HC Deb 22 February 1833 vol 15 cc1101-7

A message from the Lords brought down the Suppression of Disturbance (Ireland) Bill.

Lord Althorp

said, that he had intended, according to the usual course of proceeding, to have moved that the Bill should be read a first time, upon its being brought from the other House; but, as several Members had expressed a wish that the Bill should be printed before it passed through any of its stages; he felt it necessary to comply with that wish, and he would, therefore, now move that it be printed, and that the first reading be taken on Wednesday next.

Mr. Henry Grattan

said, that without wishing to enter into any debate, he would enter his protest against the Bill,

Mr. Hume

wished to know, when the House might expect the remedial measures which the Government had promised. He hoped that the House would not pass the present Bill, until the others were passed, or, at least, until they were satisfied that they would pass, lest they should render themselves liable to be charged with passing only the coercive measure. The experience of last year was not lost upon him. The Government then told the House that, remedial measures should be passed along with the coercive measure. The latter was passed, but the House never saw the others.

Lord Althorp

said, that a bill which he intended as a remedial measure—namely, that for getting rid of the collection of tithes under the former system, was passed during the last Session. If Gentlemen chose to put a different interpretation on what Ministers said, from that which they intended it to bear, that was not the fault of Ministers. The Report of the Tithe Committee, if it had been examined, would have shown what was the nature of the remedial measure which the Government intended to propose upon that occasion. With respect to the remedial measures at present in contemplation, he had stated, a day or two ago, that he hoped to be able to introduce the Bill for Church Reform by the end of next week, and the Bill for amending the Grand Jury system by the middle of the week. It was for the House to decide, whether they had sufficient confidence in Ministers to believe that they were in earnest, when they said they would carry through the remedial measures.

Mr. O'Connell

said, the Members of that House might be disposed to place the fullest confidence in the intention of Ministers, and to believe that they had the power of carrying their remedial measures through that House; but Ministers would not insinuate that they could control another assembly. Could it be said, that in another place, any measure advantageous to Ireland was certain of passing? Anything disadvantageous to her, was, he knew, sure to pass—any measure springing from malignant hatred of that country. No more on that point. He understood from the noble Lord a few nights since, that he expected to have been able to introduce the Grand Jury Bill during the week.

Lord Althorp

I said next week.

Mr. O'Connell

said, he understood the noble Lord differently, but no matter: he rose on the present occasion, principally for the purpose of apologizing to his constituents, for permitting one vote respecting this despotic Bill to pass without discussing it; but as the noble Lord had complied with the suggestion of many persons opposed to the measure, by postponing the first reading till Wednesday, he would abstain from entering into any debate respecting it, contenting himself with giving notice, that he would move a call of the House for Wednesday, and would repeat the call whenever he thought he perceived any relaxation of its effect as long as the Bill was before the House. Once more he roust apologize to his constituents, for allowing the Bill to be mentioned in the House, without raising his voice against it. The phrase, the madness of slavery" was cheered once in that House. He felt the madness of slavery coming over him then. He would proceed no further.

Mr. Stanley

said, that the hon. and learned Member had made one observation, by which he appeared necessarily to connect two measures, which had no conexion with each other. Undoubtedly, Ministers had declared—and if some parties had given them more confidence for their good intentions, and would wait with a little more patience, to see whether they would perform their promises, instead of exciting violent opposition, before they knew what the conduct of Government was likely to be, it might have tended more to the peace of Ireland undoubtedly. Ministers had held forth an expectation that it was then their intention, acting on the principles which they had always professed, and he would venture to say, on which they had already acted, to direct their attention to the remedy of the real and acknowledged grievances of Ireland. So anxious had they been to prove to the House and the country that they were not putting forth mere professions, that they had taken the earliest possible opportunity, after the opening of the Session, to declare the measures which it was their intention to propose to Parliament. Those measures had been acknowledged by the reluctant consent of the hon. and learned Gentleman himself, which he now vainly attempted to retract, to be real and substantial measures of relief and remedies for abuses. At the same time that Ministers announced these measures they applied to Parliament for another measure—which they had late asked for, and reluctantly resorted to—when it was imperiously called for, not for the maintenance of the present Administration, but for the maintenance of any Administration, and which, he declared to God, he would not have asked for, sitting on the benches where he did, if he would not have voted for, sitting on those opposed to him. If any Administration, let it have been formed of what party it might, had, in the present state of Ireland, proposed the measure which it was his painful duty to have recommended, in office or out of office, he would equally have supported that measure, which he held to be not of a coercive but of a protective nature. But, although it was right that the House and the country should know what remedial measures it was proposed should accompany the restrictive but necessary measures, it was not necessary that the two sets of measures should move pari passu, side by side through both Houses of Parliament. The hon. and learned Member said that the Government could not carry measures for the benefit of Ireland through the other House. Speaking in the name of the Cabinet, he said, that the Government was pledged to carry those measures through. If they could not carry the remedial as well as the painful and coercive measures, they were no longer a Government—they could not continue to sit on those benches. He said that if they were unable to carry their measures through, they were not only unable to exercise, but unworthy of exercising, the functions of a Government; and he should deem himself disgraced by continuing to hold the situation which he filled under such an Administration. Government, therefore, was pledged to this—that both the remedial and the coercive measures should pass. They were bound by their character—they were bound by their situations—they were bound by their honour as gentlemen—to carry them through; and, if they failed in doing so, they could not continue to hold their situations—they could not call upon the House to place confidence in them. That was the line of policy which Government meant to pursue but he could not stop to inquire whether this measure or that measure should be passed first or last—it was sufficient to state, that if they could not carry everything they proposed, they were no longer the Government of the country. The two sets of measures were independent of each other, but the rejection of either would equally establish this fact, that the Administration did not possess the confidence of the two Houses of Parliament, and therefore, could not continue to conduct the affairs of the country.

Dr. Baldwin

The right hon. Gentleman said, that he would not continue to be a Minister of the Crown unless he could carry his coercive measures. But he thought the right hon. Gentleman was not worthy to be a Minister if he attempted to carry them. No Minister was worthy of the confidence of Parliament, or the support of the Crown, who should endeavour to deprive the Irish people of their rights and privileges. The coercive measures would encounter from him, and other Irish Members representing popular constituencies, the utmost possible opposition. He charged the right hon. Secretary openly, in the face of the House and the country, with having, in the remedial measures which were about to be introduced, kept the word of promise to the ear" of Ireland, and broken it to her hope. The remedial measures would be perfectly nugatory if accompanied with the coercive measures. He could assure Ministers, that these coercive measures would do more to dissolve the ties which bound Ireland to England than anything else could possibly do. The Irish people possessed a spirit which would not bow down to tyranny. If the right hon. Secretary wished to maintain the Union, let him treat the Irish people as he would treat the people of England. Before it was too late he called upon the Government to retrace their steps.

Mr. Philip Howard

observed, that the right hon. Gentleman had not said the Government had declared that they should not call themselves a Government if they could not carry both the remedial and coercive measures, but that it would not continue to conduct the affairs of the country. The Government was now passing through Parliament remedial measures; and, if Gentlemen would attack the Government, let them do so on correct premises.

Mr. Sheil

said, that the right hon. Gentleman had laid down the proposition which could not be disputed, that no Government could call itself a Government without being able to carry remedial, as well as coercive measures. He thought that they ought to be certain that the remedial measures introduced into that House would be carried elsewhere. He agreed with the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman; and if that were so, he should like to know what had become of that portion of the remedial measures for Ireland to which the Government were pledged that it should be passed through that House? He meant the law by which the system of calling Juries in Ireland was to be made the same as that of England. The intention to pass that measure had been announced here by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, when interrogated on the subject, said that the Government were pledged upon it. Where was that Bill? Had that pledge been fulfilled? Was it a remedial measure? If so, was that measure now carried into effect? If it was not carried into effect, why had it been relinquished? What had become of the Committee? Had the Government in this respect fulfilled their pledge, or acted in a manner to correspond with the general principle laid down so eloquently by the right hon. Gentleman, and which no one had attempted, and no one would attempt, to controvert. He, for one, admitted that principle, and he asked where was the remedy?

Lord Althorp

I need hardly say, that I admit having given the pledge referred to; nor do I take credit for making the admission, for many of the Gentlemen now around me must, of course, perfectly recollect that I did give such a pledge. I hope the House will believe me when I say, that I gave it with the most perfect sincerity—and, I will add, that I gave it with the most perfect confidence that it would be redeemed. The Bill which the hon. and learned Member refers to was not carried through the other House of Parliament, because it was so late in the Session that it could not be passed before the Prorogation. I had expected that it would have been got through before the end of the Session. I am ready to say, now that my pledge was not redeemed, and, further, that I am bound to see it redeemed, by bringing forward at an early period, a measure respecting Juries. I do not consider, from the circumstances under which that pledge was not redeemed, that I was so compromised as to make it impossible for me to remain a member of the Government. On that point I may be wrong, but I do not think I am; and I trust that the House will think me right.

Mr. O'Connell

explained, that it was erroneously supposed that he had said his opposition to the present Bill would depend in a great measure on the success of what he called remedial measures. Although he had spoken on both of these measures, he had been mistaken when it was supposed that his hostility to this measure would, on any pretence whatever, be mitigated. He thought it necessary to make that explanation, because he found that he could not act on the impulse of his feelings, and praise, when he saw them acting right, those whom he thought to be the enemies, without having that praise thrown in his teeth, and being taunted with inconsistency for it.

Mr. Stanley

had only said, that he understood the hon. and learned Member's chief reason for opposing this measure at this time to be, that he saw no certainty that the other measures—those of a remedial nature—would pass with it.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that was just the mistake of which he complained. He had certainly said, that he saw nothing to assure him that the measures of a remedial nature would pass; but he had said it without any reference whatever to the present Bill.

Mr. Finn

was satisfied of this, that no measure of a remedial nature would be received with gratitude in Ireland, if it was passed in conjunction with a measure of this kind The people of Ireland prized liberty too highly to accept anything as a substitute for it. Their condition might be improved; but if they were fed upon beef and mutton, but deprived of liberty, they would not be satisfied.

Mr. Fergus O'Connor

said, that notwithstanding the indiscretion of the right hon. Gentleman, the Irish Members would abstain from comment; but he would tell that right hon. Gentleman, that with respect to Ireland, the memorable words of the Paymaster of the Forces were exactly true, and that "the whisper of a faction would never prevail against the voice of the nation,"

Bill ordered to be printed, and House to be called over on Wednesday.