§ 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.
§ Mr. Charles Pelham
rose to move an Address to his Majesty in answer to the Speech. The hon. Member said, he could assure the House that he should not have intruded himself upon its notice if he had not hoped that he should be heard with the same kindness and indulgence which was usually extended by the House to Gentlemen who undertook the duty he was about to perform. He could not help considering himself as fortunate in having been selected to move an Address to a Sovereign who was so universally and so deservedly loved by his people as his present Majesty undoubtedly was. His Majesty in his Speech had been pleased to allude to the dissolution of the late Parliament. That step, he must be allowed to say, he considered to be in all respects a wise one. As the House was so much divided upon the subject of Reform, as the second reading of the Bill was carried by a majority of only one, and as, upon a collateral question, there was against those who supported the Bill a small majority in that House, as that decision defeated the Bill, and prevented their discussing it in Committee, while, out of doors, the people were said generally to be favourable to the Bill—under such circumstances, he did not see how the Ministers could have advised his Majesty to take any other step than that of dissolving the Parliament. He put it to the Gentlemen opposite to tell him who, if the Ministers had resigned, could have conducted the Government of the country? Surely those hon. Gentlemen did not mean to say, that they could, since it was now evident that a large majority out of doors was in favour of the Bill, and since those Gentlemen, having declared themselves adverse to the Bill, could never, of course, have brought it forward. But the result had justified the advice which the Ministers had given the King to dissolve the Parliament. Out of eighty-four county Members, no less than 170 seventy-six had been returned pledged to support the Reform Bill. Out of filly Members for large towns, as many as forty-two had been returned pledged also to support the Bill. He might be accused of vanity in speaking of himself, and yet when he recollected that in the last Parliament he had represented a small borough, and that he expected nothing more in this Parliament than to represent the same borough again, whereas he now sat for a large county, he did think that his case furnished an illustration of the feeling out of doors in favour of Reform. He had been called upon by the freeholders of one of the largest counties in England to represent them in Parliament. He had been called upon to accept this honour against his own wish, and against the wishes of his family. He, an inexperienced young man, had been called upon to supersede in the Representation of the county a gentleman of great ability and experience, whose father before him had been one of the Representatives of those freeholders who had now transferred that trust to his hands, solely because he was favourable, and his predecessor was unfavourable, to Reform. That he should have been so selected, to the exclusion of a gentleman of so much greater ability and experience, was, in his opinion, a very strong proof of the anxiety for Reform out of doors. There were other cases which he considered himself quite justified in alluding to, because he thought that the people ought to see that the House of Commons was not unobservant of their proceedings. The cases to which he would allude were those of an hon. Baronet (Sir R. Vyvyan), the late member for Cornwall, who had given notice of an amendment hostile to the Bill, and of a gallant General (Gascoyne), the late member for Liverpool, who had actually brought for-ward such amendment. Both those hon. Gentlemen, though tried and useful men, had been rejected by their constituents; and where gentlemen entertaining similar sentiments had been returned again to Parliament, they had not been returned by such majorities over their opponents as they had been accustomed to have. These two cases were, in his opinion, very strong proofs of the feeling of the people in favour of Reform; and he might adduce many others equally strong, but that he did not consider that he should be justified in detaining the House with the enumera- 171 tion of facts which must already have forced themselves upon the attention of every hon. Gentleman, and particularly upon Gentlemen who were adverse to the Bill. To pass on, then, to the other topics of his Majesty's Speech. His Majesty had told them, that he continued to receive assurances of a friendly disposition from all foreign Powers, and expressed a hope that in spite of the contest now existing in Poland, and the disturbances in other parts of Europe, the general peace would be maintained. For his own part, he heartily concurred in this hope. With regard to the war in Poland, he deeply regretted that war, and he more deeply regretted the causes which had produced it; yet he was at the same time fully convinced that our Government would not be justified in interfering in the struggle. Indeed, the interference of other Powers in such cases was, in his opinion, extremely bad policy. With regard to the affairs of Belgium, they were full of difficulty, and it had not yet been possible to effect the settlement of them; but he hoped that every hon. Member he was addressing would concur with him in thinking, that the principle which had been acted upon with regard to the affairs of Belgium was a wise and good principle, which principle was—non-interference with the right of the people of Belgium to regulate their internal affairs, and to re-establish their government according to their own views of what might be most conducive to their future welfare and independence. This was justly characterized in his Majesty's Speech as an undoubted right of the people of Belgium. They had heard also from his Majesty, that having sought in vain for reparation from Don Miguel for a series of insults and injuries, an armed force had been sent out to Lisbon, upon the appearance of which the satisfaction demanded was immediately given. This showed what vigour and promptitude would do, and it was a satisfactory proof of the attention which his Majesty's Ministers paid to the honour and interests of the country. At home there had been, as the House well knew, a great reduction of taxation; and he was happy to say that the revenue had not fallen off in proportion to the reduction which had been made. Taxes to the amount of 4,000,000l. had been taken off; or, rather, 4,000,000l. was the meet amount received from those taxes; but then there were also charges for collection, and other 172 expenses connected with those taxes which had been removed with the taxes themselves. He thought he might say, that these expenses and charges being considered, the public had been benefitted by reduction of taxation to the amount of 5,000,000l.; and he believed that, notwithstanding this reduction of taxation, the diminution of the revenue had not been more than 2,000,000l. This fact would be an encouragement to the Ministers to lessen the public burthens as far as it was possible. And what class of persons had been relieved by this reduction of taxation? The labouring classes: the taxes which pressed most heavily upon them had been removed: for the articles which were most useful and most necessary to them had been the articles which the Ministers had selected to withdraw from taxation. These benefits had been attained, while at the same time the national credit had been maintained with the most scrupulous exactitude—which, indeed, was essential in a country like this—and he would never become a party to any policy which should endanger the national faith. From all that he had been able to collect upon the subject, our manufacturers were in a tolerable state of employment—indeed, he thought he might say in full employment. Profits might not be high, but he believed that they remunerated the manufacturer; and although wages were not as good as they had been, yet he believed they were sufficiently high to enable the workmen to live with tolerable comfort. Disturbances had unhappily arisen in the iron districts, which had caused a diminution in the value of that material. The masters had suffered by this, and consequently the men also, for if suffering came upon the masters, the men must inevitably take their share of it. In a country where there were so many interests as there were in this country, it would be unreasonable, because contrary to all experience, to expect that all their manufactures should be in a flourishing state at one and the same time. There was another subject which had been touched upon in his Majesty's Speech, and which was intimately connected with our trade. His Majesty had adverted to a terrible disease, which was increasing in an alarming degree in the eastern parts of Europe. He hoped and believed, that the precautionary measures which had been taken against the introduction of this formidable malady into this country would be 173 attended with success. He would then turn, and he turned with regret, to the affairs of Ireland. But though he regretted the transactions which had taken place in the county of Clare, he had yet heard with great pleasure that part of his Majesty's Speech in which they were told that the exercise of the constitutional authority of the law had entirely put down the disturbances in the county of Clare and its vicinity. "By these means," said his Majesty, "the necessity of enacting new laws to strengthen the Executive Government with further powers will be prevented." This ought to be a matter of great satisfaction to the House, for nothing but utter necessity could justify such enactments, and such necessity could only arise from successful outrages. With respect to the western parts of Ireland, he confessed that he looked at the condition of that part of the kingdom with horror. He could not conceive why gentlemen who had property there, and who derived their incomes from that property, did not go and live there. He had for some time past looked with astonishment at Ireland, and, from the present condition of some parts of it, he thought a man would almost be justified in doubting whether it was a civilized country. As much had been done towards alleviating the distresses of the people there, as could be done by a Government; but that, at most, would only keep off famine for a time. Something the Legislature was imperatively called upon to do, for the purpose of averting the present evil, and of preventing, as far as human foresight could prevent, the recurrence of a calamity so horrible as famine. Having thus adverted to the principal topics of his Majesty's Speech, he would not detain the House further. He could not, however, conclude, without endeavouring to impress upon the House the necessity of moderation in the discussion of the Reform Bill. If ever there was a measure which demanded a fair, an attentive, and a moderate discussion, the measure of Reform was that measure; and nothing could be more unwise than to debate its provisions in an angry spirit. The people out of doors, notwithstanding all the anxiety they had demonstrated for Reform, had conducted themselves with the greatest moderation, and he felt assured that the Members of the House of Commons would do no less. The hon. Member concluded by moving an Address, which 174 was, as usual, an echo of his Majesty's Speech.
Sir. J. B. Johnstone,
in rising to second the Motion, said, that it was not without embarrassment that he entered upon the task that had been allotted to him, of seconding the motion for an Address to his Majesty for the gracious Speech which had been delivered from the throne; and in claiming from the House that indulgence which they had always been ready to extend to young Members unaccustomed to address them, it was scarcely necessary for him to say, that the important and responsible situation he filled, as a Representative of the most extensive and populous county in England, could alone have induced him to intrude himself upon their attention on an occasion so trying and interesting as the present. Personal considerations had, however, yielded to a sense of duty, and by the permission of the House he would now proceed shortly to follow the hon. Mover in his appropriate review of the leading topics of the Speech, which, expressive of parental regard for the rights and liberties of the people, called for an Address from the assembled Commons which might best accord with their known feelings of loyalty and attachment to the person of that gracious Sovereign who now filled the Throne of these realms. The first point to which he should allude was the pacification of Ireland; and it reflected no small credit upon his Majesty's Ministers that that most desirable object had been effected by the exertions of the constituted authorities, in the firm and judicious enforcement of those salutary laws already in existence, without resorting to the fearful alternative of proclaiming martial law, or the intervention of extraordinary powers, which should only be called forth in extreme emergencies. That distress and famine should exist to such an afflicting degree in certain districts of that country must be a subject of deep regret, and had already awakened the active sympathies of Englishmen. There could be no doubt that this House would proceed to the consideration of remedial measures in that spirit which the importance of the subject demanded; but to the establishment of social order, and the consequent influx of capital, which would afford employment to the population, could they alone look for the entire removal of those periodical visitations of famine 175 which Ireland still continued to experience. The excited condition of that fair but unfortunate portion of our empire, joined to the disturbed state of some of the counties in England, and the menacing aspect of foreign affairs, not only prevented his Majesty's Ministers from making any reductions in our military establishments, but called for a further augmentation of force, which, he was happy to think, was effected without any corresponding increase in the burthens of the people, by the introduction of a wise system of economy into the several departments of the State, and by the adoption, in the military department, of plans and regulations suggested by the late Secretary of War. The revenue, also, might fairly be considered in a satisfactory state; for, consideration being had to the remission of duties, made with the view of relief to the productive classes, the last returns showed an increase in the Excise, and a corresponding improvement in the internal consumption in the country—a circumstance which led him to infer a progressive amelioration in the condition of all classes of the community. The accounts he had received as to the employment of our manufacturing population corresponded generally with the statements made on that head by the hon. Mover, lie might add, that the principles on which trade was conducted were sound; no consignments were made in an improper spirit of speculation, but goods were manufactured only in the execution of orders received either from our own or foreign merchants. Nor was the view less consolatory, if we turned towards the state of our relations with foreign Powers. He heartily congratulated the House upon the prospects held out in his Majesty's Speech of the continuance of peace, which had hitherto been so successfully preserved to us amidst the convulsions which were still agitating nearly the whole of continental Europe; and he (Sir J. Johnstone) trusted that the country might look forward to a perseverance by his Majesty's Ministers in that line of policy which, by placing England in an attitude of neutrality, had hitherto enabled her to avoid the miseries of war without compromising her rights or dignity. The benefits of such a position had been clearly shown by the prompt and decisive manner in which England had lately obtained from Portugal a redress of grievances and insults offered to British subjects. In the cause of the 176 brave Poles our warmest sympathies must be enlisted. We might cheer, and encourage, and applaud them in that war of independence which they were now maintaining against the gigantic power of Russia; but we must be just before we arc generous, and sound policy forbad England to unsheath her sword except in defence of her own honour or liberties. On an occasion like the present, nothing could be further from his intention than by any indiscreet remark upon a subject on which he was aware there existed great difference of opinion, to provoke discussion, or disturb that unanimity which he hoped would prevail in voting the Address. But, considering the circumstances under which they were that day assembled, considering that the peculiar constructions of the present Parliament was a complete answer to the appeal upon that specific subject which induced his Majesty, in the constitutional exercise of his undoubted prerogative, to dissolve the late Parliament, it was impossible for him not to call the particular attention of the House to that part of the Speech from the Throne in which allusion was made to the reasons that determined his Majesty to call them together at the earliest possible period. His Majesty said— "Having had recourse to that measure for the purpose of ascertaining the sense of my people on the expediency of a Reform in the Representation, I have now to recommend that important question to your earliest and most attentive consideration, confident that in any measures that you may prepare for its adjustment, you will carefully adhere to the acknowledged principles of the Constitution, by which the prerogatives of the Crown, the authority of both Houses of Parliament, and the rights and liberties of the people arc equally secured." These words left to the House the free unfettered exercise of their deliberative powers upon the important subject herein recommended to their earnest attention; and in agreeing to the proposed address, hon. Members in no degree pledged themselves to the adoption of any specific plan of Reform. But he could not but consider it a subject of high congratulation to this country, that, under the blessing of God, at a period like the present, when Europe was convulsed with a contest of opinions, and the principles of the feudal age were crumbling around them, the sceptre of these realms should 177 be swayed by a monarch who seemed anxious to direct rather than oppose the current of public feeling, and whose sole object was, to secure the happiness of his people, and the permanency of our institutions, by placing them in harmony with the progress of events, and the first wishes of an enlightened community. If, previous to the dissolution of the late Parliament, any doubts existed as to the nature and extent of these wishes, such doubts must now be entirely removed by the manner in which the country had responded to the appeal of its Sovereign. Having been anticipated by the hon. Mover, it was not his wish to make further reference to the analysis of the House as it existed at present, or to trespass upon its time, by any lengthened observations upon the deep and general interest which was felt through the country at the late elections; but he might be allowed, perhaps, to speak from personal experience as to the fulness of joy and gratitude with which the freeholders of Yorkshire proceeded, at the invitation of their King, to the recent exercise of their elective privileges. During the progress of the liberal candidates, as well through the agricultural as the manufacturing districts, one feeling—one common sentiment—seemed to animate the entire population, and a canvass was converted into one unbroken march of triumph. But amidst this most satisfactory exhibition of public feeling, which took place on the occasion to which he alluded, it was most gratifying to him, as it would be to all well-wishers of their country, to witness the manifestation of an ardent spirit of loyalty, which the mere promulgation of an entensive plan of Reform had every where awakened. The conviction, i also, of an increasing sympathy between the upper and middle classes of society, and the expectation that all useful and necessary changes were about to be effected in the ordinary course of Government, seemed to have produced a most beneficial effect in tranquillizing the minds of the most ardent Reformers. From these circumstances, he trusted, might be deduced, if not the certainty, at least a well-founded hope, that the mass of the people, being sound at heart, and imbued with the true old English feeling, were prepared to receive with confidence and love those alterations in the Representative system which the wisdom of Parliament might think it expedient to concede, in accordance with the 178 circumstances of the times, and the improved condition of the country. After the scene which he had described and witnessed, it seemed scarcely credible that a few weeks ago it was asserted in that House, that the people of England were indifferent to Reform, and that a dissolution would be the signal for involving Ireland in one common scene of rapine, confiscation, and bloodshed. Never had predictions been more completely falsified by the result—never had the Irish electors exercised their privileges in a more peaceable or constitutional manner—never had the Representatives been returned with fewer attendant circumstances of riot or disorder. Before he concluded, he might be allowed to observe, that, however Members might differ as to the extent to which it should be carried, few were disposed to combat the necessity of some Reform, from which he trusted he might draw this pleasing anticipation—that all acrimonious feeling being laid aside, their only struggle hereafter might be, how to give the greatest perfection to our institutions, and stability to the Throne and Constitution, by enlisting in its support the property, virtue, and intelligence of the country.
Sir Robert Peel
rose, and commenced by observing, that he had waited for some moments, in hopes some other Gentleman would have taken the opportunity of expressing his sentiments on the important topics adverted to in his Majesty's Speech, and in the Address proposed in answer to it. Such not being the case, however, and no Gentleman having manifested his desire to address the House, he could not permit the discussion to pass by without making a few observations. It was a source of great satisfaction to him that he was enabled to concur in the Address which had been moved and seconded. It was at all times important that the first meeting of Parliament should be characterised by moderation, and the absence of an acrimonious spirit, which might be inferred by an unanimous adoption of the Address. But if this display of unanimity was desirable at all times, it was peculiarly so at present; when it was above all things desirable, that the House should express its sincere loyalty and respect, in language in which no material division of opinion should be elicited. He rejoiced, therefore, unaffectedly, that his Majesty's 179 Ministers had so framed the Speech and the Address that he could with perfect satisfaction acquiesce in the latter. If it had been proposed or intended to introduce into the Address topics intended to extract a pledge from the House, or to provoke a difference of opinion, he had no doubt that a different course would have been pursued. He was perfectly satisfied that his Majesty's Ministers would, in that case, have given the House an opportunity of considering the nature and extent of the pledge it was called upon to make, by recurring to a practice which prevailed some years since, of putting the House in possession of the Speech the day before the House was called upon to answer it by the Address. Knowing that the noble Lord, and the members of his Majesty's Government, had constantly contended for the adoption of the practice to which he had referred, he was sure his Majesty's Ministers would never call upon the House to enter into any pledge without giving it ah opportunity of knowing the extent and nature of that pledge. He concurred in the propriety of that course which his Majesty's Government had adopted in keeping the Speech and the Address as secret as possible, till they were promulgated in Parliament; and he hoped they would follow this up by plainly avowing, that it was not in their intention to induce any Member of Parliament, by voting for the Address, to pledge himself to any particular course to be hereafter pursued. Of course the Speech and Address divided themselves into the two great topics of the foreign policy and internal economy of our Administration. There were many reasons which would induce him to abstain from entering into any discussion on the foreign policy of the country. In the first place, he had not that information before him which would be necessary to render his observations complete; and to him it appeared that the general state of affairs on the Continent was such, that every well-wisher of his country must be most anxious to do and say nothing which would affect the maintenance of peace, and, of course, to avoid every discussion till the House was in possession of full and accurate information. In office and out of office that principle of maintaining peace should be looked to by every British statesman; and he (Sir R. Peel) should never cease to lament if any word escaped from him 180 calculated to contravene the wise intentions in this respect of his Majesty's Government. Another reason which prevented him from indulging in any observations on the foreign policy of the country was, the absence, the necessary absence, of the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) who presided over the Foreign Department. He presumed it would be admitted, that it would be improper and inexpedient to enter into any discussion on foreign politics, during the absence of the noble Lord peculiarly responsible for the conduct of that department. If that was the case, it would be equally clear, that the House would continue subject to that inconvenience whilst the noble Lord remained without a seat. If it was not desirable then to enter into any discussion on matters connected with a particular department, whilst the person mainly responsible for the conduct of it was absent, did it not strike every one how great an advantage it was, to a Government to have the power of effecting the return of the responsible Ministers of the Crown, and how inconvenient and injurious to the public service it must be, to have the discussion of the business of a particular department suspended until the head of that department was returned for some populous place; for in order to get into that House his noble friend (Lord Palmerston) now at the head of the Foreign Department, would hardly think it fitting or expedient to knock at some of the places named in Schedule A or Schedule B. No writ could, indeed, be moved for during a fortnight, and if his noble friend passed Friday next without knocking at Schedule A or Schedule B, he might be prevented from availing himself of the opening which they afforded, and find them closed against him. If his noble friend, however, should present himself at one of those inconsiderable boroughs to get returned, it would present some practical proof—looking to the workings of the system, and looking to the opportunity which those boroughs had hitherto afforded to the Crown to return the members of Administration—that the existence of such a power of returning Members was not altogether without its use. He could not help thinking that it would afford some proof, looking to the practical workings of the system, that the disfranchisement of those boroughs could not take place without warranting some apprehen- 181 sion that the Government might find it difficult to carry on the business of the country. He knew it was said, that in future all Ministers would be so popular that there would be no difficulty in getting returned for a populous place; but the deliberations of Parliament often had reference to periods of great public excitement. In making these observations, he had no wish to anticipate the debate on the Reform Bill. What he had said arose naturally from the absence of the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department, and, to give the best proof that his reference to this subject was not deliberate, he would at once relinquish it. He wished, however, then to observe, though he should not enter into the topics relating to foreign affairs, alluded to in the Address, on the present occasion, that he should reserve to himself the right of doing so at some future period. He could not view the policy adopted with respect to Portugal and Holland—two countries which had been long the peculiar objects of British policy, without interest and anxiety. He rejoiced to see the great principle of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of foreign States steadily adhered to; but, at the same time, he rejoiced to see an exception to that great principle clearly stated in his Majesty's Speech. Abstinence from all internal interference with foreign countries was perfectly right, unless when that interference was rendered necessary to preserve the interests of our own or of other countries. Many circumstances affecting the security and peace of other countries would justify a departure from the principle of non-intervention, and therefore he rejoiced to sec the rule laid down with a proper exception. He rejoiced particularly at that part of the King's Speech which related to Belgium, and said, "the most complete agreement continues to subsist between the Powers whose Plenipotentiaries have been engaged in the Conferences of London. The principle on which those Conferences have been conducted, has been that of not interfering with the right of the people of Belgium to regulate their internal affairs," because it abated the apprehension he must otherwise have felt at a recent interference on the part of France in the affairs of Portugal. He trusted a satisfactory explanation would be given on that subject—be expected as much from the pre- 182 sent enlightened government of France, which having loudly protested against foreign interposition would not, he was sure, set an example of violating the rules it called on other Governments to follow; but at present the interference to which he alluded seemed to come strictly within the rule of an interference in domestic affairs. From the conduct of the Portuguese government he could readily believe that the measures pursued might be satisfactorily accounted for; but it now only appeared that the release of a French subject was demanded, who had been regularly tried and sentenced to be punished by a competent tribunal; and not only the release of the prisoner, but the dismissal of his Judges. If a case of necessity was not established, this would appear to be strictly a case of domestic interference; and it was not because the King or the Government of Portugal was unpopular that such a precedent was the less dangerous. The dismissal of the Judges was demanded; and to justify such a demand, and prevent such a demand from becoming a precedent, he hoped a case of great emergency would be made out. With reference to the domestic policy of this country, the only topic alluded to in the King's Speech which was likely to excite a division of opinion, was the reference to the question of Reform. The Address in answer to the Speech, however, was drawn up in such a manner that any man, whatever might be his opinions on Reform, could agree to it. He was warranted in presuming from this that Government did not mean, in the slightest degree, to pledge the House on that question. On a proper occasion he should be prepared fully to state his opinion on that most important subject. He joined with the Mover and Seconder in hoping that it would be discussed with a moderation suited to the subject. At the same time he should be compromising his own opinion, and suppressing the truth, if he agreed with all the hon. Mover and Seconder had said relative to the circumstances attending the late dissolution of Parliament. He did not mean to question in the slightest degree the power of the Crown to dissolve the Parliament. He did not go the length of some men deeply versed in the principles of the Constitution as to this subject. In 1807, Lord Holland quoted an opinion of Lord Somers, which 183 went to prove that it was that great man's opinion, that it was almost illegal to dissolve a Parliament during a Session. The noble Lord who quoted this opinion had not gone so far—he only quoted it to prove that there was a material difference between dissolving the Parliament in and out of Session. For his own part he did not go so far as to say that such an exercise of the prerogative was illegal, or even questionable. In point of right, he admitted that the prerogative was properly exercised; nay, he went further, he could well believe, that his Majesty's Ministry, finding the Bill they had introduced, carried by the smallest possible majority, and, judging from that and the subsequent divisions, that the result would prove unfavourable to their opinions, had properly determined to resort to a dissolution to ascertain the sense of the people. Believing all this, and not questioning the right of the Crown to dissolve, nor the right of his Majesty's Government to advise the Crown to dissolve, yet he did question the policy both of the time and the manner of the dissolution. He did not consider this a matter of light concern. Foreseeing the times that were approaching, in the event of a change in the constitution of that House, he felt that the time and manner of the dissolution had been, to say the least, most ill-chosen. It. was incumbent on him to state his opinion on this subject, though it might be unpopular. He regretted that his opinions on this subject were unpopular; but no man attached to his country could always acquiesce in the opinion of the majority. Every man was entitled to entertain his own opinion, even though he held that opinion in common with but a small minority. He felt, therefore, that he should not be the less considered the true friend of his country, when he fairly avowed his opinion on the subject of the late dissolution. Admitting that, with their views, Ministers were justified in recommending a dissolution, yet he repeated, that he could never see the necessity for adopting that measure at the time, and under the circumstances, which then existed. What were the consequences of this measure at that moment? One consequence was, the remission of various taxes, without the authority of Parliament, and solely on the authority of the department connected with the taxes. Those were precedents not of light importance. Those 184 who differed with him as to the question of Reform, and even as to the question of dissolution, would yet agree with him that such precedents, though sanctioned by a majority, were not the less to be dreaded. That the course adopted in this case was in accordance with the wishes of many was an additional reason for calling the attention of Parliament to the subject. Without the authority of Parliament, the duties on coals, slates, and, he believed, on barilla, had been remitted [a laugh.] It might excite a smile, but such he believed was the fact, and if it was a fact that Acts of Parliament imposed those duties, and that a department of Government had set them aside, he contended that it was not a light precedent in these times of great changes. If the department had the power of appealing to Parliament, and did not appeal, the precedent was still more important. He might be told that, in the case of coals, bonds were given to indemnify the Government for the loss of duty, if Parliament did not agree to the reduction. The retail dealer, however, sold on the presumption of a reduction of duty; and it would be impossible, upon any principle of equity, to call on the wholesale dealer to pay the duty. Now, as to the article of slates. It was well-known that duties were often imposed on some articles with reference to other articles, and, therefore, it was injuring the interests of the dealers in some articles, to take off the duty on others without inquiry or discussion. Respecting all the duties remitted on the articles to which he had referred, he confessed he could not see the necessity of proceeding as the Government had done—acting without any discussion in Parliament, or any vote of approval by the House of Commons; and looking at such a course of proceeding, unauthorised by Act of Parliament, the least he could say of it was, that it was a dangerous precedent. His Majesty's Ministers had no authority to remit these duties without the sanction of Parliament, and, though he could not assert that the present instance was of itself pregnant with danger, it could not be denied that such a practice might lead to bad consequences, and it was the duty of his Majesty's Ministers to take the first opportunity of doing away with the impression, that on future occasions such a course might be repeated. He hoped, therefore, that some step would be taken 185 at the instance of his Majesty's Government, to obtain the proper authority for the proceedings to which they had resorted, and to diminish, in some degree, the danger of the precedent which was furnished by their acts. That danger was not diminished by the reductions in question being popular. What security could the public creditor have for the payment of his dividends, if the Ministers could dispense with the duties which the Parliament had imposed? He (Sir R. Peel) thought that the remission of those duties ought not to be lightly passed over, if it had given rise to no other inconvenience than the bad precedent. There was another subject which he found himself equally called upon to blame, and that was, the dissolving of Parliament without renewing the Act against Dangerous Associations. He would not say whether or not such an Act was necessary, though the disturbances subsequent to the dissolution might justify such an assertion; but, if it were necessary to pass the Act, it was equally necessary to renew it when the disturbances which had given rise to it had not yet subsided. On that part of the subject, however, he would not dwell, because there was another part of more importance, and that was, that prosecutions which had been commenced on the authority of that Act had not been carried into effect, and it was the duty of his Majesty's Government, for this reason, if for no other, to apply for a continuation of the law, in order to carry these into effect. He had another complaint against the Government of still greater importance, because the evil of which he complained was one which related, not only to the peace of Ireland, but to the peace of the whole empire. He thought it was peculiarly incumbent on the Government, when such an important subject as the remodelling of the House of Commons, and the reconstruction of the Representation of the people, was in agitation—it was particularly incumbent on them, as men to whom the best interests of the country were intrusted, and who were bound to look to its permanent welfare, to avoid any additional cause of excitement beyond those which, at this time, but too extensively prevailed on the subject of Parliamentary Reform. He must therefore say, that it was neither political nor just, nor consistent with truth, for Ministers to tell the people of 186 England that they had advised his Majesty to dissolve Parliament because the House of Commons had refused the Supplies. One of his Majesty's Ministers, at least, had declared this; and it had been repeated so often in other quarters, that there could be no doubt that the Government had considered themselves justified in dissolving Parliament on the ground that the Supplies had been refused. A noble Lord, and the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir James Graham) had told their constituents that the stoppage of the Supplies was the cause of the dissolution. If this statement was consistent with fact. —and he had no reason to doubt it— he would only say he would not complain of the statement, but he doubted the reasoning, because he believed his Majesty's Government had determined to dissolve Parliament before the vote was come to which was said to be the cause of the dissolution. He believed the fact was, that Ministers had resolved on a dissolution immediately after General Gascoyne's Motion was carried, and he did not believe that the vote of the House of Commons had materially influenced or hastened their decision. A Motion for an adjournment at one o'clock in the morning never could be construed into a fixed and premeditated determination to frustrate the plans of Government. He had only to appeal to the hon. Member for Middlesex, who night after night had moved the adjournment of the question on a Vote of Supply, without any intention on his part of defeating or thwarting Ministers. If such, therefore, was not the fact—and on this point, he had no doubt—was it consistent for enlightened Statesmen to throw an additional cause of excitement among the people, already so much excited? Now, he would state it as his opinion, that it was not the vote of Friday night that caused the dissolution, for the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a Letter written to some of his constituents, stated that the determination had been taken on Thursday morning. If such was the fact, the noble Lord must admit that the vote of Friday night could not cause the dissolution, and that the Government was to blame in creating an additional cause of excitement, by asserting that the House had refused the Supplies. The two hon. Gentlemen who had moved and seconded the Address, had stated that the dissolution was received with unanimous 187 approbation, and that the result of the general election was decisive of the feelings of the people. The hon. Member who had moved the Address had made a statement which he would not criticise too severely in so young a Member. He had stated that seventy-two Members for counties, and forty for populous towns, had distinctly pledged themselves for the Reform Bill of last Session. Now, if this were the fact—if 112 Members should persist in contending for that Bill, and that Bill only—he believed Ministers would find themselves placed in rather an inconvenient situation. He would now direct the attention of the House to the wording of his Majesty's Speech, and particularly that part of it which related to the Reform Bill. In that he most perfectly acquiesced, because it was a censure on the last Bill, and a just compliment to the future Bill. The words to which he referred were "confident that in any measures which you may propose for its adjustment you will carefully adhere to the acknowledged principles of the Constitution, by which the prerogative of the Crown, the authority of both Houses of Parliament, and the rights and liberties of the people are equally secured." This he must regard as a severe rebuke to those who, in no unequivocal language, declared the Bill would have the effect of diminishing the power of the Lords—who, in point of fact, said that the Lords had no right to interfere with the constitution of the House of Commons. This part of the Speech he regarded as a compliment to the future Bill, and a severe censure on those who held such language. He was the more confirmed in this when he compared the Speech at the close of the Session with that which had been just read. In the Speech of last Session there was certainly a good deal of similarity of expression on the topics of Reform, though a material difference in one or two instances. He would read that part of the Speech in order that the House might judge more correctly of the alteration which had been made. His Majesty then said:—"I have been induced to resort to this measure for the purpose of ascertaining the sense of my people, in the way in which it can be most constitutionally and authentically expressed, on the expediency of making such changes in the Representation as circumstances may appear to require, and which, founded upon the acknowledged 188 principles of the Constitution, may tend at once to uphold the just rights and prerogatives of the Crown, and to give security to the liberties of the people." But the language of the Speech of this Session is of a more decisive character, and calls upon Parliament to adhere carefully to the acknowledged principles of the Constitution, by which the prerogatives of the Crown, the authority of both Houses of Parliament, and the rights and liberties of the people, are equally secured. He did hope, therefore, that those important words had not been lightly or inconsiderately adopted; and that it was the intention of Government to make some essential and important alterations in the Bill of last Session, which might render it more consistent with the Constitution, the maintenance of which was not for the exclusive interest of Parliament or the Crown, but also for the security and permanent welfare of the people. He was ready to admit, that the opinion which he had formed on the question of Reform was different from that formed by the majority of the people; but that was no reason why he, and those who coincided in opinion with him, should submissively give up their opinions to the opinions of the people. It was the duty of the Representatives of the people not to be swayed by popular clamour, but to look prospectively to the future interests of the country; and it was equally their duty respectfully to express their opinions. If the minority were thus to give way to the majority, he was afraid that this would put an end to all discussion, and that such a deference to public opinion would only prevent them from performing faithfully those duties which they were bound to perform as Representatives of the people. He was not, however, surprised at such an expression of public opinion, because he was certain that, if the same means were used on any question, the result would be the same.—He feared that the same consequences would invariably follow, in all times and places, when the questions referred to popular interests, and to that necessary control over the people which was established solely for their welfare and security. He feared, if the same indiscreet use of the first name in the country was resorted to on any occasion, that the same consequences would follow, and the more decidedly if the popular excitement should be directed against the institutions of the 189 country. No one was more ready than he to admit that the country had been subjected to severe distress, and that, on account of long wars, and too lavish expenditure of public money, the springs of industry had been crippled; but he would caution those who represented the people, and who had some power in influencing their opinions, against turning their attention from the real cause of the distress to others which had no connection with it. They were but too much disposed to look with suspicion on any Government; and it would not improve their opinion of the present Government if they found in the end that they had been deceived as to the true causes of their distress. He would admit again that the public opinion was contrary to It is opinion; but still he would not give up his opinion, because he thought he was by the course he pursued, consulting the true and permanent interests of the community; and he doubted not that the time would come when the people, by experience, would admit that those who now entertained such unpopular opinions were not the least faithful or the least judicious advisers.
§ Lord Althorp
rose only to make a few remarks on what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, and he would appeal to him whether or not it was thought to be the policy of the Government to avoid, as much as possible, difference of opinion, and to recommend topics for the Royal Speech the most likely to make different opinions agree. The right hon. Gentleman had avoided all discussion on the foreign policy of the Government, because he thought the present time too early, and also because the right hon. Secretary for foreign affairs was not in the House to make any reply to his observations; but the right hon. Gentleman knew well that if there was any question of foreign policy of a pressing nature, every member of his Majesty's Government was equally responsible with the Foreign Secretary, and was equally called upon to give the necessary explanations. Therefore there could be no inconvenience in discussing such topics; and there was no ground for bringing this forward as a cause for refraining from them. The right hon. Gentleman had given his assent to the course pursued relative to Belgium; and he was glad to have his concurrence on the principles on which they acted on this important subject. These principles 190 were, not to interfere in the political and internal affairs of foreign countries, unless they had a tendency to endanger the security and peace of their neighbours. This he considered a just and safe policy, and the one least likely to endanger the peace of the world. He would then come to our domestic policy. In the answer to the Speech of his Majesty, care had been taken to abstain from the introduction of anything which could be supposed to pledge Gentlemen as to their future conduct on the subject of the Reform Bill. As the right hon. Gentleman had appealed to the Ministers, he (Lord Althorp) had much satisfaction in saying, that acquiescence in the Address would not pledge hon. Gentlemen on that question. That right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the advice given to his Majesty by his Ministers on the subject of the dissolution. He had admitted, as indeed it could not he doubted, that his Majesty had the right to dissolve Parliament; and also, that the Ministers, being pledged to carry (he measure of Reform, were justified in advising his Majesty to exercise that right. But the right hon. Gentleman objected to the time and circumstances in which that advice was given. The first ground on which he rested that objection was connected with the remission of taxes, as the right hon. Gentleman says, without the authority of Parliament: but the right hon. Gentleman recollected himself, and admitted, that after Resolutions had been passed to remit the duty on sea-borne coals, it would have been impossible for Parliament to refuse its sanction to the law for carrying those Resolutions into effect. The right hon. Gentleman must see, that it had been practically determined upon by Parliament that the duty should be reduced. For though an Act had not formally been passed, yet a Committee had voted in favour of the reduction, and that resolution had been reported to the House. There could, therefore, be no doubt, that the duty would be remitted, and it might hence be considered as practically, though not in form, remitted. The next point to which he should turn was, the complaint respecting the Seditious Meetings' Act, in Ireland, which, it was said, ought to have been renewed be, fore the dissolution. The Ministers knew, that they incurred a grave responsibility. But they thought that they could dispense. with that law; and the result had, since 191 the dissolution, proved that they were right. Next it was complained that the dissolution had been attributed to a refusal of the Supplies. Now, they should first consider whether the Supplies were really refused or not. It was said, that to move an adjournment at one o'clock could not be, looked on as refusing the Supplies, for that was only an ordinary case. But he would put it to the right hon. Gentleman, under what circumstances was that adjournment moved? Was not the effect of that motion to go into discussion of a new measure of Reform, at that hour, so as to give rise to speech after speech, with no other object than to put off the vote for the Supplies? The debate first arose on a motion respecting the Representation of the town of Liverpool. An hon. Gentleman, then sit-sing opposite, asked him (Lord Althorp) whether, after the results of the motion of General Gascoyne, it was the intention of his Majesty's Government to persevere with the Reform Bill? to which he answered, that they would not. The hon. Gentleman then asked, would the Parliament be dissolved, and that question he declined to answer. But did not the House well know what was the intention of Government? He was not then going to assert that the adjournment was the cause of the dissolution; but he would say, that the way in which that adjournment was referred to, in connexion with the dissolution, was this—that the success of the motion proved, that with the late House of Commons the Ministers could not go on. If that motion was not the cause of the dissolution it was its justification. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) said, that the Speech had been cautiously worded, so as to avoid expressing any approbation of the Bill of last Session, and that its language placed the Gentlemen who were pledged to that Bill in an awkward situation. But the Ministers asserted, that the Bill which they proposed last Session was such a measure as the Speech recommended. He would also assert that there was nothing in the wording of the Speech which could justify the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman, that a Bill on different principles must be proposed. The right hon. Gentleman had gone into a very ingenious verbal criticism of the language of the Speeches of this Session and the last; but if he would consider the words better, he would find that the coincidence to which he had adverted was not so very 192 important. As to what had been said of the enthusiasm of the people, he (Lord Althorp) would be the last man in the country to refuse credit to the right hon. Gentleman for honesty of purpose and fidelity to his duty, even when, as he had said, he had not the good fortune to agree with a majority of his fellow-countrymen. The right hon. Gentleman said, that if, at any future time, in a season of distress and discontent, any attack should be made upon the institutions of the country, it would be popular after this precedent. But surely it was not that right hon. Gentleman's opinion, that the people of England entertained such feelings towards the institutions of the country. There was every proof that they were attached to those institutions; but he should not therefore be surprised, if they should see room for improvements, and when the improvements proposed to them were favourably received, it was not to be inferred that propositions to overturn those institutions would be received with equal favour. It was not in the power of the Government to raise the strong feeling of the people on the question of Reform, but when the appeal made to them gave them the opportunity of expressing the feeling, they did so with enthusiasm. He would not further detain the House, as there was no question raised upon which they would be called upon to vote.
§ Lord Mahon
said, that in offering a few remarks in answer to the noble Lord who had just sat down, he should follow the example of the right hon. Baronet, and refrain from entering either on the present state of our foreign relations, or on that momentous question which, on Friday next, would be regularly submitted to this House. On the first of these subjects there were not as yet sufficient documents to judge fairly, and the second seemed to him so vast, so complicated, so full of important details, so clogged with formidable difficulties, that it really almost overwhelmed the mind with its magnitude, even when it came on for special and separate discussion. He should, therefore, confine himself to those parts of the noble Lord's speech which referred to the late dissolution, this being the best, and perhaps the only opportunity for considering that event. He must say, that he could not look upon the noble Lord's explanation on that subject as at all satisfactory—if, indeed, that could be called an explanation which ex- 193 plained nothing, and left the points at issue more doubtful than it found them. He must say, that the conduct of the noble Lord, and that of his colleagues, on this occasion, and, indeed, on many other occasions, much more resembled that of candidates on the hustings than of Ministers in Council. They seemed to him to have been led away by a thirst for personal popularity, to be obtained even at the expense of those from whom they received it. They first proposed a reduction in the number of English Members—a reduction which was not at all expected or solicited in any one of the seven or eight hundred petitions for Reform which had been laid on the Table of this House—a reduction which was reprobated by many of their own warmest friends and partisans—a reduction so wild, so needless, so extravagant, that he was almost tempted to apply to it a term which he remembered was often used in mathematics, and to call it a reductio ad absurdum. They found that this proposal was not in accordance with the sense of the House, and they then led the House to believe, that if it should be rejected they would not consider the principle of their Bill as infringed, or their Bill itself as defeated. [Cries of "No! No!"] He admitted that the Ministers did not say so in plain and explicit terms— that they maintained a studied and mysterious obscurity upon the subject; but, it was of this very obscurity that he complained. On this point he might, perhaps, be allowed to speak with some authority, for he put, on the 12th of April last, a question to the noble Lord, the member for Tavistock, as he was then — the member for Devonshire now—he asked the noble Lord whether if this proposed reduction should not be admitted by the House, he would consider the principle of his Bill as affected? What was the, answer he received from the noble Lord? He received none. The noble Lord never rose from his seat. Now, of personal discourtesy, he (Lord Mahon) made no complaint; but, on public grounds, he would say, that such silence, such mystery, was undue and unconstitutional, and could tend neither to the just appreciation nor to the deliberate argument of any public measure. It was the same silence, the same mystery, of which he had to complain in another stage of this Bill, when, till the very evening of the memorable 1st of March, not one man in the House, or 194 in the country, except the Ministers themselves, had the faintest idea of any one feature in the Ministerial scheme. Was this the way in which public opinion should first be consulted—consulted, that it might both guide and be guided—be tried, that it might neither be outrun by excessive concessions, nor surprised by undesired changes? Was our ancient Constitution then to undergo not merely the same fate, but the same manner of inflicting that fate, which we are told that Turkish Sultans are in the habit of decreeing? Was our ancient Constitution not merely to be put to death, but to be put to death by mutes? And yet, when he looked to what the Ministers had lately stated, he found still more reason, perhaps, to complain of their speeches than of their silence. He alluded more especially to the assertion which the right hon. member for Cumberland is stated to have made, that the alleged refusal of the Supplies by that House had been one of the principal motives for the dissolution of Parliament. Another Minister (Lord Althorp) had alluded to the answer which he gave to a question of Sir Richard Vyvyan's, on Thursday evening, as to the dissolution, and stated, that "every one must have seen what he meant;" or in other words, that a dissolution had been already determined upon. Thus the noble Lord stated, that a dissolution had been decided upon at about five o'clock on Thursday evening; and yet one of the noble Lord's colleagues asserted, that this decision was mainly influenced by an event which did not take place till seven or eight hours afterwards. What then became of the assertion of that right hon. Colleague, or what could be said now of the "United Cabinet?" The late House of Commons had been severely censured, not only by the right hon. member for Cumberland, but by several of his colleagues, and by that portion of the Press which was supposed to be under their control; and in a public meeting a few days ago, at Manchester, he thought he perceived that no less a term than that of "infamous" was applied to it. Now he should not shrink from expressing his sincere and steady conviction—unfashionable though it might be—that of all the legislative Assemblies ever convened in any age or in any country, none ever surpassed the late House of Commons in worth, in honour, in public spirit, or disinterestedness. And he trusted, that he 195 should not be considered as intending any disrespect to the Assembly which he had then the honour of addressing, if he frankly confessed, that he could not by any means look upon it in the same exalted light. The late elections did not proceed from the calm judgment of the country, but rather from its inflamed and misguided passion—they were not an appeal to "Philip when sober." The present Members were, in too many instances at least, more like a Chamber of Delegates, than a House of Representatives. He saw around him indeed too many whose opinions he respected, and whose talents he admired; but be looked in vain for others whom it was, unfortunately, parliamentary to name. He looked in vain for the classic knowledge and ready eloquence of his friend, Sir Richard Vyvyan—He looked in vain for the practical abilities, and the amiable and open and enlightened temper of his friend Sir Thomas Acland. The popular torrent bad spared neither the greatest length of public service, nor the most unimpeachable integrity—it had swept away Mr. Bankes from Dorsetshire, and Colonel Tyrell from Essex. And he must own that in these two last instances, at least, his regret for those whom he had lost was not at all diminished, when he came to consider by whom their places had been filled—when he saw one of them, at least, the right hon. member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Cal-craft) standing forward as the champion of a Bill which he was amongst the foremost and loudest to condemn, which he, himself, heard him reprobate from his place in Parliament, by declaring that he was, indeed, for Reform, but not for Revolution. But, it Seemed that the right hon. Gentleman was fond of a winning cause—that his generosity was always ready to step in and protect the powerful, and that though be endeavoured to overthrow the Ministers in the battle, he was now, as usual, shouting in the train of victory. The hon. Mover, the member for Lincolnshire, has said that the result of the late elections bad proved that the people— the great majority of the people—were entirely satisfied with the Bill, for Reform. He denied it. [A laugh.] He understood that laugh, but persisted in his denial. If those hon. Members who laughed, pointed to the result of the late elections, he, on his part, might be allowed to point to the means by which that result had been 196 obtained. Those means, be maintained to have been, an undue and unnatural coalition between persons not merely of different, but of opposite opinions; between those who were borne along by affectionate deference to the supposed wishes of the Crown, and those who, in their speeches and writings at least, if not in their prospective intentions, treated the Crown with very little ceremony. A coalition had been formed between three classes; the first consisted of those really and truly satisfied with the Bill, a class which he conscientiously believed to be small and insignificant in comparison with the other two: the second, of those who thought this measure far too sweeping and subversive, but being anxious for some measure of Reform, thinking the Reformers too many not to be in the right, and despairing (he thought unjustly despairing) of Reform from any other quarter, preferred even this measure of Reform to no Reform at all; they had rather the cup should overflow than find it wholly dry: the third class (and it was to this that he was particularly anxious to call the attention of the House) consisted of those (and, he solemnly declared that he trembled and shrank from investigating its size and its strength)—consisted of those, be they few or many, be they powerful or insignificant, who aimed at the subversion of our ancient monarchical institutions. Now, he denied that any single man from this class had been gained over by the Ministerial measure —that he would accept it frankly and fairly, and lay aside his ulterior designs of subversion. The Constitution had lost many friends: it had not gained over one enemy. If it had, he confessed that it might go a considerable way to remove his objections to the Bill; the price he should still think exorbitant, but the object he should admit to be of the highest importance: but now, we were about to pay the penalty without receiving the reward. He maintained, that the Radicals were not satisfied with this measure; they might, indeed, pretend to be so—they might take the advice of the hon. member for Middlesex (Mr. Hume)—they might read his circular and be silent. And here let him observe with sincere concern, that the influence of the hon. member for Middlesex, and of those who acted with him, was absolutely inefficient to modify and control mischievous opinions, and was only powerful to direct them. Had that hon. Member said to the people, 197 "this measure will supersede the Ballot— it will render Universal Suffrage unnecessary," then, not one single man would have harkened; but now when he tells them, "your objects are good, but wait, be prudent, let me show you the best means, the most favourable time for pressing them," now he was trusted and obeyed by thousands! He repeated it, the Radicals were not satisfied with this measure. They might, indeed, pretend to be so in public, but their private councils held a far different tone. He could not, indeed, pretend to have formed part of those councils—he had no place in that unholy sanbedrim—but the voice which escaped from it was sometimes loud enough to be caught by even uninitiated ears. What they said of the Bill was this, "it is a bad measure but a good step." It was as a step, and as a step only, that they regarded it; it was as a step only that they consented for the present to receive it. And if this were true, (and would any man be found to deny it?) what, then, became of the boasted unanimity of the hon. member for Lincolnshire, of the influence which had sent here his seventy-six pledged county Members? Then, the hon. Member who seconded the Address (Sir John Johnstone), closed his speech with a high but just tribute to the excellent intentions and amiable manners of his Majesty. Nothing could be more justly due than this praise; but did not his Majesty's Ministers feel, that the more justice they did to his Majesty's character, the more they would find it necessary to defend their own for introducing changes which must impair, and might finally destroy, his just power and influence? With such a Monarch as they themselves allowed him to be, whence, then, arose the danger to the Monarchy? And would that danger be denied? At what other period of our annals, since the Revolution, had the kingly power in this country been thus brought into question, thus discussed in comparison with republican institutions, in clubs, rotundas, associations, and by so large a portion of the Press? It was not easy, in cases like this to praise the Monarch without reflecting blame on his advisers. And when he looked to the fearful effect from so very trifling an origin—Ut pueris placeas et declamatio fias,and considered how much more the same desire of popularity might possibly produce —then he confessed that he was almost ready to despair of the destinies of his coun- 198 try. But he had some hope that the people might yet recover from their delusion, and perceive how much the royal name had been misused. And such a change of opinion could not be more effectually promoted than by such speeches as that of the noble Lord—a speech which placed him in direct and glaring contradiction with one of his own colleagues, and instead of clearing up the facts of the late dissolution, in a full and satisfactory manner, left them more obscure and doubtful than it found them.
said, that although the noble Lord had taken upon himself to define the class to which he (Mr. Hume) belonged, it might turn out that the definition was not altogether the most perfect of which the case admitted; and he would at some future time take an opportunity of more clearly defining the class to which he really did belong. Passing, however, to the matters more immediately under the consideration of the House, he would appeal to the House whether the speech of the right hon. Baronet below him, and the speech of the noble Lord who had just sat down, were such as deserved serious consideration, or called for any very lengthened reply? They were made up of complaints that the King should have ventured to appeal to his people, never being able to deny, that at the very moment when that appeal was made, the Commons House of Parliament was most equally divided upon the identical question which gave occasion for that appeal. He confessed, that he thought such a complaint exceedingly unfair, coming, as it did, from hon. Members who, in the last Parliament, had defied his Majesty's Ministers to adopt that course, for having pursued which was now made matter of the loudest and most bitter complaint. Ministers appealed to the people because they had been defied and been dared to make that appeal; but did any one of the hon. Members who had so dared them go to any place where the election was popular, and, ascending the hustings with the Bill in his hand, make a merit of opposing that Bill? Something of that sort might have been done at the University of Cambridge; but had it been done in Oxford shire? who did it in Dorsetshire? had it been done in any one popular borough? But perhaps the hon. Member who interrupted him, had the name of some Cornish borough in his pocket; there, perhaps, something of 199 the kind might have taken place. It should, however, be recollected, that one swallow made no summer—a rare instance might, perhaps, be found, but the principle was still the same: the general sense of the people was favourable to Reform; that was a position which no man in his senses would attempt to gainsay. Such having turned out to be the case, he could not but admire the candour of the right hon. Baronet below him, who had so frankly avowed, that in the result of the elections he was mistaken; and being so, why did that right hon. Baronet utter the complaints which the House had heard? Why complain of that appeal to the people? Did he desire anything but the truth? Did he desire that that House should represent anything but the true sentiments of the people 1 No man could be more anxious than he (Mr. Hume) was, to see the measure of Reform, if possible, carried without a dissolution of Parliament; but when he heard it asserted, as it was in the former Parliament, that a faction only gave their support to the measure, and when he saw that the really factious were those who opposed it, he felt that the moment had arrived when justice could not be done to the people without an appeal to the people themselves; and what had been the. result?—a majority of nine to one had, throughout the country, declared for it; aye, he would go the length of saying twenty to one; yes, five per cent of the whole population could not be polled against it; he meant of course of the laity. In such a state of things, then, he must be allowed to say, that it was waste of time to occupy the attention of the House with complaints against the Ministers for calling upon the people to exercise their undoubted privilege. The whole country, at least that portion possessing the elective franchise, had been polled, and now the world had seen the result. As matters stood in the month of April last, his Majesty's Ministers had no alternative; they could not go on, night after night, lowering the dignity of Parliament, as the House was then disposed to compel them to do; and much as Parliament had, of late, done to lower its own dignity, there was no one course of conduct more calculated to effect that object than was the conduct pursued by the Opposition in reference to the subject of Parliamentary Reform. Hon. Members who had spoken in the course of this debate, seemed to charge the supporters of 200 Reform with being the enemies of the monarchy. If by that they meant to convey any imputation upon any Member of that House, let them name those to whom they alluded; if they merely spoke of persons out of doors, let them say so at once, and relieve Members of that House from an accusation, to which, he sincerely believed, no one of them was justly open. He avowed that he was a Radical Reformer. He was not one of those bit-by-bit Reformers who would be content to throw away a favourable opportunity for obtaining much, for the sake of some paltry and petty concession being at the moment ensured. No; he had, year after year, been lamenting the lavish expenditure of the country, and the degree in which it pressed upon the energies of industry, and dried up the springs of prosperity; it was on that account that he urged a change—it was on that account that he had ever been a Radical Reformer, and so would continue; and he hesitated not to affirm, that without some such Reform as the Bill proposed to effect, the business of the country could not go on; and such, he felt assured, was the universal feeling of the people; for let any candidate go forth into the metropolis, or into any county, and canvass the opinion of the electors, he would find, that the far greater majority— nay, he would say, an overwhelming majority, would rather have the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill, than go without any measure of Reform at all, as the opposes of the Bill, in truth, designed to let them. There was, certainly, no knowing that the people might not have been contented with a very small measure of Reform indeed, if the last Ministry had been prepared to make any concession; but no concession would they make; and in spite of all the advice that had been given them to the contrary, on they went in the same course, utterly indifferent to the signs of the times at a moment when the whole world was in motion. When everything warned them to yield, they declared that they would not yield a single jot. He confessed he could not understand how the good sense of the hon. Baronet should have lain asleep for so long a period. He professed himself unable to account for such mental blunders, except by supposing that the hon. Baronet had allowed himself to be influenced by party feeling, and had forgotten those great and leading interests which should alone govern the conduct of a 201 British Minister. It was nothing but party feeling which could have induced the right him. Baronet and his friends, the members for Harwich, to abandon principles which they had long and warmly advocated, and support that which they had long opposed, merely to obtain the petty object of leaving an adverse Ministry in a minority, He alluded to that proposition the object of which was, to remove the duties upon timber. When things had been brought to that pass, he had no hesitation in saying, that there could not be an act of greater wisdom on the part of the Sovereign, or one of greater decision on the part of Ministers, than the one to dissolve the Parliament, and the other to advise that important step. No doubt, the party who dared the Ministers to the dissolution were defeated, and finding themselves now in a minority, were very sore upon the subject. If they were as well accustomed to being beaten as he was, they would bear their drubbing with better humour. Once more he would say, that complaints were useless. The trial had been made, and the Reformers were successful; and it ill became their opponents now, to complain that the light of truth and the force of the just influence of the people had been let in upon them. He hoped that no credit would be given to the assertion, that a new Bill, or a different Bill, was to be introduced. He could not believe such a statement. No doubt Ministers would show their wisdom in attending to any suggestion respecting the details of the measure which did not affect its fundamental principles; but he hoped, and did expect, that the measure of Reform would be carried through both Houses, and receive, the Royal Assent, without any alteration, excepting in such details as might be faulty, or by the introduction of such minor improvements as would not be inconsistent with the scope and spirit of the whole measure. Much complaint had been made of the alleged use of the King's name in reference to the Reform Bill. It required but a slight effort of memory to call to mind the occasions without number in which the cry of "Church and King" had been raised by the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen below him, and yet now they were the first to cry out against a use of the King's name. The present Ministers had not used it one-tenth part so often as their predecessors. As to the conduct of the Monarch, it was above all praise; he had evinced the most 202 paternal anxiety to promote the interests of his people, and to meet their wishes in every respect, and, in fact, he had proved himself better acquainted with their real wishes and sentiments than many of those who would fain be his advisers. It was said of him, (Mr. Hume) and those who thought with him, that they were enemies of (he monarchy; but the fact was, that they only desired to see the Constitution brought back to its original principles. Finally, he had but to say, that he sincerely thanked the Ministers for the Reform Bill, and he the more thanked them when he remembered the manner in which they had appealed to the country for the support of that Bill.
§ Mr. Attwood
said, there was one observation in the speech of the noble Lord (Althorp) which ought not to be passed over. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had pointed out, among the evils attending the hasty dissolution of the late Parliament, in the midst of its silting, that taxes had been repealed without an act of the Legislature. The noble Lord had admitted the fact, and a grave and important fact it was. Did any man doubt that practically the duties on coals and slate had not been repealed by Parliament, but by an order issued by the Government, founded on the belief that, after the Resolution had received the concurrence of the House of Commons, it would receive the consent of the concurrent branches of the Legislature? Here, then, was a law carried into effect, operating upon the people, without the concurrence of Parliament and the Crown. With breathless haste, in order to serve the purposes of their own party-politics, Ministers had dissolved the Parliament, and then carried a law into effect which rested on no authority but a Resolution of that House; yet the King's Speech told the House, that either that duty, or some other, must be imposed. If a single resolution of the House was sufficient for the repeal of taxes, taxes of great amount might be imposed by the same authority. He did not dispute the prerogative of the Crown, by which Parliament may be at any time dissolved; but allowing this, it was a prerogative which was viewed at all times with jealousy by the wisest statesmen, and for the exercise of which the Ministers of the Crown were responsible; and it rested on them to show the necessity of it in the present case.
§ Mr. Trevor
observed, in reply to the 203 hon, member for Middlesex, that if he canvassed populous places, he would find a great many who regretted that such a measure had been introduced. An appeal had been made to the public mind during an extraordinary excitement, and before time had been allowed to the people for reflection, and for considering in what way the numberless clauses of the Bill affected them. He was not one of those who were no Reformers; but there was a material difference between what the hon. member for Middlesex called a practical and useful Reform, and a sort of legal firebrand, which set the country in a blaze from one end to the other. He was not prepared to dispute the assertion that there was a considerable feeling in favour of Reform; but in some populous places, as in the one he represented, that feeling was not so decided. He was satisfied that ' a strong re-action would take place, and that as reflection arose in the minds of the people they would change their opinions.
§ Mr. Trant
condemned the unprecedented, and unconstitutional, and mischievous use, which had been made of the King's name. This was no light matter; it was of such importance, that his Majesty ought to be acquainted with the acts of his Ministers. The right hon. First Lord of the Admiralty, he had understood (from sources of information out of doors), had set the example in the House, for which he had been condemned by the late hon. member for Wareham, who, by some extraordinary process—by the most extraordinary tergiversation ever exhibited—had since been manufactured into a county Member. If he thought there was one man in the House, who would second him, he would move an Amendment to the Address, in order to put the record upon the Journals, and to prevent the Address passing nem. con. If ever there was an occasion in which the Sovereign ought to be acquainted with what passed in the country, the present was the occasion. These circumstances, and other acts and instances of violence, had lit a flame in the country which the Ministers would find it very difficult to quench. He would tell them, as the late member for Wareham had told the First Lord of the Admiralty, that although they might conduct the Government of the country, it would not be the Government of King, Lords, and Commons. He was not a party man; but there was now an occasion in which (as 204 their prayer enjoined) hon. Members should lay aside party feelings and animosities, and think only of the public good. He would caution hon. Gentlemen opposite not to increase the excitement in the country; for they would find it impossible to carry on their proceedings in that House, if they were under the dread of violence.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that there were two points in the Address, our foreign, and our domestic policy. He regretted that something more had not been said about our foreign policy. He agreed that it was most desirable to avoid war, but he would rather give up half his possessions than that the Poles should be destroyed by Russia. He had seen it stated in the newspapers, but he did not believe it, that while Government professed liberal opinions, and professed not to draw the sword in the contest between the Poles and Russians, they were sanctioning the transportation of British arms to Russia, to be used against the Poles. He had understood that there had been 200,000 stand of arms sent from Birmingham; and the manufacturers not being able to make them fast enough, some had been borrowed and sent from the Tower. The country would be indebted to him, if, in consequence of his question, any of his Majesty's Ministers contradicted the report. With regard to our domestic policy, allusions had been made to the disturbances throughout the country, and particularly in Ireland and Wales. If he (Mr. Hunt) understood right, they had been put down by what were called constitutional measures; but he lamented that no hon. Member had told the House how they had been put down. Had they been aware that upwards of twenty of his Majesty's subjects had been shot—fired upon by military—and buried without a Coroner's Inquest? He trusted the information which the hon. the Under Secretary for the Home Department would impart, respecting the alleged purchase of arms by a foreign State from the Government, and the riots at Merthyr Tydvil, by which twenty-six of our fellow-subjects lost their lives, would be satisfactory. It was too much, that such a number of human beings should be slaughtered without a Coroner's Inquest sitting to inquire into the circumstances attendant upon their death; and should no other hon. Member propose an inquiry into the nature of these circumstances, he 205 would take it upon himself to bring the matter fully before the House. He was anxious to say one word with respect to the great measure of Reform, which would shortly be under their consideration, as his conduct and sentiments in reference to it in the last Parliament had been insidiously misrepresented. He would give the Bill of his Majesty's Ministers his best support, so far as it corresponded with what he conceived to be the wants and wishes of the people. He could have wished, however, that it had gone further, and still more extended the franchise; and if the Tory party, with whom he was misrepresented to have contracted a political alliance, should propose a measure on a broader basis of Representation, he would vote for that. When the Bill was in Committee he would propose, as an Amendment on the clause fixing 10l. as the minimum rate of franchise, that the right of suffrage should be vested in every householder without distinction of rate.
Mr. G. Lamb
was very willing" to afford the hon. Member every information in his power concerning the alleged purchase of arms, and the deaths at Merthyr Tydvil. He was not called upon to say whether any such purchase of arms had been made from individuals by any foreign agents — he knew nothing of the transaction—but he could most distinctly state, that there was no foundation whatever for the assertion that Government had agreed to sell or bestow any of the arms in the Tower, or the other national arsenals, upon any foreign Power whatever. No such thing had occurred. Then, with respect to the lamentable occurrence at Merthyr Tydvil, though it was painful to him to have to allude to the fact of a number of our misguided fellow-subjects having been slain there, he should have still more regretted the transaction if he had not had an opportunity of explaining its true character. From the statements which had appeared in the public prints, which were in the main correct, hon. Members must have seen that the catastrophe at Merthyr Tydvil was perfectly justifiable so far as the military were concerned. Indeed, he spoke in the presence of hon. Members well acquainted with the localities where the transaction had taken place, and who would bear him out in saying, that the firing of the troops on the rioters was essential to the safety of their own lives and the property of the inhabitants. Without entering into a state- 206 ment of the circumstances which preceded the riot, it was enough for him to state, that the rioters felt themselves so confident in their numbers, as compared with the small body of troops in the town, that they attacked them with violence, and it was not till thirty stand of arms had been wrested from the troops in the street, that the soldiers in the inn at length felt themselves compelled in self defence to fire. The firing did not take place until it became unavoidable, for the safety of the troops, of the Magistrates, and of the population of the town. The people had come into the town for the purpose of plundering, which they carried into effect in the Court of Requests, and several other houses. It was true—and he regretted it was so—that no Coroner's Inquest had been held on the bodies; but the fault lay not with the Coroner, nor with the military or civil authorities. The fact was the commander of the troops, seeing the number and fury of the multitude that next day crowded the heights over the town, felt it to be his duty to retreat from the place altogether, and thus the rioters got entire possession of the scene of action. Scarcely had they thus obtained possession of the town, when they carried away the bodies of the slain (which had lain since the preceding day in a stable at the back of the inn) to be buried among their respective kind by that means, as it was evident, precluding the condition,—the super visum corporis,—on which a Coroner's Inquest must be held. Since that, however, one inquest had been held, and, after a full inquiry into the whole transaction, a verdict was returned of "Justifiable Homicide." He trusted this brief statement would satisfy the House that no blame lay with the Government with reference to the affair at Merthyr Tydvil.
said, that it was not his intention, on that occasion, to occupy the time of the House by adverting to the various topics embraced in his Majesty's Speech; he could not, however, refrain from expressing his deep disappointment at that part of it which adverted to the distressed condition of Ireland. The lamentable condition of the poor in that unhappy country, was too well known to be passed over without a direct reference to it; its causes had been too long clearly ascertained, to render that part of the melancholy subject a matter of the least 207 doubt, and the remedies had long appear- ed as certain as human reason and experience could make them. Still all his Majesty's Ministers recommended to Parliament was, "cautious consideration" in determining as to the bare "possibility of introducing any measures which may tend to prevent the recurrence of these evils;" and those measures, it further appeared,; were to be confined" to assisting the improvement of the natural resources of the country." He would assert, without any fear of contradiction, that these natural! resources had been improving, for at least half a century past, in a more rapid manner than in almost any other country of: the world; and still the wretched inhabit-! ants of that island had been subjected during the whole time, and up to the present hour, to constant distress, and to occasional visitations of famine and disease, which it was affecting to contemplate, Raising, as it did, an enormous surplus of the means of subsistence constantly exported, Parliament were nevertheless, it appeared, to set about gravely and cautiously considering whether it was even possible to assist Ireland. Adopt that measure which, said the hon. Member, is taken in every other civilised country upon earth; render that justice to the distressed poor of Ireland which every writer, whether on natural rights or religion, declares to be the natural and inalienable right of human beings—namely, relief in their distresses; and you will then pursue the course which policy and justice equally demand; but there is no need of that peculiar caution which, by yielding to the suggestions of the selfish, would only postpone and finally defeat any measure of permanent relief, A Poor-law for Ireland was, moreover, almost as essential to the well-being of the poor labourers and operatives of England, as it was to those of Ireland. A vast influx of the latter into this country, was occasioned by the want of employment and subsistence at home, reducing the wages and deteriorating the condition of the labouring classes in every part of the country. His Majesty's Speech had assured them that the disturbances of Ireland, and also those recently existing in England, were not of a political character. He (Mr. Sadler) concurred in that Representation. But in what then did they originate? In more deeply-rooted causes—in long-neglected and relentless injuries inflicted on the 208 country by what Blackstone had termed a fatal rural policy—in towns by an equally oppressive system, which had degraded the working classes, and which must be redressed before tranquillity, or even safety, could be secured. Recurring to Ireland, the hon. Member said, that, as his Majesty's Government did not appear disposed to take up the subject of a Poor-law for Ireland, humble as he was, he would attempt that duty. As he was bound in mercy, justice, and policy to his suffering and most ill-treated fellow-countrymen, he would take an early opportunity of doing so himself, and submit a Resolution to the House which would afford every hon. Member an occasion of recording his opinions on a measure—as he would endeavour to show—not only essential to the physical and moral well-being of the poor of Ireland, but to the prosperity of the empire at large. His Majesty's Speech had alluded to the disturbed condition of certain districts in Ireland, but neglected to call the attention of the House to the real cause of that condition—namely, the miserable state of the poor of that country; a state produced by the oppression of those who revelled on the hard-wrung earnings of those whom they cruelly abandoned when no longer able to contribute to their ill-employed splendour; but he trusted that a state of affairs so anomalous in its moral and political relations would no longer be permitted to stain the Legislature of the country; and that the Irish landlords, particularly the absentees, who spent their enormous rents in a foreign land, to the total neglect—indeed ruin— of their oppressed tenantry, would be compelled to disgorge some portion of their ill-gotten gains, so as to save their wretched vassals from famine and misery. He had the authority of an Irish Catholic Prelate, who did him the honour of addressing him on the subject, to state, that nineteen twenty of the Irish landed property in the districts more particularly distressed belonged to absentees; and he had the authority of every man at all acquainted with Ireland, including a former right hon. Secretary opposite, to state, that the disturbances in that country are uniformly owing to local suffering and oppression. Till a legal provision for the poor of Ireland had received the sanction of the Legislature, it would be worse than needless to expect that any measure, or series of measures, for the improvement of the 209 moral and intellectual condition of its inhabitants could be of any use; and accordingly, as he had stated, he would endeavour to obtain that sanction on the first opportunity. It was unjust to England— it was degrading to Ireland—thus to relieve the perpetually recurring distress of Ireland in this casual and uncertain manner. The sufferings of the poor Irish were too constant to be thus occasionally mitigated, and too deep to be much longer endured.
said, that, as the Speech from the Throne had adverted to Ireland, it could not be deemed irrelevant, on his part, to call the attention of the House to it. Although Reform engrossed the public mind, still the connection of Ireland with Reform, independent of other considerations, must warrant an Irish Member in calling the present condition, and the likelihoods connected with the future state of Ireland, to their notice. Together with Reform, a series of salutary measures ought to be introduced, which would relieve the real grievances of the country, and show the Irish people that their solicitude for the Repeal of the Union was unreasonable. There could be no doubt that the question of the Repeal of the Union was every day becoming more formidable. The discussion of the Catholic Question, and the manner in which it was of necessity carried, prepared the public mind for the reception of another question still more national, and calculated to excite the popular passions. The great influence acquired by one distinguished individual was combined to assist and call out the instincts of nationality, which had become peculiarly excitable by the former struggle. What then did it behave Government to do? They should counteract the numerous circumstances which were their antagonists, by measures of substantial benefit. He then adverted to the necessity of making a provision for the poor, and recommended an absentee tax, as calculated at once to relieve the distresses and satisfy the feelings of the people. He called the attention of the House to the necessity of conciliating the Catholic Clergy, bat deprecated any notion of linking them by a pecuniary, or what they would consider an ignominious tie. By intrusting them with the education of the people, by yielding to their complaints against the spirit of proselytism, and by increasing the funds granted for education, 210 and placing them more or less under the control of the Catholie hierarchy, a fair, a legitimate influence, founded upon reciprocal confidence, would be obtained. He was well aware that much of what he had suggested might be deemed irrelevant, but he thought it his duty, as an Irish Member, not to permit concerns of that country which was every day rising in importance to pass without a peculiar notice. Let the Government adhere to the wise and lofty principles by which its policy had been in other respects directed, and engage in the noble enterprise of giving completion and perfection to that great work of national pacification, without which they had been told by its advocates that nothing could be effected for Ireland, but with which alone they were also told that all could not be accomplished; and, remembering that they were to consult the real interests of a nation, and not the narrow views of a faction, let the Statesmen to whom the destinies of this great empire were confided not content themselves with fastening the two countries by mere statutory bonds, or the mere ligatures of law, but blend them by gradually diffusing the consciousness that both were in the enjoyment of the same rights, the same privileges, the same benefits, and the same constitutional freedom, and thus, by the wisest, as well as the most exalted means, lay the basis of their perpetual happiness in their inseparable connection.
Mr. G. Dawson felt
himself called upon to say a few words, having been alluded to by the hon. member for Middlesex, and being anxious to obtain an explanation from the right hon. Gentlemen opposite with reference to declarations of theirs in the last Session of Parliament. It might be recollected that in the week preceding the late dissolution, the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, now in his place, was asked by Sir Richard Vyvyan, then member for Cornwall—first, whether he meant to proceed that Session with the Reform Bill? and secondly, if not, whether it was the intention of Ministers to recommend to his Majesty to dissolve Parliament? These questions were put by Sir Richard Vyvyan at five o'clock in the afternoon on the Thursday of the last week of the late Session: it was important to bear this fact in mind. The noble Lord answered that it was the intention of Ministers not to proceed with the Reform Bill that Session, and though 211 his answer to the second question was rather evasively couched, the impression which it left on all who heard it was, that Ministers had resolved upon having recourse to a dissolution. On the day on which these questions were thus answered, the debate on the Liverpool disfranchisement Bill was held, and continued till one o'clock, when a motion for adjournment was carried, contrary to the wishes of Ministers, who declared, because that motion was agreed to, that therefore Parliament had refused to grant the necessary Supplies for the public service of the year. This was their pretext for the dissolution. But mark its absurd inconsistency: at five o'clock the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) opposite states, that Ministers have resolved upon a dissolution; and yet, when the dissolution takes place, he and his colleagues state that they were forced into the act by an occurrence which took place at past one o'clock of the ensuing morning. Such was their language in the other House of Parliament, where the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack stated, that his Majesty's Government were compelled to advise a dissolution, "as the House of Commons had last night refused the necessary Supplies." Now either this was the fact, or it was not: if it was, what became of the noble Lord's (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) answer to Sir R. Vyvyan? If not, what became of the Lord Chancellor's assertion? He should like to know how the noble Lord could extricate himself from this dilemma. He called upon some member of the Cabinet to explain this contradiction. Well, a dissolution, be its proximate cause what it might, took place, and the several Members addressed themselves to their constituents. Among others, the right hon. Baronet, member for Cumberland, (Sir J. Graham.) He would read a passage from the right hon. Baronet's address, in order to show that he took the same view of the dissolution with that expressed in the other House by the Lord Chancellor, and therefore placed the noble Lord in the contradictory dilemma which he had just alluded to. "The last division," says the right hon. Baronet, in his address, "which had the effect of delaying the supplies." [Hear, hear.] Perhaps the right hon. Baronet and his friends would not be so ready to cheer when the whole of the paragraph was read. The. last division, which had the effect 212 of delaying the supplies necessary for the public service, left no alternative to the Government but that of abandoning the Bill, or of advising his Majesty to have recourse to the sense of his people." [Loud cheers on the Ministerial side.] He really knew not on what ground hon. Members opposite were so ready with their cheers—particularly for language which was in direct contradiction to the explanation of the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to Sir R. Vyvyan. But, perhaps, all this time the address he had been reading was a "misrepresentation of the Press." If the words were not the right hon. Baronet's, and the right hon. Baronet should disclaim them, his disclaimer would, he was sure, be received with great satisfaction by the House. He therefore called upon the right hon. Baronet to explain himself, and upon his noble colleague to explain his share of the dilemma. When their explanations had gone forth to the public, the Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House would no longer be taunted, as they too successfully and most unjustly had been, with having compelled Ministers to dissolve Parliament, by refusing the supplies necessary for the public service. Those who voted for the adjournment the night he alluded to contemplated no such object: not a single man, he was convinced, who voted against Ministers on that occasion conceived for a moment that an adjournment was equivalent to a refusal of the Supplies. In fact the assertion was too absurd to be seriously refuted; if the adjournment of any Order of the Day relating to the Estimates meant the refusing the Supplies necessary for the public service, then the hon. member for Middlesex had cut off the Supplies some thirty times every Session, and therefore, according to the logic of Ministers, the hon. Member compelled them to dissolve Parliament so often as he induced them to adjourn the Estimates from one day to another. The assertion, he repeated, was too ridiculous to be seriously contradicted, and was only broached by the right hon. Gentlemen opposite for paltry election purposes, and was artfully impressed upon the minds of the people. He hoped that after that evening, not one man in England would be foolish enough to believe that the adjournment on the evening he alluded to was equivalent to—or even supposed to be, in effect, the same as—refusing the 213 Supplies. And now one word with respect to the position in which Ministers stood with reference to these Supplies. The Army and Navy Estimates had been voted, but their appropriation not sanctioned by Act of Parliament. The Ordnance Estimates were not voted when Parliament was dissolved, and that branch of the service had to be made good from the Exchequer, on the responsibility of Ministers. What was the consequence? Why that Ministers would have to seek an Act of Indemnity for the results of their own act of dissolution. It was plain, that if they were enabled to thus readily make good the deficiency of the Supplies—the clamour about their being "compelled into a dissolution" was, to say the least, a tenfold exaggeration of party spirit, in keeping with the unfair, and gross, and most compulsory influence used by Ministers at the late elections. He said most unfair and compulsory influence, and would refer to, without entering into a long statement, the conduct of Ministers in Ireland, more particularly in the city of Dublin. On that occasion, he would not hesitate to say, that the influence of the King's name was used in a manner the most disgraceful in the annals of elections. He had himself received several letters from persons resident in Dublin, stating that the parties had no alternative between voting for the Reform candidates and giving up their situations under the Irish Government. These facts should be borne in mind when hon. Members opposite vaunted themselves upon being the Representatives, freely chosen, of the people, and that, too, when it would be easy to show that the grossest influence had been exercised by Ministers, to the total disregard of even the exterior of decency. Considering all these things, he conceived that something more was necessary than the mere expression that there was a possibility of doing something for the relief of Ireland. He was, however, happy to learn that Government had done something, even though it was temporary, for that country. It had, he lamented to say, been stated to him, that Ministers had not taken so active a part in the relief of the distress by which Ireland was afflicted as they ought to have done. He had been told by some members of the Irish Committee, that the subject of Irish distress was treated by the Government with the greatest indifference, apathy, and cold- 214 ness. The noble Lord opposite, and the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department, had been informed that not less than 140,000 individuals were in a state of starvation in Ireland, yet no immediate relief was afforded to them. At length a deputation of the Irish Committee forced themselves into the presence of the Home Secretary, in order to draw his attention to this distressing subject; and, as he understood, the first question put to them was, whether there was really any distress in Ireland? If this assertion were not true, it was proper that the right hon. Gentleman opposite should have an opportunity of contradicting it. The bare notice of the distress in Ireland, as it appeared in the King's Speech, would not, he was convinced, allay the irritation or remove the distress which at present prevailed in Ireland. In 1826, when distress prevailed in the manufacturing districts of this country, immense benefits were derived from a grant of 15,000l., which was distributed in small sums. He was of opinion that a similar course might be beneficially adopted with reference to Ireland. Surely, the Government could not suppose that that House would not freely agree to a grant of money for so humane a purpose. In conclusion, the right hon. Gentleman again expressed his opinion that the distressed state of Ireland ought to have been adverted to in a more open and distinct manner than it was in his Majesty's Speech.
Sir J. Graham
said, the House would pardon him, if, for a few minutes, he presumed to occupy their time. He was not in the habit of doing so until he felt himself called upon, as in this instance he did. He did not expect to be obliged, on that occasion, especially when he found that no amendment was to be moved to the Address, to have to make any observations to the House; but, though no amendment had been moved, attacks had been made which placed the Government in a very unsatisfactory position, and which peculiarly called on him for some observations, after what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite with respect to his conduct in the matter of the late dissolution. That right hon. Gentleman had said something in a tone of personality which it seemed the House desired should be laid aside, and had brought forward certain charges against him. He had at first doubted whether these charges 215 were personal, for he felt that if they were, that was not the place for him to call for an explanation of them, [Hear, hear, from Lord Stormont]. The noble Lord who cheered so loudly, had, he remembered, on a former occasion, produced from his pocket a volume of Shakspeare, to show what crows would do in a reformed Parliament, but he himself exhibited even in an unreformed Parliament something of the kind; and when he talked of crows, he should recollect that there were days, who would peck at the character which they attempted to soil, but which they could not destroy. Another noble Lord, by his reductio ad absurdum, by his insinuations about paltry, insignificant motives, had thrown a few random shots, which passed by those against whom they were aimed, but might rebound on himself. Even when thus attacked, he had been unwilling to enter on his defence; but when the right hon. Gentleman, with whom from his earliest youth he had been on terms of friendship, when he thought that the character thus attacked suffered something from the imputation cast on it, he could not hesitate longer to obey the call; not so much in deference, indeed, to his right hon. friend as in deference to his own character, and in deference to the House, for which he generally entertained a deep respect. He had had other reasons besides those now mentioned for abstaining from defending himself on this occasion. He had not an accurate recollection of the words of the address to the freeholders which the right hon. Gentleman had quoted. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had the advantage of him, by coming down with the words of the address itself, without giving him notice, a document which, since the time it was published, he had neither seen nor thought of. He supposed, when the subject was first mentioned, that he had not used the word "refuse" with respect to the Supplies, and that he had not said anything about stopping the Supplies. The right hon. relation of the right hon. Gentleman who first alluded to the subject, had done him justice by reading the words of the address, from which it appeared that the words "stopping or refusing the Supplies" had not been in the address, but that he stated that a certain motion, on being carried, had had the effect of "delaying" the Supplies. But the right hon. Gentleman had been vastly 216 circumstantial as to dates, and out of respect to his own character, thus attacked, he (Sir J. Graham) should refer to circumstances, which he believed he could do, without violating the secrets of his Majesty's councils; for if he did not feel he could do so, he should abstain from making the following statement:—On the Thursday evening Sir It. Vyvyan put a question as to the intention of the Government with respect to proceeding with the Bill. He admitted that the answer of the noble Lord on the Thursday evening was positive as to one point, but that the answer as to the dissolution was not direct, but was of such a nature as not to be misunderstood. He had already observed, that the quotation from his address was imperfect; for there was no reference to more than one of three things. The first of these was the small majority on the second reading; and the next, the small majority against the Bill in a subsequent stage; which produced the third matter— namely, the delay of the Supplies. All these went to make up the grounds of the determination of his Majesty's Government. It had been this night said, that the noble Lord (Althorp) had not warned the hon. member for Marlborough that it was of the last importance that the Supplies should be passed that night, He must say, that if ever a warning was given to any man of anything that would most assuredly happen should another event take place, that warning had been given on the occasion referred to. He would not stay to ask whether the course pursued by hon. Gentlemen opposite had had the effect of delaying the Supplies; he would only observe, that such was, from its very nature, most likely to be its effect. If hon. Gentlemen had only sought to put an end to that discussion, they might-have moved an adjournment of the Debate; it was not necessary to move an adjournment of the House. He would appeal to their honour, as private gentlemen; he appealed in this manner especially to the hon. and learned Member opposite (Sir C. Wetherell), whether that was not the decided purpose of the Gentlemen who had acted together on that occasion? [Sir C. Wetherell, in reply, said, he was not in the House.] He appealed to that hon. and learned Gentleman, because among many honourable men, and many honourable men there were on that side of the House, there was not one man 217 of higher honour than the hon. and learned Gentleman to whom he had appealed. He asked, whether it had not been the intention of these hon. Gentlemen to stop the Ordnance Estimates? He thought there was in the circumstances themselves strong evidence of the fact. The right hon. Baronet opposite seemed as if he felt that such was the object of the motion, for he appeared unwilling to mix himself up with it, and left the House without voting. [Sir R. Peel said, he was not present when the motion was made.] No, but during the debate, and almost within a few moments of the time of making the motion, the right hon. Baronet had been present, though just before the moment at which it was actually made he left the House.
Sir R. Peel
said, that he was present on the occasion of the debate referred to; he made a long speech, and left the House before the division; but not for the cause supposed by the right hon. Baronet.
Sir J. Graham
continued. The effect of delaying the Supplies was conclusive with the Ministers as to the necessity of dissolving the Parliament. It was on Thursday they had felt strongly inclined to do so; but after that, though a difficulty arose that seemed insuperable, the dissolution became a matter of unavoidable necessity. He alluded to the Supplies for the Ordnance. Estimates. It had happened, in 17S4 and in 1807, that the Government were placed in a similar situation. Parliament was dissolved without the Ordnance Supplies being voted. But it so happened, that it was discovered there was a sum voted and appropriated, but not expended, and the difficulty the Ministry felt was unexpectedly got over. Up to this moment, the Army and Navy had been supplied from money voted by that House, and the Ordnance had been provided for out of a sum of money voted in the preceding year, and appropriated for that purpose, but which happened not to have been expended; he was happy in being able to communicate that fact to the House. Under these circumstances he was justified in saying, that it was the vote of Thursday night which had convinced the Ministry that they would betray what they conceived to be their duty to their Sovereign and their country, if they did not advise the King to dissolve the Parliament. That was the plain unvarnished tale he had to tell them; he 218 told it without the opportunity of referring to documents, without consulting any person whatever—he told it upon his recollection of what had occurred; and having done so, he threw himself upon the consideration of the House, and asked them fairly, whether what he had stated was not a sufficient explanation, and whether (he was almost ashamed to ask it) the truth of his assertions was not amply proved by their own recollection of the circumstances to which he had referred? With respect to what had been said regarding Ireland, he had no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman near him would be fully able to satisfy the House upon that subject. But there was one point upon which he himself wished to make a single observation. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had spoken of the influence of the Government as displayed in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman ought to know something of the sort of influence lately exercised there, for it had been exercised in a part of Ireland with which he was well acquainted—the county of Derry. The present Government had there fulfilled a duty which the late Government had neglected to perform. He alluded to a sum of 1,5,000l. which had been lent to the corporation of Derry, and which, by the terms of an Act of Parliament, was to be repaid within a specified time. That time had elapsed without payment, and, indeed, up to the period at which the present Ministry took office, the money had not been repaid. The present Government had felt it to be their duty rigorously to enforce payment of this debt, though at the hazard of offending the corporation, and forfeiting all election influence. He would say one word with respect to the neglect of Government to supply relief to the Irish. He did not think that the Government were bound to place implicit reliance on the Irish Committee. He had the highest respect for the persons composing that Committee, but the Government had thought it more safe that relief should be administered by persons over whom it possessed an immediate control, as, from the experience of former years, Ministers were aware that many abuses had arisen in consequence of the want of that control over the persons employed to administer the relief afforded to the Irish. Now, what was the fact with regard to the supposed neglect of the Government? A fortnight ago they had 219 sent out a person, a responsible officer of the Victualling Board, a gentleman of known ability, honour, and integrity—a man of great experience in the purchase of stores and provisions—with some means of relieving the distress. That gentleman was sent to Westport, the very centre of the distressed districts, with a limitation of his power, it is true, as to the amount of credit he was to obtain, but still with a very extensive credit, and he was directed to be most cautious in his selection of persons to be intrusted with the distribution of the relief, but he was instructed at the same time to administer that relief, wherever he was satisfied that relief was actually wanted. In this conduct the Government at home had been anticipated by the Irish Government, for his right hon. friend, out of the funds in the Irish Exchequer, had already administered relief to the distressed Irish, and the Governmental home had gone to the utmost verge, being sure of parliamentary sanction from the urgency of the case; and in those very districts where distress had been most prevalent is must be a consolation to the House to know that there was a confidential public officer administering relief.
Mr. John Smith
said, it was true, that applications had been made to the Government on the part of the London Committee, but it was not the fact, that the Government had ever expressed any doubt as to the existence of distress in Ireland. lie believed, on the contrary, that the strong but true picture he had drawn of that distress had produced a powerful effect on the members of Government. The member of the Government to whom the application was made, said that he had no power to order the application of any money, and the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer was then engaged at his election, but. as soon as he returned to town the subject should be laid before him. The noble Lord did return the next day, and immediately wrote a letter, stating that the Government would take measures to remedy this dreadful evil. He afterwards knew that the Government had given money to relieve the distress; but he could further assure the House, and it would be satisfactory to everybody to know, that the public sympathy had been awakened, and those subscriptions which had slowly increased between 4 and 5000l., for some days, had this very morning amounted to a sum exceeding 23,000l. 220 He was sure that any one who knew as much as he did of the existence of this distress, would be satisfied that it was the duty of the Government to do what they could to relieve it in the first instance. He was happy to say, that all the members of the Government had shown the greatest sympathy for the distresses of the Irish peasantry. They had done a vast deal to relieve it, perhaps all that the circumstances of their situation justified them in doing. This however, was but a temporary relief; there must be one of a permanent nature; and if no one else proposed it, he should take upon himself to do so. It would be proper to lay some contribution on the land in Ireland, for the purpose of preventing the poor from perishing of absolute want. In the county of Mayo, he believed that capital might be advantageously employed; and that if a sum of money was advanced to drain the bogs there, it would afford present employment to a large number of poor people, and would secure a good return.
§ Lord Stormont
thought, that the observations of the right hon. Baronet called for some explanation. That right hon. Baronet had adverted to the terms of a former Debate, and said, that he (Lord Stormont) had attacked his character. He did not know why the right hon. Baronet had thus selected him. He was ready to meet the right hon. Baronet upon this point, at any time whatever. The right hon. Baronet said there were some daws which pecked at a character they could not soil. [No,] Well, then, some daws that pecked at a character which they attempted to soil, but which they could not injure. He wished to ask the right hon. Baronet distinctly, whether he was meant when that description was used? He was ready to answer at all times and in all places for anything he had ever said or done in public or private, and he called on the right on. Baronet to say if he was meant. He would answer the question which the right hon. Baronet had put to that side of the House. He had voted for the measure referred to with the perfect consciousness that it would stop the business of the House. The right hon. Baronet said, that was one of the inducements of the Government to dissolve the Parliament. Now he had given the right hon. Baronet a manly answer, and he required the right hon. Baronet to answer in the same manner this question—whether the motion of Lord Wharn- 221 cliffe in the House of Lords was not the reason for the dissolution? He had given a manly answer to that which was alleged against him, and he now called on the right hon. Baronet to reply to that question. It had been made matter of reproach that he and others had voted for the adjournment with an intention of stopping the Supplies. A doubt existed whether such really was the case. For his own part, he did not hesitate to say, that he voted for the adjournment with a perfect consciousness that such a vote was calculated to retard the business of the House. The dissolution which followed he could not but consider as almost unprecedented in parliamentary history. The fact was, that Ministers, intending to reduce the number of the House, and finding that the House was opposed to that, saw that they no longer had the confidence of the House. This was the reason of the Ministers going to the King. He could not, of course, tell what passed at that interview; but it was clear, from what the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had said to-night, that the Ministers had made up their minds to dissolve the Parliament before the vote upon the Estimates. He had heard that, on the morning after the evening on which Lord Wharncliffe had given notice of his motion, the Ministers went to his Majesty, and required an immediate dissolution of Parliament. Another inconvenience which had resulted from the dissolution, and which had not yet been alluded to, was the situation in which the hon. member for Waterford stood. At the moment of the dissolution that hon. Member had been found guilty, by a jury of his countrymen, of certain illegal acts, and, in consequence of the dissolution, the hon. member for Water ford had passed unpunished. The next point to which he would allude was the conduct of the Ministers at the elections all over the country, where there had been influence of all kinds used, even to the threatening of persons, if they did not vote for the supporters of the Government. He should wish also to know what the Government intended to do with regard to those elections at which violence had been used. In one ease, a man had been put into a chaise and forcibly carried away. He had another complaint to make, and one in which a noble friend of his (Lord Howick) was implicated. He had seen, that at a dinner in Northumberland, at which 222 his noble friend was present, the High Sheriff gave, as a toast, "The sovereignty of the people;" and this too before the health of the King was given. Now, he certainly thought that this required an explanation on the part of his noble friend. All at that dinner were subject to blame, but more particularly was his noble friend, who, being one of the Ministers, and the son of the Premier, sat quietly by and heard the King insulted. Yes, insulted —for an insult to the King that toast had, on other occasions, been very properly considered. Some on the other side of the House might think the "sovereignty of the people" a very proper expression, but the rank and talent of the country thought very differently. Who were they that laughed? Were they the agitators, the fawners on the base multitude, who upon the hustings had pledged themselves to the Reform Bill, and who thus had come to Parliament as fettered delegates, and not as free Representatives of the people?
§ Lord Howick
said, that after the allusion which his noble friend had made to him, he felt it necessary to offer a few words to the House. It was true, that he had been present at a dinner at Alnwick, and that at that dinner, before the health of the King was given, the High-Sheriff proposed, not "the sovereignty of the people," but "the people, the legitimate source of all power." He perfectly agreed with his noble friend that the health of the King ought most certainly to have come first; but he was sure, that his friend the High Sheriff meant nothing disrespectful to his Majesty in giving the other toast first. Indeed, the whole of the speech of the High Sheriff fully demonstrated this, for that speech was full of encomiums as heartfelt as they were merited upon the conduct of his Majesty, whom the High Sheriff characterized as a monarch who considered himself as reigning for the happiness and the welfare of the people—an expression which he (Lord Howick) was sure his Majesty would be the last person in the empire to find fault with. Immediately after this toast, the health of his Majesty was given, and he would venture to say, that at no Pitt dinner had "The King" ever been received with more hearty and cordial acclamation. He wished that those Gentlemen who professed to entertain apprehensions of the loyalty of the people, had been with him during the tour he had made in the country, and 223 heard how every praise of the public and private virtues of his Majesty was responded to by the people. Indeed, if any one wished to elicit applause from the people, he had only to praise the King and he was sure to succeed. He had, however, merely risen to state to the House the circumstances of the case to which his noble friend had alluded, and he thought that every Gentleman he was addressing would be of opinion, that if he had interfered as to the order of the toasts at such a dinner, he should have been guilty of most unwarrantable and improper conduct.
thought, that his noble friend had given a most triumphant answer to the noble Lord opposite; and though the noble Lord might consider this business of the election dinner at Alnwick a most important affair, yet he trusted that the House would agree with him, that the discussion of after-dinner toasts, was not the most dignified manner of commencing a session of unparalleled importance. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) opposite had, in a manner which did him infinite credit, deprecated on this occasion, when they had an opportunity of uniting cordially in an expression of loyalty and attachment to the King, the introduction of any topics which might lead to acrimonious discussion; and yet he was sorry to say, that almost every Gentleman opposite had (he hoped it was not their aim) indulged in speeches, the direct and unavoidable tendency of which was, to excite the most acrimonious of all discussions. The Gentlemen opposite had dragged into the debate topics that were not alluded to in the Speech from the Throne—that had not been adverted to by any preceding speaker; and they had done this, as it would seem, though he hoped it was not so, for the very purpose of departing from, and getting rid of, that line which the right hon. Baronet opposite had so properly laid down. There was one question among the variety and multiplicity of the questions which hon. Gentlemen had put to him,—aquestion which had been put to him by the noble Lord opposite, and which he was very glad had been put to him, since it gave him an opportunity of meeting an imputation that had been thrown upon his personal consistency, and upon the honour of the Government of which he was a member. He knew that it had been held, and declared, and broadly put forward, that the dissolution 224 of Parliament was brought about for the purpose of collusion and deception, and that, among other objects of the dissolution, one was, to save a person, of whom he wished to say no more than that he had been subjected to a State prosecution, and that a verdict had passed against him. He would state at once, and without preface or circumlocution, that, upon his solemn word of honour, there never was a charge more utterly destitute of foundation than this. Shortly after the dissolution of Parliament it was intended to bring up for the judgment of the Court that individual—that gentleman, who was a Member of that House; but then very serious doubts arose, whether the dissolution of the Parliament had not in fact put an end to the prosecution. He knew that some were of opinion that the Government had unnecessarily abandoned a public duty in not bringing that hon. Member up for judgment; but these must be persons who were either unacquainted with the facts of the case, or who were unfortunately incapable of understanding them. He would go farther than saying that there had been no collusion; he would say, that not only had there been no collusion or compromise, but that he should have been most glad if Mr. O'Connell could have been brought up for judgment, and that such also was the feeling of the Government. This, however, was found to be impossible. Doubtful of their own opinions, the legal advisers of the Crown in Ireland had consulted with others, and the case had been referred to the Attorney and Solicitor General on this side the water. The result was, that finding that there was not the slightest shadow of ground for calling for the judgment of the Court, the Attorney General had—-and in his opinion the Attorney General had acted wisely, and as became a man who was careful of the honour of those whom he represented— the Attorney General had given notice to the opposite party that the prosecution was abandoned; but the Attorney General accompanied that notice with an intimation, that if it had been possible to carry it on, nothing could have induced him to abandon it. But then they had been told, that they ought not to have dissolved the Parliament, because by so doing Mr. O'Connell had escaped. Now no man could be more sensible than he was of the importance of 225 showing to the people of Ireland, that although Mr. O'Connell chose to go beyond the law, yet he was not above the law; but, without meaning the slightest disrespect to Mr. O'Connell, he must say, that if he put, on the one hand, the success of a great and important measure like the Reform Bill, and on the other hand the confinement of Mr. O'Connell in Kilmainham gaol for three, or six, or nine months, he must say, that what became of Mr. O'Connell was as dust in the balance. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr.G. Dawson) opposite was one of those, in his opinion, who was least free from the blame—if, indeed, blame attached, as he thought it did, to such hon. Gentlemen—of introducing topics into this discussion which were calculated to raise acrimonious feelings. The right hon. Gentleman had told them at the commencement of his speech, that nothing of a personal or angry character should fall from him—of that they might be confident: but then the right hon. Gentleman, not of set purpose, he (Mr. Stanley) was sure, but hurried away by the flow of eloquence, indulged in such a speech as would make every body who did not know that he was a very good-natured man, believe that he was a most ill-natured one, and, with all, in a very violent passion. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that it would be with the greatest satisfaction that he should find, if he did find, that the charges which he had made against the Government with respect to the distress in Ireland could be refuted. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman now upon the enjoyment of that satisfaction— for surely charges had never before been so satisfactorily refuted. But the right hon. Gentleman had also accused the Government of having exercised in the! late election for Dublin a degree of influence which no Government had ever before exerted; he had told them that ' persons holding places had been discharged I because they had not voted for the Reform candidates; and that no person over whom the Government could exercise control had; been allowed to vote as they pleased. Now, he would venture to assert, that in no in- stance in the memory of living man had elections been so free from the influence of Government [cries of "Oh, oh," from the Opposition]; and he called upon those: Gentlemen who were so loud in their cries of "oh," to get up in their places 226 and state how such influence had been exercised, designating particularly, if they pleased, by name, those persons who had. been discharged for not voting in unison with the feeling of the Government. He would venture to say, that no threats had been held out; nay, he would go further, and say, that men who recollected the good old times of Ireland, were struck with horror at the apathy which the Government exhibited towards their own friends, and held up their hands in wonder and amazement at the absence of that mild and constitutional exercise of Government authority in elections with which, in other days, they had been so familiar. To give one instance of the conduct which the Government had pursued with regard to the election, he would mention that a private circular had been sent to the police, through the Inspectors, stating that no inquiry would be made as to how they voted; that they might vote for whom they pleased; and that the only restriction intended to be placed upon them was, that they should not act as partisans on either side. It was well known that that respectable and well-disciplined body, the police of Ireland, could exercise very sat influence on a general election. Now he called upon those who knew, and who had known Ireland, to tell him whether any Government had acted thus before. Upon all the points of his charges the right hon. Gentleman had received a most direct, and he hoped a most satisfactory, contradiction. He would only add with regard to the distress in Ireland, that long before that subject had been brought before the House, at the commencement of the last Session, the Government had begun to send provisions into the distressed districts—and that by sending other stocks there, they had forced into the markets the stocks of those who, profiting by the distress that prevailed, hoarded their own stocks in order to raise the prices of them to famine prices. This was the system that the Government had pursued, and he was happy to learn that it had been pursued with so much secrecy, as to have escaped even the vigilant and active inquiry of the right hon. Gentleman himself; for vigilant and active and con stant the inquiries of that Gentleman must have been, or he would never have ventured to make against the Government in Parliament a deliberate charge of not having paid the slightest attention to the 227 distress that prevailed in Ireland until about a fortnight since. He was glad, however, that the system had been kept secret, to he was persuaded that the ignorance of it had given a spur to the charity of individuals; and while this fact was evident, the Government were content, for a time, to lie under the odium of neglecting the famishing population of the western part of Ireland. With respect to some observations which had fallen from the hon. Member (Mr. Sadler) recommending a system of Poor-laws for Ireland, he must observe, that the introduction of such laws into that country was a subject which, though it might be necessary to approach it, was not to be hastily decided upon, and that he was surprised that that hon. Gentleman, who was so great an advocate for things as they were, for things because they were old, and only because they were old, should recommend that so sweeping a change should be made at once, without debate and without consideration, saying, "Take my panacea, apply my remedy, and discuss and consider the merits and the properties of it afterwards." He was, however, anxious to take time first to inquire and deliberate, although he was very far from thinking that such a case of paramount necessity might not be proved as to render some system of local assessment at least expedient. Such a portentous step could, however, only be taken as an alternative of ills, and then not without the utmost caution. He was not aware, that any other topics had been introduced which he was required to notice, and he trusted that the Address would be voted nemine contradicente, as an expression of attachment and loyalty, and as a proof of a determination to follow, during the Session, the advice given from the Throne, of discussing all matters with temper and moderation. As far as the Reform Bill was concerned, if it were to pass—of which he had no doubt—such a course would render it more perfect, more satisfactory to its friends, and more palatable to its enemies.
said, there was no prospect of immediately restoring tranquillity to Ireland. Energy was required in the Irish government, and nothing could encourage the monstrous confederations in Clare more than unmerited mercy. These excesses had forced numbers to flee from their property to join the disturbers un- 228 willingly, who, if they had been protected by Government, would have upheld the law, and resisted the war of population against property. It was painful for a young Member to stand forward as the advocate of harsh measures; but the gaol of Ennis was fuller when the Judges left than when they entered the town. The outrages, too, were continued, so that (and this appeared to him to be one of these cases) where the ordinary laws were not equal to the emergency. The gentry in parts of Ireland had been driven from their houses from the want of sufficient force to protect them, and government could not send to so, for they were required elsewhere. Before the dissolution of the late Parliament, there were tumultuous, meetings in Dublin, which the Government, with the approbation of every loyal man, took measures to put down; for this it deserved his praise. The offenders were prosecuted, and the excitement subsided; but he conceived the present tranquillity in Ireland, to be full of danger, He would then call the attention of the House to a curious circumstance connected with the late elections in Dublin. Four respect able tradesmen of Dublin had me to him, and asked him what they should do in consequence of their having received a notice from the Castle to vote in a certain way [Cries of "Name."] He understood that there was a petition from Dublin, which he would not prejudice by stating the names of those persons publicly; but he had no objection to state them in private to the Chief Secretary for Ireland.
said, it would be necessary for the hon. Member to show, that the persons who gave this notice were under the control of Government. He thought the House would see, that private information of such notice was rather a vague ground of accusation, and that it certainly would not bear out the charge that Government had influenced the election.
Sir R. Bateson
said, that for the last fifty years no such influence had been exercised by a Government in Ireland as had been exercised by this Government at the late election. A gallant Officer had been started, as an opponent to him,, by a privy council sitting in the Castle,
said, the hon. Baronet could know nothing about what took place at a privy council sitting in the Castle.
Sir R. Bateson
said, that he spoke ironically when he talked of a privy council. 229 He meant a council sitting in the drawing-room; and if the right hon. Gentleman wished to know what persons were present at that council, he (Sir R. Bateson) could tell him. As to the circular which had been sent to the police, that was quite nugatory, for there were no 10l. freeholders among the police. The Commander of the Forces was started against him —the commander of the forces came into the county of Deny, attended by his aides-de-camp, whiskered and mustachioed, who were seen galloping over the county, and who were supported by a ruffianlymob, hired, not by the Commander of the Forces, who was a gallant man, and who would have despised such an act, but hired by the supporters or that gallant i Officer, armed with knives and sticks, and to whom his hon. colleague very pearly fell a victim. He saw one of those aides-de-camp clipping those ruffians on the shoulders, and encouraging them to proceed. He stated these facts in direct and plump contradiction to the assertion that the Government had not influenced the Irish elections. Orders had been issued from the Castle to all persons holding office, warning them to take care how they voted. He would go father, and say, that there was hardly a half-pay surgeon in the country who did not receive such a notice, and who was not prevented from voting according to his conscience. He would go still further, and say that the Lord Chancellor and his family had interfered in that election—that places in the Church and even in the Law—places as high and as sacred as those of Judges— had been offered for votes. An Assistant Barrister's place had been bartered for thirty votes. He had been charged in his own county with having given a vote which stopped the King's Supplies. He asked the gentleman who made this charge against him, where he got his information from, and the gentleman told him "from the Castle." Now, no list of the division on that question had been published, and he did not know how any one could tell which way he had voted upon that occasion. The fact, however, was, that he was not in the House during the debate, but coming in and being told, that the Ordnance Estimates were about to be brought on, he had determined to vote against their being proceeded with then; for it was one o'clock, and he had always been of opinion with the hon. member for 230 Middlesex, that that was too late an hour for the discussion of such matters. He, therefore, had voted for the adjournment; and he stated now, as he had slated in his own county, that whoever told him that he had voted factiously, and for the purpose of stopping the King's Supplies, stated a gross and wanton falsehood. He had been recommended to join with the other candidate in Derry, and desert his old friends, but he should have despised himself if he could have been guilty of such conduct, and he gloried in having beaten the Government in Ireland, from the Lord Lieutenant down to the lowest officer in his Excellency's service.
.—Although somewhat irregular—[ cries of spoke, spoke.] He felt assured until he heard those exclamations, that when such imputations had been cast upon a member of the Government, that no person in that House would prevent him from having a fair though a brief hearing. The hon. baronet had been loudly encouraged even by those whose standing in parliament ought to have made them cautious how they gave credit to such general, vague, and unsupported charges. He would only trespass on the patience of the House while he stated his entire disbelief, from beginning to end, not of the hon. Baronet's belief in the reality of his charges, but in the reality of the charges themselves. Upon his honour, he knew of no such proceeding as had been alluded to; and, upon his honour, he did not believe that it could be substantiated. When the hon. Baronet charged the Commander of the Forces in Dublin with exciting a riot— when he charged the Lord Chancellor of Ireland with bartering offices in the law and the Church for twenty or thirty votes, it was due to men filling such great and responsible situations, that the accusation should be not merely stated, but proved. The hon. Baronet, however, in the absence of the parties—without notice—without preparation—had made the gravest accusations of the grossest corruption, and he must therefore invite and demand that they should, if it were possible, be substantiated. He called on the hon. Member to prove his charge by individual instances, and not by general assertions. He promised him his best assistance for that purpose; and if the hon. Member did not accept the invitation he gave him, he would fail in his duty to the House and the country.
Sir R. Bateson
said, he was not to be deterred from his duty by the loud and vehement denunciations of the right hon. Gentleman; nor, although a plain country gentleman, to be put down by his more commanding eloquence. The right hon. Gentleman had somewhat misrepresented what he said of the gallant General. He never said that the gallant Officer encouraged the riots. He believed him to be a distinguished Officer, and an honourable and high-minded man. What he did say was, that one of the General's Aides-decamp was in the crowd, dressed in a green coat; and that he patted persons on the back who had been observed most active in creating disturbance. He had also been misunderstood with respect to what he said of the Lord Chancellor. He had stated what he had heard. He was not disposed to bring down the vengeance of Government on individuals; but he selected these things as an independent Member of that House, and he was fearless of the consequences for himself.
Sir C. Wethereli
said, that as the Address pledged hon. Members to nothing, he should not oppose it. If the Address had said any tiling in approbation of the late dissolution, or of the Reform Bill, he should certainly have proposed an amendment on those two points. As to the Speech from the Throne, it was perhaps the longest which the present Speaker, or any other Speaker, had ever been destined to wade through. It occupied a longer continuity of paper; it began with Reform in Parliament, and ended with cholera mor-bus—having Ireland, Belgium, and what not in the middle. He saw plainly it was intended to communicate nothing to the people or that House; and that as it redeemed none of the pledges of which Ministers had once been so profuse, so it committed them to no plan or course of proceeding in the operation of the Session. As to the Bill of which the noble Lord had said so much, he could tell the noble Lord, that if it passed, it would throw a wet blanket on all those hereditary honours of his house, for which he had so justly taken credit when he introduced the measure to that House. The day that Bill passed would be the commencement of the destruction of all those family distinctions of which the noble Lord was. so proud; and although they were told that it went to no more than the removing some of the remnants of feudalism, he 232 could not forget that the same cry was raised before the assemblage of that convention which, in a neighbouring country, brought the monarch to the scaffold, and destroyed all its political institutions. As to the Speech, it contained nothing. It was a mere waste of words and paper; but he could not avoid, at the opening of a new Parliament, reverting to the cause of the dissolution of the last, and protesting against the falsehood put forth by some persons that that Parliament had stopped the Supplies. He did not mean to say that the members of the Government committed themselves by saying so, but he knew that they had permitted their agents and friends to give it forth for election purposes, that the Lord Chancellor of England had declared the House of Commons stopped the Supplies. He was opposed to his learned friend the Lord Chancellor, in all his plans, political and legal, but still he hoped he might call him friend. He did not mean to say that those who put forth the report he alluded to were in the pay of his learned friend and the Government. He knew better than to rouse the genus it able of the Press. All he would say was, that there was a kind of literary sympathy between them—that they were friendly to the Government; and it was stated by them, that no less a person than the Lord Chancellor had declared the refractory and indecent conduct of the House of Commons to have been the cause of the dissolution, although all the world knew, and he believed, though he had not access to the Journals of Downing Street, he could almost prove, that the dissolution was determined on in the Cabinet full twelve hours before the event which was called the stoppage of the Supplies took place. The First Lord of the Admiralty, when he was charged with having any participation in this calumnious attack on the Commons, sailed out of port, and offered to defend himself; but he said nothing of others, and he left the Chancellor in a dry dock. He (Sir C. Wetherell) was ready to prove, that in various places the agents of the Government—false friends they must be considered—had gone about stating that the King was ill-used by the stoppage of the Supplies. Ministers, too, although they did not order the illuminations in the Metropolis, had yet not exercised their power to prevent them, as in such times of excitement they should have done; and 233 the Lord Mayor, who might be called a kind of political lamplighter, had the merit of having assisted the progress of the elections, by allowing an opportunity for the expression of an opinion on the conduct of those who were considered unfavourable to Reform. The people of Holborn and the Tower Hamlets would i naturally be anxious to light up in favour of the Reform which was to give them Representatives; but he thought it would be better if they had caught the fish before they fried them. He did not say, that the Lord Mayor or the Government had acted! illegally, but he was sure they had acted improperly in countenancing or encouraging such proceedings in the irritated state of the: public mind. He must remind the House; too, that riots had prevailed during the elections, as Carmarthen, Rye, and other places, and he must assert, that the Sheriff of Carmarthen had made a return that he was unable to execute the writ from the riotous conduct of the people. At; Rye a disturbance was created, and one Member only had been returned, in consequence: the barricades there had been equally successful with the barricades at Paris. At various other places riots had taken place, and he contended that they, were got up to favour the Government; candidate. As to the assertion, now so; commonly bandied about, that those who, sit for nomination boroughs were compel- led to obey the command of the patron, he would merely say, while in his own case he denied it, that no demand from a patron was ever so imperative as that cuckoo note which was exacted from all the Government candidates at the late elections, when they were called to shout for the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill. As for himself, he had been called by a noble Duke, and a Postmaster too (the Duke of Richmond), the agent of! another noble Duke (Newcastle). He denied that he was so. There was no more accomplished gentleman in England, both in mind and manner, than the Duke of Newcastle; but he was no more the agent of the noble Duke, than the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) was the agent of the Ministry. As long as their sentiments were the same, they acted together, as the noble Lord acted with the Ministry; and when they differed, the connection must be dissolved in the same manner. He trusted, therefore, they would hear no more of the corrupt borough mongers; for 234 he was as little open to that charge as the Solicitor General, who also sat for one of those boroughs, or the learned civilian (Dr. Lushington), who had the good fortune to sit for two of them. After some further observations on the charge against the House of Commons, that it had refused the Supplies, which, perhaps, after all, was a mere figure of speech of the Chancellor, whose imagination was unquestionably very brilliant, though if he (Sir Charles Wetherell) possessed it, he could use it more cautiously, he proceeded to say, that he was determined to oppose every part of the Bill in every stage, when it came before the House. He maintained that the Reform was a delusion. He had thought so before the Parliament was dissolved, and since the dissolution he had become certain of it. In one place Reform was interpreted to mean the reduction of the malt-tax; in another, the reduction of the assessed taxes; and in a third, the abolition of tithes. To explain what Reform meant, a dictionary would be necessary; but it was impossible it could be all that was promised and expected. As for reduction of taxes, those who proposed that, knew that for every tax they took off another must be laid on. Some succedaneum must be found for every tax abolished; yet there was not one candidate who appeared on the hustings, who had not asserted, or falsely allowed it to be supposed, that he would in that House repeal some one, or all, of the taxes. He said, taking the fine distinction which had been drawn by the right hon. Baronet (the member for Cumberland)—candidates, not Members; and there was not a candidate who had not pledged himself to the reduction of taxes, or allowed it to be supposed that he so pledged himself. That was what the people understood by the Reform. They had demanded the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill; but he would venture to say, that the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill would not be brought into the House of Commons. The hon. member for Middlesex accused him of want of liberality, because he had opposed the timber tax; but Ministers had themselves condemned that most unjust tax, by withdrawing it, or proposing (which was the same as withdrawing it) to postpone it for several years. Of all that famous Budget which the honest, but, on that point, not successful Chancellor of the Exchequer, had brought forward, not 235 one tax had been retained. And was he to place his confidence in those, as great modellers of the State, who could not mo- del a Budget? Were those fit to new- form the State, who did not know how to form a Budget? He thought not, and he should not place his confidence in them. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by apologizing for having addressed the House; but as the right hon. Gentle- men opposite had had an opportunity of expressing their opinion, he had also taken the opportunity of expressing his opinion,
§ Mr. James Browne
referred to the distress which existed in the county of Mayo, and defended the Government from the charge of having neglected the sufferings of the people. The deputation had been informed, that officers had received instructions to inquire into the general distress, and there would have been much more misery had the Government not interfered; and the utmost confidence was now reposed in its protection and assistance, The noble Lord at the head of the Irish Government had contributed largely, and the noble Earl at the head of the Government in England had kindly attended to his representations. The present Government was not to blame, for he had and the noble Duke, formerly at the head of the Government, say, when it was stated that there was a famine in Ireland, that it was only one of the periodical visitations to which Ireland was exposed. The Government had done right in sending the Commission into the West of Ireland, and he saw nothing to object to in its conduct, though he could have wished that it had made the Magistrates of the counties more strictly perform their duty. A great deal of evil was occasioned in Ireland by those who wished for power without any intention of performing the duties required of the Magistrates.
also bore testimony to the beneficial effects of the Commission in the county he represented.
§ Mr. Maurice O'Connell
said, in Clare, he was happy to say, that at the last Sessions there was no instance of outrage, and that its present state was one of quiet and tranquillity.
referred to the excitement which existed in the country, and said, that in the borough which he represented, the gentleman who had long busied himself by taking the rights of the freemen into his own hands, and nominating the 236 Member, had brought down a' coach-load of hired boxers to keep the peace; and he wished to know if that was not a means of provoking excitement among the people, in addition to the known' corruption which had existed time out of mind there?
§ The Motion, that ah Address should be presented to his Majesty, agreed to, nemine contradicente, and a Committee appointed to prepare the same.