§ The Speaker read to the House a copy of the King's Speech, for which see the report of the proceedings in the House of Lords.
presented himself to the House, and said, he rose for the purpose of proposing an Address in answer to his Majesty's most gracious Speech: and he begged to be permitted, in the first place, to remark, that never was any Speech, in his opinion, more worthy of the attention of the Legislature and the country. Before he proceeded, however, with the observations which he had to offer to the consideration of the House, he could not forbear from expressing his entire approbation of the course adopted by his Majesty's Ministers in assembling Parliament at this early period, however much it might interfere with the personal convenience of hon. Members. To him it appeared, that the state of the country was such as not only completely justified his Majesty's Ministers, but bore out to the very fullest extent the course they had pursued. So much anxiety had been produced in the public mind by the circumstances under which the last Session terminated, that if ever there was a period in which it was highly desirable that Parliament should re-assemble without delay, and when the eyes of all the country were fixed upon its deliberations, he felt assured it was the present. The first, and by far the most important point to which he should allude, in looking at the Speech from the Throne, was that which regarded the question of Reform. To that question his Majesty called the attention of Parliament expressly and energetically. He rejoiced to find, that his Majesty had spoken plainly and explicitly upon it, and he also rejoiced to find, that his Majesty's Ministers were determined to bring forward the measure without delay. In all he had seen within the last six weeks, in all the events which had recently come under his observation, there was nothing whatever to remove the impression he had always entertained in favour of immediately attending to the question of Reform. There was much, indeed, to convince him that a safe and speedy adjustment of this question was absolutely necessary. This was not the fitting occasion to go into the general merits of a question 38 which engaged so much public attention, because the notice already given by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), would shortly introduce it expressly to their consideration; but he felt quite satisfied, that when the measure was brought before them, it would be found to be such as the exigencies of the times required, and would produce satisfaction and contentment to the country in general. Other passages in the Royal Speech were so closely connected with this question, that it was quite impossible to refer to them without viewing them in some degree as bearing upon this vital question. With respect to the disgraceful occurrences which had taken place at Bristol, his Majesty, while expressing his regret at such excesses, recommended an improvement of the municipal police as the best means of preventing their recurrence. In looking at these outrages, he thought it quite evident, that they owed their origin to a manifestation of political feeling, which was taken advantage of for purposes of violence and indiscriminate plunder. With respect to the circumstances which gave rise to the appointment of a Commission, all he wished to say was, that he was not disposed to cast censure upon any quarter; but one fact could not be denied—namely, that a small band of rioters was suffered to indulge for a considerable time in outrages of a most aggravated description, and riot in the wanton destruction of property. Upon this part of his Majesty's Speech there could be but one opinion. However individuals might differ with regard to political questions, there could be no difference between them as to the necessity of suppressing violence and outrage. With that part of the Speech in which his Majesty stated his firm determination to suppress all illegal combinations, he begged to state that he most completely concurred in it, and he rejoiced that while his Majesty declared he would never interfere with the legitimate exercise of the right of discussing grievances, he as distinctly declared that it was his intention "to prevent combinations, under whatever pretence, which in their form and character are incompatible with all regular government, and are equally opposed to the spirit and to the provisions of the law." In effecting that object he had no reason to doubt but that, his Majesty's Government would meet with the cordial support of all parties. Where ever it had been made apparent to the Political Unions that they had adopted a system which was contrary to law, not 39 only all other Unions, but the Birmingham Union in particular, had evinced, much to their honour, the utmost promptitude to recal what they had done, and in no way whatever to trench upon the boundaries of the law. But setting aside that which was illegal in these Unions, he was aware that there still prevailed a difference of opinion as to the propriety of their existence. He did not mean to say, that if these bodies were permanently assembled, that they could be viewed in any other light than an evil; but he believed that objection did not attach to them, and that they existed only as connected with the circumstances to which they owed their origin. But when it was recollected that they arose from the unsettled state of the most vital question that was ever agitated in this country, and that the object which they had in view was that which had been sanctioned by a large portion of the Legislature, he thought, that the course recommended in the Speech from the Throne was the only one that could be adopted with safety. His Majesty stated, that it was not his intention to interfere with the legitimate rights of his people in making known their grievances, but that he was determined to prevent all illegal combinations. Now, whatever might be the opinions entertained on the subject of Reform, he would, at least, say, as a proof of the utility of the House re-assembling thus early, that the best way to make these combinations useless was, to redress the grievances which it was their object to remedy. The Speech did not deny the fact that considerable distress existed in the country. It was beyond his power to enter into a discussion of all the causes which were supposed to have given rise to that distress; but, whatever might have been its source, he was convinced that it must have been greatly aggravated by the uncertainty which prevailed on the subject of Parliamentary Reform. While he was on this point, he would not conceal his belief, that considerable distress must have been produced by the operation of those rules of quarantine which foreign countries had thought it necessary to enforce against us. Those rules must form an important consideration in their plans for arresting the progress of that disease which, no doubt, had now unhappily found its way to this country. In respect to that disease, it was gratifying to know, that its mortality here had been less formidable than might have been anticipated; but as the extent to which it might proceed appeared most un- 40 certain, even in the minds of those best acquainted with its nature, it would be unpardonable in them to shut their eyes to the fact, that other consequences besides those of its direct ravages must flow from its presence in this country. In reference to Ireland, the Speech contained what he must consider a most important recommendation. His Majesty recommended Parliament to take into its consideration at the earliest opportunity, the state of the tithe laws in that unfortunate country. If it should be said, that the law, as it existed, compelled the payment of tithes, and that it was the duty of the Government to enforce that law without regard to the question whether it was practicable or not, he must observe, that those who would advise that course would be advising that which would be most injurious to the Established Church; and he was of opinion, that all honourable men who were willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the public peace, would be the last who would throw any obstacle in the way of the furtherance of the design now recommended to them. Circumstances had occurred in Ireland sufficient to convince him, that the system which had long existed there could no longer be persevered in; and, therefore, whenever the measure recommended in the King's Speech should be brought forward, he should feel it his duty, on every consideration, to offer it his most cordial support. He had always believed, that the only solid foundation of the Established Church must be laid in the affections of the people, and all systems which went to alienate those affections were injurious rather than beneficial to the Establishment. He had now done with the principal topic of the Speech—that which related to our domestic condition; and it would be absurd to deny, that there were many difficulties in the way of their obtaining what they contended for; but he believed, that by following up the measure which his Majesty had recommended to their early consideration, they would have the best means of safely conducting the country through the present crisis. He now begged leave to refer to our foreign relations, and it was with no slight degree of satisfaction that he had observed the manner in which his Majesty spoke of the continued assurances of friendship, which induced him to look for ward with confidence to the preservation of peace. The only circumstance which seemed at all calculated to create a doubt upon that subject was the delay manifested by the king of Holland in assenting to the 41 Treaty which had been agreed to by the five Powers, and which had been accepted by the Belgians; but he believed, that when the king of Holland came calmly to view those considerations which must have determined the five Powers in forming their decision—a decision which he could have no reason to suppose had been influenced by any bias hostile to his interests, but had been dictated by a most impartial anxiety for the interests of all parties—he would see reason to adopt it; and he (Lord Cavendish) trusted the king of Holland would not long delay his sanction to the Treaty. He could not refer without regret to that part of the Speech which related to the affairs of Portugal. He was sorry to observe, that there was no hope of the immediate settlement of those affairs. Don Miguel appeared determined so far as he was concerned, never to do any thing that would render it consistent with the honour of this country to recognise him as one of the Sovereigns with whom it was possible to maintain a friendly intercourse; but the affairs of that country were in such a position, that it would be most unseemly and preposterous in him to hazard any conjecture as to their final arrangement. He could not conclude without referring with great satisfaction to that part of the Speech in which his Majesty informed them that he had entered into a Convention with the king of the French for the complete abolition of the Slave Trade. Whatever might be the difference of opinion as to the other portions of the Speech, that portion, he felt assured, must meet with universal approbation. He was convinced that the success which had attended his Majesty's Ministers in their attempt to put a stop to that infamous traffic, would be sincerely approved of by all honourable men. He would now beg leave to move that an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, in answer to his Majesty's most gracious Speech. The noble Lord then read the Address.
Sir Francis Vincent
said, that in rising to second the Address, he felt how much he required the indulgence of the House. He always stood in need of this favour, but never more so than in rising to second a Motion for an Address to the Throne. The embarrassment which he naturally felt in discharging such a duty, however, he admitted was considerably diminished by the manly and straightforward character of the speech which they had that day the satisfaction of hearing delivered from the Throne. He was sure the people would learn with unqualified satisfaction 42 that his Majesty still continued to give his sanction to those great measures of Parliamentary Reform which were discussed during the last Session of Parliament, and the speedy and satisfactory settlement of which his Majesty now declared was essential to the prosperity of the country. The people would learn, from his Majesty's Speech, to continue their confidence in the perseverance and ability of his Majesty's Ministers, and in their anxious desire to carry into effect the great measure, of which that House in the last Session of Parliament, expressed its decided approbation. The people too, must feel, that in his Majesty's Speech there had been no vain endeavour to keep out of view the present difficulties in which the country was placed; but that there was a firm determination on the part of the King and his Ministers to grapple with those difficulties until they should be overcome. The Speech pronounced by his Majesty, considered in every point of view, was just such a Speech as a free people had a right to expect from their Monarch, and it was calculated, in an eminent degree, to preserve and ensure the confidence and affection of the people. The first topic adverted to in his Majesty's Speech, was that of Reform; and he was sure, that every Member in that House, whatever opinions he might entertain on particular measures of Reform, must cordially concur in the desire expressed by his Majesty for the speedy and satisfactory settlement of the question. That great and very general distress existed throughout the country—that great embarrassment was felt by those concerned in trade, and that there was a want of confidence amongst commercial men, unfortunately could not be denied: and that this unfortunate state of affairs was aggravated, in a great degree, by the suspense and anxiety felt by the public mind for the last twelve months on the subject of Reform, he entertained no doubt. He could not refrain, therefore, from expressing his anxious hope, that when that subject was again brought before Parliament, all parties, laying aside narrow views and party prejudices, would combine in promoting the speedy and satisfactory adjustment of this most important question, which he hoped would restore peace and tranquillity to the country. The present, he was well aware, was not the proper occasion to enlarge upon this topic, and therefore he should content himself with referring to what had occurred during the Recess. Pie would, however, take the opportunity of observing, that there were no symptoms of that re-action in the 43 public mind which some hon. Gentlemen had confidently predicted previous to the prorogation. At the only county election which had taken place since that event, Cambridge, the Reform candidate had been returned by an overwhelming majority. At every public meeting which had been convened on this subject (with the single exception, he believed, of a meeting in Edinburgh) resolutions were unanimously passed in favour of Reform. To be satisfied as to the unanimous wishes of the great body of the people on this subject, it was not necessary that he should rely solely on the unanimity displayed at those public meetings convened by the friends of Reform. Stronger evidence was to be found in the fact, that in no instance had those who were adverse to Reform convened any public meetings. He would go further, and observe, that those who were hostile to Reform did not deem it advisable to attend any public meetings at which the question came under discussion. They all recollected that when Toryism was in the zenith of its power, its professors lost no opportunity of obtaining the approbation of public meetings for the measures they supported; and if they abstained altogether from doing so on the present occasion, it was pretty clear, not only that the people were opposed to them on this subject, but that the hon. Gentlemen opposite were tolerably well convinced as to that fact. He regretted, however, to be obliged to observe, that since Parliament had been prorogued, an additional cause of uneasiness had arisen—the Cholera—one of the most fatal scourges which afflicted humanity had found its way into this country. It was some consolation, however, to reflect, that the disease in this country had not assumed that fatal and malignant character which it bore elsewhere. His Majesty's Government, too, had taken every step which prudence could suggest to arrest its progress, and mitigate its evils. The insidiousness of its approach, and the rapidity of its fatal action on human life, appeared to have impressed all classes with a salutary terror on the subject, and had convinced them of the necessity of attending to the precautionary measures promulgated by Government for its prevention, and by persevering in the adoption of those measures, he had little doubt of the speedy extinction of this formidable disease. The House had long been aware of the great difficulty which existed in Ireland in the collection of tithes. Property of that description, no doubt, was under the protection of the law, like other 44 property, but it was not sufficient that the payment of tithes might legally be enforced; it was important, that the payment should be enforced in a mode the least objectionable, at the same time that it should always be kept in view, that one of the great objects of social order was the security of property. With respect to the foreign relations of the country, it was gratifying to learn, that no reasonable apprehension existed that the peace which the country now enjoyed, was likely to be broken. Considering the convulsions which agitated other countries, and the jarring interests which this country had been called upon to mediate between, no small credit was due to his Majesty's Ministers for having maintained the dignity of this country, and its present position, without coming into hostile collision with other governments. The individual who was at present at the head of the government of Portugal, had endeavoured to put off the settlement of our political relations with that country—a circumstance which could excite surprise in no one who had considered his position and conduct. Whatever steps might be taken by his Majesty's Government to procure redress for the injuries to which British subjects had been exposed from the conduct of the Portuguese government, he was satisfied they would be taken in the same spirit of moderation as had hitherto characterized all their proceedings: and if Don Miguel persevered in the course he had hitherto adopted, be the consequences what they might, he would have nothing to thank but his own obstinacy. It was to be regretted that a people who were the ancient allies of this country, should be kept so long in suspense by the dissensions which unhappily had arisen amongst the members of the House of Braganza for three years past. It was impossible not to perceive, that Don Miguel had hitherto failed in giving security to the Sovereigns of Europe for his future good conduct. A most honourable and enlightened part of the nation which he ruled, seemed dissatisfied with his government; and the imprisonments and executions which daily took place, plainly demonstrated that a vicious system prevailed in Portugal, which every one in this country must wish should speedily terminate. His Majesty's Speech contained the gratifying intimation, that the king of Belgium had acceded to the proposition decided upon by the five Powers; and when the king of Holland should see, that the proposal was in accord, ance with the wishes of the principal 45 Powers in Europe, it was to be hoped that he would no longer refuse his assent to the arrangement. With regard to the Convention entered into with the king of the French, it was a subject on which he might confidently congratulate the House. It was the only step which could have ensured the suppression of the slave-trade: and great honour was due to his Majesty's Government for having so speedily effected a measure which had been for so many years desired by a large majority of the people of this country, and which former Governments had in vain endeavoured to accomplish. The fact of such a Convention having been agreed to, was no less creditable to the government of France than to that of this country. It was highly honourable to a great nation, which had lately vindicated its own freedom, that its government should take an early opportunity of entering into such arrangements as would effectually tend to suppress the infamous traffic in slaves, and thus remove one of the greatest stains on the character of the French nation. The atrocious events which had taken place in Bristol, and the outrages committed in that city, perpetrated by a handful of persons, as it seemed, formed a topic of serious and painful consideration. It was impossible, however, to reflect on what had occurred in that city, without being convinced, that there was some radical defect in the municipal police of the kingdom, and he understood his Majesty's Government contemplated the introduction of some measures for its improvement, which would tend to the prevention in future of the recurrence of such disgraceful scenes. It was far from being his (Sir Francis Vincent's) wish, on the present occasion, to enter into any examination of the circumstances connected with those unfortunate events which occurred in Bristol. He must be allowed, however, to protest against its being supposed that the outrages in that city were in any degree to be imputed to the friends of Reform. In all large communities there were, unfortunately, some individuals ever ready to promote mischief, and to take advantage of every period of excitement, for the purpose of urging on the populace to riot and breaches of the law. The promptitude which his Majesty's Government had evinced on this occasion, by so speedily issuing a Commission to take cognizance of the offences committed by the rioters at Bristol, plainly intimated that it was not only their earnest desire, but also their firm determination, to maintain the public peace, 46 and to vindicate the authority of the laws, by the punishment of all offenders. In, the conclusion of his Speech, his Majesty, whilst he declared his anxiety to preserve unimpaired the liberties of the people, and to redress all their grievances, took occasion to allude to the necessity of preventing political combinations contrary to the law. It was quite clear, that freedom might be endangered by licentiousness, and he therefore had heard with great approbation of the proclamation issued by Government to prevent illegal political combinations. Much as he (Sir Francis Vincent) approved of the proclamation, he approved no less of the alacrity with which it had been attended to, and could even congratulate the House on the good spirit evinced by the members of the Birmingham Political Union, who had rescinded the resolutions relative to their organization, before the proclamation came out. He believed, that he stated the sentiment of the whole House, and of the vast majority of the people, when he expressed his gratitude to Ministers for having assembled Parliament at the present moment, a course which he firmly believed would be conducive to the peace and tranquillity of the country.
§ The Speaker read the Address from the Chair, and put the question that it be agreed to.
§ Mr. Croker
rose, as the Speaker was putting the question: I am so reluctant to address the House on the present occasion, that I should gladly give way if any other hon. Gentleman on this side of the House were disposed to make any observations on his Majesty's Speech; but little as I feel myself entitled to take a lead on such an occasion, I cannot permit the Address to pass without some expression of my dissent, and without entering my protest against some of the principles laid down in the Address, or rather, perhaps, to be inferred, from the speeches of these who have preceded me; such a course is absolutely necessary on my part, and I dare say on the part of many others who sit near me. We desire to guard ourselves from the supposition, that because we do not move an amendment, we participate in the views and measures of Government,
The hon. Baronet who last addressed the House, told us, that the Speech from the Throne was manly and straightforward—such as became the constitutional king of a free people If by the words "manly and straightforward," it be meant, that any clear and distinct views of policy, either foreign or domestic, are promulgated, I will venture 47 to assert, that a less manly and straightforward speech was perhaps never delivered. I am not about to blame the Speech: it has a great deal of moderation, which seems very wisely and properly calculated to prevent division and debate on the first day of a Session; but it is not therefore manly and straightforward. For instance, on the great question of Reform, what does it tell us? Does it give us the slightest information? Does it let us into the secret whether the Bill to be introduced by the noble Lord on Monday next is to be the same as that offered and rejected in the last Session? Are we to have the identical measure which produced so much inflammation—the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill—or are we to have a more moderate and better regulated plan, avoiding admitted anomalies, and making a more limited concession? In this reserve the Speech may be discreet, but is it manly and straightforward? Again I say, that I do not blame Ministers for the general terms in which the King's Speech is couched; but however manly and straightforward it may be in principle, it certainly is not so in expression.
The hon. Baronet echoed one sentiment of the King's Speech, in which, notwithstanding some ambiguity in the terms, I am most ready to agree. Would to God we could hope for "a speedy and satisfactory conclusion of the Reform Question!" Would to God we could soon allay the terrific tempest Ministers have raised, and give effect to their romantic and Quixotic wish, that the termination may be at once speedy and satisfactory? I tell Ministers now, as I told them before, that whatever may be their speed, they will never make those measures by which they seek to accomplish their object, satisfactory to any description of persons, except those who may imagine that havoc and ruin are to be their gain. I tell them, that the measure they are about to produce, if it in any degree resemble the Bill of last Session, so far from giving satisfaction, will only be the beginning of still greater trouble. Ministers, and their immediate retainers, may be satisfied, inasmuch as the success of the Bill will continue them in their respective places; but the great body of the nation stands aloof, both from the Ministers and their measure. The country is divided into two great classes, both hostile to the Administration and their Bill. Firstly, the large mass of Reformers, who, for the moment, and only for the moment, are in alliance with Ministers, but who avow 48 that they are so, only because they hope that this lame and insufficient and ill-digested measure must lead to other and more vital alterations. Secondly, that vast proportion of the thinking community, which is unwilling that such a desolating hand should sweep down and level with the ground our most ancient and sacred institutions. I will not hesitate to declare my conviction, that the great proportion of the intelligent classes are in the second division; and that the persons who object to the principles on which the late Bill was founded, constitute a vast and overwhelming majority, and may be almost said to be a universality of the educated people of England. Neither of these two divisions of the people—and these two divisions include nearly the whole people—can be satisfied with the Bill. The Reformers certainly are not. Has there been a single public meeting which has not coupled approbation of that measure with the expression of a wish for a much larger and wider Reform to be obtained hereafter? Have we not been told in distinct words, that this Bill is only a "stepping-stone to something else?" Was it not avowed at one of the most important of those assemblies—important from the numbers and weight of the individuals present—that this was not the Reform required? Did they not say, "This is not the Reform we want, but it is the first step to it; accept it, therefore, as the means of obtaining all the rest. If you are foolish enough to quarrel with Ministers in this early stage of the subject, you will defeat the end of ultimate and complete success. Take what you can get now, not only without prejudice to your future claims, but with the great advantage of additional power to enforce them." This, I say, is the language of those who are the most friendly to the Bill out of doors.
The hon. Baronet, with a kind of taunt, asked us why no Tories went to these public meetings to exhibit their hostility? Does he recollect what occurred at Bristol? I do not accuse the people of England of participating in the spirit which led to the riots there; but when the constitution of society in this country is in such a state, that a Judge, acting with every magisterial precaution, and under the sanction of his Majesty's Government, cannot enter the third city of the empire, to execute his judicial duties, without endangering his life, and being moreover censured for the obstinacy and temerity with which he proceeded, will the hon. Baronet venture 49 to blame the Tories for not attending meetings, where they could not have a hope of being heard? Had the Tories shown themselves at such meetings, would they not have been accused, as his hon. and learned friend (Sir C. Wetherell) had been, of unnecessarily exciting inflammation in the public mind, and would not the blame have been instantly shifted from the shoulders of the malefactors to those of the injured party? If the hon. Baronet will procure for us all we want—a clear stage and a fair hearing—I, for one, am ready to meet the hon. Baronet and his friends in any of those ordeals, and to give to any assembly, as I have, perhaps too often done in this, reasons for the faith that is in me. But, with one breath, he tells us that, a handful of men were able to destroy one of the principal cities of the empire, because a single Tory made his appearance there, and in the next, he challenges us to attend public meetings of Reformers, and asserts, because we do not attend, that we are ashamed or afraid to face a state of public feeling, which is so irresistibly against us.
The next topic of this manly and straightforward Speech is, the prevalence of Political Unions; and, although the way in which they are mentioned seems any thing but straightforward and manly, I am willing to admit, that there are expressions, especially towards the latter end of it, which have my entire and cordial approbation. I agree with Ministers that there can be—or, at least, ought to be—but one Government in the country. There ought not to be one Government in Downing-street, another in the Strand, a third at Birmingham, a fourth at Manchester, and a fifth at Bristol. The painful experience of the last few months has shown us, that such a state of things must end in the ruin of any country that tolerates it—it must end in the ruin of any imbecile and popularity-hunting Cabinet that submits to it. Although I entirely approve of the meeting of Parliament on this day; although the state of the world, and of England in particular, considering that state positively, relatively, officially, commercially, and, above all, politically, requires that the King should be aided by the wisdom of the great council of the nation, yet I believe that we are not indebted for it to the sagacity, to the firmness, or even to the terrors of the Ministers. No; their masters told them that they must meet in the first week in December, They issued 50 that decree before the cholera made its appearance—before the Political Unions had attempted organization—before Bristol had been burnt—before the whole frame of society was in a state, if not of dissolution, of precariousness—it was announced, previous to our late prorogation, by the great leaders of the public Press, and by the leaders of the Political Unions, that Parliament would meet—I really do not know whether the phrase was not that it should meet—in the first week in December, and in the first week in December we have accordingly met! The pleasure I have derived from some constitutional expressions in the Speech against these Unions, is, I must say, exceedingly diminished, when we have this substantial proof that the Ministry is itself subservient to these identical Associations, and to the very influence which they profess to be so anxious, and are, in truth, so powerless, to put down. I hope that it will not be necessary to resort to any extraordinary measures. I hope that timely suggestions upon the subject were directed to other places as well as to Birmingham, and that the example will be followed.
I must now turn to the observations of the noble Lord (Lord Cavendish), who has appeared to-night, I believe, for the first time, as a debater among us. I hope he will in future have frequent opportunities of displaying his parliamentary talents, and illustrating the great name he inherits, but I cannot concur with him in the comment he has read on one part of the Royal Speech. He tells us, that the mode Ministers intend to adopt of putting down these Unions is concession, and not resistance; that is, they mean to place the law under the feet of these Unions, and to grant all their demands. This, Sir, I take to be the most dangerous, and, indeed, fatal policy that any Government can adopt. If grievances exist, let them be redressed, but first let them be rationally examined, and satisfactorily proved. Let us not submit blindly to concede whatever is asked—to abandon whatever is attacked, and for no other reason than because it is attacked. I, on the contrary, should say, first suppress these Unions; first carry the law into effect, and do not grant to force what you would refuse to reason. I am filled with alarm when I see in this perilous principle, the abandonment of that firmness and consistency which—and not timid concession to unreasonable demands—ought to be the character of Ministers, and this commentary comes to my mind, with a peculiarly alarming force, 51 in connection with the next topic in the Speech—Tithes in Ireland.
Ministers tell us, that there has been a general and systematic resistance to the payment of tithes in that country. This is the first time I have heard of it. I knew, indeed, that there were local objections and disturbances, and that two persons in a respectable class of life were convicted of a conspiracy, to excite the deluded peasantry against the payment of tithes. But their punishment was remitted by the Irish government, and I had hoped from this circumstance that the resistance was local, and likely to be temporary, and, in that case, I was inclined to approve of such a lenient course, as the most likely to assuage the discontent. If, on the other hand, it make a part of a general and formidable combination to resist the payment of tithes, or, in other words, to shake, by a systematic attack on the property of the Church, the foundation of property in general, I should have thought a different course advisable. I understand, that the noble Lord would apply to resistance to tithes the same argument that he applies to the Unions—"Put an end (says he) to Unions by conceding all their claims." In the same way he means, I presume, to say, "Put an end to the disputes regarding tithes, by abolishing them." Certainly, Sir, this seems a short and efficacious rule for satisfying claimants, whether reasonable or unreasonable. Destroy hereditary rights, and equalize property, and the two great points required by the Reformers will be gained at once. It is complained that the payment of tithes is resisted, and what is the suggested remedy? Not to enforce the law because it is just and necessary, but to change it because it is unpalatable. But I will venture to tell the noble Lord, that it is not this or that small concession which will allay these disturbances. In Reform as well as in Tithes, it is a question of principle that is involved—no modification of the law will satisfy the opponents of existing institutions. If the Tithe Composition Act, which was lately introduced into Ireland, and which does so much credit to the Administration of my right hon. friend (Mr. Goulburn), is not sufficient to remove the local grievances which exist, I do fear they can never be suppressed, and that the right hon. Gentleman, now Secretary for that country, will never be able to satisfy the discontented, without an entire destruction of the system. To such a course I will never be a party If there be hidden in 52 the Speech any such design—I do not suspect it, above all, from the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, whose sentiments do him so much honour, and afford so much hope to Ireland—but if such a purpose do lurk under the fair-seeming words, of destroying tithes, and of thereby shaking the tenure of all property, I shall be most vehemently and determinately opposed to it, not merely for the sake of the Church, but because I shall consider it like an assault upon the weakest part of a citadel, in order that the besiegers may incontinently become masters of the whole. Not only the property of the Church is aimed at, but all property that has belonged to the Church—not merely tithes, but Woburn Abbey. I allude to it only as an illustration; for if the noble possessor had sat on this side of the House, I should have equally instanced Woburn Abbey, as a possession already quoted as an example in a similar case, by the warning voice of Burke—I say, then, that not only the tithes of the parish, but the Abbey of Woburn itself, must be sacrificed, and with it, in sure and rapid succession of confiscation, all the property in the empire. This principle is, indeed, openly avowed in some of the Unions. They are so good as to say that all property arising from "honest industry" ought to be respected, and no other. So that property which has not been derived, or created by what they may understand as "industry," and by what they may call "honest," has no chance of surviving. Against such a principle I enter my determined protest; and this I feel the more bound to do, because the noble Lord who opened the debate tells us, that it is the principle of the Government not to resist, but to tranquillize by concession, that is, to concede all that shall be demanded.
The noble Lord told us, that the existing state of the Church in Ireland is exceedingly bad, which was proved, he says, by the fact that the clergy could not obtain their rights without going to law, and that that a system must be bad which required the aid of the strong arm of the law. Is the noble Lord not aware that such is the case with all fiscal regulations? I should like to know who ever voluntarily paid any thing? Could the noble Lord get his rents paid without the intimidation of the process of the law, or without, when the case required it, the process itself? If so, I should be glad to know in what happy part of the kingdom he resides. Nothing is ever or any where paid but either by the force or the fear of the law. I 53 therefore cannot see how this argument of the noble Lord's can be made to apply to the property of the Church, in any manner that it does not apply with equal force to every other description of property. But the noble Lord has appealed to the clergy, and has expressed a hope that the ministers of religion would be the last to object to some new regulations on this subject—in other words, that they should adopt the lenitive principle of the noble Lord, and conciliate by giving up their property. We are to satisfy Reformers and Political Unions by giving up the Constitution, and the clergy are called upon to prove their moderation and charity, by giving up their means of existence. Will the object then be accomplished? No, not quite. It is a thirst that increases by drinking—"increase of appetite doth grow by what it feeds on." The more you give, the more you will be required to give. Once yield to the demands of the plunderer, and you can never yield enough. I will tell the noble Lord, from experience somewhat longer than his own, that whatever concession it may be necessary to make should be distinguished as much as possible from submission to terror. So far from thinking with him that it ought to be done because it is demanded, I say that it ought not to be done if to do it be to yield to intimidation.
Upon the next topic of the Speech I can speak with more satisfaction—I mean the Convention with France for the suppression of the Slave Trade. On a former occasion I said, that the only remedy for the extinction of that traffic was the concession of the mutual right of search; but it must not be granted by one nation only. If the Convention with France stands alone, it will be insufficient. The flag of France will not be used, but that of some other nation which may not have consented to the arrangement; the same persons who have pursued this iniquitous traffic under the French flag, have, even at the same time, carried it on under the false cover of the flag of the United States of America; and to effectually suppress it, we must have a mutual right of search with that, and every other Maritime Power, or very little progress will be made; and the trade in human flesh alive will be continued, and even aggravated, by abuses, almost as detestable as the trade in human murder which has recently disgraced our metropolis; in both cases, the imperfection of the preventive laws drive the perpetrators to extremities which else would not have been thought of.
54 I have made these several observations rather for the purpose of guarding myself from being suspected of concurring in what fell from the noble Lord and the hon. Gentlemen opposite, than with a view to raise any opposition to the Address in answer to the Speech of his Majesty: nor should I be willing to do any thing which might appear to be wanting in respect to the Crown, on the solemn occasion of his Majesty's personal appearance in his Parliament, unless I were called upon to do so by my own honour and consistency, or by some motive urgently important to the interests of the country at large.
As the right hon. Gentleman does not intend to propose an amendment to the Address which has been moved by the noble Lord near me, in reply to his Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne—although I do not agree with him, that every part of that Speech is not perfectly frank and explicit, and although I think it would be impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to move any Amendment to the Address, in which, either in this House, or in the other House of Parliament, a majority would be induced to concur,—I shall not follow him through all his observations, but shall confine myself to his remarks upon the passage of his Majesty's Speech in which allusion is made to that part of the United Kingdom with the Government of which I am connected. To those remarks I may the rather be expected to reply, inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman has alluded to my private opinions. I trust, Sir, that the hon. Gentleman does not suppose, that my public conduct is at variance with my private opinions. When the right hon. Gentleman does me the honour to allude in the terms in which he has alluded, to my opinions respecting the church of Ireland, I can assure him, Sir, that I have no opinions on that subject which I should be unwilling publicly to avow. The right hon. Gentleman and the House may rest assured that, respecting that passage of his Majesty's Speech, there is not one member of his Majesty's Government between whom and myself there is the slightest difference of opinion. In the right hon. Gentleman's observations on the speech of the hon. Gentleman behind me, who seconded the Address, I cannot think that he has fairly expressed himself, when he did not mark the distinction between the demands of an illegal combination, or the clamours of a mob, and the opinions of the people, fully and fairly expressed. The right hon. Gentleman said, that my hon. 55 friend recommended concessions to be made to unjust and groundless clamours, which would only be renewed and aggravated by every fresh concession. But if I understood my hon. friend, what he said was, that the Government should put down all illegal unions by the laws, but that there were unions and associations whose views and conduct were not illegal, which kept within the spirit of the Constitution and the intentions of the laws, and which made none but just demands, and that the only mode of dissolving such associations was, by the removal of the grievances which have given rise to them. The Government will concede to no clamours that are unjust, and they will use the powers of the law to put down any association that may be inconsistent with the spirit of the Constitution; and if the powers which the laws at present give them be insufficient for that purpose, they will call for further powers. But I do not think that, by resistance to just and equitable claims, you can extinguish the voice of the people. The right hon. Gentleman indeed says, that the moment the people pass the line of just and reasonable demand, that moment we should refuse to concede anything; we should steel ourselves against all applications, and should tell the people, that none of their demands ought to be conceded, because some of them were unjust; we should make no concession, lest it should be supposed that we had conceded every thing to fear. What, Sir, shall I answer to such an argument? What shall I say more than this—take care that you concede in time? Seasonable concession is the only means by which you can either put down just or prevent unjust demands. The right hon. Gentleman tells us, that the resistance to the payment of tithes is the commencement of a systematic attack on property of all kinds, and that his Majesty's Ministers are yielding to that attack. But where can such a sentiment be found? not certainly in any passage of his Majesty's Speech, if fairly interpreted. That Speech, after stating the fact that such a resistance is made, proceeds to recommend to this and to the other House of Parliament to take into their earliest consideration the state of the law on this and the other subjects previously referred to Parliament, in order to ascertain whether it is not possible to make some legislative enactment, by which the removal of the grievances complained of may be rendered consistent with the preservation of our institutions. Was it not the duty of his Majesty's Government, 56 in the first instance, to suppress illegal combinations, and in the next, to look for the means of removing real grievances? Will any man tell me, that the system of tithes, even in this country, and much more in Ireland, is not fraught with mischief? Will he tell me, that it is the most amicable arrangement that could be made between the minister and his parishioners? Will he tell me, that it does not give rise to dissension nay, to bitter animosity? And are not those feelings of animosity necessarily stronger amongst a population where the majority of the people dissent from the Church for the maintenance of which the tithes are collected? It was with a view to remove or to alleviate those grievances that a right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) proposed a modification of the law relating to tithes, by establishing the Tithe Composition Act: and I verily believe, that if the operation of that Act had been more widely extended, it would in a great degree have removed the grievances. But this is a question at which we must look at no distant period—whether it be done next year or the year after—with a view to remove the evils with which the present system is attended, and to place the clergy of the Established Church in a better condition. Was it not stated in a petition from the Clergy of the Diocese of Leighlin, presented in the last Session, that the existing laws were inadequate to enable the clergy to recover their tithes, the payment of which, in many parts of that diocese, had been successfully resisted for three or four consecutive years? The existing laws being found insufficient, the security with which the payment of tithes can be evaded, without violating the laws, has given strength to the combination. Under these circumstances, therefore, it is the intention of his Majesty's Ministers, in compliance with the gracious Speech which has been to-day addressed to us from the Throne, to move for the appointment of a Select Committee, to which all the facts of which the Government is in possession, connected with this subject are to be referred; and Ministers are at the same time prepared to lay before that Committee, immediately after its appointment, the measures which they propose to adopt. I trust, then, that the House will see, with these views, that it would be most inconvenient for me to take up its time by going further into the details of this question, which is one of the most important that can be brought under the consideration of Parliament. But of this the House may rest assured, that in 57 the plans which his Majesty's Ministers propose to bring forward for the removal of political grievances, they will do nothing by which the Constitution may be endangered; and in any measures which they may have in view in reference to the Church, their object will certainly not be to weaken the foundations of its property. I grant that if the property of the Church were once endangered, the danger would soon be extended to the taxes of the State, and next, to the rent of the landlords. I can assure the House and the right hon. Gentleman, that in the measures which I may feel it my duty to submit to the House, I shall keep in view the object of giving additional security to the rights of the Protestant Clergy, and of removing the evils which are complained of as arising out of the present system. As it is not the intention of the right hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House, or, I believe, of any other Member, to propose an Amendment to the Address, I will not trespass further on the time of the House, having replied to the observations of the hon. Gentleman upon topics connected with that department of the Government to which I have the honour to belong.
§ Mr. Croker,
in explanation, said, he was not opposed to some alteration in the arrangements relating to the mode of levying tithes. In what he said upon that part of the Speech, he meant merely to guard himself against being supposed, by the vote he gave, to pledge himself to any specific measure.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, that there was one passage in his Majesty's Speech which referred to a subject on which he felt a great anxiety to express his opinion; and, he had no doubt, that the House on all sides would honour him with attention. His anxiety arose from several considerations: first, from a consideration of the duty which he owed to the public; secondly, from a consideration of the duty which he owed to the laws; and, lastly, from a consideration of the duty which he owed to himself. He alluded to that part of the King's Speech in which reference was made to the late calamitous occurrences at Bristol; and which was as follows:—"The authority of the laws must be vindicated by the punishment of offences which have produced so extensive a destruction of property, and so extensive a loss of life. I think it right to direct your attention to the best means of improving the municipal police of the kingdom, in the more effectual protection of the public 58 peace against the recurrence of similar commotions." For reasons which were perfectly obvious, the Speech omitted to go into the history of those disastrous occurrences. Indeed, as the inquiries into the circumstances out of which they arose were at that moment in progress, until they should be concluded, it would be highly improper to go into a detail of facts, the true nature and extent of which had not yet been clearly ascertained. But, in reference to himself, he felt bound, on considerations, as he had said, of his duty to the public, to the laws, and to himself, to make a few remarks upon that part of the Speech. He had been charged by the Press in part of Great Britain and Ireland with being directly the author of all the disasters which had befallen Bristol. But, if the smallest part of those calamities could be attributed to him, he should be content to retire in shame from that honourable House, and to hide his diminished head in the obscurity to which public indignation and contempt might justly drive him. But that charge was false in all its parts, and he felt confident of his ability to prove it so. It had, however, been reiterated from time to time by all the Press of London, and especially by those writers who avowed that they had communications with the Government—who asserted, from time to time, that intelligence was communicated to them by members of the Government, and who had, at all events, given information to the public which they could get only from the Government. Now, it was not to be inferred that he found fault with Government for so communicating with the Press. To do so had been the habit of every preceding Administration, and no one could blame the present Ministers for communicating in the usual way with The Times, or The Courier, or with any other newspaper. But, in all those Journals, the charge had been made against him, that he went down to Bristol, in the exercise of his functions as a Judge under his Majesty's Commission, contrary to the remonstrances of the Government, and of the Magistrates of that town—that his doing so was the effect of indiscretion, obstinacy, foolhardiness, and a wish to stimulate the people to acts of violence; in short, that his conduct was influenced by every unworthy motive, which the remonstrances made to him could not restrain. Now, he would say plainly, that that statement was, in every part of it, false, base, and scandalous. If he were to go over and comment upon every species of calumny 59 with which he had been assailed, it would be necessary for him to occupy the House—he would not say four-and-twenty hours, but four-and-twenty days. But when newspapers which were in communication with the Government, made those attacks upon him, and represented him as the author of the calamities at Bristol, he was compelled to assert, that some members of the Press were becoming tyrannical, base, and slanderous; for many of those who made such assertions respecting him, knew well that they were false. How stood the case? A deputation from Bristol, consisting of the Sheriff and one of the Aldermen, had waited on him some time previous to the period fixed for the gaol delivery in that city, and had informed him, that they did not think it safe for the Recorder to enter Bristol in the usual manner, to perform his duty on the occasion then approaching, without the protection of a stronger force than the civil authorities had at their disposal. He need not inform the House, that the entry of the Recorder into Bristol is made in the same manner as the entry of the Judges of Assizes into other places. In consequence of the information which he had thus received, he consulted with the magistracy, and found them to be of opinion, that the constabulary force which they could obtain would not be sufficient to prevent riot; and it was accordingly decided, that a deputation should wait upon the noble Viscount (the Secretary of State for the Home Department), to represent to him the necessity for sending a military force to Bristol. It might be asked, why did not he attend with that deputation? His reason was this, that if the noble Lord and the deputation should have occasion to enter into any discussion relating to him, he might furnish them, by his absence, an ample opportunity to do so. Those gentlemen were informed by the noble Viscount, that military assistance should be furnished to the Magistrates, and a request was made that he should attend with the deputation at another interview. In two days afterwards (he believed) he did attend. On the first interview, information was conveyed to Government that military assistance was necessary for the protection of the Judge in the exercise of his duty; and, on the second occasion, it was understood that every thing was to go on as usual. This understanding was come to in the presence of several members of the Cabinet. If, on the second interview, a single word had passed which could be considered as confidential, no man would be more un- 60 willing than he was to mention it. But, in fact, there was no confidential communication whatever. Information was then sent down to the authorities at Bristol, that everything was to go on as usual. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were aware of the truth of his statement, and he was sure that it would be confirmed by the members of his Majesty's Government. Now, if they saw that military assistance was necessary to preserve peace at the entry of the Judge, and if they thought that a sufficient reason for the suspension of the general gaol delivery, surely they would have stated that, either at the first interview with the deputation, or at the second, at which he was present. He had, in his own mind, considered whether the public ceremony of his entry might be dispensed with, but he came to the conclusion that this was impossible. He, therefore, did nothing more than send down word, as had been agreed to, that everything should go on as usual. He trusted, that the House was satisfied that he had given a full and flat contradiction to the gross calumny which had been kept up in the London newspapers for nearly a fortnight, and from thence was poured through the arteries of the Press into every part of the country, and was conveyed back again through the veins, having undergone the usual alterations in its course. With whatever glory the slander might appear in The Times of the morning, additional brightness was shed upon it by The Sun in the afternoon, and The Courier at length took it off to Paris, neglecting nothing by the way that could make it more astringent, acrimonious, and personally offensive. Whatever, in short, malignity could devise, was resorted to. The French papers assured the public, that his conduct was much condemned by the coteries—that was the word—but he did not know whether they meant the coteries of La rue des Tuilleries, or those of La rue de la Paix. He only knew, that the conduct of the humble individual then before the House was most unsparingly assailed on all sides. He need not tell the House, that the Press of Ireland kept pace with that of England, and attacked him with no less vehemence and injustice. All this might seem more than a man ought to endure without repelling it, nor would he have borne with it, but that he should have been unworthy of his station as a Judge—he should have degraded himself as a gentleman—he should have forgotten his dignity as a Member of the English Parliament—if he had surrendered his right 61 of opposing the Reform Bill, and of stating to that House and to the country, fully and fearlessly, the grounds of his opposition. He would not consent to surrender any of those rights, by entering into a controversy with the newspapers for the purpose of refuting the slanders of his numberless assailants. Indeed, to do so it would have been necessary to write letters to every radical editor in England, informing him that he had been altogether misinformed as to his (Sir Charles Wetherell's) conduct, and had, rather unguardedly, opened his pages to calumny and falsehood. Had he transmitted a circular of that kind, he feared he could not so have fashioned his address as to combine civility with truth. That course he could not consent to take, but he did hope, that the time would come when, in that House, he should have an opportunity of explaining himself, and of showing to the nation that which every candid man connected with the Government must acknowledge to have been the true nature of the occurrences. Again, it had been said, that a deputation from the Magistrates of Bristol waited upon him, in London, to dissuade him from going down, and that, subsequently, another deputation met him at Bath for the same purpose. But that was not the truth. He had already explained the nature of the communications which he had had with the deputation in London, and the gentlemen who waited on him in Bath did so for the purpose of communicating to him the very judicious arrangement which had been made with the view of protecting the procession. It was determined, and, as he thought, very properly, that the military which the Government had placed at the disposal of the Magistrates, should not be displayed parading the streets, or forming part of the procession, but that they should be kept under cover; and, in fact, if it had not been for the Political Union, it would not have been generally known in the city that there was any apprehension of riot, or that military assistance was likely to be required. It was thought right to avoid the excitement which that might have occasioned. But he would not go into a detail, which had, very properly, as he thought, been abstained from in his Majesty's Speech. It was not true that he "disappeared" from Bristol as had been said; he had not taken his departure until the Chief Magistrate's bed had been taken from off the bedstead, and put in the window of the Mansion-house, for the purpose of being used as a barricade. Then he certainly did think 62 that the presence of the Judge was no longer necessary. The gaol delivery was terminated; and, at six or seven o'clock in the evening of the Saturday, he left the town; so that every thing which occurred on the Sunday and Monday took place without his knowledge. He thought that he had now said enough to exculpate himself in the eyes of the House. If he had not done so, he might appeal to the liberality—might invoke the spirit—might challenge the courage of any man in any part of that House, and he might ask him, with all due respect, to stand up in his place, and tell him what course, in the same circumstances, the hon. Gentleman himself would have pursued? No, he knew he should not be so answered in that House. He knew that no man there would go within a hundred leagues of telling him what imputations, what Sneers, what insults, what terms, inconsistent with the respect due to a gentleman and a Member of the House of Commons; Would have been poured upon him by the many-mouthed, many-fanged, venomous Press of England, if he abstained from going to Bristol to fulfil his duties as a Judge. Would it not have been said, that he had basely and falsely declined to attend to his duty, through a feigned apprehension of tumults, which no one else ever dreamt of? Would it not have been said, that he was a false anti-reformer—that he invented the tale of projected riots—and that, with the cowardice which is the constant companion of falsehood, he shrank from encountering the danger which his own invention alone had created? The newspapers, to which he alluded, had not even yet exhausted their calumnies, and had not ceased to throw out imputations, base, false, and unjust, respecting the disasters they accused him of causing, and the reasons for which his name had been omitted in the Commission appointed to try the rioters. But he had now put the House sufficiently in possession of the facts as they regarded him, to enable his political opponents, as well as his political friends, to place him on that footing which should make a man's station in that House honourable to himself and useful to the country. If he had satisfied both sides of the House, as he trusted he had satisfied them, it would give him but little concern in what manner his conduct might be viewed by his assailants, or those who so scandalously and audaciously libelled him out of Parliament. He would now beg leave, to advert to one or two points, in reply to the speech of the 63 hon. Baronet who had seconded the Address, and who had made some allusions to those matters. That hon. Gentleman asserted, that the transactions at Bristol had not grown out of the Reform Question, or, in other words, that the delinquents were not reformers, but strangers to the city, and outcasts, who were ever ready to take part in riot, and to seize opportunities of pillage. It was extremely difficult to show what part of the motives which actuated the rioters was love of Reform, and what part originated in other feelings. In one thing, however, he agreed with the hon. Gentleman, that no respectable citizens of Bristol took part in the tumults. But he would neither affirm nor deny, that Reform was one of the causes. He had a paper before him, to which he would call the attention of the House, not only as related to Bristol, but as it, also, related to the proceedings of the Political Unions throughout the kingdom. In that document, which was dated on the 25th of October last, the Bristol Political Union assumed the power of deposing the Magistrates and the Recorder of that city. It began by expressing the surprise of the Union that the Magistrates should have called in the troops to protect the entrance of the Recorder into the town; and then it went on to say, that if the Magistrates felt themselves unable to preserve the peace of the city, they ought to retire from their office, and allow Magistrates to be elected by the votes of the citizens. Thus the Union first created the disturbance, and then told the Magistrates, that if they could not put it down, they must resign forsooth. Then it proceeded to say, that men clothed in the robes of the magistracy ought not to be politicians. Well, certainly, that was rather strange doctrine. He wondered what my Lord Brougham and Vaux would think of it, for, of course, it must be taken to apply to him. But for his part, he (Sir C. Wetherell) saw no reason why a man should be precluded from forming opinions on great questions concerning the interests and happiness of his country, because he was intrusted with the administration of its laws. There was nothing incompatible or inconsistent in the two characters of Judge and Politician. But the Union thought otherwise, and "recommended Sir Charles Wetherell to retire from the office of Recorder, as the best means of preventing riot, and, perhaps, bloodshed." So, then, all the Union asked was merely that he should retire, that the Corporation should lay down its privileges, and allow the 64 members of the Union to elect a Recorder and Magistrates. He could not say how they meant to regulate the franchise—whether it was to be by Universal Suffrage, or limited to the 10l. householders. But they gave the Magistrates this choice, that if they were not able to put down the tumults without the aid of the military, then every crime that should be committed was to be attributed to the Corporation, and its charter to be resigned. But the Union concluded its address by "exhorting the people, in the mean time, to keep the peace, as the only means of obtaining the rights which they were seeking." Having deposed the Magistrates, and having talked about riots and bloodshed as the consequences of the Corporation not pursuing the line of conduct which the Union pointed out, the Address concluded, like most documents of that kind, by exhorting the people to peace. He would repeat, that he could not undertake to say what share in the motives of the rioters was to be attributed to the Reform Question; but he could not think, that they who put forth the paper he had described, on the morning of the day on which the tumults commenced, were not much more the authors of those disorders than was the individual to whom the whole had been ascribed. As to the Commission which was about to be sent down, he would only say, that if the word "promptitude," which the hon. Gentleman opposite had used in his speech, had occurred in the Address, he should certainly have moved an Amendment—a course which he was by no means desirous to adopt. In that case, he should have been compelled to refer to what occurred some time ago at Nottingham, when, as he had on a former occasion shown to the House, the castle of a noble Duke was attacked because he was an anti-reformer. He had then taken the liberty of stating, that if once it was allowed that vengeance should be wreaked upon any individual for his political opinions, there would be no safety for the person or property of any man; and the partition-wall which divided the castle of the Duke of Newcastle from the mansion of any reformer, was too thin to prevent the conflagration from devastating the latter. What had actually occurred since? Why, the Custom-house of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a reformer, was burnt to the ground. When disturbances and tumults had once arisen, they frequently assumed, in their progress, a new character wholly unconnected with the causes which, in the first instance had 65 produced them. When, therefore., a castle had been burnt down by a riotous mob, solely because its owner held obnoxious opinions, he had exhorted the Government to send down a Special Commission. But there was no promptitude then; neither did he see any signs of promptitude at present. Speaking on the subject of the Commission, he must say, that he did not know on what grounds the Mayor and the Recorder had been passed over. He had put in his claim to be named on the Commission. He had a right to be placed upon it, and he had sent a written communication to that effect, to the Secretary of State, and to the Lord Chancellor. It was, certainly, that species of right which might be superseded by expediency. But in this case, what was the expediency? Was it not indirectly imputing to him, that this was a case in which personal feelings might interfere with the just and impartial discharge of his duties as a Judge. That was a stigma which he was honestly desirous to avoid, and he had, therefore, claimed his right to be nominated in the Commission; and he made the same claim on the part of the Corporation, and of the Aldermen who constituted the Court sitting at the gaol-delivery, He would not charge the Government with intending to do any thing personally offensive to him, if he could not prove it; nor would he charge them with degrading the Corporation, if he had no reason to believe it. He thought, however, that they had committed a great error in not putting in the Commission every name that was in the Commission of the general gaol-delivery; for now it would be said, that they gave way to the Union; it was true, that they had given way to another Union, and they had even corresponded with it. In the Bill which they introduced in the last Session, they had a clause confining the franchise of the 10l. householders to those who paid their rent half-yearly. Well, the Birmingham Union protested against the limitation—communicated on the subject with the head of the Government, and the clause was altered as it pleased them. Then, two noble Lords opposite communicated with that same Union, after it had procured a resolution to be adopted at a very numerous meeting, which bordered as closely as possible upon treason. Even after that resolution had been published, as he had shown the House at the time, the Government corresponded with the Union. The reasons he had submitted to the House 66 formed the grounds for his wishing that his Majesty's Ministers should have put the Aldermen, the Lord Mayor, and the Recorder of Bristol, in the Commission. For the Union had before deposed the Corporation and the Recorder, and the Government, in passing them over, seemed to have continued the deposition. He had now made the explanation which he had felt himself bound to offer at the very first opportunity, without allowing live minutes to elapse. He had complained, as he felt aggrieved, that his name had been left out of the Special Commission issued for the trial of the offenders at Bristol. In two former Special Commissions, for a similar purpose, to be effected in the same city, the Recorder's name had been included, and so had the local Magistrates, and the only precedent which he could find to the contrary, was one which did not rank very high in his estimation, and which he was sure would not hold a very elevated place in the estimation of any lawyer. That precedent had the name of Jeffries; attached to it, and had no better authority than his. He would, while upon this subject, notice a matter which had been made a prominent topic in the Speech from the Throne—it was, that a new municipal force would be required for the preservation of peace in this country. The plan was not very clearly traced out; something was indicated, but nothing very definite was stated; and, at all events, it was to be hoped that nothing special against Bristol was in the contemplation of his Majesty's Government. He then would come to a subject very foreign from Bristol and its affairs—he alluded to the Convention respecting the Slave-trade, and the influence which that Convention might have on our relations with France. There was a naked prohibition of the trade by u treaty, but there was nothing else; nothing more had been accomplished, although he hoped the co-operation of the two Courts would accomplish more than had been yet effected. Still, he trusted, that nothing would be done to impair our right of search, or to diminish those privileges not inconsistent with the rights of other nations, and which were so important to the dignity and prosperity of Great Britain. In the meantime, he thought the House, and every rational man in the community, ought to agree with his right hon. friend (Mr. Croker), and suspend their judgment until the Convention was made public. He confessed, it did not by any means 67 appear to him, that any proceedings whatever could be effectual, until all the parties who could, by any possibility, interfere with the trade, had come in and expressed their concurrence. Whatever might be his opinions upon that subject, there was a statement towards the latter end of his Majesty's Speech, from which, in the abstract, he was not prepared to express any dissent—he alluded to that portion of it which related to the suppression of those meetings, which, in his judgment, appeared to be utterly inconsistent with the peace and good order—nay, with the existence—of civil government or authority in this country. It had been affirmed, in argument, that we could not interfere with such meetings of the subjects of this realm as might be held for the purpose of petitioning the Legislature, or addressing the Crown. To that, in the abstract, he fully assented; but if it were intended by the Proclamation recently issued, to convey the idea that the Birmingham Union was the only one of the Unions which formed an exception to the general rule—that it alone had offended against the laws, and that all the rest were innocent, he would take leave to say, that a more unsound, or more untenable doctrine had never been promulgated. That the Birmingham Union, in dividing the subjects of the King into classes and placing them under commanders, and in the other proceedings which they had adopted, and which they threatened, was guilty of an offence against the laws, he had not the slightest difficulty in asserting; but if the design of the Proclamation was, to limit the operation of the intended proceedings to the Birmingham Union, then he would say, that that Proclamation was equally ill-advised with the measures of those in whom that Union originated With that remark upon the Proclamation, he should return to the King's Speech, which its admirers and supporters had thought proper to designate as a manly and straightforward Speech; and yet he confessed himself unable to comprehend how that character could be deserved by a composition which had touched, in the manner it had done, upon six, eight, or ten different topics. The multiplicity of its topics and the mode in which it noticed them did, he would repeat it, appear to him anything but consistent with that simplicity and directness for which its advocate claimed such unbounded credit. It had touched upon Tithes, Unions, and the appointment of a Municipal Force, and upon various indefinite topics, upon not one of 68 which a word had been uttered, entitling it to the approbation or the confidence of the House, though, at the same time, he acknowledged it was so framed as not to call at their hands for any substantial amendment. With all the objections he had to the Speech, he must admit, that it contained nothing calculated to disturb the unanimity which was desirable on occasions such as that. He had thus briefly noticed the chief subjects which it was necessary, in reference to the Address itself, to touch upon—he should now say a word more as to himself. He hoped he stood before them, with regard to his moral conduct, as completely acquitted as he felt entitled to be—as, indeed, he had been by all on one side, and as he expected to be by many on the other.
said, he had not intended to take any part in the Debate, but he felt himself called upon—as the office to which he had the honour to belong had been so pointedly alluded to by the hon. and learned Member—to make some few observations, in reply to the latter part of his speech. He begged to assure his hon. and learned friend, that he disclaimed all connexion with the malevolent libels of the Press, and was far from impugning the chartered rights held by the city of Bristol. He had always felt the difficulty of discussing a question in which the name of one with whom he had been so long connected must, of necessity, be frequently introduced; but he did not fear the Press, nor would he defend the conduct of that part of it which had been rather indiscreetly introduced by his hon. friend, in relation to the Treasury and his Majesty's Government. It was a grave and serious question, whether the apprehension of violence in the city of Bristol had been such as to call for an interruption of the regular course of the administration of justice there. With regard to the interviews adverted to by the hon. and learned Member—in the first instance two of the Magistrates of Bristol had requested military assistance, which was accorded to them, after their admission, that the police of the city would be unequal to the preservation of the peace. With respect to the second interview, it was much as it had been described by the hon. and learned Member, with the exception of one addition, which he would supply—namely, that his Majesty's Government was never asked to pronounce an opinion, whether the sessions ought or ought not to have been postponed. All that had been submitted to them was, the circumstance that 69 there was not in Bristol a sufficient force for the maintenance of the public peace. A military force was therefore granted: it also moved to the spot, and was eventually found perfectly adequate to effect the object. He agreed in the opinion that had been expressed as to the propriety of forbearing to enter prematurely on the discussion of matters at present the subject of inquiry. No discussion of the kind in that House could, he conceived, be profitable to the ends of justice, or serviceable to the parties themselves, who were Involved in the investigations then in progress. He could only say, that whoever had brought accusations against the hon. and learned Gentleman, he had not; and he believed that he could make the same assertion on behalf of every member of the King's Government. There was another topic in the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech to which he must allude. Though the hon. and learned Gentleman had not blamed the Government for its conduct in the outset of these proceedings, he had stated, that, in his opinion, the Government, in issuing the Special Commission, had displayed much vacillation, and even much imbecillity, and he had seized hold of a word, not to be found in the Speech, but used by the hon. Member (Sir Francis Vincent) behind him—namely, the word promptitude, in order to vent his spleen upon the promptitude with which the Commission had been sent down to Bristol. Now, he asserted, in opposition to the hon. and learned Gentleman, that the Government had displayed promptitude upon that occasion. Promptitude did not imply hurry—it meant, that just speed which left time for the employment of all those means which were necessary to prevent a measure from being defeated. It was extraordinary that a lawyer of the high pretensions of his hon. and learned friend, should use such strange language as lie had used. when he said, that after the walls of Nottingham Castle were burnt down, a Special Commission should have been sent down the next evening, by the mail, into that county. Had his hon. and learned friend considered what previous inquiries were necessary before a Special Commission could issue? Must not the Government know something about the number of prisoners taken, and the evidence given against them? In this instance did his hon. and learned friend know how many days the depositions against the prisoners had been in town? It was not ten days 70 since the depositions had been received in London—and yet his hon. and learned friend seemed to think, that a Special Commission ought to have been issued, even before the prisoners were caught, and their commitments made out by the Magistrates. His answer to the charges of his hon. and learned friend was, that the conduct of the Government in sending the Special Commission to Bristol, was prompt, for it was sent at the very first moment that there was a prospect of its being brought to a successful issue. His hon. and learned friend had asked why no Commission had been sent to Nottingham? Now, he must say, that the propriety of issuing such a Commission must be confided to the judgment of the Executive Government; and the House would see, without his explaining the reasons, how inconvenient and even injurious it would often be to the public service, to state, why Special Commissions were or were not issued. His hon. and learned friend might discover something of a reason why a Special Commission had not been sent to Nottingham, in the fact of a reward being still offered for the discovery of the authors of the outrages which had been perpetrated in in that town. He would not tell his hon. and learned friend whether a Special Commission had been issued for Nottinghamshire, or whether it would be issued. This, however, he would say, that if a necessity for it could be made out, the Government would show the same promptitude for which they were entitled to take credit at present in the case of Bristol. He now came to what his hon. and learned friend seemed to think a still more serious matter. His hon. and learned friend had asked, why was the Recorder, and why, indeed, were the Mayor and Aldermen of Bristol, left out of the Special Commission sent down to Bristol? His hon. and learned friend had said, that it was a matter of right that their names should be inserted. That mere claim of right had made it impossible that their names could be inserted. How was it possible that Government could make any concession to Judges, who claimed to act as such in what was their own cause? His hon. and learned friend said, that in all former precedents the names of the Recorder, the Mayor, and the Aldermen, were uniformly inserted. Perhaps might be so; but when his hon. and learned friend talked of the omission of their names having been made to strengthen the condemnation which the Political Union of 71 Bristol had passed upon himself and the Corporation, he gave another illustration of the answer which the right hon. Secretary for Ireland had already given to a similar assertion in the speech of the hon. member for Orford. If, from a fear of the imputation of giving way to the Union, the Government had appointed the Recorder of Bristol a Judge in his own cause, it would have been a most flagrant instance of their folly in being afraid of being thought afraid. His hon. and learned friend had then gone to some precedent drawn from Judge Jeffries, which he thought of little authority. He (Mr. Lamb) was not inclined to think much of such authority; but there was a precedent of more modern times, which he would submit to his learned friend's consideration. He should have thought, that after tumults directed against his learned friend so personally—directed little less so against the Mayor and Aldermen of Bristol—he should have thought, he said, after such events, that his learned friend and the Mayor and Aldermen of Bristol would have deemed themselves under an obligation to any Government which had left their names out of the Commission specially appointed to try rioters, in a cause in which they themselves were mixed up. He should have thought that it would be no gratification to his hon. and learned friend to be in a Commission in the proceedings of which it was impossible that he should take a part. Still, though he was quite certain that his hon. and learned friend would not have acted, had he been named a member of that Commission, he could not look upon that as a sufficient reason for placing him in it, as it would furnish a precedent for placing in similar Commissions men similarly circumstanced with his hon. and learned friend, but not possessing his high sense of honour. He would now proceed to remind his hon. and learned friend, that in 1769 a Special Commission was issued for the trial of a prisoner at Bristol. He had been accused of forging the name of the Recorder to a bill drawn on an Alderman of Bristol, so that when his case was called on for trial at the Sessions, where the Recorder and the Aldermen were Judges, it was found, that it could not be tried, unless the Recorder and Aldermen made themselves Judges in their own cause. In consequence, a Special Commission was drawn up by what his learned friend would admit to be a very great authority, and in that Commission the names of the Recorder and Aldermen were not inserted, but two of the King's Justices 72 were named in their stead. That Special Commission was very carefully drawn up, and when he told his hon. and learned friend, that the Recorder of Bristol, and the person by whom it was drawn up, was John Dunning, he was sure that his hon. and learned friend would not deny the value of the precedent. He had now done—he had risen with similar views to those of his hon. and learned friend—and as his hon. and learned friend had risen to vindicate himself from the libels which had been published against him, so he had risen to reply to the statements of his hon. and learned friend, which impugned the conduct of the Home Office. He could assure his hon. and learned friend, that he (Mr. Lamb) had not attacked his rights, and that in the conduct of the Home Office, nothing personally offensive to him had been intended. His hon. and learned friend had attacked that part of the King's Speech which alluded to the best means of improving the municipal police of the kingdom, and had given it as his opinion, that much wrong would be done to the Corporation and city of Bristol, if such means were intended specially for them. The inquiries still going on precluded him from saying anything about the conduct of the Corporation of Bristol; but he might say, that nothing had yet appeared in the conduct of that corporation, or in the opposition which that body had made to the progress of the late tumults, which afforded it any right to be an exception from any measures of police intended to apply to the kingdom at large.
Sir Robert Peel
said, that during the time he was a Minister of the Crown, as well as now in his private capacity, it was always his wish to see the Speech from the Throne, and the Address in answer to it, so framed as not to give rise to any collision which could prevent the House from coming to a unanimous vote. He thought it desirable that Parliament should be enabled to offer to the Sovereign, without a dissentient voice, the testimony of their loyalty and attachment on the opening of the Session. It had always, for this reason, appeared to him, that the Address ought to contain no matter which could give rise to difference of opinion. It gave him pleasure, therefore, that upon the present occasion he was enabled to express so much of acquiescence as would render unnecessary any amendment, except one to which he anticipated no objection on any side of the House. Before he proceeded to notice the topics introduced into the Ad- 73 dress now proposed for the consideration of the House, he must be permitted to allude to the circumstances under which they were assembled. He was perfectly ready to admit, that all considerations of private convenience ought to yield to public duty; but he must take this opportunity of entering his protest against the practice of calling Parliament together without the usual notice. He feared the present meeting of the House might be drawn into a precedent, and he considered a practice founded on that precedent would be bad and dangerous. He was aware, indeed, that by law they might be called together within fourteen days: but antecedently to the passing of that law, the practice was, to give a notice of forty days; and so necessary was this considered, that Hatsell said, Parliament ought not to be summoned to meet on a shorter notice than forty days. So important did that great authority deem it, that an ample notice should be given, and so great was, in his opinion, the danger of taking the House by surprise, that he said the Ministers who advised the calling of Parliament together on a shorter notice would be guilty of a grievous misdemeanor, and deserve the censure of Parliament. By the Act of 1797, the old law was altered, and Government was enabled to call Parliament together after fourteen days' notice. Yet, though such was the law, the conviction of the necessity of adhering to the ancient usage was so strong, that in the thirty years which had elapsed since its enactment, there was but one occasion on which Parliament had been assembled at a shorter notice than that sanctioned by established custom. On that occasion (being in 1801), the notice was twenty-three days. He admitted, that when Mr. Pitt and Lord Grenville introduced the Act of 1797, they alleged that the greater facilities of intercourse, and also of communication by the post, justified them in abridging the time of notice; but it ought not to be forgotten, that since that time the Union with Ireland had taken place, the Parliaments of the two kingdoms had been incorporated into one, and therefore a new and important reason had arisen for ample notice. Ministers, be it recollected, were always on the spot; they could tell their friends when Parliament would meet, and therefore, if the precedent now established were followed, it might, in the hands of a bad Minister, lead to gross abuse. If it had been necessary to take immediate precautions against the Cholera, or to devise measures to put down the Political 74 Unions, or to frame new provisions to suppress disturbances like those which had recently occurred at Bristol, then there would have been some show of reason for assembling Parliament without delay. But the Speech from the Throne said nothing of the necessity of immediate precautionary measures. Reform, however, was said to be of urgent necessity: admitted; but then that necessity was as well known to the Government on the 1st of November as it was fourteen days ago. At the close of the last Session they were prorogued in the usual way till the 22nd of November. Members left town, not so much to attend to their private affairs in the country, as to obey the injunctions contained in his Majesty's Speech, to assist in securing the tranquillity of their respective counties. Up to a period immediately prior to the 22nd of November, it was the general impression throughout the country, that Parliament would not meet for the despatch of business before Christmas. For reasons, into the propriety of which he would not enter, an alteration in the intention of Government took place. Supposing the necessity for Reform were so great as was now alleged, that necessity existed before the 22nd of November, and consequently. Members were entitled to a longer notice of the intended meeting of Parliament than that which they had recently received. Before he entered into any examination of the topics contained in the Speech, which had been so praised for its straight-forward and manly character, he must say, that there were some extraordinary omissions in it. That they should meet with two such questions pending as the renewal of the Bank Charter, and of the East-India Company's Charter, and that not one word should be said on either of them in the King's Speech, did appear to him to be most extraordinary and incomprehensible. That his Majesty's Speech should invite discussion on the question, whether the Cholera was indigenous, or imported from abroad, a question on which medical men would be the only good debaters, and that they should leave the heavier matters of the Bank and East-India Company's Charter totally unnoticed, was one of the most singular omissions that could well be imagined in a straightforward and manly Speech. Moreover, the subjects noticed in the Address did not compensate for these omissions, for, without questioning the policy of the views which the right hon. Secretary for Ireland had disclosed respecting that country, he 75 doubted the policy of introducing the tithe question in the King's Speech. If the House was to be so occupied with the discussion of the question of Reform that it could not agitate the questions relative to the renewal of the Charters of the Bank and of the East-India Company, why-should the King's Speech notice thus prominently the tithe question? The right hon. Secretary had told the House, that a Committee was to be appointed, to consider whether some improvements could not be made in the laws respecting the payment of tithes in Ireland. He would say, that the appointment; of such Committee was in itself a very questionable proceeding. If there was in Ireland a systematic combination among the people against the payment of tithes, to hold out, in the King's Speech, the expectation of some change in the laws relating to the recovery of tithe, would only aggravate the existing evils, unless the Government at once proposed a specific remedial measure. He was afraid, that the right hon. Gentleman might find more difficulty in adjusting this question than he anticipated at present. The Grand-Jury question, and others affecting Ireland, had been before alluded to in a similar way, and little progress afterwards made towards a permanent settlement of them, from the unexpected difficulties that appeared in their progress. He had heard with regret one expression which had fallen from the lips of the right hon. Secretary. There might be grounds of policy and expediency, but he was sure, that there were no grounds of justice and legality, on which an alteration of the tithe-system could be demanded. He, therefore, trusted, that that expression had fallen inadvertently from the right hon. Secretary; for if it should get abroad, that the right hon. Secretary thought the claims of the people of Ireland to some alteration in the tithe-system legal and just, the admission would give additional force to the system of combination mentioned in the King's Speech. He hoped that the measure of improvement, now in the contemplation of Government, would be produced forthwith, and that as little time as possible would be lost in placing it before a Committee, for otherwise the rights of property would be endangered by the discussions and delusions which delay would produce. He would now proceed to consider the foreign policy of the country. His Majesty was made, in the Speech, to lament, that he had not been able to establish, or rather to renew, the diplomatic relations of this country with Por- 76 tugal, and two causes were assigned for the non-renewal of them:—First, the repeated injuries to which the subjects of this country had been exposed by the conduct of the Portuguese government; and secondly, the chances of a civil war on account of a disputed succession. He would ask any Gentleman who then heard him—he would ask his Majesty's Ministers themselves,—whether there was not the greatest inconvenience in having a country like Portugal excommunicated from the European system? Did the people of Portugal recognise Don Miguel? And if they did, what right had this, or any other country, to gainsay that recognition? When Don Miguel first assumed, or was called to the exercise of government, it might have been just and necessary to abstain from the immediate recognition of his authority, but such a course of proceeding could not be indefinitely protracted without inconvenience to ourselves, and danger to the general peace of Europe. Whatever might be the private character of Don Miguel, that was a question with which the British Government had nothing whatever to do. If fit for consideration at all, it was fit only for the consideration of the Portuguese nation; and he was entirely at a loss to understand upon what principles, but especially how upon Whig principles, his Majesty's Ministers could longer withhold the recognition of a Prince to whose rule there was no objection made on the part of his own people. But whether the authority of Don Miguel was acknowledged by this country or not, on one thing the noble Lord might depend, which was, that while the present state of uncertainty and interrupted relations between the two countries continued to exist, while this country claimed the fulfilment of treaties, refusing at the same time to allow the validity of the authority which was to put those treaties into execution, it placed its own subjects in danger, and embarrassed its own commerce. It had a more than ordinary effect at the present time. Did the noble Lord consider the consequence of such conduct? Did it not encourage the contest that was threatened for the Throne of Portugal? That was the natural result of still withholding the recognition of Don Miguel. There might have been injuries inflicted on British subjects in Portugal; what those injuries were, whether they were old or new, the Speech did not state, and he did not stop to inquire; but he contended that the conduct of the Government in refusing to acknow- 77 ledge Don Miguel after the lapse of so long a period since his accession, had a tendency to produce the very evils, the existence of which the King's Speech admitted and lamented—namely, embarrassment to our own commerce with Portugal, and the risk of a disputed succession. If a contest for the Throne of Portugal were to take place, if civil war were to rage in that country, he most earnestly hoped, that this country would sincerely act up to those principles of perfect neutrality which it had avowed: that it would not only profess, but that it would act in the spirit of its professions. Now, a few words with regard to Holland. His Majesty had expressed his hopes, that the king of Holland would accede to the arrangement for the separation of the States of Holland and Belgium, to which the king of Belgium had already assented. He sincerely hoped, that these expectations of his Majesty would not be disappointed. He likewise sincerely hoped, that that arrangement steered clear of all interference in the internal affairs of Holland; bur, until some account of the transactions connected with that arrangement was communicated to the House, it would be premature in him to give any opinion on a subject of such peculiar delicacy. He was now arrived at that part of the Address to which he intended to propose an amendment. By some strange inadvertence, the Address, as at present worded, pledged them to a distinct approbation of the arrangement which the five Powers had made for the separation of Holland and Belgium. As the Address was proposed, it was couched in this form, "To express our hope, though a similar treaty has not yet been agreed to by the king of the Netherlands, that the period is not distant when that sovereign will see the necessity of acceding to an arrangement in which the Plenipotentiaries of the five Powers have unanimously concurred, and which has been framed with the most careful and impartial attention to all the interests concerned." Now he, for one, must refuse to accede to this approbation of an arrangement, of which he knew nothing, which had not yet been ratified, and which was not to be communicated to Parliament till the ratification had taken place. It was quite clear, that there must be some alteration in this part of the Address. As he was sure that these expressions must have got into the Address by inadvertence, he would take no advantage of it by himself moving an amendment, but would leave it to the noble Lord to correct the error, either by omitting the paragraph altogether, or by 78 altering the phraseology of it, so as to avoid this direct approbation of a treaty, of which the House knew nothing. There were many topics connected with the domestic policy of the country which, though slightly mentioned in the Speech, were still of great importance. From the terms of the Speech, no indication of the intentions of Government regarding them could be discovered. Mere truisms were slated; but, for that generality of language, he did not find fault with Government. Reference was made to the best means of improving the municipal police of the kingdom, but it was impossible to say what was the nature or character of the improvements contemplated. The subject was a most important one; in fact, there was none more so, and it was well worthy the attention of the Legislature; but it was impossible, from the King's Speech, to know any thing of the character of the alterations to be suggested by Government. Of this conduct he did not complain. It was perhaps convenient, that the views of Government should not be intimated till they could be fully detailed. The mere allusion to the subject, however, naturally occasioned various constructions as to the intentions of Ministers. It was supposed by some that they contemplated the total supercession of corporate authority. He must presume, that this construction was totally erroneous; at the same time, he certainly thought some material alteration in the municipal police absolutely necessary. In the large towns he could see no security for property and the maintenance of order unless some change was effected, tic apprehended the passage hinted at an extension of the principle upon which, the metropolitan police was formed; and, if it did so, it certainly would have his cordial approval. Unless a stipendiary police was established in the large towns, there could be no security for good order. Under what authority that police should be placed, he was not prepared to say. In London the matter was easily settled. It was wisely placed under the authority of the executive power, who kept it free from all party and electioneering influence, which, if not effectually excluded, would make the police, not a blessing, but a curse. With respect to Unions, he entirely concurred with that part of the Address which went to assure his Majesty, that that House would give its best aid and assistance to enable his Majesty to uphold the laws, and to maintain tranquillity and good order. The law must be enforced; life and property must be 79 protected; and when the law was found to be inefficient for its objects, he was quite confident, that his Majesty might with safety rely on receiving the most prompt and zealous assistance at the hands of that House. With respect to the improvement of the municipal police, however, he must remark, that there was already an Act in existence which bore upon that subject. That Act was passed in 1830, and it enabled every parish, upon the consent of a certain portion of the parishioners being obtained, to establish a stipendiary police, and to raise a rate for its support, and for the lighting of the parish. That Act was not generally known; but, in the parishes with which he had any connection, and from which he had received applications on the subject, he had recommended it should be put in practice. The allusion, however, made in the King's Speech to the subject would naturally paralyze that recommendation, for every one would be desirous to know what were the plans of Government, and what alterations they might expect before they attempted to proceed upon the Act to which he had referred. He had reserved for the last, the first and the most important subject noticed in the Speech, and in the Address—it was that of Reform. The Address pledged the House to a most careful consideration of the measures which the Speech informed them would be laid before the House for a Reform in the Commons' House of Parliament; and it concurred in the declaration of the Speech, that a speedy and satisfactory settlement of that question became daily of more serious importance to the security of the State, and to the contentment and welfare of the people. As he had the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, that by this language the House was not to be considered as pledged to any particular measure, or to any particular principles of Reform, he did not feel inclined to remark upon the passage with anything like hyper-criticism. Every one must desire, who wished well to his country, to come to a speedy and satisfactory settlement of that important question, but various indeed would be the opinions as to the nature and extent of that Reform which would entitle it to the appellation of satisfactory. No outline of the measure had been stated to the House, and he had no means of knowing whether it was to resemble closely the Bill of last Session, or whether it was to vary materially from that Bill in principle or in detail. Nor did he stop to inquire into the subject, for in a few days, 80 they had reason to expect, the measure would be formally and regularly submitted to their consideration; but he must, at the same time, be permitted to say, that, although he most fervently desired a speedy and satisfactory settlement of the question, he very much feared, that the Government had agitated feelings and excited desires and expectations which utterly precluded the expectation of their arriving at any such result. If he felt otherwise—if he believed, that the passing of such a Bill as that of last Session would soothe the minds which had been agitated, and would lead the people back to their habitual obedience to the laws, and respect and regard for the institutions which would remain to them, many of his objections would be removed. But it was his conscientious belief, that the principles of the Bill itself involved insuperable impediments to the speedy and satisfactory settlement of the question of Reform. He believed, that the impulse which had been given to violence and discontent could not be easily allayed, and it was from that feeling, and from observing the principles upon which the Government had rested the defence of their proceedings, that he found it impossible to anticipate a speedy and satisfactory settlement of this most important question. He was at issue with the Government as to the causes and nature of the excitement existing. The advocates of Reform, of course, said, that he, and those who acted with him in opposition to the late Bill, had, by their conduct, given rise to the scenes of outrage and of violence which had taken place; while he contended, that those proceedings, disgraceful and dangerous as they were, were the almost necessary consequence of the principles which the Government had called into action for its support. The foundations of the ancient institutions of the country could not be shaken without producing the greatest derangement in the whole body politic, and this derangement, he feared, would survive the measure which brought it into existence. Let the House look to the King's Speech, and learn the present state of the country from that authentic document. Commerce embarrassed, confidence suspended, industry paralyzed, formidable combinations inconsistent with the spirit of the law—fearful outrage and disorder, by which whole cities have been involved in confusion. Are these the first fruits of Reform? Is this the consequence of holding up to contempt the ancient representative system of the country? Did he find any thing in the Speech about the reduction of taxation? 81 Or was it stated in the Speech, that the Estimates would be reduced? No such thing. He did not blame the Ministers for this, for he believed, that the Estimates were framed with a view to economy, but he did blame those who misled the public, by inducing it to suppose that the passing of such a Reform Bill as that of last Session would relieve the country, restore tranquillity and contentment, increase commerce and employment, and give security to liberty and property. He had no hope of true economy from Reform—from such Reform as that which had been proposed by the Government, and which would unsettle all the habits of obedience, and shake the Constitution to its very foundation. He had heard the sarcastic remarks of an hon. Gentleman opposite, respecting Tory Governments and Tory measures. The hon. Gentleman called upon him and those who agreed with him in opinion to attend at the public meetings, and to discuss the question of Reform with the multitudes assembled at those meetings—to attend, for instance, where there was an assembly of 150,000 men, such an assembly as had received the thanks of the noble Lords, and there to express their opinions if they dared. The sarcasm fell harmless upon them—it was against the Bill that it was levelled. It reminded them of the melancholy fact, that there never had been a period, during the whole of the past century, in which such effectual practical restrictions were imposed upon the freedom of speech, in which public discussion was so fettered as it was in these days of liberality and Reform. There were worse tyrannies than the tyrannies of individual despots. He had said the worst feelings had been excited for the support of this measure of Reform; and could the Government deny the existence of such feelings? Who could doubt their galling and oppressive character, who had seen the bitter and unrelenting animosity with which the populace had pursued many of those illustrious characters who acted the part of good subjects and honest men in the House of Lords, without the least suspicion of unworthy motives? And yet could it be denied, that it was not safe for them to travel home to their country seats, after the conscientious votes which they had given in defence of the true interests of the people of England? When the new measure of Reform should come under discussion, he, for one, promised to give to it the most calm and dispassionate attention. He wished that he could anticipate from its success the same tranquilliz- 82 ing and satisfactory results as had been anticipated by the King's Government. He wished, that he could believe that the spirit of impatience under all restraint, and the reluctance to submit to any control, which at present pervaded and convulsed the land, was attributable to such causes as the opposition which had been given to the progress of the late Bill; and that the triumph, if triumph should betide, over future opposition, would bring back the halcyon days of peace and contentment, and restore that spirit of obedience to the laws which had existed under the reviled Government of Tories. He had attended to the progress of great revolutions in other countries, and was not insensible to their symptoms in our own. For a time the disastrous scenes of confusion and bloodshed which were displayed in France to an appalled and astonished world, and the establishment of a Reign of Terror surpassing in atrocity any thing heretofore known in history, exerted possibly an undue influence upon the public mind here, and indisposed us to the consideration even of beneficial changes. But let us beware how we erred in the opposite extreme, and rejected the salutary lessons which we might learn from the earlier scenes of the Revolution in France. Long before the bloody days of Marat and of Danton, there were pages in the history of that Revolution which were but too faithful types of the events of present times. Therein we might read of Ministers, once popular, unable to stem the tide on which they had floated to power, denouncing the Clubs that were formed for their support, but which usurped their authority. "Death to the proposer of an agrarian law," was the language of the Constituent Assembly. He had read also in the same melancholy collection of crimes and horrors, that when the king of France accepted the constitution of 1791, he began his speech with the terms, "La révolution est finie," little dreaming, in the exultation of the moment, that the revolution was only then begun. The blame of opposing its progress was then thrown on priests and aristocrats. The cry in France then was, "Down with the Priests, down with the Aristocrats;" the cry in England now was, "Down with the Boroughmongers." "Down with those, be their motives what they may, who oppose the popular will." What system of Government could that be in which men denied to their opponents the free exercise of judgment and of speech? Who could hope to propose changes extensive as those of the Reform Bill, without expecting, if they were reasonable men, to 83 encounter opposition? They might denounce that opposition—might visit it with confiscation, exile, and death; but so long as honour and courage existed among men—(and in English bosoms, he trusted these qualities would find an eternal spring)—they would not, they could not deter men from the expression of their honest opinions. It was with a spirit of calmness and impartiality that he was prepared to discuss the Bill which the noble Lord opposite was about to introduce. He trusted that it would be founded on more moderate principles than the last; but be it founded on what principles it might, he owed it as a duty to the people of England—he claimed it as a right inherent in himself, as one of their Representatives—to deliver his opinions honestly and boldly upon it; and as the King, in the gracious Speech which they had that day heard delivered from the Throne, admitted the right of his subjects, even in confederated unions, publicly to declare their opinions, and to make known their grievances, so did he, as a loyal subject of the King, expect protection in return for his allegiance, if he should incur odium and unpopularity by protecting that which, in his judgment, he believed to be the real interest of the people of England, against their present wishes and temporary delusion.
§ Lord Althorp
spoke as follows: The right hon. Baronet who has just sat down, has taken occasion to bring a charge against his Majesty's Ministers, for having called the Parliament together at such a short notice; but, at all events, he has admitted that we were within the letter of the law; and I may, on my own part, further add, that the Government felt, that but for such imperious circumstances as presented themselves, it would not have been desirable to have assembled the Parliament so early; for which reason we naturally postponed the summons to the last moment. And I believe that it is now generally agreed—notwithstanding the inconvenience of the step to the Members generally—that we have exercised a sound discretion in calling the two Houses together at the present moment. The right hon. Baronet has complained, that though the Speech has embraced a great number of topics, there are two omitted which ought to have been noticed. Those two subjects, according to the right hon. Baronet, are—the renewal of the Bank Charter, and of the East-India Company's Charter. With respect to the Bank Charter, however, I believe that it has not been usual, when the time has 84 come round for its renewal, for that circumstance to be noticed in the King's Speech; but, at the same time, I have no objection to state to the right hon. Baronet, that the period for its renewal being so near, I shall feel it my duty to move for a Committee on the subject during the present Session. With respect to the renewal of the East-India Company's Charter, the right hon. Baronet will recollect, that for the last two Sessions a Committee on that subject has been sitting; and that Committee will, probably, this Session, resume its labours. The Charter, however, does not expire till the year 1834; and, therefore, there is no imperative necessity that the question should be taken under our consideration during the present Session. The right hon. Baronet then went on to allude to the different topics contained in his Majesty's Speech; and he stated, that though he could not give his cordial concurrence to all of them, he was, nevertheless, prepared to acquiesce in the Address, and not take the sense of the House upon it. This being the case, I shall not think it necessary to follow the right hon. Baronet through all the ramifications of his speech; and I shall, therefore, only apply myself to one point in which I think that he did not fairly represent the speech of my right hon. friend (Mr. Stanley) near me; although I must say, that with respect to his Majesty's Speech, it did appear to me impossible that it could have been more cautiously worded; and having Ireland under our consideration, we were absolutely bound to mention the point relating to the improvement of the tithe system, it being the grievance that requires redress. The right hon. Baronet then went on to say, that the present state of the country, from agitation, was such as had never been known to exist before. The right hon. Baronet says, that we are forced to admit that commerce is embarrassed—that industry is checked—and that riotous proceedings and breaches of the law have taken place in various parts of the country; and, undoubtedly, we have been obliged to admit the occurrence of some most calamitous events in Bristol, in relation to which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Charles Wetherell) has stated, that he felt himself called upon to speak in justification of his own conduct. With respect to what has fallen from that hon. and learned Gentleman, I am ready to confirm his statement, that no remonstrance was made against his going to Bristol; and, indeed, such a remonstrance would have been quite improper 85 on the part of the Government, knowing that the Goal delivery could not legally take place there without the presence of the hon. and learned Gentleman in his official capacity. The duty, therefore, of the Government was—not to prevent the hon. and learned Gentleman going, but to afford such means of protection as appeared to it likely to prevent any scenes of tumult and bloodshed. Those means were afforded: but I will not now enter into any account of the reasons why they proved insufficient. The right hon. Baronet, however, announces it as his opinion, that all this mischief has arisen from our having agitated the question of Reform, whereby we have unsettled those principles of government that previously existed in this country; but when the right hon. Baronet, in proof of this assertion, thought proper to compare these events with the French Revolution, he should have made this distinction—that although we propose a great alteration in the mode of conducting the Government, we by no means propose to unsettle the principles on which that Government depends, or those which have always been considered as the principles of the English Constitution. That the object of those who are favourable to those changes is to put down free and fair discussion, is not a correct representation of the case. We have no such intention, and no inference of the kind can be fairly drawn. The comparison, therefore, which the right hon. Baronet has made, is not borne out. The right hon. Baronet has taken occasion to remark, that there never was a period when the public opinion was more fettered than it is at the present moment; but surely he must be able to perceive, that it always must be the case in every country where free discussion prevails, that on all vitally important subjects the weaker party runs the chance of being put down by popular clamour; and that where a large and overpowering majority of a population takes one side of a question, there must be a considerable expression of feeling against the minority. The right hon. Baronet concluded by stating, that he would not take that opportunity of going into the question of Reform: but, in the cautions which he thought proper to urge, I must say, that he took occasion to state pretty strong opinions on the subject; but as the question will soon come to be fully discussed, I shall not now undertake to notice those opinions, but merely content myself with saying, that I trust the measure about to be brought forward will be found as fully 86 deserving of the confidence of the people, and of this House, as the Bill of last Session, and that I hope, by its passing into a law, that excitement which has existed will be calmed, and general satisfaction given to the people. For my own part, I cannot see anything in this proposition which justifies persons in arguing, that it ought to be regarded only as the commencement of a still further change; on the contrary, I believe it is of such a nature as to satisfy the just expectations of the great majority of the people of England; and though on this, as on all other occasions, there will be those who will wish for more, I believe that that number will constitute so small a minority, that nothing they will be able to do will be of influence enough to disturb the general peace of the country.
§ Mr. Hunt
admitted, that the question of Reform was one of the utmost importance to the people, but there were others also of deep importance which required to be considered—he meant the condition of the industrious classes, so many of whom were now out of employment. At one side of the House the distress was ascribed to the existence of cholera and the quarantine, and at the other it was said to be caused by the agitation of this question of Reform. He differed from both. He thought, that a great part of the distress was occasioned by the too hasty withdrawal of the paper currency, and by not reducing taxes in the same proportion as the circulation had been reduced. What were the opinions of the people of Worcester and Coventry, in particular, as to the cause of this distress? To what did they attribute it but to the system of free trade, which allowed the importations of luxuries, such as were consumed by the rich, but which prohibited the necessaries of life, corn, from being imported without great restrictions. The only consolation that was held out to the suffering people was this; "the country is at peace." Why, it had been at peace the last sixteen years, and yet every year the distress had been increasing, and had now arrived at such a height that the people were goaded almost, into madness by their sufferings, and this it was, that had produced the dreadful riots which had occurred at Nottingham, Derby, and Bristol. Had the Government acted upon the suggestion of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Charles Wetherell) and instantly despatched a Special Commission to Nottingham, would any man say, that such prompt inquiry would not have prevented the 87 dreadful scenes which had since occurred at Bristol? With respect to the horrible riots at this latter city, was it not notorious, that they were caused by that system pursued by the Press in the pay of, or supported by the Government, which had not only encouraged the people to attack the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Charles Wetherell) but openly called upon them to take away his life. The same thing occurred at Leeds, where the paper which was the support of the Whig Government, called on the people to spill his (Mr. Hunt's) blood. Fortunately, however, for him, the populace did not proceed to acts of personal violence towards him, although excited and instigated so to do, but another gentleman was obliged to fly from their fury. Another cause of the riots was, that Political Unions were encouraged by the Government, and the Government Press, which called them legal so long as they went as far as they wished; but when they showed any disposition to act for themselves, without the guidance of the Ministry, then they became illegal. He was prepared to contend, that to these causes, and to the contraction of the paper currency, were to be attributed that distress which existed, and those conflagrations which were taking place in so many parts of the country; and he asked, should they do justice to themselves, to the King, and the country, if they were to neglect to notice these things? These were matters which called for their most serious consideration. He perceived that it was not the intention of any party in the House to move an amendment to the Address; but, as he was not connected with any party, he would move an amendment, though he should not get a person to second him. He would do it to put his opinion on record, as he was not disposed to re-act the old farce, of merely repeating the sentiments of the King's Ministers. His proposition was, not to get rid of the Address to the King, but to give Ministers time to consider whether they would follow the old absurd custom of moving an Address, by way of echo to the Speech, or to submit one which had some meaning in it. He then moved an Amendment to this effect:—"That in the present critical and alarming state of the country, when trade and manufactures were reduced to such difficulties by the withdrawing of, and narrowing the circulation, without a proportionate reduction of taxation, by which the incomes of all, except those who lived upon the taxes, were reduced one-half in Value, and which caused such great distress; 88 that the distress was aggravated by the baneful system called free trade, by which a competition of foreign silks, gloves, and other articles, was permitted to interfere with our own manufactures; that by these means the people were driven to desperation and phrensy; and that to these causes were to be attributed those incendiary proceedings going on in the country; that for these reasons the House do adjourn, [a laugh] to give time to Ministers to prepare a suitable Address, taking proper notice of the state and condition of the country." Hon. Members might laugh at his motion, but the time would come, and it was fast approaching, when they must come to the consideration of these matters, when they would have to consider why it was that a free trade was allowed in luxuries, and why a prohibition was put upon the necessaries of life. The hon. Member concluded by submitting his motion.
§ The Speaker
asked, who seconded the Motion, but no hon. Member answering, it of course fell to the ground.
§ Mr. Robinson
did not intend to take up the time of the House, but he would very briefly call its attention to the condition of the working classes, the poorer classes, whether manufacturing or agricultural, were in a most deplorable condition. There was an increasing population with decreasing means of employment. It was, he contended, an abandonment of their duty to neglect any longer an inquiry into the condition of those classes. Much time had been lost, Session after Session, without doing any thing on this important subject; and he was sorry not to observe any indication that Government intended to take up the question. It was worse than useless to leave the matter to the exertions of private individuals in that House, for whatever zeal and ability a private individual might bring to the subject, no one had sufficient weight to carry any effective measure without the sanction and co-operation of Government. He did hope, therefore, that the present Session might not be allowed to pass over, without giving rise to some legislative measure to remedy the grievances of which he spoke. It was idle to suppose, that Reform would remedy all the grievances of the country. Reform would do much, no doubt, but it would not do all that was necessary for improving the condition of the labouring classes. They had had various nostrums proposed for the remedy of the existing terrible distress; emigration was one, and free trade another. These had, however, failed. A beneficial 89 system of trade had been abandoned, in order that its place might be supplied by a system of speculation, which had wholly failed in answering its intended purpose. It was only by protecting the industry of the country, that we could at all meet the heavy burthens of our immense establishments. He must press an earnest hope, that the question of Reform might be soon brought to a satisfactory termination, for the delay in the settlement of that great measure produced an additional stagnation in our trade and commerce, which would not be removed until that question was satisfactorily decided. He had no wish that the Address should be otherwise than unanimous, and therefore it was not his intention to move any amendment. He was also happy to observe, that no Member had seconded the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Preston. He should continue his best support to the question of Reform, assuming, that it was on the same principle as the measure of last Session. His object, however, was not to enter upon any discussion of that kind at the present moment. He had risen for the purpose of calling the attention of the House to the condition of the labouring classes, and he hoped that the Session would not be allowed to pass over without something being done for their relief.
§ Mr. Leader
said, he would not detain the House further, than to express the great gratification which he felt, that his Majesty's Government had taken into its consideration the state of the Tithe question in Ireland, and as it proposed to refer the whole matter to the consideration of Committees in both Houses of Parliament, he had great hopes that means might be found of effecting some satisfactory arrangement respecting it. There was nothing which weighed so much on the people of Ireland, and there was nothing in which they had so long felt a great interest as in the settlement of the question of Tithes. It was painful to witness the excitement which existed on this subject in Ireland, and painful to witness the scenes to which that had led. Since the affair of Newtownbarry, there had been nothing but agitation, and he therefore was highly pleased at the intimation of the Government, that it meant to take this important subject into consideration, and he hoped it would be able to carry it to a successful termination. He had lately been present at a public meeting of a county of Ireland, which contained 1,000,000 of inhabitants, and the great subject of their complaints was 90 the Tithe system, and there was nothing they were so anxious for as to have some speedy arrangement of that system, such as he understood was contemplated by his Majesty's Government. For three years the clergy of Ireland had received very little or nothing, and he wished, that some means might be found to give them an adequate remuneration for their services, without upholding a system which weighed down the industry of the country, and led to periodical disturbances. The resistance to the payment of tithes was such, that it was impossible that the income of the clergy could be collected without the assistance of an army. He thought it right to express these sentiments, as he was almost the only Gentleman from Ireland then present, and he could not avoid expressing the delight he felt at hearing the announcement in the King's Speech. He had witnessed with much regret the unfortunate circumstances of Ireland, and the dismay they had generally caused, but now he did hope, that there was a prospect that the great question of Reform would be settled; when the attention of the Government and the Legislature might be turned with increased effect to other measures calculated to ameliorate the condition of Ireland.
§ Mr. Trevor
said, he hoped the arrangements respecting a part of our foreign policy, alluded to in the Speech, would prove satisfactory, but he confessed he had great doubts on the subject. As those arrangements, however, were not before the House, he protested against being considered as pledged to their approval. The same remark applied also to the subject of Tithes; but he must add to it, that he had serious doubts as to the settlement of that question under the auspices of the present Government. Upon the great question of Reform he should hold himself unpledged with respect to the particular measure to be introduced. Should it be similar in its principles to that of last Session, he would oppose it as earnestly and as strenuously as he had opposed the former plan. The occurrences which had taken place since the rejection of the late Bill, had confirmed him still more thoroughly in his conviction of the propriety of opposing that measure. The outrages were frightful, and they would have been still worse had the Government not been checked in its career. Nor could he pass over the language which had been used at some of the public meetings. The bench of Bishops had been spoken of in the most infamous manner. That rev. body had been called plunderers and robbers, 91 merely because they had conscientiously discharged a duty imposed on them by the Constitution. But that was not all. They were told in the midst of these atrocities, that those who opposed the Bill had instigated their commission. He totally protested against any such assertion, and contended, that it was infamously false and wicked. He could have anxiously wished to see something more definitive than the Speech from the Throne, upon several points of deep interest to the country, and he particularly regretted, that so unsatisfactory an allusion should have been made to the question of Portugal. He would not trespass at any length upon the time of the House, but he held it to be his duty to state the sentiments he entertained, as he thought every Member was bound to do, honestly and manfully, upon such an occasion, when they differed from the policy of the Government. If the great question of Reform should now be brought before them in a state to meet the general wishes of the community, and to secure the stability of the Throne, and the other institutions of the country, God forbid, that he should do any thing to oppose its being passed into a law. But entertaining the strong conscientious convictions which he did, unless the proposed measure should appear to him to be founded on such a basis, and to be calculated to produce the effects confidently anticipated by some, he should act upon his own sense of duty, and give it the same opposition which he had offered to the last measure. He should, however, hold himself unpledged, and express no opinion until he knew what the new proposition was, by seeing it before the House.
§ Mr. Shaw
could not concur in the applause which had been bestowed by the only Irish Member who had spoken upon that part of the Speech which alluded to the measure about to be introduced with regard to Ireland. He could not agree with the hon. member for Kilkenny as to the causes of the present state of Ireland, which he believed to arise from a consideration operating on the minds of all parties in that country at the present moment, who were acting apparently under the impression that no virtual Government existed there, either for the purposes of repressing the turbulent or protecting the peaceable. That this was the opinion acted upon by the party supposed to be favourable to the Ministers, was proved by their usurpation of the power and functions of their Government, and by their having, in defiance of the law, virtually revived the Catholic Association 92 under a new name. In what manner were the Representatives of the Government in Ireland treated by this party? With respect to the right hon. Gentleman (the Chief Secretary for Ireland), it was said by the leaders of those persons who were supposed to be supporters of that Government, that no Irishman could wait upon him on the business of the country, without experiencing a reception, which in its manner was an insult. Now, he could say, that, having had occasion to wait upon the right hon. Gentleman, he had never done so without meeting with the most courteous reception, and a willing attention to business. So with regard to the nobleman at the head of the Irish Government. For that illustrious individual no man possessed more personal regard than he did. His own predilections would certainly lead him to support any Government over which that respected nobleman presided; and, if left to follow his own individual feelings, there was no person in the empire whom he would prefer seeing in that situation. But the noble Lord had unfortunately fallen into the hands of subtle and interested advisers. His generous mind and intentions had been sacrificed to their artifices; the patronage of the country was disposed of in the most unsatisfactory manner by such partizans, and the noble Lord was compelled to bear all the obloquy while they had all the influence. In point of fact, they were in the exercise of the powers of Government. If, then, this was the situation and opinions of those who professed to be the supporters of the Government, what was the opinion of the other party to whom they were opposed? Why, the Protestants of Ireland felt that they had not received justice or protection at the hands of the Government, and saw themselves driven to the necessity of providing it for themselves, The state of the Clergy of the Established Church at the present moment was melancholy and frightful. He knew of his own knowledge several respectable clergymen in Ireland, who were at this moment selling their libraries, and other property of that description, in order to obtain the means of subsistence for themselves and families, being utterly unable to obtain their tithes. He had it from them, that this state of things did not depend upon the will of their parishioners, as they had for many years lived on the best terms with those who were Catholics, and had been told by their parishioners, that they were willing to pay tithes if they dared. Of whom, then, were 93 the Catholic payers of tithes afraid? It was clear they did not respect the laws, and that no power was used to enforce them: but they were afraid of that which was stronger than the laws. They were afraid of the acts of individuals belonging to illegal associations—they were under the bondage of persons who told them that tithes were the pest of agriculture, and the bane of their religion. In proof of this, he referred hon. Members to an address lately published by an eminent political Catholic Clergyman, well known by his publications, who had, in that forcible language of which he was the master, suggested to the people of Ireland many specious reasons for violating the law. He said, in effect, that the people of Ireland were not bound or governed by the same law as the people of England. His argument seemed to demand—"What shall we be the better for obeying the law, if we are banished from our homes, and our families are driven to live on roots and water?" And this was all done under the flimsy covering of recommending peace and an observance of the law; the real object, however, of such a publication, was to overturn the religion of the State, and to put in its place the religion of the individual to whom he had alluded. That individual was, he believed, one of the private advisers of the Irish Government, one of its secret council. Such were the parties on whom the Government now relied for support, while it had abandoned a body whose loyalty and attachment it had always hitherto found to be the best supporters of order and property. He never had been a hot or intemperate advocate for Protestant ascendancy: he was willing to grant fair concessions to the Roman Catholics, but he would not allow them to overturn that religion which was established by law. This he would state, that if Government did not assert the supremacy of the law—if it did not boldly put down those associations—if it did not take steps to avoid the precipice on the brink of which they now stood, the Protestants of Ireland would, on a principle of self-preservation, to save themselves, and to uphold their faith, take a lesson from their opponents, and form societies and institutions. This would be a melancholy occurrence, for it would amount almost to a declaration, that virtually they had no Government. But he feared if the present system was persevered in, there would be no other way to preserve their property, and protect their lives and religion.
§ Mr. John Weyland
expressed his deep 94 regret, that no allusion had been made by the Government to the condition of the labouring poor. It was impossible that the real state of that class could be known to the Government and the House, or it would not be longer overlooked. He knew from actual investigation, that in some parishes in the country their condition was such as to be a disgrace to any Christian community. He maintained, upon every view of the subject, that inquiry ought to be entered upon immediately, and carried on pari passu with the settlement of the question of Reform. The Reform which they were about to adopt would place a greater portion of the power of the Government in the hands of the middle classes; and he was of opinion that it was not at the hands of the middle classes that the poor were to expect to have their condition ameliorated, as was proved by the fact, that in certain places where the higher ranks resided, and who afforded some additional relief to the modicum of their earnings, they were comparatively well off; but where the land was cultivated as a speculation for profit, their misery was beyond bearing. He had himself witnessed within these ten days, in some of these places, families of eight or ten persons, with not two blankets to keep them warm during the night, without sufficient clothing for the day, and occasionally even without a meal of potatoes to give their starving children. He therefore most solemnly conjured Ministers to enter into an earnest inquiry, with a determination to act upon the result, as to the means of assimilating the worst of those classes with the best. The very fact, that comfort and happiness were actually produced among the poor, where a real endeavour was made for that purpose, proved there was nothing in what he required, but what a firm Government and a paternal Legislature might bring to pass; but whether the affair was one of easy or difficult accomplishment, he contended that Ministers were bound by every motive that ought to influence statesmen to undertake it. They knew full well, that they came into power, bound by the strongest pledges to inquire into, and endeavour to remedy this fatal evil, as well as to moot the question of Reform. He called upon them to fulfil both pledges, to take the bitter with the sweet, of the situation they had undertaken to fill. That House was bound to look at the dangers which threatened the country in every step they took. It was very easy, when taking rights from a smaller class, who had exercised them 95 for centuries, and giving them to a much more numerous class—it was easy to carry along any such measure on the stream of popularity. He did hope that the question of Reform would not be looted to alone, as a means of remedying the distresses of the country, for then disappointment would be added to the aggravations of delay. He earnestly hoped his Majesty's Government would give a pledge that inquiry should be entered upon at once. He was confident that this would he the only means of putting an end to the fearful acts of incendiarism now spreading in every direction. If something were not done to stop the canker, which was eating into the vitals of the country, it was wholly impossible to carry on any system of good government whatsoever. If the incendiary was only one anticipatory specimen of worse that would follow, and if a healing medicine was not applied, it required no spirit of prophecy to foretel that the whole frame of the body politic must be paralyzed, after an inefficient struggle against a mental disease. He called upon his Majesty's Ministers to fulfil their pledges.
—I cannot refrain from making a few observations on the remarks which have fallen from the hon. member for the city of Dublin, or rather the hon. member for the Corporation of Dublin, for in this House he appears in his judicial character. Some of the hon. and learned Gentleman's observations were personal to hon. Members on this side of the House. Sentiments of acrimony are dangerous. This is the first night of the Session, and he has been the first to introduce the word Catholic, and pronounce the word Protestant rather too strenuously. He has given rise to—I will not say a debate on the state of Ireland, but to feelings of personality. He has informed us, that his predilection is in favour of Lord Anglesey, but he has not told us in what direction his interest lies. I will not go so far as to insinuate that his interests and predilections are at variance, but I will only advise him, as he looks on Lord Anglesey and the rest of the Government in a favourable point of view, to lend them also his support. He has said, that the Protestants of Ireland stand in need of protection. In what particular do they stand in need of protection? What wrong has been done them? After all, let us look at the true state of Ireland. Are not all important offices filled by Protestants? Is not the Chief Justice of the King's Bench, a Protestant? Is not the Common Pleas, filled by Protestants? 96 Is not the Recorder of the city of Dublin a Protestant? And might not a Catholic member of that Association, which he considers illegal, be brought before the Protestant Recorder, be tried by a Protestant Jury, and have his case summed-up in a charge by the Protestant Recorder, delivered only to Protestant Jurors? I confess I should have desired, that the hon. Gentleman had gone into some sort of specification; that instead of dealing in generalities, and saying, that the Protestants of Ireland required protection, he had put his finger on some particular case. If, indeed, he had told us, that the chair of justice was occupied by men with party feelings—that in the Recorder's Court no Protestant could expect justice, as the Recorder was a man elected by the Catholic population of Dublin, then indeed he might be justified in saying that, the Protestant had no sort of protection; but when the state of things is so directly the contrary I conjure him, if he wishes reliance to be placed on his statements, to bring forward a specific case. The hon. Gentleman has adverted to the intimation given by the hon. Secretary for Ireland. I think it unfair to make comments till the hon. Secretary has put the House in possession of his plan, and made us acquainted with the extent of the measure. If I have spoken from the spirit of party—if I have spoken as a Roman Catholic, as he appears to me to have spoken as a Protestant, I am sorry so to have done—my feelings were excited by the hon. Gentleman.
§ Sir John M. Doyle
regretted that some Gentleman, of more ability than he possessed, was not present to vindicate the right rev. Prelate, who was his private friend, from the observations which had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman. He heartily wished, that every Protestant Member of that House would read the last pastoral letter of the right rev. Prelate. In his opinion, a more Christian-like production never emanated from the pen of man. It was evident, from that letter, that the right rev. Prelate sincerely wished to introduce the real harmony of the Gospel amongst the people of Ireland.
§ Sir Charles Forbes
said, he must express his regret, that the Speech from the Throne, did not contain some notice of the East-India Company's affairs, and of our relations with China. He begged to remind the House, that the subject was a most important one, as he had no doubt the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 97 felt it to be, when he recollected, that through the India and China trade, between 3,000,000l. and 4,000,000l. sterling were annually paid to Government, without any charge for collection.
The Address, with the Amendment suggested by Sir Robert Peel, agreed to, and ordered to be presented in the usual manner.