§ Mr. O'Connell
rose to present a Petition from Leighlin-bridge, for a Repeal of the Legislative Union. He would take advantage of that occasion to ask the right hon. Secretary for Ireland a question, with reference to a declaration of his on a former occasion—namely, that he (Mr. O'Connell) had, through his friends, offered to enter into a compromise with the Irish Government, with a view to averting the penal results of a then pending prosecution. But before he formally asked the right hon. Gentleman whether and on what grounds he had made this declaration, he begged leave to say, that he had authorised no person on his behalf to offer any terms of compromise, and that no such compromise was proffered to his knowledge. Some persons had told him, on the other hand, that they felt themselves authorised to say that, the Government would very gladly enter into such a compromise with him; but after the unqualified denial in that House of the right hon. Gentleman, he believed that such was not the fact. Having made this preliminary declaration, in fairness to himself and the right hon. Gentleman, he begged leave then to distinctly ask him, whether any persons had proffered such a compromise on his behalf? and if so, he asked him to state their names to the House. There could be no delicacy in disclosing their names, because, if they were accredited agents, he—on the supposition the principal—asked for publicity; and if they were not his agents, it was but common justice to hold them up as impostors.
felt no hesitation in giving the hon. Member all the information in his power. When, on a former occasion, he was asked by a noble Marquis (Chandos), whether the Irish Government had 1007 entered into a compromise with the hon. Member, by which the prosecution against him would be abandoned, though the question came upon him somewhat by surprise, he stated—what he then most distinctly repeated—that the Irish Government had not only not entered into such a compromise themselves, but would not, and had moreover refused to hold any negotiations with those persons who had proffered such a compromise on the part of the hon. Member. He on that occasion had also stated, and then would repeat, that a letter had been laid before him by one or two friends of the hon. Member, the purport of which was, to induce the Irish Government, on certain specified grounds, to forego the prosecution pending against the hon. Member. He would then go further, and inform the House, that the document to which he alluded was in the hand-writing of the hon. Member's son-in-law, and was enclosed in a letter to Mr. Bennett, the hon. Member's professional and private friend, written by the hon. Member's own son. The purport of this letter was moreover declared to him to be dictated by the hon. Member himself, and he had reason to believe that such was the fact. Then, with respect to the individuals who had laid this letter before him, with a view, but in vain, of inducing the Irish Government to compromise the prosecution then pending against the hon. Member, he was authorised to declare their names, and they were the Earl of Glengall and Mr. Bennett. That noble Lord and Mr. Bennett, he repeated, waited on him, and laid before him a letter written, as he had before stated, by the hon. Member's son-in-law, the purport of which was declared to be dictated by the hon. Member himself, and enclosed in a note to Mr. Bennett from the hon. Member's own son, for the purpose of inducing the law authorities in Ireland to abandon the prosecution, on certain terms of compromise with the hon. Member. The answer was, that no such compromise would be for a moment entertained by the Irish Government, and that the law must take its course. And for the truth of these facts, he referred the hon. Member to Mr. Bennett and to the Earl of Glengall. He hoped he had given the hon. Member's question a most explicit answer.
§ Mr. O'Connell
could not but admit that his question had been auswered most 1008 satisfactorily by the right hon. Gentleman. He was glad that the proposition of a compromise was thus traced to Mr. Bennett and the Earl of Glengall. With respect to that noble Lord's interference, all he could say was, that it was without his knowledge, for he had had no communication with Lord Glengall on the subject whatever. With respect to Mr. Bennett, the case stood thus:—That gentleman had written to him (Mr. O'Connell) from London, three letters, stating that an individual, not an actual member of the Government, was authorised by certain persons in office to make propositions of great personal advantage to himself, with a view of bringing about a compromise between him and the Irish law authorities. His answer was, that he should first hear upon what terms the Government would dictate the compromise, so far as it referred to its intentions towards Ireland; and that for himself he would not enter into any compromise. He moreover desired that Mr. Bennett should not write to him again on this point of personal compromise. Mr. Bennett's last letter was written on the 6th of January; from which day till the 5th of February he had no communication, nor even then but through his son, to whom Mr. Bennett addressed himself, stating as his reason,— "Your father having refused to listen to any compromise, I address myself to you." On receipt of this letter, he certainly, as the right hon. Gentleman had stated, did dictate to his son-in-law the terms on which, alone he would enter into a compromise, and the declaration, in his son-in-law's hand-writing, was enclosed in a letter of his son to Mr. Bennett. But what did his son say in this note to Mr. Bennett? Why "that my father has been so much deceived and deluded by the present Administration, that he will not enter into any negotiation with any of its members, till it first consents to abandon the prosecution against him without any equivocation." And his son added, that "as it may not be exactly conformable with the dignity of the Irish Government to formally abandon the prosecution, my father will not insist on a formal abandonment." His son then specified the terms on which alone he would consent to a compromise,—namely, first, that the prosecution should be unequivocally withdrawn, and, secondly, that the Irish Government should state what measures of relief were intended towards Ireland. He added, 1009 that as the benefit and prosperity of Ireland was the end of all his (Mr. O'Connell's) endeavours in that House and elsewhere, and as the measure for a Repeal of the Union was regarded by him only as a means towards that end, he should consent to relinquish the agitation of that question, if the measures of the Government tended to the benefit and prosperity of Ireland. This was all the compromise proffered on his part. The hon. Member proceeded to say, that he could not deny that the Government had entered into no compromise with him with respect to the prosecutions against him—none whatever; but neither had he entered into any with the Government. He was as free as ever to advocate those political opinions which rendered him obnoxious in the eyes of the present Administration; therefore, as no compromise had originated from him, or from the Irish law authorities, he was warranted to say, that it must have sprung up between them both. Then as to the prosecution still pending against him, the matter stood thus:—There were originally thirty-one counts, in two indictments, entered against him; seventeen under common-law, charging him with "fraud, conspiracy and sedition," and fourteen charging him with the violation of a Statute, (10th George 4th,) which empowered the Lord Lieutenant in Ireland to suppress, by proclamation, meetings tending to a breach of the peace. The former—the seventeen common-law-counts—had been, without solicitation on his part, abandoned by the Irish Government; and he was warranted to conclude, that they were so because they could not be maintained. With respect to the fourteen other counts, —to those charging him with defying a proclamation of the Lord Lieutenant,— he had demurred; and he, and seven other gentlemen, also charged with the same misdemeanour, having sworn that they had not committed the offence alleged against them, and by so doing could not plead guilty to the charge (as had been stated elsewhere) he had withdrawn his plea of demurrer; and there the matter at present rested. He would not say, that the Attorney General in Ireland might not, on the first day of next Term, mark judgment against him, but he maintained, that that judgment could not be declared against him till his Writ of Error had been argued, first before the twelve Judges in Ireland, and, if necessary, be- 1010 fore the House of Lords here. And here he thought, it right to state, that as the seven gentlemen associated with him in the indictment had acted on his suggestion as a lawyer, he, and he only, should be liable to all the legal consequences. It might be asked, why he had given up his chance of acquittal by a Jury? His answer, he little expected, after the sneers and laughter with which his declarations were usually received in that House, would receive much credit or sympathy, but as it was the truth, he would state it. It was, because he dreaded the consequences to the peace of his country by the excitement which the trial would inevitably have produced, that he waived his chance of acquittal. He knew that all business would be at a perfect stand-still in Dublin during the five or six days the trial would last; — he knew that the trades of Dublin would have escorted him with craped banners to the number of 30,000; that at least 2,000 respectable inhabitants of that city would have attended him each day to the Courts; and above all, that processions, including thousands upon thousands of an excited multitude, from all the counties adjoining Dublin, and even extending to Wicklow, Meath, Kilkenny, Roscommon, and Cavan, would have filled the streets, anxious for the result; and because, knowing all this, and devoted as he was to the political regeneration of Ireland, he would not consent that, that regeneration should be purchased even at the risk of shedding a single drop of human blood [The hon. Member was interrupted at this point of his speech by a voice from the gallery pronouncing with great emphasis of tone, "That's a lie." The individual who gave utterance to it was immediately taken into custody.] The hon. Member repeated that he had entered into no compromise with the Irish Government, nor had it entered into any compromise with him.
appealed to the House whether the statement of the hon. Member had not fully borne him out in his declaration of that and a former evening, namely, that the Irish Government would not listen to any compromise whatever with the hon. Member, and that the proposal for such a compromise emanated from the friends of the hon. Member himself. The hon. Member admitted that he had dictated certain terms of compromise to his son-in-law, and that these terms, thus 1011 dictated by himself, and in the hand-writing of his son-in-law, were enclosed by his own son in a letter to Mr. Bennett; and he admitted, that the Irish Government, before whom he (Mr. Stanley) had informed the House, Mr. Bennett and Lord Glengall had laid these documents with a view to inducing a compromise of the prosecution pending against the hon. Member had refused to enter into any compromise whatever with him; and by these admissions had borne out his (Mr. Stanley's) statement to the letter. Whether these individuals were authorized or not by the hon. Member, or acted with or without| his knowledge, was best known to himself, and affected not his (Mr. Stanley's) declaration. With regard to the prosecution, he would appeal to the House whether the hon. Member had not admitted the whole point in dispute between them. He would appeal to the House whether the fact on this point was not as he had stated it,—namely, that the indictment against the hon. and learned member for Waterford, being divided into two parts, for though it was one indictment in point of form, it was substantially two indictments, the first fourteen counts of it charged him and his confederates with having held meetings in defiance of a proclamation, to which an Act of Parliament had given all the force and sanction of law, and the last seventeen charged them with having entered into a conspiracy to hold them together. If he had misrepresented the facts of the case, and he thought that he could not be charged with misrepresenting them, even by the hon. and learned member for Waterford, he was open to correction; but he believed that both in the first fourteen and in the last sixteen counts of the indictment, the hon. and learned member for Waterford and his confederates were charged with distinct misdemeanours. The hon. and learned member for Waterford, when he was first informed that this indictment against him was in preparation, put forth the boldest declamations against it that ever came even from his lips. He said, first of all, that the proceedings of the Government were illegal —that the Law-Officers were acting wrongly—that they did not know what they were about—and that, when the Government brought its work to a conclusion, he would overwhelm it, for its ignorance, with scorn and confusion. What Was the result of this his first ebullition 1012 of folly and violence? Why, that when three-and-twenty gentlemen were empanelled as Grand Jurors, the learned Judge who addressed them, told them in terms as plain as any which the language could afford, that if they believed the facts to be such as the witnesses had sworn in their depositions, they must, in point of law, find a bill against the hon. and learned member for Waterford and his confederates. What then were the proceedings of the hon. and learned Member? He said, "I'll demur to the first fourteen counts of the indictment;" in other words, he admitted the facts which we alleged against him, and said, "Oh, you are completely wrong in law." Well, the Crown joined with him in demurrer, and then the hon. and learned Gentleman, in spite of all his legal quirks and astuteness, saw that there was good reason to withdraw his demurrer. Yes, the hon. and learned Gentleman, in spite of his contemptuous declaration, that he would teach law to the officers of the Crown,—a declaration which had as much courtesy in it as any other declaration of the hon. and learned Gentleman,—finding his case in law to be most defective, went upon another and a different tack, and endeavoured to join issue with the Crown on the facts. Before he put in his demurrer, the hon. and learned Member had threatened to overwhelm the Government with every species of scorn and raillery for its undertaking the prosecution against him. That was his first proceeding; then finding himself mistaken in his law, he wished to try his fortune on his facts; and then, finding that he was no better off on the facts that on the law of the case, he withdrew his pleas, and, oh lamentable conclusion to such magnificent vauntings! suffered judgment to pass against him for a misdemeanour. This being the case, what advantage could the Crown have derived from proceeding against the hon. and learned Member and his confederates on the sixteen other counts, which charged him with a different species of misdemeanour arising out of that which was substantially the same offence? The hon. and learned Member had told the House, that he had given up nothing to the Crown, and that the Crown in return had given up nothing to him. It was true, that the Crown had given nothing up to him, and for this plain reason,—that the Crown, in obtaining judgment against him on the first fourteen counts, had gained its ob- 1013 ject. The Government wished to avoid taking any measure which could bear the slightest appearance of personal persecution,—a mode of proceeding at all times to be deprecated, and therefore it had carefully abstained from pushing the prosecution against the hon. and learned Member and his associates any further than the point which it had already gained. The hon. and learned member for Waterford had said, that he did not expect to get much credit in that House for any assertion which he might make. With all the respect due to that hon. and learned Member, he must say, that that was a confession which he did not anticipate that hon. and learned Member would make. But when the hon. and learned Member said, that his only reason for shrinking from a trial by jury was, that he was unwilling to excite agitation in Ireland, did he expect to find any man in that House,—did he expect to find any man in the whole country, who recollect-a word of the thousand-and-one speeches which he had made at public meetings, or of the innumerable letters which he had circulated throughout Ireland, that would give him credit for a desire not to create agitation in the country? He felt that it was very difficult for him, called forward as he had been on this occasion, to enter into a discussion of the motives which impelled the hon. and learned Member to make such a declaration. He knew them not—more than that, he envied them not. He trusted that the House, if he had been betrayed into the use of any expressions which were inconsistent with its dignity or his own character,—which were not fit for him to use, or for them to hear [cries of "No, no"],—would make allowance for the occasion which called them forth. He was speaking under the correction of the Chair; but when the hon. and learned Gentleman was telling the House of his extraordinary anxiety that the public mind of Ireland should not be excited,—when he was proclaiming the intensity of his desire that there should be no agitation in Dublin,—when he was asserting that he was afraid of the violence of the people, whom he had himself been stimulating for years,—when he was declaring that he was fearful of the effects of his Own agitation,—he could not believe that after such an exhibition, the hon. and learned Member would get credit for his assertion, that he had refused to go to a 1014 trial before his country from a wish to allay or even to avoid agitation. He had a number of the speeches of the hon. and learned member for Waterford then with him in the House, but he could not find, that on all the occasions, or rather on any one of the occasions, on which the hon. and learned Gentleman had addressed his countrymen on the subject of the Repeal of the Union, he had treated it with that calm temperance of debate which was necessary to carry his point with the well-informed part of them, or had abstained from that indignant virulence which was certain to rouse the dangerous passions of the uninformed portion of them. Here were one or two of the passages, to which he (Mr. Stanley) was alluding, and to which he wished to call the attention of the House, because they illustrated, in a very extraordinary degree the desire which the hon. and learned Gentleman had to prevent any agitation,—any violation of the public peace in Ireland. [The hon. and learned Gentleman here read an extract from a speech of Mr. O'Connell, in Ireland, holding up to the admiration of the people of that country the endeavours of the people of Belgium and Poland to separate themselves from the sway of Holland and Russia respectively. In Ireland, he said, slavery still predominated: he hoped, however, to see the day, and that not far distant, when Ireland would be free. He looked upon her triumph as secure, because it would be bloodless.] Now, would the hon. and learned Member tell him that the example of Belgium and Poland was not, in that speech, held up to the imitation of Ireland, and that a Repeal of the Union between England and Ireland ought to be considered on the same footing as that between Belgium and Holland, or that between Poland and Russia? The hon. and learned Member then proceeded to tell his hearers—"We have surrendered our freedom—we are pitiful slaves, serfs who deserve only contempt and a blow: Irish negroes, whose very groans are the property of the English slave-owners." Were these, he would ask, the terms of calm and temperate debate? Was this the language of an individual anxious to prevent excitement? Was this the mode in which the legislative union between the two countries was to be dissolved, on the friendly footing upon which the hon. and learned Member professed his wish to dis- 1015 solve it? He did not know what the feelings of the hon. and learned Member were; whatever they might be, he, for one, did not envy them. He could hardly believe that the hon. and learned Member was in earnest when he said, after using such language, that he was not desirous to promote excitement. As to his own conduct, as Secretary for Ireland, he should be ready to enter into an examination of it, whenever the hon. and learned Member should carry into execution the threat which he had made, of bringing it under the consideration of the Mouse. The hon. and learned Member had threatened to call him to hold up his hand, like another Polignac, at the bar of that House, for his nefarious conduct in Ireland. The threat was, however, qualified with this provision, that he would not do this until he had a reformed Parliament. Let him wait but for a short month or two, and he would have a reformed Parliament. Then, when the hon. and learned Member had his reformed Parliament, he should be most ready to meet him before the assembled Representatives of the people, and to answer any charges which he might prefer against him. He could not, however, sit down on the present occasion without alluding to another instance of the hon. and learned Member's mode of avoiding excitement. He alluded to the extraordinary letter which the hon. and learned Gentleman had recently written to the Hurlers of Kilkenny. He called on the hon. and learned Gentleman to explain what that body is, which is known to the Constitution as the Hurlers of Kilkenny? [Here the right hon. Secretary read an extract from the letter. It was to this effect; —"When he had last addressed the Hurlers, he had advised them to desist from their proceedings, lest they should assume the appearance of tumult. He was happy to find that they had taken his advice. [Perhaps, said Mr. Stanley, there were other motives.] Now he could address them once more. Now was their time, not for meeting tumultuously, but for acting peaceably, and securing the return of his hon. friend, Colonel Butler, by constitutional agitation. Such of them as had votes should give them to Colonel Butler; such of them as had not votes, should use their influence over those who had;—in short, they ought to leave no means of constitutional agitation untried."] Who, 1016 he would ask, formed this body of Hurlers? Did not the hon. and learned Member know that it was a body of men who had kept the country for some time in confusion? Did not he know, that it was a body whose proceedings he had denounced as illegal and dangerous to the public peace? Did he not know, that it was the same body of men who, in his strong expressions, were palsying his arms and paralysing his efforts by their misconduct? And, knowing all this, did he deem it to be a constitutional course to call on such a body to use not their votes, but their influence, in obtaining votes, for his friend Colonel Butler? He felt that he owed an apology to the House for going into this subject on the present occasion. He could assure the House that he should not have entered upon it if the hon. and learned Member had not taken credit to himself for a desire to preserve tranquillity, and to avoid excitement in Ireland. So extraordinary an assertion had led him involuntarily into a course which did not, indeed, belong to the subject in hand, but into which he had been obliged to enter, in order to show, that though the hon. and learned member for Waterford now dreaded the effect of his own system, that system had not been to keep down, but to create agitation and excitement in the bosoms of the people of Ireland.
§ The Petition was brought up.
§ The Speaker
said,—I have to inform the House that a person is now in custody for the outrage which has just been committed.
Mr. O'Connell, in moving that this petition be read, observed, that he wished to take notice of the speech of the right hon. Secretary of Ireland, which though it was triumphant in manner, and full of assertions of self-praise, appeared to him to be destitute of any rational foundation. He called the especial attention of the House to this fact, that the right hon. Secretary had not contradicted any part of his statement about the legal arrangements. The right hon. Secretary had said, that the Government had given up nothing in giving up the indictment against him for conspiring to hold illegal meetings, inasmuch as it had gained a conviction against him upon the indictment for holding meetings in defiance of a proclamation sanctioned by act of Parliament. Did the hon. Secretary, when he made that assertion, know, that that indictment was varied by charges of fraud,
and by charges of sedition committed at meetings, and committed in speeches alleged to have been uttered with the express intent of bringing Government into contempt, and the Constitution into disregard? Had the right hon. Secretary even denied that there was moral guilt in that part of the indictment? So much for that part of the right hon. Secretary's speech. Now for another. He had never uttered a wish that there should be no agitation in Ireland. He desired that there should be agitation in England for Parliamentary Reform, in Ireland for the Repeal of the Union. If there had been no agitation on the subject of Reform in England, would not that subject still have continued to slumber in that House, with paltry minorities of fourteen or fifteen Members? It was agitation, constitutional agitation, which had produced such promising prospects of Reform in England; and it was the same species of agitation which he trusted would convince the House of the necessity of repealing the Union, and of restoring to Ireland thereby the means of maintaining its inhabitants in peace and plenty. He had been denounced in the House that day; he had been denounced in it often enough before. Other Secretaries for Ireland had taunted him with being an agitator. The echoes of their words had reached him across the waters, even when they had taunted him with greater virulence—and he did not impute virulence to the right hon. Secretary opposite—than any which had been displayed on the present occasion; and yet he had lived to see the day, when those very men had brought in, with their own hands, the very measure for which he had excited the agitation in Ireland, which they had so loudly and so indignantly condemned. But the right hon. Secretary now stood up in the House with an air of innocence, and just as if he and the Government of Ireland had not created all the agitation of which he complained. He would take that opportunity of informing the country, that oppression more gross and more tyrannical had never been exercised in any country than that which the right hon. Secretary had exercised in Ireland. The right hon. Secretary had professed his readiness to answer him upon that charge before a reformed Parliament. He took the right hon. Secretary at that pledge; and if he should ever see a reformed Parliament, which he was afraid he should not, he would, come what might of it, put the
right hon. Secretary on his defence before it. If he should have the honour of a seat in that reformed Parliament—and in such a Parliament he should think it an honour to have a seat,—he would bring under its notice the unconstitutional letter which the right hon. Secretary had written to the magistracy of Ireland. Even in the midst of all the misery by which they were surrounded, the people of Ireland had enjoyed many a long and loud laugh at the states-man-like wisdom which had dictated, and the grammatical accuracy which pervaded, that extraordinary epistle. What did the House think that that epistle called upon the magistracy to do? Nothing more than to disperse a meeting, even before it had committed any thing which could be construed into a crime. The right hon. Secretary accused him of creating excitement in Ireland. He, in return, accused the right hon. Secretary of creating it. He did not wish for that crisis which some of the Government Papers were calling for. He wished for no crisis. He knew well, that if the people of Ireland avoided all appeals to force and bloodshed, that democratic spirit, of which he had hailed with rapture the appearance in Belgium and Poland— and may to morrow's sun bring us tidings of defeat to Russian despotism! which he adored in the mountains of Switzerland,— which he trusted to see before long enlivening the green mountains of his own native land,—which had produced, or speedily would produce, Reform in England,—he knew well, he said, that, that democratic spirit which had produced such glorious effects in all other parts of Europe, would produce in Ireland equal rights and equal privileges with those enjoyed in England, if the people would only take his advice. He would repeat the words "if the people would only take his advice,"—that is, if they would only agitate constitutionally, and bring forward their claims firmly, manfully, and peaceably, untarnished by crime, and unaccompanied by outrage. On this point then he stood triumphant. [Peels of laughter for some minutes.] "Laugh, Gentlemen, laugh," said Mr. O'Connell, with great vehemence of tone and gesture, "but mind that your laughter be not mistaken. I say, that I stand on this point triumphant. Mark the right hon. Secretary. He has spoken, he has spoken out, he has shown no deficiency of zeal, no deficiency of spirit; and yet has he shown that in any of the many multitudes which
have met on this subject in Ireland, there has been offered any particle of violence to any one individual? Has he shown that any assault has been committed on any Magistrate, or any person in any part of Ireland? That they may have violated the law, in respect of its technicalities under the late Act, may be true; that they have been guilty of agitation, may be likewise true; but have the people of Ireland been guilty of any breach of the peace in their discussions on the Repeal of the Union? Have they been guilty of any violation of the spirit of the law? I say,—and I say boldly,—that they have not; and so say ing, have I not a right to say, that on this part of the case I stand triumphant?" The hon. Gentleman then proceeded to say, that when any person came to their meetings to discuss the question of the propriety of repealing the Union, he was heard with patience — his argument was not interrupted: when it was concluded it was answered, and then the party found himself in a minority, generally of one, but sometimes of three or four. The right hon. Secretary had told the House of what he (Mr. O'Connell) had not done. He would beg leave to tell the right hon. Secretary of what he (Mr. Stanley) had done. The Marquis of Anglesey arrived in Ireland almost unnoticed. Shortly afterwards, he (Mr. O'Connell) went to Dublin. The people of Dublin thought proper to pay so humble an individual as himself a compliment on his arrival. [a laugh.] Gentlemen might taunt him there as they pleased; but did they think that any taunt which they could direct against him there would ever prevent him from discharging his duty to his warm-hearted countrymen? He could assure hon. Gentlemen, that they could not do him a greater kindness with his countrymen than to receive with cheers, as they generally did, any point, however slight, that was made against him, and to receive any thing which he said in reply to it with shouts, and taunts, and laughter, almost bordering on insult. Well, the Marquis of Anglesey went to Ireland. The people received him without the slightest compliment. They met him (Mr. O'Connell) otherwise. What was their return for it? A proclamation, founded on that Statute which enables a Lord Lieutenant to put an end to all discussion in Ireland,—which enables him to substitute his own will for law,—which enables him to suppress all associations,—which enables him to put
an end to all societies for improvement, all societies for education, all societies for charity,—which enables him, in a word, to say,
Sic volo, sic jubeo, stet pro ratione voluntas.
That is a base Act of Parliament, and we are slaves who are obliged to obey it. It was an Act of Parliament, which was given us in vile disport along with the Emancipation Act, as if the House had been determined to convince the people of Ireland that it could not even confer a benefit upon them without accompanying it by an insult and an injury. Yes, it acted as if it were throwing a bone to a dog, which it detested, but which it was obliged to feed. The Lord Lieutenant issued his proclamation against the trades of Dublin, and prohibited them from meeting with their emblems and banners. What then? The trades gave up their intended meeting, and though they were much irritated, went, 100,000 of them, to his house in Merrion-square, and then separated, after cheering him, with as much decorum as any assembly,—ay, even as this House ever separates. That was the first proclamation. It was an act of despotism. The right hon. Secretary had avowed himself the adviser of a proclamation founded on a law, which all his party, when it was passed, stigmatized as a despotic law; "and if any man," said the hon. Gentleman, "had issued such a proclamation in England, I should despise you, Gentlemen of England, if you did not immediately call for its repeal. Did you submit quietly to it, I should hold you base and degenerate, and unworthy of your sturdy forefathers, who knew what was due to themselves, and were not afraid to die in maintaining it." What came next? Oh! that which convinced him that the late Administration was more benevolently disposed than the present to the people of Ireland. The late Administration issued proclamations against their associations, but did they in consequence cease to hold them? When they persisted in holding them, did the late Government come forward with prosecutions to destroy the Irish people? Oh! no; the late Government—anti-Irish, anti-Catholic as it was—did no such thing; it was reserved for the Whigs, the base, persecuting Whigs, whose professions he had been accustomed to scorn, even before he had become acquainted with their practice. But to return. After the Duke of Northumberland had suppressed by his
proclamation the first meetings which were held for the Repeal of the Union, a number of gentlemen determined to meet and discuss the subject at a public breakfast. They did so for weeks. A second proclamation was issued against them, but the breakfasts continued, and the Duke of Northumberland instituted no prosecutions. But as soon as the Whigs came into power, and the Marquis of Anglesey arrived in Ireland, he discharged another proclamation against the breakfasts. Now, he put it to the House, whether, if the question of the Repeal of the Union were to be quietly and calmly discussed, it would be better to have the discussion after dinner, when any thing that was impassioned was likely to be addressed with greater effect to excited feelings, or after tea and coffee in a morning, when the reason was cool, and the blood in a state of quiescence? To put down these breakfasts, out came an extraordinary proclamation, signed by the ex-Member for Preston, who dared to call the people of Dublin a rabble. A rabble! Would he venture to call the people of Preston by that name? Now, any one that could pay 2s. had a right to attend these breakfasts. Davy Mac Leary, who hated a papist as he hated the devil, was a constant attendant at them, and along with him came many of those men whom the former dissensions of Ireland had separated from its best friends. The breakfasts, he repeated, went on, the cause which he had at heart was flourishing, and to put it down, out came another proclamation, founded on the most despotic Act that was ever registered in a Statute-book. "You talk to me here," said Mr. O'Connell, "of the Constitution in Ireland. Where is it? You have put it down. Would you allow your Constitution to be put down here in the same way, Gentlemen of England? We are dissatisfied with its being put down among us; and then comes forward the right hon. Secretary, and taunts me with being an agitator. Yes, he taunts me with being an agitator,—he, who by his oppression has caused all the agitation of Ireland. Though the people of Ireland are slaves, they are not yet such base and abject slaves as not to resist oppression by all the means which the law allows them. The right hon. Secretary issued a proclamation, I repeat, against us, and wrote at the same time a letter to the magistracy, as illegal as a letter could be, and on which
I shall have occasion to say more on some future opportunity. In the mean time, the farmers in the county of Kilkenny, most of whom are respectable and substantial men, began to hold meetings. They took upon themselves the title of 'hurlers,' and assembled in great numbers. Two or three gentlemen, who, like myself, are opposed to such unions went to them, and prevailed upon them to disperse. Meetings for similar objects were spreading through the country—they had spread into the counties of Wexford and Carlow, and even further. I then wrote a letter to them, advising the discontinuance of such meetings. I told them that their meetings in themselves were not illegal; but that they would become illegal as soon as they were held in such numbers as would excite fear that a breach of the peace was likely to take place. I said to them, that I would not have a Repeal of the Union unless it could be effected by peaceable means, and I told them, that I would give up my advocacy of that great question, unless they gave up their meetings. How it was I know not; but this I do know, that my name was used by a gentleman who addressed the people on behalf of the Government, to prevail on them to disperse. I admit that other measures were also employed; but my name was certainly used as a means to keep the people quiet. And now one of the right hon. Secretary's accusations against me is, that I have addressed these same people in this language,—'I advised you to desist when I thought that you were going to break the law. Now that you have a constitutional meeting, at which you can agitate, I advise you who have votes, to give your votes to my friend Colonel Butler, who is a friend to Ireland, and an advocate for a Repeal of the Union, and you who have not votes, to use your influence over those who have." Is there any thing morally wrong in asking these men to exercise their influence over their friends and relations who are in possession of voles? Sure I am, that the right hon. Secretary would not be loth or sorry to exercise his influence over any Lord who happened to be master of a number of votes in that county, to employ them all in behalf of Colonel Butler's opponent. I said to the Hurlers, "Let the expenses of Colonel Butler be paid;" and I said this, because I knew that every one of these Hurlers was able to contribute something
to defray them. Thus much in reply to the observations of the right hon. Secretary on my letter to the Hurlers of Kilkenny. The moment these meetings took place, we determined to found another association, to preserve the right of free discussion, and to put an end to all illegal associations. Before we had done any thing at this association, out came another proclamation against us. Again I repeat it, the proclamation was an act of despotism. Is not the Sedition Law in existence? Is not the Libel Law still in operation? Are not these sufficient to check our proceedings, if we act illegally? Is not the House aware, that at all our meetings two Government Reporters were always present? Did not I take care that they should always have the best places to hear or speak, and room enough to write down without interruption any thing and every thing that we said? If we were seditious, why did the Government not produce the evidence which was in its power to convict us of sedition? Why did it not recur to the ordinary law of the country, instead of recurring to this despotic act? But out came, after all this, a third proclamation, and then I am told that I excite agitation. I say to the right hon. Secretary 'De te fabula narratur.' You, who have turned your will into law,—you who have shut the door against discussion,—you impute to me the effects of your own excitement. I shall have another opportunity of speaking upon this subject, and therefore I shall not say a word more upon it at present. The right hon. Secretary has quoted extracts from two speeches of mine. I don't know whether both are accurate; one of them indeed I know to be so? and I will, for the sake of argument, admit them both to be so. What have I said in them which any honest man can find fault with? I spoke of the slavery of Ireland. I said her people were slaves. I ask whether that country is not in a state of slavery, in which the will of one man forms the law of all? If I am mistaken in that point, then the people of Ireland are not slaves; but if I am right in it, then they are slaves, and they would be base and degraded slaves indeed if they hugged their chains in quiet, and did not sometimes dash them at their oppressors. I said in the course of one of those speeches, that I rejoiced in the success of the Belgians. I repeat that sentiment here. Fraud and force were never employed to consummate a more
heterogeneous union than that which existed between Holland and Belgium. I rejoice with my whole heart that the Poles have repudiated their forced union with Russia. I am glad, too, that in Switzerland the spirit of democracy has proved itself indomitable. But when I told the people of Ireland how I gloried in the triumphs of these different nations, I told them, that the road through which those nations had achieved them was not the road which they ought to take. I told them, that their case was different: I knew that I had a difficult task to perform, for I had to teach Government its duty to the people, and I had to teach the people how to obtain its rights from Government. I wished to restore Ireland to her proper rank among the nations of the earth. Will any man tell me that there is any other country in the world, of such exuberant fertility, in which there are so many starving individuals,—that there is any other country in the world in which there is so rich a Church, and so little relief rendered by it to the poor? I tell you, that with Ireland you have not at present a union. You do not give her either the same laws, or the same privileges, or the same advantages which you enjoy yourselves. Yes, your very laws for the two countries are not the same. You have not for England the same bankrupt laws which you have imposed on Ireland—you have not the same laws that we have for the security, cither of person or of property, and, above all, you have not the same jury-law that we have. And that, by the bye, brings me to the consideration of a point, a most important point, indeed, in my case against the Government, which I had almost forgotten. The right hon. Secretary had a Jury struck against me and my confederates, as he is pleased to call my friends, by the deputy clerk of the Crown, who took the first hundred names which stood in the book. In that number were twenty four Aldermen, twenty-three sheriffs, several Peers, one Admiral, and other persons of that description. One of the persons whom the Crown Solicitor struck off the panel was Mr. Alderman M'Kennie. Any person who knows any thing of Ireland knows well the character of that gentleman. Another person who was struck off by the Crown Solicitor was Mr. Arthur Guinness, the Governor of the Bank of Ireland. Both these persons differed ss from me
on the question of the Repeal of the Union, but they were men of known integrity and impartiality. Would that have been done in England? No, for there the Jury would have been drawn by ballot. And here, again, I have to declare, that the late Administration, anti-Irish and anti-Catholic as it has been represented, was more kindly disposed to Ireland than the present. Had they remained in office, we too in Ireland should have had the advantage of forming our juries by ballot. I speak on that point advisedly, for I was consulted professionally as to the details of the measure." The hon. Member then proceeded to say, that he had now followed the right hon. Secretary through every point of his speech. The hon. Secretary had, however, omitted to notice any of the questions which he (Mr. O'Connell) had originally put to him. Had he stated a single case of violence done either to person or property by the anti-Unionists? There had been some violence of talk, but the people of Ireland, slaves though they were, were not yet gagged; and all that their enemies could charge against them at present was, that they had spoken. Oppressed as they were, they were struggling peaceably and constitutionally for their right to free and open discussion, and to the same constitutional liberty as the people of England enjoyed. He might not succeed in getting it for them; but he knew that he was in the situation of those who in former times had struggled for the liberties of their country, and his heart told him, and its decision was confirmed by the approbation of his countrymen, that he had struggled sincerely, and honestly, and earnestly, and he still hoped successfully, in that cause which he had deep in his heart—the cause of the people of Ireland. He yet trusted that their cause would finally triumph.
§ Lord Althorp
said, he thought that no man who had read the speeches of the hon. and learned member for Waterford could doubt, that they were calculated to excite sedition. He did not know whether he was to attribute it to the hon. and learned Member's skill in legal subtilties, or to the hon. and learned Member's custom in his profession of looking only to the letter of Acts of Parliament; but whether it was to these, or to something else, that the fact was to be attributed, still the hon. and learned Member's speech 1026 had put beyond doubt the fact that he thought, that if he could break the letter of the law with impunity, he could succeed in persuading that House and the country that it was not his object to produce tumult and confusion by a violation of the law. The hon. and learned Member had said, that the agitation in Ireland had been caused by the Government proclamations. Now, did the hon. and learned Member mean to assert, that there was no agitation before those proclamations issued? He had always thought that the hon. and learned Member had made it his boast and his pride, that he was the author of that agitation. It was, as the hon. and learned Member well knew, to put down meetings called for the express and avowed purpose of increasing agitation, that the proclamations had been issued. What then could the hon. and learned Gentleman mean by saying that the proclamations had caused the agitation? Let him entreat the House to consider in what a condition the Government in Ireland would have found itself if these meetings had been allowed. The hon. and learned Member might call those meetings breakfasts, or he might call them any thing else he pleased, but every man of common sense and common honesty knew well enough, that to call the meetings by such titles was a mere evasion, —a shift, to effect that under one name which had been forbidden by the law under another. The breakfasts, or the meetings, let them be called as the hon. and learned Member pleased,—were means by which it was endeavoured to evade and violate the law. It would be unnecessary for him to go into the details of this case. His right hon. friend (Mr. Stanley) had put it, with all the circumstances connected with it, fairly before the House, and all the reply which the hon. and learned member for Waterford had been able to make was, that his right hon. friend had not pointed out one single act of outrage committed at these meetings. But was it within the bounds of faith,—not to say of credulity— to believe, that if such meetings had not been suppressed, and if the hon. and learned Member had been allowed to pursue such conduct, and to make such speeches, any other consequences could have resulted except outrage and sedition? The hon. and learned Gentleman had told them, that the "Hurlers" were a respectable body of men; and vet the hon. 1027 and learned Member had acknowledged in the same breath, that they were persons who went about the country to procure a reduction of tithes, and to commit other unlawful acts. If such conduct as the hon. and learned Member had attributed to the "Hurlers" were not illegal, he should be glad to know what the hon. and learned Member called illegal. And yet these were the persons whom the hon. and learned Member exhorted to use their influence at an election! Did the hon. and learned Member suppose that any one could mistake what was meant by the "influence" of such men? "Influence" here meant "force;" it meant intimidation, and nothing else; nor could any one attach any other meaning to the word; for of what influence, but the influence of force, were the "Hurlers" possessed? But he felt that he was unnecessarily trespassing upon the time of the House. The House had heard the case; they had heard the hon. and learned Member's defence; and he left it to the House and the country to judge whether the language and the conduct of the hon. and learned Member had been calculated to prevent sedition and outrage in Ireland.
§ The Petition was read: on the question that it be printed,
said, that he had one or two observations to make upon this subject, and assured the House that they should be but one or two. He could not, however, remain silent, conceiving the matter to be of great importance. Every portion of this Debate would be looked to with the greatest interest by the people of Ireland. He would not go through the details of the case on either side. It appeared, however, that a negotiation had been entered into; but although many hon. Members had come down in the hope of learning by whom that negotiation had been commenced, the House was still in the dark upon the point. All that they knew was, that certain persons, professing that they were authorized by the Government, had proposed an arrangement with the hon. and learned member for Waterford; but the Government denied that they had given such authority to any one. In fact, both parties seemed alike anxious to deny having commenced the negotiation. The hon. and learned member for Waterford, too, had said, that when he withdrew his plea to certain counts, the Government declined prose- 1028 cuting on the others, but that there had been no compromise on either side; and that the thing sprung up suddenly. The whole transaction reminded him of an absurd scene in an old play, where Adam was brought upon the stage in boots and spurs, for the purpose of being created. Then again it appeared, that the charge to which the hon. and learned Member had pleaded "Not Guilty," which plea he had withdrawn, was merely a charge of having committed a breach of a certain statute, not a charge of moral guilt, and that the penalty of the offence was three months' imprisonment. With regard to what had fallen from the noble Lord (Althorp), he must say, that the noble Lord's reasoning had surprised him much. The noble Lord had inferred, that because the meetings were peaceable while they were held, they would have produced outrage and sedition if they had not been put clown. He could not understand this reasoning. He admitted to the noble Lord that the meetings were evasions of the law; but if ever an evasion of the law were justifiable, this evasion was. It was an unjust and tyrannical law, and it was evaded by the people of Ireland, between whom and this country there was no real union, either of interests, or sympathies, or good laws. He could not help saying, that this cry of sedition against the meetings in Ireland came with a very bad grace from the noble Lord, who had said not long ago, that he saw no harm in a tri-coloured flag; that he was glad the tri-coloured flag had been reared; and he hoped it would prosper. He repeated, that to call these meetings seditious,— meetings at which there was no flag at all, much less a tri-coloured flag,—was in very bad taste on the part of the noble Lord. They might as well say, that because there was a mace upon the Table, some hon. Member might seize upon it, and use it for the purposes of assault upon others. He had heard with great dissatisfaction what had been said about abandoning the question of the Repeal of the Union. The Union had been effected by bad, vicious, and unconstitutional means: it had been carried against the consent of the people, and against the opinion of many of the most eminent men in the British Parliament; and it had brought upon a happy and contented people innumerable mischiefs. That the people of Ireland had set their hearts upon 1029 a Repeal of the Union, was a fact as indisputable as that hon. Members were sitting in that House. Thousands had met in Ireland to carry the Repeal of the Union; thousands would still meet for the same purpose; and so far from blaming the hon. and learned member for Waterford, for having agitated that question, it was his greatest pride and boast that his name also was linked with the agitation of it. As long as he lived he would never cease agitating the question.
would not detain the House one moment. He merely rose for the purpose of setting the hon. member for Clare right as to a matter of fact. The hon. member for Clare had said, that the hon. and learned member for Waterford had only withdrawn his plea to an indictment for an offence which subjected him to three months' imprisonment. Now this was not the fact.
Mr. S. Rice
would not prolong the discussion for many minutes. He was bound to believe the hon. member for Clare, and the, hon. and learned member for Water-ford to be sincere in their opinions which they had expressed upon the Repeal of the Union; and if they were sincere in those opinions, no doubt they had a right to the expression of them. What, however, he entreated of those hon. Members was, that if they were sincere, they would not content themselves with incidental discussions like the present, but come forward manfully to such a regular discussion of it, as, he must say, notwithstanding their sincerity, they had hitherto appeared to shrink from. He would not yield to either of those hon. Members in devotion to Ireland. He trusted, that during the many years he had served her, he had never shown Luke warmness when her interests were to be advanced. And if he could persuade himself that the measure for which those hon. Members clamoured so loudly would be advantageous to Ireland, he would agitate the question with the best agitator of them all. Let him entreat the hon. Members to take the opinion of the House and of the country fairly upon the question. Let them do this for the benefit of the people of Ireland. The hon. member for Clare had said, that the people of Ireland were happy before the Union. He, however, had read the history of his country very differently. 1030 Before the Union, Ireland had a most imperfect sketch of a Constitution,—which governed by corruption, and which had led to bloodshed,—but there had been no happiness in it—at least, none that he had ever been able to discover. Let the hon. Member, however, bring the subject fairly before the House, and then this point also might be settled. He must say—and he spoke the sentiments of many besides his own—that to flinch from a fair trial of the question bespoke want of truth and justice in the cause. It was complained, that the Government would not allow this question to be discussed at meetings in Ireland; but if the hon. Members wished to discuss it fairly, had they not an opportunity of doing so, where the Government could not prevent them? Was not the Imperial Parliament a better arena for the discussion of such a question than a room in a tavern or the hustings? And were not the Members of the Imperial Parliament a better audience than the Hurlers of the county of Kilkenny? Let him entreat the hon. Members to fix the day—to bring their forces into the field, and to fight the battle fairly. Let this be done—let such a debate be opened,—and he had no doubt that every rational man would come out of it with the conviction that the continuation of the Union was essential to the happiness both of Ireland and of England; and that the Repeal of the Union implied misery, ruin, bloodshed, separation, and the establishment of a republic of the worst and vilest character. In conclusion, let him once more call upon the hon. Members to prove their sincerity, by coming forward to a discussion of this question.
§ The Petition to be printed.