§ Mr. Sheil
having moved the Order of the Day for the Adjourned Debate on the Disturbances (Ireland) Bill, proceeded to address the House, and said, he did certainly feel that, on rising to endeavour to make a reply to the exceedingly remarkable speech with which the debate of yesternight concluded, he was undertaking a very arduous task. He was perfectly sensible that the right hon. Gentleman had addressed an auditory on whom he certainly made a very profound impression. If the right hon. Gentleman had addressed the most cold and reluctant audience, that faculty of speech, which, beyond all question, he possessed in a very distinguished and eminent manner, would certainly have secured for him the acclamations of the assembly, however he might fail to produce conviction in their minds. But when he united this double advantage—the effect of his own powers with the predisposition and sympathies of his British hearers, it was not a matter of surprise, that so considerable a sensation should have followed the delivery of that remarkable piece of oratory, which the House had heard with so much admiration. But while he thus offered to the right hon. Gentleman, what he trusted would be deemed perfectly sincere on his part, the tribute which was due to him for his distinguished abilities, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would pardon him if he ventured to express some regret and surprise, that, when he was introducing a question of such paramount importance to that part of the country which was principally the subject of it—or rather, sustaining the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing a measure fraught with such pains and penalties, the right hon. Gentle-man had not thought it judicious to follow more strictly the course pointed out, and the example set him by the noble Lord. If the right hon. Gentleman had appealed exclusively to those documents contained in 1300 the box on the Table—which the House was bound to consider authentic, and which, although they were without a name, were yet, from the assurance of his Majesty's Government, entitled to confidence and credit—then it would have been supererogatory and superfluous for the right hon. Gentleman to have had recourse to what he (Mr. Sheil) could not help considering as precedents for producing an excitement not germane or relative to the matter before the House. For he appealed to the House, now that it was cool, and the immediate effect of that address had somewhat subsided, whether, after all, it was calculated to produce a sound and deliberate conviction of the necessity of substituting Courts-martial for the ordinary and regular tribunals in Ireland. He had thus but slightly glanced at that speech, and he trusted, that in the course of what he should have to offer in answer to the right hon. Gentleman's arguments, he should be able himself to manifest that spirit of calm expostulation which, perhaps, was most likely, under the circumstances in which he and his country were placed, to produce conviction, if possible, in minds already under the influence of so much bias. He trusted, that in what he had to say, he should be able to show that he did not proceed without authority in calling the attention of the House to facts beyond dispute, and in arguing upon the piece of legislation before the House. He hoped he should not be considered as deviating from the resolution which had been laid down, if he ventured at the outset to say, that he really felt a degree of depression from the consciousness that there was in that House a feeling already formed, independent of any arguments that might be presented to the House, which might lead to the rash and precipitate adoption of measures of coercion—[No, no.] He was sure that those who exclaimed "No!" with so much feeling, were perfectly convinced of the truth of the negative which they pronounced, but let them recollect what human nature was. There was a trite example to which he would refer—one which was familiar to us even from our boyhood. One of the most celebrated nations of antiquity was as careless of the liberty of her dependencies and provinces as she was jealous of her own, but her disregard of the rights of her subordinates tended to her own downfall. This great and glorious island might be considered as the chief seat of liberty, not only in the empire, but in the world, but at the same time it 1301 was possible for its rulers to be rash in the infliction of penalties upon those who were subject to their sway. He was afraid he might be justified in saying, that he looked round the House for Judges, but on every side he saw nothing but accusers. Let them do as they would be done by, and remember that aphorism of, he believed. Dr. Johnson "that a nation ought to be taught not to do, what it would never suffer to be done to itself." The Bill was divisible into two parts, for although it gathered a number of penalties together, and it was a sheaf of rods, yet it was easy to reduce them to a separate classification. The statute was directed against political societies and agrarian ruffianism. It embraced the Insurrection Act, and the Proclamation Act, with various additions from other penal statutes, with other original enactments; but it might be considered under the two heads of political and agrarian. Why were statutes hitherto separately passed, and having no affinity, now combined together? In England, in 1819, there had been six Acts passed. There was no consolidation of offences and punishments. So far this Bill was a novelty. This had never been done before. On former occasions, it was the custom to have separate Acts of Parliament. There was a separate measure for the introduction of the Insurrection Act; there was a separate Act for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act; and separate measures for other purposes of penalty, which it was not necessary for him now to enumerate. This Act was brought in, to combine and consolidate the whole mass of penalty in one coercive statute. He could not discover the reason why the right hon. Gentleman on the other side combined these two Acts together; more especially when another Act had been introduced in another place, for the purpose of changing the venue. Why was it, that the Government separated the Act for changing the venue, and yet combined in one Act a series of provisions which had hitherto been distributed in different Acts of Parliament? He did not dwell upon this point, he merely put the question, being, he confessed, unable to discover any answer to it, except it was, that his Majesty's Ministers wished to avail themselves of agrarian disturbances, for the purpose of putting down political meetings and to avail themselves of political meetings to put an additional, and—as he (Mr. Sheil) thought—unnecessary check upon agrarian disturbances. It was not necessary that any other answer should be proposed to that 1302 part of the Bill which was of a political nature. He believed that most of the House conceived that the Bill, in this particular did not deviate from the principle of other Acts of Parliament. They conceived, that it was so far a mere transcript, or renewal of the old Proclamation Act, with which unhappily, the people of Ireland were too familiar, commonly called the Algerine Act; but this Bill not only contained all the provisions of the old Proclamation Act, but a variety of other clauses were added, which exceeded in severity any thing that former Governments had thought it necessary to apply to Ireland. Now, in what respect did this Bill differ from former measures, as regarded political meetings? This Bill was not only a complete suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, but it empowered the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, ex suo molu (of his own accord), from a mere spirit of caprice (ho was not now talking of the present Lord Lieutenant, but of the office) at once to proclaim the county of the city of Dublin. And what was the result? When the Lord Lieutenant proclaimed the city of Dublin the result would be this—not as under the old Proclamation Act, that two Magistrates had power to disperse any meeting, but that no meeting could take place without his previous sanction. The liberty of the Press, too, was at once at an end. The House ought to be aware, that if a proclamation took place there was an end to the liberty of the Press for a double reason. In the first place, the editor of a newspaper in Dublin might be at once incarcerated, because he might be charged with an offence in a proclaimed district. This was undeniable. In the next place, he might be imprisoned merely upon an allegation that he had published a seditious libel; and who were to be the Judges of this fact—who were to be the Judges of the law of libel? The Courts-martial. Courts-martial to be Judges of the law of libel! Nay, more, the Bill was retrospective. It extended to offences committed before the proclamation. There was no limit as to time. There was a provision that the Courts-martial should take cognizance of offences committed either after or before the proclamation; and what would be the result of that? If the Lord Lieutenant considered any publication in the light of a seditious offence, the editor of the Dublin newspaper who published it might at once be incarcerated—might be kept without trial for three months, and when tried was to be tried by a Court-martial. A Court-martial 1303 to try a man guilty of libel, or, at least, charged with it! If it were an act of a more immediate and palpable kind, at which witnesses were present—of which evidence could be given—there might be some plausibility in having it tried by a Court-martial; but for such a tribunal to try an offence, which involved some of the ancient metaphysical difficulties—to try what the Judges had formerly held to be out of the cognizance of a Jury, and purely and entirely a question of law—this appeared to him an exceedingly strong and novel proceeding, and, to use the softest phrase, at variance not only with the former declarations of his Majesty's Government, but with all the reasons with which they endeavoured to support the Bill. Were the English Members aware of this—were the men who shouted with laughter, in testimony to a vile ballad read last night by the Irish Secretary in imposing despotism on Ireland, aware of what this Act contains? Did they know what they were called upon to do? The Tory Government never asked for, nor even thought of such powers as were now demanded. They enacted the Statute which is denominated "the Algerine," but here was a master piece of despotism, for which hardly any country will supply a designation. The Government should not complain of any strong phrases applied to this enactment, for they themselves confessed that it was an outrage on the Constitution; and, indeed, the Secretary for Ireland had insisted that one of the chief perfections of the Bill was, that it was so peculiarly detestable that it never could be selected as a model, and what the Whigs did in 1833 the Tories would be ashamed to imitate for a century to come. Let us, say the Government, devise such a measure as shall so shock all the instincts of Englishmen as to render it impossible to follow it; and let this first-born of the new Parliament under our auspices be so monstrous, that it will be impossible ever to produce an equally hideous deformity. It was, therefore, only a coincidence with the Minister's own view of his achievements, to represent this Act of Parliament as peculiarly deserving of execration. Its merits were set off by invective, and its value illustrated by vituperation. The Courts-martial might be introduced at once into the city of Dublin. Was that right? The city of Dublin might be proclaimed. He only spoke of the "may" but the right hon. Gentleman flung the possibility from him, as if it were an affront to his political character. He 1304 did not complain of the right hon. Gentleman. He said more—he was willing to believe, that the right hon. Gentleman was as firmly determined not to apply Courts-martial to the city of Dublin as he had been a few months ago not to apply the Insurrection Act to any part of Ireland. But could the right hon. Gentleman answer for his successor? Might not Titus be succeeded by Domitian? When men legislated, they must look to measures, not to men. They were not to look to those who were in office, or those who might follow. That was not the question. They should look to what the law was to be, and the abuses to which it might be liable. Despotism was said to be the best of all Government if it were properly administered; but who would, on that account, establish a despotism, and expose himself to all the evils that would follow in the transition from despotism to tyranny? It was his conviction—and he was sure it would be the conviction of all who would take the trouble of reading the Act with attention—that the Lord Lieutenant was empowered to proclaim the city of Dublin. Not contented with establishing Courts-martial amidst the scenes of outrage and of horror, it erected them in the city of Dublin, where Ministers had Jurors at their command, and not very stubborn Judges, and where a conviction was as easy as an accusation. Were cities to be included? To be sure they were, in order to strangle complaint, and tread every spark of liberty out. Were these outrages committed in the streets of the Irish metropolis? Were assassinations perpetrated in its recesses? Was no house secure from burglarious ruffianism." Why, in God's name, did they desire to establish Courts-martial there, unless it was, that they desired, that there should be a system as absolute as Lisbon and Warsaw (there are Courts-martial there!) can now exhibit. But Ministers said, they must put agitation down. Why not be contented, in the first place, with the old expedients, and why not resort to the Common Law? If it were said, that it was right that the Lord Lieutenant should have the power of dispersing meetings, and if the Secretary for Ireland was justified in referring to a variety of speeches alleged to have been delivered at assemblies in Ireland, what was the reason, let him ask, that the Irish Government had not instituted a single proceeding upon a single speech delivered at any one of those meetings! Have they prosecuted a single speech? They prosecuted, 1305 indeed, the country papers—they persecuted the Tipperary Free Press—they threw the writers of the Comet into gaol—but against a single factious oration they had not instituted a single proceeding. Had they no Jury? Did they distrust the complaisance of the Corporation? Would not twelve Aldermen have suited their intents,? Had they no evidence? Short-hand writers in the pay of Government were employed at every meeting. Before they resorted to this terrible stretch of the prerogative, try, put to its simple test, the efficacy of the law. Instead of taking this course, they permitted discontent to ripen into what they considered excess, and then availed themselves of the fragments of oratory such as were last night produced; and a ballad, written, perhaps, in a police barrack, in order to degrade the people into slaves, and, by playing the part of tyrants, equally to degrade themselves. Here, then, in the first section of the Act, the design was manifest. It was, not to crush insubordination, and check the barbarities perpetrated in the south; it was to extinguish all the rights of British citizenship in the metropolis, that they demanded this frightful authority to be put into their hands. Let any man who thought that exaggeration, not content himself with saying so, but examine the Statute. Here it was; the proclamation went forth; it appeared on the Castle-gates—that instant discussion, personal freedom. Trial by Jury, Liberty of the Press, all vanished in a moment. Did the exigency of the case call for this? Was the law overturned? If it had been violated, what was the reason, he again asked, that there had been no prosecution? There was a speech, or, rather, fragments of different speeches, read last night, by the Irish Secretary, which had been delivered by his (Mr. Sheil's) friend, Mr. Steele. Undoubtedly that speech had produced the effect intended. But was the right hon. Secretary for Ireland aware, that Mr. Steele had delivered a speech, on a former occasion, fully as strong as the matter which had been read last night, if not much stronger? That speech he printed himself—put his own name to it—and then went of his own accord to the house of the Attorney General, sent up his compliments with his speech, and informed the learned gentleman, that he was the author, in order to relieve the printer from any responsibility, and that he was prepared to abide his trial. What did the Government? Did they prosecute him? Did they take 1306 any steps to do so? They were prosecuting him now." Why did they not prosecute him then, if they had materials? Why prosecute him now, and not then? Was it that they were availing themselves of speeches more recently made, exactly of the self-same character, by the same gentleman, because it suited their convenience? It was deemed far more advisable to wait for an opportunity to establish a despotism, and to resort to the harangues of a generous and chivalrous man, as a pretence for its infliction. Come, now! he asked the Irish Secretary, what was the cause that he had never prosecuted a single speech made at the Political Unions? The House knew that they had produced an abundance of matter which, one would think, was fit for prosecution. Why had not the ordinary law been enforced in Ireland? Why had they not proceeded by criminal information? This they had never tried. The House was told, that the Government felt a reluctance to depart, in any way, from the law of the land, and that they would try every experiment before they had recourse to anything beyond the Constitution. Where was the Constitution, he asked? He found none. Did the Irish Secretary mean to intimate that justice was not to be had in Dublin, and that no verdicts could be got? Would he say, that he could procure no evidence? Would he not admit, that he had been in the constant habit of employing a short-hand writer at every one of these meetings, for the purpose of receiving evidence, if it were necessary, to institute any proceedings? He said, therefore, it was perfectly preposterous to profess a desire for the pure and perfect maintenance of constitutional principles, while they had not instituted a single prosecution in the ordinary course of law; or was it this—that they had determined to let the spirit of discontent get to such a height that they might avail themselves of it in an official communication to that House, and make use of the speeches to which the right hon. Secretary referred, as evidence of the state of Ireland, and as an inducement to the House to pass Acts which the right hon. Gentleman admitted to be at variance with the spirit of the Constitution? He was not guilty of any inflammatory exaggeration. How so? Speeches had been made; the Government had proof of those speeches; they had been delivered in Dublin; they were to be tried by Corporation Juries, selected by the Sheriffs in the Court of King's Bench, where no intimidation was possible, They had never 1307 adopted those proceedings, and therefore he said they had given proof that they were not influenced by a desire to try every other expedient before they came to the conclusion that measures of severity were necessary. As he was going to leave this part of the case, he wished the House to be good enough to bear the circumstance he had just stated in memory. The whole of what he had mentioned on this part of the Bill reduced itself to two positions: the one position was, that the Government had never put the sufficiency of the existing law to the test; and the next, that they availed themselves of this incident which they had permitted, if not necouraged, for the purpose of establishing Courts-martial in Ireland, and of extinguishing the freedom of the Press, and the right of petition. But it was suggested, that the meetings in Dublin were connected with disturbances in the country. It was asserted, that political agitation caused predial outrage. This was the allegation. Where was the proof? Were these disturbances of recent occurrence? Let them look at the history of Ireland for the last fifty years, and they would scarcely find a series of five years unattended by them. They would find disturbances of the self-same kind existing in Ireland when societies and associations were not heard of. They would find a remarkable and conspicuous circumstance—and he had proof of it—that, at a period when a certain society had acquired most power and dominion, local disturbances almost entirely ceased. He would beg leave to read a passage from the Annual Register of 1828, and to this he begged the attention of those who wished to do justice, and reflect calmly before they inflict punishment. The extract to which he referred said, that 'Whatever the motives of 'the Association might be, its exhortations and the influence of its popular leaders succeeded in reconciling the factions whose feuds had so long broken up the peace of the country. Throughout the counties of Cork, Clare, Limerick, and Tipperary, these sworn enemies assembled, not for discord and bloodshed, but to lay down their dissensions and animosities, and to engage to live in future like countrymen and brothers. The consequence was, that those districts of Ireland which had become almost proverbial for scenes of violence and murder, exhibited a degree of order and tranquillity to which they had long been strangers. The best proof of the fact was, that the Judges of 1308 the circuit had the rare happiness of congratulating the Magistrates, in almost every county, on the small number of crimes, and the absence of great atrocity in those which appeared to have been committed.' That was a distinct admission that agitation put an end to crimes; and would any one tell him that the present disturbances were caused by agitation, which was at that period found to have the directly opposite effects." If any indifferent person were asked as to the causes of the disturbances in Ireland—any one but a person connected with the Government—what would be the answer." To appeal to a member of the Government, or a subordinate person under the Government, would not be a fair principle of legislating on a point of importance. But let them go to Committees of the House of Commons; let them look to the evidence before those Committees. Would that evidence give the same account of those disturbances as that given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Irish Secretary? They did no such thing; and the House should go back to consider the causes of former similar disturbances. He appealed, therefore, to 1776, when the first Whiteboy Act was passed. This Bill embraced the whole of the provisions of that Act. And what account did Arthur Young, who travelled through the country at that period, give of the state of things? Let the House see if the same causes did not operate then as now, and then decide whether the remedy proposed by the Government was applicable to the political disease under which the country laboured. Arthur Young said; 'Consequences have flowed from these oppressions, which ought long ago to have put a stop to them. In England, we have heard much of Whiteboys, Steelboys, Oakboys, Peep-of-day boys, &c. But these various classes of insurgents are not to be confounded, for they are very different. The proper distinction, in reference to the discontents of the people is—into Protestant and Catholic. AH but the White-boys are among the manufacturing Protestants of the north. The Whiteboys are Catholic labourers in the south; from the best intelligence I could gain, the riots of the manufacturers had not other foundation, but such variations in the manufacture as all fabrics experience; and which they had, themselves, known and submitted to before. The case, however, was different with the Whiteboys, who, being labouring Catholics, met with all those oppressions I have described, 1309 'and would, probably, have continued in full submission to them, had not very severe treatment in respect of tithes, united with a great speculation upon a rise of rents, about the same time, blown up the flame of resistance. The atrocious acts they were guilty of, made them the object of general indignation. Acts were passed for their punishment, which seemed calculated for the meridian of Barbary. This system arose to such a height, that, by one enactment, convicted offenders were to be hanged, under certain circumstances, without the common formalities of a trial. The Act, though repealed the following Session, marks the spirit of punishment prevalent at that day—while others re-main yet the law of the land, that would, if executed, tend more to raise, than to quell an insurrection. From all which, it is manifest, that the gentlemen of Ireland never thought of a radical cure, from overlooking the real cause of the disease; which, in fact, lay in themselves, and not in the wretches they doomed to the gallows. Let them change their own conduct entirely, and the poor will not long riot. Treat them like men who ought to be as free as yourselves; put an end to that system of religious persecution which for seventy years has divided the kingdom against itself. In these two circumstances lies the cure of insurrection—perform the removal of the evil completely, and you have an affectionate poor, instead of oppressed and discontented vassals. A better treatment of the poor in Ireland is a point very material to the welfare of the whole British Empire. Events may happen which may convince us fatally of this truth:—if not, oppression must have broken all the spirit and resentment of men. By what policy the Government of England, can, for so many years, have permitted such an absurd system to be matured in Ireland, is beyond the power of plain sense to discover. That was Arthur Young's opinion in 1776.' From that time to the present, a perverse adherence to the unnatural and anti-national Establishment of Ireland has uniformly led to the same results. But it would be said, that since that time there had been an end put to religious distinctions in Ireland. He answered, there had not. They had stopped short at the measure of emancipation without introducing other measures of amelioration which were equally necessary. The Irish Secretary said, he had expected that the Special Commission in the Queen's 1310 County would have succeeded. How did it happen that every Special Commission except that had succeeded? He had the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman, in May last, that he would not consent to the Insurrection Act until he had tried the effect of Special Commissions. He said, he would never consent as long as it was possible to avoid it. He said, that the right hon. Gentleman should have avoided the circumstances which were productive of that necessity. The question here was as to the causes of the disturbances. The Irish Secretary came not with the documents of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—he had a special set of his own. To account for the riots, and to justify the institution of the Courts-martial, the Irish Secretary read what he said himself were cruel and malicious attacks. He ought to have read his own Tithe Act. The people of Ireland referred the calamities of their country to him. They charged him with having, by his measures, produced—he would not say a seditious, but a violent excitement in Ireland. Had the Government not been warned against measures which it introduced last Session? Had not the Irish Members foretold that they would produce confusion? But there was the same laughter at the seven-and-twenty then as at the sixty now. They were the subjects of taunts and contumely, and sometimes of angry reprehension. Was it fair, he said, was it just, was it right, of the Irish Secretary, to appeal to ballads and speeches, when he ought to have referred to his own Acts of Parliament? The right hon. Secretary forgot that notable cause for indignation. Talk of agitation, could any agitation be equal to his own compulsory Tithe-bill." Were the people of Ireland to have their liberty put down, because the right hon. Secretary, from a violent attachment to the English Church Establishment, of which he was originally the advocate, had passed a measure which was the cause of all the disturbances." But his opinion might be looked upon with suspicion; it was fair, therefore, to have better evidence. He was going to appeal to a book from which the right hon. Gentleman had read some extracts last night. He was not about to quote the statements of the reverend father O'Connor, or of any other Catholic priest, but those of the successor in the office of Commander-in-chief of the gallant Officer who addressed the House last night. What did Sir Hussey Vivian say, when asked the causes of the unfortunate 1311 state of the Queen's County? His evidence was to be found at page 92 of the Report. To suppose that the right hon. Gentleman had not read the Report, would be something like treating him with disrespect, but certainly, when he looked at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman last night, some grounds were found for believing that the right hon. Gentleman had not paid all the attention to it which it deserved. The right hon. Secretary was a Member—
§ Mr. Sheil
Not attend! Good God! Did he hear correctly? A Committee was named by Sir Henry Parnell in the midst of an emergency in May last, to consider the state of Ireland; the right hon. Secretary declared that Committee to be most important, his name was the second on the list, the Commander of the Forces was examined, and the hon. Gentleman does not condescend, or was too much pressed by occupation rather, to attend. This was a precious mode of managing Irish business. And what did he tell the House? Having neglected to attend himself on the inquiry, he told the House not to inquire. But let them come to facts. He would, therefore, take the liberty of referring to a part of the Report which bore immediately on the question before the House. The evidence he referred to was that of Sir Hussey Vivian; and he says, "The combination is directed against tithes at present, and if you could satisfactorily arrange the tithe question you would, I should hope, have Ireland pretty quiet. I think it is in other respects as quiet as it was twenty years ago. Get rid of the first cause of excitement, and you will tranquillize Ireland in spite of agitation. But what had the right hon. Secretary done? Why, deaf to all remonstrance, insensible to every entreaty, although he was implored to forbear, to wait at least for the reformed Parliament, he passed his Tithe Act, at the close of the Session, trampled on the Irish with his English majorities, and effected an achievement in legislation to which existing calamities might be referred. It was too bad—it was not to be endured—to hear the right hon. Gentleman talk of the Special Commission in the Queen's County having failed, when he himself enacted such statutes as would overthrow all peace in any country, and had driven the people to excesses, of which the consequences ought to be on his own head. The fault was with him. But for his measures, of equal rashness and impolicy, the county would now be tranquil. He first drove Ireland desperate, 1312 and then he called for penalties for her correction. From what had fallen from the right hon. Secretary last night, he was inclined to think that he had not read the Report, because the evidence was in such direct opposition to the grounds on which he advocated this strong and arbitrary measure. He would not however refer solely to the Report, but to the speech of the right hon. Secretary on the occasion when the Committee was moved for, and from that speech it would be found that the right hon. Gentleman had strenuously argued that, before any strong measures should be adopted, inquiry ought to be instituted. The right hon. Secretary would then support an inquiry at all events, but, if inquiry was to be made at all, why should the question not be referred to an Irish Committee, or to a Committee of English gentlemen? Why should Government trust to the evidence of constables, of the paid agents of Government, of men who gained a livelihood at the expense of the sufferings of others, and whose interest it was, to paint the disturbances of the country in the blackest colours? What was it which gave rise to that Commission? It was moved for by Sir Henry Parnell, and the right hon. Baronet, in bringing forward the motion, expressed an opinion that strong measures should be resorted to for restoring peace and good order to the Queen's County. On that occasion the right hon. Secretary delivered his opinion: although he admitted that the Queen's County was seriously disturbed, he preferred instituting an inquiry, and, at all events, trying a Special Commission, such as that sent to Clare, and which had tranquillized the country. The following extract from the right hon. Gentleman's speech would show the sentiments by which he was then guided; a few words only were necessary, and they were these:—'With respect to what had been said about 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 1313 '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.'* In May last the right hon. Secretary declared, that a Special Commission had proved efficacious in every instance, and he announced that Galway, Limerick and Clare, were among the most tranquil parts of Ireland?
§ Mr. Sheil
What! was this admitted? Then what became of the charge, that the Political Union and the Volunteers had thrown the country into confusion? How did it come to pass that Clare, the field where the battle of emancipation and its victory were won, was quiet, if Daniel O'Connell shook the fabric of society to the centre? Was Kilkenny and the Queen's County, the O'Connell country? Could they on a map trace the extent and limits with a red and green line of this terrible power? See into what inconsistencies they fell. The reason of certain districts being disturbed was, that there the tithe resistance was begun. The Special Commissions did not lay the seeds of peace deep enough; and before the fruit could be produced, they were disturbed by a renewal of the agitation engendered by the right hon. Secretary. Kilkenny was the county in which the priest's horse was seized for tithes. Kilkenny was the county in which the priest himself was recently arrested for tithes, and in Kilkenny the effects of the right hon. Gentleman's genius for legislation was peculiarly conspicuous. He admitted, that three Special Commissions had completely succeeded. One, the last, had, he said, failed. Was one failure to counterpoise three instances of success, and on that single failure were they to build the despotism of Ireland? But with regard to the remedy. He had charged the right hon. Secretary with neglect of duty, not only in not attending the Committee, but in not having read the Report carefully; and he was justified in saying so. From the speech of the right hon. Gentleman last* Hansard (third series) xiii. p. 272–3.1314 night, every one would believe, that the Committee recommended severe measures for the Queen's County. Now, the contrary was the fact, for on referring to the Report he found, that it stated that lately a considerable improvement had taken place in the county, and recommended that a Special Commission, such as that sent to Clare, should be appointed for Queen's County. The Committee recommended no such thing as a court-martial. Did Sir Hussey Vivian—did Sir John Harvey recommend courts-martial." did any one, in fact, examined on the Committee, recommend such a departure from the Common and Statute Law of the land? Why, then, does the right hon. Gentleman make such a statement, which, in looking at the Report, he will find is at variance with the evidence." The right hon. Gentleman quoted the Report, and egregiously misconceived it. He had also stated, that the Committee recommended that the Quarter Sessions should be held without a Jury. No such thing. The Committee recommended that the Quarter Sessions should be held from week to week, at the will of the Lord Lieutenant, and that when a search-warrant should be granted, and offenders discovered, the punishment for the first offence should be as slight as possible. That was the purport of the Report on that subject; and for the satisfaction of the House, he would read that portion of it to which he had alluded. The Report said, 'The first object of the law which the' Committee recommended to be passed is, 'to give power to the Lord Lieutenant of' Ireland—if in case of violent disturbance 'of the peace by a Whiteboy opposition.' shall actually occur—to issue his warrant 'for a special assembling of the Quarter' Sessions, at a period when, according to the ordinary course of the law, it could not assemble; and if the occasion should 'seem to require it, to appoint a person of high standing at the Bar to act as assessor' to the Court. 'There was not one word in that about suspending the trial by Jury; and he would go further, and say, that, were a Committee appointed to inquire into the disturbances of Ireland, no such recommendation as that of abolishing the ordinary law of the country would be embodied in it. He could tell the right hon. Gentleman, that it was the act of Government which had caused all the dissatisfaction. It was their measures for enforcing tithes which had raised such unqualified discontent. If the seeds of discontent were sown by the Government, how could it be expected that 1315 they would not take root? But why not try a Special Commission? Why not act according to the advice of the right hon Gentleman? He was against extraordinary measures for the Queen's County; and why should he recommend extraordinary measures for Kilkenny? In order, however, to judge fairly of the measure, the best way was, to refer to the evidence of those who had been examined in the Committee. He would refer particularly to the evidence of Mr. Barrington, a man of high rank, and whose father had been raised to the Baronetage for his munificent and charitable deeds [cheers.] He asked no cheering—he asked only for a full inquiry—he asked for the fullest consideration before they bound together a sheaf of rods to scourge the country. The evidence of Mr. Barrington was the following:—Q. Have you any remedy you would suggest for the quietude of the country?A. The only remedy I would suggest is the preserving the administration of the laws in the ordinary forms, and the prosecution of every outrage that occurs. I think the people are more attached to and satisfied with the Administration of the ordinary law, than they would be by any extraordinary measures. That is proved by their never having shown any hostility to Jurors.Again—Q. You have stated that the malignity of the people is infinitely greater towards Magistrates who act under the Insurrection Act than towards Jurors; have you known such instances?A. I have. I have never known instances of hostility to Jurors at the same time that the persons, who have been acting as Jurors, have been attacked returning, from the Insurrection Act, though they have been serving on a Jury to try a capital offence, and on the Insurrection Act to try a transportable one. There is a rancour remaining in the country for years after, and a hostility against Magistrates who act under the Insurrection Act; not the slightest against Jurors.Again—Q. Your opinion is, that the law is sufficiently strong, and that the procuring obedience to it depends on the proper administration of it?A. Certainly; proper and prompt. If the Committee will put any other imaginary cases to me I shall endeavour to point out how they can be met, and how the present law is applicable to them. I speak of the law to meet offences committed; it is not for me to judge of its sufficiency or insufficiency as to meetings.Q. Is it not possible there may be the same hostility against Magistrates acting under this whiteboy Act?1316A. That depends on the mode of trial. If you try them under the Insurrection Act for the same offences, it will; they do not consider it a fair tribunal at all. They think that they are transported without a trial, and by the Magistrates; but when tried for the same offences under the ordinary laws, though the result may be the same—they are satisfied with the one, and displeased with the other.In confirmation of what he had said he would refer further to the charge of the Chief Justice of the King's Bench on the efficiency of the administration of the ordinary law by means of a Special Commission, but, before he read that, he would ask what were the grounds for departing from the usual rule—why not appoint a Commission? Commissions had been tried in three counties, and there had been only one instance of failure, and was that a reason for not trying them again? Why the thing was absurd. The conduct of Government was at variance with the Reports of Committees—it was at variance with the opinion of the House—and it was at variance with the declared sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman. What did they say to all this evidence? Why, they produced a vile ballad, and flung the literary puddle of the town of Clonmel in the faces of the Members, and they read anonymous letters from miserable menials and interested terrorists in the police; and on documents which would not be received as evidence in an assault case in a Court of Justice, they pronounced sentence upon Ireland standing as a culprit at the Bar. Within five months after the complete success of a Special Commission, they brought forward this humane and merciful Act of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman had read two documents from the evidence of Sir Patrick Bellew, and the opinion of the Attorney General. Now, he would ask, did Sir Patrick Bellew advise Martial Law; and that, even in a county where there was a Catholic Lord-lieutenant, two Catholic Members for the county, and two for the borough? He would ask if they had any other documents from Lord-lieutenants—had they, in fact, anything but anonymous epistles—at all events anonymous to the House? Had they any documents which could warrant them, when Ireland stood at their Bar, in putting an end to the ordinary law, and establishing arbitrary authority throughout the country? What were the documents Government trusted to? The reports of police constables—of the chiefs 1317 of the constabulary force, and of men who earned their bread by their subservience to the ruling powers; and who would despise the Government but for the means of subsistence which they procured from it. Were there no other persons but these from whom reports could be received? What said the other Lord-lieutenants? Had they heard from their friend Lord Wicklow, or from Lord Lorton, or Lord Enniskillen? Had these, their natural auxiliaries, the men of their choice, who saw Ireland through such an impartial medium, furnished Ministers with their views? Had any one Lord-lieutenant, except Sir Patrick Bellew, addressed them? If they had, tell the House; if not, of what use were they? In Heaven's name, who had advised this proceeding? These were not the authorities consulted—the principle authorities were the chiefs of the constabulary police They had received one letter from a Popish Lord-lieutenant, but were there no other Lord-lieutenants to complain? Was there no complaint from Lord Duncannon or Lord Ormond? There were complaints from some other quarters, but then, at the most, these were "few, and far between." How could the Government know the real state of the country? There was not one Irishman in the Cabinet; the Attorney General, in fact, was the only person whom they could consult, and he was all but a Tory—no great crime now—who some time ago did not choose to resign, like some other member of the Government, but preferred waiting to see how the tide turned. With regard to the Queen's County, what did the Attorney General say at the conclusion of the Special Commission? Was his speech against Special Commissions? Did it show anything like a tendency for Martial Law and the abolition of the right of the subject? Nothing of the kind. It said that, with one exception, all the persons accused had been convicted, and that the Jurors had in every instance acted with firmness and caution. The fact was, that out of thirty-nine charges, thirty-eight had been made out; there had been only one acquittal. Yet, with all these facts staring him in the face, the right hon. Gentleman would do away with the ordinary law. The Minister knew nothing of Ireland, but, in the face and teeth of the report of men well versed in Irish affairs, and of the most important evidence, they built their adventurous and tyrannical 1318 legislation on the miserable anonymous (anonymous to us) correspondence of the subordinate authorities in the disturbed districts. The speech of the Lord Chief Justice, to which he had already alluded, was equally in favour of Special Commissions in preference to military tribunals. That learned Judge said, in his charge to the Grand Jury of Queen's County. 'Although the calls upon us for the discharge of that duty are, alas, too frequent—and although this mysterious engine of secret combination shifted from place to place, continues to be wielded and worked by some invisible hand—from time to time—now against one part of the island, and now against another—yet those who have had the experience of many years of official and judicial life can assure you, that it has never been able to stand against the venerable authority of the laws vigorously and calmly brought to bear upon it. It is little more than a year since the county of Clare has been agitated to a degree beyond what was ever known in Ireland—short of civil war; and the insurgents had almost, if not altogether, taken the field; but the course of justice, at two Assizes and one Special Commission was—contrary to the apprehensions of many—found sufficient to put down the mischief; and I believe that I am correctly informed in stating that, at this moment, tranquillity is perfectly re-established in that county, that the misguided people have become sensible of their errors, and that confidence and good will are restored amongst those classes so lately arrayed in hostility against each other. The learned Judge, after alluding to former cases of disturbances, and the success attending the Administration of the ordinary law in restoring tranquillity, proceeded—All these counties were visited, as you are now, by Special Commissions; and all were pacified, some, I hope permanently, some for a long time; and if there be others, again, infected by this moral pestilence, I trust that the same effects will follow from the same causes; and that the laws of the country will be always sufficient to subdue the disease, and stop the contagion. But let it be remembered that if this expectation should be disappointed—if the deluded people should continue incorrigibly to increase in wickedness, as they have lately done, they may have to repent of 1319 the additional guilt of bringing down upon their country the operation of those stronger measures, to which, in cases of extreme necessity, the Legislature has often resorted. You all know what I allude to; and many whom now I see can remember—as I do—the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, which, at this moment secures the liberty of every man who hears me. Many can remember the Trial by Jury—that institution, long envied and at last emulated by other countries—superseded in Ireland by the summary Insurrection Act, and the more summary Court Martial.' The Chief Justice then gave a description of that tribunal, not from imagination, but from memory; and he entreated those who were inclined to be, perhaps, too rapid in passing a measure that was to remain a yoke of despotism until the 1st of August, 1834—he implored those who were disposed not to give a respite of even one short week, to listen to the words of one who shrunk with horror from the recollection of a measure similar to that which it was now proposed to inflict on his unfortunate country. 'Every man, (said the Chief Justice) who recollects those days wishes that they never may return; but younger men of all classes know them only by description; and let them be assured that no description can convey an adequate notion of the horrors belonging to such a state of things.' It was against the return of such horrors that he, and those with whom he acted, were contending. It was true that there was a clause against torture in the Bill; there was to be no whipping, but it was not to be found in it when it was first introduced. It was not inserted until attention was directed by him to the point. What he said was either true, or it was not. He asserted, that the clause was not in the Bill when at first introduced. It was there now, and he was grateful for it. He had no doubt that this clause, and this only, would save the back of many an unfortunate peasant from being lacerated. [Some tokens of dissent were here given by the Members on the Treasury Bench.] The mere pantomime of objecting to what he asserted, was no answer. Let them contradict him if they could. Wherefore should he be dismayed? He might say, "There is no terror in thine eye, Cassius." He would go on with the address of the Chief Justice. The extracts be had read 1320 were not so interesting, perhaps, as the literary puddle, the wretched mire, which the right hon. Secretary (Mr. Stanley) had picked up from the highway to Parnassus, in the town of Clonmel. The Chief Justice bade both classes beware how they brought about such a state of things as might make it necessary to substitute the terrible tribunal of Martial Law for trial by Jury. But there was enough of quotation. He would go from authority to facts. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his statement last night, had brought forward eleven specific cases of murder. Out of the mass of atrocities of that most aggravated character, it seemed extraordinary to him that the noble Lord should have selected only eleven cases. Why select those cases if there were others? What was peculiar or distinctive about them? No matter; there were eleven cases. Of those, however, it should be borne in mind that a great number of them occurred before any Special Commissions were ordered; and, what was more, before the report of the Select Committee, to which such frequent reference had been made. Two statements had been put forth, upon which his Majesty's Ministers grounded the necessity for an alteration in the law of the land. The first statement was, that Juries could not be got to attend; and the second was, that witnesses could not be got to attend. He believed he stated the proposition of the noble Lord fairly? Now, if it was true that Jurors could not be got to attend, and that the administration of justice was impeded in that way, why were not his Majesty's Government satisfied with the Bill for changing the venue? That Bill enabled them, if they could not get a Jury which pleased them in the county Kilkenny, to take the prisoners and have them tried by a Corporation Jury in the city of Dublin. But the Government were not satisfied with the Bill for changing the venue; they were not satisfied with Martial-Law; they would have both. Some offenders were to be tried by soldiers in the counties where they were charged with the commission of crime, whilst others were to be tried in the city of Dublin. He would say to the Government: "In God's name choose one or the other; is it fair that you should take both?" The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that the measure was only to be justified by a case of actual necessity. Well then the onus 1321 of proof was on the Government. It was like one of the clauses of the Bill—that relating to signals—in which the onus of proof was thrown on the peasant. The peasant was bound to prove that smoke was not a signal. What he said could only be doubted by those who had not read the Bill. He declared, in sober sadness, that under a clause in the Bill a man might be tried by a Court-Martial for making a smoke, and it would be for three officers to decide whether the smoke was caused by boiling a pot, or was for the purpose of a signal. This clause, he understood, was introduced into the Bill upon the suggestion of a friend of Ministers in another place; one of those amiable allies who embraced until they hugged to death. He recommended a clause making the peasant prove, that the smoke of his cabin was not a telegraph of insurrection. The proof of that negative was thrown on the Irish peasant, and this was the result of the combined legislative wisdom and justice of Whigs and Tories—a happy illustration of the genius of the one, and the integrity of the other. But the onus of proving the necessity of the present measure lay on the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and how had he proved it? With the permission of the House, he would examine a little into the proof. They must go on gradually; they must not take the whole case en masse; they must go into the facts of the case. He would first take the modest assertion with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer commenced—"That justice could not be administered in Ireland because Juries could not be got." Following that assertion was the noble Lord's own admission that no violence had been committed upon any Jury or upon any Juror. There was not a single outrage stated to have been committed upon any Juror. The noble Lord said there was only one Jury which had been intimidated from doing its duty. He understood, that the Carrickshaugh case was the only one in which a Jury had been intimidated. If there was any other case of intimidation let it be mentioned. He believed there was no case; Mr. Barrington said so. But, according to the noble Lord's own showing, justice had been administered in every case in which a Jury had been empanelled except one. And was it because one Jury, in one peculiar instance, had refused to do justice, or were terrified from doing their duty as Jurors 1322 that Jury-trial should be abolished, and Courts-martial substituted? But he denied altogether that the Jury in the Carrickshaugh case had acted from intimidation. There were two trials at Carrickshaugh—one in the Spring, and the other in the Summer Assizes of last year. The acquittal was at the first of those trials. If that acquittal was produced by intimidation, why did not the Government examine evidence on the subject before the Select Committee? There was no evidence whatever that the Jury had been influenced by intimidation. All the witnesses produced by the Crown were policemen. They were cross-examined by one of the most expert advocates at the Irish bar—the hon. and learned member for Dublin. They did not bear the test of cross-examination—the Jury did not believe them. What right had any man in that House to say that the Juries were not right? If those who were not present had the presumption to form their judgment in contradiction to the judgment of Jurors on their oath, they ought—for they might as well—abolish examination and cross-examination, as well as Trial by Jury. He had some reason to assert, that the verdict of the Jury in the Carrickshaugh case was a proper verdict. [Lord Althorp: That had not been questioned.] Were Irishmen, then, to be made slaves, without any grounds for doing so? It had been asserted that the Jury at Carrickshaugh deviated from the path of duty in consequence of intimidation. The question, then, was, what was their duty? And to that he would address himself. Let the noble Lord show him anything better than mere assertion for stating that the Jury on that trial did not do their duty. He had been assured by an eminent counsel, who attended that trial, that the Jury would have committed a gross violation of their duty if they had not acquitted the prisoners. He was ready to produce Mr. Dixon, the gentleman to whom he alluded, at that Bar, to justify his statement. It was the duty of the Jury to lean to mercy; it was a principle of law that they should do so where life and liberty were at stake. The Carrickshaugh Jury did perform its duty. Who can venture to say it did not, who was not present? Who can judge of a witness without seeing him undergo the scrutiny of cross-examination? A look, a quiver, a faultering of the utterance, may decide a Jury. The glance of an eye may 1323 save a human being. But look to dates. The first Carrickshaugh trial was during the winter of 1832. The Committee on the state of Ireland reported in August. Not one word was said of the unfairness of the Jury. But go to other cases. There were trials for combinations against tithes in Dublin, Clonmel, Kerry, Cork; and in every one case convictions were obtained. Away, then, with the idea that Juries will not attend. Upon trials, then, which touched the interest of Ireland in the tenderest point, the Government had ready and unqualified convictions. The Government, however, had their placards and documents; they had nothing else; they admitted, that no outrage had been committed on any Juror, and that in no instance but one had justice failed to be done where a Jury was impanelled. This, then, was the case of the Government for doing away with Jury trial; and could any unprejudiced man say, that they had made out that portion of their case? But there was one other objection. It was said, that in Clonmel the Jurors did not attend; only 76 attended out of 250 Jurors. But what fines were those absent Jurors called upon? Fines of 20l. When English gentlemen felt their country was in peril, as in the recent case of the burnings in Kent and the southern counties, they came forward at every risk and inconvenience to put down turbulence and disturbance, and assisted in carrying the laws into execution. If the gentry of Ireland were unwilling to act thus, under similar circumstances, why should they not be compelled? Why not put the aristocracy of Ireland on the panel instead of the middle classes? But he believed that if they were summoned, they would attend; and if they should be unwilling to attend, let them be called on fines of 500l. Was it a time for them to shrink from their duty when it was stated that murder was the occupation of the day, and burglary the pastime of the night. If the gentry of Ireland refused to attend on such an occasion, might not the Government properly say to them: "Have you a pretence for asking assistance from us, when you yourselves have fled from the field of battle?" Let the Jurors be selected from another class, and not from the middle orders; let men be selected as Jurors who might be mulcted with heavy fines if they thought fit to absent themselves, and he had no doubt that justice would be fairly, 1324 purely, and intrepidly, administered in Ireland. They might have Courts-martial—but the evidence! Would the Courts-martial get the evidence? That was quite unnecessary. They were to proceed summarily—so said the Act—and sentence on the view. Provide your witnesses with due protection; let them emigrate, if needful, and you will have nothing to dread. This will cost money. Yes, but retain liberty at any price. But come to the Statute. What powers did it give, and to what tribunal? It compressed the Whiteboy Acts, and the 1st and 2nd of William 4th, and the 50th of George 3rd, and the 27th of George 3rd, together; in one word, it transferred almost the entire criminal code from a Jury—to whom? To a Judge? No; the ermine might be spotted, scarlet cannot. To barristers? No; their eyes were fixed on a golden perspective, and the Castle was at the end of every vista. No; but to a set of men who were above all influence; to whom the word "promotion" was unintelligible; enlightened, impartial, calm indecision, cautious in inquiry; who had contracted, of course, no habits of rigour from the guardhouse, and by whom justice and mercy would be fortunately tempered. There were to be no Magistrates, no Jurors, no Judges, no Barristers. We should have—what? Captains, forsooth! The wig, the gown, the band, must give way to the sash, the sword, the epaulet; and then all the evils of the administration of Irish justice would be at an end for ever. There never was any thing like this. Such a tribunal impartial! An English officer went to Ireland—was visited by the gentlemen in his neighbourhood—shared in their joyous hospitality, as the glass went round—imbibed opinions with his claret, and proceeded next morning to the administration of impartial justice on the Court-martial Bench. And under what circumstances? See, think of what you are about to do. You employ the army to-day to raise tithes, and tomorrow to adjudicate upon resistance to the payment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer declared that he did not mean to apply the Act to the tithes. He did not mean it! Look at the Act. The Irish Secretary contradicted the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and said, that offences connected with tithes should be punished by the Courts-martial. Now, look to the Act of George 3rd, c. 57; combination against tithes, or obstructing a clergyman 1325 in their collection, by any unlawful means, was made a crime, and this Statute gave the Court-martial cognizance of the offence, because it embodied the clause of 57 George 3rd in its enactments. It was, then, clear, beyond dispute, that this Act was to have the effect of extorting an abominable impost by means of Martial Law, and the officer of the army, who had been impeded on one day in levying tithes, was to try the wretched peasantry who impeded or resisted him the next, for an offence in which his own feelings were deeply engaged. Admirable legislation! The Judge was not only to be a soldier, but he was to be a party in his own cause. Well, indeed, did this Statute deserve the encomiums which were founded on its unexampled and inimitable characteristics. One word more, and he should have done. The Irish Secretary appealed to the House for confidence founded on the past lives of the Ministry. His political life had been brief. He started the champion of the Church, and was still its advocate; took office under Mr. Canning, and accomplished great things in carrying Reform. There were others whose past lives did indeed stand in a melancholy contrast with their present opinions. "Alas, Sir," continued the hon. and learned Member, "they think that they are only depriving us of liberty, when they are depriving themselves of the opportunity of ever being again its advocates. They are deserting the lofty principles, the ramparts of the Constitution, on which they kept their sleepless watch. How will they ever be able again to raise their voices against coercion and despotism in their own country? When the wheel of official fortune, which is subject to such rotations, shall have gone round, and those who are now on its giddy top shall occupy a different position—when those who now sit on the Treasury Bench with so much dignity, shall return to the Bench, which they once filled with so much honour, if it shall be deemed necessary in the midst of any disturbances, which may arise even in this prosperous island, to have recourse to measures in abridgment of genuine freedom, what can they say? Should they venture to expostulate, may not the new Minister, with that sarcastic gentleness, in which he is so accomplished an adept open this Statute, and with an impressive gravity read the Court-martial clause. And may not others with less effect, but 1326 greater vehemence, exclaim—' How can you presume to stand up as the advocate of the people here? Did you not abandon all your former opinions? Did you not fling your recorded protests to the winds? Did you not abandon the principles on which your entire political conduct was so long founded? Did you not suppress discussion, beat liberty to the earth, suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, destroy the freedom of the Press in Ireland, overthrow all justice, hurl down the ordinary tribunals, and raise on their ruins the legislation of the Horse-guards, and the judicature of the camp? Forbear! while there is time, forbear! With the same stab with which you strike our liberties to the core, you will commit suicide upon your own.'"
§ Mr. Macaulay
confessed, that the apprehensions entertained by the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down did not appear to him to be in any degree well-grounded, nor did he think that the speech of that hon. and learned Gentleman, however much it had been cheered at that side of the House, would at all weaken the lasting impression made by the admirable address delivered by his right hon. friend (Mr. Stanley) yesterday evening. That speech had produced an impression which he was convinced would not easily be removed from the minds of those who heard it. The hon. and learned Gentleman had told them, that that speech, great as he admitted it to be, owed much of its force to the prepossessions of the majority in that House. According to the hon. and learned Gentleman, it would appear that English Members were eager to find an excuse for exposing Ireland to the operation of this measure. For himself and for those who concurred with him in opinion as to the necessity of the measure, he begged most distinctly and positively to repudiate the charge. That Englishmen were anxious for some excuse to put their fellow-subjects of Ireland out of the pale of the Constitution was, he must, in justice to himself and other English Members, say, altogether unfounded. For his own part, he had never risen in that House under more painful feelings than those which now oppressed him. He had never thought, that it would have become necessary for him to stand up and defend the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and the suspension of the trial by jury. But on what grounds did he defend that 1327 course? Before he went to those grounds, 'he would begin by saying, that he entertained no feelings with respect to the rights and liberties, and prosperity of England, which he did not hold as fully and as strongly in regard to those of Ireland. He thought there was no situation in the life of a public man more painful than that in which he found himself, under the necessity of supporting the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and the even temporary abolition of the trial by jury. These were sacred portions of our Constitution, older than Parliament itself—their origin was lost in the darkness of ancient times, they were beyond the Heptarchy; they formed parts of the great charter of British liberties; they were those great bulwarks of freedom for which our ancestors had bravely and successfully struggled—to preserve which kings had been deposed, dynasties had been changed—for which a noble army of martyrs had bled. He touched those sacred bulwarks with trembling and awe. Never ought they to be touched or disturbed but in case of the greatest necessity; but that necessity once made out, he would not stop to inquire, how far or how short he was to go beyond them. He would not—having once admitted the principle—enter into the details, for they must be granted, in order that the application of the principle might not be in vain. He could imagine nothing worse than the enactment of a measure which, being unconstitutional, should, at the same time, be ineffectual, which, while it went beyond the law, did not afford any security for the briefness of its own duration. In departing from the law, he would rather err on the side of vigour than of lenity. He would therefore adopt a strong measure, that its duration might be short, and that it might be less liable to be drawn into a precedent. When once, therefore, he had made up his mind that a suspension of the habeas corpus and of the trial by jury had become necessary, it was to him of little importance to go into discussion as to details, and in that feeling he would not inquire which would be the best substitute for the trial by jury—the trial by one judge, or by three barristers, or by courts-martial—for though he was not without an opinion as to which was the best, he would not stop to choose between them, but, as he had mentioned them, he must say that, in his opinion, any of them would be preferable to that 1328 substitute suggested by the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just addressed the House. That hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to think, that the trials under the Bill before them ought to be by a jury, but a jury chosen from the aristocracy. Now, it seemed to be generally admitted, at least he had not yet heard any hon. Member who controverted the opinion, that the very worst hands to which the administration of strong measures like the present could be confided, were the local gentry or magistracy. Yet, to something like this, to a sort of special jury of the aristocracy, would the hon. and learned Member confide the administration of these strong measures. He would have a jury of the Protestant gentry to try the Catholic peasantry. Could anything be more likely to create irritation, when the passions and prejudices and superstitions of the great mass of the people would be opposed to it. Was that the course which the hon. and learned Member would adopt? But how, then, could a jury of the aristocracy be formed, without incurring the objection that seemed so generally to prevail as to the unfitness of the local gentry to administer strong measures? Let him, without going further into details, which, he repeated, he looked upon as of minor importance, if the necessity for the principle was made out—let him ask, was that necessity proved to exist? He thought it was. The question of that necessity was divided into two great parts. There was predial agitation and political agitation. Was any doubt entertained of the existence of the former? Could anything be more appalling than the details which were received, and some of which the House had heard, as to the meetings and outrages of the peasantry? Well, but it was said, "put a stop to that," and he thought he had heard it said, let it be enacted that any man in the disturbed districts who was found from his home after eight o'clock at night, should be liable to the punishment, not only of a misdemeanor, but of a felony. [" No, no," from Mr. O'Connell.] If his ears had not deceived him, that was said, and there were many near him who were under the same impression. But, perhaps, there had been some words said very like them in sound though differing in sense, as in another case, which must still be fresh in the recollection of the House. He thought that something of the kind was said at the time 1329 when a threat was intimated of vengeance to be taken for Ireland by the mob of St. Giles's. To him it appeared to be incontrovertibly proved, that predial agitation existed, and it was closely connected with political agitation. He did not rest on the anecdotes which he had heard on the subject, though some of them were of great importance as showing the opinions of the great mass of the people. He did not take this proof from the ballads on which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Sheil) had commented; yet, from circumstances such as these, trifling as they might at first appear, the signs of the times might often be collected. Such things were, as Lord Bacon said, like straws which, thrown up, showed which way the wind blew. Taking the whole of what he had heard, he could not refuse his belief to the facts, nor could he avoid coming to the conclusion, that there was a close connexion between predial and political agitation. A likeness existed both in feature and in principle, and the principle of each was evidently one and the same—that of preventing peaceable inhabitants from being loyal to their King, and obeying the laws of their country. Both were founded on intimidation. The White feet threatened, and put their own threat into execution; the political agitators also held out their threats, and in doing so usurped a power which no subject had a right to. There was an active and a passive resistance to the law. That the active was unlawful no man would pretend to deny—that the passive resistance—that which directed or recommended men not to deal with other men of certain political opinions—not to buy from or sell to them, was also unlawful; he would assert; and he was satisfied that the hon. and learned member for Dublin would not stake his legal reputation on the assertion that it was otherwise. But there were other modes of intimidation. What were those district courts which were recommended, and to which men were told to refer their differences? What were those but so many sources of intimidation, by which those who should refuse to conform to them were to be held up to public odium? What was that organization of an unarmed body, which might be armed? Were not all these so many means of intimidation? They had heard in that House of declarations against the Whitefeet, of disavowals of their acts; no 1330 doubt, most, if not all, of their acts were such as no man had yet the hardihood to defend. But was there no use in keeping up excitement just below crime, and amongst those who were just above the vilest criminals. Was such agitation not of some benefit to those who made a profit of it, and could they be otherwise than desirous that it should be kept up just below that point where it excited the disgust and the horror of all reasonable men? Some men turned agitation into a lucrative trade, and it was of use to those who could turn it to a profitable account. But why, he would ask, declaim so strongly against the predial agitation by the Whitefeet and others, when they who so declaimed, kept up an agitation, of a different kind as to the means it was true, but much alike in the tendency? Suppose one of those Whitefeet brought before an association of agitators of a different kind, and asked to account for his conduct, what would be his natural answer? "You," he would say, "agitate, so do I; you pursue one course, I another; you intimidate, so do I; but though the execution of my threats is more immediate, it is not more certain than that of yours in the result. You speak of your unarmed volunteers, so have I mine; mostly unarmed, but I have my arms under lock and key, to be delivered for use as occasion may require. I have as much right to act against the law in my way as you have in yours." What was the difference between this active and passive resistance? Why, the active resister of the law was exposed to great personal risk, from which the cunning of the passive re-sister might screen him. In this respect the difference between them was, he admitted, great, but in a moral point of view, were they not both the same? The active resister might well ask "Who gave you the right to draw the line, and to say where passive resistance should end, and where the active should begin? Who made you Judges over your fellow-countrymen? What right have you to determine on taking up arms, and forming yourselves into what you call a national guard? You say you have grievances to redress. So have we. We have woods to cut down, cultivated grounds to uncultify, houses and farm-yards to burn down, stewards and landlords to dismiss; and we do this with the same right that you have to take upon you to cure your own wrongs." The Whitefeet might be disavowed by the agitators 1331 and pacificators, but that the acts of the one had a connexion with the agitation of the other, he thought no man who paid any attention to what was passing in Ireland could, for a moment, entertain a doubt. But suppose, for a moment, that no such connexion existed, still he would contend, that political agitation was a proper subject for legislative interference. It was, as it had been seen, a usurpation of the power of law, a self-appointed association, sitting to try causes—not merely a civil, but also a criminal tribunal, where men were denounced for holding certain political opinions, and the terror of those denunciations obliged those who gave an honest vote to move about with pistols in their pockets for the protection of their lives. What did such an association want? A story was told of a king of Scotland, who, meeting a border robber, was so struck by the number of his followers and the splendor of their appearance, that he exclaimed, "What wants that knave which beseems a king?" So he said, what wanted the Volunteers? Not power—not terror—they wanted nothing but responsibility to make them a government. He would as soon trust to them, as soon be under their domination, as of those ancient secret societies of Germany, who sent their spies abroad, and despatched their assassins to the right hand and to the left. History scarcely supplied a parallel of a similar association. The present Volunteers compared themselves to the Volunteers of 1782, and to the Unions of England. Nothing could be more grossly incorrect than the comparison—nothing more unlike than the two things. He knew of no body to which they could be compared—at least no existing society. The only one that he could recollect was one which, by its applications, had usurped all the powers of Government, and which, through the medium of its dictators, spread tyranny over the unhappy country in which it existed. He meant, as might be easily seen, the Jacobin Club of the first French Revolution. That club was long under the control of a man who was the idol of the people, but who, after plunging his country into the abyss of ruin, miserably perished. It was to that club, and to that only, that the present political associations in Ireland could be assimilated. In their organization, in their conduct, there was a resemblance between the Jacobin Club and the Irish Volunteers. Let any 1332 body read the debates and speeches of both societies, and the closest application would be found in his comparison. A member of this Irish association declares that he will stand upon a mine, to the train of which the match is about to be applied, if the great leader of that association commands it. So, among the Jacobins, were found those who would drink poison rather than disobey the wishes of their chiefs, or separate themselves from their political fortunes. Since those associations followed the career chalked out to them by the Jacobins—since they imitated them in even minute details—should the present Government imitate that weak administration of France, which shut its eyes upon the designs of those Jacobins—allowed them to wax powerful, and at last to dictate to ail without control? He hoped not, and that it would be taught by experience, and destroy the evil in its bud. He would ask a Reformed Parliament, freely chosen by the electors of the greatest nation of the world, whether it was to see such power assumed by any body of men—he would ask them as freemen, whether they could sanction the existence of such associations? In former times there were brave men who had resisted the tyranny of the Stuarts; but when they saw a fresh tyranny springing up, they naturally enough asked; "Have we slain the lion in order to be devoured by the wolf?" So he asked, "Had they beaten down parliamentary corruption, only to make way for the rule of clubs?" He belonged to that party which had carried Reform, in order to avoid revolution. But that party had not fought the battle against the proudest aristocracy in the world, in order that an oligarchy which had since sprung up should rule in its stead, an oligarchy which had no title to power but the lenity of the Government and its own audacity. Were they prepared to surrender Ireland to the domination of such a party? It was said that this measure would destroy liberty in Ireland. Where was that liberty? He remembered in Mr. Matthews's very amusing description of American peculiarities, the exclamation of the Kentucky man, who cried out "Pretty liberty, when a man cannot wallop his own nigger." He might say of the sort of liberty enjoyed in Ireland, "Pretty liberty, where a man cannot enjoy or express his own opinion-pretty liberty, where a man is not secure of his property or life—where he is constantly 1333 obliged to go about armed, to protect himself from the violence of those who will not allow him to think and judge for himself—where he is called upon to resort to those self-constituted courts of arbitration rather than to the ordinary tribunals of the land—a liberty that prevents buying or selling—a liberty that flourishes in the midst of conspiracies—a liberty whose insignia are plunder and assassination." That was the liberty Ireland was to be bereft of! Never was that word more profaned—never was that sacred word of liberty more foully abused, than it was at present in Ireland. The history of Europe gave but one example of such profanation of the word liberty—that was, when over the doors of the execrable Jacobin Club were emblazoned the words, "Liberty or Death." The Government were defending real liberty, when they asked for those coercive measures so much decried. What were the Habeas Corpus and Trial by Jury intended for? Why, to be the means, not the ends, of protecting-life and property; they were valuable, because they secured life—because they secured property—because they protected order—and they became worthless the instant they afforded protection to villains and depredators. Allusion had been made to former measures of this kind. He would say, that there never was a measure which stood on such grounds as this, and for which such a necessity existed. No Ministry had ever yet applied for such measures who stood upon the same grounds as the present Ministers. The present Ministers had the confidence of the nation, and would not abuse it. They asked for great powers to be granted them; but, at the same time, they felt that they were responsible to a Reformed Parliament for the use they made of those powers. Besides, they asked for those powers, in order to be able to apply to Ireland those measures of redress which they knew she was entitled to. It had been argued, last night, by the hon. member for Lincoln (Mr. E. L. Bulwer) that, with them, it was "to-day, concession—to-morrow, coercion. A quick alternation of kicks and kindness—coaxing with the hand, and spurring with the heel." Such an accusation did not come well and consistently from that hon. Member, as he would confess, if he recollected his words on the Address to the Throne, he said then, "If you ask for coercive powers, 1334 why do you not, at the same time, hold out measures of redress?"—That was the very thing Government did; it agreed with the hon. Member's first thoughts, which, in his humble opinion, were better than his second thoughts. The Government, in asking for those measures, gave a strong proof of consistency—a strong proof that it acted upon the principles of Reform. It was a proof that it still advocated the same principles as when it recommended Reform. It was determined to provide a remedy in time, so that it might not be compelled to legislate in the midst of such scenes as were acted at Nottingham and Bristol. They had recommended Reform as a remedy, and they were determined it should not be abused. Two different diseases existed in Ireland, and they had different remedies for the grievances complained of, and for the system of outrage. To the latter, which was a temporary paroxysm, would be applied temporary remedies—to the former, which were founded upon deeply-rooted discontent, would be applied an efficacious, speedy, and yet permanent cure. At all events, the present Government, in asking for coercive powers, were only following the example of the Administrations that went before them. He considered, that the present state of Ireland might be aptly compared to the state of the Highlands of Scotland eighty years ago. At that period there existed in the Highlands two species of agitation—predial and political agitation. The one carried on under the influence of Lord Lovat, resembled the political associations of Ireland at the present day. The other, the principle of which was burnings, robbery, and murder, was conducted by the noted Rob Roy. The means of the two were different, yet they were closely connected. The Government of that day broke up the connexion, which was more honest than the present, for that was kept up by family ties, the present by intimidation; but the Government broke it up by the enactment of salutary laws, and at the same time it improved the condition of the Highlanders by making roads and bridges, and otherwise facilitating intercourse to every part of the country. And what is now the consequence, he would ask, of having then had recourse to means of coercion? Let the Highlanders be asked: there would not be found one among them who did not bless the severity used towards them 1335 at the period mentioned, and the salutary wisdom that dictated that severity. He had no desire whatsoever to disguise the appalling features of the present measure. Though it were worse, though it were nothing but a mere experiment (if an experiment, it was at least experimentum in corpore vili), though its features were still more hideous, yet it was less appalling than the state of things in Ireland. It asked for courts-martial; but could any thing that would result from them, by any possibility, be half so despotic and arbitrary as what might be expected from the New National Guards already organized and prepared to extend their sway? Looking at the courts-martial in their worst light, were they so bad as the courts which were now opened to try men for their political opinions; and having passed sentence of denunciation against them, to hand them over to the peasantry, with the request that they might be dealt with as leniently as possible? See how the two systems would operate—that of the proposed measure, and the one which at present prevailed. This would tend to prevent illegal assemblages at night; that which now prevailed tended only to encourage the midnight assassin. This would authorize domiciliary visits, in order to find out who were engaged in these outrages; the other made those visits only to punish the innocent. He knew which species of visit he should prefer; and he emphatically declared, that let the measure be stigmatised as it might; let it be branded as an Algerine Act, he preferred it to a Kilkenny Act. He would far rather live in Algiers, in its most despotic day, than he would live in the county of Kilkenny at the present time. There was last year as ample a suspension of the laws in some parts of Ireland as was now demanded; and yet the powers it gave were not abused. The cause of that suspension was, to prevent an evil at which even agitation trembled—the further propagation of cholera. Now, if it were given him to choose, and to say which he should prefer—that dreadful pestilence, such as it prevailed in Russia or India, or this moral pestilence, under which there was no security for property or life, under which men were exposed to the visits of the midnight assassin, and to the noonday murderer, to having their houses burned by night, and to be shot as they fled from the fearful conflagration—if, he 1336 repeated, it were given to him to make a choice between those two evils, he would choose the former; for he would say with the Hebrew king, "Let me fall into the hands of God, and not into those of men." He had thus stated his opinion freely and candidly of this measure; but he could assure the House that, in what he said, he was in no degree influenced by his official connexion with the Government. He did not expect any credit on this score from the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite. He would admit, that there were many cases in which a man might give up his own opinion out of respect or attachment to political friends, or from connexions with Government; but the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was not one of those cases in which such a sacrifice of opinion could be honestly made. He could appeal to many of his hon. friends near him, who would bear testimony to the fact that he had come down on an early night of the Session, when the measure of Church Reform was to be introduced, prepared, in spite of his attachment to those who formed the Administration, and in spite of his own connexion with Government, to separate himself from that Government, if he should not find that the measure to be proposed was of a nature which the country had a right to expect. But as he was then ready to part from Ministers if he could not concur with them, so now he was ready to lend them all the feeble aid in his power, being firmly convinced that the course which they proposed was the right one. He should have no fear of meeting his constituents in consequence of his vote on this occasion. He knew their zeal for liberty; but he also knew that it was zeal with knowledge. While they would oppose any unnecessary inroad on the rights of any portion of their fellow-subjects, they would, though they regretted its necessity, not object to a measure which, while it temporarily suspended the Constitution, did so only that it might not be wholly endangered by anarchy. He would willingly render them an account of his conduct, satisfied that they were too sincerely attached to true liberty, and too enlightened, not to distinguish between it and that unbridled licence which could end only in the worst of slavery. Whatever might be the result of the opinions he had expressed, he would abide by them. He had made up his mind on the subject. He might become 1337 the victim of popular injustice, but he would never condescend to be its flatterer.
§ Mr. John Romilly,
in rising, said that, as a young Member of the House, and when so many were desirous to state their opinions of the great question before them, he felt that he was not entitled to take up much of the time of the House. In viewing this question, it was necessary to look not only to the evils pointed out by his Majesty's Ministers, and the evils mentioned in the Report of last Session, which he admitted had strong claims on the serious attention of the House—but they had also to consider whether the measures now proposed by his Majesty's Ministers would have the effect of removing those evils. No one was more ready than he was to give credit to his Majesty's Ministers for the several measures which they had proposed and carried through Parliament, for the good of the country; but with all his favourable disposition towards them, he could not but hesitate when such a measure as this was proposed—he could not but ask whether there were no other way to improve the state of Ireland? When he saw the people of that great country so determinedly opposed to the law, he could not but inquire whether the law itself had not something wrong in it, and whether it deserved to be retained. Before enforcing obedience, it should be ascertained whether the law was worthy to be obeyed? He admitted, as was stated by the hon. Member opposite, that the laws ought to be enforced, and that the Government should have the power of enforcing them in the most complete manner against such heinous crimes as murder and robbery. And if the provisions of this Bill were confined to persons guilty of crimes of that description, it would meet with no opposition from him; but he objected to it most strongly, in so far as it involved all classes of his Majesty's Irish subjects, and in so far as it proscribed the innocent as well as the guilty. With regard to domiciliary visits, he would willingly go so far as to allow that those who were out beyond a certain hour at night, and were found out, should be considered as guilty of a misdemeanor; but he thought, that clause should be confined to those who were found out, and that the houses of the people should not be liable to be searched to see whether or not they were 1338 at home. He considered those domiciliary visits as tyrannical and oppressive, and he had no doubt that, in practice, they would be found more harassing to the orderly than to the disorderly. It was intended by this clause of the Bill, as the inmates of a House would generally be known to the police, that the police should be enabled to ascertain if any one of them was absent. But would they, by visiting the home of the absentees, find out the places of their resort. Did it not appear on the showing of the right hon. Member opposite, that the persons who created the disturbances were migratory, and that these places of meeting were changed continually? How, then, should these domiciliary visits have the effect of discovering these places of resort, if they went to all the districts of the country, spreading alarm and disorder? He therefore thought he was right in saying, that this clause would be more harassing to the orderly than to the disorderly. But when the persons to be protected were to pay so great a price for the protection, would it not be well to inquire of those for whose protection the measure was intended, what their opinion of it was. This Bill was for the protection of the people of Ireland. Would it not be right and proper, then, that they should be consulted? Might they not consider the remedy worse than the disease? When they were called on to pay such a price for their protection, was it not fair to inquire if they thought the price too high? Was it not clear, that the authorized breaking open of houses, was nearly as great a breach of order as unauthorized murder. And since they were called on to pay that price for their protection, why not ask, in the first place, whether or not they were willing to do so? He would then beg to ask, if the Ministers had made out a case which entitled them to ask that House to pass this Bill? Had the House been put in possession of information which would justify it in passing it? There was a Report of the Committee appointed to examine into the state of Ireland before them, and there was a great mass of evidence attached to that Report, but did that evidence appear to bear out Ministers in their proposition? So far was that from being the case, as it appeared to him, that the whole tenor of the evidence seemed rather to be in favour of pursuing the ordinary course of the law. He thought, that the Report went further 1339 in its recommendation of strong measures than the evidence warranted, and the present measures further than the Report. There was one branch of this Bill of a most dangerous character, he meant the Courts-martial, which, from their peculiar construction, were most obnoxious. The suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was of itself a sufficiently striking measure, but it was more particularly so when it was seen what immense power was deputed to Courts-martial by the suspension of that Act. The power was not deputed to persons practised in the law, or who were in the habit of judging of causes, or of understanding evidence. Even to such men he would have some hesitation in deputing such a power, but least of all would he give it to a class of men, the very principle of whose profession was, unreflecting and implicit obedience. He was astonished to hear the hon. member for Leeds say, "if you at all go out of the bounds of the Constitution, it is essential that you should go far, lest your views should be mistaken, and your object frustrated." He (Mr. Romilly) really did believe, that a more dangerous doctrine never was promulgated, and he should not be doing what he conceived to be his duty in that House if he did not express his absolute abhorrence of such a doctrine—a doctrine founded on an evident misconception of what was, and what ought, to be done. The duty of Government was clearly and openly to state, that they felt it necessary to depart from the Constitution, but that that departure should be as slight and as trivial as possible. They ought to declare plainly the extent to which they were compelled to trench on the Constitution. They ought to say," We have confined the infraction as much as we could—we will do as little mischief as we possibly can." But it was a new doctrine to violate the Constitution greatly in order to preserve it. To pursue such a principle would be to bring forward one bad precedent after another in mischievous and continuous succession. He believed, that this measure would not now be introduced, but for a similar measure which was brought forward in 1807. In his opinion. Ministers had often thought of that measure, and had canvassed it much. At the time when the measure of 1807 was agreed to, this country was at war with the greatest part of the continent, and Mr. Grattan stated, that there was a strong French 1340 party in Ireland. Yet even under these circumstances, the measure to which he alluded was not so strong as that which was now introduced at a time of profound peace. This was a point to which he was peculiarly anxious to call the attention of the House, because it was, in a great degree, explanatory of the vote he meant to give. He should read to them an extract from the personal journal of an individual who was connected with the Government of that time, of whom he should only say, that he was bound to him by the nearest and dearest ties. He was the last man in that House to offer an opinion on his virtues or his merits, he believed, that the public fully appreciated both. The individual (Sir Samuel Romilly) to whom he alluded filled, under the short Administration of 1806, and 1807, the office of Solicitor General, and in his papers, speaking of the passing of the Insurrection Act at that period, he thus expressed him self—' For myself, the measure appeared to me to be so impolitic, so unjust, and likely to produce so much mischief, that I determined, if any person divided the House, to vote against it. Sheridan did divide it on the question, that the bill do pass, and I found myself in a minority of 10, including the tellers, against 108. There were—[Then followed the names of the minority, including that of Sir Arthur Pigott.] I did not speak upon the Bill. That it would pass, whatever might be said against it, I could not doubt; I therefore thought, that to state my objections to it could have no other effect than to increase the mischief which I wished to prevent. What triumphant arguments will not this Bill, and that which is depending in the House "for preventing the people having arms," furnish the disaffected with in Ireland! What laws more tyrannical could they have to dread if the French yoke were imposed on them? What worse could they endure, than to be exposed to domiciliary visits, to have their houses broken open in the dead of night, and to find insolent superintendents forcing their way into every bedchamber, to see that none of the family were from home, and to have those who at such season shall be absent, without being able to produce witnesses to prove that it was upon some lawful occasion, subjected to transportation as felons to New South Wales! Can it be expected 1341 'that men will be so blindly attached to bondage thus cruel and degrading as unwillingly to shed their blood in the defence of it? To adopt such a measure, at a moment like the present, appears to me to be little short of madness. Unfortunately, the measure had been in the contemplation of the late Ministry. They had left a draught of the Bill in the Secretary of State's Office, and they were now ashamed to oppose what some of themselves had thought of proposing. The Attorney and Solicitor General of Ireland had approved the Bill; but Pigot and myself had never heard, that such a matter was in agitation till it was brought into the House by the present Ministers.' He believed, that some attention was due to the authority which he had quoted. He did not think, that those sentiments were dictated by feelings of hostility, because those who knew the writer of them knew also that he was incapable of harbouring such feelings; and even those who did not know him gave him credit for the kindness and urbanity of his nature. To return to the subject immediately before them, he owed to his Majesty's Ministers the greatest gratitude for certain measures which they had passed, and which enabled him to address the House on this occasion. To the noble Lord opposite, though he was scarcely acquainted with him, he tendered his sincere thanks for the straightforward manner in which he had supported the rights of the people, and for the anxiety which he showed for the just administration of the law amongst all parties in this country—a feeling, he was sure, not confined to himself, but warmly participated in by a large and numerous class of the community. But when he said this, he could not avoid observing, that some of those individuals were now in power, who were also Ministers in 1807, and who were at that time ready to bring forward a measure similar to the present, without having ventured to communicate the fact to their own Attorney and Solicitor General. They ought to pause and think seriously before they attempted to carry a measure of such vital importance. They ought not to proceed without some further, some extended inquiry. With respect to the proposition of the right hon. member for Lambeth, he was not at all inclined to support it. He saw no benefit that could be derived from postponing the Bill for a 1342 fortnight. If it were really called for, let evidence be adduced to prove that it was, and then let it be passed at once; but until ample evidence were adduced, he never could agree to it. If the object of the right hon. Member were to defeat the Bill altogether, then the best way to meet that object would be, to move that the second reading be postponed to this day six months. That would be a much better and plainer mode of proceeding than calling for the delay of a fortnight. He meant to make no observations on the distinctions which had been drawn between predial and political disturbances; he would not enter into a discussion with reference to their connexion; but he might be allowed to offer a passing observation on the attacks which had been made on the hon. and learned member for Dublin, to whom, until within the last half-hour, he had been utterly unknown—even, he believed, by sight. Whatever the conduct of that hon. and learned Gentleman might be, it ought not to influence the tone of this discussion. This great question ought not to be discussed on a party or private feeling. No; it should be discussed as a measure affecting the lives and liberties of one-third of the whole community. Such a question should be approached without passion; it should be viewed calmly and considerately. They ought to reflect upon many points—whether, for instance, a less extensive measure might not do—whether they were justified in carrying the whole of these coercive provisions at once? The real object, and the end and aim of all their consultations on this subject, ought to be, not to enforce the law by measures of harshness and severity, by the introduction of Courts-martial, or by other arbitrary proceedings, but to induce the people to love the Legislature and the Government, to enthrone both in the hearts of the community by acts of kindness and beneficence.
§ Lord Mahon
said, that, however much he might differ from the application of the extract just quoted by the hon. and learned Member, he should always listen with respect to the words of Sir Samuel Romilly; and he trusted that no difference in politics would ever prevent him from hailing, with pleasure, the appearance in that House of any relatives of so upright and distinguished a man. He would willingly have given a silent vote upon this occasion; but, connected as he was with Ireland by the ties of property, he 1343 trusted the House would indulge him whilst he made a very few observations. Never since he had had the honour of a seat in that House had he risen to give a vote under feelings so painful and perplexing as the present. Whether, on the one hand, he should consent to a bridge or suspend the liberties of 8,000,000 of his fellow-subjects, impose upon them all the rigours of Martial Law, and place these extraordinary powers in the hands of a Viceroy, in whose character, he confessed, he could place no confidence; or whether, on the other hand, he was to refuse to the Government the extraordinary powers which they declared to be absolutely necessary, for the security of life and property, and thus suffer the system of insurrection and outrage, now rife in Ireland, to continue, without even an attempt to check it. Such was the grievous alternative which now lay before them. He must declare, that, in his conscience, he did not believe it was necessary to bring the country to this alternative. He could but think, that this measure of coercion only required the extraordinary rigour which was at present demanded in consequence of the delay and procrastination which had attended its introduction. One-tenth part of this rigour, exercised two years ago, would have saved the House from the painful necessity of being called upon, either violently to break through the Constitution, or quietly to bear with insurrection. It was because Ministers had allowed the rill to widen to a river—the snowball to grow to an avalanche—that they had now found it necessary to tear down the Constitution, to raise a sufficient bulwark against it. He (Lord Mahon) had listened with great attention to the speech of his hon. and learned friend, the member for Leeds (Mr. Macaulay); but, though he expressed himself with his usual felicity of diction, he must say, he thought his speech was not marked by his usual closeness of reasoning or aptness of illustration. There was one observation, however, most truly felt, and most forcibly expressed. He said, that this measure was not, in fact, an infringement upon Irish liberty—because liberty, properly understood, did not exist in Ireland at this moment. He said, with some exaggeration, that if this Bill be an Algerine Bill, the reason is, that even Algiers is in a better condition than Kilkenny. Now, without going that length, 1344 he (Lord Mahon) certainly thought, that the very speeches intended to produce the opposite impression on the House, and more especially the speech of the hon. and learned member for Tipperary, were all marked with this peculiar fallacy—of declaiming against taking away liberty from a place where, in fact, liberty had ceased to exist [Cries of "no, no"]. No! Why, could hon. Gentlemen actually pretend that liberty existed in Ireland at this moment? or what did they call liberty? Was it danger to life? Was it insecurity to property? Would any Irish Gentleman undertake to say, that his country was in that state of liberty in which he would wish to see it? Did they remember the remarkable definition of liberty given by Charles 1st on the scaffold, at a time when his great abilities had been matured by experience, and when sorrow and suffering had shown him the former errors of his ways? In his speech on the scaffold he defined liberty to be "that state in which the lives and goods of subjects may be most their own." Was this the case in Ireland? Were the lives of the Protestants safe from murderers, or their property from incendiaries? or could it be said, for a moment, that they enjoyed anything like the blessings of liberty and the British Constitution? When, therefore, he was told, that this Bill was tyrannical, he admitted it; but he said, that it removed a greater tyranny than it imposed. He admitted, that military law was bad; but he said, that mob-law was worse. And he maintained, that it was the natural and necessary result of such outrages as had lately taken place in Ireland, to render necessary a course into the opposite extreme. When men assumed the license of rebels, the Government could not leave them even the liberty of subjects. It then became necessary to control and circumscribe that liberty which they did not know how to value or to use. Under these circumstances, he could not but think, that the grounds so eloquently and forcibly stated last night by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland were sufficient to justify the House in giving a reluctant consent to the introduction of this Bill. He was told, on the other hand, that the crimes and outrages of Ireland arose from prædial agitation, and not political; and that these two were wholly unconnected. This was the favourite argument of the hon. and learned member for Dublin. Now, if 1345 these two descriptions of agitation were not connected together, all he could say was, that it was the first time since the world began, that such a distinction had been successfully made. Where shall we find an instance of systematic outrages without political agitators, or of political agitators without systematic outrages? But the intimate connexion between the two was fully proved, if any proof were necessary, by the words of the hon. and learned Gentleman, the member for Dublin. Out of his own mouth they might convict him. For, in all his letters to the Volunteers of Dublin, he says, "Put down predial agitation—stop these outrages—allow no burnings, no murders, to take place." If that advice, so specious in appearance, meant anything, it meant, that these Volunteers—these political agitators—had the power of putting down predial agitation if they pleased. Well, then, if they had the power of putting it down, did it not follow, that they had also the power, should they think proper, of exciting and fomenting it? On these grounds, he certainly must deny, that any just distinction had been made between the two. This state of things in Ireland had been unfairly said to have been solely produced by the grievances of that country. On this subject, he thought, we had great reason to complain of considerable misapprehension. Thus, for instance, he had seen a statement in a speech attributed to the hon. and learned member for Dublin, to the effect that Ireland bore an unfair proportion of taxation. His words were, that, "in consequence of the Union, Ireland is unjustly ground down with taxation." Now, he would just remind the House that, on a comparison of the means of Ireland with her taxation, it would appear that she was very lightly taxed indeed, in comparison with this country. Her population was about 8,000,000, one-third of that of the whole empire. Did Ireland pay one-third of the income of the whole empire? Did it pay fifteen millions out of our forty-five millions? Did it pay ten? Did it pay even five? Then, what gross, what utter misrepresentation was this. Under all the circumstances of this case he felt bound to give his reluctant consent to the measure introduced by his Majesty's Government. To that Government he had been systematically and steadily opposed. That opposition continued unchanged. 1346 But, on an occasion like the present, he felt, that he was bound to stand by them in the difficult task of stemming the headlong career of revolutionary violence in Ireland. He felt, that the duty which he owed to the security of his fellow-subjects was even greater than that which he owed to the maintenance of constitutional privileges; and, therefore, with much sacrifice of private feeling, and with the most sincere pain, but under a full conviction of the justice of the course he was pursuing, he should vote for the measure.
§ Mr. Fergus O'Connor
trusted, that the House would indulge him for a few minutes while he gave his opinion on this harsh and unconstitutional measure. His indignation was not directed against those Members who did what they considered as merely their duty in voting for the present measure; and he would beg to ask them if there was one particle of evidence before the House to show that Ireland was in a state to warrant such a measure; but his indignation was roused against his Majesty's Ministers, who roused the bad feelings of Ireland towards England to the highest pitch, by bringing in a Bill which buried the constitution of Ireland in a grave from which it would never rise. It had been said, that the agitators were the cause of the disturbances, and of the unpopularity of his Majesty's Government. He (Mr. O'Connor) had been a great agitator; and he would say, that he had never mentioned the names of any of the members of his Majesty's Government on such occasions but once, and then it was to propose a vote of thanks to them. He never spoke harshly; and when he could say no good he said no evil of them, for he was silent. They were now called on to pass a great, and a harsh measure; and if, on examination, it was found that there was no case of necessity made out for its adoption, he conceived that the House would not be justified in adopting it. A noble Earl had stated in another place, that disturbances existed in the counties of Kilkenny, Cork, and Tipperary. He denied that there were any disturbances in the county of Cork; and he had no doubt but the hon. member for Kilkenny could give him a similar testimony as to the state of that county. He would not attempt to follow the hon. member for Leeds in his hop, step, and jump from England to Ireland, thence to Scotland, and from Scotland to Egypt—he would 1347 permit that hon. Member to pass the time with these amuse, ments; but confining himself to the Bill he would deny at least one of the arguments on which its necessity was founded—namely, that juries could not be found who would convict. The case of Sir George Bingham, which was alluded to by the hon. Secretary for Ireland was not at all in point. He had many other objections to the Bill. It was most tyrannical, arbitrary, and sanguinary; yet this was the measure introduced by men who had previously so distinguished themselves as Reformers, and the enemies of oppression and tyranny. The hon. Member who had introduced the Bill to this House, had given as the argument for its adoption, the great increase of crime in the last four years, from 1829, up to the present time. Why was not a remedy for this state of crime proposed at an earlier period, when, as they themselves confessed, milder measures would have been found efficient for the suppression of the disturbances? Why had not this been done then? The reason was, that during the last two years the English Reform Bill had been pending, and, therefore, while this had been occupying the attention of Ministers, the cry of agitation was 'music in their years;" but now that this all-engrossing object had been accomplished—now that the cry of "agitation in Ireland" was no further wanted by the Ministers, it was no longer music in their ears. As to the cry of intimidation, he believed that attempts at intimidation would principally proceed from those who wished to prevent Juries from serving, in order to give a colour of excuse for the Bill. He would not trouble the House with his own views of these atrocious measures; but he would produce the strongest argument against them in the former opinions expressed by those who now so strongly advocated those measures—he would convict them in their own words. The best argument Irishmen could use was, to quote the former opinions of those persons who were now seeking to strangle liberty in its cradle. He would quote the authority of the hon. and learned Gentleman, the member for the Tower Hamlets (Dr. Lushington), on the subject of the Insurrection Act in 1822. That hon. Gentleman asked: "What had the noble Lord done to induce the House to accede to it?" After making some other observations, in allusion to the Marquess 1348 Wellesley, the hon. and learned Gentleman said: "He never could believe, that either prevention or remedy would be found in an Insurrection Bill, or any bill of a similar tendency." The hon. and learned Gentleman then said, with reference to military tribunals; "When he heard such a character of Irish Magistrates from Irish Members, how could he consent to intrust the execution of such laws to such instruments. The hon. and learned Member said, with reference to the ordinary form of trial, and that proposed to be substituted: 'The noble Marquess was ready, with his King's Serjeant, to stand in his stead forever and for aye. What an Irish serjeant might be, he knew not, as he had never seen one; but with all due respect to his Majesty's serjeants-at-law in this country, he Would rather trust his life to a jury in England than to any serjeant among them. It was" not that they were not honourable and learned men who would be selected, but that they must be influenced in some degree by political bias, which it was not in human nature that they could divest themselves of. It was not presuming too much to think, that if, by their decisions, eight or ten poor Irish peasants were transported improperly, such exercise of their discretion would be overlooked in the character they would acquire for vigour and activity in the voluntary exercise of it.'* The hon. and learned Member said, "he agreed with the noble Marquess, that it was not consistent to blend any conciliatory measure with these penal Acts;" and he concluded by recommending a searching investigation into the causes of these desolating ebullitions of popular outrage. The root of all the disturbances and outrages in Ireland might be traced to the speech of the right hon. Secretary for that country, wherein he had promised the extinction of tithes, a promise which he had since failed in fulfilling; and this was the real origin of the increase of crime. The right hon. Secretary yesterday had made out a case against Ireland, partly on the strength of a political ballad; but he (Mr. Fergus O'Connor) called upon the English people to pause before they convicted Ireland by a ballad. Ireland, he would assert, was not in the dreadful state described: in the instance of the county of Cork especially, the Ministry* Hansard (new series) vi. p. 175.1349 had attempted to make out a case, but they found out that their case was untenable, and so no more mention was made of the county of Cork: but he could assure the House, that if these measures were put into operation in any district in Ireland, the whole country would stand in need very shortly of the Proclamation. But he trusted and expected that such measures would be forbidden by the mighty voice of the people. As soon as the agitation of the Reform Bill had passed over, the Ministers had the audacity to come before a Reformed Parliament, and ask them to stifle liberty in its infancy; but they would find their error; they would find what the voice of the people could do. No man knew better what it could do than the noble Lord who was at the head of the Ministry. The voice of the people had driven Caius Marius from Rome [laughter]. Since the name of Rome was distasteful to them, he would bring them nearer home: the Voice of the people had brought Charles 1st. of England to the block; it was the voice of the people which drove Charles 10th from his throne; and it was the voice of the people which passed the Reform Bill, and the voice of the people would not on this pressing occasion fail to protect the Constitution. He could not conceive how the right hon. Secretary could think of such measures as likely to effect the proposed end in Ireland; he must be little acquainted with the Irish people, or even with the English, and the Ministers would not dare to propose such measures for England. That right hon. Secretary himself was the most unpopular man in Ireland [a laugh]. Hon. Members laughed—like the drummer, beat them where he would, he could not please them. However, he would tell them in the House, as he had out of the House, that the Irish people would resist despotism, tyranny, and arbitrary power, foot to foot, and hand to hand. The measures now proposed were another lesson to the Irish people, who last Session had put faith in the assurance that they might trust to the kind feelings and brotherly kindness of Englishmen. After this, it would be impossible to believe in any words, however plausible. How often were the Irish nation to degrade themselves before the English nation—to come cap in hand, like beggars—a posture unworthy such a people? As to the agitation which was liad so much stress on, he could prove, if 1350 required, that it emanated wholly from Government and its servants. He would give them an instance where a Magistrate had stopped a man on the road who owed a trifling arrear of rent: the man tried to make his escape; but the Magistrate, in the struggle, tore off the pocket of the man's frieze coat, in which was the sum of 3l. 18s. 6d.; and yet this pocket, with the money, was sold for 10d. tithe money. There was another instance where 40l. worth of hay was sold for 5s. tithe, and a horse worth 9l. sold for 1l., and immediately shot for the hounds [Laughter]. It might be sport to hon. Gentlemen, but it was death to the objects of the inflictions. This measure was the coping-stone to the proceedings of Ministers, with regard to Ireland; yet, if such measures were permitted, they would hereafter deeply repent when they read the accounts of the blood which would be shed; for every drop of blood would be upon their souls. After all, what was the object of Ministers? Why, to put down 250 unfortunate Volunteers—a point on which the hon. member for Leeds had just before been so eloquent. That hon. Gentleman had also indulged in observations relative to the subscription made for the hon. and learned member for Dublin, taunting him with taxing the people; but he (Mr. F. O'Connor) thought that when a man gave up a profession yielding him a large income, for the sole object of promoting his country's good, such a man was entitled to that country's support. Ministers would find it much more difficult than they seemed to anticipate to put down that individual. It was not possible but that the Representatives of a free people would rather die than be guilty of the enormity of signing the death warrant of their country. 'The people of England would not suffer it. They would call to mind the fact, that every Insurrection Act, every suspension of the Habeas Corpus, ever put into operation in England, had been preceded some two years before by similar measures in Ireland. Let English Members bear in mind that this was not an unimportant matter-of-course ministerial measure, but an unconstitutional, and as Ministers themselves had most properly called it, an arbitrary Act. Let them be assured, that daggers and swords would form but a feeble fence for the Constitution, against the indignation of an insulted people: the best protection was the people's affection.
§ Mr. Carew,
under the circumstances of the Bill, and the peculiar manner in which it was calculated to apply to Ireland, would claim the indulgence of the House. It was to him a subject of particular regret to be obliged to come to a decision. Connected with the independent interest, he had always wished to extend the popular principle to the utmost degree that was consistent with the Constitution and public safety; beyond that limit he never had gone. He would never sacrifice practical security to theoretical advantage. He was bound in conscience to state that the situation of some parts of Ireland was such and the intimidation so great, that the law could not be enforced; and in those parts stronger measures were necessary; but the circumstances should be so defined as to make it impossible to extend the measure to unoffending districts. He was happy to say, that the county of Wexford would not be found to require extra measures; and though at one time during the winter months there was every reason to apprehend that it would be involved in the general confusion, the united exertions of all classes, the energy of the Magistrates, the active co-operation of the Catholic clergy, and the goodwill of the farmers enabled them to check the spirit, and he hoped to redeem the proverbially good character of the county of Wexford. He was bound, however, to say, that much depended upon early exertion—when once the spirit of insubordination got to a certain point, all classes were paralysed, and life and property ceased to be secure, for there was no tyranny equal to that of a licentious and lawless mob. When he was prepared to admit the necessity of some coercive measures, he was bound also to see that those measures should be strictly limited, but particularly that they should be unconnected with the levying of tithes. If it had been intended to apply them to such an object, he should certainly have opposed them. Nay, more, whatever might have been the necessity of stronger measures, he should have deprecated their adoption, unless there was a prospect of remedial measures also. The general spirit of discontent and agitation could only be permanently put down by justice in the legislation towards Ireland; but when he considered the different measures of amelioration which had been proposed in Church Reform, and the reduction of the temporalities, abolition of the 1352 Vestry Cess, Reform of the Grand Jury, and constabulatory systems, and when he found Ministers pledged to carry those measures, he could not find himself justified in refusing to them temporary powers, which they, upon their responsibility, stated to be necessary. Such a system, however, could not be permanent, and to illustrate that more could be done by kindness and firmness than by coercion, he would take as an example the county which he had the honour to represent; the House would excuse him, if he detained them for a few moments: it was but justice to the well-disposed in Ireland. The morning after his arrival in Ireland last July, an official express came to say, that a large military force had been ordered to a certain point, in consequence of representations that an illegal and alarming meeting was to take place; he was, of course, ignorant of the circumstances; but apprehensive of accident, he decided upon attending in person; he overtook and passed the military, concentrating upon the scene, and hastened before them, to ascertain the nature of the meeting, certain that under ordinary circumstances he had nothing to fear personally from his countrymen, and also with the intention, if it had been illegal, of using his influence with the meeting to disperse, and so prevent any accident from collision. There were not above 100 persons assembled; he explained his views, and read Sir W. Gossett's circular. They assured him the object was solely to petition, and offered to disperse at once, if he considered their conduct illegal. He said no; the privilege of the subject is to petition and the wish of every friend to the Constitution must be, that they should make known their wishes to the Legislature, and not seek by violence to redress their own grievances. He then upon his own responsibility countermanded the military. The people passed a vote of thanks to the Magistrates and to the military, and every thing was peaceable, good-humoured, and legal. He received a letter of official approbation from Lord Anglesey, and the right hon. Secretary, and, what perhaps the House would not expect, a resolution of thanks was passed by acclamation at the Political Union in Dublin, inasmuch as while he (Mr. Carew) officially vindicated the power of the law, he at the same time protected the privilege of the subject. There 1353 was another case connected with property which might have led to still more disastrous results. The tenants upon a large estate under the Court of Chancery had been ejected; but as it was not intended finally to dispossess them, they were allowed to re-occupy the ground. The question subsequently arose, what were they to pay, for there had been no bargain? The agent claimed a certain sum: the tenants objected; the corn was seized; there was much excitement; and in short, under the circumstance of the times, there was a prospect of a disturbance. A deputation from the tenantry waited upon him; they drew up a memorial, offering to abide by the decision of two persons, one to be appointed by the agent, the other by themselves. The agent, an excellent and discreet man, consented, both parties left it to his (Mr. Carew's) decision, and he was fortunately enabled to please both. The money was paid, the corn released, whereas, if extreme measures had been taken, the probability was, that the landlord would have lost his rent, the tenants their corn, and the public peace, to preserve which was his object, would have been broken. Why did he mention these circumstances? To show that the Irish were susceptible of kindness and aware of the value of justice; though, perhaps, also a little too susceptible of first impressions, and too often thinking that the person who spoke loudest felt deepest. But people who had so conducted themselves had a right to claim protection from midnight assassins. Farmers and others had particularly suggested to him the necessity of preventing nightly meetings. He did not, of course, pledge himself to the various details, but scenes which he had witnessed obliged him to say that protection was necessary. He had to hold several inquests during the winter. Upon one occasion a house was burned; and when he attended next morning with another Magistrate, he saw dead upon the floor, the mother, her daughter, and a policeman. They had been shot when trying to escape from the flames; and in another room was the old father, insensible from his wounds, and his son, who was shot through the body, but survived: in short, out of a large family, but two escaped, a cripple and a child. He held another inquest upon a man who had said, incautiously, and, it was supposed, falsely, while drinking, that 1354 "he knew the Whitefeet "—two days after he was murdered; but such was the general intimidation, that his own family and neighbours were afraid to open their lips. Fortunately, soon after, the police met the Whitefeet, and shot three of them. The farmers took courage, and by their verdict justified the police, and since that time there had been no serious outrage. No one regretted more than he did any departure from the laws, but he must say, as an honest man, that in some districts life and property were not secure. But in voting for the first reading he held himself perfectly free to oppose or to modify the details. He voted according to the dictates of his conscience at the expense of his feelings. He must observe, with respect to domiciliary visits, he was of opinion that great caution should be used, and that a regulation should be made requiring the men of the family to show themselves at the door, so as to render it unnecessary for the police or military to enter houses. In conclusion he repeated his intention to vote for the Bill.
§ Mr. Clay
said, he thought the measure not adequate to meet the evils which it had been brought forward to remedy. If it were right in principle, it ought undoubtedly to pass immediately; if wrong, it ought not to be passed at all. The course of policy to be followed by his Majesty's Ministers had been developed, and their remedy for a part of the evils was a system of coercion—a policy, which he thought so ill adapted to the objects stated, that it would rather increase than lessen the evil. That course of policy was not what the country had a right to expect, nor was it calculated to settle the difficult question. He could not reconcile it to himself to give a silent vote on this subject—the rather as he was disposed to think that all its bearings had not been successfully developed in the speech, however eloquent and able, of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland. That speech was calculated to lead the House into one great error—that of substituting local, personal, and party feelings for the general good, as the basis of legislation—a principle of legislation that was, in the last degree, dangerous. He would say, that he had no feeling of hostility against Ministers; he was disposed to give them his warmest support; he owed them gratitude for what they had done as to 1355 Reform, and he was confident that their intentions were most pure. For them to leave office would be a great national calamity, for he saw no other set of men who possessed the power to carry those measures of further Reform which the country demanded and must obtain, and at the same time preserve order. The disposition to place confidence in them must not, however, lead him too far—not so far as to oppose those principles which were the basis of his political creed. Many independent men in that House, who wished well to the Ministers, would not enter with them into the present path, and many more would enter it with the deepest regret. He demanded to know why it was, that Ireland was so continually a subject of complaint? Why did the distress of Ireland meet us at every turn? And why, but because Ireland had been misgoverned in every age? What rendered our policy weak and uncertain abroad, and what augmented our distress at home?—Ireland. The 8,000,000 of her people only added to our weakness. In a census of our population they ought to be subtracted from the 16,000,000 who inhabited Britain, for we should be stronger without them. Why did taxes press so heavily on Britain?—Because Ireland did not bear her fair proportion. What was the cause of that growing and extensive pauperism which told that this once happy land was going to decay?—What was it but the overflowing of her unhappy population into England, not only lowering the wages of Englishmen, but debasing the standard of social enjoyment and existence by perpetually exhibiting the picture of animal life preserved by the smallest quantity of subsistence—thus removing the only barrier against the general flood of misery which already overwhelmed Ireland itself. What was the remedy for this state of things?—It was—do justice to Ireland. Let the Union be made a real union, and let Ireland no longer be treated as a province. It might be said, that the measures of Ministers promised justice to Ireland; but when they were examined, the few measures of improvement slowly brought forward were more than counterbalanced by another measure of unparalleled severity. It was taking the whole nation out of the pale of the Constitution. It was the employment of force, which nothing but the most urgent necessity could justify. Let them be quite sure 1356 that their cause was just, before they had recourse to such a measure—before they resolved to employ force against a whole people; and the employment of force by the Government against the people was a prima facie proof, that the Government was wrong. There was always a presumption, when the Government employed force against the people, that it was to support a measure of injustice; and let them, he said, be sure to do justice before they employed force—to redress every grievance before they had recourse to coercion. Measures of coercion were the last which should be called for on this occasion. One part of the measure—that which went to suppress petitioning, and subject political offences to be tried by Courts-martial—he did not approve of; another part—that which went to streng then the law and protect life and property, to put a stop to outrage and restore order, was perhaps necessary. To that extent he approved of the measure, and to that extent he thought Ministers had made out a case. To that extent he agreed with them, and was prepared so far to concede. He did not, however, approve of the military tribunals. There was no reason why justice should not be administered by the ordinary tribunals—no reason why a Special Commission should not be issued to suppress the outrages. He had never heard, that officers of the army were good persons for arriving at truth. In fact, they would not sift the witnesses; they would take their impressions, he was afraid, from the gentry of Ireland, and decide according to their party views. He observed, too, that the gentry, the Magistracy, the police, who had been found insufficient to suppress disorder, were still to remain in power, and they would constitute the only machinery by which the Courts-martial could operate. All these things would retard, he was afraid, the return to order. The right hon. Secretary had praised the measure because it was a great departure from the Constitution; but if that were a recommendation, and it were found difficult to get witnesses, why not also subject them at once to torture to make them attend, and wring the statements which were required from them? He objected, also, to the mixing and confounding things quite distinct. He was ready to concede to his Majesty's Ministers a power to restrain nightly outrage, but he was not 1357 ready to concede to them a power to restrain the expression of public opinion; he was not ready to put Ireland out of the pale of the Constitution, for the Irish had equal rights with the English. No Minister would dare to propose to deprive the English of their rights; and what he was not ready to do to the people of England, he was not ready to do to the people of Ireland. He could not consent to interfere with the right of petitioning. The eloquent speech of the right hon. Gentleman had laid no other ground for that part of the Bill than that the hon. and learned member for Dublin had planned some scheme of forming a body of Irish volunteers, and sending his friends through the country; but no evidence whatever had been produced to show that the people of Ireland gave into those schemes, or that they would be mischievous. The House was called upon to legislate on some petty, paltry, personal considerations. The hon. and learned member for Dublin was treated, he must say, unfairly, injudiciously, and injuriously. By rendering him an object of attack, the people were only the more attached to him. He was treated injudiciously, because not one of the great objects for which he had agitated but had been granted by that British Parliament to which he was held up now as an object of censure and ridicule. He had agitated for Catholic Emancipation—that was granted. He had agitated to obtain the repeal of the Church-cess, of the Grand Jury laws—and was not the whole House anxious to reform both those grievances? When he had accomplished these things, the hon. and learned Member should not be taunted and held up to ridicule because he did not deliver himself in that House in "good set phrase, and use the language of a waiting gentlewoman." But suppose that the hon. and learned Gentleman was indiscreet—and he did not defend the hon. and learned Member—they should not act on such paltry ground of legislation. He would go further, and say that, with all respect for the talents and exertions of the hon. and learned Member—admitting, too, that the hon. and learned Member had done great things—he would say, that, unfortunately, a great deal too much importance was attached to the hon. and learned Gentleman. That man must have read history to very little purpose, and roost unphilosophically, who was not convinced 1358 that no individual could have much influence over those events, on which depend a nation's tranquillity. All history testified that great men were but incidents; they were created by events, and did not create them. The hon. and learned Gentleman was more the effect than the cause of political complaints. He was the child before he was the champion of agitation. The plan proposed was to employ coercion; but were there then no grievances to redress? Church Reform, Vestry-cess, and Grand Jury Laws were all to be reformed; but when they were reformed, they would leave untouched the master grievance of the Church Establishment, which drew its subsistence from the whole people, while it only contributed to the spiritual comfort of about one-tenth or one-fifteenth of them. That would remain; and he should say, that while it did remain, they must not hope for tranquillity in Ireland. It was a species of oppression which added insult to injury, and would prevent tranquillity. He looked at the promised reforms, because they were made the reasons for justifying coercion. On the measures of redress was founded a measure of unparalleled severity. He had not heard in those measures of redress any other hope held out but of a distant commutation of tithes, which were still to be levied in some shape or other, and appropriated to the exclusive use of the Irish Church Establishment. A reduction was to be made in the number of Irish Bishops, and a portion of their property was to be taken away; and how that was to be reconciled to the principle, that they were not to violate Church property he did not know; but if it were violated in one instance, why not violate it in more instances than one, if that was necessary to the tranquillity of Ireland? He could not get rid of the impression that this measure of severity was intended to enforce the collection of tithes. He knew that it had been disclaimed by the noble Lord, but a subsequent explanation of the right hon. Gentleman had done away with that disclaimer [Question]. He was, perhaps, trespassing too long on the House, but he was not aware that he had strayed from the question. In conclusion, he would say, that he would not oppose the first reading of the Bill [a laugh]. He was not aware that he had said anything which should excite the amusement of the House. He had stated, that he thought 1359 greater power was necessary to repress outrage; and he did not intend, therefore, to oppose the introduction of the Bill; but he should, at a proper time, give his most decided opposition to those parts of the measure which went beyond the repression of outrages, and putting down the Whitefeet. Into the general question he would not enter. He would only say, that if he saw a full measure of justice done to Ireland, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman should then continue his agitation for Repeal, to which he was opposed—if he saw the hon. and learned Member acting from any motives of low and selfish ambition, though he did not think the hon. and learned Member would act on such motives—but if he saw agitation pursued, after justice had been done, in chase of the phantom of Repeal, which must lead to the ruin of the empire, he should be one of the first to grant Ministers all the power they could ask. Let them, however, show the people of England that justice was done to Ireland, and then, if they must quarrel, the people of England would cordially throw their weight into the scale, and the struggle would be neither of long duration nor of doubtful result.
§ Major Beauclerk
said, that the great cause of all the evils which England suffered from Ireland was; the misgovernment and mismanagement to which the latter had been exposed, and yet the Ministers were about to make the wrong and the cause of all the evils much greater. He would tell Ministers that they would not attain their object, but would bring ruin on the country and on their own heads. If the people allowed the Bill to pass, it would keep up the taxes, and they, therefore, could not allow it to pass with impunity. It was fraught with danger to both parts of the empire, and he would, while it was yet time, raise his voice against it? Was this the fruit of Reform? Was this the gratitude of England to Ireland for her exertions to obtain Reform? It was his duty not to give the Government the power they asked, and he should oppose even the first stage of the Bill. The question would probably be decided for Ministers by a well-dressed majority of the House. But who were their supporters in this scheme of oppression? The very men who were distinguished for their hatred of liberty—that faction which had been so long the object of invective to 1360 every member of the present Administration, and had so obstinately resisted the rights of the people. The Ministry might plume themselves on such assistance, but he would say, that the intelligent portion of the English community—the educated, reflecting, honest classes—felt the sufferings of Ireland as warmly as any Irish gentleman. They looked with suspicion and dislike at a measure which destroyed the foundation of the English Constitution, the principles of liberty and justice, and substituted for them the bayonet and the sword. The Bill was one which every honest man must view with feelings of hatred. If his Majesty's Ministers succeeded in carrying such a Bill, he for one would declare, that out of the House he should not consider himself bound to obey it.
said, that if he had a single doubt as to the propriety of supporting Government on this occasion, it would have been removed by the conclusive speech of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland. It was a speech so convincing, that the address of the eloquent Gentleman who spoke that night failed in shaking one single fact or argument contained in it. Never had he heard a stronger, a more irresistible case made out than that of the necessity of arming Ministers with extraordinary powers. It was said, why not inquire into the cause of these disturbances, and the probable remedies to be employed by Government in order to remove the evils of the country? But when he reflected on the danger that would result from any delay caused by the application of those remedies, he could not withhold from Ministers the powers they demanded. The Motion made by the hon. member for Lambeth, requiring a fortnight's delay, was one he could not consent to; because a much longer time would be requisite, in order to see the effect of the remedial measures. Before they sanctioned delay, let the price of that delay be taken into account—le them put themselves into the situation of persons living in an agitated district, and estimate the waste of property and life in the interval. Unless he was satisfied that no outrages would be committed in the meantime, he was resolved not to be deterred from giving his cordial support to Government. It was with reluctance he attempted to vindicate the present Bill—harsh and unconstitutional it certainly 1361 was, but, in his opinion, it was much more harsh and unconstitutional to refuse their fellow-subjects the protection of life and property. He wished it to be understood, that the responsibility of the Bill rested on Ministers, both for its enactment and execution. At the same time, he placed full confidence in them, that those severe powers would not be misapplied. In the observations made by the hon. member for Leeds he concurred; there was a vast difference between the position of the present and any other Government; and he firmly believed, that a large majority, both in the House and the country, would support the Ministers against factious opposition. It had been asserted, that the Bill was a dangerous precedent; but he would answer, that whatever changes might take place in the Government, the nature and constitution of the House of Commons could not change. Though he supported the present measure, he begged leave to observe, that he was a sincere friend to Ireland.
§ Lord Ebrington
begged leave, before he said one word on the measure before the House, to ask the hon. Gentleman who addressed the House last but one, to explain what he meant by "a well-dressed majority?" [Explain.]
§ Major Beauclerk
said, that he used the term in no offensive sense, but merely meant to refer to the order and arrangement of hon. Members on the various benches rising behind each other.
§ Lord Ebrington
would be the last man to take advantage of an expression uttered in the heat of debate; but he would tell hon. Members that they could not deprive of the confidence of the country, those men, who, by the whole tenor of their lives, had proved themselves the friends of popular rights, who, during the long course of their political career,; had uniformly endeavoured to defend and extend the liberties of their fellow-subjects. In these struggles he had borne a very humble part, it was true, but with respect to Ireland, he had shared in the sacrifices made by those men during a long course of years, in order to secure emancipation to their fellow-subjects. It was thought convenient by some, who had been the chief gainers by that measure, to forget those sacrifices, and denounce the very men who made them as the worst enemies of Ireland. But if he had been ready to encounter the odium 1362 on account of his Catholic fellow-subjects he was equally prepared on the present occasion to meet any consequences that might result from the performance of, he admitted, a painful duty to support the measure introduced by his Majesty's Ministers. As all who supported Government had expressed the reluctance with which they advocated such a Bill, he must also declare, that no man entertained that feeling more keenly and sincerely than he (Lord Ebrington) did; but, at the same time, he avowed that neither did any person hold a firmer or more entire conviction of the absolute necessity of a measure of that kind—not for the purposes of coercion, but for the removal of a grievous tyranny—of that system of lawlessness which prevailed in a great part of the country, and was utterly incompatible with the existence of property, and life, and civil society. His support therefore, was given on the strongest conviction of the necessity of the Bill. Indeed, no one could rationally entertain a doubt of it, after the clear and unanswerable speech of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland—a speech not distinguished alone by clearness, but by eloquence and solid argument. He (Lord Ebrington) did not, however, rest upon that single speech, but, from his connexion with Ireland, he enjoyed such opportunities of ample confirmation as left not one scruple on his mind. An hon. Gentleman in a debate some nights since quoted portions of speeches delivered by various persons on a former occasion, quoting, among others, a speech of his; and as if proud in the consciousness of his own immaculate purity, charged them with inconsistency. But if the hon. and learned Gentleman had read accurately the account of his (Lord Ebrington's) speech, he would have seen that, although he opposed the Insurrection Bill, it was that part of the bill which intrusted powers to the Magistracy of Ireland; but he and his hon. friend had proposed at the time to give additional powers to the Lord Lieutenant, and the introduction of Martial Law, to carry into effect the provisions of the Insurrection Act, instead of giving to the Magistracy the summary power of transportation. He (Lord Ebrington) disliked, as much as any man, military tribunals, and the abolition of Trial by Jury; but he conscientiously believed, that, at this time, in various parts of Ireland, the state of 1363 intimidation was such that it was impossible there could be a chance of a fair trial, even if Juries could be got at all. After the best consideration he could bestow upon the subject, therefore, he saw greater objections to any other tribunals, without Juries, than to the establishment of Courts-martial, which had this advantage, that the persons of whom they were composed were less likely to come to the consideration of the questions with party feelings, or local prejudices, than any other tribunal in the present distempered state of Ireland. At the same time, he hoped that the parsons composing the Courts would be officers of high rank and mature age. Whilst, on the one hand, it was asserted that the existing law was sufficient for the repression of disturbances in Ireland, on the other, Ministers were condemned for not having applied to Parliament earlier for extraordinary powers. He knew that Ministers had shown great reluctance in asking for extraordinary powers. That, however, was in his opinion, a venial offence, and in it would be found an additional security for the non-abuse of the powers they now called upon the House to intrust them with. He was quite sure, that the anxiety of his noble friend at the head of the Government of Ireland to delay having recourse to violent and arbitrary measures was quite equalled by his anxiety to use those measures sparingly; and he verily believed, that the knowledge alone of his being possessed of the power would operate beneficially, without its exercise, and induce many to rally round the Government in support of order, and for the protection of life and liberty. He was convinced that many who now, scared by the system of terror and agitation which was in operation, would immediately show themselves, when the powers of the Government were corroborated, and unite in maintaining the peace and security of the community.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that since the question 1364 had been put, he would not oppose it; but he should have been better pleased had the debate been brought to a conclusion that night. He was quite aware that many Gentlemen would feel it necessary to speak upon the question, who, at that late hour of the night, could hardly be expected to address the House. He wished, however, that some understanding could be come to by which the debate on the first reading might be concluded to-morrow.
said, that if he was alluded to, he for one would be no party to any bargain on the subject. He denied that any Member of that House had the right to dictate to him on any portion of his public conduct or tell him when he was to speak. He stood there the Representative of the Irish people [Loud laughter, and cries of "No, no," and "Dublin"]. Well, he said so—he said that he stood there as the Representative of the capital of the Irish nation. His return had not even been petitioned against, and in that capacity he had a public duty to perform. If he thought it necessary to speak upon the question before the House, he would do so without asking leave of the noble Lord, or acknowledging his right of dictation.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that he was quite aware that he had no right to dictate to the hon. and learned Member, and he put it to the House whether, in what he had said, he had assumed any such right? He had, however, the right, and he would exercise it, of expressing an opinion upon any subject before the House.
§ Mr. Baldwin
said, that he had been very much censured by his constituents for not having spoken before. As the Representative of a very large constituency he could assure the noble Lord that the discussion should not close without his expressing his indignation at the introduction of the most despotic and most uncalled-for measure which had ever been brought before a British House of Commons.
§ Debate adjourned.