§ On the question that the first Clause stand part of the Bill,
rose to propose an Amendment on the clause. As it stood at present, it enabled the Lord Lieutenant, by order, to prohibit or suppress any assembly deemed by him dangerous to the public safety, and inconsistent with the administration of the law, and to declare every such prohibited meeting an unlawful assembly. He would propose, as an amendment, that it should not be lawful to prohibit or suppress any meeting peaceably convened and conducted, which met for the exclusive purpose of petitioning the King or Parliament for the redress of bonâ fide grievances in Church and State. It was not his purpose to go further than this. He wished to secure to the people, peaceably assembled, the right to petition against an existing grievance; and he would even throw upon them the burthen of proving that their meeting was exclusively and bonâ fide held for that purpose. He called upon the House to mitigate to this slight degree the despotic character of the measure under consideration. If they rejected his Amendment, could there 669 be a doubt that the Bill was intended to protect a monstrous existing grievance—the payment of tithes by the Roman Catholics of Ireland to the Protestant Church? The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving the following Amendment:—"Provided always, That it shall not be lawful or competent for any Lord Lieutenant or other chief Governor of Ireland, by any such order, to prohibit or suppress any meeting convened or held, or to be convened or held for the bonâ fide and exclusive purpose of agreeing to or procuring, in a peaceable manner, a petition to the King or to either House of Parliament, for the redress of any actually existing grievance in Church or State, and provided that notice in writing of such meeting shall have been given to the Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant, or other chief Governor or Governors of Ireland, or in his absence to the under Secretary, stating, in such notice, the day, hour, and place of holding such meeting for the purpose thereof, ten days before the day of holding the same."
§ Lord Althorp
objected to the proposed Amendment, because it would defeat he whole purpose for which the clause was framed. The object of the clause was to give to the Lord-lieutenant the power to suppress any meeting which he conceived to be dangerous to the public peace. The hon. and learned Member's Amendment would have the effect of rendering that power nearly nugatory; because meetings of a very mischievous character might be convened under the pretence of petitioning against grievances. Who, he should like to know, was to decide whether a meeting was called together for the bonâ fide purpose of petitioning? He admitted, that the clause gave unconstitutional powers to the Lord Lieutenant, but the hon. Member's Amendment, instead of mitigating its provisions, would entirely destroy them; for its effect would be to prevent the Lord-lieutenant, suppressing any meeting, let its real object be what it might, provided it was convened for the ostensible purpose of petitioning.
Mr. O. Connell
asked the House, whether some limit ought not to be put to the despotism of the clause? Ought there not to be the limit of complaint? He knew not when the power of complaint was more necessary than when despotism was established.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
said, that the powers 670 given to the Lord-lieutenant by this clause were so vast and unlimited, that he believed that officer might prevent any convivial meeting at which he fancied political toasts would be drunk. He also thought that the order prohibiting any assembly should be publicly made known, so that the parties against whom it was issued might be aware that they would be acting illegally by meeting. He would, therefore, suggest that certain words be added to the clause, requiring due notice to be given by public proclamation of the issue of an order for the suppression of any meeting; and likewise preventing the Lord-lieutenant from suppressing any peaceable assembly, met for the purpose of petitioning, provided that public notice of such meeting had been given, signed by twenty householders, and delivered to two Magistrates of the neighbourhood, specifying the time and place of meeting.
§ The Solicitor General
said, that the Amendment proposed by the hon. and learned member for Dublin was wholly inconsistent with the spirit of the clause. The hon. and learned Member proposed to allow any number of persons to assemble, provided their object was to petition against a grievance. Now, who was to say what was a grievance? The hon. and learned Member thought the Established Church a grievance—some thought absenteeism, and others the want of Poor-laws a grievance. The proposed Amendment would nullify the whole clause. In 1825, when a Bill was passed to put down illegal associations in Ireland, the very exception now suggested by the hon. and learned Member was introduced, which rendered the Act wholly inoperative; and the evil went on increasing until the year 1829, when a Bill was passed without that exception, and the consequence was, that the Catholic Association was then put down. He admitted that the clause was despotic; but if it was required by the circumstances of Ireland—if it was necessary to put down the Volunteers—it had better be passed as it stood, than in such a modified form as to be rendered of no effect. In considering the clause, it should always be borne in mind that the Lord-lieutenant would exercise the powers intrusted to him under the liability to impeachment for their abuse.
§ Mr. O'Dwyer
trusted the House would adopt the proposed Amendment, and thus mitigate in some degree the severity of this horrible encroachment on the Constitution. As for the responsibility of the Lord-lieutenant alluded to by the Solicitor General it must evidently be a mere name, for he was authorised at any time to prohibit a meeting ex mero motu and all that could ever be said against him was, that he had committed an error of judgment.
§ Mr. George F. Young
was willing to intrust all powers rendered necessary by the state of Ireland to the Lord-lieutenant; but he was ready to give his consent to any Amendment having for its object the preservation of one of the most sacred and constitutional rights of the people, provided it could be shown not to neutralize the effect of the clause. He would certainly vote against the Amendment of the hon. and learned member for Dublin, because he believedit had been proved that that would nullify the clause; but he should like to know whether something in the nature of the hon. member for Meath's (Mr. Grattan's) proposition might not be adopted.
said, he was ready to adopt the suggestion of his hon. friend the member for Meath (Mr. Grattan), and had no objection to add to his amendment that three days' notice should be given of such meeting to the Lord-lieutenant, if held in the county of Dublin, or ten days' notice to the Lord-lieutenant of the county, or his deputy, if the meeting was to be held in any other county. The Committee would understand, therefore, that, according to his amendment as it was now shaped, to render a meeting lawful, it must be peaceable—held for the bona fide purpose of petitioning against an existing grievance, and after full notice to the Lord-lieutenant. It was for the Committee to say whether they would refuse the right of petitioning, even with such restrictions? That which he asked the Committee to guard against was admitted by the Solicitor General to be an impeachable act, and yet it was now proposed to give the Lord-lieutenant the power of doing it with impunity. He would be satisfied to add to the clause a proviso by which it should be made necessary to give three days' notice in Dublin, and in the country ten days,' of meetings to be held for the purpose of petitioning 672 against the specific and bona fide grievances which his proposition was intended to give the power of petitioning against.
§ Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
was of opinion that the hon. and learned member for Dublin's Amendment was inconsistent with the clause, and contrary to what he stated was his wish. Conceiving that the power which the clause conferred on the Lord Lieutenant was necessary for the efficacy of the Bill, he should oppose the Amendment.
§ Mr. Thomas Attwood
thought it would be very dangerous to establish a law in Ireland which might serve as a precedent to be applied to England to-morrow. He would support the Amendment, which would leave the Bill efficient for every honest purpose.
§ Mr. Ward
grieved for the necessity of such a Bill, and such a clause, but believing in the existence of the necessity, he would oppose the Amendment. They had been told to look at the petitions; he had looked at them very particularly, and believed that no question which so deeply affected a nation was ever characterised in such cautious and guarded terms as the measure was in those petitions. Almost all of them had originated with the Political Unions [No, no]. Five-sixths of them which had been presented against this measure originated with, or were got up in some way or other, by Political Unions.
said, that the hon. Member, like his Majesty's Ministers, had of late contracted a mighty dislike to Political Unions. He remembered when those Unions were defended by the right hon. Gentleman opposite; and the hon. Gentleman would probably live to be old enough, if this precedent were adopted, to see the liberties of England endangered:—190 petitions were presented this morning, against the Bill: he presented fifty himself in less than twenty minutes, an example worthy of being followed—190 petitions, signed by thousands and tens of thousands of English and Scotchmen, and by upwards of a million Irishmen, were this morning presented against the Bill—there was not one in favour of it. One of the mischiefs which rendered a domestic legislature the more necessary in Ireland was the want of sympathy which the leading newspapers evinced for her condition, and the shameful and barbarous manner in which they exaggerated every fact against her. When the principles of 673 this Bill came to be distinctly understood, he knew nothing of the people of England, if they did not point with unqualified and unmixed detestation to a measure which was to deprive their Irish fellow-subjects of the benefit of the Habeas Corpus—to suspend the Trial by Jury, to put. down the Liberty of the Press, and to subject them to that most hateful of all tyrannies—domiciliary visits, and many other provisions of the same kind, to all of which the hon. Gentleman who spoke last considered himself pledged. But at present he was pledged to nothing-, for as yet not one section of the Bill had been passed. Notwithstanding what the noble Lord and the hon. and learned member for Kirkcudbright—whose opinions he must esteem, had said—he maintained that his Amendment would not destroy the spirit of the clause, while it extracted some slight portion of its venom. The hon. and learned Solicitor General was very much mistaken when he stated that Acts of equal severity had been passed for Ireland. No measure so arbitrary and severe as this was ever prepared for Ireland, even by the Tories. It was true, that a very strong measure was passed in 1825; but under it the people were allowed to meet for fourteen days continuously, for the purpose of petitioning. That measure was intended to prevent Catholic emancipation: did it effect that object? Was not Catholic emancipation carried in spite of it? What was meant, then, when it was said that it worked well? The question now was—Supposing the Committee ready to give to the Lord Leutenant power to suppress every kind of meeting whatever, would it not make one little qualification—namely, if a meeting took place for the bonâ fide and exclusive purpose of petitioning for the redress of a grievance, on giving ten days' notice to the Lord Lieutenant, or, in his absence, to his Secretary, of the intention to hold that meeting; would the Committee not allow that to be an exception? Was Ireland to be completely-outlawed?
said, that no man felt more than he did the injury which the agitation of the question of the Repeal of the Union had effected; but he could not see, that that was a sufficient reason for the suppression of meetings for the repeal of grievances. The question before the Committee simply was, whether the clause was necessary to the peace of Ireland. 674 He did not think it was, and, unaltered, he would not vote for it.
§ Mr. Hume
asked, what would be the consequence if they did not agree to this Amendment? If they did not allow the people to meet, and to state their grievances, the refusal of that constitutional right would give rise, more and more, to insubordination and disturbance. He would ask of the noble Lord whether his object, that of pacifying the people and restoring tranquillity, would be forwarded by such a proceeding? On the contrary, would not the putting down of public meetings in this arbitrary manner render the people more and more discontented? The disturbances that afflicted Ireland arose from grievance and oppression; and should not the people of that country be allowed, by petition, to place before the House whatever grievance or oppression they had to complain of? They ought to be cautious how they permitted even small inroads on the Constitution. They extended from day to day, and, at length, one by one, the liberties of the people were sacrificed. He meant not to defend meetings which assembled to disturb the peace and quiet of the whole community, but, in the language and words and meaning of the Amendment, he would contend, that when any portion of his Majesty's subjects wished to meet peaceably, and intended, at such meeting, merely to state to that or to the other House of Parliament any grievance by which they were oppressed, it was against the most sacred and valuable privileges of the Constitution to prevent them from assembling. In 1825, when a bill was brought in, the object of which was to put down the Catholic Association, Mr. Brougham, with reference to that measure, spoke thus:—' I am the advocate of the right of the Irish people to meet, to consider, to plan, to petition, to remonstrate, to demand; and my frank opinion is—an opinion which I set out with avowing, and, which, I trust, will reach the whole of Ireland as well as the whole of England—that the more energetic their remonstrance, provided that it be peaceable—the stronger the language they use, provided it be respectful—the more firm their port, the more lofty their demeanour, the more conformable will it be to the high interests of those who have all at stake which can render life desirable, or existence honourable; and infinitely more likely to succeed than any abject 675 course which would imply self-distrust, or self-conviction of error.'* Was it possible, that he who had thus spoken, one of his Majesty's Cabinet Ministers, could now sanction the carrying, with fearful haste, a measure which took away the protection derived from the right of petitioning, and rendered null and void one of the most important privileges of the people? Was that the way to allay disorders—was that the mode by which they hoped to prevent mischief? This measure might produce temporary quietness; it might effect temporary pacification; but, at a future time, those who supported such a system might be overwhelmed by the excitation fomented by this measure, and by the vengeance demanded for the infraction of rights which were the inherent property of England and of Ireland.
§ Mr. Sheil
said, that by the Amendment moved, no meeting could be held without ten days' notice, and then, in all cases, notice was required to be given to the Lord Lieutenant. This was to be the case in the proclaimed districts; but what, he would beg to ask, what was to be the law where the district was not proclaimed? He begged to put that question to the noble Lord, and he should be happy to see that the noble Lord had as much sympathy with the people of Ireland as he once showed to the Creoles. He begged to ask the noble Lord, if the Lord Lieutenant was to have the power of preventing meetings in the districts not proclaimed? As the clause now stood, he understood, that the Lord Lieutenant had the power. Then it followed that the Lord Lieutenant was to know by intuition what was to be said at meetings; he was to know it by anticipation. The people of Ireland were, in fact, to have no right to meet for the purpose of petitioning, either in the proclaimed districts, or those which were not proclaimed. He, at least, saw no difference in this respect between the proclaimed and the other districts. Those who opposed this measure were told that they ought not to refer to what took place in 1819. He, however, would glance at what was done at that time; premising that there was nothing so harsh in the Six Acts then passed as was to be found in this measure. Was there anything to be found in those Acts like placing an immense power—the power to prevent* Hansard (new series) xii. p. 498.676 public meetings—in one man's hand? No such thing was then done. It was enacted that not more than fifty persons should meet, unless notice was previously given to two justices of the peace. And had they the power to prevent such meeting? They were intrusted with no such authority. The power given to the English justices was, to change the place of meeting, and nothing else. Gentlemen had told them, that in 1829, when they sat on that (the Opposition) side of the House, they had voted for a coercive measure, because it was accompanied by a condition that was agreeable to them, and advantageous to the great body of the people of Ireland. But was the present measure accompanied by any condition? [Yes] What was that condition? It was that, after this Bill had passed into a law, they were left to the caprice of another part of the Legislature, either to carry or to reject the Irish Church Reform Bill.
would support the whole Bill, because there were remedial measures in the contemplation of the Government for the improvement of Ireland, which he was sure every English Member would support.
§ Mr. Lambert
begged to ask, if it was to be in the power of the Lord Lieutenant to suppress a meeting in any district of which he had received no notice?
§ Mr. Hall
said, that the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member anticipated one which he had given notice that he would move on the 9th clause. He thought that no individual whatever should be intrusted with such power as this clause conferred upon the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and he feared that the Amendment, in its present shape, would sanction the power conferred by the clause itself of enabling the Lord Lieutenant to put. down any meeting for the purpose of petitioning. He also thought that the conferring of such powers was only calculated to widen the breach between the people of Ireland and the constituted authorities of that country. (Calls of "Question.")
said, that the impatience of the House should not prevent him from expressing his sentiments. He had been fourteen years in Parliament, but he had never witnessed such extraordinary exhibitions 677 in the House as had taken place in the course of the discussion on this Bill. The House, in fact, seemed determined to forfeit its character with the people. The personalities which had been indulged in were disgraceful,—and he particularly adverted to the conduct of the Members on that (the Ministerial) side of the House; for the Gentlemen on the other side of the House deserved the highest credit by the forbearing and courteous manner in which they had carried on the discussion. With respect to the Amendment, he should give it his decided support; for he disliked the clause which it went to improve. The clause, he would admit, resembled one which he had supported in the Proclamation Act passed in 1829; but he had supported that, because he considered it directed against the Catholic Associations, not against meetings for petitioning or other legitimate objects, while the clause in question was evidently directed against even meeting to petition. That was not the object of the clause he had formerly approved of. He protested against any infringement on the right of petitioning, and foresaw, that the power conferred by this clause might be perverted to stifle all the complaints of the people; it would drive the people to secret meetings, which would inevitably produce the worst consequences. In this view of the case, the Government would see, that their object must, necessarily be defeated in the most objectionable manner. If the Lord Lieutenant did not know of the meeting, he could not prohibit it, and accordingly the Amendment of his hon. and learned friend, the member for Dublin, was well worthy of their consideration; that which he proposed, would secure to the people of Ireland the free liberty and power of originating a petition to the King in Parliament at a public meeting, while, if they gave to the Lord Lieutenant ten days' notice of such meeting, he might be prepared with all his civil and military force to put it down, should it turn out to be an illegal one, or be perverted to any other purpose. If such a power were given, undoubtedly, sudden or secret meetings might be called, but if the Lord Lieutenant received no previous notice, he might more fairly assume that such meeting was so held without notice, for some sinister object. If some such Amendment as this were not adopted, secret meetings would, doubtless, be held for petitioning, and, with a 678 fair pretence, as no means would be afforded for obtaining a regular meeting, or any meeting which could make sure of its object;—and Government would constantly be in a state of doubt and anxiety respecting the conduct of the people. The Lord Lieutenant would frequently act against them from suspicion. Was that desirable? Was it desirable, that the civil power and the authority of the Government in Ireland should be continually and suddenly brought into conflict with the people. He thought that the Amendment would obviate the consequences which must be apprehended from such probable conflicts, and would reserve to the people of Ireland that constitutional and just power of petitioning, which it was the duty of that House, as the Representatives of the people, to maintain. It must be recollected, too, that this clause did not apply exclusively to the disturbed districts, but extended over the whole country, and into the most peaceable places. Accordingly, he should vote for his hon. and learned friend's Amendment, which afforded sufficient security to the Government; while it preserved the constitutional power of petitioning for a redress of grievances.
denied, that this clause could or would be perverted to any such unconstitutional object as an infringement on the right of petitioning, by preventing legitimate meetings. The right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in stating, that a clause in the Proclamation Act, similar to the present, had not been used to suppress petitioning, and if such were the case with respect to an act passed by a Tory Government; a slight stretch of the right hon. Member's powers of reasoning might have led him to the conclusion that the result would not be different in the present case. But although it was not meant to infringe the right of petitioning by this measure, it was essential in the present state of the country that the Lord Lieutenant should be constituted, in the first instance, the Judge of what was likely to be bonâ fide a meeting for the exercise of that privilege; it was for the Lord Lieutenant to decide, on his own responsibility, and from his knowledge of local circumstances, whether a meeting was called simply for the purpose of petitioning, or with a view to agitation and disturbance. The Lord Lieutenant would not be justified in suppressing a bonâ fide meeting for petitioning, therefore the Amendment was 679 unnecessary, to say the least of it, but lie must be allowed to exercise his discretion on the subject of the nature of the meeting. If he had not this discretionary power, to give which was the intent of the clause, the law would be inefficient and might almost as well not be passed. Any man acquainted with Ireland understood how easy it was, to convene a meeting as a bonâ fide meeting to petition, and turn it to seditious purposes, passing resolutions at it which might set all Ireland in a flame. The object of this clause was, not to punish violations of the law, but to prevent them. Such a power was indispensable. As for the Amendment, its only effect would be, to expose the Lord Lieutenant to odium, and impair the efficiency of the Bill.
said, the right of petitioning was sacred; as to what the right hon. Secretary had said about no meetings for legitimate petitions having been interfered with under the power of the former clause, the reason was, that no one had ever attempted to get up a petition at that time; there was good care taken to prevent any such thing being attempted.
§ Committee divided on the Amendment: Ayes 85; Noes 246—Majority 161.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Pryme, Geo.|
|Attwood, T.||Rippon, C.|
|Bayntun, John||Roebuck, James|
|Beauclerk, Major||Romilly, John|
|Briscoe, J. J.||Ryder, Thomas|
|Brotherton, John||Scholefield, John|
|Bulwer, H. L.||Tayleure, W.|
|Clay, William||Tennyson, Rt. Hn. C.|
|Cobbett, W.||Torrens, Colonel|
|Collier, J.||Tynte, Kemys|
|Curtis, Captain||Warburton, H.|
|Ellis, Wynn||Wilks, John|
|Ewart, William||Williams, J.|
|Fielden, J.||Wood, Ald.|
|Gaskell, D.||Young, G. W.|
|Guise, Sir B. W.||Baldwin, H.|
|Hall, Benjamin||Barron, W.|
|Hawes, B.||Barry, G. S.|
|Hawkins, John||Bellew, R. M.|
|Hodges, T. I.||Butler, Hon. P.|
|Hume, J.||Daunt, W. J.|
|Humphery, J.||Finn, W. F.|
|Hutt, W.||Fitzsimon, W.|
|James, William||Fitzsimon, C.|
|Lister, Ellis||Fitzgerald, F.|
|Molesworth, Sir W. E.||French, F.|
|Morrison, John||Grattan, J.|
|Palmer, General||Grattan, H.|
|Parrott, Jasper||Lalor, Patrick|
|Lynch, A. H.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Maclaughlin, L.||Ruthven, E.|
|Macnamara, W. N.||Sheil, R. L.|
|O'Brien, Col.||Sullivan, R.|
|O'Connell, D.||Vigors, N. A.|
|O'Connell, J.||Ewing, James|
|O'Connell, C.||Gillon, W. D.|
|O'Connell, Maurice||Maxwell, J.|
|O'Connor, Don||Oswald, R. A.|
|O'Connor, Fergus||Oswald, James|
|O'Dwyer, A. C.||Pringle, Robert|
|Roche, D.||Wallace, Robert|
§ Mr. Lynch
proposed the insertion of a proviso at the end of the first clause, to the effect that the Act should not be construed to extend, or in any manner to affect meetings of counties, or divisions of counties, called by the Lord Lieutenant, or the Sheriff of the county, or by four Magistrates; and that it should not extend to any public meeting in any borough or town corporate, called by the Mayor or other constituted authorities, or to any meeting of any ward or division in such boroughs or towns corporate, when so convened.
said, that such a proviso was unnecessary, as the hon. Gentleman and the House might rely upon it that the Lord Lieutenant would not exercise the powers confided to him by this Bill so as to interfere in an improper way with the subject's right of petition. If, however, the hon. Member would allow this proviso to stand over till the report on the Bill, so as to give time to the Government to consider the proposition, he would not say that he would then object to the insertion of at least the first portion of the proviso.
§ Mr. O'Dwyer
, acting from a feeling of duty, rose to protest against the clause. He maintained, that the chief cause why Great Britain had escaped those revolutions, which, in modern times, had desolated other countries, was, that the people possessed a quiet and lawful means of making their opinions known. The hon. Member begged leave, in support of this view to direct the attention of the House to the following passage from the writings of De Lolme, whom he considered to be admirable authority in all that related to 681 the Constitution:—'A complete security is insured to those numerous and irregular meetings, which, especially when directed to matters of government, creates so much uneasiness in the sovereigns of other countries. Individuals even may, in such meetings, take an active part for procuring the success of those public steps which they wish to see pursued: they may frame petitions to be delivered to the Crown, or to both Houses, either to procure the repeal of measures already entered upon by Government, or to prevent the passing of such as are under consideration, or to obtain the enacting of new regulations of any kind: they may severally subscribe their names to such petitions; the law sets no restriction on their numbers; nor has it, we may say, taken any precaution to prevent even the abuse that might be made of such freedom * * * Such meetings may be repeated; and every individual may deliver what opinion he pleases on the proposed subjects.' He entreated his Majesty's Ministers to listen to what followed; because it so exactly described their own situation a few months since:—'The disappointed statesman, the minister turned out, also find the door open to them; they may bring in the whole weight of their influence and of their connexions; they may exert every nerve to enlist the assembly in the number of their supporters; they are bidden to do their worst; they fly through the country, from one place of meeting to another—the clamour increases—the Constitution, one may think, is going to be shaken to its very foundations—but these mighty struggles, by some means or other, always find a proportionate degree of re-action. New difficulties, and, at last, insuperable impediments grow up in the way of those who would take advantage of the general ferment, to raise themselves on the wreck of the governing authority—a secret force exerts itself, which gradually brings things back to a state of moderation and calm; and that sea, so stormy, to appearance, so deeply agitated, constantly stops at certain limits, which it seems as if it wanted the power to pass.' This clause of the Bill would prevent public meetings in Ireland, and produce bloodshed, violence, and revolution. There was already, he could assure them, a gathering of discontents in Ireland. There was a natural antipathy in the people, which this 682 sort of brutal coercive legislation was whipping into earnest and deadly hatred. If they valued the connexion with Ireland, they would hesitate before they passed a Bill like this. He, therefore, felt bound to oppose it.
§ Mr. Fergus O'Connor
also opposed the clause. By whom, he asked, were the powers which the Bill conferred, to be exercised? By an irresponsible body. What satisfaction was it to the Irish when their liberties were crippled, to be told that they might trust the Lord Lieutenant? It was a mockery of justice. What now became of the boasted Constitution, if that might be practised? What became of that which had bound Ireland to England, by the ties of sisterhood and affection—when, just as the cup of hope and of affection had been raised to her lips, and dashed from her hands, she was told, that the mis-government of unreformed ages was to be established and confirmed by the first Reformed Parliament? What state must the Irish be in, when they asked to go back to the old tyranny—when they implored the Parliament for the blessings of packed Juries, and the summary operation of the law? Even these evils were preferable to Courts-martial, and to hiding-holes, into which any one might thrust an Irishman. If any part of Yorkshire were disturbed, would any Member consent to apply such a measure as this to London? Certainly not; and was not that a parallel case? No man could deny it. When had any disturbance arisen from a meeting in Ireland? He had presided over many—over 200,000 persons—hastily called together under the sanction of the right hon. Secretary, at a time when the voice of agitation was music in his ears; and all was peace and quiet. They had no banners with a bloody knife hanging over a king's head; there was no exciting people to rebellion. No such thing. Why not suppress such meetings when they occurred here, and threatened the State with ruin? Why was not a measure like this introduced in 1817, when some such notice as this was posted on the walls of London:—"Have a care. Britons to arms! The whole country watches the signal from London; arms! Break open the gunsmiths' shops, and other likely places to find arms. No Regent! No Castlereagh! Off with their heads! No Church! No tithes! No inclosures! No Bishops! Now is the time! Free, free yourselves, or you are 683 slaves for ever! N. B. Five thousand of these bills are up in town and printed. Further particulars in the next." Did Ford Castlereagh come down to this House with one of these bills in his hand, and propose Martial Law for England? No; Ford Castlereagh, even, never attempted such a measure as this. This was such a brutal Bill, that if it should be passed it would cause the people of Ireland to be in love with their former misgovernment, and to embalm even the memory of Lord Castlereagh in their grateful recollections. The more brutal, bloody, and despotic such a measure was, coming as it did from the first Reformed Parliament, the better, as it would show the people of Ireland what they had to expect from them.
§ Colonel Perceval
said, before the Committee came to a vote expunging that part of the clause which he thought most beneficial—namely, taking the great political offenders out of the operation of the Bill; persons who were the great causes of all the miseries that afflicted Ireland, he must enter his protest against such a course. It was now proposed to submit these offenders to the operations of the common law; now, if the common law were sufficient to grapple with them, what reason could there be for proposing the present measure? Nothing reconciled the Bill to those with whom he acted, but the knowledge that the common law was insufficient. In giving his support to the first reading of the Bill, he had implored the right hon. Gentleman not to permit its provisions to be frittered away; but he regretted to perceive, that even in the very first clause, the right hon. Gentleman had conceded to the enemies of all order. It would be competent for the Volunteers to enrol themselves, and unless they were guilty of some atrocity, they could not be brought under the operations of the Bill. Impressed with this conviction he must enter his protest against the first deviation from the principles of the Bill as he had agreed to it.
wished to state the grounds of the vote which he should give, that the clause, as amended, do not stand part of the Bill. Many hon. Members assented to this and to other clauses of the Bill, because they had confidence in his Majesty's Ministers. Now this was the very reason why he dissented from the Bill. He had confidence in his Majesty's 684 Ministers; he believed that those men who carried the Reform Bill for England would not halt in their patriotic career until they had done justice—full and complete justice to Ireland; and he believed that when full and complete justice should be done, political discontent and agitation would expire with their cause; that this coercive measure would prove a dead letter upon the Statute-book, and that the time and labour devoted to these protracted and angry discussions would turn out to be so much time wasted, and so much labour thrown away. This clause, in its amended, as well as in its original form, was intended to put down political agitatation. Now, the question was, had any case been made out to warrant the severe, he might say the monstrous provisions which, even in its amended form, this clause contained? He thought no case had been made out. On the first night of these debates he had listened with riveted attention to the powerful, the commanding, speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland; and during the momentary impulse he felt almost persuaded that a sufficient case had been made out. But when, in the calmness of the closet, he reviewed the facts and the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman, stripped of the splendid and dazzling drapery by which they had been at once adorned and obscured, then he arrived at the conclusion, and was impressed with the conviction, that the right hon. Gentleman had, indeed, succeeded in making out an irresistible case, but an irresistible case against himself. The right hon. Gentleman had told them, that since he had had the management of Ireland, political agitation, discontent, and outrage, had gone on increasing. It appeared by his own statements, that before he asked for increased coercive powers, he sent out Special Commissions to put down disturbance, and those Commissions were attended with complete success; and it further appeared from the right hon. Gentleman's own showing, that after the late Parliament had, in an evil hour, consented to grant him increased coercive powers for levying tithes, the law had become powerless, and his Special Commissions were sent out in vain. Was this a ground upon which the Reformed Parliament should be called upon to grant a further increase of coercive power? What did the argument of the Secretary for Ireland amount to? Simply 685 to this, "experience has shown that increased coercion has increased discontent and disturbance, and, therefore, increased coercion would abate discontent and disturbance." When stripped of the copious and powerful rhetoric with which it had been clothed, the argument of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland was reduced to this stultifying proposition, that in order to remove the effect we must increase the cause. He would vote, not only against the first clause as amended, but also against all the other clauses of a measure which would be unnecessary if full justice were to be done to Ireland; and which, if justice were not to be done, would only aggravate the evils it was intended to remove.
§ Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
thought, that they should not go on with the Bill without carrying the remedial measures forward hand in hand with it. The House was to blame in having lost so much time last night upon a mere matter of form, instead of hastening forward, as it was its duty to do, the remedial measure of Church Reform as quickly as possible. For his part he would prefer the revival of the bill against the Catholic Association to the measure now before the House. He thought the suggestion of the hon. and learned member for Monaghan (Mr. Perrin) should be attended to, and that the clause should be altered so as to give the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland the power of dispersing the meetings which it was the object of this Bill to put down; but he should not have the power, which the Bill at present gave him, of creating it a misdemeanor to attend those meetings. By one clause of the Bill, the Justices, when they directed a meeting to disperse, would only have the power to punish those who remained in defiance of the law with three months' imprisonment; while by this clause, those who went away—who obeyed the prohibition and dispersed—might be punished with five years' imprisonment. Thus the real offenders would escape with a very trifling punishment, while those who had ignorantly and innocently attended the meeting, or went away when they were bid, would be severely punished. He wished the punishment to be fixed by the clause, and that a more severe punishment should be assigned to those who refused to go away than to those who dispersed. He was well aware that it was absolutely necessary to suppress the meetings and 686 associations that at present existed in Ireland. Every friend to constitutional liberty must desire to see such assemblies put down, for they injured its cause, and were incompatible with its existence. It was obvious to any one at all acquainted with the laws or Constitution of this country, that an association like the Volunteers of Ireland—the object of which was to overawe the Legislature, and to compel it to pass such and such measures—for instance, the Repeal of the Union—could not be suffered to exist. It was with that feeling, and under that impression, that he thought power should be given to the Lord Lieutenant to prevent meetings which he might consider dangerous to the public peace. The object of the Bill he understood to be, to put down associations and meetings in Ireland, which, if allowed to go on, and to grow to maturity, must inevitably end in the destruction of the Constitution. He hoped, however, that the suggestion of the hon. member for Monaghan, to which he had already adverted, and which he thought would be sufficient for the purpose, would be inserted in the body of this clause.
, adverting to a notice of motion given in the early part of the evening by the hon. member for South Durham, deprecated any precipitate interference with the currency of Ireland, such as that of making the Irish Bank notes a legal tender, which could have none but the most injurious effects [Question].
knew that: but it was sufficient to excite alarm that such a notice had been placed on the Books of the House. It would be carried to Ireland by that evening's post, and would very probably cause an immediate run upon the banks. He was not one of those who wished to ruin the banks.
§ Lord Althorp
submitted to the hon. Member, that he was discussing a question not then before the House.
contended that he was strictly in order. He was merely pointing out the consequences which would result from such a proposition. He saw that the House was not disposed to listen to him, and therefore he would merely repeat, that the very agitation of such a measure would cause a run on the bank, instead of preventing it.
§ Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
inquired whether 687 in the case of a meeting being held in Dublin, and orders being issued by the Lord Lieutenant for its suppression, any person attending such meeting without knowing its illegality, would be liable to punishment?
§ The Solicitor General
said, that it was proposed to introduce into the Bill a provision rendering it necessary that a public notice should be given of the Lord Lieutenant's intention to prohibit the meeting, and it was only after such public notice that any person attending the meeting would be liable to be tried for a misdemeanor. In his opinion, a person circumstanced as had been supposed, would have a clear defence against the penalties of the Bill. But he begged to remind the hon. Member, that, by the common law, the fact of being present at an unlawful meeting constituted an unlawful act, though the person present might have had no knowledge of the illegal nature of the meeting. He thought the fixing of the punishment at two months' imprisonment would be injurious, inasmuch as there might be different degrees of guilt. One man might do little, another a great deal; he might say, "what do I care for the Lord Lieutenant? I'll resist any force he sends here." These two persons would deserve different degrees of punishment.
§ Mr. Pease
said, that ever since he had taken his seat upon that (the ministerial) side of the House, he had become a mark for every one to shoot at; but he should, nevertheless, do his public duty fearlessly. Though he had many objections to different parts of the measure then before the House, he would, notwithstanding, give his support to the first clause. It did not, in his opinion, interfere with the right of petitioning. Two or three persons might frame the petition, and then procure the signatures of every individual in the town or district. He firmly believed that his Majesty's Ministers had no disposition to invade the liberties of the subject, and he should give his vote for this clause in the most perfect confidence that by so doing he was fulfilling his primary duty in supporting the King and Government.
§ Mr. Roebuck
said, that according to the wording of the Act, no person was to be considered guilty for attending a prohibited meeting until he refused to depart.
§ The Solicitor General
observed, that any person who, after knowing a meeting to have been prohibited, should attend it, 688 would, under the Act be guilty of a misdemeanor, independent of his refusal to disperse upon the requisition of the Magistrates.
§ Mr. Roebuck
said, he objected to the whole clause, which he was convinced was, in fact, levelled against the hon. member for Dublin, and was intended to put him down. He did not, however, think that the attempt would be successful. Might not an account of a meeting which never took place be published? Might not the speeches and sentiments said to have been delivered at it be given forth to the world? If the inflammatory language delivered at meetings were the thing most dreaded, from the effect it was supposed to have upon the people of Ireland, how was the promulgation of such a fictitious account to be prevented by the Act?
§ Mr. Aglionby
said, he entirely coincided in the remarks made by the hon. member for Kircudbright, and considered his objection fatal to the clause.
§ Mr. Cobbett
rose to declare, that he should vote against the clause, as he would against the entire law, however amended or altered. He resisted it because its direct tendency was to take from the Irish people the right to petition, and because it was a stepping-stone to the introduction of a similar measure into England. Everything would be done to narrow it and destroy it by degrees. But he would on this, as on all occasions, endeavour to do justice to his Majesty's servants; if they attacked the rights of the people, it was because they could not maintain their system without destroying them. They had two courses before them—redress of grievances, or deprivation of right. The former they were resolved not to grant, and, consequently, they were compelled to attack the rights of the people. Though, therefore, they might become tyrants, it was from necessity; and the question would be, whether the nation would submit to their system. The member for South Durham (Mr. Pease) deserved the thanks of the country for having let out so much of the real state of the case. The reasons he had given were perfectly understood, the whole matter was quite plain to him; and to show his gratitude to the hon. Member for the service he had rendered, though without intending it, he would tell him an American story. During that war, which he (Mr. Cobbett) should always consider a rebellion—though 689 the right. hon. Secretary for Ireland, and the hon. member for Leeds, pronounced it a glorious revolution—two men, lovers of peace, who would not engage in war—no! not for the whole world—men who would not touch a hair on the head of a human being—but who were persons of exceeding loyalty offered, from their extreme attachment to their King and his Government, to conduct the British army into the American camp; but that Washington, who was so much praised by hon. Gentlemen, seized those loyal persons, and hanged them on one of the highest trees in the country.
had heard of such a thing as passive resistance amongst loyal men, and there were many friends to the King and his Government who refused to pay tithes. They were very loyal subjects, but they refused to pay tithes. Why should not others act in the same manner? In fact, the moment he saw the hon. member for South Durham, he prophesied that he would be soon in the middle of the Treasury Bench, and the prophecy was likely to be accomplished. He would now state the nature of the first clause, which was utterly misunderstood. Would it be believed that no promulgation of the Lord Lieutenant's order to suppress a meeting was necessary? [No!] He repeated it, that no promulgation was necessary, and defied any man to point out a word in the Statute requiring it. He defied any lawyer to show that the order might not be verbal—by word of mouth—in short, in any mode the Lord Lieutenant might please to utter it [No!]. He again defied any person to contradict him.
wished to observe, that during the absence of the hon. Member, the Solicitor General stated that words were to be introduced into the clause, rendering the promulgation of the order necessary.
was arguing on the clause as it stood in the Bill, and the right hon. Secretary had contradicted him, when speaking of the contents of the Bill in his hand, though the right hon. Gentleman now admitted that such words were to be introduced into the clause. He would appeal, however, to the Chairman, and ask whether it was not then impossible to introduce anything into the clause? [Chairman assented] Yet this Bill had not come suddenly upon the House. It had been prepared by the first 690 Equity Judge of the land—had received the sanction of the other House, and of his Majesty's Ministers. Let them observe the nature of the first clause: the order suppressing a meeting might be verbal—it might be issued while the meeting was actually holding. No promulgation of it was necessary—no notice of the illegality of the meeting was required; and yet under such circumstances, two Magistrates were to decide whom they should send to prison for two months. This was the nature of a criminal offence in Ireland. By virtue of an order, delivered in any manner the Lord Lieutenant pleased, and at any time, a man attending a meeting in the remotest part of the kingdom might be imprisoned by a Magistrate for two months. The hon. member for South Durham said, the right of petition was not extinguished in Ireland: to be sure it was not if they licked the hand that struck them. If they crouched submissively before injury and insult, and praised those who dealt out scorn and wrong, they would be allowed to petition; but if they acted a free and manly part, they would be declared criminals by an order issued behind their backs, and without notice. Let them recollect to whose hands their liberties were to be committed. To a Lord Lieutenant, who complained to the hon. member for Cork, that the people of that county did not take off their hats to him when he passed. Such was the man who was to have unlimited power in Ireland. Again, suppose a meeting prohibited; any continuation of it by the same persons or any part of them became illegal under the Bill; so that, should any fancied similarity ever appear between the words or acts of a meeting and one formerly prohibited, or should some persons, no matter how few, who had been present at the former, attend at the latter, a packed Jury would be easily found to declare it a continuation of the prohibited meeting. In fact, there was no meeting in Ireland that was not at the absolute control of the Lord Lieutenant. But even the mode of petition suggested by the member for South Durham was not free; he spoke of two or three persons assembling to frame a petition, but two persons constituted a meeting, and therefore came under the grasp of the Bill [No, no]. He asserted that it was so. He contended, that under the rigorous provisions of the Bill, any one person 691 meeting another in the streets, after the promulgation of an order, would be liable to be tried, and a packed Jury could easily be procured to convict him. Nay, the circumstance of a man visiting his friend at his house might be construed into a meeting. [No, no.] He contended it might. He would reassert, that two persons constituted a meeting; nay, more—that two persons would constitute part of a prohibited association, and should they meet, it would, to all legal intents and purposes, under the Bill, be a meeting of that association; his Majesty's Government appeared to pay too little attention to the opinions of the people. They should remember, that when they were thrown out of office, the Irish and English people forced them back and kept them in office. By their subsequent acts, however, they had totally lost the confidence of the Irish, and he thought they were fast losing the confidence of the English. At all events, he was sure of this, that they deserved to lose it; and the very men whom they were now dragging through the mire of despotism with them, would be the first to blame their conduct when the feeling of the people displayed itself. The clause declared, that meetings should be prevented on the order of the Lord Lieutenant. Now he should like to know what was the meaning of "order?" How was it to be expressed? In what manner was it to be made known? He knew what an order was in a Court of Justice. There it was a rule of Court, and the record of it was faithfully preserved. A military order was entered on the orderly book; but what the order of the Lord Lieutenant was to be he knew not, except it was his single fiat given in any words in which he might choose to convey his meaning. The nature of the power given to the Lord Lieutenant was, to enable him to declare what meetings were illegal. The clause enabled him to prevent any meeting dangerous to the public peace or safety, or inconsistent with the due administration of the law. Now, did hon. Members imagine that the Lord Lieutenant would confine the exercise of his power to such meetings? He would say, that it did not require that Act to enable the Lord Lieutenant to do so. He had that power already. All such meetings were clearly illegal, and all illegal meetings might be put down by Common Law. That opinion 692 was given by Lord Redesdale, who opposed the Bill of 1829 directed against the Catholic Association, on that very ground. Lord Eldon had also expressed a similar opinion. Why then should they give that Magistrate the power of putting down other meetings? Why should they give him the power of suppressing innocent meetings? This was what the people of Ireland had to apprehend. Even all charitable meetings might be suppressed. The fate of 2,500 orphans might depend upon it. It was said, that politics were discussed at these meetings. They generally were; but it was requisite that some exciting topics should be alluded to, in order to induce people to be present. The real object, however, of the Bill was to put down agitation for Repeal of the Union. Its object was to put down the Volunteers and all associations of the people. It had been said, that the Volunteer Association was an illegal one; but the instant that could be proved it should be given up. The number of Members was very limited; but it was said, that it was intended to be more widely spread. It was so, and one of its main objects was, to form a sort of domestic association in the disturbed districts, to put down Whitefeet outrages. If their object was to put down the agitation for the Repeal of the Union, this Act might enable them to accomplish their purpose; but would they, by so doing, put down the desire for that Repeal. If it was the object of the House to put down the desire for Repeal, was it by exhibiting such a striking difference between the treatment of England and Ireland that they expected to obtain their end? Was it by a sort of Irish reciprocity—all on one side? Was it by giving liberty to England, and despotism to Ireland? The Irish were a shrewd, observant people; and what, he asked, must be the result of this? He would venture to prophesy that for one repealer, who at present existed this Bill would create one hundred. Under these circumstances, he objected to this clause.
observed, that the House might well be weary of the debate. He should say but a few words, in order to recall the attention of the Committee to the proper topic. The hon. and learned Gentleman had been arguing upon the supposition that the order of the Lord Lieutenant was to be a verbal order, although he knew that a distinct pledge had been 693 given by the Government that that should be obviated. He should not, however, follow the hon. and learned Gentleman into all his quibbles, and special pleadings, and arguments founded upon the supposition that two persons talking together could be considered an illegal meeting. The words of the clause were, "any association, assembly, or body of persons in Ireland, which he or they shall deem to be dangerous to the public peace or safety, or inconsistent with the due administration of the law, and by the same, or any other order, also to prohibit every or any adjourned, renewed, or otherwise continued meeting of the same, or of any part thereof, under any name, pretext, shift, or device whatsoever." If the adjournment had not been provided for, the principal part of the clause would have been a dead letter. The Bill did not oppose itself to charitable meetings. But if the hon. and learned Gentleman made use of those charitable meetings merely as a pretext—if he introduced fierce political discussions on exciting topics—then he would say it was right to provide in the Bill against such an evasion. On behalf of himself and his colleagues, he repudiated the charge of endeavouring to put down any charitable associations. Another of the hon. and learned Gentleman's arguments was founded on the assumption that the law, as it at present stood, was capable of putting down all illegal meetings. But he would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether the Volunteer Association was illegal? If it was illegal, they could doubtless put it down. But if not—he would ask was it safe—was it not dangerous to the public peace, and to the administration of the laws, and ought it not to be suppressed? Much had been said as to infringing on the right of the subject to petition. Now, nothing could be further from the wish of his Majesty's Government than to put down the expression of the opinion of the people, when that opinion was peaceably expressed. But he must confess that he did not feel that great respect for the petitions against the Bill with which the hon. and learned Gentleman threatened to inundate them, when he considered the manner in which they had been obtained. Circular letters had been sent all over Ireland by the Volunteers, with several forms of petition, requesting active persons in every place to get them signed. He would not complain 694 of that; but when he considered the system of intimidation and menace which prevailed in Ireland, he must confess that he could not yield to those petitions that respect which he should pay to the spontaneous and unbiassed expression of the opinions of the people of Ireland. The circular letters alluded to also announced that the Volunteer Association was about to take measures for its extension—and that a paper of instruction would be forwarded to them, according to the suggestions of Mr. O'Connell, pointing out the best method of proceeding to establish Courts of Arbitration—and especially for the better collection of the National Rent. These circumstances, in his opinion, took away much of that weight which he should otherwise have attached to the petitions which had been presented to that House. The existence of an association, extending its ramifications into all parts of Ireland, allowing nothing to be exempt from its inquisitorial influence, reporting all its proceedings to one great head and centre in Dublin, and endeavouring to monopolize in its own hands all the functions of Government—if not in itself absolutely illegal, must, at least, be allowed to be totally inconsistent with the due administration of the laws. The whole question as to the course which Parliament ought to pursue might be reduced to a single point. Would that House permit the association of Irish Volunteers to triumph over constitutional law? He did not extend these observations to the disturbances which had taken place in Ireland; he alluded to political agitation, and to those bodies which he considered inconsistent with regular Government. He stated this, because he wished the question to be put clearly and distinctly. The hon. and learned member for Dublin wished to know what effect these measures were likely to have upon the question of the Repeal of the Union. Whatever effect they might have, he believed that Parliament would feel it to be its duty to suppress these symptoms of disorganization; and by doing so, he was convinced that it would suppress that cry for Repeal, which was founded on mere clamour, on the declamation of itinerant agitators—on the constant outcry raised against the Sassenach and the stranger—on the violent opinions which, day by day, and week by week, were impressed upon the public mind 695 by associations and delegates, and which made the question of the Repeal of the Union, not a sober matter of opinion and of calm judgment, but the cry of party and of passion, supported, he maintained, by vast numbers of the lower classes, who dared not for their lives form a contrary opinion, and who, he must add, if they did frame a different opinion, dared not express it. If the measure had any effect upon the Repeal of the Union, the suppression of these abuses would be its effect. If the Bill were despotic, its object was to prevent a more intolerable despotism. It was a measure called for by the whole of the higher classes, by most of the middling classes, ay, it was even wished for by many of those who signed petitions against it, and by a great number of the lowest classes in Ireland. It was not a measure of despotism and oppression, but a measure of protection and safety.
observed, that it was exceedingly easy to make assertions. He knew Ireland better than the right hon. Gentleman; and he ought also to have a deeper interest in its prosperity. [No, no.] He did not mean any offence. He had said he ought to have a deeper interest in the prosperity of Ireland than the right hon. Gentleman. His only regret was, that the assertions of the right hon. Gentleman were taken for proofs—his insinuations were received as arguments—and his mis-statements as convincing reasons of the necessity of establishing a despotism in Ireland. He would bring the right hon. Gentleman's statements to the test. He had spoken much of the influence which the Volunteers had had in guiding the public mind with respect to the Repeal of the Union; but what was the fact? They were established but three weeks before the sitting of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman wished to know his opinion, whether the establishment of the Volunteers was legal or not? In his opinion it was not illegal. The right hon. Gentleman then asked whether such an institution was not dangerous to the Government, and he was cheered by the House; he asked whether it was not unsafe for the people, and he was cheered; he asked whether it did not interfere with the administration of the law, and he was cheered;—that was to say, the House was convinced of these three particulars. Now, if the association was of the character which the right hon. Gentleman and 696 the House attributed to it, it was illegal, and could be suppressed by the existing law. He defied any lawyer to contradict that statement, and yet the right hon. Secretary, though he had a packed Jury at his command in Dublin, had not indicted a single individual. Why had he not done so? Because he knew that, in a Court of Justice, assertion would not be taken for proof. A cheer would not be the answer which he would receive from Jurymen. Huzzaing was all very well when they thought they had a right to put down the liberties of Ireland; but what advantage did Ireland ever derive from her connexion with this country? Again and again she had been subjected to confiscation, to massacre, to oppression, to the violation of all law. These miseries had she derived from her connexion with this country, and these were things which had not been done in a corner. Would any Government but that of the right hon. Secretary have come down to the House with such a tale? The right hon. Secretary alluded to the national rent. He knew not whether he meant to attribute any personal motives to him upon that point. [Mr. Stanley expressed his dissent]. The right hon. Gentleman disclaimed it, and he would not dwell, therefore, upon the subject. The right hon. Gentleman thought that the Bill would operate as a sedative. As well might be expect to soothe the pain of a sore by applying a blister, or to tranquillize a patient by the stimulus of irritation. The hand of the foreigner would, indeed, be felt heavily, in Ireland when the people were deprived of the Constitution, and told in mockery, that it was for their benefit. The people of Ireland would not be deceived by such pretences; and he was astonished that Members of that House should deceive themselves. If this Bill passed, the people of Ireland would not stop at the Repeal of the Union.
§ The Committee divided, on the question that the Clause stand part of the Bill: Ayes 322; Noes 70—Majority 252.
§ The Committee then proceeded to the consideration of the second clause, which enacts, that any two or more Justices of the Peace should have the power of dispersing any meeting, and that any person contravening their order in this respect shall be liable to an imprisonment of three calendar months, and, on a second offences for one whole year.697
objected to that part of the clause which authorised Magistrates to force their way into any House in which they should have reason to believe that any prohibited meeting was held, as being-much too vague, as giving too great a discretion to Magistrates, and as affording no redress to individuals wrongfully apprehended.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, that although the Magistrates must act on their own discretion, they would be responsible to the Lord-lieutenant of the county.
stated, that he had a further objection to this clause. By the first clause every person present at a prohibited meeting was to be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and was to be tried and punished according to the course of the Common Law. By the second clause, any person who did not depart from such meeting within a quarter of an hour from the time of the notice of the Magistrates to do so, was to be proceeded against in a summary way, before any two Justices of the Peace, and imprisoned for three months, and for a second, or any subsequent offence, for one year. To this summary jurisdiction on the part of the Magistrates he most strongly objected.
begged pardon for interrupting the hon. and learned Gentleman; but he wished to say, that if the hon. and learned member for Dublin acquiesced in the earlier part of this clause, his Majesty's Government would be disposed to yield the other point, and to exchange the summary jurisdiction for Trial by Jury.
could not acquiesce in any part of the clause, although he would not have recourse to the desperate expedient of a division.
§ On the Motion that the Clause stand part of the Bill,
asked if it was understood that the summary jurisdiction of the Magistrates was taken away, and the Trial by Jury substituted?
§ The Clause, with a verbal Amendment, ordered to stand part of the Bill.698
§ The third Clause also ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ The House resumed; Committee to sit again.