had stated last night, his intention, in consequence of the advanced period of the Session, and the absolute necessity of asking for some Bill on the subject, to move for the discharge of the Order for the adjourned debate on the Importation of Arms, and the Keeping of Arms in Ireland Bill, with a view of bringing in another Bill to revive for one year, the Acts 47th and 50th George 3rd, which had been in force for many years, but which had now expired. He should, therefore, move, that the Order of the Day be discharged, that the expiring Bills might be revived for twelve months.
Sir Robert Peel
was gratified to hear of the approaching termination of the Session; but at the same time, he could hardly admit it as a proper ground, or a proper excuse for withdrawing the two important Bills relating to Ireland, which the right hon. Gentleman, in the course of the Session, had introduced. Even supposing that their labours for the Session were about to close, surely there were still the same facilities for discussing these measures in September, as there would have been in May or June. He certainly should have thought that upon such a subject, no measure would have been introduced which, was not necessary; but to propose measures of extreme severity, and then to withdraw them without discussion, for the only reason that the Session was too far advanced, 581 appeared to him to be both inconvenient and improper.
was obliged to the right hon. Baronet for the lesson which he had read to him. He had brought forward the measures upon the subject of the importation of arms, and the keeping of them in Ireland, under the full conviction that some fresh regulations upon those subjects were absolutely necessary; and he conceived, that whatever course with respect to these Statutes might hereafter be adopted, it would, at all events, be advisable to make some such amendments as should render them more effective. Almost the only Amendment that he proposed, was a clause providing that the arms which were now required to be registered, should also, at the time of registration, be marked, so as to enable them to be more easily traced. There certainly were other alterations; but they were not of so pressing a nature as imperatively to demand that he should carry them through in this Session of Parliament. The Bill to which he had alluded expired next Session; and it was desirable, that before that time arrived, there should be some law in its place. The right hon. Baronet had been pleased to assume that he made some allusions to a probable prorogation. He never had said anything to warrant him in this assumption. He said that the lateness of the period prevented him from bringing the subject forward as he intended, but he did not say one word respecting the probable termination of the Session. He intended to proceed in the course that he had stated, and it was absolutely necessary that there should be as little delay as possible in doing so. It was necessary that a Bill of Indemnity should pass in as short a time as possible, as otherwise the Magistrates of Galway, Mayo, and Clare, would be exposed to the risk of proceedings being instituted against them for steps which they had taken, and which mainly contributed to the preservation of the peace of that part of Ireland. The course that he had adopted did not deserve the language applied to it by the right hon. Baronet, and it was not true that he had brought forward a measure without consideration, and then abandoned it without regret.
Sir Robert Peel
did not say a word about the consistency of the right hon. Gentleman, and therefore his observations on that point were ill-timed and uncalled 582 for. The right hon. Gentleman said, a few weeks ago, that he brought forward a Bill which he submitted to the House for the registration of arms, as he considered that such a measure was absolutely necessary to the preservation of the peace in Ireland, and to the maintenance of the just authority of the Crown. This Bill was of unusual severity, and imposed the punishment of transportation for merely possessing arms that had not been registered. Before this Bill was brought forward it ought to have been well considered; and if this had been done, it ought not to have been abandoned in the manner in which it was by the right hon. Member. According to his understanding of common terms, the expression—the late period of the Session—implied the termination of it. He did not charge the right hon. Member with inconsistency, in having brought forward a Bill and abandoning it; but his conduct appeared to him (Sir R. Peel) to be liable to the charge of having acted with some degree of levity on the subject.
said, it would be in the recollection of the House, that when he brought forward that Bill, he stated that it was a modification of the laws which had formerly existed on the subject. When the penalty that he proposed should be inflicted, was compared with those which were imposed under former Governments for offences of the same character, his measure would be found comparatively mild. His Majesty's Government thought it inexpedient to resort to unconstitutional measures which had formerly been brought into operation; it was, therefore, considered proper that some step should be taken with respect to the registration of arms. He never proposed that punishment to the extent of transportation for life should be inflicted by a bench of Magistrates without the intervention of a Jury. He admitted, that he withdrew the measure submitted to the House in consequence of the decided opposition to his Motion of those hon. Members to whose opinions he was in the habit of looking with deference and respect. He did not now state for the first time that he did not press the Bill for the reasons now given; he said, that the opposition of those most zealous in the support of the Government had been the reason that induced him to abandon a measure, which he had only proposed should be 583 operative in particular seasons of difficulty and disturbance. He trusted that his conduct, since he had the honour of holding his present office, had sufficiently shewn that he had no desire to exercise any great degree of severity, or to bring into operation any new law. If, for the conduct which he had pursued, he was deserving of the imputation of levity of conduct, which the right hon. Baronet had charged him with, he must bear it patiently.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
said, that so far from the right hon. Gentleman deserving blame for the course he had now pursued, every credit should be bestowed upon him for his conduct.
§ Order of the Day discharged.