§ Mr. O'Dwyer
rose pursuant to notice to move "that there be laid before this House a copy of any order recently issued to Officers commanding troops in Ireland, directing 'that in future military parties shall not be granted to assist in the collection of tithes without special direction from the Officer Commanding-in-Chief; and directing, that in the event of any collision between the King's troops and the populace, the improper practice hitherto pursued at times, of firing over the heads of the peasantry, be discontinued, and that the troops, shall always fire with effect,' or words to this import." When he gave that notice the other evening, owing, he was sure, to some misconception as to the terms of it, some Members opposite had indulged in something like ridicule, there was laughter in the House. If, however, hon. Gentlemen would listen to the facts of the case, they would see that there was nothing ridiculous in his proposition. He was informed and he believed, that the Commander-in-Chief in Ireland had felt it his duty to issue a circular letter to the officers commanding regiments there, directing them that when the King's troops should come in collision with the peasantry, the practice hitherto pursued, of firing wide of them, should be discontinued, and that when the troops were called upon to fire, they should do so with a view to deal destruction amongst the people. He had no wish to indulge in any criminatory attack upon the gallant Officer who had issued that circular. He was disposed to admit that that gallant Officer had done so through the most humane and benevolent motives, and with a view to spare the effusion of blood where it was practicable. But if such an order had really been given, 501 the utmost publicity should be given to it, in order that the people might know what the consequence would be of a collision on their part with the military. Whether it were wise, constituted as the Irish magistracy was, to take away from the Officers commanding the troops the only discretion that was vested in their hands to check the conduct of the Magistrates was another question. He could assert with reference to a recent melancholy inquiry, that one of the Officers had stated that he could have dislodged the peasantry without firing upon them, but that he was obliged to obey the order of the magistrates. The hon. Gentleman concluded by making his Motion.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
said, that the hon. Member had made a most satisfactory and gratifying when he admitted that he had intended to impute no improper motives to his gallant Friend the Commander-in-Chief in Ireland for issuing this order. Indeed, the hon. Member acknowledged that the intentions of the Lieutenant-General in issuing such an order, must have been of the most humane and benevolent description. He was also well aware that on every occasion his gallant Friend was actuated by a spirit of humanity and kindness towards the people. With regard to the Motion of the hon. Member, he did not understand, from the terms of it, whether it referred to an order directing that in future no military party without special directions from the Commander-in-Chief, should assist in the collection of tithes, or to some other order. If it were meant to refer to an order with regard to the collection of tithes, by which the military would not be called upon to act without the orders of the Lord Lieutenant and the Lieutenant-General Commanding the forces, if that were the order to which the hon. Member alluded, it was a circular order, and there would not be the slightest hesitation on the part of the Government to produce it. But if the hon. Gentleman referred to confidential orders issued by the Lieutenant-General commanding the forces in Ireland to Officers commanding regiments in that country. It would be his duty to resist the production of such an order, on account of the very inconvenient precedent it would establish. If the hon. Member alluded to an order issued before he (Sir Henry Hardinge) came into office, as to officers acting under the orders of Magistrates, it was not a confidential order, and 502 there would be no objection to produce it. His gallant Friend, in a letter addressed to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Littleton), and dated the 16th of November, 1834, referred to that order. He would just read an extract from that letter to the House, which would show that his gallant Friend was always guided by the most constitutional principles in the line of conduct which he pursued. The Magistrates had expressed a wish "that the Officer in command might be instructed to obey, without comment, such orders as he might receive from them." In reply to that his gallant Friend said "The troops are at all times ready, to attend the Magistrates and to obey their orders. The withdrawal of the troops from Watergrass-hill was in consequence of no Magistrate being prepared to remain on the spot with them to give any orders. The Commanding Officer very properly did not feel himself authorized to remain in the midst of a highly-excited population, without having the civil power at hand to order him to act in case a necessity should arise, and thus expose himself to the alternative of either neglecting that duty which the Magistrates would have imposed upon him, or having recourse to measures (without orders from the civil authority) which, looking to the very proper jealousy the laws have of military authority, might have subjected him to the heaviest penalty of those laws. To placing troops in such a situation, whilst I have the honour to command the army in Ireland, I never will consent; whilst on the other hand, in support of the laws, the military will ever be found ready, as they ever have been, to attend the civil Magistrates and act under their orders." This letter was written in consequence of a requisition of the Magistrates for the assistance of the troops in the collection of tithes. On the margin of the letter the following remarks were written by the late Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland:—" This is a most judicious and truly constitutional statement. I entirely approve of it, and I think that a copy of it should be sent to the Magistrates, and another to the Home-office." If the hon. Gentleman's Motion referred to the order to which that letter alluded, there could not be the slightest objection to its production, or that of any other order or circular; but, he must object to the production of confidential instructions sent to the Officers commanding regiments 503 in Ireland. When the hon. Member gave notice of his Motion, he wrote to his gallant Friend in reference to it. In reply his gallant Friend informed him that he most anxiously desired that that Order, and every order that he had issued, should be laid on the Table of the House; and he (Sir Henry Hardinge) could well imagine that, as no doubt the publication of those orders would redound to the honour and credit of his gallant Friend. But on principle he felt it his duty to oppose the production of that order, lest he should establish a most inconvenient precedent. He trusted, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman would not persevere in his Motion. The hon. Gentleman had stated with reference to the affair at Rathcormac, that the military might have dislodged the peasantry on that melancholy occasion without having recourse to fire-arms. He would not enter upon that subject at present; but he would recommend the hon. Gentleman to read the evidence given at the coroner's inquest, and he would find from the evidence of the Officers that every attempt had been made to dislodge the peasantry by the bayonet before recourse was had to the trigger.
§ Mr. O'Dwyer
remembered that one of the officers examined at the inquest, deposed that the peasantry might have been dislodged without firing. He was unable to point out the particular nature of the circular, he wished to have produced: he could not say whether it was a general order, or a private and confidential order. It was possible, however, that all the purposes of his Motion might be answered, if the right hon. and gallant Officer opposite (Sir Henry Hardinge) would state generally that such an order as that referred to, had or had not been issued. If instructions had been given to the troops requiring them for the future to fire with effect, instead of firing over the heads of the peasantry, it would only be humanity and justice to the people of Ireland, to make the fact public.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
could not have supposed that in any assembly in which there existed a spark of humanity, the notice of such a Motion as that which was then under the consideration of the House, would be received with a sneer, as it was by the Gentlemen opposite, when mentioned a few nights since by the hon. Member for Drogheda; and that the Motion itself could afterwards be treated with 504 the apathy and indifference which had been exhibited towards it that night. What did the order to the military amount to, but this? "In any collision with the people shoot as many as you can." There was an anecdote that in the battle of Fontenoy, when an English cavalry regiment encountered a regiment of the French guards, their first volley laid low 700 men. That was what he would call firing point blank. He supposed that was the practice to be followed in Ireland. At Rathcormac there were seventy-two soldiers, and they were three times ordered to fire; forty-two shots were fired, and eighteen took effect, nine persons being killed, and nine wounded. He would ask if this affair at Rathcormac would have occurred, if there had not taken place the accession to power of individuals who were hateful to the majority of the Irish people? ["No, No!"] What had taken place in his own county (Meath)? A friend of his had been murdered by the Orange banditti—he was run through the body and killed, because he was a Papist, and because the Protestants thought they could now commit any outrage with impunity. The Orangemen paraded the town of Kells after the election, in which they had been defeated—those Orangemen who had been favoured and protected by the right hon. Baronet when he ruled as Secretary in Ireland—and their cry was "Where is the Papist who dare show his face?" Several Catholics came forward and asked what they wanted, and the result was as he had stated. It was absolutely necessary for the Representatives of the people to protect the Irish people against such sanguinary proceedings, to which encouragement had been held forth by the accession of the Tories to power. If the Tories had not come into power, the killing and wounding of eighteen individuals at Rathcormac would never have occurred, for such things were attributable to the impunity which the parties concerned knew they would experience from packed juries, and from a Tory Government in Ireland. Of what use was the order—how could it prevent the effusion of blood, if it were not made public? The people should be at least apprised that if, in future, they ventured to come into collision with the military, they had no chance of escape. Being apprised of this fact, in all probability they would keep out of danger. He thought Government bound to state 505 whether the order had been issued or not, that the people might be put upon their guard, if the order had been given. He would have the fact published, not only in the House, but in every town and parish in Ireland. If the Government went on collecting tithes as hitherto, with the assistance of military and police, they ought to guard the people against the consequences that must result under this order from the mad and foolish conduct of the Administration. It happened in the unfortunate affair at Rathcormac, that the people had no arms. Two men were shot by the troops, and immediately two other men supplied their places who were yet alive to tell their story. Thus were the people murdered! If the Horse Guards issued orders approving the conduct of the military, because they had acted under the direction of clerical Magistrates interested in the collection of tithes, and because they had given those Magistrates satisfaction, the result must be to stamp the conduct of the Government with disgrace. It would be impossible for them to carry on the Government with security to the country, if they proceeded with such violent measures—measures which were better fitted for Russia than for this country. He called upon the honest and independent Gentlemen of England to come forward and protect their Irish fellow-subjects from such sanguinary proceedings. He would recommend the Government to look to the years 1795 and 1796, when orders were issued for disarming in the north by General Lake. In justice to you, Sir, (said the hon. Gentleman more particularly addressing himself to the Speaker) I must mention that at that time there was one man who stood out against those sanguinary orders—a man who bore the name that you now bear—a name that will be kept in everlasting remembrance and admiration by my country. Let it not go forth to the world that the accession of the present Ministry to power, marked by such sanguinary scenes as those which had been enacted at Rathcormac, was to give a sanction to bloodshed. If the orders which had been issued were good, why should they not be disclosed; and if the contrary, why had they not been rescinded? If his hon. friend pressed the question to a division, he should certainly support it.
§ Sir Charles Dalbiac
said, that as a general officer on the staff of the army of 506 Great Britain, and included in the London district, he could not refrain from offering a few observations on the subject of the present Motion, but in doing so he should not follow the example of the hon. Gentleman who had preceded him, by going into extraneous matter; on the contrary, he proposed to confine himself to the propriety or impropriety of issuing such an order as had been required. In cases when the military were called out to suppress riots, the assemblies must always understand, he supposed, after the reading of the Riot Act, and the orders of the acting Magistrate to the military to do their duty, that to remain on the spot was to expose themselves to inevitable danger. No military duty was so painful, so critical, so distressing, and so difficult, as that of suppressing disturbances, as the troops must be conscious that they might have to take the lives of their fellow-subjects, and perhaps of dear connexions. But the first duty of a British soldier was obedience, and he contended that obedience to the orders of the civil power was as imperative as obedience to their own officers. He should conceive that from the moment he, as a military officer, received orders to put down riotous proceedings, the whole responsibility was taken off the shoulders of the Magistrates, and placed upon him; and if, by his refusal to act with sufficient energy, evil consequences should ensue, the entire blame would be chargeable upon him. He entertained no doubt that the order referred to, if it had been issued, proceeded on the principle of the expediency of acting with decision, which was by far the most merciful course in such cases. He was satisfied that the order arose from a conviction, founded on experience, that the practice of firing over the heads of the people in cases of riotous assemblages, had been in nine cases out of ten, productive of evil instead of good—of severity, instead of mercy, of destruction to the innocent, instead of punishment to the guilty. Nothing but a high sense of the duty which he owed to the House, would induce him to refer to the circumstance which brought upon him the discharge of a duty, the most painful he had ever had to discharge in the whole course of a long military life—he alluded to the very unpleasant circumstances which occurred at Bristol. If ever there was an occasion when be should wish closely to adhere to 507 the adage de mortuis nil nisi bonum, it was in reference to the transactions at Bristol; but he was relieved from all difficulty upon that head, for he could now declare to the House, after a full knowledge of all the circumstances, that that unfortunate occurrence proceeded exclusively from a mistaken lenity, and from no other cause whatever—a mistaken lenity scandalously and shamefully abused. If the troops on that occasion had only been actively employed in moving about in the riotous assemblage, and showing a determination to put them down, no evil would have ensued, or it at all events would not have exceeded more than some half-dozen broken heads. He need not tell the House what. evil did ensue. The extent of life lost by the sword was never, he believed, correctly ascertained; and then came the law, demanding its victims. As to the loss of property, he could only say that if the 29th of October, 1831, instead of being quiet and still, had been a stormy day like this, the whole city of Bristol would have been in flames. As connected with the present subject, he wished to say a few words on a Motion made last night.
§ Sir Charles Dalbiac
thought the subject to which he was about to allude was closely connected with the present Question, but he had no wish to persist in his observations contrary to the sense of the House.
§ Mr. Littleton
said, that if the Motion were persisted in, he should consider it to be his duty to divide with the right hon. Baronet, (Sir H. Hardinge.) His hon. Friend, the Member for Drogheda, had only done justice to the Officer commanding the forces in Ireland, in not imputing to that distinguished individual any blame for the late unfortunate occurrence at Rathcormac. No person could take greater pains to diffuse among the troops under his command just and humane principles of action. He had no means of knowing whether such an order as that referred to existed, but from what fell from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he presumed it did. He was sure, speaking from his own experience, that it was high time some regulation should be adopted on the subject. Most unfortunate results had arisen from the practice of directing the soldiers to fire over the heads of the peo- 508 ple in cases of riot and disturbance. A company of infantry and police were marched upon the ground to preserve the public peace, and it was found necessary to order them to fire. Twenty or thirty men discharged their pieces over the heads of the crowd: the people, finding it was not intended to act with effect, stood their ground and closed in upon the soldiers who then came in contact with the sticks of the country people. [Mr. Sheil.—Where has that been the case.] It was in almost every instance the practice; and the result, he would repeat was, that the peasantry believing that the soldiers did not mean to fire at them, closed in upon the troops—so much so, that the bayonets of the military would actually come in contact with the sticks of the peasantry: and it generally happened that the first fire not being made with effect, the most distressing results afterwards ensued. If an order were given, that some two or three of the soldiers should fire with effect at the leaders of the riot, it would, he conceived, be an act of humanity, and would be the means of saving the lives of many of his Majesty's subjects.
thought that the right hon. Gentleman had adduced the strongest reasons for the production of the Order in question. The right hon. Gentleman said it had been the practice to fire over the heads of the people; if so, it was manifest that the expectation of the first volley not being intended to take effect induced the people to stay, and it should therefore be distinctly shown that the sham-fight practice was now to be abandoned. He did not wish to fight Irish subjects its by-battles, or to take up the question by miserable instalments; but, in reference to the occurrence at Rathcormac, he might observe, that the people were told that it was a trespass to enter an enclosed field for the purpose of distraining, and probably they did not expect that persons committing a trespass would fire on them: hence the assemblage of the people, and the melancholy result that had occurred. He protested against the principle laid down by the gallant Officer opposite (Sir C. Dalbiac). The gallant Member talked of a soldier's duty of obedience to the civil power as being paramount to every other consideration; but he would tell the gallant Officer obedience was no justification of the soldier if he violated the law in consequence of a Magistrate's order. A sol- 509 dier, acting under the directions of a Magistrate, might nevertheless, be guilty of murder if he acted against the law; no order could justify an illegal act. He was sorry to hear a British officer say, that obedience was the first duty of a soldier.
§ Sir Charles Dalbiac
meant to say, that if a General Officer were placed under the orders of the Commander-in-Chief and the Home Secretary (the highest authority in such cases,) and by them directed to act under the Magistrates; in the event of a refusal to obey the civil power, such officer was responsible to the laws of the country, and exposed to the reprehension of his Sovereign.
did not mean to say that the hon. and gallant Officer was not bound to obey a legitimate order, but the hon. and gallant Officer conceived that it was his duty to obey, at all events; and that the duty of obedience justified the act on his part.
§ Sir Charles Dalbiac:
Most unquestionably, I say it is. If the Magistrate should give ever so imprudent or capricious an order, if I were not sensible of any impropriety in obeying the order of that Magistrate, it would be my duty to obey that order.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
was glad to find it generally admitted that the gallant and distinguished services of Sir Hussey Vivian, the Commander of the Forces in Ireland, were only equalled by his humanity, and he felt that it was of great advantage to the public service, and a guarantee that the military force in Ireland would be directed with temperance and discretion, when it was found that that gallant General had consented to remain in his command of the forces in that country. The real Question now at issue was, whether it were desirable to make a precedent on this occasion, by producing a confidential order from the Commander of the Forces to the officers acting under him in Ireland. The object was to secure the performance of the public service at as small a risk of effusion of blood as possible. If the practice of firing over the heads of the people on occasions of collisions between the military and the people—a practice the existence of which had been admitted by Gentlemen opposite—led to delusion in the first instance, and if in consequence of that delusion, the people were induced to rush upon the troops, and greater loss of life was thereby occa- 510 sioned, might it not be consistent with the best interests of humanity to give a caution on the subject—a caution to the troops who might be called on to act? Might it not be consistent with a regard to humanity for the Commander-in-Chief to specify to the commanding officers under his control, who were responsible for the manner in which the troops acted, in what way it would be best to conduct the delicate and difficult duty imposed upon them, so as to lead to the least possible effusion of blood, yet with the greatest precaution and effect in reference to the preservation of the public peace? But if orders so given were publicly promulgated, and if those who felt disposed to attack the troops knew the precise nature of the orders, the result might be that they would be frustrated, and the precautions taken to secure the public peace and spare the effusion of blood, be thus defeated. He thought it would be infinitely better to leave this matter in the hands of the proper authorities, in the hands of those who could have no possible object in view but the promotion of the public service, and the preservation of the peace with the least hazard to human life. Depend upon it, that was the best course to pursue in reference to the present Question? there could be no suspicion as to the humanity and judgment which dictated the order; but he apprehended that the desire to provide for the security of public tranquillity, and to spare all needless effusion of blood would be defeated, if, in this and similar cases, the publication of confidential orders were insisted on.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer:
I say at once, Sir, that the object of those who issued the order, was not so much to provide for the security of the troops, as to provide for the security of the people. [Mr. Hume dissented.] Positively that was the object of the order, whatever the hon. Member for Middlesex may think to the contrary.
§ Mr. Hume
had no doubt that the right hon. Baronet was correct in his view of the object of the order; but the question was, what was likely to be its effect? Was it right to keep the persons who might be 511 liable to additional punishment and risk under this order, in ignorance of its existence? Granting that the order was necessary or desirable, its publication was no less so. The right hon. Gentleman had made out a case for its publication. The right hon. Gentleman admitted the existence of a practice of firing over the heads of the people, through an unwillingness to cause destruction of life; "but," said the right hon. Gentleman, "this practice led to bad results," and, therefore, he sanctioned the promulgation among the troops, of orders that must produce a different practice in future, without parties being put on their guard and made aware of it. If the order had been issued out of humanity as was alleged, let persons liable to its operation be apprised of it. It was with the utmost surprise he had heard the right hon. Member for Staffordshire take the course he did on the present occasion; and he could not understand from the right hon. Gentleman's inconclusive reasoning, why it was that he thought that or any other order to the troops should not be made known publicly. The Mutiny Bill intrusted his Majesty with the conduct and management of the army; and it contained a clause which, to the best of his recollection, directed all military orders and rules to be laid on the Table of the House. If that were the law,—he admitted it was not the practice—what just objection could be offered to the production and promulgation of the order in question, particularly as it was a new and hitherto unheard of regulation? Was it right that a law by which so many lives might be sacrificed, should be only known to the officers and soldiers, and not to the people? If such was to be the treatment of the people of Ireland at the hands of the present Government, was the right hon. Gentleman prepared to issue a similar order for England and Scotland? Or was there to be one law for Ireland, and another for England? If the right hon. Gentleman refused to allow the publication of the order, he would be acting with great imprudence, contrary to law, and the provisions of the Mutiny Act. The hon. Mover ought to persevere in pressing the Question to a division, in which case he should certainly support him, for the credit of the House, with a view to the public benefit, in furtherance of the cause of humanity, and of the Irish people.
§ Mr. Charles Grant
could state, with 512 perfect truth, that the gallant Officer at the head of the military in Ireland was not more distinguished for valour and conduct in the field than by his regard for humanity. With respect to the motives which actuated that gallant officer in dictating the order in question he could not entertain the slightest doubt. As to the production of the order, he confessed he felt considerable difficulty, for in such cases much must depend upon the Government; and if the right hon. Baronet thought the production of a confidential paper would form an improper precedent, and that it would be inconvenient, in this particular case, to lay the order before the House, he felt disposed to throw the matter upon the discretion and responsibility of Ministers. He was willing to yield to the just claims of Ministerial discretion and responsibility in this instance, if those claims were pressed; but, notwithstanding, it appeared to him that if the order were dictated by considerations of humanity, which he believed, the humanity would consist in its publication. On the contrary, if it must continue a secret order, it might be thought to be more in the nature of inhumanity. He said this without meaning to cast any imputation on the members of the Government; but it was for them to consider whether in regard to this view it was not expedient to make the order more public than at present, that those individuals who believed up to this time that a collision with the military was more in the nature of a mock fight than a serious combat should be forewarned that there was to be no longer a sort of preliminary or ostensible battle, but that if they exposed themselves by coining in contact with the troops they must expect serious consequences. He trusted that Ministers, after consideration, might be enabled to come to the conclusion, that by giving publicity to the order they would best consult the interests of humanity.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, all he asked from the House was, that they would leave the matter at present in the hands of those who were responsible for it, and he asked this from a sincere conviction that it was not only for the advantage of the troops but for the interests of humanity and conducive to the public peace so to leave it.
§ Mr. Sheil
The object of issuing this order was said to be to save the spilling 513 of human blood, and anybody who knew the valour and humanity that were combined in the person of Sir Hussey Vivian would not question that proposition; but hon. Gentlemen opposite must allow him to indulge in some scepticism respecting the manner in which the order might be carried into effect. Did it not strike the right hon. Baronet, that according to his own argument it mattered not what order was issued by the Horse Guards, the House of Commons would have no check upon the Commander-in-Chief, provided he wrote upon that order the word "Confidential"? This would effectually prevent the House and the public taking cognizance of it. In the present case he had a right to ask, were the circumstances of such a nature as to justify the House to call for a disclosure? The answer was, that such a disclosure would counteract the benevolent intentions of those who issued the order; he was, however, at a loss to conceive how it could have that effect. He had ventured to ask the right hon. Gentleman (the member for Staffordshire) in what instance was it that the troops had fired over the heads of the people, and that bad consequences had ensued. It was not enough to argue upon an hypothetical case; but they must show him the fact. He was wholly unacquainted with any such transaction. Could any one say, that at Rathcormac the soldiers did not fire point blank upon the people? Was it not a notorious fact that eighteen persons were slain or wounded on the occasion? The right hon. Gentleman, the late President of the Board of Trade, had put the subject in a just point of view. If they really wanted to attain the object they professed to have at heart, let them give publicity to their orders.
§ Mr. Shaw:
The question was, whether the House of Commons would require the orders given by a Commanding Officer to be produced, when they were distinctly informed that they were of a confidential nature? If this were to become the practice it could only lead to one result, namely, that the Commanding Officers would not give their orders in writing, but would take care that they were only verbally communicated. Did the House mean to say, that a Commanding Officer whether of a higher or lower rank, might not give confidential orders to the troops under his command, without their being in every case liable to be afterwards made 514 public? The hon. Member for Middlesex was quite mistaken in supposing that such an order amounted to a law. It was merely a direction from the Commanding Officer to those under his control for their guidance and instruction. The Commanding Officer would bear his share of the responsibility—Government would bear their's. The House ought to be satisfied with this, and that they were not justified in calling for the production of an order which they were informed was of a confidential nature.
§ Mr. Hardy
could not understand why, if an order of the kind had been issued, it should be designated a confidential order. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, might call it a confidential one, but he could not understand why that which would govern the conduct of the military on all future occasions should be so considered. If there were any one thing which it was important to promulgate for the information of the public, it was an order of this nature. It had always been the custom to give the people some warning by firing over their heads, or loading with blank cartridges. Under these circumstances he maintained that the issuing and acting upon such an order without any previous intimation was in opposition to every principle of humanity.
Lord John Russell
wished if possible to take some course on the question which would satisfy what he considered the just wishes of a great proportion of the House. He could entertain no doubt when the right hon. Gentleman who first opposed the Motion had told them that the production of the order would be injurious to the public service, that he must feel there were good and satisfactory reasons for his taking upon himself the responsibility of the refusal. On the other hand, he, like his right hon. Friend near him, did feel that it was an order of such a nature that its humanity consisted—almost entirely consisted—in its being known to, and understood by, those whose ignorance of its contents might involve them in a scene of slaughter to which they would not otherwise be exposed. Between these two difficulties he was desirous of offering a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, which he trusted would remove both. It was, whether the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Hussey Vivian, having, as he understood, no objection to 515 give publicity to the order, some order might not be issued, or some regulation established in Ireland, by which this order might be promulgated and made generally known to the public. If this were done, he thought the House would be satisfied, and that the order itself, being of a confidential nature, or of a description which it was not usual to produce, could not fairly be required to be laid before the House.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
begged, although he might not perhaps be quite regular in doing so, to remind the House that he had resisted the production of the order on the ground of the inconvenience of the precedent, rather than with reference to any question arising out of the order itself. He maintained, that if any Member of that House were at liberty to get up and call for the production of confidential instructions—and the order in question was only an instruction—from the Commander-in-Chief to general and commanding officers of regiments, the discipline of the army would suffer very materially. He had, therefore, broadly stated, that he resisted the Motion on the ground of precedent; that his gallant Friend, Sir Hussey Vivian, was exceedingly anxious that not only this, but that every similar order should be promulgated; but that he was of opinion, the order being endorsed by the Commanding Officer, himself "confidential," that he was not at liberty to produce it in compliance with the Motion of the hon. Member. He should feel the deepest responsibility in doing so. He agreed, however, with the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) and the hon. Member for Inverness-shire, that it might be very possible for the Commander-in-Chief, not only in Ireland, but in England and in Scotland also, to promulgate the substance of the order in such a manner as that the public might be informed of' the course the military were instructed to adopt, in the event of any of those unfortunate and unhappy collisions in which they were sometimes involved with the populace. Under these circumstances he trusted it would be satisfactory to the House to know, that his right hon. Friend near him would communicate with the Commander-in-Chief. and that such an order should be promulgated as would remove any doubts or uncertainty that might exist. He hoped this explanation would be satisfactory, and at the same time he trusted the House would 516 agree with him as to the inconvenience of laying down the precedent now sought to be established.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that after the turn the debate had taken, he apprehended it must occur to every one, that if publicity were the object in view, the mere production of a Parliamentary paper could not attain it. Again he said, leave the matter in the hands of the responsible Government. He believed all proper and necessary notice would be afforded through the channel which had been pointed out while, at the same time, any part of the order which it might be inexpedient for the public to become acquainted with need not be promulgated.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
explained his meaning to be, that an order would be issued by the Commander-in-Chief which would show to the whole of the United Kingdom what course would be pursued under similar circumstances to those of Rathcormac.
§ Motion withdrawn.