§ The Order of the Day for the resumption of this Debate having been read,
§ Mr. Mullins
said, that he would occupy the attention of the House for a very short time, knowing as he did, that it, was not in his power to advance any new argument in favour of the Motion of his hon. and learned friend the member for Dublin, which it was alike his duty as his inclination to support. He could assure the House that, in the course he meant to pursue, he was actuated, not by factious motives, but by a conscientious conviction, that in the event of the same line of policy being pursued as hitherto, a Repeal of the Legislative Union now subsisting between the two countries was indispensable to the prosperity of Ireland. He had reflected deeply upon this momentous question; he 208 had considered maturely and dispassionately all its bearings; and the result was, that he had arrived at the conclusion, that the arguments and statements put forward in opposition to his hon. and learned friend's Motion were undeserving of weight. He had listened to the speech of the right hon. Secretary for the Treasury with the utmost attention, but he must say, so far from being convinced by it, that the sentiments he entertained were erroneous, the very contrary had been the effect produced upon his mind. The right hon. Gentleman had given the House a long list of various remedial measures enacted for Ireland since the Union took place; but how few of them had been remedial and satisfactory! how few had sprung from the free-will of a well-disposed administration! He asserted without fear of contradiction, that, with the exception of the Emancipation Bill, and the Bill for the Composition of Tithes, not one measure had passed the Imperial Parliament which could with justice be denominated remedial. Of the correctness of this opinion he meant to make the right hon. Gentleman himself an unwilling witness. Let the House hear his declaration when the dictates of a laudable ambition gave the rein to extreme liberality of sentiment, as a means of political advancement. The right hon. Gentleman formerly said—'He would now ask what had been done by the Legislature for Ireland? The Statute-book might be searched in vain, for a single remedial measure for the evils, the existence of which, in that country, was on all hands acknowledged. One Act indeed had received the sanction of the Legislature—he meant that which put an end to the Catholic Association.' Again the right hon. Gentleman said 'Indeed he would have preferred, if it had been put down ' by a removal of the grievances which led to its establishment.' These were the registered opinions of the right hon. Gentleman,—opinions springing from mature deliberation and deep conviction. But let the House mark how different was the right hon. Gentleman's declaration from the Treasury Bench. The right hon. Gentleman said: 'That this House was called upon to state, that the Imperial Parliament gave the best possible attention to Irish affairs, and to prove that remedial measures and salutary laws had been enacted; compared 209 with which the repeal of the Act of the Union would be as nothing,—that they should declare that no new course would be adopted with regard to Ireland (for an admission of that kind would go to show that the present course was wrong,) but that they were determined to persevere in the present system.' 'And that one of the strongest arguments in favour of the Union was, that it admitted the people of Ireland to all the advantages and all the immunities of the British Constitution.' It was utterly impossible for even the right hon. Gentleman himself to reconcile the sentiments which had escaped him while out of office, with those which he delivered now that he was in office, and therefore he thought the House should pause before they gave the right hon. Gentleman credit, for the opinions which he now put forth. The right hon. Gentleman had stated, that Irish grievances had not been redressed; but that was the object of the Union, as might be gathered from the preamble to the Act which ran thus. 'Whereas, in pursuance of his Majesty's most gracious recommendation, &c. to consider of such measures as might tend to strengthen and consolidate the connexion between Great Britain and Ireland, the two Houses of both Parliaments have severally agreed and resolved, that, in order to promote and secure the essential interests of Great Britain and Ireland, and to consolidate the strength, power and resources of the British empire, it will be advisable to concur in such measures as may best tend to unite the two kingdoms.' And well had the connexion between the two kingdoms been strengthened and consolidated—well had the essential interests of Great Britain and Ireland been promoted and secured—the strength, power, and resources of Ireland been developed—well had that grand national compact been fulfilled! And well has the British House of Commons felt for the sufferings of Irishmen, the generosity of England prevented your being overpowered by numbers. What had the right hon. Gentleman himself said on the subject. 'He had observed that in every case when the discussion (of the Catholic question) was approaching, some hon. Gentleman had brought forward some question which raised an angry debate, and induced Gentlemen to come to the main question with warm 210 and angry minds.' And yet, the House was called upon by the right hon. Gentleman to declare, in opposition to his own opinion,—in direct opposition to the best evidence, 'that the Imperial Parliament gave the best possible attention to Irish affairs!' Again he called upon hon. Members to pause, before they consented to support the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, without first investigating the causes of complaint, and calmly weighing the merits of the case put forward by the Irish people. Why refuse inquiry? Surely from inquiry nothing but good can result. If the arguments against repeal were well grounded, there certainly could not be found better means of checking all future agitation of the question, than by submitting it to trial before a Committee of Members from the different parts of the United Empire, and placing their verdict on record; and if, on the contrary, it were shown that the Union was an evil, why should not the House consider it in that point of view, and legislate accordingly? Another strong argument in favour of inquiry was, that though the right hon. Gentleman had submitted a long array of figures to hon. Members in support of his position, it was not to be supposed that, however erroneous those calculations might be, hon. Members could, in the heat and hurry of debate, pick holes in what had been for many months compiling, and not without the aid of a Scotch arithmetician. For this reason the House must throw overboard this branch of the right hon. Secretary's argument, and confine itself to those points which were more immediately intelligible. It had been said, that those who supported Catholic emancipation were pledged to give up agitation the instant that measure of justice was carried; but he denied the truth of the assertion, and could refer to a letter written in 1826 in The Dublin Evening Post by his hon. and learned friend, the member for Dublin, in which a very different doctrine was laid down. If, however, the Union had been an advantage instead of an injury to Ireland, where was the objection to appoint a committee to demonstrate the fact? Surely such a course would be the best answer that could be given to the question of Repeal; but if, instead of adopting the Motion of his hon. and learned friend, they rejected it, what must be 211 the only inference? Why, that, instead of being benefited by the Union, Ireland had been deeply prejudiced by that event. It was upon those grounds that he felt it to be his duty to oppose the Resolutions proposed by the right hon. Secretary for the Treasury. But he entreated hon. Gentlemen to consider what the course was which the right hon. Secretary wished them to take. It certainly was a novel case to vote an address to the Crown by both Houses of Parliament on such a subject; and upon what authority were they to proceed? Why, upon the doubtful authority of the Irish Parliament respecting the corruption of which they had heard so much. This was the only precedent that could be discovered, to warrant the adoption of such a course; but he would ask hon. Members, whether they would be acting wisely if they established a precedent in this country which, by possibility, might one day or other be used against themselves for a similar purpose? The resolution which it was his intention to move at a future stage, would obviate this difficulty; and he therefore hoped the House would agree to it, seeing that it involved nothing that was objectionable, and was only directed to prevent the establishing a principle that might at some future time be detrimental to the interest of the country or subversive of their own privileges. It had been said, that Ireland derived no one advantage from a domestic Legislature which she had not gained from the Imperial Parliament. But this he denied on the authority of the history of the Irish Parliament, which he thought furnished ample evidence to show, that, however corrupt and vicious that assembly might have been, it attended to the wishes of the people much better than the United Legislature had done. In conclusion he would say, that so long as Irish interests were not placed on a perfect equality with English in the eye of the Legislature, so long as the grand national compact continued unfulfilled, so long did he find himself fully justified in calling for a domestic Parliament; and this not without a clear conviction of the disadvantages—coupled certainly with much good, which would result from such a measure—but convinced at the same time, that evil though Repeal might be, it would be an evil infinitely inferior to a long-continued course of mal-ad- 212 ministration of Irish affairs, through the instrumentality of a deputy Government. No individual in that House was more anxious to see the day when Ireland would be in full possession of all the advantages and blessings anticipated from the Union; but so long as that prospect continued unrealised, he felt proud to support the views of that band of independent men whose better judgment told them, that if union was strength, it should be union, not in name, but in reality.
§ Mr. Jephson
said, that, however able the speech which had been delivered by the hon. member for Belfast was, and although he admitted it exhibited very great talent, he must at the same time disavow all communion of sentiment with the latter part of it. He (Mr. Jephson) admitted, that there were Catholics and Protestants on both sides, and he thought it most injudicious to describe Anti-Repealers as belonging to one denomination, and Repealers to another. The fact, he repeated, was not so, and only a few such speeches as that which the hon. member for Belfast had made were required to convert this from a political into a religious question, and by that means to promote the objects of those by whom the question was agitated. The hon. and learned member for Tipperary referred to the cry which the Tories had raised against Reform, on the ground that it would ruin England; and inferred that if, instead of being ruined, this country had been benefited by Reform, the advocates of Repeal were justified in asserting that a dissolution of the Union would lead to a similar result. With respect to Ireland, the cases, however, were widely different. He was ready to acknowledge that the great majority of the people of Ireland were in favour of Repeal, but he was at the same time prepared to assert, that (he might almost say the whole of) the wealth and intelligence of the country were opposed to it. Not only were they opposed to it; they dreaded it, and called on the House to preserve the Union most strenuously. But let them consider who the parties were whom a Repeal of the Union would serve. Clearly it would be of no advantage to the upper classes; and as the lower classes could reap benefit only through the upper classes, it would be found to confer prosperity upon neither party; and, therefore, he asked them 213 why such a matter should be taken out of those hands by whom alone it could be converted into a good or an evil, or why those who opposed a proposition of which they could not in their consciences approve, were to be held up as the enemies of their country? It was not the lower classes who were really most interested in the prosperity of Ireland, for if they were dissatisfied it was in their power to emigrate; but this was not the case with the gentry, the landed proprietors, whose interests being staked, their all depended upon the well-being of the country. It had been said, that the voice of the 105 Irish Members in that House was of little or no advantage to Ireland; but, whether this were so or not, he did not think, even if they were unanimous in favour of Repeal, that they would be listened to with attention if returned in the same way as some of the hon. Members opposite. It could not be said, that the hon. Gentlemen to whom he alluded had been returned either by intelligence or wealth, and therefore, if the 105 Irish Members had been returned as they had been, and concurred with them in opinion on this subject, still he would say, that their sentiments should have no weight in that House. He fully admitted, that great talent had been employed in supporting the Motion of the hon. and learned member for Dublin, but at the same time he must say, that he never saw powerful, intellect exerted with less success. Its exertions had completely failed in bringing conviction to his mind, that the measure of Repeal was either just or expedient. Although he acknowledged their talent, he doubted very much whether the hon. Gentlemen themselves were satisfied with the case which they had endeavoured to make out. He doubted it very much. The question was, how the having a Parliament sitting in Dublin was to benefit Ireland. Would it increase the capital or the means of employment in that country? He thought few capitalists would be tempted by such a change. It might be said, that new channels of employment would be opened; but he had heard no reasonable grounds advanced for such an expectation. But then it was said, that the Union had prevented manufactures from increasing in Ireland. He thought that Ireland obtained her manufactures cheaper in England than she could make them, or her mauu- 214 factures would have increased. How could a Repeal of the Union enable the Irish manufacturer to compete with the English? What prevented the friends of Repeal now in that House from encouraging Irish manufacture by wearing Irish cloth. There were forty of them; and he would venture to say, that not five had an Irish coat on his back. And the reason of this was, that in England he could get two coats when he could only get one in Ireland. With regard to absentees, he did not feel that much good could be done to his part of Ireland, the south, from sending them all back to Ireland; the south would derive no benefit from the prosperity of Dublin. They looked upon Bristol and Liverpool as being more like capitals to them than Dublin. He acknowledged the moral evil of absenteeism; but as to what was called the drain of absenteeism, he thought it the greatest political humbug that ever was invented to delude the people. He was so satisfied of the advantage of the intimate union between the two countries, that he regretted their very name had not been identified fifty years ago. Much agitation had been caused by the delay of Catholic Emancipation, and had that been granted in time, this question would not have been heard of. But the continued discussion of that question had brought a large number of young men of great talent into public existence, to whom agitation was as their life's blood and they seized any means of keeping it up. If the country continued to be excited by these parties, it was impossible that it could be otherwise than wretched, and any state of things would be preferable to the present. He believed this to be a growing feeling, and that agitation would soon lose its power if the Government took a decided course. He might venture to promise the Gentlemen engaged in that occupation, that if they succeeded in keeping it up for another year he would then join them and advocate Repeal, for he would rather try an Irish Government than continue to live under one which could not maintain peace and law in the country.
§ Mr. Maurice O'Connell
said, there never was a time when the people sought for the recovery of their rights—there never was a time when they claimed relief from tyranny and oppression, that their 215 motives have not been calumniated, and their wishes attributed to ignorance, or violence, or discontentment. So it is now. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down says the wealth and intelligence of the country are opposed to the question of Repeal, but he admits there are some exceptions. I grant that a particular faction is opposed to the measure, but I deny that the intelligence of the country is against it. The hon. Gentleman has convicted himself of error on this point, for has he not told the House that the question of Repeal has originated with a body of men who have been brought up in agitation, and who, he has admitted, are possessed of great talents and abilities? I may say, that I drew my first breath in agitation, and I would beg to admonish the hon. Gentleman not to disparage those who had rendered him so much service, on whose shoulders, it may be said, he was carried into this House, for the time may come when he may change his opinion on the question of Repeal, and it may become necessary for him to require their assistance again. The hon. Gentleman has animadverted upon the conduct of agitators. I, and many others around me, have the pride and honour to be agitators, yet are there any Members returned to this House more free than we are. We did not enter it by any of the side alleys or crooked passages that lead into it—we did not, in coming here, inflict any oppression upon our tenantry, nor did we employ the strong arm of power to punish the refractory voters. It will be seen, however—the hon. Gentleman will see—what the result of the next election will be. I question if the educated of the country are on the side of those opposed to Repeal. The people are in favour of Repeal: those support it who feel the ruinous consequences of the Union most keenly. The hon. Gentleman does not feel the evil effects of it; his wealth prevents him from knowing them, but the change in the value of property may open his eyes to the misery that the Union has entailed upon the country, for, when the tenant is unable longer to pay up his rent, the bailiff will soon have business at the landlord's door. It has been said by some Gentlemen, that if the educated part of the people called for Repeal, they might be disposed to accede to their desires. The same language was used by the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth 216 (Sir R. Peel), and by the ex-secretary of the Admiralty, when the Reform Bill was under discussion, and it is now employed by the right hon. the Secretary for the Treasury, and the subservient echo that sits behind him. That also was the burthen of the song when the question of Catholic Emancipation was before the House, and although it was said then that the intelligence of the country was against that measure, the Catholics of Ireland showed that it was in favour of the concession. The same language is now used in reference to Repeal, and I am confident events will shortly prove with equal injustice. It is said, that the delay of Emancipation is the cause of the agitation of Repeal. I call upon you to beware, lest the postponement of Repeal may produce similar effects—nay, the very result we all so much deprecate. The course now recommended by the Secretary of the Treasury concerning this motion is considered a better course than merely meeting it with a simple negative. Hon. Gentlemen will find themselves egregiously mistaken, if they think that any course they could adopt to oppose this question will suppress its consideration, or prevent its agitation in Ireland. There scarcely breathes an individual, not connected with a particular faction in that country, or not one of the employes of Government, who is not in favour of Repeal. Hon. Gentlemen are mistaken when they suppose this to be a new question. What, I ask again has been done for Ireland by the Imperial Parliament to induce the Irish people to forego the agitation of the Repeal Question? They have got a bill of 60,000l. for the Protestant clergy of Ireland. The hon. member for Marlow opposed that Bill, and, with all the other hon. Members who said it would be ineffectual and would be opposed in Ireland, was shouted down by the supporters of Ministers. The whole amount of tithes recovered in Ireland is 12,000l., at an expense of 25,000l. We told the Government the bill would be ineffectual, and in reply we were told, that we knew nothing of the state of Ireland. We have, besides, got a compulsory and perpetual Tithe Act and a Coercion Bill, and now we are promised by the Irish Secretary another Tithe Bill, a legacy left him by his predecessor in office, worse than the former bill, and which, if passed, will prove equally ineffectual, although we who tell the Government so shall no doubt 217 be told in return that we know nothing of the state of the country. I do not mean to occupy the House with financial details at this protracted period of the discussion. The House has heard the statement of the beneficial consequences of the Union to Ireland, and of the success and improvement of her manufacturing and commercial interests. I beg leave to quote the opinions of the right hon. member for Tamworth (Sir R. Peel) on the benefits that he conceived at one period that Dublin received from the Union. When the bill granting a certain sum of money to the commissioners of wide streets in Dublin was before the House, on the sum being objected to, that right hon. Gentleman distinctly and emphatically insisted that Dublin had a right to receive that grant from Parliament, in consequence of the injury she had sustained from the Union. By the means of that grant, Dame-street, which is the Cheapside or Fleet-street of Dublin, has been widened, eight excellent new houses, equal in every respect to any in London, have been built in it, and, although merely substituted for other houses that had been taken down, the right hon. Secretary includes them in his return of new houses built in Dublin since the Union, without taking into his calculation those which were removed. Yet these fine houses, so situated, have now been two years untenanted. This is, indeed, a melancholy proof of the prosperity of Dublin. But look at the state of the trades in Dublin now, compared with what they were at the period of the Union. The returns I hold in my hand are certified by those best acquainted with the state of the Irish metropolis. In 1800, the total number of operatives employed was 61,000; in 1834, the total number is 14,444, and of those only 4,412 are fully employed. This reduction has taken place in a period during which the population of Dublin has increased to twice what it was at the Union. The number of master carpenters at the time of the Union was 168, and of operatives 2,000. These have been reduced to 103 masters and 951 operatives. How can the right hon. Secretary reconcile this statement with his assertions, that building has gone on progressively increasing in Dublin since the Union? The bricklayers of Dublin in 1800 amounted to, masters, thirty-five, operatives, 800; now there are only eight masters; there are 1,600 labourers, only 218 400 of whom have constant employment. There were in 1800, eleven master shipbuilders and 200 journeymen; now there are only six masters and 110 journeymen. Of anchor-makers, there were at the time of the Union, six masters; now there is only one. There were then twenty master sail-makers; now there is only one, who gives employment to nine journeymen. Those returns, which I shall beg permission to lay on the Table for the perusal of hon. Gentlemen contradict the statements of the Secretary of the Treasury respecting the exports of Ireland. As to the increase in the amount of tonnage, the right hon. Gentleman has omitted to state how that increase happened. The Irish exports consist principally of corn and provisions. A great number of vessels are also employed in carrying away the people and their property. But with respect to imports, does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that they consist chiefly of coals, slates, and timber, which, though comparatively valueless, increase the amount of tonnage very considerably. I will further refer to the grand canal trade, which has been alluded to in the course of the debate. The tonnage in the years 1821, 1822, and 1823, compared with that of 1830, 1831, and 1832, gives, it is said, an average increase of sixty per cent, but look at the revenue returns, and what do they show? Take the returns for 1811, 1812, and 1813, and compare them with those of 1830, 1831, and 1832, and a decrease of forty-six per cent, will be found in the revenue. At the former period it was 104,000l., at the latter period the average was only 60,000l. And let it be recollected, that a sum of 105,000l. has been expended in extending the canal thirty-five miles; and, notwithstanding this, a deficiency of forty-six per cent has taken place. Now, I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he be ignorant of these facts? or, if not, can he find fault with those who have such just reasons for imputing dexterity to him in making out these returns? The right hon. Gentleman boasted of the increase of trade and manufactures in Ireland. By the Returns which I have laid on the Table, let hon. Gentlemen examine the accuracy of such statements, and if they do, I am confident they will not assent to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. A letter has been read in the course of the debate, the 219 name of the author of which was withheld, which gave a glowing description of the cloth manufacturers of Kilkenny. The carpet factory in that place was mentioned as rivalling, and likely to destroy the trade of Kidderminster. I have a statement in a letter which I have received from a Mr. Kennedy, of Kilkenny, who is well acquainted with the trade of that place, and from that it appears, that in the year 1800 there were sixty-five factories in Kilkenny, which had 133 looms at work, and gave employment to 4,262 workmen; now there is only one factory with twenty looms at work, and employing only 100 people. With those facts before us, how can Gentlemen say that trade has flourished in Ireland since the Union? The owner of this factory now in existence is a Mr. Scott. It is a remarkable fact, that a few days ago he got a Government order to make blankets for the Irish police—a thing that has not occurred for twenty-three years before. I take this of coarse, as evidence of the growing liberality of the Government towards Ireland, and by no means intended to influence the decision of the present question. In conclusion, I must express my hopes that the good effects of the present debate will not cease with the cause that produced them, and that the patronage of Government to Irish manufactories will be continued, after the right hon. Gentleman's resolutions have been carried.
§ Mr. William Peter
said, that agreeing as he did, with the hon. member for Mallow, in his estimate of the arguments by which the Motion for Repeal had been supported, he would trespass very briefly on the indulgence of the House. In saying this, he meant nothing offensive to the feelings of any of the hon. Gentlemen opposite; but, he would ask, what that cause must be—how weak, how destitute of all reason—which not even their acknowledged talents—which not even the far-prevailing eloquence of the hon. and learned members for Dublin and Tipperary—could invest with the smallest semblance of plausibility? He sympathised, indeed, with those Gentlemen, in their grief for the sufferings, in their indignation at the contumelies and oppressions—which Ireland had endured for so many centuries from this country; he joined With them no less in their reprobation of the means, of the corrupt and unhallowed means, by which 220 the Legislative Union between the two Islands had been originally effected. So far he concurred with them. But the immediate question for the decision of Parliament, was not how Ireland had been governed in former ages, but how she was likely to be best governed in times to come. It was not by what means the Union had been first accomplished, but whether now, after thirty-four years duration; it was for the benefit of the empire, for the benefit either of Great Britain or Ireland—that the connection should be dissolved? After the very able and ample manner in which the subject had been discussed by many of the preceding speakers—more especially by his right hon. friend, the Secretary of the Treasury, it would be idle and presumptuous for him (Mr. Peter) to enter into calculation or details to confirm what had been already so clearly demonstrated—the increasing wealth and prosperity of Ireland—to prove her advance in agriculture in commerce, and in almost every thing that was supposed to contribute to the weal and greatness of nations. These facts had been too clearly demonstrated to admit of a moment's doubt. The hon. Member, indeed, who spoke last, had talked of uninhabited houses in some towns, and of unemployed operatives in others; but did he mean to say (as regarded either the one or the other) that Ireland was not, on the whole, in a far better state than before the Union? Did he mean to say, that the number of occupied houses, of employed workmen, throughout Ireland, was not at present infinitely greater than at former periods? To arrive at a just conclusion on this subject, we ought to look, not at isolated parts, but at the aggregate mass—not at this or that particular branch of national industry, separately and alone, but at the general state of its various branches, taken altogether. But the House had been told by other Gentlemen, that notwithstanding all this apparent prosperity, the condition of the peasantry was, in many parts most wretched. He (Mr. Peter) admitted and lamented this fact. But what was their condition before the Union? Was it less wretched less barbarous, less degraded? Assuredly not. Nay, if we believed the accounts of Sir John Davies, and Swift and Arthur Young and other writers, we should be forced to admit, that sad and wretched as the condition of the peasantry might still be in 221 some parts of the country—it had much improved—and was now one almost of comfort and happiness, as compared with the general state that had preceded it. But did the hon. and learned member for Tipperary, or could any hon. Member, laying his hand upon his heart seriously affirm, that the condition of the peasantry would be ameliorated by the proposed change and by the re-assembling of a local Parliament in College Green? No, it was impossible, in his opinion, for any reflecting man to say so. Whoever seriously contemplated the state of Ireland, must see, that it was only by the establishment of order and tranquillity, that the character and happiness of the peasantry or of any other class of the Irish community could be permanently improved. Order and tranquillity were the only paths to national improvement, and these he was sure, could in no manner be maintained, or at all events, could in no other manner be so effectually maintained, as under the auspices of an united Legislature, and by a continuance of the subsisting relations between the two countries. The House had heard much eloquent declamation; and many powerful appeals to the ancient liberty of Ireland. He, however, was at a loss to know at what period that liberty existed? He had searched history for it in vain. He had ransacked its pages from the time of Henry 2nd, down to 1782, but could find no traces of it. It was true, there had been licence, and anarchy, and outrage, and oppression, enough to satisfy the fiercest demagogue or coldest-blooded despot; but as for liberty—real, rational liberty—its name, its very nature, was unknown. Even from 1782, down to the Union—even during that vaunted interval—its existence was very problematical. Indeed, Mr. Fox, speaking on the subject, in 1797, had said, that, as to political liberty, the Irish enjoyed as small a portion of it, and knew as little of its principles, as subjects living under the most despotic monarchies of the Continent. An hon. Member had complained of the present political state of Ireland, and he (Mr. Peter) admitted, that it was anything but satisfactory. In answer, however, to his reprobation of the Coercion Bill and its supporters, he would only say, that, though severe, the measure was necessary. Its policy had been best manifested by its results—by the altered and improved state of Ireland—by the estab- 222 lishment of comparative order and tranquillity, where agitation, and outrage, and murder, were before predominant. With only one county and four baronies proclaimed—without a single Court-martial, or one act of severity resorted to for any political offence—that Act had been the means of rescuing Ireland, for a while, from the most frightful anarchy and oppression. The mere knowledge of the fact—the knowledge that Government was armed with powers to suppress outrage, precluded the necessity of resorting to them. The moral effect of the Act was alone sufficient for all the purposes of present security, and good government. An hon. Gentleman, the member, he believed, for Cork (Mr. Baldwin), asserted, that the Whigs had violated all their former promises—that, since their accession to power, they had done nothing, or worse than nothing, for Ireland! What, then, was Parliamentary Reform nothing? Was the Education Bill nothing? The Grand Jury law nothing? The Church Amendment Act nothing?—aye, the Church Amendment Act—though hon. Gentlemen on the other side might sneer, he would again ask, if that was nothing? Scorn it, however, as they might—depreciate it as they pleased—still he would contend, that it was a wise, a beneficent Act. It might not be the very best Act that could be devised—it might not contain everything that the most sanguine anticipated or desired—but, this he would say, that it was the best measure that, under existing circumstances, could be reasonably proposed—that it gave as much as could, at that period, have been demanded with any chance or prospect of success. He would, therefore, repeat, that it was a wise and beneficent measure. It established a principle of Church Reform; it benefited both Catholic and Protestant. It benefited the Catholic by freeing him from the Vestrycess—by freeing him from invidious and oppressive burthens, imposed upon him for the support of a rival establishment;—it benefitted the Protestant by correcting many of the abuses of his Church, by a more equal distribution of its revenues, and by a better provision for the performance of its duties. And this and the other measures before referred to, the hon. Gentleman had told the House were nothing, or worse than nothing! Why, had he and some of his hon. coadjutors opposite been promised these things or a tithe part 223 of them a few years ago—at the time, for instance, of his late Majesty's visit to Ireland—how would they have lauded the promiser—how would their hearts have overflowed, their tongues have grown wanton, in his praise! On their bended knees would they have worshipped him—they would have strewed his way with flowers—they would have harnessed themselves to his car, and have drawn him, amidst shouts of joy and triumph, from Dunleary to Dublin Castle! The hon. Gentleman, therefore, and his friends, should not speak in quite such contemptuous terms of what had been recently done for Ireland. Not that all had been done—not that more, very much more, did, not remain to be effected for that unhappy country. Further reforms were still required both in Church and State—the tithe question must be set at rest—the system of education, so auspiciously begun, must be further extended—the condition of the peasantry must be raised—provision must be made for the poor—employment found for the industrious—but, above all, the spirit of faction must be laid—ay, that accursed spirit, which had so long desolated Ireland—a spirit which corrupted her best institutions, and poisoned justice at its very source—a spirit which tainted every thing—which blighted every thing—which destroyed every thing, and which had frequently gone far to reduce Ireland almost to the verge of that state, so fearfully shadowed forth by our greatest poet—a stateWhich God by curseCreated evil, for evil only good;Where all Life dies, Death lives, and Nature breeds,Perverse, all monstrous, all prodigious things,Abominable, inutterable, and worseThan Fables yet have feign'd or Fear conceiv'd.Yes, that spirit must be greatly mitigated or subdued, before Ireland could taste of freedom or repose. They might enact Poor-laws—they might reduce taxes—they might extinguish tithes—they might Repeal the Union; but all, all would be in vain, whilst faction raged on every side—whilst Protestant was stirred up against Catholic, and Catholic against Protestant, and Green and Orange, and High Churchman and Dissenter, were taught to consider it as a reciprocal duty, to vilify, and trample on, and domineer over one another. That Ministers had been doing all in their power to suppress the evil—that it had been their increasing 224 wish and endeavour to put an end to this fearful state of things, was evident, he thought, from the clamour and obloquy, with which they had been assailed by the bigots of both parties. It had been said by Mr. Burke, that there was a wide difference between men, when they acted from a sense of grievance, and when they acted from a zeal for opinions. There was a boundary to men's passions, when they acted from feeling, none, when they were under the influence of imagination. Remove a grievance, and, when men acted from feeling, you went a great way towards quieting the commotion; but the good or bad conduct of a Government was of no sort of moment to a faction, proceeding on speculative grounds. Such, in substance, were the remarks of Mr. Burke on some former occasion, and one might almost have thought, that they had been expressly made for the present times and state of Ireland, so thoroughly did they apply to the two great parties which distracted that degraded and unhappy country. He would detain the House no longer. He hoped, and, judging of the future from the past, he confidently believed, that Ministers would do their duty—that they would "still bear up and steer right onward"—and, undiverted by the jealousies or misrepresentations of either party, would render impartial justice to all. Never, indeed, did any Government stand, encompassed round with greater difficulties—placed as it was betwixt uncompromising factions—exposed to the hatred of those who would reform nothing, and of those who would change or subvert every thing. Amidst so much violence—amidst such fierce extremes—it was with joy and gratitude, that he beheld a Government equally removed from both—that he could find a rallying point where order and liberty might meet—that he could discover a green spot—an Oasis, as it were, in the desert, to which the eye of hope might turn, and where an exhausted nation might, at length, repose, secure alike from the pestilential glare of Toryism, and from the desolating whirlwinds of revolutionary Reform.
§ Mr. Christmas
entreated the indulgence of the House for a short time, while he briefly expressed his sentiments upon this great question. It was needless to enter into details of ancient oppression and ancient misrule. Such details might create a bad feeling in Ireland towards this coun- 225 try, but had very little to do with the question before the House. The hon. member for Dublin had endeavoured to prove, that England had no right over Ireland by conquest, or otherwise. She certainly had frequently exercised such power, whether she possessed it or not. Whether Ireland ever was, or was not, thoroughly conquered, might be a matter of very curious inquiry for the historian, but had very little bearing upon the subject under debate. The independence of the Irish Parliament was established in 1782, and the compact of union was afterwards made between two independent countries. They had been told, that the Irish Parliament was incompetent for this purpose. There must, however, be some means of effecting a union between two countries; and if Parliament were incompetent, it could only be done by having recourse to assemblies of the people. He did not concur in this doctrine; it was a dangerous one at any time, leading directly to universal suffrage; and it would have been doubly dangerous at the period of the Union, when Jacobinical doctrines were in full vogue. He was aware, that, notwithstanding all he might say on this subject, many Members would still retain their opinions as to the incompetence of Parliament; but, as it was a maxim in law, that length of possession established a claim to a thing, so, upon the same principle, the length of time during which the Union had passed unquestioned, should be sufficient in itself to give it all the force and validity of law; and would hon. Members say, if Ireland had prospered according to their wishes since the Union, that it would not now be valid, and that it required further means to confirm it? The real question was, what effect had the Union had on Ireland? The hon. member for Dublin, and those who agreed with him in opinion, had endeavoured to draw a highly-coloured picture of the prosperity of Ireland from 1782 to 1800, and conflicting statements had been brought forward on the other side, to disprove the truth of their assertions. Looking back to the records of that time, there was great difficulty in believing that her prosperity during that period was so great as they seemed to imagine. It was a period of great political agitation, and discontent, ending at last in a rebellion. Those armed associations called White-feet at one time, and Peep o'Day Boys 226 at another, which had been the bane of Ireland at almost every period, existed then in full force and efficiency; but granting that she did then make some advances in prosperity, the establishment of her independence was an advance from a worse to a better state of things; and it must be recollected also that certain commercial advantages of trading with the British colonies, which had been before withheld, were then thrown open to her, and no doubt contributed to her prosperity. But it was said, that since then she had retrograded: on this point, also, the statements were conflicting. The right hon. the Secretary to the Treasury had produced a number of official documents, which certainly afforded an incontestible evidence of the improvement of the country in many respects. He was himself aware that great advances had been made in agriculture; and it were difficult to believe, that these improvements could have taken place without contributing, in some degree, to increase the comforts of the farming and labouring population. But looking at this question impartially, and judging not from figures on the one side, or on the other, but from what passed under his own eyes and observation, he was not prepared to deny, that there existed a great deal of destitution and misery; but were these evils the inevitable consequences of the Union? It was true, indeed, that Ireland had not enjoyed all the advantages of the Union, from the introduction of British capital; but was it difficult to assign causes for them, or, rather, were they not so obvious, that he who ran might read them? First, and principal, he would assign the long agitation of the Catholic question. He did not entirely condemn that agitation; exclusion in itself was not a good thing, though it might be justified by particular times and circumstances. The Catholics were justified in seeking to gain their object, and had he been a member of that House, he would have raised his voice in their favour: but the practical effect of that agitation was, to keep Ireland in such a state as prevented the introduction of British capital. Another circumstance which operated prejudiciously, in his opinion, was, the granting the suffrage to the Catholic 40s. freeholders in 1798. He would not enter into the political bearing of this measure; no doubt, many persons would think that the 227 political advantages were such as to counterbalance the practical evils which resulted from it: he would look at it merely with reference to its practical effect, and he would say, that as it was unaccompanied by any measure which might impose upon the landlords the necessity, and place before their eyes the fear, of having to provide for the increased population of their estates, the land was cut up and subdivided into a number of small tenements, which had undoubtedly contributed materially to produce that great population for which it was now so difficult to provide. Besides, the period from the Union until the peace was one of high taxation, in which Ireland was obliged to bear her share. Much depression was created among the landed proprietors, by the subsequent fall in prices, their estates being frequently mortgaged and encumbered. The same distress existed in England, but it fell more heavily on Ireland, in proportion as she was less able to bear it. These causes were entirely independent of the Union, and were quite sufficient to account for the present state of things in Ireland, and to show why she had not made more rapid advances. But the real question now to be discussed was, what were the benefits which they were to receive from Repeal? No commercial advantages could result from it. The hon. member for Cork, who opened the debate last night, and the hon. member for Dublin, were at issue on this point. The hon. member for Cork was in favour of protecting duties, and the hon. member for Dublin was for free-trade. Now, that was a specimen of what would take place in the Irish Parliament; there would be two parties, one for protecting duties, and the other for free-trade. But he protested against being involved in a war of protecting duties with England. Ireland could gain nothing by such a war; but, on the contrary she might lose much. England would close her ports against Irish agricultural produce, and would prohibit Irish labourers; and thus they should have thrown back upon them the whole of that great surplus population which now found employment through every part of England and of Scotland, and was collected round the great seats of manufacture. No benefit would result from the Repeal of the Union, except the return of the absentees; but was this likely to be realized? He doubted 228 it much, or rather he felt a strong conviction that it would not. Absenteeism was not a new thing in Ireland—it existed before the Union. Even during the boasted period from 1782 to 1800, a correspondence took place between Lord North and the Duke of Devonshire, on the subject of an absentee-tax. But they were told, that the new field of ambition and political distinction opened to the Irish gentry would induce them to return. He doubted it; and when they recollected the certainty of a collision taking place between the two Houses in the very first Session of the Irish Parliament, and that the Upper House must necessarily give way to the gentle force of public opinion exemplified in mobs from the county of Kildare, with sticks in their hands, acting as the hon. member for Dublin would say, peacefully, but multitudinously, and parading before the House of Parliament in College-green, he felt convinced, that the nobility and gentry, feeling themselves deprived of their proper influence, and disgusted at the state of things in their own country, would continue to reside in this. With regard to the minor arguments in favour of Repeal, they had been so little insisted on, that he need scarcely allude to them. They were sometimes told, that there was not time in that House to manage the affairs of Ireland: undoubtedly at present, there was a great press of business. The country might be said to be in a state of transition, passing from the old system to the new reforms which were taking place in almost all our institutions; but this would not last for ever; and he would never believe, that that House was not fully competent to manage the affairs of the entire empire. Then, again, as to the national degradation and inferiority about which so much was said, he could see no degradation in being united to England. Ireland was not made a province by the Act of Union, but an Integral part of the British empire. Gentlemen appeared to proceed upon a fallacy, when they set the number of Irish Members in opposition to the number of English. They were not met there 550 against 105, each to contend for their own separate interest, but to consult and provide for the general good of the entire empire. Besides if this argument held good, what became of the principle of centralization, which had been going on for some time back, upon the 229 principle of those hon. Members who called it a degradation for one country to unite with another? They ought to restore their independence to all those States, which, in the progress of civilization, had been consolidated into the great monarchies of Europe, and resolve England again into the kingdoms of the heptarchy. As Scotland was an example that a smaller country might unite with a larger one with perfect benefit to itself, so he would point to Italy as an example of the disadvantages of division. Italy was divided into a number of petty States; but would any Gentleman contend that she held so high a rank among the nations of the world as she would do if the whole of that country, which was marked out by the physical boundaries of the sea and the Alps, was united under one Government, and formed one nation? With regard to the allegation that nothing had been done for Ireland, he did not refer to former years, but he pointed to the measures of last Session as evidence to the contrary. Was the abolition of the vestry-cess, and was the Grand Jury Bill nothing? When Gentlemen said, that nothing had been done, that point might easily be decided by asking them whether they would like to return to the situation in which they were before, and to remain there? The advocates of Repeal declared, that they were desirous of preserving the connexion between the countries. He did not precisely understand what they meant by connexion, or how it was to be preserved under the form of Government they would establish. He felt more strongly on this point than some Gentlemen did: they contended that the Repeal of the Union would lead to separation. He considered that it was, ipso facto, a separation. He was almost ashamed to return to the question of the Regency, which had been brought forward so often. The hon. member for Dublin said, that the King, de facto in England, was the King de jure in Ireland; and that it was the same with regard to the Regent. Now, this was tantamount to saying, that the Irish Parliament had no right whatever to deliberate upon the subject. He admitted, however, that if this was the only point of difference, it would not be an obstacle, provided the Irish Parliament was ready to give up its right on that question; but this was merely an exemplification of the thousand causes of difference which might 230 arise from time to time, and which no man could foresee. For instance, there was a contest now going on in Portugal between Don Pedro and Don Miguel. Now, suppose Ireland had got back her independent Parliament, and that the principles of non-intervention were out of fashion, and that the one country determined to support Don Pedro, and the other Don Miguel. He was aware, that it was the prerogative of the King to declare war, but he must be guided in doing so by the opinion of his Parliament. In that case we should have hostile armies of Englishmen and Irishmen meeting together to shed each other's blood in the field of battle. And this was the way in which they were to preserve the connexion, and to keep up the feeling of cordiality between the two countries. Hanover appeared to him a case exactly in point. Hanover was connected with us by the link of the Crown, but it was not an integral part of the British empire; it was a member of the German confederation, and it was the custom, in times past, in wars between England and the Continental Powers, to respect the neutrality of Hanover. The hon. member for Dublin, however, said, that he would, have the countries connected by a federal union. Switzerland was governed by such a system, as also America. But America was an example of the inherent weakness of that system, and he was convinced that, by its adoption, they should leave the door open to all the elements of discord, without gaining any advantages by it; for the ambition would be to be members of the imperial, rather than of the local Legislature, and absenteeism would continue just as much as before. The present state of society in Ireland was a strong reason against Repeal. Gentlemen said, that they had no desire to establish a Catholic ascendancy. He gave them full credit for what they said, but it must come notwithstanding. His hon. Colleague took some pains to prove that there could not be a Catholic ascendancy, because the King and the House of Lords were Protestant: he differed from him entirely on this point. Whatever might be the theory of our Constitution, any person who had looked at it practically, must see, that all power was ultimately placed in the lower branch of the Legislature. The constituent body was principally Catholic, and such as the Repre- 231 sentative was, such would be the constituent. There would be a Catholic, or what was worse, a democratic ascendancy, entirely at variance with the principles of our Constitution. In England, the case was different; property had its influence, and agitation had less force; but in Ireland, the consequence of Repeal would be to give unlimited power to the democracy. Gentlemen said, however, that after two years, all would be right again—that was to say, that after they had gone through a purifying revolution of two years, property would resume its influence. This might be very good doctrine, but they must excuse those who had got anything to lose from taking their advice on this point. He confessed that, notwithstanding the great majority in that House, he looked with feelings of considerable apprehension on the continued agitation of this question. Its consequences must be most injurious to Ireland; and the longer it was allowed to continue, the more difficult would it be to remove, at any future period, the effect it produced. For the effects which were produced by the causes, whatsoever they might be, which tended to retard the prosperity of a nation, could not entirely cease when the causes themselves were removed; they took root in the soil; and the consequences of a mistaken policy on the part of the fathers, must be entailed upon their children. He would put it, then, to those hon. Members who agitated this question, and he would do so rather in friendship than in hostility, whether as they regarded the welfare of their common country, they ought not to yield to the strongly-expressed opinion of this House, and give up the point while they could do so with honour, and before they had raised a storm which they could not control; and to use whatever influence they might possess to calm the public mind, and to direct it into other channels. This was not like the Catholic question; the sympathies of men were always to a great extent, enlisted in favour of those who suffered under exclusion, and Catholic emancipation was always strongly supported by the ablest men of all parties. It was not exclusively a Whig or Tory question; for, although the Tory party was generally adverse, and the Whig party favourable to it, yet many of the most distinguished members of the Tory party were always favourable to it. But this Question of Repeal received no support from any party, 232 and was merely a question of policy. How, then was it to be carried? Gentlemen should look at the difficulties of the case; did they think they could carry it against the entire opinion of this country, and against the wishes of the Irish gentry?—or would they wish so to carry it? They might indeed succeed in excluding the gentry from that House at a future election. He knew the force with which agitation might be brought to bear upon the constituency of Ireland; but if they did he was much mistaken in their feelings or their spirit, if they did not unite—setting aside all minor differences—into one great party, and the Table would be covered with petitions, calling upon that House to protect their rights and privileges, as subjects of the British empire, and declaring in firm, but respectful terms, that they were determined to resist a separation from it. The House was told, however, that the popular feeling was so strong that it could not be resisted; and he heard with some surprise the other day, the hon. member for Tiverton declare his intention of supporting this Motion, merely on account of the petitions which had been presented. He had not heard the question discussed, and it did not seem, that he wished or cared to hear it. Now, really considering that the hon. member for Dublin had required one million signatures—no extravagant number, certainly, if the question was to be carried by the mere weight of petitions collected from the mass of the population, and thrown upon the Table of that House; and that the petitions had proved a complete failure, he ought to vote the other way. But that hon. Member took a view of the duty of a Member of that House widely different from that which he (Mr. Christmas) entertained. He did not mean to advance the doctrine that that House ought to be independent of public opinion, when that opinion was steadily impressed by a majority of the thinking portion of the community; but times and occasions might arise when it would be the bounden duty of a Representative of the people—having necessarily, from his position in that House, a clearer insight into public affairs than those who were placed at a distance from them—not blindly to yield to popular clamour, but rather to resist it, and to point out to the people what was for their true and ultimate interest. Believing, that the close connexion between the countries 233 was essentially necessary to the stability of the empire, and the welfare and happiness of both, he declared his intention to preserve, by every means in his power, the legislative and incorporate Union between them.
§ Colonel Verner
said: After the lengthened discussion which has taken place upon the Motion before the House, I can assure hon. Members that I shall not occupy one moment more of its time than may be necessary for the very few observations I wish to make; and although I had provided myself with some documents in order to submit them to it, yet, at this late period of the debate, I shall not refer to more than one or two, and those shall be very short. I did entertain the hope that, after the impression made on the House by the splendid speech, and by the powerful, and in my humble judgment, convincing arguments of the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, the advocates of this measure would have spared the House all further discussion on the subject, and have permitted the amendment of the right hon. Secretary for the Treasury to pass without further opposition. In that expectation I have been disappointed, and I must admit that, in some respects, I do not regret it; for by the course which has been adopted by the advocates of this measure, additional proof has been afforded, that agitation is not to be allowed to cease in Ireland, and that repeal is the true prelude and fore-runner of deeper and more dangerous measures: I trust, Sir, I may be permitted to make an allusion to a petition which I presented to the House this day, and which I consider, at this period of the debate, and after what has fallen from some Members as to the sentiments entertained by the Protestants of Ireland respecting the measure of Repeal, of very great importance. It is from the Protestant inhabitants of the county of which I have the honour to be one of the Representatives, and is signed by some thousands of persons, and cannot fail to remove the impression that the Protestants of Ireland, are favourable to Repeal. In order that the House may be enabled to judge of the influence that body is supposed to possess towards the accomplishment of this measure, at least in the opinion of some of its most strenuous advocates, I will take the liberty of reading two short extracts from letters addressed to the Protestants 234 of Ireland on this subject, in December and January last, by the hon. and learned member for the city of Dublin:—'Protestants, if you think fit to co-operate with us for the Repeal, generously, numerously, and speedily, before twelve months, we may, without difficulty, have the Irish Parliament in College-green once again.' And, in his second letter, dated the 10th day of January last, he thus expresses himself:—'But should the Protestants decline to co-operate in the Repeal, yet that measure has, I now perceive, become inevitable. The Union cannot possibly continue much longer. Even without Protestant aid, it will be repealed. I go further, and verily believe, that even against Protestant resistance, Repeal will in a few years be carried. The truth is, that it is not Repeal alone, but separation, which may be urged on by the present indecision of the Irish Protestants.' I hope this declaration of that hon. and learned Member will have its due weight with his Majesty's Ministers; and I leave it to the House to judge, whether the Protestants of Ireland are the persons on whom those who advocate Repeal may rely for support. The right hon. Secretary of the Treasury has justly said, that the Motion which has been made by the hon. and learned Gentleman, is not the same as that of which he originally gave notice. I am not surprised at the change. His recent experience must have satisfied him, that very great consequences may follow very slight alterations. Had the hon. Member in all respects observed the precedent he was the first to set, successfully, and taken the House by surprise—had he made the change, and not given the usual notice when a new Motion is made—it is difficult to conjecture how many supporters the love of novelty, and the admiration of a boldness which disregards all form, might have secured him, and how many of those Gentlemen who grace the opposite Benches, might have divided in favour of a Motion which, because it has not come upon them by surprise, they are now disposed to negative. I am not one of those who are so enamoured of change, as to alter my purpose or my vote for any technical alteration. I had made up my mind how I was to act, when the Motion for Repeal was first brought forward; and I do not hold that the question has been substantially altered by being changed into 235 a Motion for a Committee. The question of the Repeal of the Union is one, which, in the judgment of many wise and good men, involves a consideration of no less magnitude than of national dismemberment. Come it soon, or come it late, an independent legislature in Ireland, will, it is said, be followed by independence in the executive, and a country which has hitherto constituted much of the strength of the British Empire will become changed into a precarious ally, or perhaps assume the part and place of a jealous rival, or, even in the hour of England's sore peril, of a bitter enemy. I do not know how far the House may concur in apprehensions of this character, but I would earnestly call the attention of his Majesty's Ministers to the propriety of considering well before they lend their aid to break down the only auxiliaries in Ireland, to which England could look to guard her interests and her honour. It is very apparent, from the arguments, and from the exertions of the hon. and learned Gentleman, the representative of the city of Dublin, both in the House and out of it, that all which he conceives necessary for the attainment of his object, is the adhesion to his plan of Irish Protestants. It is generally understood that the Roman Catholic population of Ireland, are, almost to a man, favourable to the measure which he recommends, and all that he requires is, that the chorus of their cheers should be swelled by Protestant voices, in order to its becoming irresistible. There was a time when he might as well have called on "spirits from the vasty deep," as court the suffrages of the loyal Protestants of Ireland; and when Britain could rely on her Protestant subjects in my country, with a confidence to which their unwavering fidelity, and their tried valour, in the perils and difficulties of many critical periods, had amply entitled them. The state of Ireland, as it affects the question under debate, is briefly this:—One portion of its inhabitants, and that by far the larger, has never forgiven England her victory over them. They look to the Repeal of the Union as a measure which implies a repeal of the Act of Settlement—a restoration of forfeited possessions—a measure by which they will be able to feed the ancient grudge they owe a country, which, they proclaim, holds them in thraldom. I am not speaking the sentiments entertained by the educated, whose 236 habits of living and thinking bear the traces of culture and refinement, and who respect settled law and recognized property. I am speaking of dark and turbulent, passions, which have been kept in constant commotion, and which, whether in a storm, or sleeping, ought to be dreaded. I speak without reserve, the times requires plain speaking; and I do affirm that, with the great mass of the population of Ireland, Repeal of the Union, separation from England, and re-assumption of forfeited estates, have all the same meaning; those who know Ireland well will not dispute my affirmation. On the other hand, there is a body comparatively small in number, but in all that constitutes moral strength powerful, from which, up to the present day, the most strenuous efforts might be expected to befriend the interests of British connexion. Such are our two parties in Ireland. The one has never been allured to regard England even with complacency—the other has never wavered in its attachment, and is untainted with a single thought of disaffection. And what is the process to which these parties respectively are made subject? Government appears secure of the one and thinks by insulting and outraging them to win a toleration from the other. They would induce the violent to put on good behaviour, and care little, if in the endeavour they goad the mild and obedient into evil. This is a fatal game to play, and Great Britain may lose the most faithful friend that ever did honour to any cause, and have the mortification to find that she has obtained in exchange only the scorn of those she vainly thought to conciliate. Already have the Protestants begun to calculate and to cool—they say, we can no longer look to England for protection—she allows our defences to be taken from us, or turned against us. She gives to those who hate us and hate her, countenance and encouragement; she contemptuously denies to us the ordinary rights of subjects. Many have quitted their country—many are leaving it; some few have deserted their old professions. A body still remains faithful and resolute; and it seems the desire of a rash Government to sport with the feelings, and explore to try and find a weak point, and let it be exposed to their adversaries to practise upon. All these points of weakness are not neglected by crafty enemies. While Government despises, faction courts, the 237 insulted Protestant: his wrongs are dilated on—and he is led to believe that by joining in the prosecution of desperate measures, he may better his condition and gratify his revenge; and thus is our country exposed to dangers by which it was never before assailed; when at the same time the seductions of the disaffected, and the slights and scorn of the Government are at work, to make the Irish Protestant disloyal. The House will judge what unhappy consequences have resulted from these combined, though opposite exertions. When I say, that there are many and many whom I respect, who consider a vote given in aid of a Ministerial measure misapplied; who think, that his Majesty's Ministers, if they are sincere, are not resolute in their opposition to the project for which Ireland is now agitated—and that it is unwise to countenance, even by a silent vote, the delusion, that they will ever prove worthy champions of British connexion. For such reasons, much as I may regret the occasion of them, I cannot depart from the course in which I have, during my past life, walked. Neither the affronts I may myself experience, nor the injustice to which I see my friends exposed, shall cause me to confound the case of the people of England, with the demerits of the ministry who unwisely govern them—but so far as I have the power, it shall be my constant endeavour to defeat the efforts of any party, or the tendency of any measures, whether of the Government or the Opposition, to separate my country and this, and to make the for-saken Protestants forget that Englishmen are their brothers, and will not long abandon them to the fury of their enemies, or the persecutions of those who ought to be their friends. I thank the House for the patient hearing it has afforded me; and although there are other topics upon which I should wish to have said a few words I shall no longer trespass upon its time.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that the interest which he had formerly taken in all discussions relating to Ireland would, he hoped, induce the House to pardon him for the anxiety which he felt, before the close of the debate, to state the view which he took of that most important question. The hon. member for Wexford had stated a great portion of matter in which he concurred. He considered the question to be one of vital importance to both countries, and that it had not been soberly 238 dealt with in the course of the debate. Three-fourths of the discussion had gone away from the immediate subject under consideration; it ought to have been argued in the way in which it was originally submitted to the House. He thought, indeed, that hon. Gentlemen had been fighting with the winds on many occasions, and that they had not applied themselves to the terms of the Motion, which stood thus:—"That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report on the means by which the dissolution of the Parliament of Ireland was effected; into the effects of that measure upon Ireland, and upon the labourers in husbandry and operatives in manufactures in England; and on the probable consequences of continuing the Legislative Union between both countries." Now he would ask, was there one word about the Repeal of the Union in this Motion? The speech of his hon. and learned friend, who had introduced this Motion, stated, undoubtedly, what his views and intentions were—thus making it a question of Repeal, and calling upon every man in the House to this, as the principal object of his Motion. But he would ask any individual who had not heard the Motion read, and had heard the subsequent discussion, to refer to the course which had been adopted by his Majesty's Government with a view to put down the question. Suppose a person to read the Amendment recorded in the Journals of the House, as an answer to the Motion of his hon. and learned friend, he would ask whether the address which had been proposed as an Amendment by the right hon. Gentleman, was applicable by any kind of reference whatever to the Motion before the House? He confessed that, as it appeared to him, they were playing at cross-purposes; and he would say, as regarded the documents before the House—let any man read them, and that man would be satisfied that they were wrong in the course which they had pursued. With regard to the first part of his hon. and learned friend's proposition, he had no hesitation in saying, that he should think it loss of time to inquire into and report "the means by which the dissolution of the Parliament of Ireland was effected." He regretted as much as any man could, the bribery, the corruption, and abominations which had taken place at the Union; but the intention of the Government was good, and he did not 239 think that any benefit could result from the inquiry contemplated by the Motion. How far the "labourers in husbandry and operatives in manufactures in England," were or were not affected by the Union with Ireland (unless indeed, it were now proved that by the Union the surplus population of Ireland was sent over to this country, and thus affected our manufacturers) might be a matter to be inquired into. He believed, however, that the fact was generally admitted, and he did not think it a subject which ought to occupy the attention of the House. But as to that part of the Motion which included the consideration of "the probable consequences of continuing the Legislative Union between both countries," he thought that the whole matter hinged upon that topic. There was, however, no man in that House who was more convinced of the necessity of completing the Union and maintaining it than he was. And he never would, either in or out of that House, say or do anything to dissolve that Union. He did not believe, that his hon. and learned friend would advocate Repeal, if he could secure good Government for his country. Nay, he had heard him, before this subject was agitated, declare that if the results of the Union—peace, satisfaction, concord, and prosperity, and the termination of those turmoils which now afflicted Ireland, were ensured; if he could see those beneficial results brought about, he had in view nothing beyond that object. He, therefore, believed that his hon. and learned friend had referred to the question of Repeal, under the belief, that the Imperial Parliament would never consent to redress the evils of his country. Under that feeling, he believed he had proposed to his countrymen a measure which must lead to the separation from England. He thought, however, that his hon. and learned friend was mistaken in the course which he had pursued; and he thought that though former Parliaments, to their discredit, continued abuses, still a change had since taken place. At the same time, though it was a Reformed Parliament, it was one which he believed to be equally faulty with its predecessors. He thought he should have no difficulty in showing that many of its Acts were worse than those of its predecessors. This was a fact which he should be ready to prove, for he had only to allude to the Coercion Bill of the right 240 hon. Gentleman, now Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. Stanley), which, in another place, was only considered valuable because it contained severe enactments. But gave to Ministers the reputation of having added to the evils of the country. He would ask what advantage was proposed by the introduction of the Union? Was it not brought about with a view to put an end to the anarchy which existed at that period? But in what manner had the Government of this country attempted to carry that object into effect? If his own opinion were worth anything, he would call upon the House to attend to it; but he would not detain them by doing so. He thought that the very nature of the Motion now under consideration was sufficient to show that Ireland had suffered greatly under the late as well as the present Parliament. He would tell his hon. and learned friend who introduced this Motion, as well as those hon. and right hon. Members who followed him in the debate, that it was not necessary to lay before the House a historical account of the early state of Ireland in order to show that that country had suffered a long system of oppression and mis-management. This was a fact which no man in that House pretended to deny. The Union, it was said, was to put an end to all this; but since the period of its passing little or nothing had been done for that unhappy country. Those, however, who gave credit to the speech of the right hon. Secretary (Mr. Spring Rice) would be led to suppose that all had been done that could be done for that country. [Cries of "No, no."] The right hon. Secretary of the Treasury certainly said or implied as much—["No, no."]. He certainly so understood the right hon. Secretary who took up nearly half-an-hour in enumerating all the good things which had been done for Ireland since the Union. But in reality what had been done for Ireland since that period? He would tell them, and in doing so he would quote an observation or two from a speech made by the right hon. Secretary. He would not refer to what had been said on the Motion of Sir J. Newport, respecting Ireland, in 1822, which had already been so much quoted, but to what fell from the right hon. Secretary, on a Motion of Lord Castlereagh, in the same year:—'The House had been confidently told, by the noble Marquess, 241 said the right hon. Secretary, that the re-enactment of the Insurrection-law, with the passing of the Habeas Corpus Act, would serve effectually to put down the present disturbances in Ireland. But how could the noble Lord rely so much upon the efficacy of laws which, having been already tried, had proved totally ineffectual to the restoration of tranquillity in Ireland? They had been ineffectual, because within the long period that had elapsed since the Union was carried, no inquiry had been instituted, no attempt had been made to ascertain, or to remedy the real and general grievances of Ireland.'* These were the opinions of the right. hon. Secretary, (whom he was sorry to see was not in his place), in 1822. But now his opinions were changed; at present he wished it to be understood, that every thing had been done which could be done for Ireland—[Cries of "No no" from the Ministerial benches]. He should like to know what hon. Members meant by that cry of "No, no!" Did not the right hon. Member say so ["No, no."]? He certainly could not otherwise understand the following passage in the Resolutions proposed as an Amendment, by the right hon. Secretary:—'We humbly represent to your Majesty, that the Imperial Parliament have taken the affairs of Ireland into their most serious consideration, and that various salutary laws have been enacted since the Union, for the advancement of the most important interests of Ireland and the empire at large.' Was this statement consistent with the sentiment contained in the right hon. Secretary's speech in 1822? He believed, that the warmest supporters of the right hon. Secretary would hardly contend that it was. He would shortly advert to the last passage of the Resolutions, in which they were pledged to 'persevere in applying their best attention to remove all just causes of complaint, and to the promotion of all well-considered measures of improvement.' Without saying how far this last Resolution was borne out by the fact,—without asking whether they had ever applied their best attention to remove just causes of complaint,—he would inquire, whether the greater portion of the speeches made on this question had not consisted of attacks upon the character and conduct of the hon. and learned* Hansard, (new series), vol. vi, p. 122.242 member for Dublin? And when the word "Agitator" was mentioned, whether it was not received with cheers? But did they believe, that the conduct or influence of any one man could produce such effects as they had witnessed in Ireland? No; they might rest assured, that there must have existed grounds, and strong ones, too, for dissatisfaction; there must have existed grievances of long standing, to which the people despaired to see any remedy applied, before any individual could obtain such influence. These things it was, that must have turned the people's minds towards their agent (for their agent the hon. and learned Member was, and very properly so), and they rallied round him and looked up to him, and the more particularly so, when they found their former friends and advocates deserting them, and taking shelter in the enemy's camp; finding themselves solaced with places and pensions as the reward of their change of opinions. He would now call the attention of the House to another passage in the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman, in 1822. At that time, my Lord Castlereagh complained, that Ireland was torn to pieces by internal agitation. Upon that occasion the right hon. Member (Mr. Spring Rice) used the following observation:—"Lord Bacon has said, that to allay discontent and dissatisfaction, you must expel the matter of sedition. So he would say to the noble Lord, that to expel agitation they must remove the matter which occasioned it." But no attempt of this kind had been made to remove the causes of this discontent, and the hon. and learned member for Dublin had been made an agitator by the Government, or, he ought more properly to say, the misgovernment of Ireland. That hon. and learned Member had been pointed at,—he had been alluded to, and attempted to be excluded, all but by name, upon the passing of the Emancipation Act. But, previously to passing the Reform Bill, much cause of discontent was given, more than 240,000 persons were, by one Act, deprived of their rights. In every case of severity, a greater degree of it was meted out to Ireland than to England. In fact, injustice was continually done to Ireland. In support of that assertion, he would remind the House of the opinions expressed by the Whigs of 1832, upon the same Motion to which he had before alluded. The 243 hon. Baronet, the representative for Westminster (Sir F. Burdett), asked,—"Whether it was to be tolerated that Ireland was to know nothing but what she was taught through bloodshed and the gibbet?" Here the House had the testimony of two hon. Members, who at the time sat on his side of the House, that Ireland had not been fully or fairly dealt with. Notwithstanding all this, however, he did not intend to vote for the Repeal of the Union, because he felt that that measure, instead of bettering the condition of Ireland, would add to her sufferings, and, at the same time, be productive of injury to England. Ever since he had had the honour of a seat in that House there were two main and standing grievances on the part of Ireland; the first was the Catholic disabilities, and the second, the evils arising to the people generally from the existence of a dominant Church Establishment. The disabilities under which the Catholics laboured were removed by the Emancipation Bill; but was this sufficient to justify the right hon. Secretary in stating, that every thing had been done for Ireland that could be done? The domination of the Established Church still continued, and was felt as a burthen. Was it the fault of the people that they felt their grievances and complained of them? Was it their fault that they knew their rights and demanded them? The House, instead of delaying to remedy those evils, ought to present an Address to his Majesty, declaring the existence of those evils, and expressive of their desire to redress them. What was the present state of the Church Establishment in Ireland as it affected the Roman Catholic population? Upon this point he would, with the leave of the House, read a few extracts from the letter of a noble personage, late a high functionary in Ireland, whose opinions must, doubtless, have much weight with both sides of the House. It was a letter purporting to have been written by the Marquess of Anglesey to Lord Grey.
§ Mr. Hume
said, he would hand him the document altogether in a few minutes. The hon. Member then proceeded to read the extracts, Speaking of the Protestant Church in Ireland, the noble Marquess said, 'This Establishment, which has always exceeded the religious wants of the Protestant congregations, has hitherto been upheld by the State, merely upon the ground, that it consolidated the connexion between the two countries.' [This, said the hon. Member, was, truly, a pretty reason why a Church should be supported.] 'But this service it no longer performs. Instead of strengthening the connexion, it weakens it. Any Government henceforth pledged to maintain that Establishment as it now exists, must be brought into constant and permanent collision with public opinion, and the prejudices and passions of the Irish people.' Good God! was it possible that any Ministry should continue to support such a system as this? Was it possible that any man could be found to support it? There was, perhaps, no wonder that a Tory might be found who would go to great extremes in support of the Church, and consent to give them a fee simple where they had only a life interest. But why should the present Ministers act thus? The present Government were acting under a mistaken feeling, which was fast sinking them, and they were dragging with them a liberal House of Commons, by whom they had hitherto been supported in an extraordinary manner. They were acting, too, directly contrary to those principles by which they had been actuated when out of office; but he begged pardon of the House for thus trespassing upon their attention, and would proceed to read the extracts from Lord Anglesey's letter:—'However attached myself to the doctrines of the Protestant Church, and however anxious to discountenance any violent changes in its temporal condition, it is impossible for me not to see, that the prevailing resistance to its legal pecuniary claims is only symptomatic of a deep-rooted, widespread conviction in the minds of the Irish community, that the continuance of this Establishment, in its present extent and splendour, is no longer justified by the condition of this country; and that the time has arrived for such just and practicable reforms in respect of it as may eventually place at the disposal 245 of the State a national fund, to be applied to necessary national purposes. Such,' Lord Anglesey went on to observe, I have been reluctantly compelled to feel, is the general and unchangeable opinion of the Irish people upon this subject; and I am equally impressed with the apprehension, that, unless the Parliament takes the lead in the work of now inevitable innovation, the recent confederacy against tithes will prove to have been only the first of a series of deplorable struggles between the Government and the national antipathies,—that every day during which those struggles are protracted, the Government will find itself less in a condition of imposing its own terms,—and that, sooner or later, the final result must be, an extorted and undignified compliance with demands which we had not the foresight, or rather, perhaps, the power to concede.' No words could be more prophetic than those of the noble Lord. Concession after concession had taken place, and the late right hon. Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Stanley) had, amongst others, been obliged to retrace his steps. He had succeeded first, however, in having made the King a tithe-collector; at least, he had it provided, that tithes should be collected in the King's name; and, in order to effect this, he (Mr. Stanley) called for the whole constabulary force of the country. He was told, that he would fail, yet he succeeded; but how? Why, he succeeded in raising 12,000l. at an expense of about 28,000l. There was no measure proposed by the late hon. Secretary for Ireland which he was not obliged to retract. He called upon the right hon. Secretary, or his friends, to name one act which the right hon. Secretary had not been obliged to give up. He had boasted of his measures in triumph, but those measures had failed; and, after pronouncing tithes extinct, and declaring that the law should be vindicated, the right hon. Gentleman had no alternative but to come to that House, and ask for greater powers than had been intrusted to any other Government, to collect the tithes which he had said were at an end. He would now read some further extracts from the letter:—'I know, that the times have passed when the will of the Minister could determine the acts of the Legislature, still I cannot refrain from urging on the attention of my colleagues the claims of this suffering 246 and too-long neglected country to a participation in the benefit of that enlightened policy which has already conferred so much benefit on other parts of the empire.' That letter was signed "Anglesey;" and it was dated, "Phœnix-Park, Oct. 9, 1832." Surely, if the statement were correct, and he thought it was, the Imperial Parliament had neglected the just demands of Ireland. How, then, he should like to know, could hon. Members, who admitted this fact, consent to an Address, worded in the way proposed by the right hon. Gentleman? The course of proceeding which he suggested, was a most singular one. In his opinion, it was unconstitutional, as well as unusual. He had never been able to find one single instance in which that House interfered, by Address, in order to put a stop to inquiry. The right hon. Gentleman had, as Lord Anglesey had said, been disappointed in all his measures of government, and had been obliged, most unwillingly, to give up point after point. Nor could he expect to succeed in overcoming the feelings of Ireland on the subject, till full and ample justice was done to her by the Imperial Parliament. If Parliament had, as the Address declared, done all that could be done for Ireland, that country would be in a very different state to that in which it now was. When the right hon. Gentleman talked of the increase in her exports and imports, he forgot, that the population of the country had doubled, and that, on that account alone, a large increase was to be expected. But the improvement of Ireland could not be fairly estimated by such calculations; and if they instituted a comparison between the increase in England and that in Ireland during the same period, they would find the proportion of the former greatly to exceed that of the latter. But the real question, after all, was not, what was the amount of exports or of imports, but what was the comparative comfort of the mass of the people before and since the Union? If he referred to the evidence given before the Committee, of which the right hon. Secretary was Chairman, he found it almost unanimously stated, that Ireland never was in a more wretched condition than during the last seven or eight years. It was but of little consequence what a country produced, if the inhabitants of that country partook not of that produce. In fact, it was perfectly clear, from that 247 evidence, that Ireland had not enjoyed what she was entitled to have,—good government, peace, and order. Whilst on this subject, he would call the attention of the House to a debate that occurred on the 24th June, 1823, when Sir Henry Parnell delivered a speech which, putting aside the statistical details, most completely corresponded with the tone of Lord Anglesey's sentiments. He said: "Another way of judging of the state of disturbance in Ireland, is by referring to the Statute-book; from this it appears as follows:—
|That the Insurrection Act was in force from 1796 to 1802||6|
|That Martial Law was in force from 1803 to 1805||2|
|That the Insurrection Act was in force from 1807 to 1810||3|
|That the Insurrection Act was in force from 1814 to 1818||4|
|That the Insurrection Act was in force from 1822 to 1823||1|
|Out of a period of 27 years, these laws were in force for||16|
§ But in addition to these two Acts, others of a similar unconstitutional kind have been passed within the same period. The Habeas Corpus Act was suspended from 1797 to 1802; again, from 1803 to 1806; and again in 1822. The Arms Act, allowing domiciliary visits, and prohibiting the use of arms, was in force from 1796 to 1801, and has been in force from 1807 to the present time, and now forms part of the standing law of the country. The Peace Preservation Act, by which a regular gendarmerie was appointed, has been in force from 1814 to the present time. Taking together the periods of disturbances, as before-mentioned, with the periods for which the Martial-law and Insurrection Acts have been in force, we obtain the following table of actually existing disturbances in Ireland:—
|1 From 1792 to 1802||10|
|2 — 1803 to 1805||2|
|3 — 1807 to 1810||3|
|4 — 1811 to 1818||7|
|5 — 1819 to 1823||4|
That is, out of a period of the last thirty-one years, no less than twenty-six years have been years of actual insurrection or disturbance. The following conclusions may be drawn from this case of Ireland as to the means taken for suppressing dis-
turbances. First, that as often as any disturbance has appeared, since 1795, it has been immediately followed by some new law of a severe and coercive character. Secondly, that a regular system has thus grown up, and been constantly acted upon, of dealing with discontent and disturbance with severe and coercive measures. Thirdly, that this system has completely failed; for, in the place of discontent and disturbance being diminished, great as they were in 1795, they are still greater at the present moment."* From that, then, the House must see that twenty-six years out of thirty-three were years of disturbance. He attributed that condition of the country to various causes, amongst which, were the delay of the measure of Emancipation, and the state of the Established Church. There was no subject of which the Irish complained more, than the state of the Church. Let hon. Members endeavour to conceal the fact from themselves as they pleased, it was impossible not to come to the conclusion that this was the case; it was impossible not to admit, then, that the compulsory payment of tithes, was the cause of almost every disturbance that had taken place in Ireland. He contended, Government had not dealt fairly and frankly with Ireland. Their course of policy should have been more manly; they should have fairly met the grievances of Ireland, and not have endeavoured to keep up, for temporary purposes, an overgrown Church Establishment. How was it possible the people should be satisfied, when they saw in what manner many of the acknowledged grievances of Ireland had been attempted to be remedied? It was but last year that the excitement and irritation produced by the Vestry-laws was terminated. How, then, could any conscientious man say, that the Imperial Parliament had acted justly towards Ireland since the Union, when Church-cess had only been so recently abolished? Let the House only refer to the speech of the right hon. Secretary, on the irritation produced in Ireland in consequence of Tithes, and he was sure they must come to the conclusion, that whatever might now be the inclination, the Imperial Parliament had hitherto neglected their duty towards Ireland. Why should not Ireland be treated like an integral part of the
* Hansard (new series) ix. p. 1157.
empire? Why should Ireland be governed like a province of England? Why should a Colonial Establishment be kept up there? Why should Ireland be managed by a Viceroy with a delegated establishment. The machinery of Government in Ireland was alone of such a nature as to create those factions and heart-burnings for which, unfortunately, that country was too well distinguished. How recently was it that Protestant ascendancy had received a blow in Ireland? Even now, the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin had, in his speech, expressed his regret at the change, which had taken from that party the overbearing, overwhelming influence which it lately possessed. The Irish people who were oppressed by this party, could not obtain justice against them; they were irritated by the denial of justice and protection, and were driven to violence as their only remedy. Until the last two or three years, no speech had been made from the ministerial side of the House in relation to Ireland, which had not for its object the use of force towards the discontented Irish people. Coercion had been the constant cry. It was in vain that the Members on the opposite side had called on Parliament to try the effect of a different system. Had this system been altered? Had not force also been the order of the day since the present Ministers came into office? He believed that there was now a greater army in Ireland than had ever been kept there before or since the Union. He complained of this, not only on the part of the people of Ireland, but also on the part of the people of England, for it was they who were called on to pay the expense of keeping Ireland as a conquered country. If the course which he recommended were adopted, he would venture to foretel that the power of agitation would cease. Popular as the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell) deservedly was at the present moment, the powerful sceptre which he now swayed would fall from his hands; whereas Government, by keeping up these injurious institutions and laws, were themselves the real agitators, and the greatest enemies to Ireland. Above all things, the Government must remedy the abuses of the Church Establishment. The hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Lefroy) had said that, in his opinion, the more powerful the Church, the better for the
country. He thought, however, the hon. Gentleman would find few Members in that House who would agree with him in opinion. For his own part, it was impossible that he could agree to the Address, though the right hon. Gentleman had stated, that it was so worded, that every Member of this vilified Imperial Parliament would readily give his sanction to its amendment. As far as the original Motion of his hon. and learned friend was concerned, if it had not been for his speech, he should have felt no hesitation in voting for the words of his Motion. But his speech was so clearly a speech in favour of Repeal, that he felt he could not vote for the Committee, lest by so doing he should be held to countenance that measure. He thought they were bound first of all to try a little longer what this Parliament would do for Ireland before they encouraged the agitation of this question. Therefore, thus, did he not say, as many Gentlemen said, that nothing could ever induce him to become a Repealer: he was at present its opponent. But if he should find, that justice was continued to be denied to the people of Ireland—if they could not obtain their rights—then he thought the question was one that ought fairly and properly to be agitated. But whilst on the one hand he would oppose any Motion for Repeal, he should also oppose any Address which could have the effect of admitting that the Imperial Parliament had done everything for Ireland that it was in its power to do. In other respects the Address was entirely useless—for, but a few weeks ago, they had voted a similar Address, in which they had declared to his Majesty their earnest desire to preserve inviolate the integrity of the Union. He should, therefore, for the purpose of placing his views on record, submit, at the proper time, an Amendment for the consideration of the House. It was not the first time he had done so; and he had known many gentlemen who would have been glad if they had in time adopted some of those propositions emanating now from so humble an individual as himself. The hon. Member concluded by reading his proposed Amendment, as follows:—"That the present state of Ireland is afflicting to its inhabitants, and dangerous to the well-being of the United Kingdom; and although some salutary laws affecting the Irish people have been passed by the
Imperial Parliament, yet we deeply regret that the beneficial results anticipated from the Legislative Union have not been realized. The failure may, however, be attributed to the error of Parliament in refusing or delaying the redress of substantial grievances, and not applying more extensively those remedial measures, chiefly as regards the Established Church of Ireland, which a liberal and benignant policy would dictate. That we will now direct our best and earliest attention to the removal of all existing causes of just complaint, and to the application of such measures of improvement and reform, both in Church and State, as, by doing justice, will best promote the peace and contentment of the people of Ireland; and, by thus securing them the full benefit of the British constitution, increase their attachment to its principles, and give additional strength and prosperity to the united empire."
§ Lord Althorp
thought, that some apology would be due from him to the House for trespassing on its attention at the present period of the debate, if he did not feel it to be his duty, on such a question as that under discussion, to state the grounds on which he founded his opposition to the Motion of the hon. and learned member for Dublin. The question appeared to be so exhausted, and the arguments which had been used against the Motion so conclusive, that he did not think it possible for him to introduce any new matter into the debate. Still he was anxious to make a few observations on what had passed during the discussion, and, as he had before said, to state the grounds on which he thought the question ought to be decided. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last, had observed, that one half of the speeches delivered in support of the Amendment consisted of attacks on the hon. and learned member for Dublin. He admitted, that many of the speeches might be so described; but he must also be permitted to say, that more than half of the speeches spoken in support of the original Motion were made up of quotations from the speeches delivered by his right hon. friend (Mr. Rice) in 1822. Indeed, he never recollected to have heard in any former debate so great a quantity of quotations as had been read on the present occasion. The noble Lord at the head of the Administration had been charged with inconsistency, with reference 252 to the question of the legislative Union of England and Ireland. He could not, however, admit, that a man could fairly be accused of inconsistency, because he was an advocate for the continuance of the Legislative Union now, though he had opposed its enactment thirty-four years ago. Whatever might have been said by Earl Grey in 1799, in the eagerness of debate—and it should be recollected, that at that period, the question of the Union excited very warm discussions—the circumstances of the case were now completely altered. His right hon. friend (Mr. Spring Rice) had also been hardly used, because he was charged with inconsistency on account of a speech delivered by him in 1822, in which he complained, that the window and hearth taxes remained unrepealed, and that no steps had been taken to effect the commutation of tithe, or to secure Catholic Emancipation. Now, it so happened, that every one of the measures which his hon. friend expressed a wish to see carried in 1822 had since been passed by Parliament. The hon. and learned member for Dublin, in the course of his speech, went into a tong detail of the ancient history of Ireland, which was admitted by all who had as yet spoken not to bear very directly on the question under consideration. It appeared to him (Lord Althorp) that the hon. and learned Member seemed to think, that during the whole of the early times to which he had alluded, Ireland was in a state of independence. If this was a correct account, what, then, was the use of the revolution of 1782, which undoubtedly had the effect of establishing to a very great degree the independence of Ireland? But he agreed with the hon. member for Cork, that in discussing this question, the House ought to look to the present circumstances of Ireland rather than to its condition in more ancient times. What the House ought to consider was, whether the Repeal of the Union would be advantageous at the present time to the empire at large, or beneficial to Ireland; for he was ready to admit, that the interests of the smaller country ought to be regarded as bearing in a most important degree on this question. The hon. member for Cork county had said, that the only ground on which he could vote for the Motion of the hon. and learned member for Dublin was, because he considered it as a preliminary step to 253 the Repeal of the Union; and the hon. Member added, that he would not have given the Motion his support, if he had regarded it in the light of a mere Motion of inquiry. He would not undertake to say, whether or not Parliamentary tactics justified the course which the hon. member for Cork county proposed to take, but he must do the hon. and learned Member for Dublin the justice to state, that the speech delivered by him, made it perfectly clear, that the Motion before the House was one for the Repeal of the Union. Before he went further into the question, he wished to make one or two observations on the letter which had been quoted by the hon. member for Middlesex, and by the hon. member for Clonmel in his speech of last night. He believed the letter purported to be a private communication from the Marquess of Anglesey to Earl Grey. Now, if any such letter had ever been written by the Marquess of Anglesey, it would probably have been shown to him, but he did not think, that the quotations which he had heard, were very much like Lord Anglesey's style of writing. He had, however, communicated the substance of the quotations which were read last night to Earl Grey, and his Lordship stated, in answer to his inquiry, that he did not recollect ever having received such a letter as the one alluded to. It was always very difficult to prove a direct negative, but he did not doubt that, after what had fallen from the hon. member for Middlesex, he should be able to make a more distinct statement on this point.
§ Mr. Ronayne
said, that he had not described the communication from which he quoted last night as a private letter. It purported to be a memorial addressed by the Marquess of Anglesey to his colleagues, and dated Phœnix-park, October, 1832.
§ Lord Althorp
continued. The hon. member for Cork county had, in the course of his speech, made several appeals to him, and had done him the honour—a far greater honour than he deserved—to say, that he would entirely understand his argument. The hon. Member had assumed, that the fact of Ireland exporting at one and the same time corn and cattle was a clear proof of the ruin of her agriculture. He confessed, that he was not able to follow this part of the hon. Member's argument; but this he knew, that, taking the case of any individual farm, so 254 far from the sale of cattle and corn at the same time being taken as proof of ruin, the farm would not be considered very prosperous, if the contrary was the case. The evidence of the hon. member for Kildare, before the Irish Committee, had been alluded to, and he had been represented as stating, that the consumption of meat in Dublin was much smaller since the Union than before it. He had looked into the evidence given by that hon. Member, than whom no one was more competent to speak on the subject, and he never had seen evidence more decisively proving the great improvement which had taken place in the agriculture of Ireland. He (Lord Althorp) might also come forward as a witness on this point. He knew the exertions which had been made by many gentlemen to improve the agriculture of that country—he knew the expenses which they had put themselves to for that purpose; and with these facts passing under his eyes, he could not suppose, that the agriculture of Ireland was in a ruinous condition. It had been said, that since the Union, the show of cattle at Ballinasloe fair had decreased, but he thought other reasons might be assigned for that circumstance, besides supposing any diminution in the amount of cattle in Ireland. At the time of the Union, it should be recollected, that Ballinasloe fair was the only one of its kind, while at the present moment many of the same sort were in existence. One hon. Gentleman said, "Let us keep our corn, and give us the means of consumption." He felt not the slightest doubt, that if the Irish possessed the means of consumption, they would keep their corn; but if they had not the means of consumption, of what advantage would it be for them to keep their corn? Under such circumstances, the only effect which the prohibition of the export of the corn would have, would be to restrict its growth, and injure the agriculture of the country. To show that he was not making an exaggerated statement, when he said, that the agriculture of Ireland had improved since the Union, he need only refer to the price of land before and since that period. Previous to the Union land in Ireland might be bought at from sixteen to eighteen years' purchase; while, in 1830, the Crown lands in the county of Longford, were sold at twenty-two and a-half years' purchase; in 1831, at twenty-seven years' purchase; and, in the 255 county of Galway, in 1834, also at twenty-seven years' purchase. But though he felt it necessary at the present moment to make this sort of statement, he trusted, from what he knew of the inquiry now on foot with respect to the poor in Ireland, that the question would never again be discussed on such grounds. He felt confident, that the result of that inquiry would be to convince the House, that the condition of Ireland had not deteriorated. Indeed, the fact which had been stated—that 16,000,000l. of funded property had been transferred to that country since the Union—was a pretty good proof, that that measure had not been so pernicious as had been represented. He admitted, that this part of the subject was one of great importance, but he felt, that the mode in which it had been treated by the right hon. member for Tamworth, in his unanswerable speech, relieved him from the necessity of saying anything with respect to it. He had carefully attended to the whole course of the present debate, and he had not seen any attempt made to answer the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman. The only part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which those in favour of the present Motion had ventured to allude to, was that in which he stated, that the Repeal of the Union would reduce England to the rank of a third-rate power. He (Lord Althorp), however, felt confident that when the right hon. Gentleman made that observation, he intended to allude to the empire generally, and not to England exclusively. The right hon. Gentleman stated—and not a single answer had been made to the assertion—that it was utterly impossible for the Repeal of the Union to take place without the separation of the two countries following; and he (Lord Althorp) thought, that those hon. Members who professed to have no desire for a separation were bound, before voting for the present Motion, to explain in what mode they thought the Government of the country could be carried on when the Legislative Union was Repealed. The House knew, that the experiment which was tried in Ireland, from 1782 to 1800, did not succeed very well—that, in fact, the two countries were very nearly separated, and suppose that, at the period of the regency, the principles of Mr. Fox had prevailed in the Parliament of Ireland, while those of Mr. Pitt were adopted by the English Parliament, could any one at all acquainted with the 256 circumstances of the time, doubt that the separation of the two countries must have taken place? Suppose the Legislative Union repealed, and that, for the last two or three years, a separate Legislature had existed in Ireland; was it possible for any person knowing the opinions of the hon. and learned Member, and the party with which he acted, and knowing, too, that they would, at the present time, possess the greatest influence in an Irish Parliament, to suppose that the two countries could remain connected? He was aware, that the advocates of Repeal professed themselves ready, in the event of any necessity for the appointment of a regency arising, to acquiesce in any measure which should receive the sanction of the English Parliament. But on this supposition, the Irish Parliament would be obliged to make its general policy conformable with the English Parliament; and the Repeal of the Union, therefore, so far from giving to Ireland an independent Legislature, would have the effect of placing her in the dependent situation in which she stood previous to 1782. Such being the case, he could not conceive how it was to the advantage of Ireland in a political point of view, that the Repeal of the Union should take place. The hon. member for Cork county had stated, that he disapproved of the Irish Parliament, and the hon. and learned member for Dublin said, it was not dead, it only slept; and the effect of his Motion, if carried, would be to awaken it. He (Lord Althorp) did not know what power that House would have to legislate for Ireland, if a separate Legislature was to be established in that country; and how that Legislature could be established there, except by means of the English Parliament, he was at a loss to decide. It had been said, that the promises made to Ireland at the time of the Union had not been kept. He was perfectly ready to admit, that the postponement of the Catholic question had been productive of great evil, not only to Ireland, but also to this country; and those hon. Gentlemen who had shown so much industry in searching after old speeches for the purpose of quoting from them, ought to know that the advocates of Catholic Emancipation always maintained, that nothing was done for Ireland until that measure was carried; and though they were willing to co-operate with the Irish until justice was 257 done them in that respect, yet, afterwards, they claimed to themselves the right to resist any such question as the one raised on the present occasion. But it was argued, that the Irish Parliament would have granted Catholic Emancipation; and, in proof of this assertion, the partial relief conceded in 1793 was appealed to. What, let him ask, was the history of that measure? When it was introduced to the Irish Parliament in the previous year, on the Motion of a Member unconnected with the Government, it was rejected in an ignominious manner. And it was only carried when brought forward by a Minister of the Crown. He might, perhaps, be told, that Catholic Emancipation was carried in this country only when it was taken up by a Minister of the Crown. He admitted, that it would have been difficult to carry that measure by any other means; but if a separate Legislature had continued to exist in Ireland, he did not think that any Minister of the Crown would have been found ready to propose a measure for Catholic Emancipation in that country. The question before the House had been so amply discussed, that he felt some apology was due for having trespassed on the time of the House; and he should, therefore, conclude by stating, that he should vote for the Amendment moved by his right hon. friend (Mr. Spring Rice). He must, however, say one word in explanation of the meaning of the Amendment, which had been assumed to declare, that everything which ought to be, in justice, had been done for Ireland. If that had been the meaning of the Amendment, he for one should not vote for it; but he believed it would be found to be susceptible of a very different interpretation. As he understood the Amendment, it declared that the Imperial Parliament had paid great attention to the affairs of Ireland, and that it was ready to do all that was needful for the benefit of that country. That Parliament had bestowed great attention on the affairs of Ireland he thought no man would deny; and he for one rejoiced in the fact, and considered the exemplary patience with which the House had listened to the whole of the present discussion to be most gratifying, as affording another proof of the anxiety which it felt to discuss fully any matter relating to Ireland.
§ Mr. Lalor
denied the accuracy of the statement made by the noble Lord, that 258 agricultural prosperity had increased in Ireland since the Union. The report of the Committees of that House on the state of Ireland, proved that the contrary was the fact; and he could not but express his astonishment when he heard hon. Gentlemen, with such evidence before their eyes, persevere in asserting, that that country was in a happy and flourishing condition. The figures of the right hon. Secretary were fallacious—every calculation and statement he made was contradicted by facts. Ireland, before the Union, had been in a comparative state of affluence, but now, in consequence of that baneful measure, agriculture was all but extinct, while there remained scarcely a shadow of trade or manufacture. Even from the figures of the right hon. Gentleman, it appeared, that the consumption of wine, sugar, tobacco, and such articles had considerably fallen off since the Union. If anything stronger than another could be quoted to prove the necessity of Repeal, it would be the very calculations now produced. He had asked English gentlemen, who expressed suspicion at the statements made by some Irish Members, whether they had any practical knowledge of the state of that country. They replied, they had not, and that all their information was derived from the newspapers and the speeches they heard in that House. Ireland, he would now tell them, was, at present, one general alms-house, and nothing was so deplorable as the condition of the people. If the Union was not the cause of that distress, it was an odd course to pursue to refuse a Committee to inquire how it had happened.
§ Mr. Edward Ruthven
was disappointed, that the noble Lord opposite had not explained to the House the principle on which the Government opposed the demand for the great national inquiry sought for in the proposition of the learned member for Dublin. It was only a few days since a Committee to inquire into the state of Canada—a case where certainly the character of some members of the Government was at stake—had been agreed to; and another Committee had not been objected to, when the conduct of Baron Smith was to have been matter of inquiry. It really seemed as if the grievances of Ireland were not to be probed, and that a Whig Ministry inquired only into matters that suited its own purpose. The right hon. Secretary for the Treasury had, in a 259 speech filled up with tropes of arithmetic, long calculations, and to him tiresome returns of excise and customs, described Ireland to be most prosperous in her commercial, agricultural, and manufacturing interests; but he must be allowed to deny the correctness of that statement. He did so, from his knowledge of the country; he judged from actual observation. He compared the two countries, England and Ireland. Traverse them from north to south, from east to west—the appearance of Ireland proved her wretchedness. With a fertile soil, and industrious inhabitants, they were starving in millions—fed on bad and scanty food, their clothes of the worst description, their houses not better than the den of the wild beast of the desert—all amidst the right hon. Secretary's prosperity! Why did he not tell them the annual consumption of England was fifteen million quarters of wheat, one quarter for each person—that there was yearly used in this country, 500 million pounds of sugar, twenty pounds for each individual; and that the food of the population of Ireland was potatoes and sour milk? What had been done for Ireland? The Whigs gave her a Coercion Bill—they promised abolition of tithes, and they unfurled the standard of the dominant Church of the aristocracy against the people of Ireland, and began a crusade, in which blood has been shed, against the consciences of a whole people. The hon. member for Belfast followed in a speech of figures also. He had attempted to prove the prosperity of the linen trade of Ireland; he talked of exports. He deceived himself; he must be ignorant of the subject; the linen trade was not prosperous. The man whose money was embarked in that trade had not the fair profits he once enjoyed; the operative weaver had not the same wages he once received. The manufacturer who had 10,000l. engaged in the linen manufacture, and who formerly made 1000l. a year, now could not make 500l. The weaver who formerly worked ten hours a-day, and had twelve shillings a-week, now worked fourteen hours a-day, and earned only six shillings a week. Low wages, small profits, and increased risks were not proofs of prosperity. The lively hum of the spinning-wheel was no longer heard in the well-kept cottage of the northern peasant, and his poor country women were unemployed and idle. The hon. Gentleman had talked 260 of agitation—of the ardent temperament of the Irish people—of America, too green in her catastrophe. His speech was one of real agitation—of agitation mischievous to the best interests of Ireland. He had dealt largely in bitter invective against the Catholic priesthood; but he knew them not. What was the actual, the real situation filled by that respected body of Ireland's best friends? The gentry of Ireland were absent themselves from their country—they separated themselves from the interests of the people—and the place they might occupy was filled by this much maligned and traduced priesthood, who, possessing all the acquirements of education, and as much gentlemen as any hon. Member of that House, administered to the wants of the people around them to the greatest extent of their means; and when unable to bear the too heavy burthen thrown upon them, were neither ashamed of, nor deterred from seeking those who would assist in the cause of charity. These were the men whom the enemies of Repeal calumniated. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland had given every man whose mind was unbiassed, the most ample reason for becoming a Repealer, in his utter ignorance of that country. He had said, that Repeal was not of natural growth; but he knew not Ireland nor her wants. He did not blame the right hon. Secretary, as the office of Irish Secretary was one of mere apprenticeship for men who from it generally rose to titles or to higher places. The Irish people suffered from the insufficient acquaintance of the right hon. Secretary with their country—his sources of information were polluted—the whole system of Irish Government was corrupt, even as were the means used to carry the Act of Union. The Lord Chancellor had 8,000l. a year—his sons dedicated to martyrdom on the altar of their country, had—the first, Dean of Down, 3,000l.; the second, Chairman of Meath, 1,000l.; the third, Vicar of Bray, 800l.; the fourth, Counsel to the Chief Remembrancer, 500l.; the fifth, Prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas, 1,500l. a year; his brother-in-law, Mr. M'Causland, was solicitor to the Society of King's Inns, to the Foundling Hospital, to the Board of Education, to the Board of Bequests—he was an officer in the Court of Chancery—and though last, not least, he was solicitor to the Ecclesiastical Commission; a place made by this generous Ministry in the 261 course of last year, out of which this protegé would receive 30,000l. The right hon. Secretary took pains, in the taunting language of congratulation, to allude to the independence of Irish Members sitting in an Irish Parliament. He had vanity enough to believe, if a domestic Legislature existed, that he should be a member of it—as he believed he should, were a general election to take place to-morrow, be sent back to his seat in that House; yet he was happy to have the opportunity of stating, that he had constituents he was anxious to attend to—whose wishes were his—against whose feelings he would never vote—that he had no wish to remain a Member of Parliament one instant longer than they felt as he felt; if the time ever came when either he could not go their length, or they his, in the pursuit of liberty for all classes of his countrymen, he would return the trust reposed in him to the people who made him their Representative, unsullied by any act of political dishonesty. He thanked the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, for the courteous manner in which he had addressed himself to this great Irish question: in his speech there was not to be found that abuse of everything Irish—of everything dear to Ireland—of the hon. and learned member for Dublin—language which was current coin with some hon. Gentlemen in that House, and to which, as an Irishman, in common with his countrymen, he must say he was sensitive. But he would take the liberty to give the right hon. Baronet this warning—the division of the empire had been alluded to by him—the ancient Heptarchy adverted to—dangers glanced at. The true danger to be apprehended was, not in the division of the country, but in a division of the people—a separation of the rich and aristocratic from the operative and working classes; and that was a danger that applied not only to Ireland but to England.
§ Mr. Charles A. Walker
wished to state some of the reasons which induced him to give his support to the Motion of the hon. and learned member for Dublin; he had always been a repealer; he was so from principle, not from the empty vanity, or desire of having a separate Irish Legislature, unless he thought such would be productive of good government and prosperity to Ireland: he sincerely wished she had obtained those blessings from 262 the united Parliament, and he had once hoped that she might; but sad experience had proved the contrary, and blasted hopes, and broken promises, and extreme misery, was all that Ireland had obtained as yet from her Union with England. Thirty-four years had elapsed since that Union, and year by year that curse, which had for so many centuries hung over Ireland, and which, it must be remembered, was of English infliction—absenteeism—an admitted evil before the Union, had by that Union been so increased, that it had now become intolerable. These were a few of the causes which had made the Irish people despair of obtaining justice, good government, or happiness, by any other means unless from a domestic Legislature—these had confirmed him in his past and present opinions, and he was sorry to add, in his disbelief of any future amendment; he should, therefore, continue to advocate Repeal, until England should prove it unnecessary by giving good laws and equal justice to Ireland. English Members had, in the course of this debate, declared their intention to support good measures for Ireland, and to assist the Irish Members to obtain equal justice for that country; the resolution of the ministerial amendment also conveyed the same promise. He would now remind English Members, that in a very few nights hence, their sincerity would be put to the test, and an opportunity be afforded to them to redeem that promise. The Irish Tithe Bill lay upon that Table; if enacted in its proposed form, it would perpetuate the greatest grievance ever inflicted upon Ireland by the united Parliament; would they, when the second reading of that Bill came on, perform their promise? Would they support the Irish Members in obtaining such alterations in it as would satisfy and pacify the Irish people? The majority of the Irish Members were opposed to that Bill; yet it was said it was to be forced through the House in spite of their opinions, by means of an overwhelming majority of English voters. He would call their attention to the different manner in which England and Ireland were to be treated on the same subject by the Government. An English tithe bill was brought in last Session, containing the obnoxious principle of the Irish bill; the English Members remonstrated when that principle was to be 263 applied to themselves, and at once the bill was withdrawn, a new bill was introduced for England this Session, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when introducing it, declared the obnoxious principle had been expunged, and that it would be unjust to perpetuate on the land the present unequal payments, and in the unequal proportions as at present paid by parishes, but that the permanent tax should be levied on an equitable principle, and according to a new valuation, so as to relieve the heavily burdened parishes. This had been conceded to the English, because they formed the majority of that House; but, up to the present day, it had been refused to Ireland, because her Members could be overpowered by the English in this united Parliament. Would English Members, then, redeem their promises on the night the Irish Tithe Bill should be brought forward, and assist the Irish Members to procure equal justice for Ireland? Much had been said against the Repeal agitation; if that agitation could be suppressed, the power to suppress it lay in the hands of those who occupied the Ministerial bench, and that was alone by their giving Ireland equal law and equal justice. Conciliation and the removal of grievances would do much, but coercion would never put it down, for the food of agitation was oppression. Give Ireland prosperity, and they might possibly put this question to sleep; pass the obnoxious Tithe Bill, endeavour to force it at the point of the bayonet, and they would themselves be the real agitators of Repeal.
§ Mr. Shaw
assured the House, that he would detain it but for a very few moments. He was aware that patience was already exhausted, as well as every argument which ingenuity could suggest, for the purpose of opposing, or sound reason adduce in support of, the obvious truth and self-evident proposition, that Great Britain and Ireland could not permanently continue a United Kingdom unless they were governed by a united Parliament. For these reasons, and not having had it in his power to be present at the three first nights' debate, he should have given a silent vote against the motion of the hon. and learned member for Dublin, but that it had just been casually observed to him, that he was said to he wavering in his opinion on the subject. He was conscious of how little 264 importance his opinion was, still, on a question involving essentially the best interests of Ireland, he did not wish to be so completely misconceived or misrepresented. Notwithstanding, his close and intimate connexion with the city of Dublin, where, above any other part of Ireland, local injury might be fairly considered to have been sustained—although his family and friends voted against the Union when the measure passed—and he still admitted, that the means by which it was carried were indefensible;—that Union having now subsisted for thirty-three years, he had never so much as contemplated the possibility of tearing asunder the ties, and if he might be allowed the expression, bastardizing the relations which had been formed in the mean time, and under the altered circumstances, of the countries and the times—more particularly as regarded Ireland. From the first moment of the agitation of the question to the present time, he had never been able to find room in his mind for one particle of doubt, that a Repeal of the Union would amount to a dismemberment of the empire—weaken the power—impair the resources and stability—put in peril both the prosperity and safety of Great Britain—and, above all, lead directly and speedily to the inevitable loss—to the complete desolation and utter ruin of Ireland. It might be true, that some small portion of the Irish people, generally opposed to the political opinions of the hon. and learned member for Dublin, might, under the temporary influence of vexation or despondency, have allowed their minds for a moment to have entertained the prospect of such a change, when, as they reasoned, they saw their feelings and their interests disregarded—their gentry slighted—their yeomanry disbanded—their magistrates dismissed—their Church humbled before its rival—ten bishoprics abolished—the clergy they esteemed and venerated reduced to the greatest distress—the Bible excluded from the national schools—all, as they supposed in deference to the will of those who now demanded a Repeal of the Union. They would draw a very different inference from that which the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland had drawn in the present discussion, when he stated, that, in his opinion the hon. and learned Gentleman had been the principal obstacle to the im- 265 provement and happiness of Ireland. They considered, on the contrary, that although the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, did not perhaps go the whole length of agreeing with the hon. member for Dublin, yet that the right hon. Gentleman wanted the resolution and political manliness to resist his demands, and that, therefore, no change could render their condition worse. There were moments, however, in which he thought that the (not unnatural) feelings of such persons got the better of their reason, and disappointment and despondency overcame their better judgment; for these very same persons would, he was persuaded, when a sense of duty called upon them, give their best services in defence of British connexion. It was, indeed, vain to deny the fact, that no matter what might have been their views in moments of temporary excitement, on the one hand, and although, on the other, the Government might, in Ireland, ungenerously presume upon the forbearance and long-tried loyalty and attachment of that portion of the Irish people to the British Crown and Government, or liberalize or gloss over the truth in this House, yet the whole current of the past history of Ireland presented a stream of evidence that was not to be resisted. All experience—all reason—must convince both the one and the other, that the property or the persons of Irish Protestants could not be secured without the aid of British connexion, nor British connexion continue for one month with Ireland without the support of the Irish Protestants. He said this, in no party spirit—he assured the hon. members for Wexford and Kildare, and other Roman Catholics of wealth and distinction, that he merely spoke in the general, and of classes, not of individuals, or particular cases. On the contrary, all those of the Roman Catholic persuasion, who were not among either the agitators or the agitated, must have a common interest to make common cause with the Protestants; for they would, if they stood alone, bear an infinitely smaller proportion to the mere physical force of the Roman Catholic population, and be the first victims offered at the shrine of agitation, the first morsel thrown to satisfy, or rather to whet the appetite of that wild anarchy which in the case he was supposing would overspread the country. So far, from his sentiments on this point arising 266 from that spirit of ascendancy which was attributed to him by hon. Members below him, it would be when there was a separate legislature for Ireland, that indeed the spirit of ascendancy must prevail; for you could not give protection to the persons or properties of Protestants, without, in the unequally divided state of Ireland in regard to property and numbers, investing them with an ascendancy of power which, on general principles, might not be desirable; nor could you allow any participation of political power to the Roman Catholics, without the establishment of that democratical ascendency which would sweep before it every vestige of law, order, or civilization. The hon. member for Kilkenny (Mr. Finn), when he charged the Government with acting between the Protestants and Roman Catholics of Ireland on the principle of divide et impera—seemed to overlook how open that observation was to being retorted by Protestants upon that hon. Gentleman and his party—for when, upon the present occasion, they paid such tender courtship to the Irish Protestants, the conditions of their proposed Union were, that the Protestants of Ireland should be delivered from British connexion. He owned, that he looked with suspicion on the offer of friendship, when the terms upon which it was made were of separation from those who were denounced by the hon. and learned Gentleman and his adherents as haughty Sassenachs, and could not help thinking that the secret was to be found in the hon. Gentleman's own motto of divide et impera. He (Mr. Shaw) must always contend, that Repeal of the Union and separation were convertible terms ["No, no" from Mr. O'Connell.] The hon. and learned Gentleman said "No;" and the hon. and learned Gentleman's (Mr. O'Connell) grand remedy for all the evils and difficulties so powerfully urged by his (Mr. Shaw's) right hon. friend the member for Tamworth, and others, in this debate, was the golden link of the Crown; by it the hon. and learned Gentleman was to hold in control all the jarring elements of strife in Ireland; but this golden link of the Crown would turn out to be no more than a rope of sand, which the kick of the first blustering demagogue who found it in his way would scatter to the winds. He (Mr. Shaw) trusted, that there would be a salutary result from this discussion; 267 the patience with which the advocates of Repeal had been heard—the arguments adduced—the division which would follow—might open the eyes of the deluded followers of agitation, and, perhaps, serve to convince their leaders of the vain pursuit in which they were engaged. He was not friendly to severe enactments prohibitory of discussion; he did not conceive that was the way to prove to the dupes of the question its hopelessness or insignificance, or best to uphold the dignity of the law. The great fault of the Irish executive was, first relaxing too much, and then having to draw too tight the reins of government. A calm and firm exercise of legitimate power, as a preventive, would frequently have obviated the necessity of resorting to a power beyond the law as a remedy. If agitation had never been encouraged, he (Mr. Shaw) believed the Coercion Bill would never have been required. The Government and the hon. member for Wexford (Mr. Lambert) fell into the same error, in supposing that they might take their own turn out of agitation, and then lay it jointly aside. And he trusted they had both learned the same useful lesson, that it was a spirit which it was easier to evoke than to allay. As he observed the House was impatient, and he was not surprised that they should be, at that late period of so unusually protracted a debate, he would not trespass longer upon them.
§ Mr. William Roche
spoke to the following effect:—Sir,—Exhausted as is the state of this debate, exhausted equally as the attention and patience of the House must needs be, I shall confine myself to the question immediately and directly before us, namely, the expediency of appointing a Committee to inquire into the origin, the accompanying circumstances, and results of the Irish Legislative Union, or in other words, the advantages, or disadvantages, arising from that measure. Sir, I think my hon. and learned friend, the mover of the original question, has endeavoured, and commendably endeavoured, to shape his Motion in a manner as little obnoxious as he possibly could, to the various and conflicting opinions that prevail on this subject, whether as regards those whose sentiments are entirely adverse, or those who entertain opinions upon it not altogether so decided as his own. Undoubtedly, Sir, a question of such deep interest and importance should be approached 268 (as I think this is), with all due circumspection, propriety, and precaution, more especially one upon the results of which, whether for good or evil, such a diversity of opinion prevails, as I already said, and doubtless may prevail most honestly and conscientiously. Does not, Sir, this proffered and previous inquiry, of the hon. and learned mover, afford the best evidence of the sincerity of his sentiments, and solidity of his conviction on the subject, not only not fearing, but anxiously desiring to submit his views, in the first instance, to the calm investigation and rigid examination of a Committee. Would not, Sir, such Committee be best enabled to obtain for us all the information and light, and collect all the facts and details, the subject is susceptible of. Could it not collate, digest, and verify the various and contradictory allegations, and calculations, which have been brought to bear upon the subject, whether of an historical, financial, or fiscal kind; and, Sir, if the result should tend to demonstrate and establish that a separation of Legislatures would not, on the whole, be the wisest and most effectual means to relieve the wants and secure the happiness of Ireland, the public mind, when thus persuasively convinced, would gradually calm itself down and turn its attention to an examination of, and remedy for, whatever defects and disadvantages mar the benefits expected from, and promised by the Union; thereby rendering it permanent through the only means it can be rendered permanent, that of making it the obvious interest of all parties to cherish and maintain it. But, Sir, if, on the other hand, my hon. and learned friend should be able to prove that, while a domestic Legislature conferred great advantages on Ireland, it would not interfere with the consolidated interests and harmony of the empire, it would surely be but fair to give him, and those who think with him, opportunity of demonstrating it. Why, Sir, even in courtesy to the 150,000 petitioners—in courtesy to the intense interest that pervades so large a portion of Ireland on this subject, would it not be well and soothing to grant this inquiry, were it even only with a view to discover what causes, what hardships and defects, marred, as I said before, the promised advantages of the Union, and, by removing those causes and defects, make the measure beneficial 269 to the interests, and thereby reconcilable to the feelings of the people of Ireland. Certainly, Sir, did I permit myself to look back, and be swayed by the atrocious manner in which the Union was achieved, or rather forced upon Ireland, under, I may say, the fell grasp and uplifted dagger of the assassin, a sense of indignation and abhorrence would supersede every other feeling than that of an anxiety to dissolve a connexion so foully, and flagitiously obtained. But, Sir, I admit, that it is more the duty and business of the present day to endeavour to overcome those sensations, and calmly consult the interests of the existing and future generations. Sir, notwithstanding the sweeping animadversions of the hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin, I came into this House free, unpledged, and unfettered, to exercise my judgment on this and every other subject, as my conscience might dictate; but, Sir, I also came into it with the hope, that the vaunted name, and high promise of a Reformed Parliament would speedily cure and obliterate the errors and recollections of the past, and proceed to conciliate the affections of Ireland. But, Sir, I was seriously disappointed, for coercion, not conciliation, met me at the very threshold, while the few remedial measures adopted, were of an insignificant or delusive kind. Let, Sir, the laws be made in conformity with the condition and circumstances of the people. Let not the people, like the victim on the bed of Procrustes, be tortured into an unnatural compliance and conformity with laws quite inapplicable to their situation and circumstances. Let, for instance, the expenditure of the Established Church be reduced to an amount commensurate with its real necessities, until that fairest of principles be arrived at, when every sect shall maintain its own pastors and institutions, and a large sum be thus liberated for the employment and improvement of the whole people. Let, Sir, the resources of Ireland be called forth with a wise and liberal hand. Let the absentees be made to contribute, whether in the shape of a wise system of Poor-laws or otherwise, to the wants and tranquillity of the country, for, in tranquillity, if their feelings or sympathy be unconcerned, their incomes at least are interested. Absenteeism, Sir, is, in Ireland, an evil of peculiarly noxious type and character; for in other countries, pro- 270 prietors go and return, but, in Ireland, many, very many, never see, or set their foot upon the land, by which they live. Let, Sir, these and such-like things be done, and you will arrive at the only effectual cessation of Repeal; but, Sir, so long as the mass of the people of Ireland are steeped in wretchedness and misery (for I can assure the House, that there you often cannot distinguish the human habitation from the hog-stye), so long will they, and must they, complain, and so long must those of her few gentry who see and sympathise in her sufferings, join in their complaints. Hasten, therefore, Sir, to redress those grievances, to remedy those evils, to take Ireland cordially and kindly by the hand, and thus, and thus only, will you remove the desire by removing the necessity for Repeal. Sir, believing that the proposed inquiry may effect at least some good, I shall vote for the Motion of my hon. and learned friend.
§ Mr. James
said, that instead of occupying the attention of the House for six hours, as some hon. Members had done, he should not occupy them even six minutes, if they would only grant him the indulgence of listening to him so long. Indeed, he should not have presumed to address the House at all, had he not presented a petition from a considerable body of his constituents in favour of the Repeal of the Union. He had not been able, for a considerable time, to make up his mind upon the subject. He had listened with the greatest attention to many of the speeches that had been delivered upon the question, and those that he had not heard, he had taken the trouble to read; but none of those eloquent appeals, not even the highly-gifted speech of the right hon. the Secretary of the Treasury, nor the argumentative and powerful display of the hon. Member who seconded the Amendment, nor the reasoning of any other hon. Member who had spoken on the subject, had succeeded in convincing him of the necessity of continuing the Legislative Union, because he was previously convinced, not only of the necessity of maintaining that Union, but, if possible, of cementing it still stronger. This conviction had been chiefly brought to his mind by the speech of the hon. and learned member for Dublin, who had introduced the subject to the House. That hon. and learned Gentleman, the able advocate 271 of the cause which he espoused, had utterly failed in his speech of five hours in convincing him that it was either wise, just, or politic, to Repeal the Legislative Union. The question, then, was come to this, Union or no Union? He was exceedingly sorry to differ from his constituents on this most important question, but differing, as he conscientiously did, from them, he would give his most cordial support to his Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. O'Dwyer
protested against the assertion of the hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Shaw), who had stated, that the object of those who supported Repeal was ultimate separation. He, for one, most strongly denied, that he entertained any such views. The hon. and learned Member had said a great deal about the agitators of Ireland. It was true, that there was agitation in that country, but it was equally true, that the hon. and learned Member himself was one of the heads of a political party that aimed at representing the aristocracy of the country—pretensions to which he did not think the hon. and learned Member had any claims to aspire. He was rejoiced, that this subject had undergone the full and indulgent discussion that it had met with, and he would express a hope that it might become one of the periodical Debates of that House.
§ Mr. O'Reilly
said, that he had intended to give a silent vote on this occasion, because he had never entertained any doubt of the necessity of preserving the Legislative Union. He thought it was quite time that the system of agitation that was kept up in Ireland, should be put an end to, and the best mode of accomplishing that desirable object would be to preserve the empire entire.
§ Mr. O'Connell
rose to reply. He said: There are two propositions in which the whole House seems to agree; the first is, that it is my duty now to close this Debate, and, in deference to this House, I shall, in discharging that duty, condense my observations as much as I possibly can; the second is, that this debate must be eminently useful. It cannot but be eminently useful; and I regret to say, from the nature of the topics which some have introduced, that it is not more conciliatory and more useful than I am now afraid it can be. Let me, for there has been a silence upon the subject—let me, without 272 the slightest levity, conjure his Majesty's Government not to rely upon their immense majority of English Members for a continuance of the Union; but, presuming they do agree in the opinions of the right hon. member for Tamworth, to reflect for one moment upon the poverty which has generated the cry for Repeal, and the wide-spread desolation which has caused it to be made. Let them remember, that the demand for Repeal is, as it is said by the member for the University, made for the first time by a part of the Irish people—let them consider what that demand will be when the whole Irish people are compelled, by distress and misery, increased and aggravated by injustice, to urge it on. The hon. member for the University says, it is called for but by one part of the people. I make the admission, though it may weaken my own case, for I seek not to succeed by disguise of any kind; and it would be impossible to disguise the fact after what we have heard in this House. But let this be considered, that if there be some who do not concur with me now, is it not more than probable that they may concur with me hereafter? The game of playing us off, one against another, can no longer be continued—another course must be adopted. The Government have not the hearts of the Irish people—I mean they have not the hearts of the numerical population of Ireland. Even in the north of Ireland, you perceive, that the disposition to repeal the Union is increasing, and, as one of my proofs, I would appeal to the speech delivered in the House by the hon. member for Londonderry. The very candid and fair speech of that hon. Gentleman demonstrates this state of feeling, and it is spreading elsewhere. It shows how little the people believe the Government to be inclined to do any good for them; and that it has not reached the entire population, is only caused by the by-gone contentions which have existed between us. The Government have, then, this course to pursue. I did not want them to court one portion of the people as a party, nor did I ask of them to turn to another, and advance them as a party—but while I did not want or wish them to do this, still I did hope that as there was an opening for the Government in the debate, they would have taken advantage of it, to explain what are their views of amelioration and relief to the people. I did hope, that some project would be put 273 forward by them, as an amelioration of the admitted misery of Ireland—that they would have held out some legitimate hope, and not of a very future date either—some pressing expectation of buying up from agitation (for you may vilify it as much as you please, the name does not signify) those who now take the lead—and by that means, to take from discontent that upon which it feeds and fattens—the neglect of Ireland, and the total want of measures of a remedial and beneficial nature. I have promised to condense my observations, and I shall indulge no further upon this point than to make a single remark upon that which the whole of this discussion certainly proves—the silence, the total absence of any promise of amelioration—the failure of the attempt to prove that good has been done for the people of Ireland in the Administration of our affairs—the utter hopelessness that the Government will be induced to do anything effectual for my country. A good deal of this discussion has been taken up in attacks upon myself. Now, I appeal to this House, whether, from the manner in which I brought forward this subject, I deserved or provoked those attacks? I am in the recollection of the House, whether, in five hours, to which my lengthened speech upon that occasion extended, there was one observation personally offensive to any man, or any party? and, notwithstanding this, I was assailed, and, what is still worse, as being caused by these assaults being made on me, I am compelled, reluctant as I am, to say a few words of myself, and they shall be as few as possible. The first person who assailed me, was the hon. member for Belfast—I presume he is in his place. ["Hear!"] I am glad of it; and I now ask, was there ever anything more indiscreet in a Government, than to take such a person as a seconder of their Amendment? If I could have desired to have lessened the effect of what had fallen from me—if I had desired that my arguments should have as little weight as possible in Ireland—if I had desired that my opinions should be disregarded there, the course which I should have taken, would be to have as my seconder, a fiery and furious partisan, who would have pronounced an invective against the people, their religion, and their clergy, and taunted as "adventurers," men upon whom he at least ought to be sparing in casting such an imputation, The Government knew, 274 that there was a Corporation inquiry, to forward which the greatest anxiety has been expressed by them. Now, what has been done by the hon. member for Belfast? Why, with an equal love of truth and chivalry, he attacked, not long since, that very inquiry as an inquisition, and assailed one of the Commissioners in a manner that did not terminate very creditably to himself. This is one portion of his political conduct; and now look to a preceding part of his career. When the Reform Bill was to be carried, the modern Conservative was an old Republican. "A pampered prelacy," and "the folly of an hereditary aristocracy," were then his favorite topics; and the doing away with these, he said, was one of the blessings which should follow from the Reform Bill. And this—this is the person whom the Government has selected as the seconder of their Motion, and whom, too, they have enthusiastically cheered when he assailed me. I shall not, however, retaliate; but I can imagine a being who would assail me also—a being at one time exulting in all the fury of republicanism, then a speculating adventurer, and dwindling at last into a mean and mercenary dandy—I can conceive such a being servile and sycophantic in one place, petulant and presumptuous in another, calumnious and contemptible in all. And yet the Government has selected this able Gentleman (the member for Belfast) to second its Motion for an address! The proof it gives of its anxiety to do all the good it can for the people of Ireland, is having for its seconder the opponent to Corporation inquiry. Then I am assailed from more than one quarter, and I must endeavour to get rid of these attacks as fast as I can. It has been stated by one hon. Member, that I said, there should be a bounty of five-and-twenty per cent protection upon Irish manufactures. I did not know such an opinion was attributed to me, until I saw it in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not know, whether the right hon. Gentleman really said so, but if he has, I suppose he must have met it somewhere, but it certainly must have been where I was not. I do not think, that I ever put forward such an opinion; if I did, it must have been many years ago. For several years back, I have preached what I believe to be sound doctrines on this point—namely, that there might be an unnatural state of society in which a 275 protecting duty might, from unnatural causes, be necessary to a small extent; but that it is a problem, very difficult of solution to find a protection sufficiently small, not to entice capital to that particular branch of manufactures, to the injury of others. Another doctrine has been attributed, and justly attributed, to me, necessarily in my absence, which was inevitable. The right hon. Gentleman represented me to have said—and I have said—that, in the present state of Ireland, it was absolutely necessary, that proprietors in Ireland should be proprietors there alone. I have said this, and I will never seek a vote upon any other ground than what is my conviction upon this subject. The evils of absenteeism can never be got rid of so long as the proprietors of estates elsewhere are proprietors of estates in Ireland. It may be an exceedingly unpalatable doctrine—it may be exceedingly disagreeable; but, being my opinion—my firm and settled opinion—I shall not conceal it from you. I am not for an absentee-tax; I know, that the Irish Parliament tried it for two centuries and a-half, and yet it did not prove effective. There is one topic more, with which, while I am upon this subject, I will trouble the House. A right hon. Gentleman has been very facetious upon a speech which I am supposed to have delivered at Kildare. I am sorry to detain the House with a denial of what is there attributed to me. Any one who read it should have had a suspicion of its accuracy. There was no reporter present on the occasion. It is scarcely necessary for me to repeat what I really did say. It was, that a deputation of five or six persons could go up to the Representatives in Dublin, to use an Irish phrase, with short sticks in their hands, and return the same night. But the most serious charge of all has been imputed to me by a friend. It has been said, that my acts tended, and from thence an inference was drawn, that my disposition went, towards a separation of the two countries. I do not object to any gentleman canvassing my acts, with a view to show their tendency to a separation. So far from objecting to that, I invite it. The instant that any man can show, that such is the tendency of my acts, that instant I will alter such conduct. But if the charge be made directly against me as a fact, it is one of a traitorous tendency, and I have but one way of meeting it—proclaiming its utter falsehood. 276 My conduct has been directly the reverse of this. I am sorry to have detained the House with these preliminary observations; but I now come to the question as it has been debated. I make no apology for the introduction of a long discussion by me, upon the right of the Irish nation to an independent Legislature in 1782. It was said elsewhere, that there had been what was called "a conquest of Ireland." That was talked of before this debate occurred, in another place, and by a member of another Administration. I did not know but it might be also introduced here, and, therefore, I anticipated it, and I am confident I did so successfully. The claim now, therefore, to continue the Union is put, and it is properly put too, on the Act of Union itself. The argument stands or falls by that, and it is disembarrassed of everything else; on that ground, I insisted upon the incompetency of the Irish Parliament to pass that Act, and I am the more convinced of the justice of my position on that point, and the soundness of my arguments, when I recollect how it was attempted to be met by two Members of this House, for there were only two who discussed it, the member for Kirkcudbright, and the hon. and learned member for Monaghan. The hon. and learned member for Kirkcudbright has admitted the authority of Locke, but alluded to the Revolution, and shown that the Convention Parliament had the power—to do what? To appoint a King? No. To alter the Legislature? No; but the power to declare the Throne vacant, and that the natural heir should succeed. The daughter of the reigning Monarch succeeded to the Throne. The abdication of the King was declared complete, and that very case was put in the authority which I quoted. The hon. member for Kirkcudbright impeached my authorities by calling Plunkett and Saurin partisans, but in no other way were they impeached. The hon. and learned member for Monaghan took a different course; for he, without reference to authorities, argued the case as if it were a special demurrer, and insisted that I should be estopped by it. I shall not now argue the demurrer of the hon. and learned Member, I only advert to it to show the futility and absurdity of the objections with which it has been sought to meet me upon this subject. I tell the House, though they may think lightly of the people of Ireland, they 277 are a shrewd, an observing, and an intelligent people, and that they will read my arguments as well as those of the gentlemen who are opposed to me—if they have better arguments than I have to support their positions, then it may be expected that they will have due weight with the people—an importance will be attached to them which cannot be by any immense majority of this House, nor be regulated by the applause which is given to any Gentleman who speaks on the other side. On this subject, I cannot help thinking, that it would have been better for my opponents to have passed it over without attempting to reply to it; for they have only, by their observations, demonstrated the accuracy of my statement, when I insisted, that there was nothing to authorise the Irish Parliament to dispose of the Irish nation, as there is nothing to authorise this Parliament to dispose of the English nation to any other state on the face of the globe. It is unnecessary for me now to remark upon the means by which the Union was produced—the foul corruption, the extensive bribery, the horrible manner in which it was effected are admitted. These are things which no one denies. There is only one thing in my statement that is disputed, and that is the fomentation of the Irish rebellion by the Government. To that I have a triumphant reply. It has been suggested, why should Mr. Pitt and Lord Castlereagh, the then Ministers, have fomented such a rebellion, when they were placed in a situation of sufficient difficulty at the period of 1797, by the mutiny of the Nore? Can anything be more foolish and absurd than such an observation? Did Mr. Pitt or Lord Castlereagh foresee the mutiny of the Nore? Was it not an unexpected event—a most fortuitous circumstance—which was nearly as suddenly suppressed as it had started into existence? And again—would there ever have been an Union, if there had not been a rebellion. It was proved, by documents before the Secret Committee of the Irish House of Commons, that one individual (Maguane) was in the habit of giving weekly and monthly returns to government of all the proceedings of those who were embarked in the rebellion of 1798; and yet Government never made an attempt at interference by arresting any one of the parties. But then the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Spring Rice) has 278 taunted us with those transactions, in his allusions to them, as a proof that there were materials for treason in Ireland. Why, if there had not been, no rebellion could have taken place. Even with all the excitements used, that rebellion was not formidable—it prevailed in Ulster, and some parts of Leinster. It exhibited itself only in two petty conflicts—one at Saintfield, in the county Down, and another in Antrim, where Lord O'Neil was killed, and, which was rather a scuffle than a battle. Where the rebellion was organized, one or two skirmishes put it down; and, in Wexford, where there was no organization, and the people were forced into insurrection, it did not appear at all formidable. The truth of history, then, is vindicated, and the Union was brought about by means the most detestable, and it never could be carried until sectarian animosities and party antipathies arrayed Irishmen against each other. It was the policy of the Government which placed the country in that situation, that even the most loyal, and the most devoted to its interests, were, in their own defence, arrayed against those who were designated rebels. I now come to a point which has been more immediately discussed here. It has been said, no matter how the Union was brought about, the question, and the sole question here is, how has it worked? And with that another consideration is mixed up—what would be the consequences of its Repeal? From 1782 to 1800, there was great prosperity in Ireland, and it would I think, have been better for the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Spring Rice) to have left this period untouched; because there is historical evidence of it too strong to be controverted, and it is so well known in Ireland, that there at least it will not he denied. However, the right hon. Gentleman delivered a speech, in which that state of happiness and prosperity was controverted—he denied facts the most notorious, and the best known, and, for all the effect his speech will have in Ireland, he might as welt have denied that there was a Sunday within the last week. When the Report of this debate goes to Ireland, I ask you what will be the effect of his contradiction, and the applause with which that contradiction was received? Why, if it had not been proved before, the incapacity of this House to regulate our affairs, and its ignorance of the history of Ireland—this one fact 279 alone is sufficient to demonstrate it to the people of Ireland. It is most important that it should be considered whether Ireland has been benefited by the Union; and I can tell the House, that if it had not been for the actual misery, the overwhelming distress, and great destitution consequent upon the Union, and pervading the whole of that country, the people would not press to have that Union repealed—nor should I seek it. And if such misery and distress do prevail, of what value are the returns, the imports and the exports, and the sophistication of returns produced by the right hon. Gentleman? The hon. member for Belfast did not deal in official returns at all, but he quoted the fanciful returns of a pamphlet-writer, whom I could name if I wished, but he is not worthy of it. Of what value are these columns of figures and these documents, if distress and destitution are prevailing throughout the land? You will soon hear what value Ireland will set upon these figures. The right hon. Gentleman possesses the advantage of having returns of what he pleases, and he can make them so as to suit his purpose in this House; but your cheers cannot disprove the distress, nor your applause drown the cry of misery. I do not appeal to such returns in this House; but I appeal from them to the experience and misfortunes of Ireland. The hon. member for Paisley has fleshed his maiden sword in this debate—he has shown equal talent and courtesy in this debate. He began by deprecating personalities, and he had not gone very far when he became personal himself. I heartily thank him for one point which he put forward—when he talked of figures, he said, "What signifies calculations when we have appalling facts?" That is my opinion precisely, and for his utterance of it, I cannot do less than pronounce him "a second Daniel." Exactly so, I say; what signify columns of figures when they are controverted by appalling facts? Did you not hear the hon. member for Derry—did you not hear the hon. member for Cork—did you not hear every Member agree in this, except the hon. member for Belfast, who is an exception, who deserves to stand alone, and he does stand alone. Did you not hear them all talk of the increasing distress in every part of Ireland? And this distress, too, existing in a country the most fertile and abundant! Yes, there is that distress in 280 a country the most productive—there we see, in the midst of abundance, year after year, thousands of Irishmen fading into their graves, perishing of hunger, and periodical visitations of famine recorded in their history! Oh! how little do you know—how little do you consider, what an impulse has been given to the call for Repeal, not from any feeling of inferiority in one class to another; but to the unsettled state of mind produced by the constant recurrence of distress in my country. We follow you in your revolutions, and we are generally the most severe sufferers. Government made an experiment with the currency, and Ireland still groans from the shock given to the social system—it made many a child desolate, and many a widow destitute. But, then, while the distress is increasing and the destitution extending, we are told here that we are increasing in wealth and prosperity ever since the Union!!! To my utter surprise this has been attempted. I lamented I was not present when "the wonder-worker" insisted upon "the prosperity of Dublin!" The right hon. Member spoke of the prosperity of Dublin!!!—Why, the members for Stroud and Knaresborough contradicted him. Did he remember even the pamphlet of Surgeon White, in which the distress of Dublin is so accurately depicted; but all these facts fade into nothingness, when the brilliant imagination of the modern "West Briton" is warmed by the dazzling array of beggars. Was not his catalogue of benefits and advantages to Dublin a glaring insult to the distressed people there? Such is the state of Ireland. Ought it to be in that state? The Union was to have given to Ireland the benefit of British laws, and now that thirty-three years have elapsed since that measure had been effected, I congratulate the hon. member for Carlisle on the fact that, for twenty years out of those thirty-three the people of Ireland have been deprived of the benefits of the law and constitution. That hon. Member was, I remember, opposed to me on a former occasion—it was when I sought for freedom for the West-Indian negroes. He deals in such a traffic, and I cannot but admit to him that it is right, it is proper, it is consistent, that the proprietor of such kind of property should be the advocate of slavery to Ireland. But, has the Union ever yet given us the protection of the British Constitution? No; for 281 your last and worst act, the Coercion Bill, has, within the last few-days—the ink is not yet dry in the proclamation,—put four baronies in the King's County out of the pale of the Constitution, and after that, will you talk to me of the blessings of your Union, and after that will the right hon. Gentleman entertain you with his official returns? An hon. and gallant Officer (Sir H. Vivian) has, indeed, entertained you in a different way, for he said that agitation alone produced poverty in Ireland; and, yet, having done that, he illustrates his observations by declaring there was poverty in Ireland in 1779, when the oldest agitator amongst us was in his cradle. But, then, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Spring Rice) has gone through a table of imports and exports, to show the prosperity of Dublin. Does he not know how these tables of imports and exports are made up? They might answer for any other port as well as that of Dublin. He knows, that these imports and exports are not now made up upon oath; they are not examined, nor compared with the cargo; they are frequently filled up when the vessel is sailing, and when the only concern is, not that they should be correct, but that the revenue officer should be dispatched as quickly as possible; and they have no more to do with what may or may not be on board, than if the vessel was in China. But, then, we have the evidence of the right hon. Gentleman himself, that up to 1825, this Parliament did nothing for Ireland. From his speech now you would suppose that there had been a constant increase of prosperity in Ireland since the Union—that then the sunshine first beamed upon us—that it has been increasing in intensity and effulgence ever since—and that at this moment its glowing beams are warming the whole of my country! How such poetry would be scoffed at by the unfortunate misery of the Irish!—how would that misery be aggravated when there was read the glowing display of six hours, expended in proving that the Irish were the most prosperous people in the world! In that speech of the right hon. Gentleman, sophisticated arguments were all that were required to prove what did not exist—arguments that, if put forward in Ireland, the only reply necessary to give them would be "circumspice." The gallant Officer (Sir Hussey Vivian), who opposed me, even corroborated my state- 282 ment, and contradicted that of the right hon. Gentleman—for he admitted, that there was great poverty and destitution amongst the Irish people. Up, then, to 1825, it is admitted by the right hon. Gentleman, you did no good for us. You gave us emancipation, I admit—but how? After twenty-nine years of the most violent struggle for it. I read to this House a speech in which it was declared, that the Catholics were determined never to meet as a separate body. Why were they compelled to do otherwise? The Union forced them to it. The noble Lord who has spoken upon this question, seems to have read only snatches of Irish history. If he will look to the progress of emancipation in Ireland, he will find, that an Irish House of Commons would have soon conceded it—he will find what rapid progress the Irish House of Commons made in emancipation. It commenced in 1778—there was another relaxation of the penal code in 1782—another in 1792—another in 1793, which gave to the Catholics of Ireland the elective franchise; so that if a Parliament had continued in Ireland, the men who had the elective franchise would only have returned to it those who would vote for their religious freedom. When the poor were emancipated, the rich must soon have been freed from their shackles. It was an Imperial Parliament that prevented us from being emancipated, for many years; it was the want of a domestic Parliament that compelled us to agitate for it for twenty-nine years. You may, if you choose, pour out the vials of your indignation upon me. Why, for twenty-nine years I have been traduced. I have been abused six times a week in one paper—three times a-week in another—once a-week in another; in every publication vituperation has been poured upon me, and I scorned it. I was an agitator then, and I am an agitator now. What is agitation?—"It is seeking for the redress of substantial grievances." Distress is the agitator's stock in trade; put an end to the distress—destroy the grievances, and you annihilate the agitator. Your rule has been attempted to be prolonged, and it is now sought to be continued by the perpetuation of party feuds; but this, be assured, is not the mode in which you can either free yourselves from agitation, or stop the demand for Repeal. It is an argument against the Union, that it compelled 283 us for twenty-nine years to agitate for emancipation. This was your doing; and it was you who excited the worst passions of the people in that period—it was British injustice and British intolerance that roused those passions, and at length excited them to such a height as at last to compel some glorious apostates to follow the chariot of agitation into the centre of the Constitution. That crime you committed; that you did so is admitted by the right hon. Gentleman himself, up to the year 1825. The hon. member for Paisley has said, that the Scotch Reform Bill was miserable, while the Reform Bill for Ireland was bountiful. This is all Greek to me. Scotland containing 2,000,000 of inhabitants, obtained an increase of eight Representatives, while Ireland, containing 8,000,000 of inhabitants, got an increase of only five. I take the principle of population, because that is the principle upon which the Reform Bill was founded, and according to that principle the Reform Bill carries a decisive conviction to the minds of the Irish people of British injustice. It speaks to them trumpet-tongued, and warns them that, between the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord, they have not a particle of justice to expect. I will take the hon. member for Paisley foot to foot upon the subject. In England you doubled, nay quadrupled, the elective franchise, leaving all existing franchise untouched. To Scotland an effective constituency has been also given, for it had none before. Thus you were bountiful to both countries, while you had the daring presumption to insult Ireland by giving no additional franchise. I speak not of the present Parliament—that Parliament you had not anything to do with. Oh no, you are all bountiful men to Ireland!—you gave us no Coercion Bill, that last and beautiful production of the Union with which the right hon. Gentleman is so enamoured, I should not be surprised to find that right hon. Gentleman refer to Limerick as he has to Dublin, to prove that Ireland is most prosperous. I admit, as a proof of the prosperity of Limerick, there is a new square there—it has a statue in the centre, too, but, then, I believe, there is not a single house in Rice's Square. Upon the pedestal of that statue the people ought to write "the wonderful West Briton! What a fortune he would 284 make if he could get that statue, and bring it to every fair in Ireland, as a show for a shilling. "Walk in," he might say, "and see this wonderful West Briton all the way from Rice's square in Limerick, where there is not a single house." In passing a Reform Bill, you insulted Ireland, and it has been regarded the more intolerable because upon, the first reading of the Reform Bill, the majority of the English and the majority of the Scotch Members were against the Bill, but the majority of the Irish Members were in its favour, and the first reading was carried by means of that Irish majority. Why were you afraid of granting the benefits of Reform to a similar extent to the people of Ireland? It was because you have a by-gone persuasion that you could not give an extensive franchise to the people of Ireland; not because they would abuse that franchise, but lest they should prevent the British Government from abusing them. You have given to Scotland a Burgh Reform Bill. The hon. member for Monaghan has, perhaps, one in his pocket for Ireland, but no doubt it will not be brought forward until it shall be too late in the Session to pass it. At all events, it was not mentioned in his esto perpetua speech. The hon. member for Monaghan said, that if you wished Ireland to be quiet, you had only to give her a fair and impartial administration of justice. I would confirm what the hon. Member has said—and yet you have suffered this debate to go on to its close without saying one word as to what was to be done for Ireland. Even the hon. member for Middlesex has failed to elicit from the Ministry a promise that they would do any thing more for Ireland. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland ought, instead of prosecuting the Press to an extent almost rivalling the persecutions of Louis Philip, to seek to give to Ireland a fair, equal, and impartial Administration of justice. I appeal to all who now hear me, and I will put this case to your common sense. A gentleman high in the confidence of the Crown, and of stainless integrity in private life, here tells you that you cannot complete the Union with Ireland, because you withhold from that country the advantage of a fair administration of justice. The shrinking peasant who knows nothing of the law but from the first process of tithes, which cost 285 more money than he ever saw; and the farmer, to whom a latitat would be little less than ruin, will hear of your speeches, and will feel that no remedy is to be applied to his grievances. They will hear of great speeches here and there; they will hear of that of the hon. member for Belfast, all the thoughts which he remembered of, or, at all events, that were coincident with, the speeches of Chief Justice Bushe. They will hear how that side of the House praised this, and how this side praised that, and how the hon. member for Carlisle brought up the awkward squad. The gallant Officer (Sir Hussey Vivian), who thought he understood political economy as well as fighting, though he did not like it half so well—has read a letter written by me, in which opinions were stated, which the gallant Officer did not coincide in. I thought that the gallant officer, who distinguished himself, I believe, at New Orleans, would have known enough of America to be able to trace the opinions to the source from which I took them. I have to tell the gallant Officer, I, in that respect, only borrowed my opinions from America. I shall not longer detain the House. It is time the discussion should close here, and I think, that nothing but good can follow from it. I do not know what may be your feelings towards me; but for myself I will say, that I heartily thank you, in the name of my country, for the mode in which this debate has been conducted. If some of my friends had concentrated their feelings more, they would have been more patiently listened too. The manner in which the discussion has been carried, and the temper displayed in it, cannot but tend to good; if your arguments be better than mine, the people of Ireland, who are a shrewd and a clever people, will attend to them; your majority will be as nothing to them; the greatness of its amount will rather weigh another way with them. Before I conclude, let me observe, that the hon. member for Waterford, from whose politics and principles I differ, put some points, which are exceedingly deserving of your consideration. He would have you make a party for yourselves in Ireland. Do so.—Make a party of the people by being just to them, and try not to delude them. What should be your way to oppose the Repeal of the Union? Not by reviling those to whom the people are attached, 286 and not by imputing improper motives to them. For twenty-nine years I struggled for emancipation. I am now the paid servant of the people. I am prouder of the salary I thus receive, than any pension and title that a Monarch could bestow upon me. You may for this arraign my motives. I care not. I shall do no act I consider derogatory to myself, and I shall not be afraid to do any one that, in my conscience, I feel bound to do. The autocrat Nicholas might honour a man with his bounty, and is it to be regarded as degrading, when the people of Ireland exhibit their gratitude? Look to the country which you say you must continue to manage. I tell the Government now, in the hearing of their supporters, not to follow up their triumphant majority, by a miserable Tithe Bill. A Tithe Bill, which, if you send to Ireland, you ought to send black banners along with it. You have now a sufficient fund to pay to the Protestant clergy the full amount of their claims, and maintaining the vested interests of the present incumbents. Provide for the spiritual wants of the Protestants of Ireland; but give us no sinecure Church Establishment. You have been told by one of your law officers, that the law is badly administered in Ireland. Give, then, to the people what they want—impartial justice; and do not think of stopping their demand by a paltry little Special Jury Bill, which gives a proper jury to the rich, and refuses it to the man who has not money. Let there be a fair jury system established throughout the country—let there be impartial justice—follow, as you ought to do, your triumphant majority of this night by honest and fair conduct towards Ireland—let this be done by you—if it is not, the misfortune will be ours, but yours will be the crime.
§ The House divided on Mr. O'Connell's Motion, Ayes 38; Noes 523: Majority 485.
|List of the AYES.|
|Baldwin, Dr.||Galway, J. M.|
|Bellew, W.||Grattan, H.|
|Blackney, P.||Kennedy, J.|
|Blake, M. J.||Lalor, P.|
|Butler, Hon. W.||Lynch, H.|
|Barron, H. P.||Macnamara, Major|
|Callaghan, D.||Macnamara, F.|
|Fitzsimon, N.||Mullnis, F. W.|
|Fitzsimon, C.||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Finn, W. F.||O'Connell, D.|
|Fitzgerald, T.||O'Connell, Morgan|
|O'Connell, Maurice||Ruthven, E.|
|O'Connell, J.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|O'Connell, C.||Sullivan, R.|
|O'Conor, Don||Talbot, J. H.|
|O'Dwyer, A. C.||Vigors, N. A.|
|O'Brien, C.||Walker, C. A.|
|Roche, D.||O'Connor, F.|
|Roche, W.||Sheil, R. L.|
|Members for Ireland included in the NOES.|
|Acheson, Viscount||Hill, Lord M.|
|Archdall, General||Howard, R.|
|Bateson, Sir R.||Jephson, C. D. O.|
|Belfast Earl of||Jones, Captain|
|Bernard, W. S.||Knox, Hon. Col.|
|Browne, J.||Lambert, H.|
|Browne, D.||Lefroy, A.|
|Carew, R. S.||Lefroy, T.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Martin, J.|
|Chichester, Lord||Martin, T. B.|
|Clements, Visc.||Maxwell, J. H.|
|Cole, Hon. A. H.||Maxwell, J. W.|
|Cole, Viscount||Meynell, Capt.|
|Conolly, Col.||O'Callaghan, C.|
|Copeland, Ald.||O'Grady, Hon. Col. S.|
|Cooper, E. S.||O'Reilly, W.|
|Coote, Sir C. A.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Corry, Hon. H. L.||Oxmantown, Lord|
|Christmas, W.||Perceval, Col.|
|Chapman, M. L.||Perrin, L.|
|Daly, J.||Stewart, Sir H.|
|Dobbin, L.||Stawell, Col.|
|Evans, George||Shaw, Fred.|
|Fitzgibbon, Hon. R.||Talbot, James|
|Ferguson, Sir R.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Forbes, Viscount||Verner, Col. W.|
|Gladstone, T.||White, S.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Young, J.|
|Hill, Lord A.|
§ On the Question, that the words of the Amendment be added,
§ Mr. Hume
said, that the majority in favour of the Amendment of the right hon. Secretary was certainly ample enough for all purposes that were desirable, but one—it would not satisfy the people of Ireland. He regretted to think, that the right hon. Gentleman should be put forward to move an Address in a form which had never been yet adopted by any Ministers but the present, with a view, as he conceived, to crush the proposed inquiry. He was of opinion, they ought to come to an expression of a declaration, which should state how far the Legislative Union had failed in its anticipated effects, and to state what were the remedial measures which ought to be adopted by Parliament; without which, it was his decided opinion, Ireland could never enjoy peace or real 288 prosperity. He had said, that the overgrown and disproportionate Church of Ireland, and its enormous wealth, were the great source of the popular discontent in Ireland; and he felt, that were he an Irishman, he never would desist from complaining of this enormous grievance. Whether that discontent ought to be allayed, when they saw a Ministry supporting that Church and its revenues, and patching up all the abuses that sprung out of the extravagantly-endowed Establishment, they would feel the greater necessity for joining in the declaratory Motion which he was about to put on the Records of the House. He would repeat, abuses. What! was the Church patronage and property, no abuse? Were her sinecures none? Feeling that the Ministers had been content with half-measures, and with winking at these various abuses, he found himself called upon to put his statements on record in the shape of an Amendment, such as that he should conclude with reading to the House. He would move, that the passage relative to the benefits conferred by Parliament upon Ireland since the Union, should be omitted, for the Parliament of the United Kingdom had passed some Acts beneficial to that country, yet the Legislative Union had failed to confer the benefits which had been anticipated from it upon Ireland, and its failure was to be attributed to the last and present Parliament's neglect of applying substantial and effectual relief to the existing causes of complaint in Church and State. It was by doing justice that this Parliament would secure the peace of that country, and attach and give strength and prosperity to Ireland. The hon. Member concluded by reading his proposed Amendment, as follows:—"That the present state of Ireland is afflicting to the inhabitants of that country, and dangerous to the well-being of the United Kingdom; and although some salutary laws have been passed in the Imperial Parliament, yet this House deeply regrets that the beneficial results anticipated from the Legislative Union have not as yet been realised. The failure may, however, be attributed to the errors of Parliament in refusing or delaying substantial redress of the grievances existing in that country, and in not applying those remedial measures for correcting the abuses of the Established Church in Ireland, which a liberal and benignant policy 289 should have dictated; and that this House will now direct its attention to the speedy removal of all existing causes of complaint, by effecting, with as little delay as possible, a proper Reform both in Church and State; and thus, by doing justice to Ireland, by securing to that country the full benefits of the British Constitution, promote content and peace in that country, secure the attachment of the Irish people, and give additional strength and prosperity to the United Empire."
§ The Question having been put,
§ Lord Althorp
denied, that by adopting the Address which his right hon. friend had proposed, the House would be expressing their approbation of the conduct of Parliament from the period of the Union down to the present time. If the Address could bear any such construction, all he could say was, that many hon. Gentlemen, and he among the number, would not, under any circumstances, give it their support. But it did not require from them a sanction which it was impossible they could conscientiously give, and therefore he felt fully prepared to vote for his right hon. friend's Motion. The Address proposed by his right hon. friend stated, and so did the Resolution of the hon. member for Middlesex, that beneficial measures had been passed for Ireland by the Imperial Parliament; and it further stated, as did also the Resolution of the hon. member for Middlesex, that it was the duty of that House to apply such remedial measures to the grievances of that country, as were now required to ameliorate and improve her condition. There was in point of fact little difference between the Resolutions, excepting that one contained more debatable matter than the other, and therefore those who were prepared to vote for the Amendment of the hon. member for Middlesex could not surely object to support the Motion of his (Lord Althorp's) right hon. friend.
§ Mr. Feargus O'Connor
said, it was somewhat odd, that if there was little or no difference between the Address and the Resolution of his hon. friend the member for Middlesex, as the noble Lord would have them believe, the noble Lord should have felt it necessary to oppose the Amendment.
§ Mr. Finn
equally objected to the Resolution of his hon. friend the member for Middlesex, as he did to the Address. He had made up his mind, that nothing but a 290 domestic Legislature could ensure prosperity to Ireland, and therefore, without imputing neglect to the English Parliament, he should not vote for his hon. friend's Amendment, because it would leave Ireland still at the mercy of a foreign Legislature.
§ Mr. Aglionby
said, with the exception of the first part, he preferred the Resolution of the hon. member for Middlesex to the Address. He recommended, that the last clauses of his hon. friend's Amendment should be embodied in the Address; and he thought, if that were done, that the prospect of relief that would be held out would satisfy the people of Ireland. His objection to the first part of his hon. friend's Resolution was, that it might leave an inference, that those who voted for it were not adverse to the dissolution of the Union.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that if his Resolution could lead to any such inference, as that he was favourable to a separation of the two countries, he should most undoubtedly not hesitate an instant to withdraw his Motion. He disclaimed any such intention; and if any such interpretation could be put upon the Resolution, which he had proposed, he should, he repeated, at once withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Mullins
moved, as an Amendment, "That it is the opinion of this House, that an Address to his Majesty, having for its object the suppression of any Question consistent with the principles of the free Constitution of the British Empire, without a previous inquiry into, and Report upon, its merits by a Committee of that House, would furnish a precedent highly prejudicial to the interests of any portion of his Majesty's subjects, respectfully seeking for redress of grievances, and at variance with those principles which this House, as representing the great body of the people, is called upon to support."
§ The Question having been put,
§ Lord Althorp
said, that he should not take up the time of the House by offering any observations upon the proposition which the hon. Member had just made. He would, however, admit, that the hon. Gentleman having given notice of his intention to move such an Amendment did not take the House by surprise; but still, after there had been two trials of the question, he thought it quite uncalled for 291 to put the House to the trouble of another division.
§ Amendment negatived without a division.
The Address, and Resolutions, as follows, were then agreed to:—
We your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons, in Parliament assembled, feel it our duty humbly to approach your Majesty's Throne, to record in the most solemn manner our fixed determination to maintain, unimpaired and undisturbed, the Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland, which we consider to be essential to the strength and stability of the Empire, to the continuance of the connexion between the two countries, and to the peace, and security, and happiness, of all classes of your Majesty's subjects.
We feel this, our determination, to be as much justified by our views of the general interests of the State, as by our conviction, that to no other portion of your Majesty's subjects is the maintenance of the Legislative Union more important, than to the inhabitants of Ireland themselves.
We humbly represent to your Majesty, that the Imperial Parliament have taken the affairs of Ireland into their most serious consideration, and that various salutary laws have been enacted since the Union, for the advancement of the interests of Ireland, and of the Empire at large.
In expressing to your Majesty our resolution to maintain the Legislative Union inviolate, we humbly beg leave to assure your Majesty, that we shall persevere in applying our best attention to the removal of all just causes of complaint, and to the promotion of all well-considered measures of improvement.
Resolved, That the said Address be communicated to the Lords at a Conference, and their concurrence desired thereto.
Ordered, That a Conference be desired with the Lords upon a matter essential to the stability of the Empire, and to the peace, security, and happiness of all classes of his Majesty's subjects.—
Mr. Spring Rice to desire Conference.