailed in Ireland to the Clare election. This was a most unfounded statement. Greater animosities had distinguished that country, since the present Administration came into power, than had been manifested there for a long time previously. This he had before stated, and he would state it again. What was the reason of it? Because the Whig Ministers had actually leagued themselves with those who had always been their enemies, while they acted coldly towards their liberal friends. Was it extraordinary, that animosities should be perpetuated, when Roman Catholics, belonging to Yeomanry corps, were disarmed, while the Orangemen were armed? Was that not the case with the Irwin's-town corps? Were not the Protestants armed, and the Catholics disarmed? If a fair system were acted upon in Ireland, why, he demanded, did not the Attorney General prosecute in the Newtonbarry trials, seeing that he was actually in Wexford at the time? Was it strange, under all the circumstances, that dissatisfaction should prevail throughout the country? The Government was now supported by men, who never were sincerely their friends, and the consequence was, that the country was trampled on. Wretchedness, want, and misery, pervaded every part of Ireland. Social order, he might say, was absolutely annihilated. Thirty years had elapsed since the Union, and the country was now in a state of the utmost misery—all the links of society were dissolved: they could not stand still—they were unwilling to go back, and it was frightful to look on the future.

Mr. Crampton

said, that he had been coerced, not to attack any individual, but to repel the attack which had been made by the hon. and learned Gentleman, on the Government of Ireland. He had no wish whatever to come into conflict with the hon. and learned Gentleman; indeed, there was no man with whom he more wished to avoid a conflict, knowing how unequal he was to meet the hon. and learned Gentleman at his favourite sport of vituperative argument. He had merely defended the Irish Government. The learned Gentleman had made a serious charge on that Government, when he asserted, that all the animosity which prevailed in Ireland was produced by persecution. Now he would assert, that the learned Gentleman was himself the cause of the irritation which was complained of, and thus the attack he had made on the Irish Government recoiled on himself. As to the notice which had been taken of the fact, that none but Protestants were on the Jury at Kilkenny, he could only say, that no man in the community deplored the existence of such a state of things more than he did himself. He was the last man who would resort to stratagem or artifice in conducting any legal proceedings; and he was convinced, that his learned friend, the Attorney General, was equally averse from pursuing any such line of conduct. In the Kilkenny case, it ought to be observed, that the prosecution was instituted by a Protestant clergyman, against two gentlemen, for attempting to prevent the collection of tithes. Now, the learned Gentleman must know very well, that in such a case as that, the prosecutor took, and had a right to take, the prerogative of the Crown, and to direct that such and such persons should stand by. The Government had nothing to do with that. But in the Castlepollard business, the Crown had used that prerogative, and set aside fifty-seven persons, who they feared would lean too much to the side of the prisoners. As to the fact of the Attorney General being at Wexford when the Newtonbarry business came on, and not prosecuting, that course was perfectly regular. It was not the practice for the Attorney General to prosecute. His duty was, to select some person of rank in the profession to conduct the prosecution; and in that case, Mr. Greene, a gentleman of high rank in the profession, was selected for the purpose.

Mr. Hume

only wished to say, as he had been pointedly alluded to, that it did appear to him, that great partiality had been exercised. In the Castlepollard case, there was not a single Catholic on the Jury. What was the use of Government, or what was Government paid for, but to protect the oppressed? If those who had the management of these trials did not conduct them properly, then the blame ought, of necessity, to fall on the Government by whom they were appointed. He thought, that Ministers ought to exculpate themselves if they could, for he contended, that they must be answerable for what was done by persons acting in their name. Responsibility ought to rest somewhere, and if Juries were really packed in this way, the Attorney General ought not to be allowed to remain in office.

Mr. Stanley

agreed, that the Government must be responsible for what was done by persons who were employed by them. The Government were not disposed to avoid any such responsibility. For the acts of preceding Administrations, the present Government would not, of course, answer; but he would venture to say, that ever since the appointment of Lord Anglesey, the object which the Irish Government had had most at heart was, to render the administration of justice in Ireland not only pure, but to render it so notoriously pure, that not even the shadow of suspicion of partiality could by possibility attach to it. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell) came down there, night after night, and told the Government, that they ought to throw themselves on that party which would support their political views; but he would tell the hon. and learned Gentleman, that in the administration of justice, the Government would recognize no party whatsoever—would be influenced by no other considerations than those which might tend to establish the most rigid and evenhanded impartiality. He repeated, that it had been the earnest endeavour of the Irish Government, to remove from the administration of justice in Ireland—as well in criminal as in civil cases—all suspicion of partiality; and he must protest against the course which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell) had thought proper to adopt, in coming down there, night after night, and, without notice, charging the Irish Government with having acted unfairly in this case, and in that case, and in the other case. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had any charge of partiality, which he thought he could substantiate against the Irish Government, in the administration of justice in any case, let the hon. and learned Gentleman bring such charge specifically before the House, upon notice, and he (Mr. Stanley) should be prepared to meet him. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said, that in that tithe case which occurred in the county of Kilkenny, parties were set aside, and excluded from the Jury, either because they were Catholics, or because they were liberal Protestants.

Mr. O'Connell

And the noble Lord (Duncannon) has confirmed that statement.

Mr. Stanley

continued. He could not tell whether there were or were not any Catholics, or liberal Protestants on the Jury, but, if the hon. and learned Gentleman meant to say, that it was by the sanction or direction of the Irish Government, that any persons had been excluded from the Jury, either because they happened to be Catholics, or because they happened to be liberal Protestants, the hon. and learned Gentleman said that, which he would contradict in the most flat and unqualified manner. He denied most distinctly, and with the strongest language, that any of those persons were set aside by Government on account of their political opinions. This was a serious charge, made on the strength of individual assertion. The charges of partiality were fortunately bandied about on both sides, and the fair inference, therefore, to be drawn was, that they were all equally without foundation. In the trial of the Castlepollard case, it was said, there was an unfair exercise of authority on the part of the Crown agents, the sole foundation of which was, that the relatives of the parties who had suffered were admitted to prosecute, in conjunction with the Crown agents, and in the exercise of that right, challenged Jurors to such an extent, as to call for the animadversion of the Judge who presided at the trial. Now this was no indication of a disposition to have partial Juries, but, on the contrary, proved, that the whole endeavours of the Government were exerted to support a fair and impartial administration of justice. He must further add, in relation to this unhappy affair, that when the persons charged were acquitted of murder, the relatives refused to proceed upon the minor charge, and called upon the Crown agents to abandon it, which the latter very properly refused. Again, in the Newtonbarry case, the Irish Government ordered a prosecution, but the hon. and learned Member said, that it ought to have been left to the friends of the parties slain, but, as their feelings were necessarily much excited, it was not wise to leave the prosecution entirely in their hands. The circumstances of the case bore out this opinion, for the bills for murder were ignored by the Grand Jury, whether properly or improperly, it was not for him to say. The agents for the Crown, then sent up bills for manslaughter, which were returned as true only against one policeman. What, then, would have been the case, had the prosecution been entirely left in the hands of the friends of the parties? Why, immediately on the bills for murder being ignored, the minor charges would have been abandoned, and the legal proceedings would have been wholly stayed, because the parties could have no hope, that their feelings of revenge would be satisfied, by the extreme penalties of the law being enforced. What would have been said by hon. Members on the other side of the House, on this view of things, but that they had tampered with the administration of justice, and had suffered the accused to escape all punishment, because the prosecutions for murder had failed against them? He, therefore, asserted, they had adopted the most prudent and impartial course, by not having suffered themselves to be guided by the vindictive feelings of the relatives on one side, or the party feelings of the other. He very much regretted, that these opinions were so violent on both sides, but hon. Gentlemen might be assured, Government would not lend itself to any one particular party. It would endeavour to promote a fair and impartial administration of justice, and, he hoped, that its endeavours, notwithstanding the many difficulties it had to contend with, would be ultimately crowned by success.

Mr. Hunt

observed, that the right hon. Gentleman had not said one word upon the only question that was really before the House. That question was the petition from the Irish Catholic Bishops, on the state of the poor of Ireland. The Government had been called one of promise, but not of performance, and he rejoiced that hon. Members had now found that out. He was astonished that on such a question the noble Lord opposite should tell them to pause before they decided, and should object to the early introduction of Poor-laws, because they would put an end to the charity of the people among one another. The Poor-laws were necessary, because the evils of Ireland arose from the great absentee nobility. There was Earl Fitzwilliam—[Lord Milton denied that Earl Fitzwilliam could fairly be considered an Irish absentee proprietor]—there was the Duke of Devonshire—there was the Marquis of Lansdown—and there was the Earl of Egremont. Why were they not taxed for the support of the poor in Ireland? Nobody suggested anything else as a remedy for the evils of Ireland; then why not adopt the Poor-laws?

Mr. Anthony Lefroy

entreated the House not to attend to the declamations of popular Gentlemen, as they called themselves, who had indulged in the most violent attacks upon the Yeomanry, the administration of justice, the proceedings of Government, and the conduct of hon. Members who did not agree with them in opinion. Their charges had been over and over again proved to have no foundation, and he therefore trusted the House would be more ready to listen to those who strictly performed their duty, than to those who brought causeless accusations. The Members who did their duty described the circumstances of Ireland accurately, and were inclined to support the views of his Majesty's Government.

Mr. Sheil

declared, that the Kilkenny tithe case was not the case of a private prosecution—it was throughout considered a Crown prosecution, and it was conducted not only by the Crown Officers, but by Crown Counsel. The right hon. Gentleman had said very properly, that the Government intended to mix itself up with no party, but to administer equal justice to both. He was glad to hear the declaration. If that was to be the case let the Government take care that the rule thus laid down was strictly acted upon in the selection of Juries. He did not charge the right hon. Gentleman personally—he did not mean to make any charge against the Government—but he was bound to say, that if the Government did intend (as he most firmly believed they did) to act fairly, they should take care of the conduct of their agents, so that the administration of justice, which they intended to be pure, should not even appear to be defective. There was now a Jury Bill before the House, and the hon. and learned member for Kerry, and the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland, were appointed Members of the Committee to prepare it. Let them take care that it was so framed as to guard against those evils that were now the subject of complaint.

Mr. Spring Rice

regretted to hear the language used by his hon. and learned friend (Mr. Sheil), from which it might be inferred, that it had, of late years, been the custom of the Government to influence the selection of Juries. On the contrary, it had been most anxious to show the utmost impartiality in its proceedings, and regularly admitted all persons legally qualified, both Catholics and Protestants, and had generally found, that both had done their duty impartially.

Sir Robert Peel

said, he did not rise to make any observation on this subject of a political nature, but he must do his best to prevent a recurrence of such discussions as the present, on the state of the administration of justice—discussions which he could not but consider as fraught with evil, both to the Government and to Ireland itself. It must be for the advantage of the country that Catholics and Protestants should be united, yet these daily debates in Parliament could have no other effect than to widen the breach unhappily existing between them. Under these circumstances, he submitted to the noble Lord opposite, whether it would not be better (he did not require it himself, for he was ready to declare, that he thought no case whatever had been made out) that a Committee of Inquiry should be appointed, than that there should be day, after day, this sort of discussion. If there was any ground for asserting that justice was not properly administered in Ireland, he should, if he were the noble Lord, challenge inquiry, and compel those who made the charge to the proof of their assertions. He was only giving the advice which he should certainly adopt were he a member of the Government, as he should deem it of the utmost importance to put an end to these cavilling objections to the administration of justice, which, however ill-founded, must tend, when thus repeated from day to day, to shake the confidence of every person in Ireland in the equal administration of the laws.

Lord Althorp

observed, that it was impossible not to feel the evil of these discussions, and he wished that the weight properly due to the recommendation of the right hon. Gentleman should be attached to it in this instance. The right hon. Gentleman had, a short time since, observed upon the impropriety of discussions of this sort in the absence of full information on the subject. One of these matters had, in fact, on a former occasion, been before the House, and inquiries had been despatched to Ireland, and this discussion was again introduced before there was a possibility of getting an answer to them. The case of Kilkenny was that to which he alluded; and though it was known that answers could not yet have been received, yet were these attacks made day by day, without giving the Government time to obtain those explanations, which, when procured, would, he trusted, be found quite satisfactory; but which, if they did not prove so, he should not wish to be conclusive; for there was no man in that House who would be more eager than himself to prevent the recurrence of any improper interference in the administration of justice. With respect to the present recommendation of the right hon. Gentleman, to grant a Committee of Inquiry, he must express his decided opinion, that not only a plausible, but a very strong case indeed, ought to be made out, before it was referred to a Committee of that House to revise a decision of a Court of Justice. If there was anything improper in the proceeding, he did not think a Committee of that House the proper tribunal to decide upon it; but he was of opinion that the remedy ought to proceed from the Government in its executive capacity.

Sir Robert Peel

had not intended to recommend that a judicial decision should be submitted to a Committee of that House. The charge was, that the early forms of the proceedings had been corrupted by the interference of the Government Officers. He recommended a Committee to inquire into that subject.

Sir John M. Doyle

said, that he found it necessary to state two facts to the House, which he thought ought to relieve his countrymen from the charge of being very unreasonable in not highly appreciating the present mode of administering justice in Ireland. The first was, that at the late Assizes for Carlow, where some individuals of the Yeomanry were arraigned on a serious charge, the Captain of the corps (who was also a Magistrate for the county) was actually one of the Grand Jury which ignored the bills. A second instance was, the case of an humble, but enthusiastic supporter of Reform, and of the present Ministry, a ballad-singer. This unfortunate woman had been incarcerated three months, and then released, without any crime being proved against her. It was true, there might be some individuals, who considered such offences as supporting the Whig Ministers and Reform amounted to a crime, who thought the unhappy woman highly culpable, and deserving of punishment, particularly when the unfortunate bard furnished her hearers with some strains that were not very complimentary to their prejudices. That, however, was the whole amount of her offence, and for that she was imprisoned. He asked, therefore, was such conduct likely to give satisfaction, or command respect for the laws, and the local Magistracy, who administered them.

Mr. Stanley

begged to be permitted to observe, in reference to the case of the unfortunate lady, for whom the hon. Member had expressed so much sympathy, that he had caused inquiries to be made on the subject, and found the character of the person was well known, and that she had, during the last five or six years, spent as much of her time in a prison as out of it.

Petition read.

Mr. Brownlow

, in moving, that the petition should be printed, said, that he had not introduced the subject of the administration of justice in Ireland. The subject which he had brought before the House, in presenting this petition, was that to which the petition referred—namely, the introduction of some system of Poor-laws into Ireland. He must say, that he had been a good deal surprised to hear the noble Lord, the member for Northamptonshire, assert, that they should pause before they took such a step, because, taking it would be calculated to destroy those kindly and charitable feelings, which at present existed between the different classes of society in Ireland. The charity of which the noble Lord spoke, was not exercised in Ireland—at least, not by the upper classes in that country; and that fact was the strongest argument in proof of the necessity of introducing a system of Poor-laws into Ireland. The whole weight and support of the poor of Ireland fell on the middling classes there—that was to say, on the class which was immediately above those who depended on their charity for support and subsistence. Such a state of things constituted a great grievance, and a gross injustice; and of that grievance and injustice, this petition complained. It was clear, that the burthen of supporting the poor of Ireland should be taken off that class, and should be thrown upon the shoulders of the wealthy landed proprietors in Ireland. They should place that, weight on the property of Ireland, and not upon the industry of that, country, which was scarcely able to support itself. They ought to make the property of Ireland responsible for the poverty of Ireland. That was the object, and that was the prayer, of the petition, which he (Mr. Brownlow) had presented, and to which he had given his humble support. Was it to be endured, when they heard, as they had done lately, that where 80,000l. was drawn from a starving portion of the population of Ireland, only 80l. had been subscribed by the hard-hearted absentees to relieve the distresses of the people? There could be but one feeling, that some measure was necessary to compel those persons to contribute to the relief of the distresses of those hard-worked labourers, from whose industry they obtained their own enormous wealth. It was high time that a remedy should be applied to the distressing state of things in Ireland.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that he felt it his duty to press the matters to which he had adverted this evening, upon the attention of the House, day after day, in order to force the House and the Government to do justice to Ireland. He must say, that there was a species of self-complacency, a degree of self-satisfaction, and a manifestation of haughtiness, about the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, which totally unfitted him for directing the administration of the affairs of that country. The demeanour of the right hon. Gentleman on that evening, as well as upon other occasions, was anything but that which was calculated to conciliate the good opinion of the people of Ireland. With regard to the affair at Castlepollard, he begged to state, that there was not a single Catholic upon the Jury which tried the police concerned in that transaction; and still more, that though several lives had been lost on that occasion, not one single policeman of those who had been engaged in the affair, had been since that time removed from the constabulary.

Mr. Stanley

begged leave to contradict the assertion of the hon. Gentleman, and to state, that every single policeman who had been engaged in that transaction, with the exception of four, had been since removed to another county, in order that the excitement should not be kept up where the affair had occurred.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that that was indeed a strange contradiction of his statement. No doubt these policemen had been removed to another county, but they had not, as he had already complained, been removed from the constabulary. They were still kept there to shoot more of the King's subjects. As regarded Ireland he would say, that the present Administration had professed much, had promised a great deal, and had, in fact, done nothing. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland seemed only to employ himself in taunting those who endeavoured to compel it to do justice to Ireland.

Mr. John Weyland

vindicated the people of England from the charge which had been made against them in the course of this discussion, that their charitable feelings had been diminished and deteriorated by the existence of the Poor-laws. He contended, that there were as many absentee proprietors from England as from Ireland; yet, that while we had a happy and contented population here, the people of Ireland were ever ready to start into disorder, and to break out into insurrection. The cause of that difference was to be found in the non-existence of Poor-laws in Ireland. If the absentee-proprietors neglected their duty, a system of Poor-laws would draw from them a portion of their rents for the support of the poor, and such a system as that was wanted at present in Ireland.

Mr. Sadler

said, that in applying a system of Poor-laws to Ireland, it would not be enough that they should make provision for the sick and indigent, but they must also keep in sight the principle of Elizabeth, to provide work for the unemployed. They were told by the Solicitor General for Ireland, and by the noble Lord, the member for Northamptonshire, that they should pause before they undertook so important a measure. Perhaps the noble Lord was the least qualified to judge of such a question as this, of any man in the kingdom. It was the good fortune of that noble Lord, more than of any other man, perhaps, to banish poverty wherever he went; he was, therefore, particularly disqualified from judging of the state of the general body of the poor in Ireland. When those hon. Members talked of pausing, he begged to say, that they had been pausing for the last 200 years, and the time was now come when it was indispensable that they should begin to act.

Petition to be printed.