HC Deb 01 July 1831 vol 4 cc618-20
Mr. Stanley

said, that in rising to move for leave to bring in a Bill to regulate the Importation of Arms into Ireland, and the method of keeping them there, he should not feel it necessary to occupy many minutes of the time of the House. There were two Statutes in force in Ireland on this subject now. One of the objects of this Bill would be, to consolidate these Acts, and his measure would be, not a temporary, but a permanent one. Of the new provisions of this Bill, the following were the only ones which he thought it would be necessary for him to enumerate. In the first place, the Bill would enact, that there should be a general registration of all arms in Ireland, and that each individual weapon should be stamped and branded, so that arms might be easily traced through whatsoever hands they might pass. Any person having unregistered arms in his possession would not be subjected to a pecuniary penalty, as at present, which, from the poverty of the persons, was never enforced, but would be held to be guilty of a misdemeanour, and liable to be punished accordingly. The only other novelty in his Bill which it would be necessary to mention, and which might be thought by some hon. Members to be a strong enactment, though he apprehended, that most hon. Members would think it a necessary one, was this:— hon. Members were aware that the Lord Lieutenant had now, by law, the power of proclaiming any district to be in a state of disturbance. Now, in this Bill, it was proposed to enact, that if, in any district so proclaimed to be in a state of disturbance, any person should be found in the possession of unregistered arms, such person should be deemed guilty of a misdemeanour—not of a common misdemeanour, but of a misdemeanour liable to be punished with transportation for seven years. He would not on that occasion enter into any further particulars, but for the present content himself with moving; for leave to bring in the Bill.

Mr. O'Connell

must protest against this frightful infraction of law and justice. It; was the undoubted right of every free man to have arms in his possession. This was a right laid down in, and recognized and secured by, the Bill of Rights. It was at that time too late, and there was too thin a House, to allow such a Bill to be brought in, even as a matter of form and he should, therefore, move that the further |debate on this subject be adjourned to any day that would suit the right hon. Gentleman's convenience—say, till this day week.

Mr. Stanley

said, that if it were the wish of the House to accede to that Motion, he would not oppose it. At the same time, he must express his conscientious belief, that the provisions of this Bill would be found essential to the peace of Ireland, and he would add, that although he believed that there had never been a Government more anxious than the present was to promote the welfare of Ireland, yet that there never was a time at which it was more necessary than at present, that they should have a strong Government in Ireland.

Mr. Wyse

had heard, with surprise and indignation quite equal to those of the hon. member for Kerry, and the other Irish Members, the extraordinary proposition of the right hon. Secretary. Was Ireland, then, on the eve of a national insurrection Had misrule reached its climax, and was the House called upon by some instant, general convulsion, to take precautions which nothing but such appalling circumstances could for a moment justify? If such events were to be apprehended, no measure could more tend to hasten them. It would ripen the very discontent and revolt it was intended to check. He regretted, that even any allusion had been made to such a Bill. Already seeds enough of alarm and distrust had been cast into the national mind. He had purposely abstained from all reference to the lamentable catastrophe of New town bay, in order to prejudice as little as possible, whilst the accused were yet untried, the already excited temper of the country. But this would add fuel to the flame, and double that very irritation which every zealous and judicious friend of Ireland ought to use every effort to assuage. Ireland was in a most heated and feverish state. The spirit of discontent, arising from the misery and misgovernment of centuries, was stalking abroad; and if this evil and malignant genius was to be exorcised from our shores, it was not by coercive and distrustful legislation that it could be done. And this, too, was to be a permanent measure—as if Ireland were doomed to irremediable disturbance, and it was an clement of her being to be for ever discontented. Let Government subdue Ireland by other means than force —conquer her with such measures as Reform—redress her grievances, and then trust arms without peril to her hands. So would she become a safe and fast friend to England, instead of being, as at present, a troublesome and a dangerous neighbour. He conceived the Bill would exasperate ail the evils of Ireland, and whenever it was again brought forward, he would oppose it.

The Debate adjourned till that day sight.