rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Representation of Ireland. He said it was not expedient for him to enter into the various subjects which would naturally suggest themselves in the progress of the Bill, and the less so, as, in the first place, he had reason to believe that the House would not refuse him leave to bring in the Bill, which had been introduced in the last Session of Parliament; and, secondly, that the principles on which it rested were such as could not be affected by local circumstances. They were such as were connected with reason and justice, and the Constitution of the United Empire. Neither was it, on this occasion, necessary for him to enter upon the discussion of principles which had been already recognized for England, and which must be held to apply equally to Ireland, unless some specific reasons could be shown why the same rules should not apply to both countries. He trusted it would not be disputed that the House had acknowledged, that nominal Representation was contrary to the spirit and intention of our Constitution, and that the return of Members by individuals was no longer to be tolerated. The House had admitted that the members of a small corporation should not enjoy the monopoly of the Representation of a town, to the exclusion of the great body of the inhabitants—they had admitted, that residence in a town should be a necessary qualification for voters in boroughs, and they had also admitted, that certain qualifications as to property should become the foundation of the right of voting in certain cases; and unless they were prepared to contend, that what was true with respect to England was false when applied to Ireland—unless there were hon. Members prepared to maintain, that the reality of Representation should apply to England while only the mockery should be continued in Ireland, on them must rest the onus of proving their statements: but unless they did so, it must be admitted, that the same general principles of Representation applied to both countries. It would devolve on those who held the opposite opinion to prove why the principles of Representation to be applied to the one country should not also be carried into operation in the other. He was aware that he might be met, by many disposed to concur in the 596 proposition that the same principles of Representation ought to apply to the two countries, with the question, and that by no means a contemptible one—suppose the general proposition to be correct, was this the time when it could be safely applied? Was this a proper period to extend the principle of popular Representation in Ireland, when disorder and discontent were spread so widely in that country—when people were found in so many instances openly resisting the power of the law—and when agitation was carried on in so many places? To this he would answer, that he was well aware of the disorders and difficulties to which he had adverted; he was aware of the conduct of those who called themselves the friends of Reform, yet whose minds were bent on exciting agitation and discontent through the country, and by that and every other means in their power, were doing all they could to embarrass a Reforming Government. With a full knowledge of all these circumstances, he would say, that if the proposed changes in the system of Representation were called for by justice in both countries, they were bound by the principles of justice to apply them equally to each, and in the case of Ireland, to make them applicable, not because, but in despite of, agitation. He was also aware that it was not necessary to carry the principle of Reform in the Representation to the same extent in Ireland as in England; because much of what was to be done in this country had been already effected in Ireland. Much less remained to be done in that country, because so much had been done already. If they looked to the Representation of Ireland, faulty as it was at the present time, and compared it with the description given of it by Mr. Grattan in 1793, it was impossible not to observe that a real and substantial progress had been made in the cause of Reform in that country. In Ireland there were no Gattons nor old Sarums; no boroughs, in short, which had not a respectable number of voters. The Reform, then, which would be necessary for Ireland, was only an application of the principle to a certain extent which had been adopted here. The case would have been different but for the changes which were made at the Union. Of the state of the Representation in Ireland in 1793, some idea might be formed from the following passage in Mr. Grattan's speech on that occasion:—"Of 300 Members," said that right hon. Gentleman, "above 200 are returned by individuals; 597 from forty to fifty are returned by ten persons; several of your boroughs have no resident elector at all; some of them have but one, and on the whole two-thirds of the Representatives in the House of Commons are returned by less than 100 persons! This is not that ancient, that venerable constitution of King, Lords, and Commons—it is not even an aristocracy, it is an oligarchy. It is not an oligarchy of property, but of accident—not of prescription, but of innovation." Much had been done to reform this state of things at the Union. On that occasion, the principles of disfranchising nomination and rotten boroughs had been introduced and acted on to a considerable extent. He would not then enter, nor indeed was it necessary for him to do so, into the inquiry whether the proportion of Members left for Ireland at the Union ought to have been 200 or 100, nor would he discuss the means by which that measure was carried. All that it was necessary for him to show was, that that which was now recommended in England, had been partly adopted in Ireland at the period of the Union. On that occasion 200 Members were cut off, and 100 left, which were thus divided:—sixty-four for the counties (two for each), two each for the two principal cities, one for the University of Dublin, and thirty-one for the several towns and boroughs which were not disfranchised. The Parliament was now about to do for this country much of what had been already done for Ireland. When Mr. Grattan brought forward his motion for Parliamentary Reform in 1793, this was the language he held; and the principles he then laid down were those on which Government now acted. "We agree, I apprehend," said Mr. Grattan, "that twelve burgesses should not return two Members to serve in Parliament; that is, we agree to the destruction of close boroughs. We agree on the principle which is to conduct your compasses—sa mass of propertied people—the precise number only to be a subject of discussion; but we agree that we are to look to a mass of people having property. How far we are to go, and what geographical line, whether the circle or any lesser circumscription, may be a subject of discussion, but not of discord." And again, "we cannot differ about the propriety of residence; of extending the right of franchise to freemen by birth, marriage, or the exercise of a trade for a certain time. Perhaps we shall not differ on the propriety of extending the right of voting to landholders for years 598 having a certain valuable interest; an universal registry; elections to be limited in time, and to be carried on in different places at once; an oath to be taken by the candidate, and to be repeated at the bar by the Member." Now much of this had been accomplished by the Act of Union, and the remainder, he hoped, was about to be effected by the Bill for which he was about to move. One great mistake had been made in the system, by which so much had been completed at the Union, and that was, that in cutting off the rotten boroughs, little attention had been paid to provide a competent and respectable constituency in the towns to which Representatives were left. It was absurd to say, that either Bath or Belfast, with each a large population, were adequately represented, if only such a mockery of Representation was given as placed the representation of 50,000 people in the hands of ten or twelve electors. When the principle of Representation was admitted, it ought not to consist merely in name, but in reality. As to the qualification of electors, it was made an essential principle, that in the boroughs of this country they must be resident, and as that necessary preliminary had been fully adopted in the English Reform Bill, it ought also to be applied to Ireland, unless good cause could be shown why the franchise should not be on the same principle in the one country as in the other. But before he went further into the Bill, he would say one word as to a subject on which he differed from many whose opinions he respected, as well as from those of some others on whose opinion he set no value. It was as to the number of Members which should be allotted to Ireland in addition to those she already had. In the former Bill, it was proposed to give five additional Members to Ireland. In the present, no change was made in that respect; and here he could not conceal from himself, that he spoke in the hearing of many hon. Members who thought that Ireland was not fairly dealt with in not having a much greater addition of Members. He was not, and those hon. Members would admit that they were not, then discussing what were the conditions of the Union of two independent nations. They were considering what were the changes which circumstances rendered necessary in the system of Representation as it now existed. He admitted, that the objection could not be made as to the number of Members, if they themselves had not deviated from the number established at 599 the Union. He knew that that deviation would be urged against them by their opponents, and that, having once made the deviation, for the avowed object of giving Ireland the advantage of such an increase, it would be urged that she had not got such an increase as her increased population entitled her to. If, however, they looked at the debates in the British as well as in the Irish House of Commons in the year 1800, it would be seen that no principle was laid down of having the number of Representatives fixed for a certain proportion of population and wealth. Without any reference to that rule, 558 Members were allotted as the number for Great Britain, and 100 for Ireland; and here he begged leave to remark, that the treaty of Union was not a tripartite treaty, as between England, Scotland, and Ireland, but between Great Britain and Ireland; and therefore, whatever might be taken from England in the number of her Representatives, and added to those of Scotland, provided the whole number were not altered, did not affect the relative proportions between Great Britain and Ireland, nor give the latter country any claim to an additional number on account of any such changes. That was the doctrine laid down by Mr. Pitt; for that distinguished statesman, in recommending the British Parliament to consent to the Act of Union, made use of the following words:—"Upon a full consideration of the subject, the Parliament of Ireland is of opinion, that the number of Representatives for that country in the united House of Commons ought to be 100; upon this subject, the first question to which I have to call the attention of Gentlemen (supposing that they adhere to the resolutions of last session) is, whether the number so mentioned by the Parliament of Ireland is so reasonable, and founded in such fair proportions, that we ought to agree to it? For my own part, Sir, I will fairly confess, that upon this part of the subject, it does appear to me extremely difficult to find any precise ground upon which to form a correct calculation, or to entertain a positive preference for any one specific number of Members rather than another; but I am the less anxious about it, because I do not consider the consequences as very important. In my view of Representation, founded upon the experience of our Constitution, I think we are entitled to say, that if a nation becomes united with us in interests and in affection, it is a matter of but small importance whether the 600 number of Representatives from one part of the united empire be greater or less. If there are enough to make known the local wants, to state the interests, and convey the sentiments of the part of the empire they represent, it will produce that degree of general security which will he wanting in any vain attempt to obtain that degree of theoretical perfection, about which in modern times we have heard so much. Considering it in this point of view (if the interests of the two countries are identified, and the number of Representatives are adequate to the purposes I have mentioned), I really think the precise number is not a matter of great importance. At the same time, when it is necessary that the number should be fixed, it is necessary to have recourse to some principle to guide our determination; and I am not aware of any one that can more properly be adopted, than that which was laid down in the discussions upon this part of the subject in the Parliament of Ireland: I mean a reference to the supposed population of the two countries, and to the proposed rate of contribution. I do not think that the proportion of the population, or the capability of contribution, taken separately, would either of them form so good a criterion as when taken together; but, even when combined, I do not mean to say, that they are perfectly accurate. Taking this principle, it will appear that the proportion of contribution proposed to be established, is seven and a half for Great Britain, and one for Ireland; and that, in the proportion of population, Great Britain is to Ireland, as two and a half or three to one: so that the result, upon a combination of these two, will be something more than five to one in favour of Great Britain, which is about the proportion that it is proposed to establish between the Representatives of the two countries."* The same line of argument was adopted by Lord Castlereagh in the Irish House of Commons. It was not intended that the addition now proposed to be made in the number of Irish Members arose from any feeling that the conflicting interests of the two countries required that Ireland should have more than her present proportion; but the additional Members were given to Limerick, Belfast, and Waterford, not on account of the increased population of 60,000, 40,000, and 28,000 in those places; but because there were great and important interests in those towns which* Hansard's Parl, Hist, vol. xxxv. p 423.601 required Representation. This was as much as Ireland could fairly claim, according to the general principles on which the whole measure of Reform was grounded. In preparing the Bill which he was about to introduce, it was found that, with regard to Ireland, there was no necessity for adopting the principle of disfranchisement which had been acted on here, in any extent whatsoever; and it was also conceived to be equally reasonable, in granting additional Representatives, to take a different principle for the extension of the franchise from that which had been adopted in this country. Ministers had done this in order that they might avoid the conflicting claims of different places, the individuals connected with which might be anxious that those places should be specifically represented. This course was the more advisable, because there were very few places now returning Members for Ireland that could not boast of containing the elements of a respectable constituency. Therefore, they had not deemed it necessary to do the same with reference to Ireland as had been done with the small boroughs in England. It was intended to extend to Ireland the right of voting in the same manner that it was extended to England. That right would be given to freeholders and to leaseholders also. If any Gentleman thought that they had not, in this respect, gone so far with respect to Ireland as they ought to have done, he believed they would find, if they compared the one case with the other, that the leaseholder of Ireland had no fair cause of complaint. It was proposed, as the system to be acted on in England, that a lease of sixty years, with a beneficial interest of 10l., or a lease of twenty years, with a beneficial interest of 50l.; or, according to the motion of a noble Lord opposite, a tenancy at will of not less than 50l. a year, should give the right of voting. In the Bill with reference to Ireland, which he had introduced last Session, the right of voting was made to depend, in a great degree, on the amount and the payment of rent. But, as in Ireland the apparent amount of rent was not always a just criterion of the respectability of a voter, it was proposed to alter that point, and to grant the right in Ireland, as it was proposed to be granted in England, with reference to the beneficial interest of the tenant. It had been intended to restrict the right to a beneficial interest of twenty years; but as it appeared on consideration that such a period would exclude a considerable number of persons, 602 holding under-leases, who were fairly entitled to vote, it was deemed advisable to alter the term. It was right that this should be done, because, in cases where the original lease was for twenty-one years, the occupying tenant might have an interest of not more than fifteen or sixteen years. It was therefore proposed that a lease of fourteen years, with a beneficial interest of 20l., should give the right of voting in Ireland. If, therefore, Gentlemen would compare what was proposed to be done in England with that which was proposed to be done in Ireland; they would perceive that the latter was very fairly treated. In England, it required a lease of twenty years, and a beneficial interest of 50l., to confer the right of voting; while in Ireland a lease of fourteen years, and a beneficial interest of 20l., secured that right. Those who objected to the intended extension of the right of voting in Ireland, need not be much alarmed as to the class of persons by whom the constituency was likely to be filled. By a paper presented to the House in May, 1830, the respectability of the county constituency was most clearly shown. He found there, that of the freeholders of the whole of Ireland, amounting to 52,152, no lest than 22,000 were registered as 50l. freeholders; 10,000 as 20l. freeholders; leaving of the lowest class, the 10l. freeholders, only 20,000. In Catholic Munster, where the freeholders amounted to 15,382, he found upwards of 8,000 freeholders of 50l.; 3,113 of 20l.; and 3,500 of 10l. In the province of Ulster, where the Protestant interest strongly prevailed—where the lower classes consisted almost entirely of Protestants—he found 8,536 10l. freeholders, out of a total of 15,650. It thus appeared, that where the population was chiefly Protestant, the 10l. freeholders greatly overbalanced the others; but that the contrary was the case where the great body of the population was Catholic. He did not say this for the purpose of setting those parties at variance, as two conflicting interests. God forbid that he should do so; so far from meaning to create any such feeling, he could conscientiously declare, that if there were any wish nearer to his heart than another, it was, that he should never again hear the term Protestant interest and Catholic interest used for any hostile or unfriendly purpose. But he should perhaps be told, that by this extension of the elective franchise, the Protestant interest would be entirely overwhelmed. He could very easily show that 603 this was a most fallacious, a most unfounded apprehension. He did not wish to overthrow the Protestant interest, or to give undue power to the Catholic interest. His desire was, to see all parties fairly and properly represented. He did not indeed wish to overthrow that system, the only object of which appeared to he the acquirement of political power, and of which he might say, that the Protestantism or Catholicism of those by whom it was supported was only shown in their violent and intolerant spirit. In the borough Representation it was intended by this Bill to make extensive but necessary alterations. Here, again, he should no doubt be told, that the whole strength and vigour of the Protestant influence in Ireland depended on the preservation, in their present state, of fifteen or sixteen rotten boroughs. He utterly denied the assertion. Protestant property, wealth, and influence, would still have, as they always had, their due share in the Representation of the country; and he did not wish that they should possess more than their due share. But this he would say, that if the assertion of these objectors were true—if the security of the Protestant establishment in Ireland did indeed depend on fifteen or sixteen rotten boroughs, then, whether they passed this Reform Bill, or did not pass it, that establishment could not last. At the time of the Union it was also said, that the destruction of a number of these rotten boroughs was a most dangerous act, as they formed the great, the only protection for the Protestant interest. Perhaps it was so then, when the Government ruled by a small body of what was termed the Ascendancy. But that time had gone by. The Roman Catholics had been allowed the right of voting, other great privileges had been extended to them, and they must be allowed that weight in society which their property could not fail to command. When this objection was urged at the time of the Union, what was the answer? It was said, "If your affairs were always to be managed by an Irish Parliament, it would, perhaps, be a different thing. But hereafter you will not have a separate legislature—these will not be divided countries, but will form one united Empire, the affairs of which will be directed by one united Parliament. Your Protestant interest will not rest on the existence of certain rotten boroughs, but on the superintending wisdom of the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland." Such 604 was Lord Castlereagh's answer to objections of a similar kind, and it was a very proper answer. By the articles of the Union, thirty-one boroughs were left to return Members. Now he would ask, was it right or just that those boroughs should be left in their present situation? Or was it not absurd, if they did not, following up the principle of Reform, alter the existing system? Was it fitting that the real constituency of those towns should, in point of fact, have nothing to do with the election of representatives? Belfast, Armagh, and Dundalk, together with several other towns, were placed in this situation. There were eighteen out of thirty-one boroughs, in which the number of electors were under 100, and there were ten which had a constituency of fifteen each, or, in other words, which had no constituency whatsoever. Thus, whether it was Belfast or Old Sarum, the Member returned had nothing whatever to do with those who were called his constituents. The matter was the same in both cases. In making the alteration which occurred at the time of the Union, not much trouble was taken in the formation of the scale that was then acted on. The Legislature proceeded, not on the principle of population, but of taxation—the payment of the hearth and window tax. It however happened, that twenty-four of the places selected had the advantage of combining the largest amount both of population and taxation; but the remaining seven stood very low with respect to population. But this was of no consequence, as the scale did not proceed on the mixed principle of population and taxation. The fact was, that at the period of the Union, the Legislature acted upon a given principle, upon which the Articles of Union were founded; and that principle being once granted, they did not cavil about this or that borough. Indeed, many of those concerned were of opinion, that the disfranchisement of many of the then existing boroughs would be beneficial to the country. The only Amendment moved in the Committee on that part of the Bill was, for the disfranchisement of Mullingar, and the substitution of Enniskillen in its place. He never could find any reason, either with respect to population or taxation, which should have decided the question in favour of Enniskillen. But Mullingar was excluded, and the claim of Enniskillen was admitted. In the boroughs of England it was proposed that the bonâ fide 10l. householder should have the right to vote. The 605 same provision would be extended to Ireland; but as some difficulty might occur in ascertaining exactly the value of such houses in Ireland, he thought it would not be unreasonable, if those claiming to vote in towns where local taxes for lighting and paving, &c. were levied, were called on to show that they had paid those assessments up to the preceding half year. He did not mean that the payment of minister's money, or assessments of that kind, should come under this rule, but merely local taxes. Thus far he had spoken of the county and borough constituency. There was, however, a third class of constituents, he meant those connected with counties of cities. These districts included the borough itself, and a considerable extent of the country around it. It was proposed in these cases, that the 10l. householder should vote in the town, and the freeholders and leaseholders in the county. He did not think it would be just to restrict the freeholder and the leaseholder to a vote for one Member for the town, when their property ought to command a vote for two Members for the county. Therefore a right would be granted to them to vote for the county at large. There was one other point to which he particularly wished to allude, because he was aware that it might lead to discussion, since, in this instance, they had departed from the principle laid down in the English Bill. He referred to that provision of the present English Bill which was not, however, a part of the former English Bill, by which the existing rights of freemen were secured to themselves and to their posterity. That provision they had not deemed it proper to insert in the Irish Bill, and he conceived that they were justified in the omission. The reason was, because there was an objection to this particular class of voters in Ireland, which was not at all in force in England. And what was that objection? It was, that these freemen were mixed up, not with political, hut with strong religious and exclusive feelings. It was not, therefore, considered wise to perpetuate a generation of Protestant voters, who acquired their rights, not because they were householders—not because they were landed proprietors, but because, as Protestants, they were considered exclusively qualified to fill the situation of freemen. It was proposed that those who now possessed rights, or those who had inchoate rights, should be allowed to preserve them, but it was considered wise not to perpetuate them, as they were founded on a 606 system of exclusion. It could not but be observed, that the 40s. freeholders, who were almost exclusively Catholic, had been dealt with in the same manner. With respect to elections, they would remain as heretofore. It was not thought advisable to limit the time, or to try the experiment of taking the polls in different places. He had now gone through the principal divisions of the Bill, and he would not trouble the House by entering into those minute details, which would be more properly considered in Committee. It would, he hoped, be found, that while, on the one hand, they had not departed from the principle of the English Bill, they had, on the other, not unsuccessfully laboured to do that justice to Ireland which they had strenuously endeavoured to do to England. They had not considered the interests of the one country as different, in any degree, from the interests of the other. Nothing could be more mischievous or fallacious than such an idea. And he was perfectly convinced, that if they wished to convert into a warm, honest, and sincere union of the heart, that union which had been effected by the Legislature—that object could only be achieved by acting towards the one country on exactly the same principles as those which they adopted towards the other. The right hon. Gentleman then moved for leave to bring in a Bill to amend and improve the Representation of Ireland.
§ Mr. Leader
observed, that the necessity of a conservative link between Great Britain and Ireland was, on all hands, admitted to be indispensable, and it did not appear to him, that the right hon. Gentleman had given the consideration it required to that great constitutional object. The Crown constituted one great link between the two countries undoubtedly, and he trusted the connexion would ever continue, but there were other links required, of great strength and value in upholding the intimacy between the countries, which were now loose and inefficient, as would fully appear on a due examination. The Ministers of the Crown, from want of local knowledge, did not form that link. The Irish Members, filling places in England—the English Members, returned for Irish boroughs—the Irish and English absentee landed proprietary—all these formed no conservative link. The conservative link was only to be found in a full, fair and equal Representation for Ireland. And it was of the utmost importance that this link should be more 607 strongly forged than the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman was about to introduce was calculated to effect, although he admitted some good might be derived from it. He was not one of those who would raise light and trivial objections, but the present state of Ireland loudly called for, and demanded from that House, such measures as would convince the people of that country, that proper attention was given to their interests, and that their just and indisputable claims would be acceded to; and by thus shewing that a wise anxiety prevailed to meet their wishes, prove to them that the only real, permanent, and conservative link between the two countries was about to be established. There was undoubtedly great cause of complaint, that the county Representation of Ireland consisted of only sixty-four Members, and that it was not proposed to grant an additional number under this Bill was considered hard. If additional Members were not to be given to Ireland, what great favour, what additional advantage of importance was Ireland to obtain? Had she not already her sixty-four county Members, returned by a franchise similar to that about to be extended to Great Britain? Had she not her five cities—Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, and Kilkenny, with large constituencies composed of freemen and 40s. freeholders, returning seven Members? Had she not her University returning its Member? Had she not her ten open towns, with large constituencies based upon the 5l. franchise, and returning their Representatives? Was it not her great ground of complaint, that she had eighteen rotten boroughs, like those of Great Britain, which were so justly condemned as a mockery of Representation? He knew that an objection had been raised to enlarging the number of Irish Representatives, on the pretence that it would give a Catholic Representation to Ireland. He asserted that it would have no such effect. Of the ten open towns, half were situated in the north of Ireland, where the constituencies were all Protestant; of the rotten boroughs, six of them were situated in the heart of a Protestant county in the North of Ireland; namely, Armagh, Belfast, Carrickfergus, Dungannon, Enniskillen, and Lisburn. The six boroughs likely to have a Catholic constituency were Carlow, Clonmell, Dundalk, Ennis, Kinsale, and Tralee; while the remaining six, Athlone, Bandon, Cashel, Portarlington, New Ross, and Sligo, might be fairly considered as likely 608 to have a preponderating Protestant interest. Under these circumstances there was an end to all argument drawn from a supposed danger of a Catholic constituency. No person locally acquainted with the country could with any reason maintain such a proposition. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the calculation made by Lord Castlereagh at the time of the Union. That noble Lord took the population as 202, the exports as 100, the imports as 93, and the revenue as 39; and then, by dividing the aggregate of them by four, the result was 108. Lord Castlereagh, therefore, proposed, that this number of Members should be allotted to Ireland. But, mistaken as Lord Castlereagh was in his calculations, Newenham found that, by taking that noble Lord's own ratio, Ireland ought to have had 169 Members. At present, however, they were not called upon to decide upon such vague information as was possessed either by Lord Castlereagh or the historian; for official documents were in existence upon which they could confidently rely. He was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, before bringing forward such a subject as this, had not examined more accurately the statistical information within his reach. Looking either to the territory, to the population, or to the revenues of Ireland, to the houses or to the trade, they would find that country was fairly entitled to more Members than were allotted to her by the present plan. According to the best authorities, Ireland contained 20,437,974 statute acres: Great Britain, according to the trigonometrical survey, had a territory of 56,000,000 of acres, which taking, extent of territory as the basis of the calculation, would entitle Ireland to 201 Members. By the census of 1821, the population of Ireland was 6,800,827, and that of Great Britain was 14,391,631, entitling the former, on the basis of population, to 261 Members. In 1821, Ireland had 1,142,602 houses, while Great Britain had no more than 2,429,629, thereby proving, if the number of dwellings was considered as a criterion, that Ireland was entitled to 261 Members. According to the financial returns, the revenue of Ireland was 4,660,983l. exclusive of the duty on tea; while that of Great Britain amounted to 50,786,682l. Looking to these figures alone, Ireland would only be entitled to fifty-seven Members; but if the enormous sums were taken into the account that were drawn out of that country by the absentee proprietors, Ireland would be entitled to a much larger share of Members 609 than she at present enjoyed. In point of trade, likewise, she had claims for more Members than it was proposed to give her. By the last official documents, in 1825, the amount of the imports into Ireland was 8,596,785l. sterling, whilst the amount of the imports of Great Britain for 1828 was 43,467,747l.; this proportion would entitle Ireland to 109 Members. The exports of Ireland for 1825, amounted to 9,000,000l. and those of Great Britain to 6l,082,695l. so that, if the exports alone were taken as the test of right to Representation, Ireland could only have eighty-six Members. Upon the whole of these statements he wished the House fully to consider, whether a country with a trade, population, revenue, and territory, such as he had described, was likely to rest satisfied with 105 Members while it considered itself fully entitled to 161. The right hon. Gentleman well knew the state of excitement which prevailed in Ireland; and he appealed to his reason to say, whether it was likely to be diminished by the award of such a disproportioned share of the Representation as was given it by this plan. He asked him, whether he thought it unreasonable that thirteen new Members should be given amongst the counties which had a population of upwards of 200,000 souls each, with one to Dublin, and one to Kilkenny? The last place had, by the census of 1821, a population of 23,000, with 169 houses more than Waterford; and he saw no reason why Waterford and Limerick should be preferred to it, or, why one of the most ancient cities in Ireland, of great manufacturing importance and wealth, which, when a domestic legislature existed, returned four Members, should be excluded from having a second Representative. Certainly, in the Committee he should feel himself bound to press its claims for an additional Member upon the attention of Government; for him, that would be but a small acknowledgment to a city to which he should ever feel the most lasting obligation, for having done him the honour of inviting him, who was a perfect stranger, to become its Representative; he only wished that his ability was equal to his desire of promoting its prosperity. The different facts he had brought before the House were well worthy the attention of statesmen, and no man of common sense could undervalue a population of 7,000,000, which employed 75,000 British seamen in the cross-channel trade; which gave subsistence to half a million of British subjects dependant on their industry, and whose 610 commerce with England was greater than that of France. Let no man flatter himself that he could induce the people of Ireland to believe they would be adequately represented by 105 Members. They knew they had no representative in the King's Councils, and no person to protect their interests in the Cabinet. He had compared the statistics of Great Britain and Ireland, and was not ashamed to make the claim he did on behalf of his country. It was not as an Irish Gentleman that he alone was interested in this question, for all the hon. Gentlemen who heard him were equally interested in it. He presumed not to impugn the motives or depreciate the exertions of others; but he must be permitted to say, that he had never been a member of any union. He found no fault with the conduct of hon. Gentlemen who believed that they were acting so as to maintain the institutions of their country. But while he had supported his own opinions, and zealously combated and confronted the objections raised against them, he had at the same time made allowance for the course which others had thought it their duty to pursue. All he requested was, that hon. Gentlemen would consider the facts upon which his claim was made, and to bear in mind, that all his arguments were drawn from official documents. The navy of England might spread its sails into the harbours of Ireland, its army might cover its soil, and the people of the country would be glad of the presence of both, for both would spend considerable sums of money, without, however, guaranteeing the safety of the country, as might be seen from its present condition, after 100,000,000l. had been expended on the military establishments of Ireland since the Union. He had always been anxious, as Gentlemen who had held official situations in Ireland could testify, to induce the people to cultivate a feeling of affection towards this country, and to endeavour to improve their condition by augmented industry, and extending their commercial intercourse with England; but it would be in vain for any one to attempt to pursue that course unless the people wore convinced that their interests were fully attended to, and that the British Government not only meant justly, but gave decided and practical proofs of that determination. What was it that he required for Ireland? Only that the great counties which had two or three hundred thousand inhabitants, should return three Members instead of two. The Members for Ireland 611 considered that so much at least was due to their country. There were ten counties in Ireland, containing 6,000,000 Irish acres, and nearly 3,000,000 inhabitants, being half the territory and half the population, which returned only twenty-nine Members; whilst the other half of the country returned seventy. Was that just or reasonable, and should not Government avail itself of this great and favourable opportunity for remedying this injustice? From the Shannon to Londonderry, where this great want of Representation existed, Ireland possessed a number of the safest harbours and the greatest variety of other national capabilities: it was near to France, Spain, and Portugal, and had a facility of communication with all parts of Europe, and that most flourishing and happy country, America, which rendered it peculiarly fitted for commercial enterprise. He had not risen to complain of any part of the speech
|*The following Statistical Calculations from the basis of Mr. Leader's speech—|
|The Circumstances and Data on winch Viscount Castlereagh adjusted the Representation at the Union, compared with what it should have been, as calculated by Newenham, in his "Natural and Political View of Ireland in 1809."|
|By Castlereagh.||By Newenham.|
|4) 434||5) 846|
|The Political Strength of Ireland, as far as relates to Population, and as compared with Great Britain, in 1821; showing the proportion within the age of Labour, and the number capable of bearing Arms. [Census of 1821.]|
|Provinces.||The Age of Labour, 15 to 50.|
|15 to 20.||20 to 30.||30 to 40.||40 to 50.||Total.|
|Proportion of Males capable of bearing arms||414,196||597,739||390,378||262,173||1,664,437|
|Total within the age of labour||1,248,780||1,997,475||1,468,656||1,162,992||5,857,903|
|Proportion of Males capable of bearing arms||624,390||988,737||734,328||581,496||2,923,951|
§ The foregoing Table exhibits the national power of the British people in 1821. It demonstrates clearly that the numerical strength of the productive classes in Ireland to those in Great Britain stand in the proportion of 3 to 5, or, as a military population, in the ratio of 1½ to 3; and on this point alone, if Great Britain is to have 553 Members as the Representation of her people, Ireland is pre-eminently entitled to claim 314.612
§ of the right honourable Secretary for Ireland, which, as far as related to the mode of regulating the franchise, was able and judicious; nor did he make any objections to the leasehold qualification being raised to 20l., but his great desire had been to lay before the House official data to prove that, with regard to Representation, Ireland had been badly treated by this Bill; and he sincerely hoped that his Majesty's Ministers would give their serious consideration to this point. In calling their attention, and that of the House to those matters, he felt that he had only done his duty, and he hoped that he had discharged it without giving offence to either party in that House. In conclusion he would entreat of Government and of Parliament to act towards Ireland with justice, temper, and moderation, and he would ensure to them the best possible results from such a system.*613
§ Mr. Ruthven
said, that he was one of those who had attended a meeting of Irish gentlemen and Members of Parliament that had been lately held in Dublin, and he begged to deny that that meeting was connected with any Political Union whatever. With regard to the agitation which prevailed in that country, it would require all the power and energy of Ministers and of that House, to allay the excitement that existed; and that object would not be accomplished by palliatives administered from day to day. It must be effected, if at all, by a system of comprehensive and complete justice, and the present Bill was not, he thought, a mark of that justice. The right hon. Secretary had referred to the compact made by the Irish Parliament at the period of the Legislative Union: a bargain such as
|IRELAND compared with GREAT BRITAIN, as to Territory, Population, Houses, Revenue, Imports and Exports, with the relative Proportion of each, calculating 553 Members, as proposed to form the Representation of Great Britain.|
|I.—TERRITORY. Statute Acres in Ireland (by Parliamentary Reports, 1813–1814), and Statute Acres in Great Britain (deduced from the Trigonometrical Surveys of Great Britain).|
|IRELAND.||GREAT BRITAIN.||RELATIVE PROPORTION.|
|II.—POPULATION IN 1821 (Census Returns).|
|III.—INHABITED HOUSES IN 1821 (Census Returns).|
|IV.—REVENUE (Annual Finance Accounts—see Hansard's Parliamentary Debates.)|
|£ 4,660,983||£ 50,786,682||57|
|V.—IMPORTS (Ireland, in 1825, from Report on State of Poor in 1830—Great Britain, in 1828, from Annual Finance Accounts).|
|VI.—EXPORTS (Ireland, in 1825, from Report on State of Poor in 1830—Great Britain, in 1828, from Annual Finance Accounts).|
|£ 9,243,210||£ 61,082,695||83|
|By the foregoing, Ireland claims||161⅚ Members.|
|Ten Counties, exhibiting in Territory one half of Ireland, and in Population in 1821 considerably more than all Scotland in 1831, returning only 29 Member.|
|Counties.||Members.||Irish Plantation Acres.||Population in 1821.|
§ that made by a venal and corrupt body like the Irish Parliament, that sold its country and itself to the English Government, was not one that should be cited in the way of precedent or authority, and though he did not regret the Union, he would say, that it was accomplished by the most disgraceful means. It was a disgraceful period in Irish history, and one that should never be referred to as an example. But even allowing that 100 Representatives were a fair proportion for Ireland at that time, it was absurd to continue nearly the same Members under an altered state of circumstances. He maintained that the present Bill did not give a sufficient number of Representatives to Ireland, or such a number as that country was fairly entitled to; and he begged to inquire, whether it was expected that615
§ Ireland, constituting as it did, one-third of the population of the empire, should be contented with only one-sixth of its Representation? Was that country always to be kept prostrate at the feet of England? He repeated, that he did not think that Ireland had been fairly treated by this Bill, as far as regarded Representation, and he contended that thirty-two additional Members, instead of five, ought to be allotted to her. There was one point connected with the details of the Bill which he wished to notice; that was, there were three towns in Ireland in which the franchise was in the hands of 5l. householders; he hoped their rights were not to be disturbed by the Bill. There were other large towns, as well as counties, that fully deserved additional Representation; and he believed a Committee of that House sitting at Dublin, with powers to make inquiries, and the inclination and skill to render them effectual, would do more good by obtaining local information, than any other measure whatever. It was the mind, not the land of the country, that wanted improvement, and the great want was that of moral and social cultivation. The people of Ireland wishing for this, looked to the House of Commons, and to his Majesty's Government, for that share of Representation to which they were fairly entitled. When they got this, then would their complaints be made through the natural channel, and find their way, as they ought, to the Legislature; but if adequate Representation were denied, the people of Ireland would be always subject to the delusions of every agitator who might wish to disturb the peace of the country. It would be the highest injustice not to destroy the rotten boroughs of Ireland, which were as close, and as much under control, as Gatton or Old Sarum; but the consideration of the whole state of Ireland was a subject too wide for him at present to enter upon, wherefore he would reserve his opinion upon it until a future occasion.
Sir John Bourke
expressed his disappointment at finding that, notwithstanding the opinions of the Irish Members, and those, too, who had given unflinching support to Ministers, no change had taken place in the proposed Bill, with respect to an increase in the Representation of Ireland. This was a subject which he should wish to see fairly put to the test of a division before the English Bill was further proceeded in. He entirely concurred in the arguments of the hon. member for Kilkenny (Mr. Leader), whose data were such 616 as could not be denied, and he agreed with him in thinking, that every county with a population of 250,000 inhabitants was entitled to an additional Representative. He had heard with delight the speech of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland; but his right hon. friend had made a most grievous mistake, in not bestowing the same advantages upon the agricultural population of Ireland, which the Reform Bill extended to the agricultural class in England. For instance, the county he had the honour to represent, Galway, and its neighbouring county, Mayo, were of vast extent, of great fertility, and possessed an immense population; and yet they, by this Bill, were to have no greater number of Members than Carlow and Longford. It would no longer be tolerated in England that Rutland and Yorkshire should have the same number of Members; why, then, not extend the same principle to Ireland? He would also prefer having the polling at elections to be taken by baronies, instead of at the county town: as an instance of the inconvenience of which, he would just observe, that there were places in the county of Galway seventy-five miles distant from the place of election. The basis of Representation established at the time of the Union, was unjust to the people of Ireland. Now was the time to remedy that injustice, and place the west on the same footing as the north and south, by giving that part an addition of Representatives.
Mr. John Browne
thought, that the data upon which the hon. member for Kilkenny had founded his speech were so incontrovertible, as to render it almost unnecessary for any further comment to be made upon the subject. It was enough for the friends of Ireland to say, that they subscribed to the truth of the facts which the hon. Member had so ably stated to the House. He implored the right hon. Secretary, as a member of the Government, to take those facts into his most serious consideration—to direct his attention to the real state of Ireland—to frame measures to alleviate its sufferings—and, above all, upon the question of its Representation, to deal out such a measure of justice as should establish the confidence of the people in the good faith of the Government. Thus would the agitators of Ireland be shorn of their real strength, and with tranquillity and confidence would return prosperity and happiness. It would be vain to look for this while the Representation of Ireland remained as it was; for, while the larger 617 counties of England were admitted to an additional share of Representation, how was it possible to reconcile the monstrous anomaly, that in Ireland the threat county of Mayo, which he had the honour to represent, containing no less than 380,000 inhabitants, should remain with but two Representatives?—that county had within itself resources which, properly developed, would enable it to support its population in the highest state of prosperity; and one of the means of developing those resources would be, to give that immense population its just share in the general Representation of the country. The time had arrived when nothing but strict and equal justice could keep the two kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland together. He further regretted to observe, that there appeared no inclination to adopt the polling in baronies instead of carrying all the electors to the county towns. That would in it self go far to deprive agitators of the power they possessed, under the present system, of effecting their purposes by the influence they acquired over assembled masses of the inhabitants.
Sir Robert Inglis
congratulated the House on the happy harmony in which those who usually supported the Reform Bills now united to express their regret and their vituperation in respect to the Irish Bill. He would have left the question to them if it had not been for two or three passages in the speech with which the Motion was prefaced, and to which he thought it important that the same House which heard them should have its attention recalled, with a view to some answer. He would himself, however, notice one only of those points—a point which, to him, was the most important, as the clue to the rest. In alluding to this he should be ashamed to avail himself of an inadvertent and unintentional expression; but in this instance the expression and the argument were identical. His Majesty's Ministers (for he would not refer to the speech of his right hon. friend in which it occurred, recollecting gratefully his defence of the Protestantism of Ireland in 1824) having resolved not to concede to Ireland that boon with which they had at last indulged England (the continuance of the franchise to freemen and their descendants for ever), proceeded to give the reason—and to this reason he begged the attention of the House. "We do not continue this right to Ireland, because we should thereby perpetuate a generation of Protestant freemen." Let Protestant 618 Ireland mark this. "That system we wish to get rid of." He took the words down at the moment. Now let the House, and let the country see the design here avowed by his Majesty's Ministers. He would not ask for what objects the Irish boroughs were originally created; every one knew how many were raised specifically as nuclei of Protestant interests. He would not stop to ask what was the proportion of Protestants in the present population of Ireland; though, recollecting the use which had too often been made of the argument of numbers in respect to the Roman Catholic emancipation, he could not resist the opportunity of stating his belief that the Protestants of Ireland, Episcopalians and Dissenters together, would, by the last census, be found to be three millions. He would not stop to consider what was the proportion of the property and the intelligence of the Protestant body in Ireland. But he would ask, bigot as he might be thought for asking, whether this country had not prospered exactly in proportion as it had maintained its Protestant character, and had defended Protestant interests every where? and whether his Majesty's Ministers thought that this country would bear to have its Protestant interest, as such, destroyed? whether they thought, that in the present excitement of Ireland, they could hope to carry this the worst of the bad effects, of their Irish Reform Bill? The question was not as to equality; against equalizing the two, indeed, except as to the exercise of the religion of the Roman Catholics and the enjoyment of property, he had struggled to the last; but he did not wish to revive that discussion. In the present case, however, the object sought was the annihilation of the Protestant interest, as such—"that system we wish to get rid of." Say only that the proportions were to be altered, it was clear that so far the Protestant interests would be injured. But this country was still a Protestant country, and in a great proportion this House was Protestant: and he trusted that no Minister would be able to prostrate the Protestant strength in Ireland. His Majesty's Ministers would fail, he trusted, alike in their Education Bill and in their Reform Bill. In both, let them beware of loosening that interest in Ireland which was the last and only link between the countries.
§ Mr. James Grattan
begged to inform the hon. member for the University of Oxford, that he had entirely mistaken the purport 619 of the expression upon which his observations had been founded. The right hon. Secretary did not say that it was the wish of the Government to destroy the Protestant interests of Ireland, but that they wished to get rid of the system of perpetuating the succession of Protestant freemen. Had the hon. member for Oxford a more intimate knowledge of the manner in which elections were conducted in Ireland, he would know that the practice of making Protestant freemen for the purpose of keeping up Protestant interests, had prevailed to an almost incredible extent. It was high time that a stop should be put to this pernicious system, and he, therefore, rejoiced to find that Ministers proposed to do so. The Bill which the right hon. Gentleman had submitted to their attention was, in his opinion, fair, just, and reasonable; but, at the same time, he felt bound to say, that it could not be satisfactory to all parties in Ireland. For his own part, he thought, it would be only just that that country should have the number of its Representatives increased in the same proportion as Scotland. If Scotland, with its more limited population, were to have eight additional Representatives, he thought that Ireland, in consideration of its superior size, and more numerous population, ought to have sixteen or seventeen. He differed from the hon. Baronet, the member for Galway, as to the polling of the county electors in each separate barony, which, in his opinion, would not be an advantage. Such an arrangement would only give rise to inconvenience and expense. He certainly thought that some different mode of registering votes should be adopted, since nothing, in his opinion, could be more objectionable than that the Assistant-barrister should have it in his power to postpone the right of voting until it was too late to be of any value. This was, undoubtedly, a point of great importance, and one which demanded the most serious consideration of the Government, because, as long as difficulties were thrown in the way of registering the votes, it was idle to talk of any beneficial Reform.
§ Sir George Warrender
would not have obtruded himself upon the House at that period of the debate, had it not been for the observation made by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, that if Scotland had eight new Members, Ireland ought to have sixteen. He, on the contrary, thought, that eight were not enough for Scotland, and in giving that as his opinion, 620 it was but fair and candid to the hon. member for Kilkenny, who had so eloquently pleaded the cause of his country, and to the other Gentlemen from Ireland who had supported his views, to protest that he did not think they could make out any case, for even the five additional Members allowed them by the Government. Their chief argument appeared to be, that Ireland was inadequately represented. During the twenty-five years he had sat in Parliament he had not found that to be the case. He had always been ready to act with the Members for Ireland in any measure that could promote the prosperity of that country; and if he could discover, either from history or experience, that since the Union the interests of Ireland had been neglected, he should be willing to join them in their demand for more Members, but the very contrary was the fact, as appeared from the result of their exertions. Led by the patriot—Sir John Newport—whose name he might mention, since he was not present, they had obtained the privilege that Irish produce of all kinds should be freely admitted into this country at a period when Great Britain was burthened with the Property-tax and the Assessed-taxes, from which Ireland was exempt. Nor was this all: religious liberty had also been obtained for Ireland—principally by the splendid and overpowering eloquence of the father of the hon. Gentleman who lately addressed the House, for it was he who laid the foundation of that triumph in the House of Commons. But did these things prove the insufficiency of the Representation of Ireland? Certainly not, but quite the contrary, every Administration, for a long time past, must have felt the importance, and occasionally the pressure, of the Irish Representation upon the Government of this country. He therefore could not persuade himself that even an increase of five Members for Ireland was necessary; though, at the same time, he hoped that this expression of his opinion would not cause him to stand ill with the Representatives of that country, for whom he had the greatest respect. In making the arrangement which took place at the Union with Ireland, the compact then entered into was between Great Britain and Ireland. That bargain he held to be conclusive; and he therefore looked upon these additional five Members as a great concession in favour of Ireland, and that it was rather early at this time of day to disturb the proportional Representation 621 of that part of the empire. But the hon. member for Wicklow said, that because Scotland was to have eight additional Members, Ireland ought to have sixteen: in answer to which he must beg that hon. Member to recollect, that the Union with Scotland had now existed upwards of 120 years. Edinburgh had now one Member; but no other town throughout Scotland had one to itself, while Dublin had two Members. Cork had a Member, the thirty-two counties of Ireland had two Members each; and Limerick, Galway, Waterford, and Belfast, were, under this now Bill, to have two Members each. He trusted, after this statement of facts, that he might, as a Scotchman, be allowed to mention, that Dundee, Aberdeen, Paisley, and Greenock had important claims upon the Legislature, and yet they were only to be allowed one Member each. Inverness was not to have a Member, and he could enumerate other considerable towns in the same situation. With respect to the counties, too, Scotland was to have no additional Representation—not even the important counties of Edinburgh, Lanark, Aberdeen, and Ayr. In his opinion, that debate had effectually shewn the justice of giving Representatives to the places he had named; and how cold must be the patriotism of Scotland, if, after the example that Ireland had set, Scotch Members were to be content to see the great counties and the large manufacturing towns of that part of the empire left in their present condition. These observations had been drawn from him by the remarks of the hon. member for Wicklow, He found no fault with the five additional Representatives allotted to Ireland, but he could not perceive that a strong case had been made out for even these, much more for the larger number claimed by the Representatives of Ireland.
said, that the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Warrender) had compared Ireland with Scotland, while Ireland compared herself with England. The comparison should be between the two countries and England. The hon. Baronet had intimated that Ireland was concluded or estopped by the Union. Pray was there riot an estoppel of his own country, of Scotland, by her Union in 1706? His argument was exceedingly Irish in favour of Scotland. He concluded that because Scotland had got eight Members, Ireland ought to have no additional Members; and he in the same breath relied upon the Union, which applied to one country as well as to the other. 622 But he (Mr. Sheil) would reserve his observations on this part of the case for the motion which he should give notice of for to-morrow, which would bring the rights of Ireland distinctly before the House. One word respecting the hon. member for Oxford (Sir II. Inglis). The member for Wicklow had implied that the hon. Baronet had never been in Ireland. What a mistake! Why, the hon. Baronet (though few people were aware of it in Dundalk) had once been member for Dundalk; of course he must needs have had a very close connection with that important town. By the way, the Representatives of Dundalk stood in singular order; there was Mr. Barclay, the brewer, whose name appeared so conspicuous on so many posts, in the splendid intimation of "Barclay's Entire;" there was a Colonel Cradock, who, he believed, never had seen Dundalk in his life; and there was, though last not least, the present hon. Member, who certainly had seen it, because there was scarcely a part of Ireland with which he was not familiar. The hon. Baronet said there were 3,000,000 of Protestants in Ireland. Where did he find them? Did he see in the town of Dundalk, when he was its Member, the data from which this inference was to be drawn? He suspected that he must have seen it in the gazette of orthodoxy and of loyalty, the Dublin Evening Mail. He saw some calculation of this kind of these 3,000,000 in buckram in that journal, which is certainly the organ of a strong party in Ireland. But the hon. Baronet should take courage from his own statement, and not be so readily cast down by the mere proposition of admitting the Catholics to the rights of citizenship in Ireland. With his 3,000,000 at his back, what need he fear? He told the House that the Protestants constituted the wealth and intelligence of Ireland; if so, why dread so much the poor and ignorant Catholics? Aye, says the hon. Baronet, but we must keep up the Protestant ascendancy in Ireland, and that can only be done by shutting out the Catholics from civil power; for such was the only meaning which his words bore. Did the hon. Baronet fear for the Protestant interest in the House of Commons? Surely he did not stand in need of the Protestant freemen, with his millions at his back. The case of the freemen was simply this:—the 40s. freeholders were to counterpoise the freemen, and the one being removed, the other must pass away. A little nursery of faction was not to be maintained in every Corporation. 623 Who were the men who call on the Government to maintain this offensive ascendancy? Men, who sleep on in their dreams of domination with the broad daylight about them—men who conceive that Ireland should be governed in 1832 on the same principles of misrule as half a century ago. What claim have they on the English people? They are arrayed in hostility to their rights. But even if he admitted, that Catholic influence was to be increased, what inference unfavourable to Reform could be deduced from that hypothesis? Had the fourteen Roman Catholics in the House (there were no more) acted such a part, as to justify the imputation on them? Had they proved that slavery was a part of their religion? Why should they commit a trespass on the estate of which they were joint tenants? "Here I stand (said the hon. Gentleman), a Roman Catholic before you, once, indeed, banned and degraded, with the doors of this House closed ignominiously against me; but now (and I speak it with equal gratitude and exultation), though inferior in station and in faculty to most of those around me, I feel that I stand on the majestic and lofty level of British citizenship; to all constitutional intents, and for all political purposes, the equal of the best and proudest of you all; and shall I, madly and perversely, all Roman Catholic as I am, commit upon my own rights an insane suicide? But, away with these distinctions! let the words Catholic and Protestant be heard no more; and if it be wise and well to commit the sacred rancours of theology to oblivion, shall we not bury in the same profound forgetfulness those jealousies which we lay to provinciality far more than to genuine patriotism? Or, if we must remember on which side of the channel we were born, let it be in order to do complete justice between countries, and build the common greatness upon the imperishable fabric of their everlasting concord.' But had this injunction been followed? Had justice been done to Ireland? He thought not. On what principle did the Ministers go? They had stated none. Taxes and houses were to regulate the borough Representation, population the county Representation; by what standard did they mean to regulate the proportions between the two countries? And here he must be permitted to add a few words with regard to the details of the Bill, from which he had been led by the remarks that had fallen from others. He had endeavoured to follow the right hon. Secretary for Ireland with his best 624 attention; and he had understood him to propose to raise the qualification of leaseholders in counties to 20l., while the freeholders stood at 10l. For the borough franchise he had announced a similar system; but the right hon. Gentleman omitted all mention of other qualifications. The English Reform Bill provided that hereafter (saving the present rights of individuals) there should be no 40s. voters, except tenants in fee; but he had not heard a word on this subject with respect to Ireland from the right hon. Gentleman. He wished to be informed what he intended to do? because, at present, the 40s. tenant in fee in Ireland had no vote, but he therefore begged leave to ask, why this franchise was not to be given to Ireland as well as to England? He felt some surprise that the hon. member for the University of Oxford, when alluding to different places in Ireland, had made no mention of the Dublin University—a topic which he expected would have been referred to by him with particular delight, as the franchise there was so framed as to prevent a single Roman Catholic voting. It was intended, he believed, to give Trinity College an exclusive right of voting. He had nothing to say against that College: he knew that it was a valuable addition to the University: he knew that it was rich, splendid, and (as some said) lazy; but what he wanted to know was, why another Member was to be given to a place that had Protestantism, and therefore exclusiveness, for its principle of action. It was for these reasons that he reprobated the notion of giving two Members to the University of Dublin, which was only famed for its taciturnity, and was best known as the silent sister in the family of science. The fact was, that it was neither more nor less than a mere sacerdotal corporation, and it was, therefore, monstrous to give it two Members, while the town of Kilkenny had but one. With respect to the larger question contained in the Bill, he thought that full justice had not been done to Ireland. When he heard the right hon. Gentleman refer to certain passages in the speeches of Mr. Pitt, he went out of the House, and read the speech of Mr. Grey on the same subject. He did not, however, require that the opinions there expressed by Mr. Grey were now to be adopted; but at least he required to know on what principle of Representation they were about to proceed; for after listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, he had come to the conclusion, that Ministers 625 were acting on no principle at all; for in God's name, if there was any principle, how was it that three Members were given to Wales; that Denbigh, with its 82,000 inhabitants was to have another Member, while Cork with its 700,000 was refused a like favour? If people were to be ruled with ease and satisfaction, their minds must be convinced; and, therefore, instead of a measure founded on the dictum of the tax-gatherer, it would be better to introduce one in the true spirit of legislative wisdom, and which should take moral results as well as financial products into consideration.
§ Mr. Croker
agreed with hon. Members who had preceded him, that the Committee was the fitting stage for discussing the details of the proposed Bill, but he still felt, that the very enunciation of those details bore on the face of them objections that involved the obnoxious principle against which he had on so many recent occasions raised his voice. If, indeed, the measure were of a temporary, or merely local character, he would not so early have protested against these details; but as they formed part of a scheme under which no portion or principle of the representative system of England and Wales was to be permitted to remain unchanged, he thought it his duty to invite the attention of the House to their true character. These details, he begged leave to say, would be found to contain a direct contradiction of those of the Scotch and Irish Bills. By their own principles, Ministers were bound to go the length proposed by those hon. Gentlemen who demanded a much greater increase of the Irish Representation than was promised in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland. Either the principle of the English Bill was wrong, or it was right. If the latter, how, in the name of consistency, could Ministers withhold its application from Scotland and Ireland? If it was wrong to extend its application to Scotland and Ireland, what peculiarity of circumstances could make that right and politic here, which was wrong and impolitic in the sister countries? Ministers were bound to furnish satisfactory answers to these questions before they proceeded one step further with any one of their three Bills. When the people of Ireland and Scotland saw the complicated apparatus of Ministers for upturning all the institutions of this country—saw their mathematicians and their new-light philosophers, and their surveys and divisions—was it to be supposed 626 that they would not put in their claim for a fair share of the great harvest of change? And on what ground, he should like to know, could Ministers venture to refuse to the people of those portions of the United Kingdom what they were told was essential to the political well-being of Englishmen? The Ministers declared that they took population as their basis, and they accordingly gave this county and that town one or more additional Members, whom they took away from this and that unpopulous borough. "Agreed," says the hon. and learned member for Louth; "then give us Members in proportion to our population." And the hon. and learned Member was consistent and unassailable on this ground, which most fully applied to their own favourite argument. There was the county of Cork, with a population of 700,000 souls, and yet it was not to receive one additional Member, while the county of Cumberland, with its 160,000 inhabitants, was to have two additional Members. Cork, it was true, had not the advantage of having a member of the Cabinet for one of its Representatives, like the more fortunate county he had just alluded to; but still, if population was the basis of the Ministerial Reform Bills, the inhabitants of Cork had every reason to be dissatisfied. Ministers, he repeated, were bound, in consistency, to abide by their own principles and assertions; and if they did so, the demand of the people of Ireland for an increased Representation must be complied with. The members of the present Government, at least, had no reason to complain of the tone in which this demand was made; for they who so zealously encouraged and catered to every appetite for change, ought not to be surprised if the people now and then took them at their word, and, what was more to the purpose, endeavoured to make them abide by it.
And now he requested to be permitted to add a few words in reference to what had fallen from the hon. and learned member for Louth, touching the Dublin University. He thought the reproach relating to the lazy and "silent sister" came with an ill grace from one who was indebted to that University for the education of which his country was now reaping the benefit and honour. It might be, that the Fellows of their common Alma Mater devoted themselves so exclusively to the instruction of their pupils as to incur the reproach of being "silent in general literature." That would indeed be an ample excuse, if one 627 were necessary; but the fact assumed by the hon. Gentleman was not well founded. No doubt the Fellows of Dublin College did, as was their duty, devote their chief care to the instruction of their pupils, but there was no walk of science, and few of literature, in which they had not also distinguished themselves, and this, indeed, to a degree that surprised him, when he recollected that Dublin College offered none of those opportunities of a learned leisure, which were so liberally afforded at Oxford and Cambridge—none of the means by which men were placed at liberty to follow a favourite study; all were at hard and constant work, and therefore the wonder was, not that they had done so little, but that they had done so much. But even those who reproached them with their own silence would confess, that the University sent forth very many, of whom silence, or a neglect of either political duties or literary pursuits, were not particularly characteristic. He (Mr. Croker) remembered the hon. and and learned Gentleman's making his début as an orator in that University, when he gave the promise of ability which he had since so completely made good, and surely it was exceedingly ungrateful in the learned Gentleman, to reproach with a neglect of duty those very persons to whose care and instruction he was himself so largely and so eminently indebted. He would not then offer an opinion on the proposition for bestowing a second Member on the Dublin University, and would merely observe, that, if any change in the franchise were to be made, he should much prefer that its franchise were assimilated to that of the English Universities; that is, that instead of being vested exclusively in Fellows and Scholars, it were placed in the hands of Masters of Arts. While he was upon the subject of the details of the Bill, he must remark, that, in order to enable the House to judge fully and fairly of the weight of the objections which had been urged against the Irish Bill, he would to-morrow move for returns of the population in the several towns and counties in Ireland, so as to show their relative proportion to that of the population of the English towns and counties.
§ Mr. Croker
was glad to hear it, but had little doubt that the returns would be laid on the Table of the House, the day after the debate on the Bill. That, however, would 628 be better than what occurred in the last Session, when there were two or three debates on the English Bill without any returns at all. If the returns arrived in time, he should not make his Motion. The House and the country ought to follow the advice which had been given by an hon. Member, and to look at the subject as an imperial question; but he was sure that the mere declaration of Ministers, that no further additional Members were necessary for Ireland or Scotland, would not be considered satisfactory by those countries. He could not in his conscience (enemy as he was to the principle of change which pervaded the proposed Reform) say, that it ought to be so. When, by the English Bill, a new and interminable source of claims of right had been opened to the people, it was not to be expected that any portion of the people would allow those claims and demands of right to be limited or rejected merely by the sic volo of a Minister. It would be much more statesmanlike, and much more satisfactory, if Ministers, on the motion for the Speaker's leaving the Chair on the English Bill, were to state at once what was their final resolution with respect to the Representation of Ireland and Scotland. If he (Mr. Croker) understood that the vote with respect to the English Bill was to be conclusive with respect to the claims of Ireland and Scotland, he should certainly give that vote with very different sentiments, and with very different expectations, from those which he should entertain if he understood that those claims were still left open to consideration. In his opinion, it behoved every Scotch and every Irish Member, before he consented to disfranchise a single English borough, or to enfranchise a single English town, or to divide a single English county, distinctly to understand that justice would be done to Scotland and Ireland. It was impossible not to be sensible, from the great disquietude which the general proposition of his Majesty's Government had created in the country, that if their plan with respect to England were carried into effect, it would be indispensable to increase the number of Members for the other parts of the empire.
Sir Robert Inglis
said the hon. and learned member for Louth had asked him three questions, the answers to two of which could not be of the least interest to the House. He had been asked, first, whether he had been in Ireland; and, secondly, whether he had read the Evening Mail, 629 He replied, that he had been in Ireland, and had not read the Evening Mail. The third question was one of more importance. He was asked where he found the three millions of Protestants in Ireland. He replied, that, in the first place, he had not stated it as a fact, but only as his belief; but from a document, which the courtesy of his right hon. friend, the Secretary for Ireland, permitted him to hold in his hand, it appeared that the population of Ulster alone was 2,293,128; now, as in this province the proportion of the Protestant population was immensely large, he thought that, recollecting the large masses of Protestants in other counties in every other province, he had laid a good basis for the number stated.
was still of opinion, that the hon. Baronet had exaggerated the number of Protestants in Ireland; there were no data to prove that their numbers were so great as the hon. Member had assumed.
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that the present was not a fit time for discussing the details of the Bill which his right hon. friend had moved for leave to bring in. He could not help, however, remarking, that when the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken attributed the various claims and demands of increased Representation to the measure which had been brought in by his Majesty's Government, and implied that those claims and demands had no previous existence, he was in a great error. The wish for Parliamentary Reform did not arise for the first time when Ministers submitted the subject to the consideration of Parliament; it existed, and had frequently been manifested, long before. The right hon. Gentleman said, that Ministers, in moving for the Committee on the English Bill, ought to state unequivocally the number of Members which it was their intention ultimately to propose for Scotland and Ireland. He would then state, that it was the determination of Ministers to abide by the number of Members which they had already proposed for Scotland and Ireland; and that they would endeavour to persuade the House to agree to that proposition. It had been asserted that his right hon. friend had said something against the Protestant interest in Ireland. He was not aware of anything of the kind. All that his right hon. friend had said was, that the system of perpetuating freemen in Ireland—they being in general sectaries—was a vicious one. The hon. member for Downpatrick had also laboured under a misapprehension, 630 in supposing that in what had fallen from his right hon. friend he meant to allude to the part which that hon. Gentleman had taken on the subject. He could assure the hon. member for Downpatrick, that that was not the case; and he (Lord Althorp) would add, that from what he had seen of the conduct of the hon. Member in that House, if any observations derogatory to him had been made, they would have been much misplaced. He would not then go into the question of the fit number of Members for Ireland. But he certainly did not think, that because the Representation for England was apportioned by one rule, the same rule must necessarily be observed with respect to the other portions of the empire. Other circumstances must be taken into consideration. The general state of each country ought to be regarded; and it was necessary to ascertain in this view of the case whether each particular portion of the United Empire was sufficiently represented to protect any of its various interests from suffering in that House, and on looking back with such intentions he must say; that Irish questions had been, in general, most ably supported. The population was in a very different state in many parts of Ireland from that in which it was in England; and there were other circumstances which did not recommend any great increase of the number of Members for the former country. Indeed the number of Members for Ireland might be considered as having been settled so short a time ago as thirty-two years; and any great change was unnecessary, and uncalled for by subsequent alterations in the state and condition of the people. He had always felt the strongest interest for the prosperity of Ireland, although he was in no way whatever connected with that country; and he had always felt that no Member of that House did his duty unless he considered the prosperity of Ireland as inseparably associated with the prosperity of the empire at large. At the present moment, he was happy to say, that however they might lament the disturbed feeling which existed in Ireland, the wealth of that country was evidently increasing. In England, the Excise duties during the last year had fallen off; in Ireland they had increased. This was a proof of the improving condition of the middle and lower classes; and another proof was, that there had been a considerable augmentation of deposits in the Savings' Banks in Ireland. With respect to other circumstances by which the tranquillity of Ireland was 631 threatened, he trusted that all disturbances and agitation would subside or be put down; for he was fully persuaded, that to so intelligent and active a people, possessed of a soil so fertile, and of so many other materials of prosperity, tranquillity was all that was wanting for the rapid improvement of their condition.
observed, that the noble Lord had asserted, that one of the reasons which influenced him against granting an additional number of Representatives to Ireland was the fact that the various interests of that country had met with adequate protection in that House. Why, that was the very line of argument taken by those who opposed any meddling with the Representation of England? Over and over again had they insisted on the notorious fact, that the real interests of the country had left no tangible ground for grafting these pretended improvements on the system of Representation. And how had their argument been met? By a reference to population, to the number of houses, to the amount of taxation. Yet when the Irish Gentlemen appealed to the same principles, the noble Lord took refuge in the argument resorted to by the opponents of the English Bill, and expected that the Irish Gentlemen would be satisfied with it! There could be no doubt that, upon the principle of the English Bill, Cork and Galway were entitled to an increase of Representation. The argument to that effect was unanswerable, particularly so far as the former county was concerned. If the House agreed to the English Bill, they could not justly resist the claims of Ireland; and if they did resist those claims at present, that would not get rid of them, they would be brought forward, year after year, with additional force. He disclaimed the opinion that the Representation of Ireland ought to be increased; but Government had opened the subject, and the Irish had a right to complain if they were not treated on an equal footing with England. If the English Bill might be justly characterised as leading to revolution, might not the Irish Bill be justly characterized as leading to immediate discord, and to the ultimate separation of the two countries? Into the details of the measure he would not then enter, but he felt it necessary to make these few remarks because he conceived the promoters of the Bill at length began to discover, that their principles of Reform were untenable when they were compelled to resort to the arguments of their adversaries to bear them out.
would say only a few words considering that he owed it to himself and to his constituents, not to allow the right hon. Secretary's motion to be carried without expressing his decided disapprobation of the measure of Reform as it regarded Ireland. He was convinced it would not satisfy that country; they anxiously hoped, and had a right to expect, that many important alterations and improvements would be made in the third edition of their Reform Bill. They expected that Ministers would become convinced of the necessity of conciliating their feelings, which had been irritated by a long course of injustice and cruelty, by giving them a more equal share in the Representation of the United Kingdom. But they were to be again disappointed, and he feared the consequences would be dreadful. Every individual, in or out of that House, who knew any thing of the condition of the Irish, must look for the consequences of the disappointment that awaited them, with very great apprehension. The Irish expected nothing unreasonable; they sought for that to which, he considered they were entitled—a further extension of the franchise and additional Members for the larger counties; but these objects were not granted them in the Bill about to be introduced, and he anxiously and earnestly called upon the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, as he valued the peace and happiness of the United Kingdom, as he valued justice, to revise this measure of Reform before it should be committed, that disappointment might not lead to results equally disastrous and irremediable.
§ Lord Althorp
begged to say, that he had not argued the question as the right hon. Gentleman appeared to understand; what he had stated was, that it did not appear to him that the interests of Ireland had been neglected in that House. That was a very different thing from saying, as the right hon. Gentleman and his friends asserted, that because the system had worked well they were bound to preserve it.
§ Leave given to bring in the Bill.