§ Lord Althorp
moved the Order of the Day for the third reading of the Suppression of Disturbances (Ireland) Bill. Order read, and the noble Lord moved that the Bill be read a third time.
§ Mr. Clay
protested, in the strongest terms against this Bill being allowed to pass into a law. He had voted in favour of the first reading of the Bill, in the hope that all the objectionable clauses might be altered in the Committee; but that hope had been defeated; and now, when there was no longer a chance of any alteration taking place, it came before them with all its worst imperfections almost unmitigated. There were still the mongrel Courts-martial; there was the interference with the right of petitioning, and there was also the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. Under these circumstances, he therefore felt compelled to vote against the Bill. 1237 What, he would ask, could be gained by encumbering the Statute Book with this Bill? Absolutely nothing, but the power of putting down one species of agitation in order to set up another. The Government, however, might rest assured that nothing would put a stop to agitation in Ireland but alleviating the distress which so extensively prevailed in that country. As to the present Bill it combined within itself all the odium that attached to strong, and all the character of imbecility which attached itself to weak measures. It was evidently pointed against the hon. and learned member for Dublin, on account of his exertions to obtain redress for his country. But if the Government succeeded in crushing that hon. and learned Member, did they think that there would be no agitation? No, there would be agitation in Ireland as long as she had grievances to complain of. It was by agitation that the few boons which she had obtained were procured, and he would not allow that the hon. and learned member for Dublin did wrong in pursuing his agitation, as long as Ireland was oppressed and misgoverned. He thought, too, that the Bill would be found not to have the effect expected from it. But if he objected to the Bill on the score of inefficiency, he objected to it still more on the score of injustice. That measure was forced upon the Irish nation, because they presumed to complain of their grievances, and agitated to obtain relief. He would ask the House if it were wonderful that Ireland should be agitated? In his opinion it was only wonderful that it was not a scene of anarchy and rebellion. He would wish his Majesty's Ministers, instead of passing a measure like the present, which could only tend to exasperate the Irish nation, to limit it to merely such powers as would be strictly necessary for the suppression of the outrages committed by the Whitefeet. In his opinion, that House ought not to legislate in order to suppress the mere manifestations of agitation; but they ought to legislate in order to do away with the causes of the agitation. But they acted on the direct opposite principle. They made laws which strengthened those causes, and then they complained of the influence of the hon. and learned member for Dublin. He would advise the House to legislate as if that hon. Member were not in existence. The mistakes of his opponents were the true sources of his greatness. The Tithe Bill of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland raised the hon. and 1238 learned member for Dublin a great height in the estimation of his countrymen. To deprive him of power, do justice to the people; satisfy reasonable men, and they will no longer follow the banner of the hon. Member. No man was more opposed than he was to the Repeal of the Union, and he had never heard any arguments in its favour than those supplied by the acts of the Legislature. He hoped that Ministers would not deceive themselves into the belief that the sound and thinking portion of the public were in favour of this measure. He was satisfied that there was a strong prejudice against it among the middle classes of England, and that Ministers had lost much of their popularity in consequence of it. As a proof of the truth of what he said, he would beg of them to look to the result of the late contest in Mary-le-bone—a borough called into existence by themselves—and where, but a few months ago, no man would have had a chance who did not support them. What now' was the case? Their candidate was routed by the very same Gentleman whom their former candidate had routed in the same borough. It was enough to secure defeat to be encumbered with their support. This he considered a proof of the increasing unpopularity of the Government. The hon. Member concluded by repeating that he would oppose the passing of the Bill.
§ Mr. Wilbraham
was convinced that some coercive and severe measure was necessary for the security of person and property in Ireland, and in that conviction he had supported the principle of the Bill. He had also the fullest confidence in his Majesty's Ministers, and was convinced that they would not demand such a Bill if it were not indispensable. He approved of that part of the Bill which went to suppress political associations, because he thought that they were the root of the evil. It had been asserted that these associations had no connexion with predial outrage; if that were the case, human nature must be different in Ireland from what it was every where else. It would, however, require much to convince him that the seditious harangues at the Corn Exchange were not exciting causes of the outrages in the provinces. But though he was convinced of the necessity of some such measure, he had not the same conviction as to the Court-martial clause, and he shrunk from the responsibility of establishing such a total departure from the Constitution. He admitted that in the progress of the Bill the clause had 1239 been greatly qualified, but still not so much so as to satisfy him and to remove his objections to it. He had, therefore, voted against the clause; but, with that exception, he supported the general principle of the Bill. He would vote for the third reading.
could not suffer this Bill to pass without saying a few more words; but though his words were few they should be decisive, and should lead to a division of the House on the subject. The hon. Member on his left (Mr. Clay) having said, that the people were not with Ministers on this measure, there was a sort of negative cheer on the other side of the House. He would say, too, that the people were not with Ministers on this measure. He himself had that morning presented petitions against the measures signed by 50,000 Englishmen, resident in some of the greatest towns in the kingdom, among others Manchester, Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Nottingham, and Preston, the subscribers being some of the most respectable inhabitants, if respectability was taken to mean wealth and station. He had presented, too, about forty petitions from different parts in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales; and every petition presented to the House on the subject was strongly against the Bill; not one was for it. The voice of the whole people of England was against this abominable Bill. He would not detain the House any longer, but at once read a Motion he intended to bring forward, and at least put it on record. He intended to divide on the Motion; he had not thought of asking any one to second it, and he did not much care who voted for it; he was sure that his colleague would; and whether any body supported it or not, he and his colleague would at least have done their duty. The hon. Member then read the Motion, which was, that "This House, seeing in this Bill the substitution of Military Courts for Courts consisting of Judges and Jurors—seeing in it the abrogation of the most precious of all the institutions of the country—seeing clearly that its main purpose is to keep in the hands of the present aristocracy the plunder of the ancient Church and the poor, which the ancestors of that aristocracy obtained by apostacy, and which has been retained by the cruel penal laws and by the shedding of innocent blood—and suspecting moreover, that this Bill is intended as a prelude to the adoption of similar measures in Great Britain, this House will read this Bill a third time this day six months." He would make but a very few observations, and those merely to 1240 repeat his conviction that this Bill was not intended for the Irish people alone. The idea of introducing an armed police force throughout this country had occurred to Ministers, from their being well assured that they would not be able to carry on the levying of their most oppressive taxation without this species of Executive Government: this was their only means of exacting the taxes; and he himself had reason to believe that they had their plans already before them, and that they would soon be brought into the House. The hon. Gentleman concluded by repeating his Motion.
§ The Speaker
said, that he presumed the hon. Member meant it as an Amendment on the original Motion. It was not customary however, to enter on the journals of the House any reasons for a Motion, and the hon. Member would see that by assigning reasons for his Motion, he would prevent those who did not assent to those reasons, and did assent to his Motion, from voting for it.
§ Mr. Cobbett
did not Care about that; but as he understood that his Amendment was not consistent with the orders of the House, he would move simply that the Bill be read a third time that day six months.
§ Mr. John Fielden
seconded the Amendment. He was sorry to say, that he concurred in the opinion that this measure was not intended solely for the Irish nation.
§ Mr. Poulter
defended the conduct of his Majesty's Ministers with respect to this measure, and deprecated the assertion made by the hon. and learned member for Dublin, and other Gentlemen from Ireland, that there was an understanding between the Members on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, and the Government, to degrade and enslave their country. No idea could possibly be more erroneous. He could assure the hon. Gentleman opposite, that many hon. Members on that side of the House were total strangers to his Majesty's Ministers. What, then, had been the general character and motive of their support? It was, that without obligation or connexion, unknowing and unknown, they believed them to be the first Ministers in this country who had united the power with a desire to do justice to the whole community. In spite of the insinuations thrown out, particularly by the hon. member for Middlesex, he would assert that they were real representatives of the people—carrying with them the hearts and affections of the middle classes, and of the yeomanry of England, and 1241 owing nothing to the Government. They acted with it for good purposes only, and for no other; and they conscientiously believed that Bill to be one of those good purposes. He knew that this qualified support had been called weakness in the present Government; that the absolute command of former Ministers had been called strength: but that an apparent and delusive strength, because it failed to carry with it the opinion of the people. The imputed weakness of the present Government was real and constitutional strength, because it carried with it the sentiments of England. It was an easy matter for the hon. and learned member for Dublin to obtain admiration and applause for his powerful talents at certain popular meetings; but let him not mistake this for the real voice of the English community. It was an easy matter for him to cast imputations upon those who possessed the suffrages of their constituents; but let him remember, that in spite of wealth, authority, and power, they had been triumphantly returned to this House, unshackled and unpledged, except to the general public good, by the regard and devotion of enlightened and patriotic men. They were a sample of that majority which, by his own able showing, and unanswerable arguments on the Reform Bill, would carry with it internal and irrefragable evidence of the wisdom and justice of any measure which they supported, because they were the undoubted depository of the feelings and of the love of the people. They waited night after night, to hear some answer to the overwhelming and tremendous case which the Ministers of the Crown had presented to this House. They heard none—they heard nothing approaching to an answer: most of the facts which were appealed to, had no bearing on the precise case before the House. They witnessed, with pleasure, in some of the hon. members for Ireland, a brilliant vivacity of mind, a powerful imagination, great goodness and warmth of heart, and a devoted attachment to their country; but their efforts had fallen powerless upon the reason and upon the judgment of the House. They should have convinced the House, either that the enormities stated had not occurred, or that the powers of the Constitution were adequate to suppress them. Anything else was telum imbelle sine ictu. Even now, even at the eleventh hour, if they would show cause, the independent members were ready to say "No," 1242 and to go forth with the members for Ireland in opposition to the Bill; and without it they could not ask or expect support. The greater part of the case on the opposite side had been confined to the subject of the old and historic misgovernment of Ireland. In all that he fully agreed with the hon. Gentlemen opposite; but what argument could be derived from that, to justify the total annihilation of all law and of all government? He admitted that the undoubted advantages in trade conferred by England on Ireland had been but a poor compensation for the calamities inflicted on that country; because, while the capital of the country had been decidedly increasing, the misery and wretchedness of a deserted population had been increasing also. No good man would cast the slightest reproach upon the individual and suffering ministers of the Irish Church; but he lamented to say, that he must always regard them as the unhappy though innocent possessors of a fatal and injurious extent of property. God had told mankind that he would not permit his worship to be propagated by force, by wealth, or by power; they had violated his eternal laws, and were reaping the fruits of that violation. Where had been the moral and the social influence of the landlords of Ireland, without which no community was ever known to flourish? Where had they been who should have been examples and protectors to the people—who should have delighted in the prosperity of their tenants and their families, who should have watched over their happiness and comforts, their moral and even their religious education? As a nation, he regretted to say, we had deserved all that had fallen upon us; but that nation, by its first real Representatives, hastened to express its contrition and repentance, and expected to be forgiven. To abandon the protection of life and property would be an aggravation of, and not an atonement for, the past. And how could that affect the present Ministers of the Crown, who had spent their political lives in the most determined opposition to the whole Irish system—who had protested and fought against it? The hon. and learned Gentleman could not accuse them. The truth was, the hon. and learned Gentleman had appeared upon the theatre of the political world too late—he had fallen upon a wrong time; his distinguished powers should have been displayed at another period—he should have sat in Parliament when Ministers of a different 1243 system filled the benches opposite to him. The outpouring of the full indignation of the hon. and learned Gentleman was, indeed, a most unmerited visitation upon the first Ministers of England who were ever to be counted amongst the true friends of Ireland. Former Ministers had possessed great talents, and he believed the best intentions, but they were controlled and overruled by a bad and a vicious system. It was intended by this Bill to destroy the Trial by Jury in Ireland. Trial by Jury had ceased practically to exist, and the question was, how it might best be restored. He was glad that some qualification had been introduced into the clause for establishing Courts-martial, particularly that proviso which gave to such Courts Members of greater experience than might have constituted them under the Bill as it had come from the Lords. It had been contended that Special Commissions would have rendered the appointment of Courts-martial unnecessary; but Special Commissions were only anticipations of the ordinary Courts of Assize, and would not be found more efficient than the ordinary courts. The same difficulties which lay in the way of a prompt and efficient administration of justice by the one would necessarily apply to the other. Courts-martial were, therefore, in his opinion, rendered necessary by the circumstances of the country.
§ Sir Samuel Whalley
said, in coming forward on this occasion he felt that he laboured under considerable disadvantage, not having heard those able and eloquent appeals which had been made to the House in favour of this measure. If he had heard them, many of the scruples which he entertained against the Bill would perhaps have been removed. It was possible that the Government might have convinced him that the omission of those clauses which were opposed to his feelings, and be believed to the feelings of all the people of England, would be destructive of the efficacy of the Bill, and that, therefore, they ought to be retained. No such conviction had, however, reached his mind—and he could not give it his support. He was very glad to see that some of the clauses had been modified, though the modification in no instance was complete enough to induce him to support them. In its present state, he certainly saw no reason for voting in favour of it. Having read the powerful and touching appeals of a right hon. Gentleman, who was now, he believed, Colonial Secretary, relative to the 1244 dreadful atrocities that were perpetrated in Ireland, he, founding his opinion on those statements, would have willingly entertained any fair measure that promised to establish the supremacy of the law in that country, and to give that protection to life and to property which was the bond of union in all civilized states. That was the great social compact which united men together, and when that social compact was not voluntarily sustained, it became necessary to strengthen the power of Government. But the great constituency which he represented naturally asked, was there no mode of asserting the supremacy of the law except by suspending the Constitution? They saw with great abhorrence even the Court-martial clause of the Bill. They considered that military officers were, of all men, the least fitted to preside in Courts of Justice. Brought up in habits of implicit obedience to authority, they could not be considered as impartial administrators of the law between the Government and the people. He wished to see Ireland in a state of peace and tranquillity—he wished, for that purpose, that the law should be fairly allowed to take its course; but he could not approve of such a measure as this. Ireland had been suffering for ages under a series of misgovernment, improvements had been promised, and the people could not but look with jealousy even on measures of a remedial description, when they were accompanied by a bill so oppressive and so tyrannical as that now before the House. He believed, that Ministers experienced the most unfeigned pain in bringing this measure forward, and he was convinced that no circumstance would give them more heartfelt satisfaction than to be able to come down to the House and state, that no necessity existed for having recourse any longer to extraordinary powers for the purpose of upholding the dominion of the law. But he certainly did think that the system which seemed now to be acted upon—that of bestowing a boon with one hand and a curse with the other—was not the system by which peace and happiness would be restored to Ireland. Neither was it a system consistent with the universal feeling of the people of this country. He had spoken thus early, because he feared, if he did not seize that opportunity, he should be unable, in consequence of illness, to state his sentiments, and the sentiments of his constituents. He trusted that, after one short year had passed, this measure would 1245 be viewed as a mere dead letter. He hoped that the people would give no excuse for its being carried into effect. He implored the hon. and learned member for Dublin, and all those who had any influence over the Irish people, to exercise that influence in pacifying and tranquillizing them.
§ Mr. Barnard
regretted very much that one of the first votes he should have to give in that House was in favour of such a measure, but he hoped that the suspension of the liberties of the people of Ireland would be only for a moment, and that in a short period, they would be restored brighter than ever. His consent to the Bill was wrung from him by hard necessity, but he felt convinced that the power which he intrusted to the Government would be properly and carefully administered. He would, however, recommend the Government to attend to the wants of the Irish people, to establish Poor-laws, and to take away every pretext for agrarian disturbance. Looking forward to the period with pleasure when he should be called on to give his vote in favour of beneficial measures for Ireland, he meant, in the mean time, to vote for the third reading, as he had voted for all the other stages, of the Bill.
§ Mr. Langdale
had voted for the first and second reading of the Bill, but he could not vote for the third reading. He had voted for the first and second reading, because a case had been, he thought, made out, that some extreme measure was necessary; but there were some of the clauses to which he could not agree. He had intended in the Committee to make some objections to those clauses; but these objections were so much better stated by others than he could state them that he had abstained. There was one clause which stamped the Bill as a measure of great severity. That was the clause which established Military Courts. One circumstance, in particular, he thought of great importance—a redeeming feature in the character of the Irish through all these disturbances. On neither side of the House had one word ever been said to lead any person to suppose that, in all these disturbances, there was any symptom of disloyalty. There was no feeling in the peasantry against the soldiery, because they did not consider the soldiery as their Judges, but only as executing the orders of their superiors. By constituting these Military Courts the Judges of the people, they would run the risk of turning on the military that odium 1246 with which the Magistrates were now beheld. There was nothing, he thought, likely to be more dangerous, than that the detestation with which the people now beheld the Magistrates, should be turned upon the officers and the soldiers. He was afraid that such a feeling might lead to outrage on the part of the peasantry against the soldiery, which would be followed by irritation in the latter. Who could then say, from one day to another, that on the next day there would not be civil war in Ireland? Under this particular view, independently of all feelings which he entertained againt Courts-martial, he should feel bound to vote against the third reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. John Young
The hon. Member (Mr. Langdale) who had just sat down spoke of a detestation which existed in Ireland against the Magistrates; it had been too much the fashion in the House to run the Magistrates of Ireland down. He thought hon. Gentlemen who made such accusations would pursue a course more beneficial to the country if they were to fix on some act of oppression committed by a Magistrate, and bring it before the proper legal tribunals. This mode of proceeding would have the advantage of bringing the offending party, if guilty, to justice, and of affording him, if innocent, an opportunity of defending himself, and clearing his character; but the Magistracy of Ireland were intimately connected and identified with the resident landed proprietors; and it might be all very well for those who had little connexion with the property, and still less with the gentlemen of that country to depreciate their motives, and disparage their characters. But he had received many kindnesses from that gentry, had mixed much with them, and would never sit in silence to hear them abused. For a portion of them, at least for those of the county he represented, he would answer confidently, they deplored as much as any men could do the wretched state of their country; they never had done anything to aggravate the sufferings of the people, but on the contrary were willing and active in their endeavours to relieve them. Whenever their assistance was required they would not shrink from their duty, but would come forward, as he knew they had already done, to concert and carry into effect measures for the support of the laws, and the preservation of tranquillity. He had been much surprised on hearing many Gentlemen attribute the present disturb- 1247 ances in Ireland and indeed all disturbances that had ever taken place there, to some particular aggression, some single grievance Was it not notorious that combinations had been entered into, and outrages perpetrated there, not merely for the purpose of sapping the foundations of the Constitution, but pointedly distinguished by an attempt to separate that country from England. Was it not well known that conspiracies had been formed and disturbances fomented without a view to any particular grievance—not directed to the attainment of Roman Catholic emancipation, or Parliamentary Reform, or the abolition of tithes, but to the open and avowed object of subverting all law and order—of disconnecting the two countries, and as had been frequently said out of the House, and more than once within its walls in his own hearing, of entirely throwing off the Saxon yoke? Such a feeling, he firmly believed, was at this moment very prevalent in Ireland, and further, that it was supported by numbers, by physical force, and a very complete system of organization, and how it was to be met and checked unless by the exercise of an opposing force he knew not. Entertaining this sentiment he had voted for the first and second reading of the Bill, but while he so used the vote intrusted to him by his constituents, he had not been insensible of the extreme difficulty of the position in which the conduct of his Majesty's Ministers bad placed him with regard to those constituents. They had no confidence in the present Administration; they only knew that their prayers had been slighted—their petitions disregarded—and their best interests, on several occasions, sacrificed to the demands of those whom long and sad experience had taught them to consider their bitterest enemies; and they saw the Ministry pledged to a series of measures, partly remedial, partly coercive, to no one part of which could they give an entire approval. The so styled remedial measures involved in their eyes, principles pernicious to long-established and valuable institutions; and were in their details fraught with manifest partiality and glaring injustice. And as for the coercive measure—that wide infraction on the Constitution—that abandonment of all the safeguards of freedom—who could approve of its provisions, except in the last extremity? It was not expediency, but the urgent and melancholy necessity of the case which required their assent to this measure. But his constituents might fairly 1248 ask him, what guarantee had they that those fearful powers might not be capriciously and unwarrantably exercised against them? Might they not ask, by whom were they to be exercised? His only answer would be, by a Lord-lieutenant who confounded public opinion with casual popularity—who had often gone, as it were out of his way to slight and injure them and their best interests—and whose whole system, since he first set foot in Ireland, had been only a series of vacillations from violence, which obtained no respect, to concession which never merited favour. He did not think that what had taken place in the Committee on the Bill was likely to increase the confidence of those he had the honour of representing. Ministers had come down with ample and authentic documents, proved their case, and demanded powers which in the first instance they must have considered as only sufficient. Yet after all this they admitted modifications. Who could confide in men who had in such a way relinquished positions which they at first took up as indispensable, and who quailed as they had done, before the violence of a small but determined opposition. His hon. and learned friend, the member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Shaw) had clearly pointed out how materially they had weakened the measure in that part that related to political offences. If the agricultural outrages were not caused by or connected with political excitement, so terrible a measure should never have been brought forward; much smaller powers would have been sufficient to quell them; but if the two were really connected, the political crime should not have been suffered to go unpunished, while the agricultural, the minor offence, was so heavily visited. Either the clause should never have been produced or it should have been persisted in. He begged to set the hon. member for Marylebone right in one point; he had erroneously stated that the hon. and learned member for Dublin led all Ireland like a child. He could assure the House that Ireland was by no means unanimous in its devotion to the hon. and learned Member; and if the hon. member for Marylebone would take the trouble of counting over a list of the Representatives from Ireland, he would find the majority did not rank themselves under the banners of the hon. and learned member for Dublin. He had not risen to enter at length into arguments on the measure before the House, but merely to express what he considered to be the 1249 sentiments of the constituency who had sent him there to guard their interests. They formed a part of the body which had once been considered the outguards of British interests, who at the present day possessed a vast proportion of the property of Ireland, and united in themselves some of the most industrious and improving classes. If inclination, or indifference, or short-sighted policy, or the political preponderance which their opponents bad attained in that House and the country, induced Ministers to abandon them and leave them as they were, depressed and disheartened, they would not consider such treatment, as some hon. Member said the opposite party would, the refusal of their demands as a declaration of war, but they would consider it as a sentence of banishment—they would go forth in hundreds, aye, thousands of them were at that very moment going to seek, in other lands for that protection and encouragement which they could no longer obtain in their own, under that Constitution which their forefathers had been no mean instruments in aiding England to maintain. He would admit in its fullest extent, while he deeply lamented the wretched state of Ireland, and he admitted the necessity which existed for reinforcing the law with new powers—at the same time he must express his dislike of and even his repugnance to the severity and extent of the present measure—his dissent from the modifications which had been allowed, as only tending to render it anomalous, to impair its efficacy, and probably to make it as vain as it was violent. He did not place any confidence in his Majesty's present advisers, but under all the circumstances of the case, he would not offer the Bill any opposition because he would not leave those in power a handle for saying that any one of the Representatives of Ireland who considered themselves more particularly connected with the property, and the better disposed classes of that country was found to throw obstacles in their way when they professed themselves willing to attempt to tranquillize it by means and measures of their own choosing.
§ Sir Harry Verney
having voted for this measure in all its stages, was happy to embrace that opportunity of saying, that it was with great regret that he had found himself under the necessity of supporting such a measure. He did not regret having supported the Bill, because it was necessary to give to the Ministers the powers they asked, as rather than not have voted as he 1250 had done, he would have voted for the removal of the Ministers; there was no middle course. Either the Ministers must be trusted, or they must be displaced. They had taken a vast responsibility on themselves. In the present instance, the responsibility attached itself especially to the right hon. Gentleman, late Secretary for Ireland; and it was in reliance upon his justice, integrity, and judgment, on the affairs of Ireland, that he had given his assent to this measure. The duties of that right hon. Gentleman must have been attended with peculiar difficulty. Ireland had long been governed by one party. The Protestants had been well called the English garrison in Ireland—a brave, a faithful, and a loyal garrison; a highly intelligent portion of the Irish community; but it must be owned that such a garrison, under no very rigorous control, and sensible of the debt of gratitude due to them from England, might sometimes have lorded it over their fellow-subjects. This party, so distinguished for wealth, ability, and power, it had been the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to restrain; and therefore their Catholic opponents, so long the victims of oppression, and so vastly superior in number, had thought that the time had arrived, when they in their turn were to domineer, and they had opposed to the Government of the right hon. Secretary, all the obstacles that a dense and ignorant population, under the mental and spiritual dominion of their priests, and unrestrained by the influence of their absentee landlords, had been able to offer. It had been said, that the people of England were against the Bill, but he believed that such an assertion was totally destitute of foundation. He knew that many petitions had been presented against it, but were those petitions spontaneously sent? Were they not sent in consequence of suggestions from others? They seemed to come only from a few places, and to be the offspring of a few men. Under such circumstances, he doubted if they were entitled to that respect which the spontaneous petitions of the people complaining of grievances deserved, and would, he hoped, always obtain.
§ Mr. Hall Dare
, as the Representative of a large constituency in the neighbourhood of the Metropolis, took it upon himself to deny that the people of England were against the measure. Those hon. Members were wrong who supposed that the people of England were inclined to resist a measure which was to give peace to Ireland. 1251 He disliked the modifications in the Court-martial clause, because they destroyed the efficacy, but left all the odium of the Bill, He would, nevertheless, support it.
regretted that this first step should be taken to destroy the union between the two countries. The Bill had been so nursed and dandled in that House, so altered and modified, that when it went hack to the House of Lords, the Peers would not know their own child. In the name of his constituents, he protested against the Bill, and would resist it to the last.
§ Mr. Barron
regretted to find, that the conduct of his Majesty's Ministers had placed him, and those who thought and acted with him, in a false position, by the grounds upon which they called upon them to assent to these violent measures. The main ground was, that no justice could be had in Ireland by trial by Jury. Now he would fearlessly state, that the late trials in Ireland had given a flat contradiction to these assertions. It was not his intention to detain, the House, or to do anything to impede the Bill, when he considered that it had been now nearly two months before the House, but he would repeat, that in the late trials by Jury, the majesty of the law had been triumphantly vindicated in Ireland. Away then went the argument of his Majesty's Ministers in support of this Bill, and of the necessity of Courts-martial, and the exercise of military power. He for one felt bound to give his thanks to the independent English and Scotch Members; and he was sure they would receive the thanks of their constituents for their exertions in support of the liberties of Ireland. They came boldly forward on that occasion, because they felt that when the liberties of one portion of the United Kingdom were destroyed, England and Scotland might well tremble for their own. Ministers had, he repeated, placed him and others in a false position, because they made them appear the abettors of the nightly murders and other misdeeds of the miscreants who prowled about for the worst of purposes. He had been induced to go certain lengths in support of the Bill, but he objected to giving such powers with scarcely any responsibility. One of the worst features of the Bill was, that it was open to the greatest abuses; whilst those to whom these extraordinary powers were intrusted, were irresponsible for the manner in which they were exercised. It was vain to talk of responsibility. A poor man might be con- 1252 fined in a dungeon six months without an opportunity of complaining, and then he was told he might petition. The poor and humble to contend against the rich and powerful,—there was, there could be no responsibility in this. He protested against the Bill for these three principles which it embodied; the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and of the trial by Jury, and the abrogation of the right of holding public meetings even for the purpose of petitioning.
§ Mr. George F. Young
said, that he had supported his Majesty's Ministers on the Address, but when the present measure was developed to the House, he felt that though some extraordinary powers were necessary for the administration of justice in Ireland, yet some of those demands were of so extravagant a nature as to call for his determined opposition. He had listened to all the debates on this question with great attention, and he must say, with regard to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman, late Secretary for Ireland, that while he admitted the power and eloquence of that right hon. Gentleman's appeal, he could not congratulate him on the purity of his taste in introducing so many acrimonious personalities as he had thought proper to indulge in. The right hon. Gentleman's speeches had not had so much effect on him as the speeches of the noble Lord, the member for Nottingham, (Lord Duncannon) and of the hon. member, the Lord-lieutenant of the county of Wexford (Mr. Carew). But the evidence which was more conclusive than any other, was that of the hon. and learned member for Dublin, who, in the course of a speech on another subject, made use of some expressions respecting the state of society in Ireland, which; had the most powerful influence on his mind. The hon. and learned Gentleman stated, that there was a large portion of the population of the north of Ireland who were armed, and ready to break out into actual rebellion. [Mr. O'Connell.—No! no!] He could refer to those documents which usually furnished them with the proceedings of the House, and he had a perfect recollection of the observation. He was justified in taking the words that were so uttered for another purpose, as an argument on this occasion. In his opinion, the evidence was conclusive as to the state of Ireland, and furnished proof that the ordinary law was not sufficient for the security and protection of life and property. He had voted in the Committee once against 1253 the Ministers, but he felt, that because he had not been able to gain the modifications he had desired, he ought not to deprive Ireland of such advantages as the Bill would confer, and he should, therefore, vote for the third reading.
§ Mr. Ward
wished to make as few additions as possible to the flood of dissertation by which the House had been overflowed during the last six weeks; but he felt himself bound to offer some few remarks to the House. He did not mean to convey any censure upon the minority. The Irish Members had a duty to perform, and they had performed it fearlessly and perseveringly, and with as much good humour as it was possible to show while playing a losing game. No one, he was sure, could have followed as he had, every stage of the proceedings, without feeling the most unfeigned respect for the abilities displayed throughout by hon. Members, and by the hon. and learned member for Dublin in particular; abilities which had enabled him, notwithstanding sundry knock-down blows, and in the face of a great numerical majority, on the part of his opponents, to continue the struggle to the last, and to effect, by the force of argument, many important alterations in the Bill. In this, however, he had been mainly assisted by the liberal spirit of his Majesty's Ministers. Not a single practical improvement had been proposed, not trenching too deeply upon the main principles of the Bill, which they had not adopted; not a single doubt been suggested as to the possible misinterpretation of a clause which they had not at once come forward to remove. The hon. and learned Gentleman had admitted that upon more than one occasion; and when he looked at the extent of the concessions made, concessions bearing, all of them, upon the most important clauses of the Bill; excluding political offences from the jurisdiction of Courts'-martial; doing away with all discretionary power in domiciliary visits, and giving up private imprisonment, for which nothing could have induced him to vote. He did not see how if extraordinary powers were required, less than those now given could be expected to answer the end. Some hon. Members thought that the efficiency of the Bill was already endangered, and particularly the hon. member for Essex and the hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin, but the opinions of that hon. Gentleman were too deeply tinged with party spirit to have that weight to which his 1254 abilities, would, otherwise entitle them. It was not for the purpose of putting down one man, or one party, and setting up another, that the British Parliament was called upon to legislate, but for the solemn the sacred purpose of vindicating against all men and all parties, the authority of the law, and of proving that the whole force of the community would be directed against those who dared to resist it. That he believed would be effected by the present Bill; for, although it might not give to a drum-head Court-martial the power of hanging or transporting, the hon. and learned member for Dublin, after four hours' notice, which was the principal objection made to it by its conservative opponents, it would put an end to the system which had rendered it so difficult, of late, for Juries to do their duty honestly, by bringing within the immediate grasp of the Act those miscreants who took an active part in the work of intimidation. If they could do that—if they could check the atrocities of the Whiteboys, and, by giving protection against nocturnal violence, put an end to the reign of terror in Ireland, they might safely leave political offences to the decision of a Jury. There was no meaning in the phrase invented by some hon. Gentlemen opposite, to excuse their votes against the Court-martial clause in its modified shape—namely, that they would not make one law for the rich, and another for the poor. The House had not done that. It had not made one law for the rich, and another for the poor. It had simply removed the check upon all law, established by the rich through the agency of the poor—by inflaming their passions—by taking a cruel advantage of their distress—and it now left those who ventured to continue this dangerous game, to the judgment of those laws which our ancestors bad transmitted to us. They had seldom proved ineffectual for the protection of innocence, or for the punishment of guilt; and although their vigour had been much impaired of late, he had little doubt that it would be restored by the present Bill. He agreed with the hon. and learned member for Edinburgh, to whose speech, the other night, he listened with the deepest attention, in thinking that necessity alone ought to be the measure of this assistance. All constitutional changes were evils, and of those evils they ought to choose the least. Upon that principle, in a Bill, every part of which was repugnant to his feelings, alike as on Englishman and as 1255 a man, he had supported every modification which had appeared to him to be practicable, and bad regarded these changes as the only bright points throughout this gloomy discussion. He might be told, perhaps, that it would have been easy for him to have increased the number of these bright points, by opposing Government upon some of the principal clauses of the Bill. He admitted that; but he could not have opposed Ministers upon any of the principal clauses, without opposing his own honest conviction likewise, that if they wished to preserve a vestige of the spirit of the Constitution in Ireland, they must dispense, for a time with its forms. Had he not entertained this conviction, nothing should have induced him to enter upon the consideration of such a Bill as the present at all; but, entertaining it as he did, lie did not feel himself justified, while admitting the principle, to object to the details. Hence his vote in favour of Courts-martial and of domiciliary visits; hence his opposition to the amendments proposed by the hon. and learned member for Dublin, two nights ago. Every change was founded upon the assumption, that the ordinary powers of the law might be rendered sufficient for the preservation of tranquillity, if the law were properly enforced; and this argument again rested upon the alleged success of the Special Commissions in Clare. Now, what were the facts of this case? He did not think that the House was aware, as he certainly was not aware, until within a very few days, that at the time of this boasted success—this great and peaceful triumph of the moral authority of the law—no less than 7,0()() men were employed in Clare alone to protect the persons of the ministers of justice, and to give a limited effect to their decrees. Were they prepared to follow up this system, and to detach an army into each county, as a necessary appendage to a Judge's retinue?—to send barristers and lancers on the same circuit, and to regulate the progress of our courts by the march of a regiment of the line? It was really an insult upon the understanding of the House, to say that this was the wisest, and the safest, and the most constitutional course. As if the British Constitution acknowledged such accessaries—as if there were any thing more unconstitutional in the employment of the military, even as proposed by the Bill, than in the habitual application of military means, to give effect to laws the sacred character of which Gentlemen so continually invoked. He 1256 had disposed of the arguments of those who founded their opposition to the present Bill upon the results of the Clare Commission. But there was another class amongst its opponents, with whom he did not pretend to argue at all. He alluded to those English Members whose prejudices were so strong, or whose intellects were so obtuse, that, in the very teeth of facts, they denied the existence of any peculiarities in the state of Ireland that called for extraordinary proceedings. At the head of this class he should place the hon. member for Oldham, the hon. and learned member for Bath, and the hon. and gallant member for the county of Surrey—Gentlemen who seldom rose in the House except for the purpose of reprobating its proceedings, and of misrepresenting, most grossly, the motives of those to whom they were opposed. He was aware that it was little less than high treason to speak thus of those hon. Members, for, if they were to be believed, they possessed a monopoly of reason, of public principle, and of liberality of feeling. They alone had any regard for the wishes and interests of the people. It was a pity that to so many advantages they did not add a little common sense. He did not mean to include the hon. member for Oldham in the last remark, for few men possessed a larger share of penetrating common sense than that hon. Gentleman, although accompanied by many peculiarities; but as to the other hon. Members alluded to, it was a pity that they had not a little power of ingrafting practice upon theory, finding out that Government was not a system to be studied upon paper, but an art to be learnt from, and regulated by, the wants of mankind. The hon. and learned member for Bath (Mr. Roebuck), would not, he was persuaded, have the slightest scruples in throwing the whole country into confusion to verify a proposition in The Westminster Review. He gave the House a tolerable specimen of the lengths he was prepared to go in presenting a petition to the House, when he used such language as Gentlemen might often hear outside of the House, but such as never before, he believed, had been heard in the House. Even Mr. Steele, who was such a prominent agitator in Ireland, would find himself distanced by the boundless extravagance of the hon. member for Bath. That hon. Gentleman had quoted the language of Mr. Fox, but he was sure if he had studied the words of that celebrated orator attentively, he might find there lessons both of moderation 1257 and wisdom. He would call the attention of the House to one observation of that great man. The hon. member accordingly read a passage, to this effect:—"No man is more disposed than I am to hold sacred the forms of the Constitution, but I hold them sacred only as they are outguards and protectors of the main body. The moment they cease to be guardians and become betrayers, I cease to venerate the forms, but refer to the substance of the Constitution itself." That was what the House had now done. They had disregarded the forms to save the substance, and had dispensed with the forms of the law in order to give legal protection to those whom the law in its present state could not protect. He had ventured a few nights before to allude to the petitions presented to the House against the Bill, and had then ventured to assert, that they did not express the genuine and spontaneous will of the people. He was met by the hon. and learned member for Dublin, who asserted, that the petitions were both numerous and spontaneous. As he was not in the House when the petitions were presented he was taken a-back by this declaration, but he had since seen reason to be surprised that the petitions were not more numerous. He would take the case of the petitions from Dublin. Not content with one large petition having 16,000 signatures, the same persons had signed other petitions under every variety of form. The inhabitants of parishes, and even streets, sent separate petitions, and the various divisions of the trades afforded similar convenient pretexts. First the Dublin people signed as citizens, and then as butchers, tailors, and barbers. Even the journeymen of these trades had sent separate petitions, the same men swelling the numbers, by signing under different characters, different petitions. He was only surprised, that, under such a system, a much larger number of petitions bad not been sent up. The petitions from England, which amounted only to fifty, and Scotland, had emanated chiefly from the Political Unions, and all the Members well knew how they were got up. But where, he would ask, were the numerous assemblages that congregated last year on another subject? Where the crowd, who, last year, offered up their grateful incense to the hon. member for Middlesex? He denied that there had been any strong or general expression of the feeling of the people of England against this measure. The people of England had been silent, because they 1258 did not regard. Good, sound, stern, English common sense had led them to participate in the feelings of his Majesty's Ministers.
§ Mr. Maurice O'Connell
said, he would reply first to the latter part of the hon. member for St. Alban's speech. The hon. Member, who sat behind the Treasury Bench, used the "we" with so much consequence, in speaking of the intentions of his Majesty's Ministers, that he (Mr. Maurice O'Connell) thought it very likely that, in the course of the changes which were taking place in the Ministry, he might meditate a descent to the Treasury Bench itself. The hon. Member had stated, that, out of the places which had petitioned against the Irish Coercion Bill, only fifty were from places in England, and that these were all from places in which there were Political Unions. Now these very Political Unions, which were now decried, were, a year ago, the means of maintaining Ministers in office. He knew an individual who, at that period, had met a party that had just left one of his Majesty's Ministers with fifty franks for the purpose of writing letters to the leaders of the different Political Unions in the country. These letters were written and received; and in consequence of these letters, the movement at that time took place.[Cries of "Name."] He was ready with the name. He never stated a fact in that House of which he could not give proof. He would not mention the name publicly, but he would mention it to any one of his Majesty's Ministers, and there were Members in that House who knew it to be a fact. When the hon. Member spoke against the petitions of the people, he surely could not be aware that the hon. member for Oldham had on one day presented twenty-five petitions against the Bill, signed by 25,000 persons. While only a very few petitions had been presented in favour, 470 had been presented against it, signed by 400,000 persons. The hon. Member had thrown some ridicule on the trades of Dublin, but was the hon. Gentleman aware that the guild of barbers to which he particularly alluded included the surgeons; and that, therefore, it was almost certain that that guild was composed of the most enlightened and best educated men in the Corporation? The hon. Member was ignorant of that, or he sacrificed truth for a bad joke. The hon. Member referred to the hon. Member for Oldham, to his hon. and learned friend the member for Bath, and to the gallant member for Surrey; and he had spoken of 1259 them in language against which he must protest. In this part of his speech the hon. Member seemed to think that he seized time by the forelock; as two of the hon. Members alluded to were out of the House at the moment, and the hon. member for Oldham, had already addressed the House, and therefore could not reply to the hon. Member, in those observations the hon. Member thought proper to speak of those hon. Gentlemen in terms, which, if they had been present, would have been replied to at once. When the hon. Member spoke of his hon. and learned friend, he perhaps did so undesignedly, and was not aware that his hon. and learned friend was absent. If the hon. Member was aware of his hon. friend's absence, it was extremely ungenerous in him, in his impromptu to go out of his way to attack his hon. friend. The hon. Member sneered at the hon. and learned member for Bath, for having written in the Westminster Review. He did not know that it was discreditable to be engaged in literary pursuits; and certainly he did not expect to hear literary occupations sneered at by those who had obtained posts in the ministry from contributing to a particular review. The literary labours of his hon. friend were, he hoped, a source of emolument to him; and it was for the hon. Member to prove, that such labours were discreditable. His hon. and learned friend, on the occasion alluded to, had manfully stated his opinion; and he felt the hon. Member should have answered them at the time. With respect to the sending the Special Commission into the county of Clare which had been alluded to, he felt called upon to state one or two facts to the House. For some months previous to the issuing Special Commissions, there had been a great deal of prædial agitation, and it was gradually extending itself; and no attempt was made to put a stop to it, either by enforcing the Insurrection Act, or by resorting to the means furnished by the ordinary law. Scarcely any thing was done with a view to the restoration of tranquillity until after the murder of Mr. Blood,—which, evidently, was perpetrated for the purposes of robbery. At about that period, a motion was brought forward in that House by Mr. Smith O'Brien then (member for Ennis), for the enforcement of the Insurrection Act. Upon that Motion a debate arose, in which the cause of the disturbances was imputed to the landlords. It was said, that the landlords of that county were very extensive holders of 1260 land, and were anxious to form large grazing farms. The peasantry were, in many instances, driven from their cottages; and being in a state of desperation, without the means of subsistence, they committed outrages. That was the true state of the case; and the only matter of regret was, that steps were not immediately taken to remedy them. A general election then took place, and a number of gentlemen connected with that part of the country had meetings with the peasantry, with the view to induce them to abstain from these disturbances. Among those who were most active on the occasion, was that much calumniated individual, with whom the hon. and learned member for Bath had been compared; and much as that individual had been belied and slandered (although he occasionally made use of strong language), there never was a man more entirely devoted to the best interests of the Irish peasantry—nor one more anxious to put a stop to the frightful system of prædial agitation. Mr. Steele induced a great number of the peasantry of the county of Clare to bring their arms in; and his exertions contributed to the restoration of tranquillity. At that time the people were induced to promise to give up their arms. A few days after, a communication was received at Ennis, that the peasantry of six parishes would deposit their arms at a certain place, in the course of a few days; and that this would be followed, a few days afterwards, by the surrender of the arms of all the other parishes. Within two days of this, intelligence was received that the Lord-lieutenant was coming down. The Lord-lieutenant entered the county the next day. On this being made known to the peasantry, they said that they should prefer surrendering their arms to the Lord-lieutenant rather than to any other person; declaring that they were willing to lay them down at his feet. The reply they received from that nobleman was, "Do not give up your arms." He did not make this statement on his own authority, but he had been assured that the Lord-lieutenant said: "Do not give up your arms till your grievances are redressed." He was willing to undertake to produce individuals who were present when this language was employed. The peasantry, on being urged to give up their arms, said that they had been told by the Lord-lieutenant to keep their arms; and that they were determined to retain them until he required them. About three 1261 weeks or a month after this, a party of soldiers and police were sent down, to prevent a local disturbance, a conflict ensued, and the soldiers were ordered to retreat. Serjeant Robinson endeavoured to prevent their being pursued, and kept the assailants at bay for some time; but at last he fell a victim to his own gallantry. The death of this gallant soldier caused general regret; and within three weeks afterwards, a large military force was inarched into the county, and the peasantry were slaughtered at noonday, on the public roads, even when no resistance was offered. In a very short time after this, a Special Commission was sent down, and tranquillity was restored. The circumstance which he had mentioned would sufficiently account for 7,000 troops being in Clare at the time of the Special Commission. He was glad that the hon. Gentleman had afforded him an opportunity of explaining the real state of the case. He would not trespass further on the time of the House, than once more to enter his solemn protest against this odious and tyrannical measure.
§ Mr. Lamont
supported the Bill. He had been in the army, and had some experience of Courts-martial. He was sure, that the Courts-martial in Ireland in 1797, and following years, behaved with great moderation, and the strictest justice. He was convinced, that the state of Ireland called for additional powers, and, therefore, he would vote for the Bill.
§ Mr. Hume
rose to reply to some observations of the hon. member for St. Alban's. The hon. Member had pronounced the speech which he had evidently prepared, and which he had probably practised before the glass, with a degree of assurance [cries of "Order"]—yes, he would repeat it, with a degree of assurance—nay, he would go further, although, perhaps, the noble Lord, who had called him to order, might term that assurance modesty. In the language, then, of the noble Lord, he could only assure the House, that a more modest, well-looking, well-behaved Gentleman, performing his part with modest confidence, he had never seen. The hon. Member had taunted him, but he could assure the hon. Member, that if there was any part of his conduct which he did not regret, it was assisting to bring the present Ministers into office, however much they had disappointed him; and if he were favoured with the good opinion of the populace, as the hon. member for St. Alban's was pleased to call the people, it was, perhaps, because 1262 he always supported what he considered a good cause; and did not, like that hon. Member, call the same instrument at one time good, and at another bad, as it suited his purpose. Recollecting the use of the pronouns "we" and "our" in the hon. Member's speech, he feared that he had been set on to make the attack which he had made upon the people by some of those who were near him. He (Mr. Hume) had never listened to a speech so full of imputations against the people; and of reproaches against them for daring to interfere in matters, in which, nevertheless, they were deeply concerned. The hon. Member talked of barbers, curriers, and so forth. Were not the right hon. member for Tarn-worth, and the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Merchant Tailors? Were not the First Lord of the Treasury, and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and their humble servant, Fishmongers? How could the hon. Gentleman treat in such a manner assemblies including such men as the First Lord of the Treasury, the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Lord Chancellor, or the noble Lord, the member for Devonshire? Were the Fishmongers, or the Merchant Tailors of England, with the noble Duke, the conqueror of Waterloo, at their head, fit subjects for abuse? Was the hon. Member justified in throwing out his sarcasms against the people of England, because they appealed against a measure which took away from the people of Ireland the Trial by Jury, the Habeas Corpus, and all the other constitutional securities of civil life? If the hon. Member thought that the people of England could view such a proceeding with indifference, much less with approbation, he (Mr. Hume) could not go along with him. He thought, that the hon. Member maligned the people of England; and he was confirmed in that opinion when he saw laid on the Table above 650 petitions against the measure, signed by above 600,000 persons. It was impossible that the people of England could view with indifference a proceeding which took away the liberties of the inhabitants of any portion of the empire; knowing, as they must know, that it was only a prelude to a similar proceeding with reference to this country, if any Minister could be found bold enough to propose it. They had not even the tyrant's plea of necessity for such a Bill; for the right hon. Gentleman who had introduced the Bill* had been compelled to 1263 change his ground; having, in the first instance, alleged the difficulty of obtaining Jurymen as a cause for it, until it appeared at the Assizes that there was no difficulty of the hind. In his opinion, the measure had completely damnified the present Ministers; and he was convinced, that, unless they retraced their steps, the time was not far distant when they would find that such was the case. Although he had no hope that the division would be adverse to the Bill, he had been desirous of giving it this last hick. He had sat night by night with his Majesty's present Ministers when they opposed the celebrated Six Acts; and it was a melancholy thing now to see them introducing a measure which was a very much greater violation of the Constitution.
§ Mr. Ward
hoped the House would hear one word from him in explanation, the more especially as the hon. member for Middlesex had accused him of maligning—he believed that was the word—the petitions of the people. He certainly did not possess the advantages of a practised speaker, like that hon. Member, and before such an exquisite glass, too, as that hon. Member must employ. He had been misunderstood: he rose to explain that misunderstanding; and ready as he would be to afford any other Gentleman a hearing under such circumstances, he was sure the House would not deny it to him on the present occasion. He had not maligned the petitions of the people; what he had done was this, and he was sure the House would bear him out in the correctness of the statement—he had drawn a broad distinction between the real bonâ fide petitions of the people—such as the general petition from the city of Dublin, which was entitled to the utmost respect, attention, and consideration on the part of the House—and those other petitions which had been got up in Dublin through a system of multiplying petitions like that resorted to by the ingenuity of the hon. and learned member for Dublin.
§ Mr. Dominick Browne
, as an independent Irish Member, regretted very much that he felt himself bound to give his consent to this measure, though nothing but its indispensable necessity could induce him to do so. Peace, however, would never be produced in Ireland by such a measure as this, unless it was accompanied by remedial measures, and by remedial measures, too, going to a much further extent than any, he feared, that his Majesty's Ministers 1264 would dare to bring forward, or that the House would be prepared to receive. Since the Union many of the grievances of Ireland had been done away with, but two great and prominent grievances remained. One was the existence of a Church establishment for a small minority, and the other was the non-existence of an establishment for the great majority of the population of Ireland. Those grievances should be remedied. But even if all political evils should be removed, there would still remain a still greater one, and that was, that there were 2,000,000 of the people of Ireland without the means of employment. How were they to deal with that evil? Even supposing that the hon. member for Dublin should carry all those measures from which he so lavishly promised regeneration to Ireland, that great and crying evil would still remain to stare him in the face. The only plans that he had ever heard proposed for the removal of this evil of an unemployed population were the introduction of Poor-laws, the improvement of waste lands, and the adoption of a system of emigration upon a large scale; and he was quite certain, that, unless his Majesty's Ministers should carry into effect those three measures to a great extent, there would be no peace in Ireland.
§ Mr. Peter
spoke to the following effect:—Notwithstanding the denunciations of the hon. member for Middlesex, I rise to give my support to the Bill now before this House; and I do so, because I consider it to be not less just than necessary—not less calculated to protect the innocent than to coerce the guilty—not less essential to the present peace and security of Ireland, than to the future interests—to the future freedom and welfare, of the whole united empire. Sir, one of the errors into which I conceive the hon. Member, and many who have preceded him in this debate, have fallen, is that of supposing it possible, at the present moment, and, under existing circumstances, to govern Ireland like a free country. Indeed, I might say, that it is one of the errors of our times to misapply general principles—to consider maxims, which may be true in one country, as equally applicable to all others, however differing in their moral and physical situation. When a people are high in morals and intelligence—when there is, as in the United States of America, a great safety-valve for all bad passions arising from pressure of population—when property is not predominantly in a few hands—when the hope of getting a full share by in- 1265 dustry and perseverance, is far stronger than any vague speculations of spoliation and violence—when it is every man's interest, plainly pressed upon his senses, to keep what he has got, and to inculcate the inviolability of property—when things are in this happy state, how different, how light is the task of legislation compared to the duty which we are now called upon to perform—the duty of legislating for a compressed and overburthened population like that of Ireland—of legislating for a country, where prescription and accumulation and privilege have appropriated so much in so many ways—where the multitude have nothing to lose, and may be persuaded that they have a right and a chance to gain;—it is here that legislation becomes a nice, a painful, and difficult matter—depending not upon general principles, abstractedly taken, but on their well-balanced and judicious modification, according to the peculiar circumstances of the case.
Sir, with respect to the measure now before this House, I admit it to be one of stern aspect and arbitrary character; I admit it to be one which nothing but necessity, the last necessity, can justify. So far I agree with the hon. Members opposite; but when they speak of it as a measure subversive of all liberty—when they speak of it as a measure destructive of all rights—I ask them where that liberty is—where those rights are to be found, which it is pretended that this measure will destroy? Gentlemen may declaim about public meetings and free discussion; but I reply, that, to any purpose of liberty or good government, they no longer exist; agitation has extinguished their voice. Gentlemen may talk of Trial by Jury; but in how many instances has intimidation either paralyzed or perverted its powers? Gentlemen may harangue about rights, and life, and property; but incendiarism, and rapine, and murder have levelled or endangered all. Sir, I love liberty—I abhor despotism—but this is not a question of either. It is a question of order or disorder—of law or no law—of government or no government. And surely almost any government is better than none. The sternest despot cannot be worse than the factious agitators—than the petty tyrants—than the blood-stained banditti—who now usurp the land. Let us, then, be no longer deluded by words—let not the despotism of numbers be mistaken for liberty—let not, (if I may speak in the language of an illustrious philosopher and historian, once an ornament of this 1266 House) let not "the immortal daughter of reason, of justice, and of God, be confounded with the spurious abortions that have usurped her name."
Sir, it has been urged by the hon. member for Beverley, that no case has been made out by his Majesty's Ministers for the proposed measure—that there has been no evidence, at least, no satisfactory evidence, of facts, to prove the necessity of the powers now called for. What, Sir, I ask that hon. Gentleman, is the notoriety—the noonday notoriety—of facts nothing? Is the Report of the Committee, now lying on the Table of this House, nothing? Is the statement—the unrefuted statement—of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, nothing? Is the authority of so many Lieutenants and Magistrates of counties, nothing? Is all we hear, and all we see, and all we know, to pass for nothing? Gentlemen, indeed, may affirm, that all is quiet here, or, that all is quiet there—that disorder is ceasing in the south, or, that it has not existed in the north; but has any one attempted, will any one attempt, to deny, that there are whole counties, that there are wide and populous districts, where disorder does prevail, where it prevails to the most fearful, the most deadly extent; where no laws are sacred—no property respected—no life secure; where arson, and murder, and robbery, and malicious outrage are of daily, of nightly, of hourly, occurrence—are perpetrated with impunity—ay, with impunity, and triumph, and reward? But why, it has been asked, why may not these outrages be put down in Ireland, by the same means which have succeeded in England? Why may not the atrocities, now raging in Kilkenny, and Queen's County, be suppressed by the strong arm of existing authority, as was done in Hampshire, and Bristol, and Nottingham? Sir, I reply, that those means have been tried, but tried in vain; the ordinary powers of the law have been exhausted, but without effect. Even during the sitting of the last Special Commission in Queen's County crime continued as rife as ever. During the fortnight whilst that Commission was sitting, twenty-seven outrages, of the most daring and revolting nature, were perpetrated in that county alone. During the following fortnight outrages were still more numerous. If at any subsequent period, there has been anything like cessation of crime—if there has been anything like a little interval of tranquillity—yet it has been partial, and 1267 momentary, and deceitful, and only prelusive of deeper plots and better organized insurrection. We are now told, indeed, of a better state of things—of the decrease of crime—of the attendance of witnesses and Jurors—of the conviction of offenders. Sir, I have no confidence in this sudden change. It is all hollow, and fallacious, and pretended. It is not (if I may so express myself)—it is not the returning calm; it is but the pause, the awful pause, of the blast, whilst the storm is recovering breath, and collecting itself for fiercer efforts and more sweeping destruction. Sir, I know that convictions have taken place—I know that many offenders have been brought to punishment; but in how few cases, as contrasted with the number of offences perpetrated. And, now that they have been brought to justice, what is the consequence? What is the fate of the unhappy witnesses by whose testimony they have been convicted? They are forced to quit their country. Of the witnesses who gave evidence before the Special Commission at Maryborough., last year, no less than twenty-six were compelled, with their families, to abandon Ireland, whilst twenty-two more have remained under constabulary safeguard for protection from nightly attack. A similar fate, I fear, awaits those who, in the performance of their duty, have given evidence at Wexford, and other places, during the late Assizes. They, too, must incur the same cruel penalty—they, too, must compound for their lives by a long exile from their native land. And is this a state of things to be endured? Is this the liberty about which agitators declaim? Are these the rights which they have organized their Volunteers to defend—which they tell us they would lay down their lives—which they would pour out their heart's blood to transmit unimpaired to posterity? Sir, they may call this freedom, but I call it anarchy—they may name it liberty, but I consider it as the most cruel, the most degrading of despotisms—They bawl for freedom, in their senseless mood, But still revolt, when truth would set them free;License they mean, when they cry liberty, For who loves that must first be wise and good.But, Sir, to revert to the measure now before the House. The Bill has been justly described as having two objects in view—the one to restrain political, the other to suppress prædial agitation; whilst the one is to put down ail associations and meetings endangering the public, peace, and 1268 inconsistent with the due administration of the law—associations which, even according to the showing of their own advocates, can answer no one legitimate or useful purpose, which are only calculated to agitate and inflame, and which, though not the original, are at least a proximate and contributory cause of local evil. Whilst this is one object of the Bill, the other is to disarm and put down those banded ruffians that now infest the land, acting in defiance of all law, violating all rights of person and property, and deterring, under threats of instant death—deterring prosecutors, witnesses—aye, and, in many cases, jurors from coming forward in discharge of their respective duties, and thus rendering the law almost a dead letter, and nearly nugatory and inoperative for all purposes of protection and good government. These, Sir, are the objects of the Bill, and legitimate and praiseworthy objects they are. Against one clause, indeed, of the measure—against that, constituting military tribunals for the trial of these offences, I had originally a very strong prejudice. That prejudice—that repugnance, however, I am bound to say, has been, at least, very much mitigated, if not altogether removed by the alterations to which his Majesty's Ministers have consented in the Committee—by the withdrawal of all political offences from military jurisdiction—by the substitution of staff' and field officers in the place of juniors—by preventing all officers of the district, and who may have been engaged in conflict with the insurgents, from sitting in judgment on them—by the appointment of King's Counsel and experienced barristers as Judge Advocates of such Courts-martial—and, finally, by the submission of every sentence, before it can be carried into execution, to the revisionary judgment and confirmation of the Lord-lieutenant or Chief Governor of Ireland. These are alterations, which I rejoice at having seen introduced, and which, without impairing the efficiency of the measure, will, in a great degree, I trust, guard against those abuses to which all discretionary power is, more or less, liable, even under the best rulers.
Sir, when the hon. member for Water-ford and other Gentlemen talk of this measure as annihilating the liberties, as extinguishing the light of Ireland, for ever, let them recollect that the Bill proposed is a temporary one—a temporary measure for a temporary purpose—that it is equally limited in point of extent and duration, being 1269 confined to disturbed districts, and restricted to continue in force for little more than twelve months. I say this from no wish to depreciate the importance, or to detract from the arbitrary character of the measure—a measure which, I repeat, nothing but necessity can justify. But when Gentlemen complain of the hardships inflicted on Ireland by the present Bill—whilst they are dwelling on the miseries to which they tell us she will be subjected by military law—let them for a moment reverse the picture, and look at Ireland as she now is. Let them look at her actual condition while we are speaking—at her desolation, her wretchedness, her despair—without law—without protection—a prey to rapine, lust, and murder; let them look at her un. offending inhabitants, hundreds of them driven out from their once cheerful but now extinguished hearths, and seeking, amongst distant strangers, that asylum which they can no longer hope to find in the land of their fathers; let them behold others again, amongst her peasantry and little farmers—men, whose only wish was to be permitted to live in peace, and to bring up their families in their own honest and industrious habits; let them look at these unhappy men, living, as they are now compelled to do, in perpetual anxiety and alarm—exposed at home to the brand of the midnight incendiary or assassin, or else flying with their half-famished families—flying, perhaps, by the conflagration of their own cabins, into woods and caverns for shelter from their relentless foes; and all this, for no other reason, than because they have obeyed the laws—because they have refused to conform to some arbitrary rule imposed upon them in defiance of all justice. Sir, it is for these men that I would plead—it is for the poor, the destitute, the innocent, and the oppressed, that I would implore the pity—that I would invoke the justice, the aid, the protection—of a British Parliament.
Sir, I will trouble the House very little longer. That this Bill will prove anything like a permanent remedy for the evils which afflict Ireland, no one has been so absurd as to pretend. Neither Vestry Bills nor Grand Jury Acts, nor Church Reforms, nor Tithe-Redemption Laws, beneficial as they may prove, can repair the accumulated wrongs of ages. Were tithes to be extinguished to morrow—were they to be transferred by a Resolution of the House of Commons (like the Agistment Tithes in 1735) from the pockets of the clergy into 1270 those of the landlords—they would not heal—they would not pour balm into the wounds of that distracted country. There are other ills, and many of them beyond the reach of legislation, which must be mitigated or removed, before Ireland can become a tranquil and happy country. Sir, the relation between landlord and tenant must be improved; the sympathy and kind feelings between different classes of society must be cultivated and increased, and above all, the condition of the peasant must be bettered—yes, his condition, physical as well as moral, must be improved—his standard of comfort must be raised—he must be taught to respect himself—he must have something to hope, something to fear, something to live for. Until this be in some degree effected, it will be in vain to look for anything like permanent tranquillity and happiness in Ireland. The peasant will continue in his present demoralized and degraded state—reckless and desperate—the slave of lawless habits and fierce passions—ripe for all evil—and ready alike to league with the midnight robber and assassin, or to become the blind instrument of every factious demagogue and radical declaimer.
Amongst the legislative remedies which ought to be introduced into Ireland, a provision for the poor should be one. Ireland must, sooner or later, have Poor-laws—modified indeed, and differing, in many respects, from ours; but still I do not hesitate to say, that she must, sooner or later, have Poor-laws. Perhaps, too, a labour-rate, somewhat similar to that which has been tried with so much success in some parts of England, might be productive of equal benefit in Ireland. For, after all, I believe that the young and able-bodied stand more frequently in need of assistance, from want of employment, than even the old and infirm, who are for the most part provided for by their own relatives. The Irish are a warm-hearted people—with all their failings they have, at least, this good quality—of being kind and compassionate to age and infirmity; and my only fear with respect to the Poor-laws is, lest they should in any way weaken or extinguish this virtue. But these, Sir, are subjects of future and deeper consideration.
In the mean time, the first step towards amelioration in Ireland—the first advance towards a better order of things, in that long-agitated country, is present peace—is the protection of person and property. Until this be, in some degree, effected, all 1271 remedies must be worse than useless—all benefits will be applied in vain. Sir, whatever the hon. member for Dublin may allege to the contrary, Ireland, I rejoice in believing, is, at length, possessed of what she has so rarely enjoyed—a liberal and enlightened Government—a Government, anxious, and I hope, able to investigate her grievances and to repair her wrongs. Let us not then impede their efforts—let us not frustrate their designs by idle projects and intemperate and uncompromising demands. Instead of stickling for rights, which, under existing circumstances, cannot be enjoyed—instead of declaiming about liberty, which does not, which, in the present state of Ireland, cannot exist, let us rather unite and assist in clearing the ground, and in preparing the way for their future establishment. Instead (however indirectly or remotely)—instead of encouraging agitation and lending countenance to crime, let us aid in extinguishing both, and in establishing that state of peace, that state of law, security, and order, without which Government is a shadow, and liberty but a name.
§ Mr. Bellew
knew the House was weary of the subject; but as he had never trespassed upon their attention before, he hoped they would listen to him for a few minutes. He did not deny that Ireland was in a state of partial disorganization; but he maintained that to agree to such a Bill was not the way to restore it to order. It was most unfair that Irish Members should be trodden upon and ridden down by that House on account of their opposition to the present Bill, and that it should be said that that opposition proceeded from out-of-doors excitement. In his opinion his Majesty's Government had not made out a case to prove in any way the necessity of that measure. He did not deny that there had been murders, burnings, and robberies; but Englishmen, who had not been present at the trials in Ireland, could not be aware of the misrepresentations—he believed them unintentional—which ran through the whole of the statements of his Majesty's Ministers. The representations given to Government respecting the state of Ireland were all tinctured by party spirit and rancour, which infected the highest as well as the lowest classes in that country. For example, the county of Louth with which he was well acquainted was said to be disturbed, but the fact was, that the disposition to disturbance which had shown itself was speedily repressed by 1272 the police. It was not perfectly tranquil but it was in no state to warrant such a law as this. He knew that the ordinary law was sufficient to repress outrages, and when he considered the character of the parties to whom the execution of the new law was to be intrusted, he was sure it must fail. The Bill would have no other effect than to increase the rancour which already existed between the upper and lower classes in Ireland. He had opposed it at every previous stage, and he should certainly now vote against the third reading.
Sir John Tyrrell
said, that he chiefly rose for the purpose of stating his surprise that the members of his Majesty's Government should have sat silent under the accusation made against them by the hon. and learned member for Tralee. That accusation was, that at a time when their remaining in office was doubtful, they had recommended the agitation of Political Unions throughout the country. He hoped that his Majesty's Ministers would not allow that debate to close before they gave a distinct disavowal to the charge made against them. Though he had opposed the remedial measures proposed by Ministers towards Ireland, still he hoped that the good sense of the Irish people would make them be satisfied with those measures, and that they would be unanimously supported by the Irish Members of the House.
§ Mr. Edward Ruthven
said, that as an Irishman he would vote against this peculiar act of oppression and aggression against his country. As a Member of the House of Commons, he entered his solemn protest against it, as an innovation upon the Constitution, which ought to be dear to every man in the country. At that late hour of the debate, he would do nothing more than protest most solemnly against this crying innovation of the Constitution contemplated by Government in wishing to pass the present atrocious measure.
Mr. O' Connell
said, that when he before addressed the House on the principle of the Bill, he promised them a long speech, and he thought that he had at least kept that promise. He would now make another promise which he was determined to keep also; namely, that he would address them as briefly as possible—as briefly as the importance of the subject demanded. He did not rise to fawn or cringe to that House—he did not rise to supplicate it to be merciful towards that nation to which he belonged—towards that nation which, though sub- 1273 ject to England, yet was distinct from it. It was a distinct nation—it was treated as such by this country as would be proved by history, and by 700 years of tyranny. He called upon that House, as they valued the liberty of England, not to pass this atrocious, this audacious Bill, which, though it had received some improvements since it left the other House, where it had been supported by the Lord Chancellor; though the press had been left safe, and many of its original horrors had been mitigated, yet was still atrocious enough to justify him in calling upon the House not to insult the Irish nation by putting down their right of petition, and by treating crime, not by the ordinary process of law, but by opposing crime to crime, and revenge against revenge. There were still clauses in the Bill which put down the right of petitioning—which put down political agitation—which made them both offences, not punishable by the ordinary tribunals, but by what, for want of another name, he would call revolutionary tribunals. He had hoped that the discussion upon the present occasion would have passed over without any of the degrading personalities which were introduced into the debates in previous stages of the Bill, commenced he thought by the right hon. Gentleman, the late Secretary for Ireland, the extent of whose talents no man was less disposed to deny than he was, but whose absence from the House prevented him from saying what he should otherwise wish to say. The hon. member for St. Alban's, however, had proved that there might be personalities, even in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman. He had taken up the situation of accuser-general of those who differed from himself—the accomplished member for St. Alban's. If, indeed, any political Narcissus, in love with himself, were disposed to get up here and gibe and jeer, and taunt at those who differed from him, he should not complain of the conceit which misled him, provided his statements were true. But the hon. member for St. Alban's had contrived to mix up with his gibes and his jeers some little inaccuracies which were very convenient for his arguments. The hon. Member had stated that there had been only fifty petitions sent to that House by the English people against the present coercive measure. There had been 470; and it was surprising that there were so many, since the leading English Press had been either shamefully silent, or brutally hostile on that measure. What wonder was it then 1274 that its case should have produced but little effect upon the people of England? The Bill was divided into two great parts; the one was to extinguish political agitation, and the other to do away with predial agitation. Melancholy facts proved, unfortunately, that the latter required a remedy; but as to the former, no case was made out that the part of the Bill which related to it was necessary. Against that part of the Bill he protested, in the name of the Irish people, and in the face of Heaven. He protested against the power granted to the Lord-lieutenant to: prevent meetings, no matter for what purpose they might be convened. All he asked for his country was justice; and as long as the present Government were unjust) towards her, he laughed to scorn their promised generosity. Why he strenuously objected to the power granted to the Lord-lieutenant to prevent meetings was, that there were grievances to be redressed in his country, and that one of the ways to remedy them was by petitions, emanating I from large assemblies He would ask any one to say, that there were not grievances in Ireland, and that it was not a suffering country more than any other. No one could say so; and no one could deny that, if ever a country required political agitation, it was the country to which he belonged. He had another question to ask. Could any one point out a single instance in which the Irish, in their agitation, had made mention of a single grievance which did not exist, or in which they even exaggerated any grievance? He was sure that no one could. If they put down agitation, they would extinguish the very principle of the Constitution—a principle he admitted which might be carried too far, which had been carried too far—which brought one Monarch to the scaffold, and drove another from the country. If their country had not been oppressed—if she had not been betrayed and misgoverned, she would never have complained, nor would he and others ever have agitated. Ministers had professed much, and promised much for Ireland, but they had done nothing, literally nothing, for her. To be sure the Irish Reform Bill followed in the train of the I English one, but it was of a very different character, being narrow, insufficient, and: oligarchical, raising the price of freedom I five-fold over this country. What other measures could the Ministers point to? Not one. And yet Ireland had grievances, even the right hon. Gentleman had admitted that, and one of its chief grievances 1275 at present was an Administration which had deceived it. They had made great promises to the people of Ireland, but they had done nothing for its benefit. That people laboured under great grievances—what ought to be done to relieve them? To allow them to meet peaceably and to petition for their removal, and so to obtain the confidence even of their most disturbed districts. He exclaimed against the injustice, he abominated the calumny, he treated with scorn in an assembly of freemen the assertion, that the language used at public meetings in Ireland was two strong and bold. This was the language which Lord Castlereagh applied to the petitions of the people of England, when he sought to gag them with the Six Acts. This was the language which tyrants always used when they wished to varnish over the oppressions which extracted the groans and lamentations of tormented millions. If the grievance was real, the terms in which they depicted it could not be too bold—if the suffering which it caused was passed endurance, the terms in which they described the manner in which it made the iron to pierce into the soul could not be too violent. He had now done with his objections to the first part of this Bill;—he now came to the second part of it, which contained two frightful clauses. One of them instituted courts, which, for want of a better name, Ministers had been pleased to call Courts-martial. Courts-martial they were not; they were, as he had styled them, revolutionary tribunals. But what signified the name by which they were called, when the country was compelled to bear the frightful thing? The clause appointing them annihilated the Trial by Jury—drove from the bench the Judge who had been taught by long experience to distinguish what was evidence from what was not—turned out of the box those whom the accused might challenge, even if their countenances displeased him, got rid of the forms which were established for the protection of innocence, and of those sanctions which were instituted to prevent even guilt from being unjustly convicted, and in their stead erected a new tribunal of five or six military officers selected at the arbitrary discretion of the Crown. Such men—he spoke of them in their judicial capacity alone, for in their private capacity he did not mean to impeach their honour and integrity—such men had not either the education, the habits, the patience, or the assiduity which were required of Judges. They did away 1276 with that which was more sacred than the Throne itself; for which their King reigned, their Lords deliberated, their Commons assembled. All this was done that five or six officers might usurp the functions of the Judges of the land—might annihilate the protection which Juries gave to innocence, and attempt to unravel the mysteries and administer the provisions of several complicated Acts of Parliament. He had never yet been satisfied with the decision of any Court-martial he had seen. That might be his bad taste; but he would even go further, and state, that he had never been satisfied with the decision of military men when acting upon other tribunals. That might be bad taste also; but it was his opinion, and, therefore, he was bound to state it. He therefore, asked every honest Englishman who heard him, not to hand over the people of Ireland to these mongrel pseudo-military tribunals, which were called Courts-martial, but were so in nothing but the name. What evidence had been submitted to their consideration to justify them in establishing these revolutionary tribunals? First, there was a red box; then, to make the evidence stronger, there were ten or eleven anonymous letters, and, last of all, to crown the climax, there was a vulgar ballad. Would they, upon such evidence, annihilate the Trial by Jury? This Court-martial clause was accompanied by another, which gave the most unprecedented indemnity to every military man who acted upon it; for if he was guilty of outrage in the execution of it, he could only be punished by Court-martial; and if he left the army before the Court-martial was summoned, he could not be punished even by that. As to putting down predial agitation he had himself suggested a clause by which it could have been put down legally, and by which your constitutional law would have been made stronger than it was at present. But that clause they had refused, because it came from him—from him who had twice the anxiety which they had to put down disturbance and outrage. This was not the way Ireland ought to be treated, to be merely co-equal in name. He prayed to his God that when repeal came—and come it now must, they could never stay it, they could not even hope to do so—that it might come through peaceful agency, and not through oceans of blood. If ever he had doubted before of its success, that Bill—that infamous Bill—the way in which it had been received by the House—the man- 1277 ner in which its opponents had been treated—the personalities they had been subjected to—the yells his hon. friend the member for Kildare had that night been greeted with—yells not fit for any assembly where decency was thought of—all these things dissipated his doubts, and told him of its complete and early triumph. Did they think those yells would be forgotten—; did they suppose their echo would not reach the plains of his injured and insulted country—that they would not he whispered in her green vallies, and heard from her lofty hills? Oh! they would be heard there—yes, and they would not be forgotten too. The youth of Ireland would bound with indignation; they would say, we are eight millions, and you treat us thus, as though we were no more to your country than the isle of Guernsey, or of Jersey. He had been all his life opposed to a certain party in that House. He had contended with them for years. He would not contend with them again, or if he did, it should not be in hostility. He appealed to them now. They had a deeper interest in their native; land than in that of party, and they must feel that there was nothing so prejudicial—so mischievous—so distressing, as those bad passions between man and man. The rulers: of England thought that they might oppress Ireland because her people were divided among themselves. Separated they indeed were; but let them once become united, as he trusted they would soon be, and they would tell those who talked to them about the generosity and kindness of England,: that it was not generosity and kindness which they wanted, but equality and justice. They would say to the Ministers of; England, "Govern your own beautiful country as you please—legislate for Britain wisely and well—but we Irishmen, bearing allegiance to a common King, and living; under a common Constitution, will legislate for ourselves." Government might depend upon it, that they were not putting down but strengthening the cry for the Repeal of the Union by these coercive measures; that they were not retarding but accelerating the progress of Ireland to that great act of justice of which he was the humble advocate, and that they were adding energy to the demands of the people, by refusing to hear them when calmly and dispassionately: urged, and by sneering at the barbers of Galway and the uncouth names of Irish parishes, as if the people of Ireland were their subjects and not their coequals. He repeated, that the people of Ireland were 1278 not 8,000,000 at present, because they were divided; but they would be 8,000,000 when they had done with the fears of some and the prejudices of others. He had now performed his duty—he stood acquitted to his conscience and his country—he had opposed this measure throughout, and he now protested against it as harsh, oppressive, uncalled for, unjust—as establishing an in-famous precedent by retaliating crime against crime—as tyrannous—cruelly and vindictively tyrannous. In the name of his country he asked for justice. If the Bill were passed, in Heaven's name let no man talk again of the Union between the two countries. Where was the Union now? In that House there were 105 Members from Ireland, 543 from England and Scotland, many of the latter joining in sympathy with the Representatives of Ireland, but overwhelmed by a powerful majority, which did not scruple, from its confidence in Ministers, to perpetrate upon Ireland a monstrous injustice. He had done, he repeated, his duty upon this occasion to his country. He had called for inquiry—that inquiry which England had never instituted before she inflicted punishment upon Ireland. He had implored the House for investigation; that investigation had been hitherto refused. It was not yet too late to afford it to the demands of Ireland. He therefore once more entreated the Government to pause whilst it was yet upon the threshold, and to halt in its career whilst it was yet time. Give us inquiry-, and all may yet be well; but refuse us inquiry, and then see what a conciliatory Government you are.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that before he replied to the speech of the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down, he must take the liberty of contradicting the statement made by the hon. member for Tralee, and of assuring the hon. Member, that as far as his own knowledge went, the hon. Member must have been misinformed. The hon. member for Waterford had quoted the decisions of the Juries at the late assizes as a proof that measures of coercion were not required in Ireland. Now, he would ask that hon. Member, whether crime had diminished in Ireland in consequence of those decisions or not? He was sorry to say, that the amount of crime continued as great as ever, and that day after day fresh accounts were brought to Government of outrages committed and atrocities perpetrated. The hon. Gentleman had stated on a former night, as a proof of the 1279 good disposition of the people of Waterford, that 500 of the peasantry had brought in as prisoners the murderers of Mr. Leonard. On that point, he was sorry to say, that the hon. Member was misinformed. He had himself received a letter from the High Sheriff of Waterford, stating that a large number of persons had come in with the funeral of Mr. Leonard, and that at that funeral the accused were arrested by the police, so that there was evidently amongst them a want of that horror which ought to have existed at such an atrocious crime. He would also remind the House, that one of the witnesses had been asked who it was that the accused went out to murder. He said that he did not know exactly, but it was either Mr. Leonard or some one of four other gentlemen, whose names he mentioned. He did not know which of the five was to be murdered on that occasion; be merely knew that one of them was to be murdered—a circumstance which proved that all the five were marked out for murder, though he could not tell which of them was to suffer first. This proved a degree of atrocity in the murder of Mr. Leonard which it was difficult to have anticipated, and almost impossible to believe, even after it was proved. He now came to the speech of the hon. and learned member for Dublin; and here he would acknowledge, that before that speech there had been much of irrelevant argument, and but little of discussion on the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that the Bill, as it now stood before the House, had been mitigated in much of its original atrocity, but that it still retained sufficient atrocity to compel him to oppose it. If by atrocity the hon. and learned Gentleman meant that the Bill was now as effective as it was when it first came into the House, he (Lord Althorp) fully agreed with him; for though they had altered many of its clauses, he denied that the Bill was now less effective than it was originally. "But, then," said the hon. and learned Gentleman, "is it not disgraceful that you should permit these alterations to be made?" Now, what would the hon. and learned Gentleman have said to Ministers if, after listening to the arguments and suggestions of the House, they had not availed themselves of them to remove from the Bill any enactments more violent than was necessary to effect the objects contemplated by the Bill? He, however, had been accustomed to this species of attack. During the last two Sessions in which the Reform Bill had been before 1280 the House, Ministers had been perpetually taunted for the alterations which they had consented to make in it, even by those who had proposed the alterations. He was therefore not surprised at being again exposed to this species of attack, though he was surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman who made it should have followed the example of those whom, on other occasions, he was accustomed to despise. The hon. and learned Gentleman had also attacked his right hon. friend, the late Secretary for Ireland, now that he was not in the House to defend himself, for introducing personalities into the debate. Now, it did appear to him, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was not exactly the sort of person to make such an accusation. He (Lord Althorp) would not say more, lest he should fall into those personalities which he was so anxious on all occasions to avoid. The hon. and learned Gentleman had then proceeded to divide his objections to the Bill into two classes, one applying to political agitation, and the other to the predial outrages. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that that part of the Bill which applied to political meetings, and prevented the recurrence of those meetings which distracted Ireland to her very centre, was wholly unnecessary. He must say, that he thought, were he to appeal to the House, and to ask which part of the Bill was the most necessary, he should be answered that it was that part which went to put down that political agitation which was so dangerous to the tranquillity of Ireland. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that the waters of liberty required agitation; but if they did require perpetual agitation—if freedom could not exist with peace and order, it was not the freedom, or the definition of the freedom, which he had been taught from his youth upwards to love. One of the great merits of liberty—one of its most endearing qualities was, that it provided for the peace and order and happiness of all. Liberty was not that state in which one party only could express its sentiments, in which men who voted according to conscience in their legislative capacity were to be denounced as traitors to the best interests of their country. That was not what he called liberty. Again, the hon. and learned Gentleman had asked what country required agitation so much as Ireland. He would rather ask what country required quiet more? The hon. and learned Gentleman also said, that Ireland had never been injured, save by her own sons. In that posi- 1281 tion he fully agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman; and would further add, that it had never been more grievously injured by her own sons than of late years. The hon. and learned Gentleman had also asked, with an air of triumph, "Have I in these late discussions pointed out anything as a grievance which has not been admitted to be such by the general acclamation of the House? Now, there was one grievance, which formed the burthen of all the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech, which was by no means admitted by the general acclamation of the House to be a grievance—he meant the existing union of the two countries. But even admitting that the hon. and learned Gentleman's assertion were correct, had not every Gentleman who had taken share in the late debate, had not the Government itself, admitted that the grievance of Ireland must be forthwith remedied? Agitation might be necessary when a grievance was not admitted to be such, in order to call public attention to its existence; but was that the case at present? That House had admitted the existence of grievances in Ireland, and the necessity of removing them. The Government had done the same; and if the Government did not honestly intend to remove the grievances of Ireland, it would be unworthy the support which it had hitherto received, and which he trusted it would continue to meet, from a Reformed Parliament. The hon. and learned Gentleman had asked, "What measures have the Government introduced for the benefit of Ireland?" The memory of the hon. and learned Gentleman must he very short, or he could not have said, that Ministers had done nothing for the benefit of Ireland, after the approbation which he had recently given to several of their measures. The hon. and learned Gentleman knew well, no man better, that one reason why more measures for the improvement of the condition of Ireland had not been introduced and carried through Parliament was the state of public business for the last two Sessions. One of the evils under which Ireland laboured, and of which the hon. and learned Gentleman had often complained most grievously, was the system of education which had so long prevailed in that country. That evil Ministers had entirely removed. On a former night he (Lord Althorp) had alluded to the Ministerial Amendment to the Sub-letting Act, and the hon. and learned Gentleman had then said, that the 1282 evils of the old Act had been removed in a far greater degree than had been previously promised or than he had ever dared to anticipate. In the present Session too many measures had been introduced by the Government for the benefit of Ireland, of which the hon. and learned Gentleman had cordially approved, and therefore he was surprised to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman ask: "where are your healing measures for my country? These were the arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman against the first part of the Bill. He rested them all on the necessity of agitation, which he declared to be essential to the peace of Ireland; and then, priding himself on his gratuitous assumption that, agitation was necessary, he had gone on to contend that it was unconstitutional and tyrannical to put it down. The hon. and learned Gentleman had likewise said, that there was no connexion between political agitation and prædial outrage. Certainly he (Lord Althorp) did not mean to affirm that the political agitators intended to produce the prædial outrages, but this he did mean to say, that it was impossible for a people to be agitated and irritated upon the subject of grievances, or alleged grievances, without being excited to discontent, and, what was worse, to acts of outrage. The hon. and learned Gentleman had then proceeded to the second part of the Bill, and had contended that it annihilated Trial by Jury. Now, a more monstrous exaggeration than this, it was impossible for any man either to conceive or utter. He agreed with the hon. and learned Member in thinking that it was a great misfortune for a country to be deprived of the benefit of the established laws and of the Trial by Jury; but yet, in his opinion, even that was preferable to the continuance of the present state of disorder and outrage, which was tantamount to the suspension of all law. He entirely concurred in the opinion expressed in a petition signed by the Magistrates and Deputy-lieutenants of the county of Kilkenny, which was presented a few nights ago by a noble friend of his. The petitioners stated, that the measure in contemplation for the suppression of disturbance would be perfect freedom when compared with the lawless despotism at present existing in Ireland. With respect to the assizes held at Kilkenny, the petitioners' statement was in exact conformity with that which he had just made to the House. They stated that they deeply deployed the necessity which existed 1283 for severe measures, and that they had hoped that the assizes lately held at Kilkenny, at which vast numbers of audacious offenders were sentenced to transportation, would have had a salutary effect on the misguided disturbers of the peace of the country; but they lamented that such had not turned out to be the case, and that the system of tyrannical and savage oppression still continued unabated, and was directed more particularly against the poor and defenceless inhabitants of the country. This, then, was the opinion of the gentlemen of that county in which the result of the assizes had been quoted as a proof that the present measure was no longer necessary. He thought it unnecessary for him to trouble the House longer—because, in his opinion, it was impossible, after the long debates which had already taken place, to throw any new light on the subject.
§ Mr. Barron
said, he wished to say a few words in explanation. He had not made the statement regarding the murder of Mr. Leonard, as mentioned by the noble Lord; what he had said was, that the persons accused of the murder were arrested in the presence of 500 persons, some of whom had assisted the special constables.
§ Colonel Verner
begged to say [loud cries of "Question."] He wished as the representative of an Irish county, ["Question"]. Since the House would not hear him, he would merely say, that Ministers had declared that they would stand or fall by that Bill; and as it had been so much mutilated in passing through the Committee, he thought they ought to resign.
§ The House divided on the Amendment—Noes 345; Ayes 86: Majority 259.
§ Bill read a third time and passed.
|List of the AYES.
|Aglionby, Henry A.
|Hawkins, J. H.
|Bayntun, S. A.
|Ingilby, Sir W. B.
|Bulwer, H. L.
|Langton, Colonel G.
|Bulwer, E. L.
|Molesworth, Sir W.
|Roebuck, J. A.
|Tennyson, rt. hon. C.
|Lynch, A. H.
|Macnamara, Major W.
|Tynte, C. J. K.
|Nagle, Sir R.
|Wigney, J. N.
|Williams, Colonel G.
|Gillon, Wm. D.
|Oswald, R. A.
|O'Dwyer, A. C.
|Barry, G. S.
|Butler, Hon. P.
|Ruthven, E. S.
|Chapman, M. L.
|Sheil, R. L.
|Finn, W. F.
|Vigors, N. A.
|Walker, C. A.
|Galwey, J. M.