§ Mr. Ruthven
said, he hoped to hear some better arguments in favour of this Bill, on the third reading, than had yet been urged in its behalf. From all he had seen and heard, he was convinced that a cessation from agitation and excitement would be most desirable and beneficial for Ireland; that cessation, however, it would never obtain if this Bill passed into a law. Every account only tended to show that the people were opposed to this impost as being most unjust, unequal, and oppressive; and, if hon. Gentlemen thought, that, by severity and harshness, they could put down the opposition to the payment of tithes, they would find themselves much mistaken. The people considered themselves insulted by the introduction of such a Bill as this during the progress of the great measure of Parliamentary Reform. They felt and knew that this Bill was inefficient. It excited the of the country at present, and held out no hope whatever for the future. He did trust, therefore, that Ministers would reconsider the question, and pause before they endeavoured to carry into effect enactments that could not be sustained by any established law, but which had been merely brought forward to meet the passing necessity of 573 the moment. His main objections to the Bill were, that it left the general question untouched, and merely provided for one year; and that it was most obnoxious to the people of Ireland. Some Gentlemen might be induced, by the necessity of the case, to vote for the measure; and he had no doubt that, in doing so, they were acting conscientiously. Had it been proposed to extend general relief to the people of Ireland, he was sure there was no one in the House who would object to supplying Government with the means. But, could any one conceive that the disgusting and insulting provisions of this Bill, which were to be followed up by half-martial law, would be productive of peace or harmony in Ireland? He trusted hon. Gentlemen would not, for the sake of their own credit, and for the sake of the credit of this Parliament, consent to pass such a law as this; if they did, he told them it would not work well. Some advocated the adoption of rigorous measures—some were in favour of conciliation—but both parties joined in opposing this measure; which, instead of uniting and dispelling hostile feelings, would only give rise to new sources of discontent. The present system of tithes was universally admitted to require some amendment; and when the people first heard of extinction, they eagerly grasped at it, because they were ignorant of the wide distinction between extinction and abolition. The people of Ireland were not in a state to be easily satisfied. There was no common feeling between the governors and the governed; the people were dissatisfied with a system which drove them to desperation; and could it be supposed that they would be tranquillized by such a measure as this? There was no man more anxious to preserve the union between the two countries than be was, but he knew that many who were formerly decidedly opposed to a repeal of the Union, now looked at the question in a different point of view. He believed those who were the best friends to the two countries were opposed to keeping Ireland in the invidious situation in which she was now placed. There was a growing feeling in Ireland that was hopeless unless some change took place in their domestic Legislature. The people of Ireland would be tranquillized if some prospect of relief were held out to them, and yet they could have no kind, soothing, word from 574 Parliament. Under this ungracious mode of treatment, they never could be satisfied. Rigorous measures and martial law could only tend to increase their discontent, and, therefore, he gave his determined opposition to this measure.
§ Mr. Maurice O'Connell
had already stated his opinions on this question, and did not think it necessary at any length to reiterate his objections to the principle of the Bill. He was free to admit, that, as a coercive measure, the Bill was as lenient as could be expected; but what he objected to was, that any coercive measure should be forced upon the people, unless, at the same time, that measure were accompanied by a measure of relief. He gave the right hon. Gentleman credit for the very best intentions in introducing this measure; but he certainly was bound to say, that the right hon. Gentleman was acting under a very gross delusion. That Bill would be found inefficient. It would not be in the power of the right hon. Gentleman to enforce that law, because it was a bad law, and because it was a law which was condemned by the public voice, and repudiated by the public feeling of the country. Unjust laws were mere waste parchment. They could not operate, and, if it was attempted to enforce them by penalties, it could not be done unless by constant collision with the people. He again admitted that, as a measure of coercion, the Bill was as lenient as it possibly could be; but it was just cause of complaint, that a measure of coercion should be forced upon the public, despite of every pledge that there should be no coercive measure unattended by the removal of the grievance complained of. Having said thus much, he did not intend to trespass further upon the attention of the House. He had opposed the Bill all through, but he did not conceive it necessary to offer any further fruitless opposition.
§ Mr. Petre
said, that he could not but condemn the course which had been taken in opposition to this Bill, which he thought so fair and reasonable as to be entitled to every fair and proper support. He denied that the members of the Catholic religion were actuated by a wish to overthrow the Church Establishment in Ireland. He was a Catholic, and he felt bound by the oath he took, when coming into that House, to support the Protestant Establishment. He considered the Establish- 575 ment of the Protestant Church as part and parcel of the Government of the country; and, as a Catholic, he felt himself bound, by the oath he had taken when coming into that House, not to do anything calculated to overthrow the Protestant Church. He was returned to that House by an almost exclusively Protestant constituency, and he considered that he should be guilty of the greatest ingratitude to them if he could be capable of joining in the unjust and unreasonable resistance given to this Bill. Looking to the oath taken by Catholic Members in coming into the House, he must contend that the conditions of that solemn obligation bound them to resist any attempt to overthrow the temporalities of the Established Church. So far as he could, understand the question, the present Bill appeared to him a mild and lenient Bill. A combination existed against the rights of property in Ireland, and was it to be told to the Government that they were not to interfere and vindicate the law. It was not now a question as to the merit of any existing law; if the law was bad, that House was the proper place to have it amended. But he did not think that the people had a right to take the law into their own hands, and say they would not obey the law? He thought that it was the duty of every Member of that House to support his Majesty's Government in upholding the authority of the law, and vindicating its power. He had felt it to be his duty to use these words for the purpose of repelling the imputations as unjust, that the Catholic Members of that House felt inimical to the Established Church. If he had acted otherwise, he should be ungrateful to a Protestant constituency, who returned him to that House—and, more than that, he should be ungrateful to the Protestant Legislature, which relieved him from his civil disabilities, and rendered him eligible to a seat in that House. He had felt bound to say thus much, and he certainly was surprised at the unreasonable perseverance with which hon. Members continued to oppose this measure.
said, that the hon. member for Ilchester (Mr. Petre) was an English, and that he was an Irish, Catholic. They were animals of a different genus, though they had been in the same cage. The member for Ilchester confided in the Government—he confided in the power and 576 determination of his countrymen. The hon. Gentleman was grateful to English Protestants for his enfranchisement—he might have extended his gratitude, and felt that he owed some thanks to the virtue and the energy of the Irish millions who knew and who proved that—"Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow." Ireland, for her freedom, had to thank herself; and from what he had observed, he felt convinced, that it would be to herself that she would owe the removal of her remaining grievances. He had risen to protest against this Bill, and against the construction of the Catholic oath given by an English Catholic, who had applied his political habits to his interpretation. First, as to the Bill, it was a piece of preposterous legislation, while Reform would give a giant's strength to Ireland, the Tithe Bill would prompt her to use it in a gigantic fashion—it was like striking a man a blow in the face, while you put a club into his hands. At the next election, the people would seek for candidates for Parliament among martyrs to tithes. Newgate would be the avenue to St. Stephen's Chapel, and Government would, by irritating the people, reverse the saying of Mirabeau, and prove that there was but a single bound to be made from the foot of the Tarpeian rock to the summit of the capitol. They must grant Reform to Ireland—they would not presume to withhold it—talk, indeed, of abolishing fifty-six close boroughs in England, and of leaving the pay of twenty boroughs in the sordid hands of the provincial oligarchy of Ireland! It might be incommodious for Government to hear, at this moment, a reference made to their former pledges on the Church; but they had, themselves, forced these topics into discussion, by bringing forward their tithe Bill, pending Reform in the Lords, while they were embarrassed, and their virtue was bound to the ground by those small Lilliputian ligatures and constraints which prevented them from standing up. The Catholic oath had been referred to. That oath bound a Catholic not to subvert (that was the word) the Church, nor weaken the Protestant religion. Was the reduction of the revenues of the Church equivalent to its subversion? The meaning of the oath, perhaps, should be collected from the rejection of Mr. Wilmot Horton's motion to prevent Catholics from voting in ecclesiastical matters. There was in 577 Scotland an Established Church—a cheap and useful institution, agreeable to the feelings, and not burthensome to the resources of the people. Will you lay the Irish Church in ruins by bringing, it on a level with that Establishment, whose simple front and plain fabric is built on the principles of apostolic architecture? As to weakening the Protestant religion, he trusted that it consisted in something better than vast episcopal territories, numerous sinecurism, bloated pluralities, offensive rates, insulting cesses, pulpits occupied with cobwebs, altars encompassed with loneliness, and churches with clerks for a congregation. The creed of Irish Protestantism was to him matter of indifference; but the coffers of Irish Protestantism were a public and political concern; and so far from the religion being impaired by the diminution of its revenues, it would, on the contrary, be relieved from those obstacles which were opposed to its progress by its pecuniary abuses causing national detestation. These sentiments might be unpalatable to a Reforming Parliament; but a Reformed Parliament was at hand, and it would have a different relish. It was of little consequence how these opinions were received in that assembly. It had given itself a suicidal stab—it had declared itself unworthy of the Offices of Legislation, and it was to its successor that he should look for that great work of ecclesiastical regeneration, which was indispensable to the peace, tranquillity, and ultimate safety, of Ireland.
said, that the course which the debate had taken was so entirely foreign from the matter under discussion, that he would not have troubled the House at present, were it not that he felt bound to offer a few remarks on that most extraordinary piece of most extraordinary declamation with which the House had been favoured by the hon. Member who had just sat down. He did not think it necessary to vindicate his hon. friend, the member for Ilchester, from the imputations indirectly cast upon him; any one who witnessed his plain and straightforward, and manly and unequivocal manner, must feel convinced how infinitely superior the course his hon. friend took was, to what he should not hesitate to call the flimsy and hollow casuistry—the quibbling sophistry—which had, under cover, no doubt of elegant language and brilliant imagination, 578 been used to attack his hon. friend, by the hon. member for Louth. His hon. friend, the member for Ilchester, had pursued an honest, manly, straightforward course—he unequivocally declared, that he felt bound by the ties of duty and honour—by the sense of gratitude to Government—by his duty to his country and by his duty to his God, not to use, to the injury or the destruction of the Protestant establishment, powers vested in him by an exclusively Protestant Legislature. How different was this from the casuistry which had been resorted to by the hon. and learned member for Louth, who denied that the obligation of this oath was so felt or understood by the Catholic Members of that House. What, said the hon. and learned Member, "You must permit us to be the auditors of our own accounts." Did the hon. and learned Member, then, mean to make good the charge that had been urged against that oath by the opponents of Catholic emancipation, and which he and others of its advocates indignantly denied? Did he then admit that the oath was taken, in the solemn presence of his God, with a mental reservation, and not according to the meaning of those by whom that oath was administered? In the terms of that oath, he who takes it is supposed to do so without mental reservation or equivocation; and, when the hon. and learned Member talked of being the auditors of their own accounts, he would be glad to ask, what did the hon. and learned Gentleman mean by that expression, unless it was, that this oath was taken with mental reservation, and not in the meaning of those by whom it was administered? What else than this was the meaning "that they were the auditors of their own accounts?" Did the hon. and learned Gentleman mean to say, that those who took the oath were to be the judges of its meaning, and not those who administered it?
begged to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, as he was arguing upon an expression which he had never used. What he said was directly the reverse of what was stated by the right hon. Gentleman. He had contended that the oath was taken in the exact meaning of those who administered it; but that so taken, it did not bear the interpretation put upon it by the hon. member for Ilchester. His reference to the motion of Mr. Wilmot Horton had been adopted merely for the 579 purpose of illustrating the argument he was urging.
resumed—He should be the last person that should wish to interrupt any hon. Gentleman from setting him right, whenever there could be a possibility of his mistaking any expression of such hon. Gentleman. However, in the present instance, he had taken down the exact words made use of by the hon. and learned Gentleman. He certainly thought that they bore the construction which he affixed to them. An oath was not a matter of honour; it was a solemn obligation between two contracting parties; and either party had the full right to claim the fulfilment of that oath. The hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to a motion made by an hon. friend of his (Mr. Stanley's) at the time of the Catholic question. At that time he condemned that motion as unjust, unreasonable, and unnecessary; but, certainly, the explanations and assertions indulged in by the hon. and learned member for Louth, had gone far to shake his confidence in the opinions he then entertained. The hon. and learned Member had argued the question with a great deal of casuistry; but what was the meaning of the terms of the oath?—that he would defend, to the utmost of his power, the rights of the Protestant Church, as by law established; and the oath goes on—"And I hereby abjure any intention to subvert the Protestant religion."—No; to subvert the Protestant Church.—No; but "to subvert the Protestant Church-establishment, as settled by law." The hon. and learned Member, with all his eloquence and all his casuistry, must not tell him that the Protestant religion or the Protestant Church were synonymous with the Protestant Church-establishment as settled by law. The hon. and learned Gentleman's construction of that oath ran counter to the intentions of those by whom that oath was framed, and who admitted the hon. Member and his friends to a seat in that House. The whole of the hon. and learned Gentleman's casuistry amounted to this: "I may destroy three-fourths of the property of the Established Church in Ireland; my oath binds me not to destroy the property of the Protestant Church; but, as long as there is a fractional part left remaining—as long as I don't destroy the entire property of the, Established Church, so long I do not violate my oath." He would not now stop to argue whether 580 any gratitude was due to the people of England for their support of that measure which gave to the hon. and learned Gentleman a seat in that House. He would not ask, whether any share of gratitude was due to those who, for struggling in that cause, had endured the fatigue of that strife, and who, night after night, had perseveringly continued in that House, and assisted in giving the crowning stroke to that great measure. He did not mean to deny, whatever portion of the merit was due to those who, by the persevering agitation of this question, had at length succeeded in forcing it on the attention of an unwilling Government; but, whatever share of advantage might have resulted from that measure, it was not to be reaped without the intermixture of some of those noxious weeds which shoot up amidst the most luxuriant soils, and of which they were now reaping the bitter fruits in the fulness of that factious opposition with which the well-meant measures of the Government were resisted. He would have the hon. and learned Gentleman beware how he taught a bitter lesson to the people of England. He would implore him to be think himself in time, and not to do irreparable injury to the cause of Irish Reform. The arguments and the tone adopted by the hon. and learned Member would go far to strike a deep and fatal blow against the cause of Irish Reform. The hon. and learned Member had said, that Irish Reform would follow English Reform, and that then the Irish people would have additional power to resist the Government and thwart their measures. He begged to remind the hon. Member that nothing could be more dangerous than to assert that passing the Reform Bill would be a mere transfer of agitation from Ireland to this House. He begged to tell the hon. Member, that he mistook the principle on which his Majesty's Government had introduced the present measure of Reform. They had not introduced that measure upon the principle of Universal Suffrage, but upon the principle of extending the franchise as widely, and amongst such persons, as might safely exercise it with advantage to themselves, and to the existing institutions of the country. That was the principle on which they proceeded to extend the franchise to as large a class of the community as they could with safety; and if the hon. and learned Gentleman asserted that doing so would be but a transfer of 581 agitation from Ireland to this House, he could not inflict a heavier blow on the cause of Irish Reform. The hon. and learned Gentleman, vindicating the resistance of the people, had quoted the words,Hereditary bondsmen, know ye not Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.Did the hon. and learned Member pretend to be ignorant of the meaning which was attached to that language in Ireland? Did the hon. and learned Member pretend not to know for what purposes that language was employed in Ireland? It was but two days since that he (Mr. Stanley) had received from Ireland one of the most inflammatory placards that could be written. It commenced with the words which the hon. and learned Member had quoted, and the placard proceeded:—"These are the words of O'Connell; and let us follow up these words, and deal with no person, or hold intercourse with no person, who will continue to pay the unjust and oppressive exactions of tithes." This was the effect of this placard; and it was for purposes such as this that this language was used in Ireland. He thought the hon. Member should feel that he spoke in that House as a Member of the Imperial Parliament, and as the Representative of the county of Louth; and it was more befitting for a Member of that House to infuse into the people obedience to the laws, than to inflame them into a resistance to the laws. He begged to tell the hon. Gentleman that, if he felt anxious for the extension of the franchise, he could not injure what he had at heart more than by using such declarations. But he would rescue the people of Ireland from the implied imputation. He would not believe that the people of Ireland were so lost to all sense of justice; and when he should, in his place in that House, have to move the reading of the Irish Reform Bill, he should, he trusted, be able to show that the people of Ireland, despite the slanders cast on them, were in every way entitled to a share in the general advantages of Reform. The hon. member for Clare had given him credit for believing that this measure would afford relief. Now, he did not believe any such thing. He did not bring forward this measure as a measure of relief, and that which would be introduced as a measure of relief would be one in every way calculated to afford relief. He did not want that the present measure 582 should do more than enforce the law; but did they think that it was the poor wretched peasant that would be selected for its operation? He did not wish that this law should be brought into operation against those who were poor and unable to pay, and whose arrears had accumulated from distress; but against the rich, who having the means had refused, and against the wealthy comfortable farmers, almost in the class of country gentlemen; these were the persons who would be selected; and when these persons were compelled to pay, he was sure that the resistance to the law amongst those who were influenced by their example would soon be at an end. This was not a sectarian question—this was not, as already had been well said by the hon. member for Ilchester, a question between Catholic and Protestant, but it was a question of right and property—it was a question, whether individual rights should be prostrated—whether the just claims of individuals should be set at nought, or what, perhaps, was of still more importance, whether the law should be overborne with impunity. It would, in his opinion, be contemptible in any government to allow the laws to be overborne, and its authority trampled under foot. The present measure, then, preceding as it did the measure of relief, was a measure to vindicate the law. The hon. member for Clare had that night admitted, that, if it were necessary to vindicate the law, and introduce a measure of coercion, that a more lenient measure than the present could not possibly be resorted to. The cost of these prosecutions would not fall upon the people, but upon the clergy. The object, as he said before, was, not to wage war against the poor, but to compel the rich to comply with the existing law. Great clamour had been used against this measure, but it did no more than merely transfer from the hands of the clergy, which were weak, into the hands of the Government, which were strong, the duty of asserting the rights of those individuals. It was to make the rich bow to the law—to compel those who had it in their power to pay the claims which they asserted. The hon. and learned member for Louth had talked of the consequences of Reform in Ireland; he had said that agitation would be the price of a seat in Parliament—that none but those who resisted the payment of tithes, and cheered on that resistance, could expect to be distinguished by public 583 favour. The hon. and learned Member, with great beauty of language and happiness of quotation, had said, that there would be but a step from the Tarpeian rock to the summit of the Capitol. Now, he did think, that, if these were to be the consequences that were to result from Reform in Ireland, Reform would be an injury to that country. He begged to deny the inference of the hon. and learned Member, whose conclusions, he felt satisfied, were erroneous, and he was quite convinced that those persons who were crouching at the base of the Tarpeian rock, felt very little disposition to play the part of Marcus Curtius. He relied upon the good sense of the people of Ireland to influence them to give up the resistance to the law, when they saw that those who were setting the example of that resistance were compelled to acquiesce—when they found that, instead of having to deal with a clergy who were weak and feeble, and could not enforce their rights, that they would have to deal with a Government which was strong, and able to enforce and vindicate the laws. It was his conviction, that, as soon as the leaders of this resistance were reduced to obedience, the people, who were deluded into the following of their example, would return to their obedience also. He trusted that the Government, in the execution of this measure, would have the support of the gentry of the country, who would find that in obedience to the laws consists the best title and security of their own rights. He hoped that the predictions of those who foreboded evil from this measure would be falsified, and that the state of the country would be such as would enable them to silence the clamours of those who would resist that measure of relief which it was the intention of his Majesty's Government to afford. He would not longer occupy the time of the House. He did not intend to have trespassed on it, but for the manner in which the debate had wandered from the subject of discussion, and thanking the House for its indulgence, he would merely add, that he felt it due to his own feelings not to allow what had fallen from the hon. and learned member for Louth to pass unnoticed.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
said, that the attack of the right hon. Secretary was very ungrateful, after the zealous support which the Irish Members had invariably given to the English Reform Bill, notwithstanding 584 the numerous rumours that had been spread abroad relative to the intended alterations in the Irish Reform Bill. It was said, the present question that had been raised upon the tithes was caused by agitation; and it was asked why their payment was not disputed before the settling of the Catholic question? He would tell the Gentlemen why. It was because the Irish people knew that till that point was carried, it was useless to agitate any other; but now that that point was gained, there were many other points that must be agitated. There was the Poor Law Question—the Absentee Question—the Jury Cess Question—and the Vestry Act Question—all of which must be agitated until they were satisfactorily settled. What the people of Ireland wanted was, not to destroy the Church Establishment, but to make a more equal distribution of its revenues. They did not like to pay men who did no duty. The right hon. Gentleman, notwithstanding his great talents, would find it difficult to carry this act into execution, whatever the hon. and learned member for Dublin might say about maintaining the rights of the Church. The very man against whom the troops were brought out was sued in the hon. and learned Gentleman's own Court, for the tithes in question, and what was stated by the party? Why, that the clergyman had no right to the tithes at all. That was what he complained of with regard to this Bill. They were putting the Attorney General into a situation of bringing actions against parties where no tithe at all was due. There was a case in which, after some vexatious proceedings, the man who was sued denied the right of the party who claimed the tithe, but said he was quite willing to pay the legal claimant. That settled the case; but then there were the costs to pay. They were giving a summary power to the Attorney General, which, for want of the necessary knowledge of the circumstances of each case, would be most oppressively and vexatiously used against the people of Ireland, who refused to pay the tithe, not contumaciously, but upon the ground, in many instances, of the want of legal right on the part of the claimant. He said to the right hon. Gentleman, "You wilt not succeed by this measure, but you may by the subsequent measure; if you will tell us what that is, and, if it appears to be a fair measure, all the difficulties of the case will be over. But now you have 585 no power at all, because you must have a sale and a decree." They had heard arguments, recriminations, and speeches—and about what? About the sale of a cow. Would the Government suffer things to go on in this way—would they suffer a system to continue which required them to employ 4,000 men to sell an old cow? If they could not govern that country without a police, they had better give it up at once. To be controlled by force was what the people would not submit to longer than the Government could make them; and for this reason—if the laws were first of all bad, and you attempted to enforce them by arms, that was tyranny: and the people had a right to rise up against tyranny, whether practised by one or by many. He entreated them not to declare war against the people of Ireland, especially for the sake of maintaining the Established Church—because, though it might be established by the law, it was not established by the people: they derived no benefit from it. The Government talked of vindicating the law: this had been the dogma of Statesmen at all times—but what was the result of attempting to vindicate the law, in the case of America? They were compelled to give up the Stamp Act, and then they would vindicate the tax on tea; but they were resisted, and they finally lost the colonies. Be assured that such would ever be the result of any attempt to enforce a law which was repudiated by the whole people. He repeated the words of Mr. Burke as applied to America—if you can only govern Ireland by coercion, she is not worth governing; but adopt a conciliatory course, and Ireland will not only be easily governed, but she will be a source of strength to this country. What was the consequence of those Acts of Parliament which were passed in favour of her commerce? Was there, then, any revolution apprehended? Did not the Irish legislature vote 30,000 seamen at once, and did they not declare they would stand or fall by Great Britain—and why? Because they were governed well. But if they went on in the course they were now pursuing, Ireland would be lost; for it was idle to say that they could govern 8,000,000 of people just as they could govern a parish. The Attorney General might send one man to gaol, but what could he do with 5,000,000 of people? If the Secretary for Ireland stood upon a point of honour, the peasantry of Ireland 586 would stand upon their point of honour; and nothing could be so foolish as to go to war with a whole people upon such an imaginary ground. There was no necessity for vindicating the law; the people had declared they would not pay the tithes for the benefit of a few, which ought to be paid, and which they were willing to pay, for the benefit of all: and it was in vain that they talked of the vindication of the law. He understood some alterations had been made in the Bill, but he had not been able to get a copy of those alterations; and yet they were now called upon to consent to the third reading. Time ought to be allowed to consider these alterations. But should the Bill be passed, he hoped it would have a peaceful issue, and not only conduce to the strength of his Majesty's Government, but to the satisfaction and stability of the country. The opposition to the Bill was not dictated by a factious hostility to the Government, but by a sincere desire to promote the general welfare. He knew men who were now sitting in that House, and had opposed this Bill, recommended the people of Ireland to pay their tithes, though, at the same time, the landlords, who were also Members of this House, had not received their rents. The Irish Members had hitherto supported his Majesty's Government; and the opposition, in this instance, was founded upon principle. He begged to assure the right hon. Gentleman, that a Government was never so secure and respectable as when it received the votes of unpaid men. If the Ministers attempted to carry on the Government in opposition to the independent Members of this House, they would most signally and most deservedly fail.
regretted to have heard the sentiments which fell from the right hon. Secretary, because they were uncalled for by the observations of the hon. and learned member for Louth. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman what interpretation he put upon the words, which he seemed to deliver with so much emphasis—whether he thought that a Roman Catholic Member was bound, by the oath he took, never to support any alteration of the laws that regarded the property of the Church? He understood the hon. and learned member for Louth to say, that an alteration in the Church Establishment was necessary: and was an interpretation to be put upon that oath similar to that 587 which was put upon the Coronation Oath in the late reign? He thought the speech of the right hon. Gentleman amounted very nearly to a declaration of war against Ireland. He had to-night shown the House what were the consequences of possessing power. Such doctrines as he had broached to-night might have been expected from former Administrations; but that they should come from a Member of the present did, indeed, surprise him. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to say, that no alteration was to be made in the Church Establishment of Ireland? He understood the hon. and learned member for Louth to say, that there ought to be, and that there must be, a change, before Ireland could be quiet: and was there any man in that House, except the right hon. Gentleman himself, who would say, that the Church of Ireland was to go on without alteration? To make the Establishment congenial with the feelings of the people, an alteration to a great extent must be made. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, that it was in vain to attempt to force this measure against the feelings of the people; and that the present effort to vindicate the law, as it was called, was in exactly the same spirit in which the law was endeavoured to be vindicated in our American colonies, but which failed then, and would fail now; for, when laws were made, whether they applied to England, Scotland, or Ireland, which were inimical to the feelings of the whole people, it was impossible to carry them into effect. In the present case, Government had not redeemed their pledge to this House—they had not followed up the spirit of the Resolutions which they, by that pledge, prevailed upon the House to adopt. He, for one, concurred originally in those Resolutions, because he believed that Ministers would not propose a measure of coercion without bringing forward the remedial measure: but the House was now about to separate, and no Bill for remedying the existing evils had been brought in; so that his Majesty's Government had neither kept good faith with the country, nor had they acted in consistency with their own Resolutions. Was it possible that the right hon. Gentleman was so utterly ignorant as to fancy that such language as he had used would tend to the peace of Ireland, by prevailing on the people to acquiesce in a system which they had for ever de- 588 nounced? The right hon. Gentleman said, that when the people saw, that Government could and would enforce the law, they would immediately comply with that law—but 50,000 men would not enable him to enforce the law. Was it possible that the right hon. Secretary could be uninformed of what was now passing around him? He should remember that the present Government did not stand in the same situation as the former Government. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues came into power upon the principle of conciliation, and they, therefore, had no moral force to sustain them in their efforts to carry a measure in opposition to the feelings of the people. Let them but pass the English Reform Bill, and then refuse the claims now made by the hon. and learned member for Louth on behalf of Ireland, if they dared. The idea was absurd. Why, the Government stood committed upon the principle of Reform, and to an equal extent to Ireland as well as to England. If, then, the Church of Ireland was not to be reformed, what kind of pledges had they from Ministers, or what were those pledges worth? He confessed he had heard with regret the whole of this debate, because it held out, as regarded Ireland, nothing but hostility and irritation. The system of rule which the speech of the right hon. Gentleman indicated, could only be maintained by an enormous military establishment. No other means could carry into effect such measures as that speech contemplated. It was a speech which they ought not to have heard; it was contrary to every thing the right hon. Gentleman stated a few nights ago. Then he condemned the system pursued towards Ireland, and told the House that it was the anxious desire of his Majesty's Government to retrace the steps of former Governments, and to conciliate, by every measure in their power, the feelings of the people of that country. Good God! could he believe that, after hearing such a speech, which was so explicit, and which gave the highest gratification to all who heard it, and which had since diffused such real satisfaction throughout Ireland—could he expect that from the same lips would proceed a speech so opposite in spirit, and so irreconcileable in principle, as the speech which had just fallen from the right hon. Gentleman? Talk of agitation—who was the agitator here? But it was in vain; the people—the millions—would not be so put 589 down. If he could read what was passing in that country, the matter would not rest there. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that his policy of coercion had done more to unsettle Ireland than any other circumstance that had occurred for a long time past. And yet he complained of the conduct of the Irish Members. Did he expect that they were not to agitate within these walls for the sake of that country which had sent them there? If they did not, of what use were they? Were they to come here each to sit as the "silent Member?" Their duty was to agitate, and to persevere in that agitation until they had obtained a redress of those wrongs under which their country laboured. Let them be called delegates—they were such—a Representative was a delegate, and a delegate was a Representative. Was he there, for instance, to act for himself, and to hold himself irresponsible to the electors of Middlesex, and to disregard their feelings and interests, or what they were desirous to effect? If he was, then he had nothing to do with the county, but was his own Member. They were delegates to this House; but they might call them delegates or Representatives, it mattered not: it was not the name, but the duties they had to perform that concerned the people. He would repeat his regret that the Government should have persevered in this measure, instead of waiting until the other had been introduced. He feared that they would discover that they had proceeded too fast; and, by not fulfilling their pledge, they would ultimately drive the people of Ireland to desperation.
§ Mr. Long Wellesley
said, he did not think the property of the Church ought to be converted to any purposes but those of the Church, and he apprehended the great majority of the people of England held the same sentiments; they might desire as he did, to see the principle of commutation generally acted upon; but the attempt to overcome the law by violence must be put down, and, therefore, he approved of the present Bill. When the remedial measure for Ireland was brought forward he should be prepared to give it his best attention.
§ Mr. Lambert
opposed the Bill now as he had done from its first introduction into the House, because he thought it a weak irritating measure, and he believed would be inefficient. Indeed he was convinced 590 that not 100l. would be recovered under it, unless it was accompanied by a remedial measure. This Bill proceeded on the bad principles of bad times, when the Church handed over its refractory members to the secular arm. He feared the tone and temper of the speech of the right hon. Secretary would not tend to allay the agitation in Ireland. It seemed to imply a threat that Ireland might be deprived of her part in the great measure of Parliamentary Reform.
begged to be allowed to interrupt the hon. Member, and to add a few words in explanation. What he said was, that the line of argument adopted by the hon. and learned member for Louth was calculated to alarm many persons in this country, and thereby impede the progress of the Irish Reform Bill; and that if he anticipated the same consequences from its passing, as was anticipated by the hon. and learned Member, he would even now withdraw it.
§ Mr. Lambert
was happy to hear the explanation given by the right hon. Gentleman, but he feared he could not give such a satisfactory one of the manner in which he had spoken of the oath to be taken by Catholic Members. He had taken it in its plain direct sense, and did not like to have the doctrine of double dealing thrown in his teeth. To return, however, to the Bill, the people of Ireland had decided the question; the tithe system must be abolished; but it was not yet too late for the Government by the adoption of proper measures to lead the people, and protect the interests of the Protestant clergy, by introducing measures of conciliation.
Mr. Ralph Howard
must also join in regretting the tone and temper of the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland. If the construction put by that right hon. Gentleman on the oath taken by Catholic Members was correct, it would have been better that the proposition of Mr. Wilmot Horton should have been carried, which prohibited them from voting upon all questions connected with the Church, than to have left them at liberty to do so. As he understood the oath he considered himself bound to abide by the existing law, but a difference of opinion might fairly exist as to the best mode of enforcing that law. He saw that on the present question a decided breach had been committed in it; 591 and, therefore, he had voted in support of the measure before the House, but there was a great distinction between maintaining the property of the Established Church and supporting the present unequal distribution of that property.
§ Sir John Milley Doyle
said, he did not approve of the whole Bill, but, as it had proceeded so far, he would not oppose the third reading.
§ The House divided—Ayes 52; Noes 7—Majority 45.
§ Bill read a third time.
§ On the question that the Bill do pass,
The Secretary for Ireland has assailed me. I could not reply to him, according to the rules of the House, until the motion that this Bill do now pass. I rise to answer him, but without resentment; for I make allowance for his feelings with respect to the Church. It is not that his early reputation is associated with it by his debut—there is something more substantial than mere oratory to bind him to it. He is chained to the Church by a golden link, which it would be preposterous to require of him to break. The magnanimity which is requisite to sacrifice his interests is not to be expected from such specimens of the hon. Gentlemen's feelings, habits and character, as have been witnessed in this House. Yet I do not accuse him of any impurity of motive. It is just possible that his judgment may be obscured, and that he may find it difficult to arrive at a sound conclusion, when there are so many impediments to unbiassed reasoning in his way. Then why should I resent his giving me a lesson? Why should I complain of his taunts, and his harshness, and his rebuffs, and his lack of common courtesy, when he uses Ireland in the same fashion? Can I hope to escape from the fate which is destined for my country? Yet the hon. Gentleman may be ultimately treated by his 7,000,000 of pupils after the manner in which the Roman schoolmaster was used for having betrayed his country to Camillus. The hon. Gentleman says, I have given, by my menaces, a blow to the Irish Reform Bill. He is himself the man who has forced these topics into discussion, and by rashly and obstinately pressing his measures forward, pending the Reform question, has 592 exasperated Ireland, and those by whom Ireland is represented. The right hon. Gentleman has arrayed an entire nation against him, by his demeanour and his proceedings, and he then complains of indiscretion. Now what has been the hon. Gentleman's conduct? What has he done? To what act of wisdom can he refer as evidence of his genius for legislation? He commenced with the Arms Bill, and according to the rules of political unity, faithful to his character, he was about to make his exit from Ireland with the Tithe Bill—a bill in every way worthy of him—a bill of a precipitate, rash, domineering kind, on which the right hon. Gentleman has stamped an image of himself, and impressed it with the proofs of his parliamentary parentage. What has been his conduct this very night? Although so many of the men who are associated with him in office are pledged to reduce the wealth of the Irish Church, yet he stands up in the front of the Government, and declares that no change in the establishment shall be made. But there is a spirit abroad—the spirit which carried emancipation for one country, and is carrying Reform for both—which will strike down the pile of consecrated abuse, and, instead of being able to uphold that mass of sacred enormities which already totters beneath the shocks of public opinion, he will fall beneath, and be crushed under its ruins.
In the course of the observations which have fallen from the hon. Gentleman, he stated that he was not influenced in the attacks which he has thought proper to make upon me by any feeling of irritation or vindictiveness, but I put it to the House whether the speech of the hon. Gentleman indicated that total abstinence from personal feeling for which he appeared to claim so much credit. The hon. and learned Gentleman appears to be in full possession of the secrets of the Cabinet, and professes to know what is passing in the councils of the Government, although he must be aware that the Members of the Cabinet are sworn not to divulge what passes at their meetings. The hon. Gentleman stated, that I brought forward the Arms' Bill, without consulting my colleagues in the Government. I will tell the hon. Gentleman, and I speak in the presence of some of those who are my associates in office, that I did submit that bill to the 593 other Members of the Government. It was not, however, at the time completed, and on consideration, a difference of opinion, I admit, did prevail respecting some of the clauses, which were conceived too strong, and although I was convinced of the propriety of that measure, and have since heard no reason which would justify me in changing that opinion. I have, however, abandoned the measure, not because I was convinced of its impolicy, but on account of the dissatisfaction expressed against it by the Irish Members. The hon. Gentleman has, therefore, no right to taunt me with having, upon that occasion, surrendered my own judgment and deferred to the opinion of the Irish Members, contrary to the convictions of my own mind. The hon. and learned Gentleman has thought proper to insinuate that I have been actuated by other than constitutional motives in bringing forward this measure. [The hon. and learned member for Louth shook his head, in token of dissent.] The hon. Gentleman may shake his head, but will he deny that he used the words? In the course of his former speech the hon. and learned Member made obervations which I took down at the moment, yet notwithstanding that the hon. and learned Member afterwards disclaimed them.
begged to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, for the purpose of explanation. He did not throw any imputation upon his motives; but he did say, that there were certain ties, a golden link, which bound him to the Church, and which might possibly have the effect of prejudicing his mind and obscuring his vision against the abuse of the establishment.
"I make the hon. and learned Member a present of his explanation. I will pass by this topic—it is unworthy of notice." The hon. Gentleman (continued Mr. Stanley) sought to be informed what the present Government had done for Ireland. Why, he appeared to think that men who came into office after years of exclusion, should be at once prepared with antidotes against all the evils which a system pursued by former Governments had engrafted in the Constitution of that country—that all their plans of improvement should be prepared and matured at once—that what would require years to complete, should be executed in a single day, and Ireland should 594 spring up a new country simultaneously with the change of Administration. Did not the hon. Gentleman know that before he set his foot in Ireland, he had been made the object of the most foul and slanderous attack; that every effort that could possibly be devised had been resorted to to counteract every attempt of his to better the condition of that country? He would certainly acquit the hon. Gentleman of any participation in these acts; he must do him the justice to say, that he never abused him behind his back, or gave utterance to an expression which he would not use to his face—he never joined that faction which heaped vilification upon Government, because they would not go the lengths which those demagogues demanded. But was it true that the present Government had done nothing for Ireland? Had they not carried through that House a Bill for the Regulation of Juries? Would the hon. and learned Gentleman say, that that measure was of no benefit to Ireland? Had the Ministers not, in despite of a violent opposition from a most powerful party, established a national system of education? Was that doing nothing? and had they not, within the last few days, pledged both Houses of Parliament to the abolition of tithes? Would that have been done if the present Government had not come into office? Would Ireland have had her Jury Bill, her Board of Education? would tithes ever be extinguished if a Tory Administration were in power? and yet they were to be told that they had done nothing for Ireland. The hon. Gentleman had taunted him with his Arms Bill. He had attributed to him a disposition to coerce the people. Did not the hon. Gentleman know that applications had been made by Magistrates in certain counties in Ireland, for an increase of power, for an augmentation of the military force? did he not know, that in some instances the Insurrection Act had been demanded, and yet Government refused these applications, and relied on the ordinary power of the law to restore subordination? Did this look like a disposition on his part to coerce the people? But this very night had not attacks been made upon them in another place, for not granting powers to put down the people. So much for the attack of the hon. Gentleman. In the remarks which he had made, and which appeared to have given so much offence to the hon. Gentleman, he did not 595 intend anything disrespectful towards him or any other hon. Member for Ireland, who acted in connexion with him upon this occasion. He came there to support the measure before the House, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman thought proper to introduce a topic foreign from that question—if he undertook to discuss the meaning of the oath taken by Roman Catholics upon entering that House, he felt that he was but discharging his duty, in replying to the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and expressing in the strongest terms, his reprobation of the doctrines which he had heard that night with astonishment, put forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman. Much had been said about the support which Government had received from the Irish Members. He was not disposed to undervalue that support; but he must say that the general support which they gave to the Government, by no means precluded him from expressing his dissent from them on any public question upon which he might entertain a different opinion. This was a principle upon which he would always act, and he begged of hon. Members not to deceive themselves by supposing that he could be induced to abandon a course which he conscientiously believed to be correct.
§ Bill passed.