§ Sir Henry Parnell
moved for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the state of the Queen's County, with a view to provide a remedy for the disturbances there existing.
§ Sir Charles Coote
seconded the Motion: he wished to see the county reduced to order and quiet, and free from that excitement which led to acts of outrage, rebellion, and destruction. As a person desirous of residing in Ireland, but who was unable to take his family there, from the want of due security, he was most anxious that the laws should be examined, and, if found unequal to the suppression of outrage, that they should be made stronger.
§ Mr. Leader
quoted the opinions of several of the most able administrators of the law in Ireland, to show that the tranquillity and prosperity of that country depended more upon the exertions of her country gentlemen, than upon any attempt to amend the laws at present in existence. The want of Poor laws, and the distressed condition of the people, combined with the conduct of the gentry, were the cause of the disturbances in Ireland. The object of those who had induced his right hon. friend to bring forward this Motion was, he was afraid, the renewal of the Insurrection Act, a measure which he deprecated. For this reason he should feel himself bound to oppose the motion of the right hon. Baronet.
§ Mr. Wyse
also expressed his determination to oppose the Motion. He had just returned from the scene, and could bear witness to the prevalence of a system of terrorism. There was no sympathy, however, between the criminals and any class of the people, and he thought, therefore, that the existing laws were sufficient for the suppression of the disorders. He believed, that any extraordinary exertion of the powers of the Legislature would be useless. Let the Irish proprietors live at home; let them lend their endeavours to better the condition of the poor, and Ireland would cease to be disturbed. But while the present state of things continued, he was satisfied, that all coercive measures would be useless, or worse than useless.
§ Sir Frederick Trench
said, that Queen's County was one of the most peaceful and well-conducted counties in Ireland. There was a link between the middle classes and the peasantry, and there was not that want of connexion between the two which had 263 been deplored. The gentry of that county set an example to the whole of Ireland, in the attention which they paid to the comfort and welfare of the peasantry. What was the altered state of the county now? That county was now in a most deplorable situation, and what was the cause? A person, well known in Ireland, had set up his standard in opposition to the payment of tithes, had been acknowledged on all hands—he had himself avowed it in his examination before the House of Lords, that he had set an example to the people of that part of the kingdom: every man must admit that he had done so. The individual to whom he referred was Dr. Doyle. Looking at the number of outrages now committed—at the increase of crimes—he must say, that he took a totally different view of the subject from the two hon. Members who had last addressed the House. He thought that inquiry was necessary, and he would not object to the appointment of a Committee, though he did not think that it would produce any immediate and beneficial effect in Ireland. In the first place, it would be occupied between two and three months before it could come to any conclusion; and then would but recommend the adoption of some measures that would have afterwards to be carried into execution. During all this time the disorders in the country would continue unchecked. Something, however, ought to be done by the Government immediately, for the system of terror was such, that hardly any respectable person could live with security in the country. It was not necessary to cite instances, but he could not help giving one. The son of the Bishop of Ossory, one of the most worthy Clergymen of the Irish Church, had been obliged to give up his living on account of the endless annoyance and indignation to which he had been subjected. The hon. Baronet behind him (Sir Charles Coote) was in a similar situation; although, as every one knew, that hon. Baronet had always manifested the greatest attention and kindness to the wants of all around him. Notwithstanding what the hon. Gentleman on the other side of the way had stated, he was sorry to say, that the division between Catholic and Protestant was increased, instead of diminished. The Government was not inclined to give support and assistance to those persons who would embody themselves for the purpose of preserving the public peace, for this reason, that it was 264 contrary to the principle they had themselves laid down—a principle which he should wish to see carried into effect; for nothing would give him greater pleasure than to find the members of both religions acting in unison for the purpose of preserving the general peace of the country. He must confess that he did not view an insurrectionary enactment with the same horror as the hon. Gentleman; for although it might be described as a bloody Act, he thought it was a peace-preservation Act; and although it necessarily interfered considerably with the rights and privileges of the people, still it was attended with great blessings and advantages to society at large.
said, the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, instead of supporting the Motion, appears to me to have opposed it. He talked of the distinction of Catholic and Protestant being put an end to. He expressed a wonderful anxiety to terminate all sectarian distinction in Ireland, and, in the very same breath, He did all in his power to be its most effectual and successful promoter. I ask any one who has heard the speech of the hon. and gallant Member, whether he has not most happily illustrated that kind of oblivion of religious differences which he inculcates. The hon. and gallant Member expressed his dislike to anything like the distinction between Catholic and Protestant, and, in the very same breath, he showed how much his practice differs from his theory, for whilst he expresses a dislike to religious dissension, he accompanies that expression with an attack upon an eminent and distinguished Prelate of the Catholic Church. We have, however, got one declaration from the gallant Member, that there is nothing of Catholic or Protestant in the disturbances at present going on in Ireland. I wish, before I go further upon the subject of the present Motion, to know whether there is any truth in the rumour, that Government have agreed to give their support to the motion of the right hon. Baronet, on condition that there shall be no inquiry into the causes that have produced these disturbances. It has also reached me, somewhat indirectly, that this Motion is nothing more or less than a pretext for the renewal of the Insurrection Act. I hope the Government won't deceive us on this point. Let them for once be candid, and tell us what they mean. I don't speak from authority; but, certainly, the rumour has reached me, that Government have con- 265 sented to the Committee upon condition that there shall be no inquiry into the causes of the disturbances. It is certainly of importance that, if there be no truth in this rumour, it should be denied. I hope there will be no delusion on the subject. There has been enough of delusion practised towards Ireland, and let the Government at once be candid, and tell us what they mean. Is this Motion an application for the Insurrection Act? I certainly look upon it in no other light. The speech of the right hon. Baronet who introduced the Motion has been a speech for the Insurrection Act. The speech of the right hon. Baronet who seconded the Motion, has been a speech for the Insurrection Act. The Motion itself appears to me to be a motion for the Insurrection Act, and it is, therefore, of the utmost consequence that we should know what are the exact intentions of the Government upon this subject. I again say, that I trust there will be no delusion. Let them speak out plainly, and tell us what they mean. Has not the hon. Baronet spoken of the danger of bringing his family into the country, unless that the law was additionally strengthened. The right hon. Baronet, to be sure, is ready to go there and stand the battle, but he says, that he could not venture to bring his family into the country unless under the protection of the Insurrection Act.
§ Sir Charles Coote
explained, that from the representations which had reached him of the state of the country, he did not consider it safe to carry his family there, unless under the protection of some strong measure, but he had not said the Insurrection Act. He felt that the law was unable to repress the disturbances in their commencement.
I would wish to ask, what else can the hon. Baronet mean by a strong measure, but the Insurrection Act Does he mean to say that there can be any intermediate measure between the laws which exist and the Insurrection Act? I wish to ask, is it possible, when hon. Gentlemen talk of strengthening the existing law, that they can mean anything else but the Insurrection Act? I would wish to be informed more fully upon this point, for it does not appear to me that there can be any medium between the law as it exists at present, and the Insurrection Act? Is there not the Whiteboy Act, every step of which has been trod in blood? Is there 266 anywhere a code of more sanguinary severity? It makes almost every act capital felony, and it is a code to whose sanguinary genius thousands of victims have been immolated. Under this code, assaulting a dwelling-house is made capital felony. To raise the hand is an assault, if the intent be proved; and thus, to raise the hand against a dwelling-house, even though that house be empty, is a felony, punishable by death. Never was there a more sanguinary and terrible law; its every letter is trodden in blood and desolation. I admit that many of these laws have been much mitigated, with respect to offences committed by day, and the beneficial effects of that mitigation have been practically felt, in the restored tranquillity of a part of the country which was before the scene of great outrage and disturbance. Believe me that it is not severity and strong laws that always best succeed. The peace of a county or a country is as often restored by justness and vigour in the execution of laws that do not shock the Constitution, as by resorting to measures of extreme severity and unconstitutional rigour. I have heard much talk about a strong measure. I should like to ask what is meant by a strong measure? The right hon. Baronet who instituted this Motion, and the right hon. Baronet who seconded it, have not pointed out any intermediate measure between the existing laws and the Insurrection Act; and what is the Insurrection Act? I say this, and I say it emphatically, that if the peace of Ireland cannot be preserved without the Insurrection Act, that the connexion between the two countries is not worth preserving for one single hour. I repeat that as my conviction. What is the Insurrection Act? It abrogates all constitutional authority. It goes to supersede the Judges of the Court. It takes away the power and protection of juries. It destroys the prisoner's right of challenge, and places in the hands of a few individuals, and one or two King's Counsel, the rights and liberties and life of every single man in the entire community. Is this the law that is now sought for? I ask any man in this House, who has ever witnessed the effects of that measure, to say whether, with a heart in his bosom, he can wish for its recurrence? I ask any man who has ever seen the operation of that law in Ireland, to ask his own conscience whether he can consent that it shall be again wielded against the unfortu- 267 nate people of Ireland? Oh! how often have I watched and traced its progress in oppression, and blood shed, and immorality, and tyranny, and oppression. Oh! how many an act of immorality has it not produced. Many a blooming, chaste, and innocent sister has been seduced to the commission of immorality to bribe some village despot, or some neighbouring Magistrate, that a brother or a father may be kept at home. Oh! how many a farm has been given tip, and how many a home left desolate to bribe some heartless landlord, that a father or a brother may not be transported under the operation of this law. How many a claim of right has been surrendered, and how many a litigation given up, to bribe a landlord to make interest, or to exert his own power as a Magistrate, in favour of some unfortunate relative, falsely, perhaps, accused under this Act. Have we not often (and the instances are on record) heard of the policeman hiding gunpowder in the thatch of the house, and sending another policeman to find it? and have not there been instances where a man has been induced by the servant of a Magistrate to walk out of his house after sunset, and when he had proceeded a little from his own house, overtaken by the police purposely sent to watch him, then taken before the magisterial tribunal, and transported. I have witnessed the horrors of that unconstitutional law, and I say that the social state is not worth preserving under the Insurrection Act. It is better that it he dissolved at once. It would be better for Ireland to be annihilated than cursed again with the operation of that horrible and unconstitutional enactment. The Insurrection Act marks the end of all civil government. Every species of abuse, and tyranny, and oppression are perpetrated under its guise. Oh! let me intreat of the Government to abandon all idea of the Insurrection Act. Let them abandon the government of Ireland altogether, or make up their mind to govern it according to the principles of the British Constitution. What then is the pretext for this Committee? what will be the result of its labours? I am anxious for information upon these points. Either this Committee is a pretext for the Insurrection Act, or it is not; if it be not, I cannot conceive what object it can possibly have. Talk, indeed, of an inquiry into the state of the country. Don't you know what the state of the country is? Does not every one know 268 what the state is? If you want a record of the crimes, or a chronicle of the offences, all you have to do is, to look to newspapers, and you will find it. Do you want to know what the state of the law is? Go to the Four Courts of Dublin, or even without going to the Four Courts of Dublin you may acquire that information. What then do you want? I say the Insurrection Act. I can see no other object in the proceedings of such a Committee. It is little wonderful that crime should be committed in Ireland, where so little attention is paid to the condition of the people. Somebody or other is eternally engaged either in transporting or convicting them. The upper classes have no sympathy with the people, and those who ought to be their internal and legitimate protectors, are, in many instances, their most cruel and tyrannical oppressors. What can be expected when the people are driven out upon the roads, or into the bogs, to starve? I have heard a great deal of the disturbances that have taken place in the Queen's County; and I think it was in that county that one single proprietor turned off his estates, and out of their holdings, 800 human beings, who were thus driven into the dykes and ditches to perish or starve. Can any one wonder that such excesses as these should prove the fruitful parent of crime? Can any one wonder that disturbance should exist where outrages of this nature are perpetrated on the people? I have heard of another part of the country—and it is a fact which admits of proof—that an entire village was destroyed, and the inhabitants turned out upon the charity of the winds of the world, because a report had accidentally reached the landlord, that a school belonging to the Kildare-street Society had been pulled down. It is oppressions of this nature, perpetrated against the people, that produce disturbances of this nature. This is what in Ireland is technically called clearing the land; but I ask, do we ever hear of outrages or disturbances throughout whole districts unless, where they are directly produced by this clearing of the land, or by some such oppressions of the people? There is another great source of oppression, the high rent at which land is let out to the people for that food upon which alone the unfortunate wretches subsist. Now, I believe the disturbances in one part of the country which was greatly disturbed were directly to be traced to the high price of 269 the con acre, which was 10l. How can there be anything but distress, and discontent, and disturbance, where the con acre is set for 10l.? These disturbances have nothing at all to do with religion they have nothing to do with tithes, on the contrary, the resistance to tithes is from a class perfectly and essentially different from the others. It happens that Mr. Lalor, of Tenekil, who was the first to resist the payment of tithes in that county, had his house and property attacked by those people. These disturbances entirely originate in what is called the clearing of the land; and it is only where the people have been oppressed that the people have at any time attempted resistance. The disturbances of Ireland have a palpable and evident cause. They are produced by the total alienation and estrangement of the upper from the lower classes of society by the accumulation of want in the country, and the continual export of its produce without any return. The people are neglected, impoverished, and oppressed. Can it be wondered at, then, that they should be discontented; and that, under the pressure of evils that press upon them, they should occasionally break out into discontent? The great evil of Ireland is, the accumulation of rent in the country, which is spent out of it. I ask, is not the annual drainage of seven millions out of the country fully sufficient to paralyse and wither the arm of industry? It is astonishing how the country can subsist under such a continual drainage of its resources. Ireland, indeed, may be said to be in the situation of a strong man, who has a vein in his arm opened from which the blood is constantly flowing, and which is a source of progressive and increasing weakness. These disturbances are some of the throes which, in the man, precede death, but which, in Ireland, precede destruction, unless some means be taken to rescue the country from its present position, by measures very different, indeed, from the inquiry of a Committee, or the extension of the Insurrection Act. Such disturbances have often before occurred, and the existing laws have been found strong enough to put them down. All the experience we have had sufficiently convinces us that the existing laws are strong enough to quiet the country, and put down all disturbance. Take any county that is disturbed—the assizes come on—convictions are had—the state of the 270 country may require that this assizes should be followed by a commission. After this, perhaps, a few may be found bold and daring enough to commit crime, but after a short time they relax and in all instances, at the utmost a second commission has been found perfectly sufficient to restore tranquillity to a county. The Insurrection Act, so far from putting down crime, is itself the parent of crime. It has never been found effectual in repressing crime; but, on the contrary, has led to its additional commission. I have considerable acquaintance with those who conduct Crown prosecutions in Ireland, and I believe a majority of those gentlemen will be found to concur in these opinions. I believe, also, that there is at present in this town a gentleman of great experience, who has been many years engaged in conducting Crown prosecutions, and I believe his experience would bear me out in the fact, that all the murders of Magistrates which have taken place in the counties of Clare and Limerick, have been murders of those who were active under the Insurrection Act. This has always been seen to produce dissatisfaction, and those who have suffered by this kind of severity have been ultimately the Magistrates themselves. The Insurrection Act, instead of having a tendency to check crime, has always a contrary tendency, and has uniformly been found inefficacious to repress disturbance. What, then, can be the object of the present inquiry? If we want to get a detail of the crimes that have been committed, we have only to look for their chronicle into the newspapers. If we want to ascertain the state of the law, we shall find it elsewhere, and I therefore should be glad to ask, what good can possibly result from this inquiry, or what possibly can it add to our information, unless the hearing of a tale which we have heard more than a hundred times told? I hope that the Government will treat us with candour, and let us know fairly whether they intend to give us the Insurrection Act, or whether they have any understanding with the right hon. Gentleman, that this Motion should lead to the Insurrection Act. I wish to know whether this Motion is not supported from some secret desire on the part of those who wish for the Insurrection Act. The right hon. Baronet has talked of the security of his family. I can assure the right hon. Baronet, that no person can be more anxious than I am that his highly respect- 271 able family should have all the security and protection possible; but he mistakes if he thinks that protection can or will be derived from the Insurrection Act. Surely he cannot think it. No one would more regret to keep that hon. Baronet or his family out of the country than I should; but would he prefer to return there as a soldier, bearing the Insurrection Act along with him, rather than as a friend, the capacity and character in which he has hitherto visited the people? What way is there in a Committee to state facts, or produce facts of a different complexion from those which have already existed? If this Committee sit, what will be the result of its labours? They may summon witnesses, but what then? Why this; they get one Magistrate to give them a chronicle of offences such as exactly may be found in the newspapers for the last six months: another Magistrate will be ready to indulge some speculation as to the causes of the offences; and a third will be ready to ascribe them all to the interference of Dr. Doyle and the Catholic Clergy. This will be the full amount of the labours of the Committee, and this will be their result. I call upon the King's Government to disconnect themselves from this proceeding. Let them take the preservation of the peace of the country into their own hands. Let them go on with their special commissions, and succeed, as they have already done, in restoring peace and tranquillity to the disturbed districts by the firm assertion of the existing ordinary law. I am sorry that, in the course of the observations which an hon. and gallant Member had made to this House, that the trials of the county of Kilkenny have been alluded to. I was there, and have a right to have some knowledge on the subject, and I must say, that never was any county more slandered than this county by the King's officers. In regard to the acquittal that took place, no conscientious Jury would have come to a different conclusion, and, in my mind, there never was a more upright or conscientious verdict. Now, so far from the law having been found inefficacious, in many instances at those assizes, several convictions took place for Whiteboy offences, and for crimes connected with the combination of the Blackfeet and Whitefeet. With respect to the Jury that tried Kennedy, five of that Jury were nominated by the Crown after all the prisoner's challenges had been exhausted. It is quite impossible that 272 any honest or conscientious Jury would have found a different verdict. I entreat the Government not to resort to the dangerous experiment of the Insurrection Act. It is unwise and imprudent. It is teaching a bad lesson to the people; when you show them an example of a disregard of all decency and respect for the Constitution, and a reckless prostration of all the safeguards which British law has set up for the protection of the subject, you must expect that they will improve upon the lesson you teach them. I sit down in the confident hope, that his Majesty's Government will disavow all those intentions that rumour imputes to them: that they will be frank and candid, and that, above all, they will disavow any intention of again subjecting Ireland to the terrors of the Insurrection Act. If they do, the Committee goes for nothing.
said, that after the protracted debate which had taken place on this subject, not twenty evenings ago, he should not now detain the House long. If the hon. and learned member for Kerry had heard that debate, he would certainly have thought it unnecessary to put the question, whether the Government were about to support the introduction of a measure so odious as that of the Insurrection Act. He had lost no opportunity—and, unhappily, since he had been connected with the government of Ireland, the state of that country had given him frequent opportunities—of stating his determination, and that of the Government to which he belonged, to adhere, so long as it was at all likely to prove effective, to the ordinary administration of the law, and to repel that extraordinary application of the powers of Government, which, however it might put down an evil at the moment, was calculated ultimately to increase that evil ten-fold; and which put down a weed to raise a stronger and more noxious produce from its root. He distinctly disavowed any intention whatever, by word, act, or any idea entertained in his imagination, of introducing the Insurrection Act into Ireland. If his words were doubted, he appealed from what the Government had said to what they had done. These disturbances he distinguished altogether from those connected with religious questions in that country. They were committed by a very different sort of persons, and arose from a very different cause. With respect to what had been said about 273 the Government desiring not to go into the causes of the disturbances in Ireland, the fact was, that he had told the hon. Baronet, that a motion so framed would be too large for any chance of advantage from the inquiry, and which, if made, would be productive of no result whatever. On the other hand, he thought that some inquiry would be beneficial. That an inquiry into the immediate causes of these crimes; into the manner in which they were perpetrated; into the sort of offenders who committed them; and the mode in which they had before been put down, would be sufficient to show that the existing laws were fully adequate to extinguish these disturbances. The experience of the past had shown this to be the case in Clare, Galway, and Kilkenny, and if he were to select three counties which were now the most peaceable in Ireland, he should choose those three in which, by the means of special commissions, the ordinary laws of the land had been administered. If the Magistrates did their duty in Queen's County, he had no doubt the result would be the same. With regard to inquiry into the causes of the disturbance, he was afraid that that would open such an extensive field of inquiry, that no good result would arise out of it. He thought, however, that it would be of importance to inquire into the state of the disturbances, into the amount of crime, and into the mode adopted in other countries for restoring peace. That, he thought, might be of service, and, were it properly gone about, by some fifteen or twenty Members, he thought that they would find, on inquiry, that the law, as it existed, would be sufficient. He must at the same time say, that the Government did not anticipate any great advantage from a Committee; but nevertheless, if the country required it, he should accede to the request. Something might be done by proper inquiry, and one result he anticipated from it; he meant the disabusing of the Magistrates of the mistaken idea that, since the appointment of a police force, the constables, and others formerly acting under their directions, were not required to act. In conclusion, the right hon. Gentleman said, that he felt he should not be justified in offering any opposition to the Motion.
§ Mr. Dawson
thought the member for the Queen's County had not been fairly treated. It was well known that all means 274 had been tried to restore order, but without; effect. He must beg leave to contradict the assertion, that the ordinary operation of the law had been found sufficient to repress disturbances in Kilkenny, Clare, and Carlow. The tranquillity which prevailed in those counties was deceitful, and would speedily be replaced by violence and outrage. The present state of many parts of Ireland was such, that gentlemen could not go to church without arms. They could not dine without pistols on the table, neither could they go out without a musket on the shoulder. In such a state of the country, could any one say inquiry into the inefficacy of the law was not necessary? The hon. member for Kerry had said the object was, to apply the Insurrection Act, but he did not believe that was the object. On his own part he disclaimed that object. He did not think the Insurrection Act would answer the desired purpose. At the same time he should say the law had totally failed. In the atrocious murder of the policeman in Kildare the law had been totally inoperative; and he was one who thought the Magistrates had not done their duty. The murderers, up to that time, had not been brought to justice. If a Committee was appointed, there could be no doubt that useful information must be obtained. According to the statement of the hon. and learned member for Kerry, neither lives nor property were safe in Kilkenny; but he could say property had been more secure in that county than any other in Ireland. The banking affairs of that county had always been conducted upon the most admirable system of accuracy; but the moment agitation was excited by demagogues all went wrong. The hon. member for Kerry said, that every thing went out of Ireland, and nothing went in. The fact was, that within a short period 14,000,000l. of Stock had been transferred from the Bank of England to Ireland. The hon. and learned Member, too, was constantly in the habit of drawing a very exaggerated picture of the poverty and destitution of Ireland; but he knew that the resources of the country were progressively improving; and in proof of the abundance of capital in that country, he might mention, that in the last five years the sales of land averaged 5,000,000l. per annum. These facts proved that speculation and property were in action in that country. When the hon. Member said civil society could not exist with the Insurrection 275 Act, he might ask, whether civil society could be said to exist in the Queen's County and the county of Kilkenny at the present time? The fact was, no one could go abroad without arms for their defence. He would vote for the appointment of the Committee, because, if it had no other good effect, it would at least show the people of Ireland that the House of Commons was not inattentive to their interests, and they needed that conviction to ensure them confidence.
§ Mr. Crampton
said, if the hon. and learned member for Kerry drew pictures in strong colours, the right hon. member for Harwich was no inconsiderable painter in the same way. He rose, however, to defend the law officers, and to deny that Judges and Jury had not done their duty. He was convinced that the Common Law was sufficient to punish crimes, but not sufficient to prevent the disorders which had arisen in the Queen's County. The right hon. member for Harwich had, however, a panacea for the evils of Ireland. That right hon. Gentleman thought it the Tories came into Government all would be right.
Sir Robert Bateson
wished the inquiry to extend to the disorders of Ireland as they existed, as well as the causes of those disorders. As a constant resident in the north of Ireland, he was enabled to say, there never had prevailed more religious animosity than at present. All were dissatisfied. When his Majesty's Ministers came into office, party animosity was at a low ebb, but it had since increased to an alarming extent. Wanton attacks were made by Catholics on Protestants. It was no longer Protestant ascendency, but Catholic ascendency. There was not equal protection of persons and property. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland must be aware of the frightful extent of emigration then going on. What was the cause of religious animosity in Ireland, carried as it was to a greater extent than ever? It was bad Government. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland had asked what had the Government not done for Ireland? He would answer nothing. It was known that arms had been lately introduced clandestinely to Ireland, with ammunition. The communications from Magistrates on the subject had been treated with contempt, and, in short, his Majesty's Government had taken no steps to prevent those transactions. The hon. Baronet expressed a 276 hope that the Members of the Committee would endeavour to find out the causes of the atrocious crimes which had disgraced Ireland. He had no other object than to put down religious animosity, and restore peace and tranquillity.
§ Mr. James Grattan
said, he approved of the appointment of a Committee, but thought that the Motion of the hon. member for Queen's County came too late; for the Session was so far gone that but little could be done at present. He thought that at least the Committee should confine its inquiry into the state of the laws. He thought the efforts of Government had a tendency to restore peace to Ireland. Coercive measures had exasperated the people, until the Magistrates had fallen victims to the laws they were desirous to enforce. If the Irish gentry, instead of drawing their rents and spending them here, should reside at home, and exert themselves to pacify the country, he had no doubt but they would in that case easily succeed.
The Earl of Ossory
said, that outrages had of late increased. He believed the measures taken had not been sufficiently strong to prevent or put them down. In the present state of things, it would not be possible to get the farmers to combine for the preservation of the peace. He would not oppose the Motion, though he did not see what object could be gained by it.
§ Mr. Ruthven
said, this Committee would be received with a great deal of suspicion by the people. He hoped the Government would not be decoyed into a re-enactment of the Insurrection Act. He, as a Protestant, did not entertain the fears expressed by the hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Bateson).
§ Mr. Wyse
moved, as an Amendment to the original Resolution, the insertion of the words, after the word Ireland, "and into the immediate causes which have produced those events, and the efficiency of the laws for the suppression of outrages against the public peace." He believed that this Amendment would meet with the concurrence of every hon. Member.
§ Mr. Lefroy
hoped more good would re-suit from this inquiry than had been anticipated. The object of it was, to ascertain the present state of the disturbed districts, and the state of the law. The hon. and learned member for Kerry said, they already knew the state of the law, and of the disturbed districts, and, there- 277 fore, that the inquiry could be of no use. It was true they did know the state of the law; but they knew also that ingenious and elaborate contrivances had been suggested and acted upon, for the purpose of evading the law. Were they not, under such circumstances, justified in taking such steps as would ensure the execution of the law, and defeat the artifices contrived for evading it? Would it not be fit that a Committee should inquire, for instance, into those immense masses of persons who were in the habit of assembling, and who must, necessarily, overawe the execution of the law? This was the more necessary, after the opinion given by the Attorney General, that it was not competent to read the Riot Act for the dispersion of such meetings. He supported the Motion for the purpose of ascertaining whether the law, as it now stood, was sufficient. Was it anything less than paradoxical that, if the existing laws were sufficient, they should, at the same time, have a state of things unparalleled in any country in the world that boasted of civilization? The present situation of Ireland was a disgrace either to the laws, or to the Government. The Motion did not pledge them to any specific measure, but they were not precluded from inquiring whether some other means might not be adopted for enforcing the law. The Attorney General for Ireland gave recently a short and correct summary of the actual state of the country. There was, be said, no security for life or property. The peaceable part of the inhabitants were groaning under an uncontrollable and uncontrolled power. Could they refuse to endeavour to find some remedy for such a state of things? He was not disposed to question the sufficiency of the Common Law, if applied promptly and perseveringly. If, however, it was sufficient, why had the country for eighteen months been left in so deplorable a state? During the first six months of these eighteen, not less than 600 or 700 crimes were committed; in the next six months, 800; in the succeeding five months, 500 crimes; and in the last month, 200. How came it that Special Commissions were not had recourse to during that period, and the efficiency of the laws ascertained? This inquiry would demonstrate either the inefficiency of the law, or the delinquency of those who did not apply it. The Amendment would lead to interminable inquiry.
§ The Motion amended, and agreed to.
§ Committee appointed.