§ Mr. Sergeant O'Loghlen,
when the Bill relative to Municipal Corporations in Ireland was introduced into this House, it was understood that upon the second reading I should avail myself of the opportunity that would be then afforded to me to state to the House the reasons which, in my humble judgment, ought to induce them to pass this Bill, and to state to them the details of the measure I have 1020 the honour to propose. The House is aware that a Report from the Commissioners appointed to inquire into Municipal Corporations in Ireland, has been on the Table of the House for some time. I will now briefly state to the House the substance of the Report, so far as it relates to the number of Corporations now existing in Ireland, and to the number of corporators to be found in the boroughs to which they belong. It appears from the Report that there may be said to be now existing in Ireland sixty Corporations. The Report states that sixty Corporations were found to be "in fall vigour," that there were eleven which were almost extinct, and a good many which have become extinguished since the Union in 1800. In the towns in which these seventy-one Corporations exist, the Report states there is a population, amounting in the whole to 900,000 persons, and that the total number of corporators does not exceed 13,000. If we look a little more into the Report, we shall find that of these 13,000, 8,000 are to be found in four boroughs; so that we have 5,000 corporators to be distributed among the other fifty-five or fifty-six boroughs; regulating the affairs of a population amounting in number to considerably more than 500,000 people, The Report, in describing the Corporations of Ireland, states that they are almost entirely ruled by self-elected governing bodies, who are the mere nominees of the patrons of the boroughs; that in fifty-seven Corporations which are exclusively ruled by the governing body, there are, of the corporators, I have stated, 12,750; leaving in those which have the slightest share of popular feeling, or popular control, no more than 250. The Report, Sir, after detailing what I have stated with respect to these Corporations, exhibits the general result to be, that the Corporations of Ireland, which were originally intended, as I shall hereafter show, for the benefit of the several cities, towns, and boroughs in which they may be situated, "are in many instances of no service to the community; in others, injurious; in all, insufficient and inadequate to the proper purposes and ends of such institutions." The Report also states—"It has followed that in many towns there is no recognised commonalty; that in others, where existing in name, it is entirely disproportioned to the inhabitants, and consist of a very small portion, of an exclusive character, 1021 not comprising the mercantile interests, nor representing the wealth, intelligence, or respectability of the town; the Corporations are not without reason looked on by the great body of the inhabitants of the corporate districts with suspicion and distrust, as having interests distinct from, and adverse to, those of the general community; whom they thus studiously exclude from a participation in the municipal government; their members frequently consist entirely of the relatives and adherents of particular individuals or families, and the principles of their association and those which regulate admission or exclusion have rarely any connection with the common benefit of the district, or the wishes of the inhabitants; in far the greater number of the close Corporations, the persons composing them are the mere nominees of the patron or proprietor of the borough, while in those apparently more enlarged, they are admitted and associated in support of some particular political interest, most frequently at variance with the majority of the resident inhabitancy; in the town of Belfast the whole Municipal Corporation consists of the Sovereign, the Lord of the Castle, the constable, his appointee, twelve self-elected burgesses, and six freemen. The laws which for a series of years operated to exclude those professing the Roman Catholic religion from Corporations were repealed in 1793, but the Roman Catholics have hitherto derived little practical advantage from the change; in the close boroughs they are almost universally excluded from ail corporate privileges; in the more considerable towns they have been rarely admitted even as freemen, and, with few exceptions, they are altogether excluded from the governing bodies; in some, and among them is the most important Corporation in Ireland, that of Dublin, their admission is still resisted on avowed principles of sectarian distinction. Since the changes have taken place which have enabled Roman Catholics to share in the general diffusion of wealth, and in the benefits of unrestricted industry, they have risen and multiplied in the middle and upper classes, so that in most of the cities and towns they constitute not only a majority of the whole population, but a large proportion of the more opulent orders. The operation of the defects we have pointed out extends beyond what may be deemed corporate 1022 limits. The Corporations have long become unpopular and objects of suspicion: as at present constituted they are in many instances of no service to the community, in others injurious, in all insufficient and. inadequate to the proper purposes and ends of such institutions; the public distrust in them attaches on their officers and nominees, and the result is a failure of that respect for and confidence in the ministers of justice and police which ought to subsist in well regulated communities, and which, when they do exist, conduce so much to the peace and good order of society, and without which the authority of the law may be dreaded, but cannot be respected or effective." This, Sir, is the account given in the Report on the Corporations of Ireland; and that they do not represent the feelings—that they do not represent (I mean not to speak it offensively) the respectability, the wealth, the intelligence, or the commercial interests of the boroughs in which they are situated, no person who has read the several Reports of the Commissioners can hesitate to believe. Nor, when I say that they are exclusive, do I mean that they exclude merely those who profess the Roman Catholic religion; but that they exclude every person of what religion so ever, who is an advocate for, or supposed to be favourable to, liberal opinions: still less must the House imagine that the 1,300 corporators, supposing them to be so many, in any expression of their opinion represent the feelings of the Protestants. Since 1793 Roman Catholics have been admissible to the Corporations of Ireland, and since 1793 I do not believe that 200 Roman Catholics have been admitted. In the city of Dublin, says the Report—"Since the year 1793 the freedom of the Corporation and guilds has been by law open to Roman Catholics, yet there is not known to have been, to the present time, a single individual of that persuasion admitted to the Common Council; the exclusion is not confined to the Roman Catholics; the being known or suspected to be friendly to their claims previously to the Emancipation Act was equally effective to disqualify the applicant, though a Protestant, and the advocacy of what are called liberal or popular politics, has formed, and still forms, a strong ground of objection; in short, the proceedings of the Corporation as to the admission of freemen have been, and avowedly are, 1023 conducted on the most extreme principles of exclusion, religious and political; the freedom is consequently limited to a class which, though considerable in numbers and property, exclude a large portion of the trading and industrious members of the community." The Report also finds that the municipal bodies, not alone in the places to which I have referred, but in every part of the Kingdom in which they are to be found, are unsuited to the wants, and unfavourable to the principles of the inhabitants, and that they exist merely for the purpose of those who have acquired dominion in them, and who have abused them to the very worst of purposes. Having stated the general character given by the Commissioners of the Corporations of Ireland, I shall now proceed, with the permission of the House, to the particular details of some of these bodies. I shall first state to the House how some of these Corporations have managed the property intrusted to them for the public benefit, and shall begin with the city of Dublin. The Corporation of the city of Dublin—(I am about to refer to one of many instances of the same description, so strong that I do not think I should be justified in passing it over)—the Corporation got an Act of Parliament passed, in the year 1776, enabling them to charge the occupiers of houses in Dublin a certain rate for the supply of water. This was called the pipe-water rate. The Act does not notice any debt due to the Corporation for expenditures of the water-works. Immediately after the passing of the Act, the corporators voted (it was their first act) 1,500l. per annum to their treasurer out of the rates, in part compensation of several sums expended by them on the works, though the Act noticed no such claim. They retained out of the rates, and money borrowed on the security of the rates, on account of this 1,500l. per annum, previous to 1809, 47,591l. In 1809 they got an Act passed for substituting metal for wooden pipes, and this Act recited that there was a debt of 67,200l. secured by the pipe-water rates, and that 32,800l. would be necessary for the new works; and it granted new rates, called metal main rates, until those two sums, making 100,000l., should be paid, and no longer. It provided four funds for extinguishing this debt of 100,000l..—the Corporation was to apply them; instead of doing so, the first thing 1024 done was to raise the 1,500l. per annum, which had been voted to their treasurer, to 2,500l. per annum; they also increased the appointments of several other officers out of these funds. The Act was framed so as to continue the rate until the 100,000l. was repaid; and by misapplying the funds they, in effect, continued the tax. In 1823 some of the citizens filed an information in Chancery against the Corporation for an account of the rates received; the Corporation answered in 1824, and insisted that the rates belonged to them as their private property, unfettered by any trust from the public. Lord Manners dismissed the suit with costs, saying he had no jurisdiction. The House of Lords reversed his decree, and directed the accounts to be taken: the accounts were taken before the Master in July, 1831; the Master of the Rolls pronounced his decree on the Master's report, declaring that the tax ought to be closed in 1825, and directing that the Corporation should pay off 74,000l. which remained due to the holders of securities issued on the rates, and the Corporation were directed to pay the costs of the suit. The Corporation appealed to the House of Lords, and in the mean time endeavoured to avoid the operation of the decree by issuing new securities charged newly on the pipe-water rates. An injunction against this proceeding was awarded, and in June, 1835, the House of Lords affirmed the decree with costs. The Corporation in May, 1827, ceased to collect the metal main tax, and the result is, that in a period of eighteen years they misapplied 74,000l., being more than 4,000l. in each year out of this tax alone. On looking at the accounts of this Corporation for the years ending the 29th September, 1833 and 1834, I find the following items:—
most probably incurred in the suit to sustain their unjust claim to the rates. Here is one instance of the abuses under the present corporate system in Ireland, from which the House will observe, that the great abuse is not the misapplication of private but of public funds, intrusted to them for public purposes, and the course they have adopted with respect to 1025 these funds affords as instructive an example as perhaps can be found, of the danger and mischief of committing the business of local taxation, the control of large funds, and the administration of public trusts, to a small and self-elected body acting without public scrutiny, and controlled by no superior authority. I shall now come to another case, the detail of which any hon. Member may find in the Report of the Commissioners of the Corporation of Derry. In 1790 the Corporation of Derry, consisting of a mayor, twelve aldermen, twenty-four burgesses, and two sheriff's, obtained an Act of Parliament, authorising them to build a bridge over the river Foyle; and they also obtained the privilege of collecting tolls and tonnage, from the amount of which the expense was to be paid. Well, they borrowed 16,500l. and, although from that period up to 1813 they collected, under the authority, of the Act no less than 34,200l., yet not one shilling of the amount borrowed was repaid. In 1813 the bridge was carried away, and the Corporation applied to Parliament for a new Act, and, in order to rebuild the bridge, obtained from the consolidated fund 15,000l., to be repaid by instalments in twenty years. They rebuilt the bridge, expending on it 17,000l. (exclusive of the 15,000l.) From the year 1813 to 1831 they received from the tolls, &c, 74,000l., and yet not one single shilling of the debt has been paid, nor has the balance 57,000l., been accounted for. They, at the same time, received from other sources—the tonnage dues for instance—very large sums indeed. I shall just state to the House the general conclusion upon this subject to which the Commissioners arrived. It appears that the total of sums, not including amounts from time to time borrowed and paid, which passed through the hands of the Corporation between 1790, when they first became invested with Parliamentary trusts, till 1831, when the greater part of their private property was sold under executions, was as follows:—
Casual and law expenses £3,175 13 4 1,314 10 4 4,613 13 9 483 15 3 Total 9,592 12 8
Disposable revenue £183,614 15 4 Money borrowed and unpaid 86,724 19 6 Total £270,339 14 10 Sums borrowed and laid out in building and repairing the bridge £31,594 0 0 Sums expended for other public purposes 35,182 0 0 Total £66,776 0 0
The Report gives some detail of the manner in which these different sums were expended. The annual charges, it appears, were salaries, annuities, pensions, and charities. Salaries were paid to a variety of persons, corporate officers. They had a solicitor at a regular salary; though, I believe, it is stated in the Report that one bill of costs of this salaried officer amounted to 4,000l.. Large sums were expended in entertainments; and, as a necessary consequence, a salaried apothecary was required to attend the Corporation. So late as 1830 they had a cook, at a salary of 100l. a year. In the year 1813, it appears, the salaries were 1,135l.. 5s. 8d. per annum. To their Recorder (Sir G. Hill) they could afford to vote a piece of plate which cost 1,160l., and at the time this was voted the Corporation was heavily indebted. At the period his late Majesty George 4th visited Ireland, the Corporation of Derry sent a deputation to congratulate him (a distance of 110 miles), and I find the expense charged 546l. 14s. 5d. In salaries, in about twenty years, they paid 20,000l., besides other considerable sums. The following, I find, is the language of the Report in reference to this Corporation:—"Their pensions, charities, and gratuities were upon a scale of munificence wholly unjustifiable in the trustees of public money. They gave, too, some presents to their awn members; and in periods not recent, but not very remote, some dispositions were made of corporate property, advantageous to individuals belonging to the Corporation, and detrimental to its corporate interests. Again, self-elective, it created its own members, without public scrutiny of their qualification for office, or any security against the worst appointments; conferring office for life, it provided no means of substituting for the absent, the incompetent, or the slothful, successors residing within the sphere of their duties, and able and inclined to discharge them; conducting their proceedings in secret, and never accounting for them to any superior authority, or to a constituent body, its members could not be either stimulated or checked by any of those motives leading to caution, to vigilance, to activity, and to fidelity in the performance of public trusts, which arise from apprehension of responsibility, or 1027 from fear of the shame and censure that follow the publicity of gross error, of detected misconduct, or even of well-intentioned folly. The Corporation, forty years ago, had an ample income, and was almost out of debt. Funds were intrusted to them, enlarging the income under their control to 7,000l. per annum. During that period they have contracted debts which they are unable to pay, and are now destitute of the means to defray the ordinary charges of their magistracy, or the salaries of their public officers. Invested by Acts of Parliament with public trusts for specific purposes, they have- treated their funds as part of their corporate income; they have failed to apply them according to the express enactments of the Legislature, and have devoted them to purposes not warranted by the Acts creating the funds and declaring the trusts." In fact, Sir, it appears that in every case in which it was possible to be expensive, the Corporation of Derry was expensive. I now come. Sir, to another Corporation, in comparison with which the expenditure of that of Derry does not, certainly, appear to be so culpable. It is but justice to the Corporation of Derry to say, that their expenditure of the property was not so much governed by considerations of personal profit as in Drogheda. I shall read to the House an extract from the Report of the Commissioners, exhibiting; the mode in which this Corporation managed the public money intrusted to them for public purposes, with a view to advance the private interests of those connected with their own body. I beg the attention of the House to the following passage of the Report:—
Total amount received £270,339 14 10 Expended 66,778 0 0 Not accounted for £203,563 14 10Very great dissatisfaction is felt at the
§ mode in which the Corporation have conducted the lettings of their property, the consequent depreciation of the rentals of their estates, and the appropriation among themselves of a large income (between 10,000l. and 12,000l. a year) which is considered to be applicable to the municipal wants of the district. The members of the Corporation themselves admit that the property if now let in the usual manner between the landlord and tenant, would produce over 12,000. per annum. In the interval between out two visits to the town, some respectable inhabitants who felt an interest in our inquiry, had taken the trouble of making an estimate of the present value of the property of the Corporation. From an inspection of the different premises, and from the particulars comprised in the rental of the Corporation, the result is stated as follows;—
|2,110 acres of land, estimated at annual value of 73s. Irish per acre. This estimate being taken from an average of the rents of the commons lands from 1779 to 1824, and of the Mannimon lands in 1771, the letting of which were public; 819 houses, warehouses, and cabins||£7,109||1||6½|
|Estimated at an annual value of||7,628||0||0|
|Total present annual value||3,265||6||2½|
§ Under such circumstances, we cannot feel surprised at the jealousy towards the Corporation which we found existing in the minds of the great majority of the inhabitants. This feeling had been previously displayed in the opposition to the collection of tolls, and led to those unseemly conflicts between the inhabitants and the Magistrates to which we have already adverted. It further led to open charges of partiality in decision, and to a total distrust in their administration of justice upon subjects connected with the Corporation, and even extended itself, unfortunately, in many instances, to subjects in which corporate interests were not involved." In addition to this most unjust letting of the public property this Corporation also had the management of a very large income of tolls—not less than from 14,000l. to 15,000l. per annum. From the year 1800 to 1831 I find they received from one source of revenue alone the sum of 33,406l. for. public purposes, out of which they expended only 8,000l., leaving a balance of about 25,000l. to be accounted for. From this account of the misapplication of the public money in the Corporation of Drogheda, I shall pass to the Corporation of Carrickfergus. In the year 1814, a nobleman (Lord Blaney) held 193 acres of land, called Cooper's Land, as tenant to the Corporation under a lease made in 1722, at a rate of 71. 10s., which appears to have been a new lease of the same premises demised for ninety-nine years, in 1616, to another party. Sir William Kirk was at that time deputy-mayor and mayor elect for the ensuing year. He was the agent of Lord Blaney, and through him Lord Blaney presented a memorial to the assembly, praying for a renewal of his lease, whereof nine years were then unexpired. It happened that the assembly was then divided in two parties—two political parties—'the one attached to Lord Donegal, under the management of Lord Massarene and Sir W. Kirk; the other attached to Mr. E. D. Wilson. Each of these parties contended for the representation of the borough. Lord Blaney's property in the county of the town gave him a considerable influence; and it is alleged, that in the spirit of the contest there subsisting, each party was apprehensive of giving him offence by opposing the grant for which he memorialised. Lord Blaney was himself a member of the assembly. He had been an Alderman from 1792; but it does 1030 not appear that he had even attended the meetings at which he afterwards got the lease. He came to Carrickfergus, and was introduced to the members of the assembly, when a resolution was passed:—"Resolved, that a lease be made to Lord Blaney of the lands containing eighteen acres or thereabouts be the same more or less, for the term of ninety-nine years, commencing from the 1st. of November next, at the yearly rent of 30l. and the surrender of his present lease." On the 28th October a deed was executed of this resolution by the Corporation, This rent of 30l. was a most gross undervaluation. In 1820 a resolution was passed, to the effect, "that the law agent do lay all the circumstances of the granting of the lease before counsel, to advise whether the same is a valid and effective lease. On the 9th of April 1822, the present Chief Baron of the Exchequer gave his opinion on the case as follows:—"I am of opinion that this lease cannot stand; the proper course to get rid of it is by bill in equity." However, no bill has been since filed; nor has any rent been paid. Sir Arthur Chichester, one of the Aldermen who was examined by the Commissioners, speaking of this lease, says, "I found the assembly nearly unanimous." Sir William Kirk was one, but chiefly Lord C Massarene, who took a lead in the affairs of the Corporation. The argument he chiefly addressed, was, that the original grant to Lord Blaney was, what was called an "Alderman's share;" but others, namely, Lord Downshire, Mr. Ellis, &c, had their shares, (being also Aldermen) made in perpetuity, it was therefore reasonable that Lord Blaney should be put on the same footing with them, but the chief reason that was urged, was a rather curious one—"the unanimity that existed upon this subject between the political parties so long divided." If we look to other Corporations we shall find a similar abuse of the objects for which they were instituted. Take Portarlington for instance, in which 800l. a year was granted to the patron in two separate conveyances. One (made in 1784 for 700 years) conveys from 500l. to 600l. per annum, and another in 1802, conveys 200l. per annum. A. Bill was subsequently filed by a freeman to impeach this lease; The solicitor who filed this bill, said he was induced to stay further proceedings, by a grant to himself of ten acres of the land in controversy for three 1031 lives and sixty-one years, at a rent of one penny per annum during the lives, and a fair rent afterwards. Yes, when he was asked how the suit was getting on, his reply literally was, "Oh! very well, until I got a grant of ten acres." It may be as well to observe, that the value of the land was about 3l. per acre. I shall now come to a case, with which this House is already, perhaps, familiar, that of the Corporation of Naas. I shall state to the House the instance of abuse in that Corporation to which I refer:—"On the morning of the 29th of September, 1832, Lord Mayo's law-agent, at his Lordship's house, by the direction of the Dean of Ossory, entered in the Corporation-book the following resolutions: Borough of Naas and county of Kildare, to wit. At an assembly held on the 29th of September, 1832, before Robert Bourke, Esq., sovereign, and the hon. and rev. George Rouste, and John Connor, Esq., portreeves, among other resolutions, it was resolved, that a fee-farm grant for one of the several lands and premises comprised in letters patent of King James I., bearing date the 2nd May, 1609 (excepting, however, and reserving the right to certain lands and premises mentioned and comprised in a certain fee-farm grant from this Corporation to the right hon. John Lord Viscount Mayo, the ancestor of the Earl of Mayo), be executed and perfected by this Corporation unto the said Earl of Mayo, his heirs and assigns, subject to the yearly rent of 12l. sterling."—"Resolved, that a fee-farm grant for one of the markets, and several fairs of Naas, including the Tippar fair, with the tolls, customs, &c, be executed and perfected by this Corporation until—, to the right hon. John Earl of Mayo, at the yearly rent of 9l. 15s. 6d. sterling." These resolutions were passed without opposition. To this the Commissioners added, no fine was to have been paid for this fee-farm grant, which, affording to the rental produced by the Corporation, and the evidence of the hon. Robert Bourke, was to convey for ever to Lord Mayo, a property producing 3201, a year, exclusive of Mr. —'s rent and the rent of the barracks, and, according to the statement of the inhabitants, upwards of 500l. a year for a rent of 12l. per annum." I know it may be said, that this was granted in trust. [Mr. Shaw; hear.] The right hon. Gentleman cries "hear, hear!" But if it was 1032 granted in trust, it is the first time in my professional experience that I have heard of a trustee being bound to a rent. If it be a trust, it has been made in a most unintelligible manner. But it is an absolute conveyance, though I should not regret that it were a trust, as it might not be too late to recover. I Confess, however, I should be glad to have something more than the mere verbal assurance that it is a trust, and never conveyed. Without trespassing at length upon the attention of the House, I shall merely refer to a few more cases; and first, they will allow me to refer to the case of Cashel, I find the following account of property under the management of the Corporation:—"No. 1. Representatives of Richard—Pennefether, 1,548a. 3r. 5p., rent 87l. 7s. 9d.; lease for 99 years, from 25th March, 1830. No. 3. Edward Pennefether, 50a. at a rent of 11l., 1s. 6½d. for a term of ninety-nine years from 25th March, 1830. No. 11. Mat. Pennefether, Esq. 141a., rent 13l. 16s. 11d., ninety-nine years from 25th Sept. 1788. In No. 1. the lease is dated 18th. Sept. 1830,and is for ninety-nine years from 25th March, and was made to the then-patron of the Corporation, under the following circumstances:—The lands were formerly held by a Mr. Bolton, under a lease granted in 1732 to R. Buckworth, for ninety-nine years, at 87l, 6s. 6d. This did not include Harrison's lot which was held at the old rent of 61. 5s. fixed in 1709. Those two rents made together 93l. 11s. 6d. Harrison's lot contained fifty acres. Mr. Bolton was assignee to Buckworth, and also held Harrison's lot, and in 1826 applied for a renewal; his agent offered at first 10,000l. afterwards 13,000l.; the patron seemed inclined to renew, and the money was lodged in the Bank in Dublin. A notary then consulted, valued the renewal at between 15,000l. and 17,000l. The patron, after some time, said he would not renew, but assigned no reason for not doing so. In December, 1829, he purchased Bolton's interest at 2,500l.; the rental was then more than 1,550l. and the rents which Bolton would receive during the remainder of his term amounted to 3,500l.; so that the patron, by this bargain, gained 1,000l. In June, 1830, (six months after) an order was made at the Board of Aldermen, granting a lease of those lands to the patron, at the yearly rent of 93l. 11s. 9d. Irish; no fine or other consideration was paid, though the 1033 lease made, in 1732, to Buckworth, was made, in consideration of a fine of 200l. The Board of Aldermen who made the order for the lease in 1830, consisted of the grantee, two of his sons (one of whom was the mayor) seven other of his relatives, and another alderman, connected with him in marriage. During the negotiation for the renewal, the patron never mentioned the matter to the other members of the Corporation, but acted as if he had full powers to conclude the bargain himself. Several other leases seem to have been recently made by the Corporation at under value. No. 3 in the rental, fifty acres, at a rent of 11l. 1s. 6d. in 1802. The lessee was connected with the mayor and several of the aldermen. The lands demised, are half-a-mile from Cashel, and were said to have been worth, at the time of the lease, about 2l. an acre, at least. No. 11, another, Mr. Pennefether: the lessee was one of the persons who composed the Board of Aldermen on the day when the order for it was made. He is treasurer of the Corporation, and eldest son of the patron. The lands are worth from 16s. to 18s. per acre.
|Profit at least||£100|
§ "Cork city, population amounting to 100,716; freemen 2,665, of whom only seventy-three are Catholics. A large majority of the population, and much of the wealth and respectability of the commercial interests, are Catholic, Present revenue of the Corporation 6,237l. per annum; Grand Jury cess 29,000l. per annum. The Grand Jury has the appointment to several lucrative situations connected with gaol, bride well, and court house; they find all bills of indictment. It is, therefore, a subject of the deepest interest to the citizens, that this body should be fairly chosen from the intelligence, wealth, and respectability of the city, without distinction of religion or politics. This, however, does not appear to have been sufficiently attended to; for we found, that of the Juries empanelled since 1820, members of the Friendly Club constituted always a considerable majority; that one-half, at least, of each Jury were corporate, and that the names of several persons who had become bankrupts and insolvents, appear on the lists, while there has been, in several instances within that period, only one Roman Catholic empanelled. Some increase has been made in the number of Roman Catholics placed on the panels within the last four years, the number on each Jury, within that period, varying from four to five. From the state of things above detailed, it is quite manifest that the Corporation of Cork in no way represents the inhabitants of the city, and their interests are by no means identified with that of the Corporation. Out of so great a population, little more than 1,000 are permitted to participate in its privileges, and those who are, have been selected with the express view of preserving the body as exclusive in politics and religious opinions as it is at present. A. small select body have got possession of the now insignificant remains of a large property originally granted for the benefit of the citizens at large, much the greater portion of it having 1036 long since been appropriated by the Corporation to the use of individual members, or disposed of to meet present exigences, without regard to the interests of their successors. Nor is the mode in which the income is disposed of by the Corporation calculated to reconcile the people to the payment of it; nearly a third of the entire goes to support the establishment of the Mayor, whom they see from year to year enjoying the large emoluments of his office, without conferring any essential benefits on the citizens at large. But, independently of their own proper revenues, the Corporation of Cork have, indirectly, through the medium of the different Boards and the Grand Jury, the disposal of a large sum of money, amounting to near 54,000l. per annum, and enjoy, connected therewith, very considerable patronage, of which they have made a complete monopoly, another plentiful source of jealousy and discontent. The paramount cause, however, of the unpopularity of the Corporation with the great mass of the citizens of Cork, is the exclusion of Roman Catholics as well from the Corporation itself as from the Boards under its control and influence; and it should not be thought extraordinary that such a feeling exists, when it is considered that they form a vast majority of the population, and possess amongst them much of the respectability, wealth, and intelligence of the city." In Limerick, the same system of exclusive-ness in the appointment of term Grand Juries (presenting) has been observed. The Report of the Commissioners exhibits in a most striking light the ill effects of this system. The annual amount presented is 6,000l. The next subject to which I have to direct the attention of the House is the power which the Corporation of the city of Dublin, as well as other Corporations, have, of nominating the Sheriffs. In several of the Corporations—in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, &c, and more particularly in Dublin—the Sheriff has very extensive powers. The population of Dublin exceeds 250,000, and the great majority of them are Roman Catholics, none of whom are connected with the Corporation. At the same time the great portion of the Protestant population of this city are unconnected with the Corporation, and the Sheriff is always elected out of the Corporation body. The Sheriff is elected about Midsummer, and every candidate for the office before he can go 1037 to the ballot with the least chance of success—for the ballot is resorted to in these elections in Dublin—he is obliged to declare what his political principles are on certain points, and he has also to pledge himself to give certain party toasts at his dinner and on other occasions. If the candidate for the office declines doing this, he has not the slightest chance of being elected. I will ask whether anything can be more injurious as regards the administration of justice than such proceedings, I do not mean to impugn the conduct of any particular Sheriff, but I feel bound to observe that it must cast a stain on the administration of justice to find the officer whose duty it is to summon Juries, and to perform other important duties, pledged to certain party transactions. There are several statements in the Report of the Commissioners which would show the extent to which party feeling was carried as regarded the Sheriffs. The result of the present system is, that the actual business of the Sheriff's office is not performed by the High-sheriffs, nor always by the Sub-sheriff, but the duties in Dublin are delegated, save some occasional interference with the returns of the panels of Jurors. The office of Sub-sheriff is of late generally farmed, sometimes to the Sub-sheriff, sometimes to the clerk, who proposes to the High-sheriff a nominal Sub-sheriff, and, as it has happened, one not previously known to the High-sheriffs. The terms of arrangement vary; sometimes a division of the profits into three parts tables place, one-third to each High-sheriff, and one-third to the Sub-sheriff. A sum certain is secured to the High-sheriffs. It is said the terms are generally fixed by a deed perused by the Recorder. For the year ending Michaelmas, 1833, the arrangement was made by the High-sheriffs with two gentlemen, one of whom was clerk in the office, and nominal returning officer; it was to this effect—the High-sheriffs to receive 1,500l. each, the two clerks any surplus not exceeding 800l.; there was no surplus, not even the 3,000l., though the auctioneer paid 400l. for his appointment One result of this management is, that the important duties of this high office—amongst others, the execution and return of panels devolve upon, and are actually and almost Exclusively conducted and executed by, mere clerks, irresponsible and unknown to the law; for it is expressly 1038 admitted, and on this entire matter our Report is mainly, if not altogether, founded the evidence of he High-sheriffs themselves and of their clerks, that the High-sheriffs conceive that they cannot, with safety to their bargains, interfere at all in the performance or exercise of their duties or authorities, and also that the Sub-sheriff is a mere nominal officer, without experience, who attends only when his presence is necessary in point of form. The auctioneer also pays for his office, and has been permitted to charge, or rather sustained and countenanced in charging five per cent, on the amount of sales, also the legal fees defined by the statute. Every debtor, therefore, was by this, or by some other arrangement of the same kind, obliged to pay five per cent, more than the law allowed. I will now allude to what the Commissioners say with respect to the composition of the Grand Jury panel of the city of Dublin. The Commissioners say that there are 700 names on the Grand Jury panel of the city of Dublin. Practically the powers and patronage of this body have been long vested in the members of the Corporation, as it is considered only respectful to the Corporation to place the names of all persons connected with it at the head of the names. The consequence is that 150 persons connected with the Corporation are the first called upon to serve on all occasions. In almost every case, therefore, the grand jury must be made up of persons connected with the Corporation. It is remarkable, also, that there are only seventy names of Roman Catholics on the Grand Jury panel of the city of Dublin. I have alluded to the names that were always placed at the head of the list, but I should observe that the names of the persons who own ten times the amount of property of any in the list are not inserted in the early part of the list. The Commissioners also add that there are many persons of the greatest respectability who are never called upon to serve as Grand Jurors, while others who have been bankrupts and insolvents are often, appointed. On this point there is some curious evidence as respects the city of Limerick, which was furnished to the Commissioners, and by which it appears that it was a common thing to make presents on a Grand Jury presentment. With respect to the conduct of the Grand Jury in this city, there is a singular case which has 1039 come within my knowledge, and which I will state to the House. It appears that the Corporation of Limerick claim the sole right of fishing in the river Shannon. This, however was disputed by the fishermen, who determined to assert what they considered to be their right. Some policemen in the service of the Corporation of Limerick fired on these fishermen while pursuing their calling, and wounded one of them in the breast by a shot. The fishermen landed and took the arms away from the policemen, and then went before a county Magistrate and stated that they had been fired on by the policemen of the Corporation. The Magistrate who gives an account of the transaction proceeds to say—"I saw the wounded man, and the other men, and they asked my advice. I advised them to give up their arms to the general of the district, and swear informations before a city Magistrate for the assault. Informations were sworn before a corporate Magistrate; but great delay and difficulty occurred before a warrant could be obtained. Cross-informations were sworn against the fishermen for taking to arms, which had been delivered up to the general, pursuant to the Magistrates' advice. The bills of the policemen, who were servants of the Corporation, were ignored by a corporate Grand Jury, though supported by the evidence of the wounded persons, and bills for a capital offence found against the fishermen. The fishermen were very poor. A subscription was entered into to procure them the aid of counsel. They were defended by Mr. Sergeant Jackson, and acquitted without hesitation under the direction of the court." I quote this statement from the Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the fees, &c, taken in courts of justice in Ireland; and I think that it sufficiently shows the evil of placing the appointment of Grand Jurors in the hands of persons with irresponsible power. Having traced the effect of these proceedings in the administration of justice in Ireland. I think that no person whose political opinions are not strongly biassed will get up in this House and say that this is a system which should be continued. The question then comes how this system is to be put an end to, and what system the House will adopt in considering this question. I now come to the Acts which have passed, first, for the Reform of the Municipal Corporations in Scotland, and 1040 next for the Reform of the Corporations of England and Wales; and I claim from the House that it should place the Corporations of Ireland under the same system of Municipal regulation that you have so successfully adopted in the parts of the empire I have just referred to; the House is aware that at present, in Ireland, we have no rates for the qualification of burgesses similar to those adopted in this country: it therefore becomes necessary to consider what should be the qualification of burgesses in Ireland who shall be allowed to vote for Municipal purposes. It is proposed in the Bill that there shall be two classes of rates; that there shall be one qualification for the burgesses of the larger boroughs, and another for the burgesses of the smaller corporate towns. I know that a learned Gentleman proposed to give a 10l. franchise similar to that conferred by the Irish Reform Bill, and to declare that every inhabitant householder in each of these towns, in possession of a house, either separately or with land, of a certain annual value, and whose name was registered, should, in the words of the Bill, be entitled to vote for the Municipal officers of the city or borough. If this rule was applied to the smaller towns in Ireland, I think that it would not give either a fair or. a full representation of those who are taxed for Municipal purposes, as in many of the smaller towns there are comparatively few 10l. householders. For instance, if this principle was to be adopted in the town of Lisburne, there would be only ninety-one electors, while there are 600 houses in the town. This would also be the case in other places. In the town of Dungannon, where there are 617 householders, there would be only 165 electors. In Derry, where there are 3,074 houses, there are only five hundred 10l. householders. In the town of Ennis there would be only one hundred electors. In Kinsale, which contains a population of 10,000 souls, there would be only one hundred electors. In Portarlington, where there are 500 houses, there are only 130 ten-pound householders. In Dundalk, with a population of 10,000, there are very few ten-pound householders. The question is, what qualifications should be fixed in towns where there are so small a number of occupiers of houses of this class. I think that the House should be directed by what had been laid down in a Bill which passed, relative to these boroughs 1041 in 1818. By this Act a certain number of the inhabitant occupiers of houses of the annual value of 5l. in any city or borough in Ireland, might call upon the Lord lieutenant to direct that a certain number of parishes should be elected by them to make rates for the purpose of watching, lighting, and paving the said town. If the Lord-lieutenant consented to do so, then the inhabitants might within a certain number of days elect trustees to carry the other provisions of the Act into effect and make rates. The qualification for a vote under this Bill was, that he should be the resident occupier of a house in the town, of the clear yearly value of 5l., and that no occupier of a house of less value than 5l., could be rated. The Commissioners in their Report made the following observation on this subject:—"The ill effects of withdrawing the management and direction of Municipal affairs from the control and vigilance of the community, and from responsible authorities have been long felt, and endeavours have been made by Parliament to remedy the evil, and to provide for the due exercise of municipal functions in relation to the paving, lighting, cleansing, watching, and improving of corporate towns by various local acts, vesting such authorities in separate boards, either as in Dublin under the appointment and control of the Crown or elsewhere in select bodies of the inhabitants, under the names of Commissioners, elected by the resident householders who contribute to the necessary assessments; in the latter class of cases recognising the value of election by the general inhabitancy without other distinction than the degree in which they contribute to the exigencies of the town as well as the necessity of submitting the expenditure and accounts of the public funds to the vigilance and control of the people themselves," These principles have been extensively adopted in the recent enactments of the statute 9 Geo, 4., c 82, which provide for the establishment, in corporate and other towns in Ireland of a resident Board for these useful purposes, elected triennially by and from the inhabitant householders, and the provisions of which we have found already in force in many corporate towns. We have therefore only to look to a constituency that was formed for other purposes—we have only to turn to the provisions of the 9th of Geo, 4., c. 82. and we find a consti- 1042 tuency that has continued to work well. In all the towns, therefore, which I have just mentioned, as well as in all other towns of a similar kind, we propose, that every inhabitant being the occupier of a house of the annual value of 5l. shall be entitled to vote for the Members of the Municipal council. We propose that in. Dublin, Limerick, Belfast, Kilkenny, Waterford, Cork, and Galway, that the constituency should be composed of 10l. instead of 5l. householders. In no case under this Bill will a person occupying a house of less than the annual value of 5l. be entitled to vote. We propose also in the Bill, that no person shall be qualified to act as councillor or alderman in the larger boroughs who is not possessed of 1,000l. after the payment of his debts, and in the smaller boroughs that 500l. shall be the qualification for a member of council. The seven large towns which I have mentioned and also the towns of Londonderry, Clonnel, Drogheda, and Sligo, the population of which exceeds 15,000, we propose shall be divided into wards, the boundaries of which shall be specified by a Bill to be introduced in the present Session. We also propose that the burgesses shall, in the present year, elect not merely the councillors, but also the whole number of aldermen—that is that those of the councillors shall be aldermen who have been elected by the greatest number of votes. The House will observe, that in this respect there is a difference between the present and the English Bill, according to which the councillors elect the aldermen. The consequence of allowing the councillors to elect the aldermen in the English boroughs has been, that in all places where there has been any majority of one party, that majority has been greatly increased by the addition of the whole number of aldermen. Therefore to obviate this result from this trade of proceeding, which was introduced as an amendment into the original Bill, we propose in this Bill to have a general election of both aldermen and councillors, and that those of the councillors shall be aldermen who are elected by the greatest number of votes. It is also proposed that one-third of the number of councillors shall go out of office every year, and that one-half the aldermen shall go out every third, year. It is also intended that a Commission of the Peace shall be granted by the Lord Lieutenant in those cases in 1043 which he deems it expedient to do so. The only borough Magistrate, in other places, will be the mayor, who will, during the tenure of his office, be in the Commission of the peace. In many places it will be desirable to grant a separate commission of the Peace, but this of course must be left to the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant. In the whole, there are about 140 borough Magistrates, whose functions as Magistrates will cease by the operation of this Bill. I do not think that there are many other points on which this Bill differs from the English Act. I should, however, have stated, that in cases of misapplication of the corporate funds, it is proposed that, instead of proceeding by the tedious mode laid down in the English Act, that a more summary proceeding shall be adopted. In cases of debt the proceedings will be by attachment. We propose, also, to give to the council of certain towns—namely, of Cork, Dublin, Kilkenny, Limerick, Waterford, Carrickfergus, Drogheda, Galway, and Londonderry, the power of electing their Sheriffs. By the succeeding clause it is also declared, that no person so elected by these town councils shall be capable of serving as Sheriff until he has been approved of by the Lord-Lieutenant. At present the Lord-Lieutenant has the right of disapproving of any person elected by a Corporation as Sheriff, but he cannot order a Corporate body to proceed to the election of another person in consequence of this inconvenience, which has occasionally arisen; and in one instance in Dublin, a person whose appointment was objected to by the Lord-Lieutenant was elected not less than three times, and the Corporation persisted in sending up his name for approval. It is, therefore, proposed that if the Lord-Lieutenant objected to a name, that the council shall proceed to elect another person. These are the general provisions of the Bill, and it remains now to be considered whether, as the House has passed extensive measures of Corporate Reform for England and Scotland, it will refuse to grant to Ireland a measure founded on similar principles. I think that there is not any person who, having considered the provisions of the Bill, will say that it is proposed that the franchise should be liberally bestowed in Ireland as it has been given in England. I cannot understand on what other grounds the proposition for this measure can be opposed, unless on 1044 the assumption that there is something in the state of society in Ireland which must prevent a British House of Commons giving such a measure of Reform to Ireland as was found to act so beneficially in England. I know that it has been said, that the inevitable effect of this measure would be to take the power out of the hands of one party and give it to another. I am aware that this has repeatedly been said, but whatever credit may be attached to my assertion, I have no hesitation in saying, that if I thought that this measure would take power from one exclusive and violent party, and give it to another equally so—if such a party could be found—it would not have a more determined opponent than myself. But I deny that such will be the effect of the measure; but such I anticipate will be the objection of some hon. Gentlemen. I will, however, remind them that the body elected by the constituents at large, will have all its proceedings narrowly scrutinized, and all its accounts audited. I do not believe that the council will be exclusively either of one party or the other, as the chief object would be in every case to secure a good administration of the funds of the Corporation. I would ask, however, whether the Corporation party in the city of Dublin, or in other places, truly represented the Protestant feeling of these towns? or will any one tell me that the Corporation of the city of Dublin represents anything like the wealth, the respectability, or the intelligence of that city? I could mention cases where the most respectable persons have been refused to be elected members of Corporations without any grounds being assigned. I know that there has long been a most cautious exclusion of. persons of liberal opinion from their corporate bodies. But I ask, would this measure have the effect of giving an ascendancy to any political party? I recollect when the Irish Reform Bill was introduced that the same argument was used. To answer this assertion I cannot do better than refer to what was said in the debate when it was attempted to exclude Ireland from the benefits of the Reform Bill. I will quote the observations that were then made by the noble Lord, now Member for North Lancashire, then Mr. Stanley, and Secretary for Ireland, on this point, because I think that nothing more appropriate could be said on this subject, "I have every 1045 reason to believe that this Bill will meet the uncompromising opposition of a certain party on a religious ground—namely, that it will endanger the Protestant Church and the Protestant institutions in Ireland, by giving too great a preponderance to the Catholic interest. If I believed that the danger was such I would most certainly not have proposed this measure; I will, however, meet the objection in limine, by at once saying it is no argument in 1832." It is inconsistent with the whole spirit of our legislature, it is inconsistent with the system which was perfected by the great legislative measure of 1829; for from the moment that measure became the law, all distinctions between Protestants and Catholics were removed. [Hear] The hon. Member for Dundalk, that stout and real representative of the people of Ireland, cheers that observation; but I repeat that upon the passing of that Bill you laid down the principle that from that day the Catholics were in all cases as possessing equal civil rights with their Protestant fellow-subjects, and that they were no longer to be excluded from a participation in all political rights. It was said in vindication of that measure, that from its largeness and extent it left no question behind, and it was said if any portion was left, in point of fact the whole Catholic question was still open. You have admitted the general proposition of an equal share in civil rights; you have affirmed that there is no distinction between the rights of the members of the Church of England and the Dissenters—between the Protestant and the Catholic. Upon what ground, then, do you say, ' We will not grant an equality of rights in these Corporations, but we will continue to exclude the Catholic, and the Protestant Dissenter, from having a share with ourselves. We will extend privileges to that individual or class, because he or they is, or are, Protestant, and we will exclude all Catholics.' I say if this is done, the Catholic question is still left behind to be settled." In a subsequent part of his speech, the noble Lord said, "I really am astonished that any one can pretend that it is necessary to retain these close boroughs, in order to preserve the Protestant interest." The noble Lord then proceeded with his argument in answer to the assertion, that the petty boroughs created by James 1st were founded solely for Protestant purposes. "I really am 1046 astonished, that those who contend that it may be proper to throw open the Corporations in England, assert that there can be no ground for doing so in Ireland; and if any one looks back to the state of Ireland, he will see that Catholics as well as Protestants formerly had the right of voting for representatives in Parliament for these boroughs. I am aware that James the 1st., that Conservative monarch as he is described by hon. Gentlemen, created a number of new boroughs; but I do not agree that he created these forty boroughs in order to increase the Protestant ascendancy. In these boroughs it does not appear that the franchise was then confined to the Protestants; on the contrary, Catholics Were allowed to participate in it. At any rate, we have sufficient evidence to show that hon. Gentlemen are mistaken in supposing that these boroughs were founded with the view they have stated." The noble Lord then quoted from the speech of Sir John Davies, made in the Irish Parliament in 1613, in which he says that the boroughs were created, in order that the voice of the people might be heard in Parliament, and that they might have some influence in the laws which they are called upon to obey. "You declare," the noble Lord then continued," that there is to be an equality of fight, but that the Catholics shall not be permitted to participate with their Protestant fellow-citizens in the election of representatives in Parliament, because they have no community of feeling with their fellow-citizens, and because they have no community of interests. In my mind, those persons who defend the existence of the Irish boroughs, make their rottenness their chief merit." The noble Lord, in the latter part of his speech, made some further observations of equal importance. He said, "if the change which is proposed in this Bill can be effected with safety, we are called upon to make it by alt the claims of justice, and by all the claims which Ireland has upon us, by all the ties which bind both countries together in what, I trust, will be an indissoluble union. I will call upon the English Members not to consider the interests of Ireland as distinct from those of England, or that this is a matter in which England has little or no interest—I will call upon those -who are the friends of reform in England to look back and consider what has been the conduct of the Irish Members on the English Bill. Have the Irish Members 1047 given a cold and reluctant consent to the English Bill?—or have they given it their warm and generous support? We have been told that the circumstances of the two countries are different, but I am sure that hon. Gentlemen will find that the principle of reform is the same whether it is applied to England or Ireland, and that if it be just here so it must be just there. I would entreat those who advocate the Conservative interest, and who consider themselves the supporters of the Protestant institutions, to look to the danger to which these institutions will be exposed in Ireland by withholding the privileges which this Bill is to confer. If they wish to give Ireland a real, solid, and substantial grievance—if they wish to give some handle to excitement, and to present a strong argument for the Repeal of the Union, they need only show that in a British House of Commons English interests are treated in one way and Irish interests in another. But in England the Government rules by free representation and by the voice of the people, while in Ireland that voice is stifled, and the people are shut out from a fair share in the choice of representatives. I fear that if we do not coincide, in a spirit of fairness and justice, agitation will break out in a manner which it has never done before. I cannot conceive anything more clear than that the present measure is only the extension of the principle of the English Bill to Ireland. I cannot conceive upon what principle we can refuse to place both countries on an equality, and make the same principles applicable to the election of all the Members of the United Legislature of the British empire. Now I ask after this can it be said, or will it be said, that it was just and politic to extend the same measure of Parliamentary Reform to Ireland that was conceded to England, and that the same measure of Municipal Reform cannot be extended to Ireland that has been given to England. There are thirty nine boroughs in Ireland, and most of them are extensive Corporations. As regarded the election of Members of Parliament these places were opened by the Reform Bill, and Catholics were enabled to vote. I need not observe that the great portion of the population in all these places is Catholic; and on looking to the result of the first election after the Reform Bill, I find that thirteen Roman Catholics were returned by these boroughs, and twenty-six Protestants, Here then 1048 the proportion of Protestant to Catholic Members for these boroughs was as two to one. In the present Parliament, I find that the proportion of Catholic and Protestant Members is nearly the same. I defy any hon. Gentleman opposite, be his political opinions what they may, to show me a single instance in which a Roman Catholic elector voted against a candidate in consequence of religious feeling. I defy any one to prove this—I challenge any hon. Member of this House to show this; if it were the case my challenge could be easily answered, but I am sure that it cannot. In referring to recent elections in Ireland, I find many instances in which a Catholic constituency have elected a Protestant in preference to a Catholic candidate. In the borough which I have the honour to represent four-fifths of the constituency are Roman Catholics, and previous to the last election there were two bitter contests for the representation, and the candidates were Protestants and Catholics, and yet in each of those contests a Protestant was returned. In the county of Waterford four-fifths of the constituents are Catholics, and yet on the recent contested election there was the same result. I defy, then, any mar, to show that religious feeling operates with the electors. Another way of trying this is, to refer to the operation of the 9th of Geo. 4., c. 82. Under this Act there is a constituency of 51. leaseholders to elect trustees. In each borough twenty-one Commissioners are elected for the purposes of the Act. Now, what is the effect in many of the towns where the great bulk of the voters are Catholics? In Coleraine all the Commissioners elected are Protestants. In Newry, where the Roman Catholics form the bulk of the constituency and which is represented by a Roman Catholic, thirteen Protestants and eight Catholics were returned as Commissioners. In Youghall nineteen Protestants and two Catholics were returned. Now I will challenge any hon. Member to show me a single case in which a Catholic constituency preferred a Catholic to a Protestant in a situation of trust on account of his religion. I assert, without hesitation, that no feeling of this kind prevails. I therefore am justified in asserting, with perfect confidence, that I do not think that religious feeling can operate in the administration of municipal affairs. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they are prepared to propose any other measure as 1049 a substitute for that which I now propose. It might be argued from the cheers with which the petition from Belfast was received, and from the manner in which the observations of the hon. Member who presented it were received, that some Gentlemen were not satisfied with reforming the Municipal Corporations in Ireland, and would be content with nothing less than their total destruction, I confess that I should be afraid to make such a proposition, being, as I am, a Reformer, and wishing to improve and not to destroy; and until I find some Destructive rising up and proposing the abolition of Corporations in Ireland, I will not believe that such a proposition can seriously be made. I know if such a proposition were made to the House that it would never be sanctioned. But I would ask, is it possible that such a recommendation can come from a pretended friend of Corporate Reform? Such a person must know that by adopting; such a step the Legislature would be sanctioning laws such as I have already described. Will any man in this House say, that he is prepared to sanction the loans that were made with reference to the property of the boroughs of Cashel and Naas? Is any one prepared to give his support to a proposition which would sanction the proceeding by which property undoubtedly belonging to the poor of Cashel should be alienated from them for ever. The object of the Bill is to invest the management of such property in the hands of Commissioners elected by the persons interested in it. I respectfully claim the vote of hon. Members in favour of such an object, and against any proposition for destroying the Corporations of Ireland. I claim the vote of every Member who is not a destructive. I claim the votes of those who say that there is nothing in the state of society in Ireland which should prevent that country from having extended to it the same measure of justice and right principle which England and Scotland have been deemed entitled to enjoy. I ask the votes of all those who have stood up for the vested rights, and even the inchoate rights, of freemen; and who have stated that the continuance of the connexion between the two countries depends on the freemen. I ask, will they advocate a proposition to destroy the Corporations, unless they conceive there can be freemen of a body which does not exist? In fine, I ask the support of all the advocates of equal rights 1050 and equal privileges; and who think that nothing can suggest the idea of a Repeal of the Union but the refusal of England to extend those rights and liberties to Ireland. I have troubled the House at some length; but I trust I shall be excused, on account of the importance of the subject. Thanking the House for the attention which has been paid to my statement, I shall conclude by moving, "That this Bill be now read a second time."
§ The Question being put,
§ Sir Robert Peel
was desirous to rise at that stage of the Bill, and at that early period of the debate, in order that he might have an opportunity of laying before the House the views which, in common with many others, he entertained with respect to this important measure. He wished to speak at that early period of the discussion, in order that he might be enabled to present those views in a less desultory, in a more connected, in a more dispassionate manner, than he might be able to do if he were to rise at a later period of the debate, amid the excitement of political contention, and after the introduction of topics calculated, from their connexion with party interests, to disturb a calm review of the abstract merits of any particular measure. He wished to rise at that stage of the Bill for the purpose of presenting his views to the House at a period when it was not necessary to pronounce an immediate decision. Feeling fully convinced of the justice of those views, and believing that their adoption would conduce to the impartial administration of justice, and the general good government of Ireland, he was most desirous that a final decision should not be pronounced till full opportunity for the most mature deliberation had been afforded. The matter under discussion was not one of merely local or municipal concern; it did not merely relate to the peculiar interests of certain communities in Ireland, but involved considerations of the utmost importance respecting the administration of justice, and the efficiency of the civil power; it had reference to many matters deeply affecting the feelings, and interests, of that country, and the permanent cause of general good government. Before noticing any parts of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, which he would refer to as they occurred in connexion with his own arguments, he would 1051 briefly allude to the general position of the Corporations of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had justly remarked, that the Corporations now actually in existence there amounted to about sixty in number. At the time the legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland was effected, the number was ninety-five, but since that period it had been reduced, by the decay of several, to the present number of about sixty. The Report of the Commissioners who conducted the inquiry into Irish Corporations, bore reference to two distinct eras. The first related to that portion of time which intervened between the reign of Henry 2nd, and the accession of James 1st; and the second, from the accession of the latter monarch to the present period. Of the ninety-five Corporations which existed in Ireland at the period of the Union, eighty were governed by charters of a date subsequent to James 1st, In the statements which he was about to make, he should take for granted the accuracy, as to facts, of the Report from which he quoted. Of the ninety-five Corporations, eighty were governed by charters subsequent to James 1st, of the other fifteen, four claimed to be governed by prescription, nine by charters earlier than James 1st, and two by statute. The right hon. Gentleman had promised, in the beginning of his speech, that he would show that these Irish Corporations were originally founded on enlarged and liberal principles of municipal government; but that promise he had not attempted to fulfil. Speaking of the period before James let's accession, it would indeed be rather difficult to prove that charters granted in that early period of Irish history were intended to support popular principles of municipal government. It would be much more consistent with the truth to describe them as mere outworks and defences for maintaining English authority amid a rude and hostile people. He believed that the learned Member for Dublin had formerly contended that some Corporations claimed to have been governed by prescription, at a period anterior to Henry 2nd. The evidence in support of this claim was exceedingly slight and unsatisfactory, but the point was not one of much importance. The first charter granted by Henry 2nd was dated in 1772 or 1773, at Dublin, and was granted "to the men of 1052 Bristol, of his city of Dublin, to inherit and hold of him and his heirs, all liberties and free customs which the men of Bristol had at Bristol and through all his territory." The Commissioners, in their Report admitted that the early charters gave no definition of who were to be members of the corporate body, nor prescribed how they were to be elected, and that it was difficult to point out with precision the rights to corporate franchise, as they existed in those ancient communities. The Commissioners also stated, "That it would appear that at a very early period the right to claim admission as a member of the corporate body became subject to conditions and regulations, probably as its commercial value increased; and we cannot refer to any Corporation created before the reign of James 1st in which we have evidence, beyond what may be inferred from the terms of the charters as above alluded to, that mere inhabitancy, at least unconnected with the tenure of property, constituted a sufficient and recognised title to admission." So much for the charters granted previously to the accession of James 1st. With respect to those granted subsequently to that accession, the right hon. Gentleman had made a faint effort to prove that they were not, in point of fact, intended for the maintenance of Protestant ascendancy. His own strong impression, from some acquaintance with Irish history, was, that forty-six or forty-seven of the charters granted by James 1st, and subsequently, had for their exclusive object the support of Protestant interests; and to remove all doubt on this head, he begged to refer the House to an authority more recent than. that of Sir John Davis, an authority which the Gentlemen opposite would respect, for it was to their own Commission that he should refer. Two members of that Commission, Messrs. Moodie and Pigott, in their Report upon the City of Londonderry, stated, that "in the year 1613, a Parliament was assembled in Ireland after an interval of several years, during which no Parliament had sat, and during which seventeen new counties had been formed, and forty new boroughs had been created. The creation of these boroughs appears plainly to have been designed to increase in the new Parliament, the influence of the Crown, through the persons who had received those large possessions from its bounty, and to give to the settlers who 1053 formed the heads and free burgesses of the new Corporation, or rather to the owner of the soil on which the borough was created, direct influence and power in the Legislature. They were, in fact, close boroughs, exclusively Protestant, and sending into Parliament a large body of new Members, whose presence King James required to control the party then adverse to him, and possessing considerable power in the Irish House of Commons. These close boroughs continued until the Union the property of the landed proprietors on whose estates they were situated; and they were made the subjects of pecuniary compensation when the Parliamentary patronage of them was abolished. "As far," say the Commissioners, "as we are able to state, they were close Corporations (except Derry and Coleraine), and were framed to exclude all influence but that of property." This description of Irish Corporations established during the reign of James 1st, was at direct variance with the statement of the Attorney-General, and with the preamble of his Bill, which assumed, as it was convenient for his purpose to assume, that Irish Corporations were all originally framed upon some enlightened principles of municipal government. It recited, "Whereas divers bodies corporate at sundry times have been constituted within the cities, towns, and boroughs of Ireland, to the intent that the same might for ever be and remain well regulated and quietly governed." Now if this preamble had made an exception in respect to near fifty Corporations, and had recited, that they were close boroughs, exclusively Protestant, and intended to be so, this would have been more consistent with the fact, and with the Report of the Commissioners, than that the object was to provide good government on enlightened principles for the Corporations of Ireland.
The truth was, that this Bill, whatever the right hon. Member might say to the contrary, amounted to a complete extinction of the ancient corporate bodies of Ireland. If they looked at the original object for which the existing Corporations were instituted, and the exclusive principles upon which they were founded—if they looked at the principles upon which the new Bill was framed, the extensive constituencies to be called into operation by it, and the objects it was to achieve, if these were compared together it would be wholly impossible to deny that the ancient cor- 1054 porate system of Ireland was marked out for entire and complete extinction, and that a new and totally different system of corporate government was erected on the ruins. It was mere affectation in the right hon. Gentleman to deny it. What said the Bill? "That so much of all laws, statutes, and usages, and so much of all royal and other charters, grants, and letters patent, rules, orders, and directions, now in force relating to the several boroughs named in the schedules A. B. and C, or to the inhabitants thereof, or to the several bodies, or reputed, or late bodies corporate named in the said schedules as are inconsistent with or contrary to the provisions of this Act, shall be, and the same are hereby repealed and annulled." What single law, statute, or usage now in force, was consistent with the provisions of this Act? Not one. All, therefore, would be swept away, and for the right hon. Gentleman who presented this Bill of forfeiture and extinction, gravely to get up and profess a holy reverence for ancient institutions, and a horror at the Destructives who should contemplate their extinction, was sheer affectation and mockery. Oh no! the House will not be deceived by this pretended respect for ancient rights and franchises. It will feel that the extinction of the old Corporations by the new Bill was quite complete; and whether the right hon. Gentleman erected his own system upon their ruins, or annihilated the former system, without providing a substitute, the destruction in each case was the same—as effectual as could be: there would be no more connection or analogy, between the old corporate bodies and the new, than between the present department al system of government in France, and the old divisions of that country into provinces.
At the same time he did not deny the necessity of an extensive change in the system of local-government in Ireland. The question is how shall that change be effected? Shall we attempt, by partial modifications, to reform the existing Corporations, or shall we extinguish them altogether—or shall we assent to the plan of the right hon. Gentleman. If we dissent from it, and extinguish the Corporations, how shall we provide for the performance of the necessary municipal functions. These were the practical points for consideration. For himself he had never thought it possible to amend the corporate 1055 system of Ireland as it exists at present; nor should he advise a partial modification for the purpose of propping up a system which was radically bad. They might enlarge the number of freemen, or make new regulations in respect to the admission of freemen, and cure some of the evils which were inherent in the present system; still they could not, in his opinion, overcome by such means the grave objections which applied in principle to the continuance of that system even modified by these slight alterations. A system which presented so limited a number as but 13,000 corporators out of a borough population of 900,000 was too exclusive in respect to number. The basis was not sufficiently wide. Super added to this was the consideration that the corporators were almost entirety of one form of religious faith. Political feelings were thus unavoidably mixed up with the administration of justice, and even though that administration of justice might be perfectly pure, still the suspicion of partiality precluded satisfaction with the awards of those who were looked on as political partisans. He had listened with attention to the objections made by the right hon. Gentleman to the present municipal system, and to many of them he assented. One of these related to the misapplication of corporate funds. He was as unwilling as the right hon. Gentleman could be, to connect himself, or the party with whom he had the honour and satisfaction to act, with the sanction of any such abuses. As the facts stated, he had not the same means as the right hon. Gentleman of ascertaining whether they were in every point well-founded. He had no hesitation in saying, that where abuse of such funds existed, or where there was a possibility of its recurrence, that the abuse ought to be corrected, and security taken against the future repetition of it. He was persuaded that the original intention of the grantors of corporate property, must have been, that it should be applied to the public benefit, and not be perverted to private advantage. He had no hesitation in saying further, that there were other and more comprehensive grounds on which he could not advise the maintenance of the existing corporate system in. Ireland, or any partial modifications of it. He considered the system inconsistent with the principles and fair legitimate consequences of the Act of 1056 1829. That Act established in respect to civil offices, a perfect equality among all classes of his Majesty's subjects. The object of that Act was to make civil worth the test of qualification for office, and not religious faith, and if there were a system which deprived a Roman Catholic of free access to corporate privileges, and conferred such privileges on others, simply because they professed the established religion, he cared not whether that distinction were established by the operation of a particular law or existed practically and almost universally without being enjoined by law, he was of opinion, that it was at variance with the principles of the Act of 1829, and ought to be put an end to. if this reasoning were admitted, they must come to the conclusion, that it would not be wise to amend in order to continue such a system. The next consideration, then, which demanded their attention, was, the nature of that system of local government which should be proposed in lieu of the present? and he trusted the House would give him its indulgence while he stated his views on the subject. He would first examine the plan proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. If he should mistake any part of that plan, the right hon. Gentleman would have the goodness to correct him. Me certainly should not mis-state any part of it intentionally. After providing for the demolition of the existing Corporations, the Bill went on expressly, and by name, to provide for the government of fifty-four towns; and to forty-seven of these it gave a household franchise of 51. In point of population, it descended exceedingly low; for in the town of Middleton, with a population of 2,034; and of Belturbet, with a population of 2,026, it established a local government, consisting of a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve town councillors. All this cumbrous and not inexpensive machinery for towns with a population of only 2,000. The Bill also gave to the Lord Lieutenant a power of applying the provisions of the Bill to any town in Ireland he pleased, to select, without any necessary reference to its population. The Bill also contained a provision—a most extraordinary one—a provision which, like many others in the Bill, varied not only in words, but in substance, most importantly from the corresponding provisions of the English Bill, The English Bill provided, that if the 1057 inhabitant householders of a town petitioned the King to grant them a Corporation, the King shall be at liberty to do so, and the Irish Corporation Bill of 1835 contained a similar clause. But, under the present Bill, any of the inhabitant householders of a town might invoke the Lord-Lieutenant to grant them a Corporation; and his Lordship was empowered to do so without reference to the number of petitioners. Why this marked departure from the English Bill, unless it be intended to, extend the new Corporations in Ireland indefinitely? The right hon. Gentleman said, that the object of the Government is, by means of this Bill, to call one uniform system into operation in all the corporate towns in Ireland. Be it so, but where was the necessity for encumbering towns like the two which he had mentioned—towns the population of which did not exceed 2,000—with such a ponderous instrument for managing their domestic concerns. He admitted that these two towns had nominally Corporations at present, but there was nothing in their constitution, or in the circumstances of the towns, so peculiar as to call for the establishment of new corporate authorities on the extinction of the old ones. There were many towns which now had Corporations, to which it was not intended to give new Corporations. The Bill had not adopted the rule that every town having a Corporation should continue to have one; the rule the Bill apparently adopted was, that towns now being corporate, and having more than 2,000 inhabitants, should continue to have Corporations. But, surely, the main point to be considered was, whether a Corporation was or was not a benefit to a small town, If a benefit, why limit it to towns which happen to be now corporate? If an evil, why inflict it on them because they are corporate? The Bill must assume, that a Corporation is, in the abstract, a benefit to a town which has 2,000 inhabitants, and this assumption must be considered a rule to guide the Lord Lieutenant in the exercise of the discretion given him by the Bill. The House of Commons would virtually, by this Bill, declare that 2,000 inhabitants constituted a proper limit, and that towns with a population above 2,000, ought to have Corporations. He had ascertained that there were 126 towns in Ireland, with populations consisting of 2,000 and upwards; be had, therefore, full right to 1058 infer, that the minimum of incorporated towns would be 126. On the maximum on the increase of the number of Corporations there was no limit. If any town having 1,000 inhabitants, for instance, petitioned the Lord-Lieutenant to be incorporated, he was not bound to comply with that petition, but he would have a perfect right to comply with the petition if he chose. If, however, the inhabitants were more than 2,000, looking to the principles of this Bill, and to the rule laid down by it, such town would have a fair right to expect that the Lord-Lieutenant, acting on the principles laid down by the Bill, would grant them a Corporation. Each of these Corporations, so constituted, was to have the power of making by-laws—such by-laws as to them should seem, meet for the good rule and government of the town. Those by-laws would require the sanction of the Lord-Lieutenant, and he presumed they must not be at variance with the law of the land. In general, a provision was inserted in measures empowering chartered companies to make by-laws, that such by-laws should be consistent with the law of the land, but no such provision would be found in this Bill. There was, of course, no necessity that the by-laws of different towns should be in conformity with each other, so that there might be 126 towns in Ireland haying each a different system of by-laws and regulations established by the town-council of each borough. Offences against these by-laws might be tried by the corporate Justices of the towns. In each of these towns there was to be a Mayor who was to be a Justice of the Peace for the borough, and who was to take precedence of the county Magistrates in those towns. One of the complaints in the Report was, that the corporate Justices of Ireland were at present independent of the Crown; and not subject to that control of the Lord Chancellor to which county Magistrates were subject; but the corporate Justices created by this Bill were, he apprehended, to be entirely independent of the control of the Crown, and of the Chancellor. In the counties of cities of Ireland there was to be a town-council by whom the Sheriff was to be elected. In reference to the appointment of a separate Commission of the Peace in certain boroughs, such Commission could only be issued on the requisition of the town-council, but surely the Lord-lieutenant would be a better 1059 judge than any local authority, whether it would be for the interests of public justice that a separate Commission of the Peace should be issued for any particular district or town in Ireland, If he had fairly described the provisions of the Bill, he would attempt to show, in answer to the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman—that that Bill was not likely to conduce to the improvement of the administration of justice in Ireland; and that the principles which they themselves had laid down in preparing other measures connected with the civil force in Ireland, were at direct variance with the principles which this Bill would establish. Before he reviewed the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman he would refer to one of his positions which if correct, was a bar to all argument, which rendered all discussion useless. He maintained that justice to Ireland absolutely required that the same measure of Corporate Reform which had been adopted here, should be extended to Ireland. No matter what would be its practical operation in Ireland, it would be, according to the right hon. Gentleman, an insult and a wrong to refuse to Ireland what had been conceded to England. But he could show this position to be untenable, and he would cite against it the authority of the right hon. Gentleman himself; for the right hon. Gentleman had said, that if he thought the effect of this Bill would be to transfer power from the hands of one party to those of another, he should be found among the most determined and active opponents of it. The right hon. Gentleman then claimed for himself the liberty of examining the operation of this measure, and stated a case in which he himself should be prepared to disregard the argument, that because you had passed a certain measure in England, you must necessarily apply that identical measure to Ireland The right hon. Gentleman alluded to a speech of the noble Lord the Member for Lancashire. What was the nature of that speech? It was made with reference to Parliamentary Reform. It might be unwise to place the inhabitants of two countries on a different footing with respect to the exercise of political power; but if it could be shown that any principle adopted in England or Scotland, or in any other part of the habitable globe, and leading to beneficial results there, would work in Ireland to defeat the ends 1060 of justice, he cared not for their vaunted principle of assimilation; he would boldly reply, that the interests of public justice, were infinitely higher, than nominal uniformity in the public institutions which administer it. If the application of that uniformity was incompatible with justice, then, according to the admission of the Attorney-General, determined opposition to this Bill was perfectly justifiable. Now he would examine the bearing of the enactments of this Bill, as they related to the administration of justice—as they related to the efficacy of the civil power by the due administration of the police, and, as they related to the management of the corporate funds. He would take first the administration of justice. The right hon. Gentleman said, that there were many imperfections in the administration of justice by the Municipal Corporations in Ireland; that there was great dissatisfaction, and that there existed concurrently an exclusive system of self-government. Admitting all this to be as stated, the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to argue that all he had to do was to introduce popular election and remove the evil. Now he admitted that in many respects the system of popular election might be a check on abuse; but he must, at the same time, say there was a gross fallacy and a fundamental defect in the argument which asserted that the selection by popular choice of the functionaries intrusted with the administration of justice would necessarily ensure, that justice would be administered satisfactorily. Under this Bill there would be the counties of cities, with their Sheriffs, elected by the town council; there would be also the corporate towns, having a separate Session of the Peace, with elected town-clerks necessarily acting as clerks of the peace. In both of these instances the officers appointed by the Corporation would have the summoning, in one case, of the Grand and Petit Juries, in the other of the Petit Juries. Now be would call the attention of the House to the objections urged in the Report of the Commissioners against the administration of justice by officers appointed by Corporations. The Commissioners said in their Report:—"In the Corporations of counties cities and towns (and in one case, that of Londonderry, for the county at large), the Sheriffs appointed by the Municipal Corporations possess and exercise important functions in reference to the administration 1061 of justice, both criminal and civil. A large proportion, frequently the majority of the Grand Jurors, is empanelled from the members of the governing corporate bodies,—an arrangement which, as these bodies are at present constituted, practically vests and preserves in limited corporate councils the extensive powers of local taxation given by law to the Grand Juries. The composition of the Grand Juries, which ought to be generally and impartially taken from the inhabitants at large, is thus directly and effectively that of the Corporations, and partakes of their defects and unpopularity. The Corporation and Grand Juries of Dublin afford striking instances of this connexion between the two bodies. In Waterford we find a singular arrangement made to guard against the practice, by an agreement between the Corporation and the inhabitants, that no more than a certain number of the common council should be on the Grand Jury. The exercise of this branch of their functions by the corporate Sheriffs in the return of Petit Juries on occasions of interest to the Corporations, or affecting their influential members or supporters, obviously affords the means of giving an important advantage to parties in their interest, or professing the same local or general political views. "That being the imperfection, the groundwork of complaint, he wished to be told how they would remedy it, by making the popularly elected Sheriff and Clerk of the Peace, the officers, who were to summon the jury in those towns, and counties of towns', which it could not be denied were in a state of discord, springing from religious differences and political animosity. In all these towns, with corporate officers holding their appointments independent of any control on the part of the Crown, and nominating the Juries, there was to be, in addition to all other causes of discord, a perpetual system of agitation connected with municipal elections. First, an annual registration of persons qualified to vote; then one-third of the town-council would annually go out of office, and others must be elected in their place; then would come the election of the Magistrates; then the election of the town-clerk and other officers; and thus almost the whole year would be spent in elections, or in proceedings preparatory to elections. Did they mean to say, that under such a state of things party spirit would not prevail. Would they say, that parties 1062 would not be pitted against each other—that there would not be active canvassing—that clubs would not be formed to include in the Corporations one set of members and to exclude another—that the town-councils would not be elected with, reference to political interests—that the Sheriffs and other officers appointed by the town-councils would be free from political bias. Could they, then, infer that the administration of justice would be more satisfactory, for the single reason, that the officers mainly instrumental in it. would owe their appointment to the predominance of a party, and the arts by which popular elections were determined. While listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, he marked the important admissions which escaped from him, with respect to the administration of justice, and he would ask what more security for the pure administration of justice did this system afford than they had in the system for which it was a substitute? The right hon. Gentleman said, that his charge against the present Sheriffs was the intimate connexion they established between, the Corporations and the Grand Juries. What was there it the Bill before the House to prevent such a connexion from, continuing to exist? An intimate connexion between the Corporations and the Grand Jury! This was the grievance. But where was the remedy that this Bill applied? If the present Sheriffs marked their respect for the present Corporations, why should the new Sheriffs show less of deference to the popularly-elected Corporations, from whom they were to receive their appointment? What was there in the principle of popular control—admirable as it might be as a check on abuses of a certain class—what was there in popular control, as exercised over the Sheriff, tending to diminish his sense of obligation to the party to which he owed his election. That would be the party which would exercise the supposed control, and which would have a common feeling with the Sheriff in favour of promoting their common interests. The right hon. Gentleman said, that a difference of opinion in politics ought to form no ground of challenge as to the eligibility of persons to be elected as corporate officers, or corporate jurors. The Sheriff might be a political partisan. He might return men with political opinions corresponding to his own to serve on the Grand Jury, and there 1063 would be no ground of disqualification or challenge on this account. But would there not be the very same ground for complaint that there now is against partial officers and partial Juries? The right hon. Gentleman urged as a conclusive argument against the present system—against the selection of the Grand Jury fry a corporate officer—the abuse which had occurred in some proceedings at Limerick. He brought forward the case of some fishermen who were fired at by the watermen of the Corporation; in consequence of which firing death ensued. The Corporate Sheriff returned the Jury, and the Corporate Jury, acting in support of the corporate rights, acquitted the watermen, and convicted the fishermen of homicide, though they were the party sustaining the loss of life. That was a grievous case, no doubt; but would the right hon. Gentleman say what provision there was in his Bill which would make it the interest of the Grand Jury, appointed by the Corporate Sheriff, instead of supporting the corporate rights, to administer justice impartially? Would the right hon. Gentleman say in what single respect popular election, and the party spirit connected with it, afforded a security that justice would be done in a case which involved corporate rights or party interests? So much for the administration of justice.
He would now state to the House the outline of the proposal which he was inclined to make. In the case of the counties of cities and counties of towns, he would at once place the nomination of Sheriffs for those counties of cities and counties of towns in the hands in which the nomination of Sheriffs for counties was placed. The right hon. Gentleman interposed his clumsy and ineffectual contrivance of the veto of the Lord-Lieu tenant on the nomination of the town-council. Such a check would be quite ineffectual. Why establish a divided responsibility between the parties? The right hon. Gentleman proposed that the town-council should name the Sheriffs, and the Lord-Lieutenant should have a power to reject. If the Sheriff had been guilty of any gross offence—if he had distinguished himself by any very marked or violent political opinions, it was just possible that the Lord-Lieutenant might exercise his power of objecting to the individual. The town-council irritated perhaps by the 1064 rejection of their first nominee would then recommend another, and an unseemly conflict might arise between the Lord-Lieutenant and the local-authorities. What possible objection could there be to conferring the power of appointment at once directly on the Lord-Lieutenant? Observe the course pursued by the Government, with regard to the nomination of the county Sheriffs by the Judges. The Government, had in some cases refused to take the recommendation of the Judges. Let them apply their own principles to the present case. If the country was so divided by religious opinion, if it was so divided by party feeling, that the Government found it necessary to refuse to sanction the nomination of the Judges—what security could they have that a town-council elected, possibly, after a turbulent and severe contest, would discharge the duties of recommendation impartially? Why should they have more confidence in the integrity of the town-council than they had in that of the Judges? Why should they fetter the Lord-Lieutenant in his discretion? Why not leave the matter to his decision, which must be looked on as more impartial—be his political opinions what they might— than the judgment of local and conflicting parties? Why not trust him with the same power in respect of Sheriffs in corporate towns, as he had always exercised with regard to the Sheriffs of counties?
He would next address himself to the administration of the civil power—to the super intendance of the police. He presumed that the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to repeat his challenge—and would again demand, whether any man could be found bold enough to maintain that the same principles with respect to police were not to be applied to Ireland that had been applied to England? What—would they insult the people of Ireland by" telling them that, whereas they intrusted the town-councils of England with the nomination of constables and superintendents of police, they would not deal out impartial justice to Ireland, and commit the police in that country to the same hands? Would the right hon. Gentleman repeat that challenge? If he did, here was his ready answer to him—it was the right hon. Gentleman's own Bill brought in this Session, which provided for the consolidation and amendment of the laws relating to the establishment of the con- 1065 stabulary force in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends bad by the introduction of that Bill, acted at variance with, and in direct contradiction to their own principles. They showed that they had a great jealousy of the local authorities in Ireland; they showed, that they would not trust them with the appointment of the police; they brought in a Bill to take those appointments from them, concurrently with this Bill which, on the face of it, proposed that the Municipal Corporations should be intrusted with the appointment of the local police. What were the arguments they used with respect to the county Magistrates of Ireland? Either that they could not be trusted with the appointment of police constables from the influence of party feelings—or that such appointments, emanating from different authorities, would destroy all unity in the police system, therefore they could not listen to the recommendation of the Magistrates, but would vest the absolute power of nomination in the Lord-Lieutenant. The Bill of this present Session provided, for the establishment throughout Ireland of a constabulary force. It recited, that it was expedient to consolidate and amend the Act for the appointment of certain constables and Magistrates in certain districts. It provided, that the Lord-Lieutenant might appoint, in every county, Magistrates and county inspectors, who were to have the direction and superintendence of the police force to be established; it took the nomination of the police from the Magistrates, and gave it to the Lord-Lieutenant, the avowed object beings to carry into effect one system throughout the whole establishment of the police. It appointed sub-inspectors, paymasters, storekeepers and clerks. It recited that it should be lawful for the Lord-Lieutenant to appoint, from time to time, at his will and pleasure, such numbers of chief and other constables as should be deemed by him necessary for the preservation of the peace. It expressly enabled him to appoint in the several towns of Ireland constables, sub-inspectors &c, and it did this for the purpose of excluding local recommendations, and insuring a unity of system. What became of this expected unity if, in the different towns, the Corporations acting under this Bill, appointed severally a local police. He had alluded to the Constabulary Force Bill for the purpose of show- 1066 ing that, so far as regarded the civil power, the acts of the present Government demonstrated that they did not consider popular control necessary, and that in the Constabulary Bill they followed a plan at utter variance with the principles of the present Bill. Not only at variance, but incompatible with, and contradictory to the provisions of this Bill. He excluded, therefore, on their own showing, and on the authority of their own Report, from the objects of municipal government the administration of the civil power, and the charge of the police.
He came next to the possession and control of corporate property. Now the right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, did not state any very conclusive arguments in favour of the power of presentment exercised by such Grand Juries as were appointed by corporate Sheriffs; for he said that in the county of Cork the cess was only tenpence per acre, whereas in the county of the city of Cork the amount, levied by the Grand Jury was five or six shillings per acre. But let them examine the Bill, with reference to its bearing in point of economy? It required that a mayor should be appointed, a town-clerk and a treasurer; and it authorized the town-council, out of the borough funds, to apportion salaries to the mayor, town-clerk, and such other officers, without stint or limitation, as the council thought necessary. Here then was a source of copious patronage provided. The right hon. Gentlemen had inquired what would they do with the property of the present Corporations? Now the property was not very extensive. The total amount of the Corporation property in Ireland was about 61,3972 a-year; the expenditure was 57,279l.; the amount of debt was about 133,0007. If they excluded the City of Dublin from the calculation they would find that the total amount of income was 33,000l. per annum, the annual expenditure 27,000l., and the debt about 100,000l. The property of Corporations in Ireland was derived from two sources—from estates in land and from tolls. One of the provisions of the Bill, in relation to Corporate funds, was exceedingly objectionable. It vested the whole amount of the present tolls in the new corporate bodies, and deprived them of the power of reducing them in certain cases. Now it appeared to him that if there was any one matter in Ireland, with respect to which a 1067 new arrangement should be made, it was the system of corporate tolls. They stood on a different footing from the tolls possessed by the Corporations in England. On the principle on which they claimed the right to deal with corporate property, there could be no question, if the Corporations were willing to relinquish the tolls, they ought to be allowed to do so, and there ought to be no impediment thrown in the way of the surrender. The right to tolls of individuals was encumbered with the claim for compensation; this made the settlement of the question in respect to their rights, a difficult one; but the Corporations stood on distinct ground and, for the sake of the industry, and to liberate the commerce of the country, these to his ought, if possible, to be extinguished. To extinguish the right of the Corporations to levy tolls, would not only confer a direct benefit on the people, but materially promote tranquillity, and subordination to the laws. He might refer to the Commissioners Report for an account of the manner in which tolls were levied in Ireland, and the violence which accompanied it. In Drogheda they were collected in the following manner, as stated in the Report of the Commissioners. "Until a recent period, the tolls of the Corporation of Drogheda were exacted at the gates, without any regard to the restrictions by 4 Anne, c. 8. Charges were made upon all cattle and goods either entering the town or leaving it, and if passing through, both on the entry and exit; and although they were not driven or carried over the bridge, and although they were not brought to be sold, consumed, or slaughtered in the town. These illegal practices led to a general resistance to the payment of the tolls claimed by the Corporation, and, owing to difficulty experienced in the collection, no one could be found to bid for them when set up to auction in the usual way. From October 1827 to October 1829, the collection was attended with frequent riots. The collector stopped the goods on coming to the gate, or entrance into the town, and demanded the toll. On refusal, the cars were stopped until the owner paid or turned back. The riots were commenced by the farmers waiting until a great number of cars were collected together, when they whipped the horses and galloped through the toll-gate." This was the system continued by the present Bill. 1068 The resistance to tolls generally had increased of late years, and to such an extent, that in one-half of the Corporations the attempt to levy tolls had been abandoned. Was it, then, not desirable to place these tolls on a new footing and, if not wholly abolished, to provide for their collection in a different manner. Suppose that a reduction of the corporate tolls were made, in that case they would have to deduct a corresponding amount from the 33,000l. per annum possessed by the Corporations. To what an extent that reduction would affect the income of the Corporations he could not at present say, but he apprehended that the whole sum left would be exceedingly small. In some towns the tolls amounted to nearly one-half of the whole revenue. He could not conceive any enactment which would give more universal satisfaction in Ireland, than one that should provide, that instead of levying the toll for the improvement of the town, commerce and industry should be freed altogether from the restraint of corporate toll, in every case, at least, in which such toll was not a security for debts incurred. He would say further, with reference to individual right to toll, that it would be an excellent application of Corporation property, in cases where there was a surplus, to purchase with that surplus the individual right, and remit the future enforcement of it. He admitted that those to whom the distribution of corporate property was intrusted, ought to be liable to render a strict account: and if any improper application of the property was discovered, immediate steps ought to be taken to recover it. If there was a surplus of corporate property, no doubt that ought to be applied to some municipal purpose connected with the improvement of the town. His proposal was, to vest the charge of corporate property ad interim a Commission. He would give to that Commission an instruction to take an extended view of all the important questions connected with the application of this property. He would specially direct them to inquire into, and make a Report on the subject of toll. He would expedite the process of law for the recovery of corporate property; and he much doubted whether a Commission, taking an extended view of the subject, would not recover more property under the existing law, than by any other means.
1069 With respect to the administration of justice to the charge of the police, and to the administration of corporate property, he had intimated the course he was inclined to pursue. He would not consent to the re-establishment of corporate bodies. He did not believe it could be shown, that officers appointed by popular election would give more satisfaction in the administration of justice, than officers selected by the Lord-Lieutenant. He professed a willingness to remedy every abuse they could point put. He agreed, that there ought to be an effectual supervision of the police; he agreed that corporate property ought to be applied to municipal purposes. He admitted, also, that there were objects of local administration, which required the control of a local authority, and of a local authority subject to popular control. But the existing law provided for this. An Act was now in force in Ireland, general in its operation, which provided amply for the lighting, the watching, and the cleansing of towns in Ireland. It was the 9th George4th cap. 8. The hon. Gentleman dwelt with great satisfaction on the practical operation of this Bill. He said it engendered no party spirit—that the elections under it were conducted with harmony and impartiality. Why incur the risk of disturbing that harmony? Why make the authorities that are to preside over their local Government, political and party functionaries? The Act of the 9th Geo. 4th. was very popular in its construction—twenty householders inhabiting houses of 20l. a year animal value shall agree to apply for the extension of the Act to the town where they reside, directions shall be issued by the Lord-Lieutenant for a meeting of the inhabitants to decide upon the propriety of adopting the Act. ' At this meeting all inhabitant householders of 5l. and upwards shall have a right to vote, and the result to be decided by the majority. In case the Act be adopted, Commissioners to carry the provisions of the Act into operation are to be appointed by the election of the majority of those qualified to vote. These Commissioners not to be less in number than ten nor more than twenty-two, and to continue in office for three years. These Commissioners have the power of appointing a treasurer, clerks, and other officers, but the Act gives them no judicial powers whatever. Any penalties may be recovered before a Magistrate of the towp or 1070 county; but the Commissioners have no connexion in any shape with the administration of justice. The Act gives to them, simply the power of providing for the watching and cleansing of the town. The Police Bill of the Government virtually superseded the Act of 9th Geo. 4th., in respect to the establishment of a local watch. It rendered such an establishment unnecessary, by providing an ample civil force, acting on uniform principles, and subordinate to one single authority. But this Corporation Bill re-established the local watch and local police, and destroyed the uniformity which was aimed at by the Police Bill. Why is this? Why not do as you have done here? Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that the police force appointed to preserve the peace by day was not sufficient to perform the duties of watching by night? But this had been done in London and Westminster. We made the same force answer both objects, and we found the experiment to be attended with the most eminent success. A Bill of a similar description had been proposed for Dublin, it assimilated the police force there to the police force here, and made the same force subservient to the purposes of discharging the duties of a day and a night police. In this way you give the force consistency, and increase its utility and efficiency. Now, if this system were found beneficial in its operation for London and Dublin, why should it not be at least, equally so for Belturbet and Middleton? If it were not necessary to separate the appointment of the watch in London and Dublin from that of the police—if they were wise, and he thought they were, in making no distinction between the police by day or by night, in order that there should be no confusion or clashing in the performance of duties, which only differed in respect to the hour of the day at which they were to be discharged—if that system-was found to work well in Westminster and in London—if they admitted that that system should be adopted in Dublin, and that the constable by day should act as the watchman by night, why should they not extend the principle to smaller towns, and make it the general system for Ireland?
The plan which he would propose he would shortly recapitulate, although he had already indicated its principle. He did not propose the maintenance of the 1071 present corporate bodies; but he would not consent to the substitution of other corporate bodies, open to, at least, equal objections, in their place. In the present state of Ireland be did not see the necessity for their existence; he thought their interference with the administration of justice would lessen the chances of its impartiality and its purity, while their interference with the police was calculated to abate the efficiency of that body. He thought that corporate property should be applied to local purposes; but he was not prepared to intrust its management to a town-council, absorbing the whole of it, probably, in the payment of corporate officers. With respect to municipal purposes not connected with the police, not connected with the administration of justice, and not connected with the management of corporate property, he would leave the Act, the 9th George 4th, in operation, which permitted Commissioners to be appointed, subject to popular control, and owing their election to popular nomination. Instead of having the Sheriff in counties of cities and towns appointed by the council, he would enable the Crown to appoint that Magistrate. He would abolish all the inferior tribunals of seneschal and baronial courts. He would extend the jurisdiction of the assistant barristers. He believed that that jurisdiction gave entire satisfaction; at least there was a Bill before the House calculated to extend it, on the express assumption that it was entirely satisfactory in its operation. Why not, therefore, introduce the assistant barristers' courts with a jurisdiction more extended, if it should be required, into counties of towns, or if separate functionaries were requisite, let recorders be appointed by the Crown in large cities and towns, who should exercise a similar jurisdiction to that of the assistant barristers in the counties. In the cases of Dublin, Cork, and other towns, he believed the weight of criminal business would be too heavy to be discharged by the assistant barrister of the county. He could also suppose that there might be local tribunals required, subordinate to that of the assistant barristers, or recorders, for the trial of small debt cases. In the case of the county courts of this country, attempts had been made to improve their jurisdiction; and why not act on the same principle for Ireland, and constitute where 1072 they were necessary, subordinate courts for the recovery of small debts, on some uniform principle. He was not in the slightest degree opposed, but on the contrary favourable, to the removal of all petty courts, whose functions could be better discharged by superior tribunals. But if they could give to the inhabitants of large towns, an easy and expeditious process for the recovery of small debts, he believed it would be a reform which would give great and general satisfaction to the people. The right hon. Gentleman had asked, what would be done with the property and political rights of freemen, in case of the extinction of the old Corporations? Why, the property and political rights of freemen would stand very much on the same footing under his plan, on which the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman proposed to place them. The right hon. Gentleman did not propose that the old freemen should be part of the constituent body of the new Corporations. They were exonerated in Ireland, as in England, from the performance of municipal duties, and deprived of municipal rights. Whatever were the rights or property of the freemen, they were respected, under the right hon. Gentleman's plan, as rights standing on special grounds, and not because the holders of them were to continue members of the new Corporations. He saw, therefore, no more difficulty in dealing with the political and proprietary rights of the freemen under his plan than under that of the right hon. Gentleman.
He was quite aware, that there were various minute points of detail, on which he had not thought it necessary at present to touch—that many Members of corporate bodies, for instance, were trustees of harbours, and had some control over markets. He believed the House would feel he was justified in considering them as matters of detail, and that it would now be beside the question to enter into them. He did not apprehend there would be any serious difficulty in providing for these cases, and he was sure the House would not require from him, in a discussion on the second reading, to enter so much into matters of detail. But there were some important powers given to the town-councils under this Bill, which were different from those assigned to them in England, and would, he was sure, prove to be matters worthy the most serious con- 1073 sideration. This Bill appointed the town-councils visitors of all Local and Municipal Boards or Commissions connected with ports or harbours, with full power to inspect all accounts, papers, and documents relating to such ports or harbours All accounts, books, and papers of the trustees or other officers, connected not only with the town, but with the harbour, were to be subject to the jurisdiction of the town-council, who were to have summary power over them. He saw it was assumed in the Report that to the corporate body belonged the general care of the commercial interests of the town in which they acted, of all such interests as were in many cities and towns under the direction of chambers of commerce, or other voluntary associations. Was it meant, that the duties now performed by chambers of com me ice, and voluntary associations, should, of right, belong to the newly-constituted Corporation? Were all the duties now belonging to Harbour Commissioners, chosen by persons with totally different qualifications and interests, by persona deeply engaged in the commerce, and interested in the shipping of the town—were ail these to be subject to the control of the municipal council, and could it be believed that the business connected with commercial property, now superintended by a voluntary association, called a chamber of commerce, should be transferred to the management of a town-council, elected by a constituency of 5l. householders? This was the principle assumed in the Commissioners' Report. He would take the case of the Chamber of Commerce of Manchester, or any of those which had been instituted in our large towns. Could it be contended, that the functions of a body of that nature must necessarily be devolved on town-councils, however elected? Could it be maintained that that council ought to have a right to compel the production of the papers of any local Board of Trustees, or Commission, connected with a harbour? These powers were much more extensive than any given to town-councils in England; and it was the more extraordinary to see these deviations from the English Bill, when the single argument in favour of the present measure, was the necessity for assimilation and uniformity.
"I admit," said the right hon. Baroner, "that the strict principle of governing Ireland with perfect civil equa- 1074 lity, among the professors of all forms of faith, is the only one which can be adopted. In no single respect does the plan which I suggest trench upon that principle. Before the law all parties will stand equal in respect to privilege, and the administration of justice will not be tainted by the intermixture of party interests, and the heated passions of party conflicts. If I had recommended that there ought to be any civil distinction—if I were contending that there ought to be privileges conferred on one class which were withheld from another, I admit there would be a radical vice, a fundamental error, in the proposition. The chief object of our consideration ought not to be to assimilate precisely the system in Ireland to that which we have adopted in England, but to ascertain by what system equal privileges and equal justice may best be secured to all. Whatever be your system nominally and in theory, if the practice is repugnant from it, the evil of that practice is not mitigated by the speculative perfection of the theory. If by self-election you contrive to exclude, practically, one class from civil or corporate privileges, that system is defective and unjust; but I equally contend, that if by adopting the principle of popular election you give a predominance to another class, to one political party over another, and leave the administration of justice in the hands of the dominant party, then, I care not what your theory may be, or the verbal enactments of your law, the injustice is effectually done by its practical operation, and popular election works the same evil in the one case which self-election did in the other. Have you read the evidence adduced before the Commissioners? Do you believe that it will cause the cessation of religious animosity in Ireland, and the administration of equal law—to introduce the system of annual election in 120 Irish towns, and to place in the hands of the dominant party in every large town those officers by whom Grand Juries are to be chosen? I care not by whom undue influence is exerted t it is a matter of indifference whether by landlord or priest. We protest against the injustice that will flow from the selection of political and party men as the instruments by which justice is to be administered. Will any man rise in the House and say, expecting to be credited, that in determining municipal elections in Ireland politics will not 1075 interfere? Is there a man who doubts that these elections will be influenced by political feeling? and that the future corporate bodies will be assemblies much more occupied in political agitation, than in the super intendance of mere local concerns. Is this a groundless impression of mine? No. I have for it the great authority on such a subject of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, who said, on the first day of this Session, when speaking of the municipal councils of England: "The sword is fastened in your vitals, and you feel it festering there. You regret the triumph the Reformers have gained in the municipal councils. You know that there is not one of these councils that will not be converted into a Normal school for teaching the science of political agitation." These were the expressions of the hon. and learned Gentleman, with respect to the town-councils. He prophesied of them, that they would be "the Normal schools for teaching the science of agitation."[Mr. O'Connell: I said peaceful political agitation.] I was quoting from memory, but in order that there may be no ground for cavil, I will repeat the exact words of the learned Gentleman, as he was reported to have delivered them. "England (said the hon. and learned Member) had received an instalment of what was due to her, and right well has she used it. You have reason to regret it—you feel the sore festering within you—the triumph of the Reformers in the great towns. Every one of them will, be a Normal school for the science of agitation." If that be true with respect to England, is it false with regard to Ireland? If it be true also with respect to Ireland, have we not ample ground to protest against the administration of justice being reposed in such hands? Sir, I make this appeal with great confidence in its justice—I make this appeal to you, and, through you, to public opinion—to that public opinion which, ultimately, will be the arbiter between our party disputes. It will not sanction with its approbation the institution of these schools for the science of agitation. It will not affirm them to be compatible with the pure administration of justice. We concede to you the full justice of your demand for equal law and equal rights. We adroit that there ought to be no invidious distinctions—we are willing to relinquish any advantage which the 1076 possession of exclusive privileges and monopoly of corporate power may have conferred. When you proposed to transfer from the Magistrates of Ireland the right of nominating the police force, I acquiesced in the justice of that proposition, believing, upon the whole, that, amid the heated passions of conflicting parties in Ireland, the chief Governor of that country will be more likely to make an impartial and an efficient selection of the force by which peace is to be preserved and the law executed, than any local authorities. In deference to your wishes—in anticipation of the royal command—those who have been connected with associations endeared to them by many recollections, have, at the hazard of great personal sacrifices, declared their willingness, not only themselves to withdraw from societies of an exclusive character, but to use their influence in discouraging and suppressing them. We are thus fortified in our claim, that the power relinquished by one party without grudging or complaint, shall not be transferred to another; that there shall not be established, under the pretence of popular election, or any other pretence, a practical domination of one party over another, infinitely more galling and oppressive than that which is the object of complaint.
We ask of you to consider the present condition of Ireland—its present state of society—to recollect your own principles in respect to many subjects of legislation in which you have found it necessary to apply in Ireland a rule different from that adopted in this country. If you have reason to believe, that, in the present state of party feelings, annual elections in every town are likely to engender bad passions—if you have reason to believe that the town-councils so elected, will be converted into political clubs—we call on you, as you value religious peace—we call on you, as you value equal laws—as you prize the security and the integrity of this great empire, not to lend the sanction of your authority, of your moral and legislative authority, to the institution in Ireland of Normal schools for teaching the science of agitation. But, above all, we demand of you, respectfully, but firmly, that you will not make the graduates in those schools, and the professors of that science, the chosen instruments to wield the civil force, and to dispense public justice.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
assured 1077 the House, that under any circumstances he should feel that he owed it an apology for rising to reply to so able and eloquent a speaker as the right hon. Baronet. At no time should he have felt greater difficulty than at the present, had the arguments of the right hon. Baronet been at all supported by facts. If he could believe that the appeal which the right hon. Baronet had just made to the House was founded upon just and legitimate reasoning, he should have apprehended greater difficulty than he then did in venturing upon the task of replying to it; but following out, as he intended to do, the reasonings of the right hon. Baronet, and comparing those reasonings with the facts—comparing also the description which the right hon. Baronet had given of the Bill with the provisions of the Bill itself—comparing, too, the results which the right hon. Baronet had suggested as likely to arise from their accepting the Bill with what he anticipated as the results of their rejecting it, he must say, that though he was perfectly conscious of his being personally unequal to the right hon. Baronet, he had much less apprehension in venturing to cope with him than he should have had under other circumstances, He must take the liberty of saying, without meaning any disrespect to the right hon. Baronet, that there ran through the whole of his very able and brilliant speech one unbroken chain of sophistry. He intended in the course of the observations which he felt it to be his duty to offer to the House on this occasion to pursue the right hon. Baronet through every link of that chain of sophistry; but in the first instance if hon. Gentlemen would be kind enough to listen to him, he would limit his remarks to a single example of the right hon. Baronet's misrepresentations of the Bill. He would call their attention to that instance for the purpose of showing that the right hon. Baronet had not made a vague assertion that was incapable of proof. The House he was sure would recollect that the right hon. Baronet in speaking of this Bill, had said, that it gave to the town-councils in Ireland greater power than the Municipal Reform Bill gave to the town-councils in England, and had asked this question very significantly, "Why will you allow the town-councils in Ireland to interfere with your institutions of trade and science? Why will you allow them to have a control over the Chambers 1078 of Commerce in their respective boroughs, when you have given no such power to your town-councils in England?" Would the House believe that no such power as hat which the right hon. Baronet had described was given to the town-councils by this Bill? There Vas not a single word in the Bill which would enable town-councils to interfere in the way which the right hon. Baronet had stated. The right hon. Baronet had very skilfully taken a recommendation of the Commissioners, which was not adopted in this Bill, and had, for the sake of a little temporary effect, used it in argument, as if it had been a clause in the Bill. After mixing; up that which was objectionable and not in the Bill with the actual provisions of the Bill itself, the right hon. Baronet had made an appeal to such of his friends as were acquainted with the institutions of our large commercial towns, and especially to such of them as belonged to the Chamber of Commerce at Manchester, and asked them how they would tolerate any interference with such institutions by any of the newly-elected town-councils, and by such a question had endeavoured to raises an impression in the House, that his Majesty's Government, in proposing this Bill were going to do that which he so strongly condemned. He would take another example, in which the right hon. Baronet had been betrayed into a similar misrepresentation on a point of still greater importance. The right hon. Baronet, finding fault not only with the application of the principle of this Bill, but also with the anticipated exercise of its power, had relied mainly in his argument on the impolitic results which must flow from it, so far as the administration of justice was concerned. The right hon. Baronet had particularly alluded to the appointment of Sheriffs, and the effects which it would produce on the Grand Jury cess. He had mixed up with this the question of judicature, and had then applied it to the 120 towns and boroughs in Ireland, when it was quite evident from the Bill itself, that it only affected eight cities and towns, which were all the cities and towns in Ireland that were entitled to exercise these powers. There were only eight cities and towns Corporate in Ireland in which Corporation Sheriffs existed, and in which they would continue to exist after the passing of this Bill. The argument, there-fore, which the right hon. Baronet had 1079 constructed upon the appointment of Sheriffs was only applicable to eight cases, if indeed it were applicable at all, and certainly could not, under any circumstances, be applied, as the right hon. Baronet had applied it, to 120 cases in Ireland. The Government might be wrong as to those eight cases, but to raise a suggestion that their error extended beyond those eight cases, was not consistent with that fairness of argument which he had a right to expect from the right hon. Baronet. Again, to show that the right hon. Baronet had not dealt quite candidly when he was speaking so vehemently respecting the effects of this Bill upon the administration of justice—for the preservation of which, in all impartiality, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was ready to go as far as the right hon. Baronet—and if there were any clause in the Bill affecting its impartiality, in God's name Jet it be amended—he would recall the attention of the House to another portion of the right hon. Baronet's speech. The right hon. Baronet, whilst reminding them that they had in Ireland what he should ever consider the unseemly spectacle of Recorders annually appointed, and Magistrates annually elected to administer justice, had carefully and cautiously abstained from referring to that portion of this Bill which made the Recorders in all Corporate towns the nominees of the Crown, and which gave the Magistrates a permanence in their office, and subjected them to the control of the Crown, instead of leaving them open to the influence of the freemen by whom they were now annually elected. It was not necessary for him to say upon the Motion for reading this Bill a second time, whether the provisions of it went far enough to accomplish that object; but he must say this, that the right hon. Baronet had shown a considerable portion of Parliamentary dexterity, in dwelling with no small degree of prolixity on those parts of the Bill which seemed to make out his arguments, and in excluding from notice those parts of it which answered his arguments, and rendered them perfectly untenable. But the right hon. Baronet had said, and in saying so he had taken the line anticipated by his right hon. and learned Friend near him—the right hon. Baronet had said, that he was in favour of a plan for the total and entire abolition of corporate fights, Anxious as the right 1080 hon. Baronet now appeared to be for the promotion of reform in alt Municipal Corporations—anxious as the right hon. Baronet had formerly appeared to be to apply the principle, which had worked so well in the boroughs of Scotland to the municipal towns of England, and then to extend the principle which had worked so well in the municipal towns of England to the corporate towns of Ireland—still he should like to know how the right hon. Baronet, and his supporters in and out of that House, would have met His Majesty's Government, had they come down to the House with a proposition for the destruction of alt corporate rights of every description. Here he would take the liberty of saying, that there was scarcely one of the arguments of the right hon. Baronet which, if fairly drawn out to its legitimate conclusions, would not be as applicable against the English Municipal Reform Bill as it was against the Irish Municipal Reform Bill. Even those words which had been so much animadverted on, "those Normal schools of peaceful agitation,"—he would not stop to reason upon those words, for he thought that the right hon. Baronet might have dealt with things instead of words—even those words, on which the right hon. Baronet had rung so many changes, were quite as applicable to the English as to the Irish Corporations, If those words were true as to England, let us have a regular and formal notice put on the books by the right hon. Baronet, for the repeal of the English Municipal Reform Bill, and for the avowed reason, that it had led to the establishment of "Normal schools for peaceful agitation." Whilst he claimed for his country, Ireland, the application of the same general principles of legislation which governed England, he would not deny—indeed he never had denied—that in the application of those principles there might be local circumstances which required some difference to be made. The Government evinced their conviction of the justice of that principle in the preparation of the present Bill; for it was so drawn up as to prove that all the principles which they had thought it right, to adopt in the English Municipal Reform Bill were not, in their opinion, applicable to the municipal Corporations of Ireland, just as all the principles of the Scotch Burghs Reform Bill were not applicable to the corporate towns of England, He 1081 admitted, therefore, that the circumstances under which the English Municipal Reform Bill had established "Normal schools of peaceful agitation" in England might not exist in Ireland, nor lead to the establishment of similar institutions there; but, he would say, that the right hon. Baronet would be the greatest instructor of political agitation, whom, he would not say this country, but the whole world, had ever produced, if, after having given municipal reform to the borough towns of England and Scotland, he were successful in persuading the House to withhold it from the borough towns of Ireland. For his own part, he trusted that the British Legislature would do no such thing. If it did any such thing, it would be inflicting injustice, not on eight nor even on 120 boroughs, but on a whole nation, for which it would be displaying the most wanton and insulting distrust. He felt strongly upon this subject, and perhaps, he was expressing himself more warmly than he ought upon it: but he recollected the course which he had taken—a course of which he felt proud, and should certainly never repent—when he came forward in that House to propose an amendment on the question of their going into Committee to consider the propriety of a Repeal of the Union. It was more particularly the duty of such Members of that House as had opposed the Motion for a Repeal of the legislative Union—an Union which he believed to have been most conducive and beneficial to the interests of Ireland—to see that they gave to the people of Ireland no just cause of complaint. And could they delude themselves into the notion that they would give no just cause of complaint to that people, if they applied one principle of legislation to them, and another to the people of England? He called upon the House to receive with distrust the arguments employed on the other side; for up to the publication of the Report of the Commissioners on Irish Corporations, if one-tenth part of the imputations had been cast on any one of those Corporations which were now prevalent, and justly prevalent, against them, how would those who made them have been met? They would have been taunted on every occasion with the aptitude to exaggerate all Irish grievances, and no one would have been credulous enough to believe them, except those who, like himself, had met these hornets in their 1082 own nests. But the right hon. Baronet was singularly inconsistent in another respect; in one part of his speech he showed great reluctance to admit the analogy of the English Bill, and yet in another he supported his argument by reference to that very analogy. The right hon. Baronet said, that power was given to the Lord-lieutenant to grant charters to the borough towns of Ireland in terms far more general than those employed in the English Bill. Let that point, if it were so, be discussed fairly in the Committee. At present the discussion was irrelevant, and a few words at a future stage might cure the fault of which the right hon. Gentleman complained, supposing that it had any existence. For his own part, he denied that this Bill, or that the effect of his Bill, could be fairly characterized, as the right hon. Gentleman had characterized it—as a Bill intended to carry into effect a total transfer of power. The principle of the Bill undoubtedly was to give power to a majority of the people? Whilst on that subject, he might be permitted to ask whether there was a single argument which the right hon. Baronet had used against the constituency which were to elect these new town-councils, which might not be used with equal force and justice against those who exercise the political franchise. The right hon. Baronet had also spoken of the perpetual agitation which this Bill would produce in Ireland, but on that point he would touch more diffusely by-and-by. The right hon. Baronet said, that this Bill would throw every thing into the hands of the Catholic party. The right hon. Baronet had not, however, referred to the working of the 9th Geo. 4th, under which a majority of Protestants had always been chosen to fill certain offices, and were elected to fill them by a large Catholic, constituency. Neither had the right hon. Baronet met those cases which his right hon. and learned Friend had quoted, and carried demonstration with them upon that part of the subject. The right hon. Baronet had reserved himself, perhaps wisely, to the last and only real objection to this Bill—namely, that in the present state of numbers between the Catholic and the Protestant, we could not trust the people of Ireland with the power given to them by this Bill, That was the real objection to the measure. Everything else was mere mystification. They had been that night 1083 told that the majority of the people of Ireland was Catholic, and that, in consequence, it could not be trusted. If there was any danger to the state from that circumstance, which he emphatically and indignantly denied, it was not to be averted, the evil of it was not to be cured, by refusing to the people Ireland a well-digested Bill for Municipal Reform. You must trust to higher and better motives; you must avert it by mitigating the rancour of religious rage, by procuring a calm and impartial administration of justice. [Cheers The hon. Gentlemen who had just cheered him so ironically were those very persons who had resisted all the various propositions which he had brought forward for the purpose of securing the due administration of justice in the city of Limerick. Up to the present day, they had resisted all attempts to reform the Corporations; now they came forward to destroy them altogether—to make, as it were, "a massacre of the innocents." They stigmatized the system proposed in this Bill, as interfering with the due administration of justice; and that led him to the consideration of the nature of the former system. The right hon. Baronet had that night abandoned that system altogether; there was not one shred of it for which the right hon. Baronet had offered a single word of excuse. Mayors, aldermen, common councilmen, burgesses, even the favourite freemen, with the recorders and town-clerks, were at one fell swoop, all given up to the genius of destruction. He was not sorry to accompany the right hon. Baronet to that extent. He would destroy them all, but be would also substitute something in their stead, and that which he would substitute was in perfect accordance with sound constitutional principles—he meant a system of self-government, and the assertion of the principle that those who are locally interested will best conduct local affairs. He knew that the people of Ireland had had their dissensions, and had suffered under many grievances; but, as an Irishman, he did not know, and he never would admit, that his fellow-countrymen were so lost, and so unworthy, as not to be fit to govern themselves. The right hon. Baronet, with that sagacity which was natural to him, felt that his argument, if carried to its full extent, and without the production of some new arrangement, would be quite inapplicable to the condition of Ireland. 1084 The right hon. Baronet had therefore produced something like a new system, and having favoured his friends on that side of the House with a wholesale system of destruction, had startled his opponents on this side with something like a new reaction. Yes, the right hon. Baronet, who last year, would not give to the Crown the power of dividing the corporate towns in England into wards, was now ready to appoint a Royal Commission, which was to consolidate and appropriate—yes, appropriate was the word—all the tolls in Ireland which were hereafter to be vested in certain Commissioners appointed by the Crown. Now, if the Ministers had proposed any such thing, if not content with destruction, they had proposed the erection of a regal tyranny in its room, they would have raised against us the cry of haying caused the wanton destruction of corporate rights, and would have accused us of wishing to establish a new domination in the country. With respect to the observations which the right hon. Baronet made upon the subject of the Magistracy, the right hon. Baronet could not fail to see that the magistrates, under the new Bill, were to hold their offices for life. Now, under the Irish Corporations, how were these officers appointed? Did, not the right hon. Baronet know well, that in the Irish Corporations there was every year a fresh election of Magistrates? Did not he know well, that the Magistrate who was one day administering justice between two quarrelling and irritated freemen, might on the next, be seeking the votes of those very freemen! Did not he know well, that the parties qualified to become Magistrates were sometimes elected from a very small number, and that when the farce of an election was gone through, it was gone through in a way not likely to recommend the parties elected to the feelings of their fellow-townsmen. He had always contended, and he always should contend, that the present mode of appointing Corporate Magistrates in Ireland was a source of the greatest discontent and dissatisfaction in that country. Here again he must remark, that the right hon. Baronet had charged an inconsistency, which existed only in his imagination, upon this Bill, "You have passed a Bill in the present Session giving to the Lord-lieutenant the power of establishing a constabulary force—and now in this Bill you are giving the same power to 1085 the new Corporations." He wished the House to examine and see how that point stood. What, then, was the power which this Bill gave to these new Corporations? It was the power given in so many words in the provisions of the 9th of George 4th, Parliament gave the municipalities, not the power of appointing an armed police, paid half out of the land and half out of the Consolidated Fund, but also the power of appointing a few watchmen to watch their houses and patrol their streets. The words of the 9th George 4th are simply these:—"It may and shall be lawful to the Commissioners to appoint a sufficient number of able-bodied watchmen and of watch-houses." That was not an unfit power for the municipalities to exercise. Now, what was the 80th clause of that Bill? "That the Watch Committee of every such borough shall on the 10th day of January, the 10th day of April, the 10th day of July, and the 10th day of October in every year, transmit to the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland a Report of the number of men appointed to act as constables or policemen in such borough, and of the description of arms, accoutrements, and clothing, and other necessaries furnished to each man, and of the salaries, wages, and allowances payable to such cons tables or policemen, and of the number and situation of all station-houses in such borough, and also a copy of all rules, orders, and regulations, which shall from time to time be made by such Watch Committee, or by the Council of such borough, for the regulation and guidance of such constables or policemen." Now he asked, whether that clause had any analogy with the constabulary force? There were no two things, in his opinion, more distinct from each other. Nothing could be more certain than this—that under Local Bills various towns in Ireland had the power of appointing their own watchmen and giving them clothes—and that power had never been held to interfere with the power of the Crown to regulate the constabulary force. For instance, both species of force existed in the city of Limerick, and he had never heard of any interference or collision between the two. The right hon. Baronet seemed to think that the Government was establishing a new principle in its Constabulary Bill, and had told the House, that he was making a large and liberal admission to the Government in granting it that principle. A new principle! No 1086 such thing—it was the right hon. Baronet's own principle—it was the principle of his Police Bill. When the right hon. Baronet appointed an armed police force in England, where did he place the control of it? Did he place it in the hands of the local authorities, or in some distinct, and permanent, and responsible authority? The Government had adopted the principle which the right hon. Baronet had sanctioned in his Police Bill, and had placed the control of the armed police in the hands of a permanent officer responsible to them for his conduct. His right hon. and learned Friend had exhausted the subject so far as related to the general misconduct of the Corporate bodies of Ireland; but had anything remained to be supplied on that point, the speech of the right hon. Baronet that evening would have amply supplied the deficiency. He had concluded that very able speech by a very singular argument, which he founded on the supposition that the smaller Corporate bodies in Ireland were created by James 1st solely for political purposes; that they were close boroughs for those political purposes; that the political purposes had now ceased, and that along with them the Corporate bodies should cease altogether. Now, all he would say in reply to that was, that the observations of Sir J. Davis and his right hon. and learned Friend on this subject were more consistent with the facts. If the right hon. Baronet would turn to the 25th of Charles 2nd, he would find rules made for all those Corporate bodies, some in general terms, some in precise terms, none applicable to political purposes, all without exception applicable to Corporate purposes. He called upon the House to consider what the consequence would be of acceding to the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet on this Bill. They were called upon to legislate for an entire people—for all Ireland; and the right hon. Baronet adjured them to say to that entire people, "You, are unworthy of trust and confidence;" and to say it, too, not on general grounds, which would be leas dangerous than any other, but on religious grounds—on grounds of religious distinction, the most delicate and the most dangerous of all. He repeated that such was the fact, for this suggestion would never have come from the right hon. Baronet if it had not been that the majority of the people of Ireland were Roman Catholics. Yes, it was from the Roman 1087 Catholics of Ireland, to whom the right hon. Baronet had given political power, that he would withhold the power of managing their own local concerns in their own petty Corporations. Was not that founding a school for political agitation on the one hand, and of religious dissension on the other? If the only object of the right hon. Baronet was to secure the impartial administration of justice, let him go at once with the Government into Committee on the Bill, In the Committee he would deal with any objections which the right hon. Baronet might have to the details candidly and impartially. He was glad that the right hon. Baronet had not opposed the second reading of this Bill; still he must say, that never was there a conclusion so much at variance with its premises as the conclusion of the right hon. Baronet's speech and its exordium, Ought not his premises to have led him to move as an Amendment, that this Bill be read a second time this day six months? Ought he not to have moved as an Amendment, that leave be given to bring in a Bill to abolish all existing Corporations in Ireland, and to create a Commission, to be appointed by the Crown, in which should be vested alt corporate property now in existence in Ireland, no matter whether the parties enjoy it by charter or by inheritance, perverting every prescription, forgetting the rights even of their darling freemen; and adopting the new principle as to tolls, which their friends elsewhere compelled us to throw out of the English Municipal Reform Bill? We wanted to go further than we did with regard to tolls in our English Bill; but no, they would not hear of such a proceeding. But now their benevolence to Ireland is so great, so surpassing all former precedent, that they are ready to suppress all those corporate tolls tomorrow. These were to him new doctrines; and, considering the quarter from which they came, singularly wild into the bargain. He, therefore, hoped that the Gentlemen who propounded them would allow him to administer to them those salutary lectures upon caution, and moderation which they had so often, so kindly, and so disinterestedly read to hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House. He hoped that the right hon. Baronet and his friends would employ these new doctrines with great care and caution. For his own part, he was not inclined to quarrel with 1088 the principles contained in them; he was ready to admit their correctness. He was well acquainted with the views of the noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to him, and he hoped that, for the sake of the institutions of their country, they would moderate their "destructive" rage, and try their principles by the test of experience. One word more and he had done. The right hon. Baronet said, and he was sure that the right hon. Baronet said it with great sincerity, that he was anxious to establish an equality of rights among all classes and denominations of his Majesty's subjects in Ireland, and to allow no religious exclusions whatever to exist. He was sure that no expression could be more sincere than was the expression of that anxiety by the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet, from his long connexion with Ireland, had arrived at the certain knowledge, that in those religious exclusions was the source of all the evils which desolated that beautiful but distracted country; but having that certain knowledge, was the right hon. Baronet logical in his mode of applying it? He had called upon the House to withhold a good from the people of Ireland on grounds purely religious. The House was called upon to withhold this Bill from the people of Ireland because they were Roman Catholics. The right hon. Baronet had not, indeed, said so in express terms—he was too prudent and cautious for that; but it was the only inference which could be deduced from his speech. At any rate that had been asserted in publications of great influence and authority, and which were supposed to represent the opinions of the right hon. Baronet and his immediate friends, that the Protestant Corporations of Ireland were necessary to the safety of the Protestant church, and to the maintenance of British connexion. The right hon. Baronet was prepared not only to give up, but also to destroy these ancient bulwarks—he had no hesitation on the point—in his (Sir R. Peel's) opinion the Protestant church and the British connexion could do well without them. "The Protestants of Ireland," said the same influential authorities to which he had just alluded, "are the safeguards of British connexion with that country—the Roman Catholics have always been, and still are, adverse to it." ["Hear, hear."] That cheer gave him just the admission he wanted to obtain 1089 and he now told the right hon. Baronet that if he acted on that principle he converted a fiction into a reality. If it were true that the Roman Catholics were really averse from the connexion subsisting between the two countries, that was a perilous condition of things, but he discredited the idea, and, because he disbelieved it—because he thought the connexion would be strengthened by legislating for both countries, on fair and equal principles—because he was convinced that when the Roman Catholic was treated as well as the Protestant—on these grounds he pressed the present measure, and said that no sectarian differences were to be regarded in the matter. But by acting differently, by sanctioning by a vote of the House the admission of this supposed hatred of British connexion among the bulk of the people of Ireland, they created the evil they affected to deplore. He did not say that some risk must not be run in this as in every great change—some risk was incurred by the change in the Municipal Corporations in England, and by the introduction of the Reform Bill; but if there existed great evils, there must also be great remedies, and from the application of such remedies in cases of great difficulty, some danger would arise. However, not one-tenth of the danger, he was prepared to contend, could arise from this measure which had been incurred by the Irish Reform Bill; and they had carried that. The Bill was supported by many Gentlemen who now sat on the opposite side of the House. After giving those arms to the Irish people which the Reform Bill furnished, they were now, in objecting to this measure, merely taking a petty mode of exasperating the power they themselves had created, and of fermenting, or rather let him say reproducing agitation under an assumed dread of agitation. He rejoiced that the Bill was now before the House—he rejoiced in the discussion that had already taken place to-night, and in the admission of the right hon. Baronet that he was unprepared to oppose the second reading of the Bill, founded as the measure was on the principle of the English Municipal Reform Act. In that admission they of the majority had a justification of their vote on the Address; as to those Gentlemen who had divided against Ministers on that occasion, and who, perchance, on that account were not so ready to divide against them to-night, 1090 those Gentlemen had to reconcile their affirmation of a different principle on a former occasion, with their assent to the principle of this Bill, by agreeing to its second reading. He declared his opinion that they were bound to see justice done to Ireland—to apply just and equal principles there as here. Modify them if you would according to the local circumstances of the country; but do not degrade men by showing them at one side of the Channel, two parts of this great United Kingdom worthy of trust and confidence, and pointing out on the other side of the Channel another part of the kingdom, where you told the people that trust and confidence must be withheld from them.
Sir, I have been so pointedly referred to, both by the right hon. and learned Gentleman who opened this debate, and also by my right hon. Friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) that I feel I should not be justified in abstaining from saying a few words, though I feel, and am satisfied the House will feel with me, that this is not the proper opportunity for entering into a full discussion in the relative merits of the two rival plans submitted for the consideration of this House. [A laugh from the Ministerial Benches.] I know not, Sir, why what I have said should excite the merriment of Gentlemen opposite. In that expression I made use of "rival plans," I think I am fully justified. They are rival plans, but for effecting one object, that object being the attainment of great good to Ireland, by doing away with the system of Corporation corruption and partiality which prevails there, and substituting a better and more efficient system in its place. To accomplish this object, in which we both concur, two plans are before the House, and the public must decide, and the House must decide, which of those two plans is likely to prove most effectual in accomplishing this object. Now, my right hon. Friend has said, he does not understand how we, who supported the Irish Parliamentary Reform. Bill can possibly withhold our entire assent from a measure, the principles or the main features, at least, of which, are identical with those of that Bill. Now, Sir, I was a cheerful and cordial supporter of the Irish Parliamentary Reform Bill, I was as anxious as any man that Ireland should have full and impartial justice, I was as anxious as 1091 any man that Ireland should have an opportunity afforded her truly and fully to express her political opinions in the United Legislature of the empire. But, Sir, I must yet have some little time afforded to me before I can be prepared to admit that in Ireland we are to run the risk which my right hon. Friend would have us incur, of making every municipality an arena for political discussion and party animosity, or that it is not desirable to keep separate from the proper application of municipal funds, and the proper administration of municipal justice, those political feeling's which, from the state of religious and political parties in that country, are, if this Bill be passed into a law, sure to be mixed up with them. My right hon. Friend has protested against religious considerations interfering with this question. Now, Sir, I don't hesitate to say, that religious grounds do influence me in the view I have taken. And why, Sir, do they influence me? Because, unfortunately, all the great political questions in Ireland, at the present moment, are so mixed up with religious differences that it is impossible to separate political and religious questions. I do not wish to deprive one single Catholic of any one single right, much less do I wish to secure to any one single Protestant the possession of an abuse, and too generally abuse follows the possession of any exclusive or offensive privilege. But still I say, I must look to the state of society which prevails in Ireland—a state of society in which, be it remembered, the lowest and least influential class of the population are also in an infinite degree the most powerful in point of numerical strength, and who profess a religion different from that of the minority. This, Sir, is a fact that I cannot separate from the consideration of this question; nor can I avoid seeing that on all those local and political questions which will arise under this Bill religious difference must necessarily be brought to bear. Sir, it is with this view that I look to the state of Ireland, and I ask myself whether, under the circumstances in which that country is placed, the same measure which may be found efficient in England is likely to prove equally efficient and free from rejection in Ireland? This, Sir, is the objection that we make; nor do I perceive that the course we have taken upon this subject is in the least degree inconsistent with the 1092 most anxious wish, the most resolute determination, to afford the fullest and most complete justice to every class En Ireland, and the most complete and perfect removal of every abuse which there prevails. My right hon. Friend says, it is the same thing if on account of religious difference we withhold a great good or inflict a great evil; but my right hon. Friend here begs the whole question. It yet remains to be proved, whether the system which he proposes will be productive of a great good, whether it will tend to the more impartial administration of justice, whether it will tend to promote peace and harmony, mitigate religious rancour, soothe party differences, and extinguish religious and local animosities. All this yet remains to be seen. I will readily admit to my right hon. Friend, that we have no more right to withhold a great good than to inflict a great evil. But which is the good or which is the evil is the point on which the whole question hangs? This is the question we have yet to discuss. It is yet to be decided, whether by the plan that you now propose to us you will confer a benefit on Ireland, or whether, misled by a fancied analogy, you will not bestow upon her a curse instead of a blessing. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite has quoted me as an authority in his opening speech. I am not going to enter into a discussion of the whole question. What was the object for which a certain number of Corporations were originally established is a matter of historical curiosity, but I do not think, it very material for us to inquire into it. The question we want solved is, what has been the practical working of these Corporations, how do they work now, what evils do they occasion, what abuses exist in them, how can those abuses be best terminated, and how can those evils be best remedied? My right hon. Friend says, that on this question, as on every other, we are bound in justice to deal with Ireland on the footing of precisely the same principles which we apply to England. How, says my right hon. Friend, can you consent to cast such a stigma upon Ireland as to say to her, England and Scotland, those two great portions of the empire on this side of the Channel, are intrusted with the management of their own affairs, but you, the people of Ireland, are unfit for self-government, and we will not in this respect put you on a footing of equality with us. 1093 My right hon. Friend lays down, he says, the broad principle of self-government in their own affairs as a principle which ought to be applied to Ireland, and which Ireland is entitled to claim at our hands. Sir, I don't think my right hon. Friend always thought thus, I recollect some language of my right hon. Friend, which seems to bear out my own impressions and views, and I am obliged to my right hon. Friend that he has been good enough himself to direct my attention to the very speech in which occurs that passage I am about to read. I am quite sure that in what I am going to say I cannot justly be considered as endeavouring to cast any stigma, or say any thing offensive to the people of Ireland, as I am going to read only my right hon. Friend's own words: they bear directly on this question of self-government, and occur in his very able and powerful speech on the discussion of the motion for a Repeal of the Union, and yon will perceive how completely he justifies the reason which I have given for not approving of the measure now brought forward. The noble Lord then read the extract nearly as follows:—"Sir, constitutional liberty I am ready to welcome, but I reject the idol of democratic liberty which the hon. and learned Member would place upon our altar. We are told truly in the last words of Grattan, that the people of this country should not look to a democratic Government, for they are not fit for it. I do not wish to speak any disparagement of my own countrymen, but from what you have seen of the people of Ireland, will you surrender them to the tender mercies—must I use the word—of a domestic Legislature? Will you surrender the people of that country to the tender mercies of conflicting factions? Do you not know that there must inevitably be such a conflict and collision of opinion as must produce a sanguinary civil war? I will ask the hon. and learned Gentleman who has raised the standard of Repeal here, does he think, because he has a certain physical force in certain districts in Ireland ready to support it, that he will compel the sturdy spirits of the north to submit without a struggle? Can he doubt that a struggle would immediately commence between them, but when it would close who would be bold enough to say? Thus what was begun in folly would end in crime, and the ultimate consequence would be the entire destruction of the 1094 country."* Now this is the paragraph in which my right hon. Friend himself draws a distinction between the principles by which Ireland and England should be ruled, in consequence of the difference between the state of parties in these two. countries—the violence of the conflicting parties in Ireland making them, according to my right hon. Friend's own words, unfit to be intrusted with a domestic Legislature. The consequence would be what my right hon. Friend has described so skilfully: the violence of party faction would be increased, the minority would not submit to the majority without a struggle—a struggle which would tear out the very vitals of that country, and bring upon Ireland all the horrors of civil war. I ask my right hon. Friend to extend his view a little further, and apply his own principle in the present instance. I ask him, whether if this be the state of things in Ireland—whether if one party be numerically infinitely superior to the other, but (of course I speak only of the bulk of the population) infinitely lower in the scale of society, whilst the minority is greatly superior to the majority in wealth and intelligence, and those parties are to be brought year after year, and several times a year, into collision with each other upon a question of domestic and exciting interest from which it is impossible altogether to exclude the interference of religious feeling—I ask my right hon. Friend whether he does not risk the occurrence of disputes and dissensions which will tend to anything but to promote that harmony, that peace, that kindly feeling which, it is the avowed object of the Bill, according to its preamble, to promote, and which, perhaps, under similar circumstances to those which exist in England it might possibly effect. I am not going to discuss at any length the principles of this Bill. For, as far as I am aware, there is no intention whatever to oppose this Bill being read a second time. My right hon. Friend seems to consider that the assent of those who supported the amendment on the Address to the second reading of this Bill justifies the vote which he and his Friends gave on that occasion, and that the course which the right hon. Baronet proposes now to take, and in which I fully concur, is an inconsistent one. I deny that it is inconsistent. I did object, and I should object again, to be tied down* See Hansard, vol. xxii. p, 1281–1282.1095 in the Address to the adoption of certain principles with which we were not then made acquainted. We were told that we were to follow up in Ireland the principles of the Municipal Reform Bill for England to their fullest extent, and my right hon. Friend says, because we refused to assent to that till we knew how they were to be applied, and moved an amendment, we ought now, instead of assenting to the second reading, to have moved for leave to bring in our own Bill by way of amendment. Why, in the first place, I believe that all Parliamentary forms are at variance with such a mode of proceeding. In the next place I for one was prepared to go along with my right hon. Friend in some of the minor principles of the Bill, and we propose, therefore, merely to engraft on it such provisions as would make it consistent with our own views. What are the principles of the Bill? The. first great principle of the Bill, in which I entirely concur, is—let hon. Gentlemen opposite try to disguise it as they may—the entire abolition of the existing Corporations. Having thus cleared the way, the Bill proceeds upon other principles for the purpose of giving effect to the plan by which his Majesty's Government intend in future to prevent the evils which have accrued under the old system. It introduces the principle of election in all the towns, and it contains many other provisions from which I do not expect we should derive that beneficial effect which my right hon. Friend anticipates from them. I have considered the subject, and I am prepared to support a different system. Like my right hon. Friend on ray left, I would not leave a single evil untouched, a single abuse un remedied, nor a single ground of justifiable complaint to any hon. Members; but if hon. Gentlemen opposite can point out any such defects I shall be ready to enter into the discussion of that question with them, not with a view of carrying any of my own points, but with an honest and sincere desire to remedy and provide against every possible abuse. So far as the destruction of the existing Corporations go, I am, if hon. Gentlemen opposite like the term, a Destructive; but I am no more a destructive of them than the right hon. and learned Gentleman or my right hon. Friend. So far I am prepared to go with the present Bill, but I am not prepared to go further. A different class of society in Ireland to that which 1096 exists in England perfectly justifies a departure from the course adopted in relation to this country; and I think, therefore, that instead of proceeding implicitly in the same track we should endeavour to prepare such a Bill for the reform of the Irish Corporations as may yield the greatest amount of good with the least mixture of evil, Such is, I think, the system proposed by the right hon. Baronet. That system will give you a pure administration of justice—a complete control over the Corporate funds of the various Corporations—such a control as should prevent the confiscation or misappropriation to other purposes than those to which they are legally applicable, a system which will place the Corporations under the superintendence of those whom we can trust to discharge uprightly and impartially the duties confided to them. They upon whom the administration of justice devolves incur a vast responsibility, and upon whom can that responsibility more properly rest than on the Lord Lieutenant? Under the system which my right hon. Friend supports, the power which is given to the municipal bodies is given to them to exercise, either for good or evil, as they see most fit; but, according to the other plan, we can give to these municipal functionaries just power enough, and no more, than is necessary to enable them to conduct to the best advantage the affairs of the municipality, without the possibility of mixing up political subjects with those to which the attention of a Municipal Government ought to be solely confined. When we come to discuss the two plans, however, it will be quite time enough to enter into details. I need not trouble the House upon that subject now, I only wish to express my entire concurrence in getting rid of every feature of the existing Corporation system in Ireland; but it is my conviction that the plan adopted in England cannot, consistently with the existing state of parties in Ireland, be applied with advantage to that country, and were we so to apply it I believe that under the cover of a fancied analogy, we should inflict a curse instead of bestowing a blessing on that country. Sir, I am most anxious that Ireland should have perfect equality of treatment with England, but it is because the same course would not insure her equal benefits that I support a different plan of Corporation Reform, a plan which will give to Ireland 1097 what the one now proposed will not, a pure and impartial administration of justice and of the Corporation funds for the benefit of all its members—a plan which will place the Catholic in every respect upon a perfect level and equality of station and advantage with the Protestant. This, Sir, is the plan to which I will give my best support; but I am determined as far as I am able not to allow any plan to pass into a taw which shall give to one party an undue ascendancy over the other, or interfere with the just and impartial administration of the laws.
§ Mr. Sheil
said, that the noble Lord had stated that he would not on that occasion discuss the principle of the Bill. Why did he abstain from doing so? What more apt opportunity could be presented and from what motive did he reserve the display of his faculties for another night; Surely the principle of the Bill should be discussed on the second reading, and the details in the Committee. Did the noble Lord intend to invert the natural order of discussion, and debate the details before the principle, and the principle after the details? His right hon. Leader, the Member for Tam worth, had not taken that course, for he had not only gone into the principle of the Bill, but struck directly at its foundation.
It may save the learned Gentleman trouble, if I now apprise him that it is intended to debate, and to divide, on a subsequent occasion, on going into the Committee.
§ Mr. Sheil
thanked the noble Lord for his kindness in intimating the result of his consultation with his new colleagues on the other side of the House, The noble Lord had boldly stated that he put the question on religious grounds. The right hon. Member for Tam worth had not said so much: with his habitual caution and characteristic skill, he had only dealt in insinuations, while the noble Lord, who had not made any proficiency in prudence, even with the aid of so valuable an instructor as the right hon. the Member for Tamworth, with a great deal of frankness, and he hoped with not a little honesty, at once let the truth escape from him, and declared that he would deny to Ireland the same municipal institutions as bad been conferred upon England, from sectarian, or, if he pleased so to call them, from religious considerations. How did this accord with the passage in the speech of the noble 1098 (but somewhat incongruous) Lord, in 1833, and which the Attorney-General bad referred to? In that speech, so replete with lofty sentiments, and so much in contrast with the noble Lord's existing position, the noble Lord had declared that all distinctions between Catholic and Protestant ought, by the Emancipation Act, to be buried in everlasting oblivion; yet he now resuscitates and evokes them, when to his purposes they may be made subservient. But although the noble Lord withheld from those whom he still persevered in calling his noble Friends, the benefit of his support, he could not take away from them the advantage of his authority. He had abandoned his party, but he could not subvert his former principles from the solid basis on which they rested. He had gone, indeed, to the enemy's camp, but he had left his arms behind. The noble Lord could not do the same detriment to his argument as to his character, nor deal with his logic as it had unhappily pleased him to deal with his reputation. The abuses of Irish Corporations were admitted. But when was the discovery of these abuses first made? When did this fit of virtue seize the Conservatives, by whom they were now for the first time deplored? Did they not know that property was plundered that justice was vitiated to its source, that to the foulest political instrumentality Corporations had been turned. When the House compared the former connivance of the Tory party, and their protestations of newly and suddenly and most unexpectedly excited horror at the deformities with which they were so familiar, it was not unreasonable to conjecture that they abandoned Corporations because they could no longer serve their turn—that they would abolish all that was sound, because they could not preserve what was rotten, and that they would fell those institutions to the earth, not because they had yielded poison, but because they might be made to bear salutary fruit. The right hon. Member for Tamworth was, indeed, afraid that these Corporations should become, as the Member for Dublin had said, Normal schools of agitation; but the right hon. Baronet had never objected to them when they were the polytechnic schools in which Conservatism brought up its pupils. He (Mr. Sheil) joined most cordially in the declaration made by the Attorney-General, when he protested that he would never have proposed this Bill if he thought it 1099 would lead to the ascendancy of any party. He was couvinced that if the country were well governed, the religious discords that were the bane of Ireland would die away. Even as it was, the Roman Catholics, in the exercise of whatever power they possessed, never consulted their religious prejudices or predilections. His colleague in the second county of Ireland was an Englishman and a Protestant, with a large Cromwellian estate, of which he made the best and noblest use. In the adjoining county of Waterford, two Protestants, Sir R. Musgrave and Mr. Stuart, were returned by the Roman Catholic electors. The same observation would apply to several other counties. The religious animosities of Ireland were fomented by the law and the institutions of the country, with whose reform they would soon expire. Restore Ireland to a rational condition, and every individual would soon lose all unnatural power, while, beyond a doubt, as in every other country, property would resume its rational influence. But with what face did the Conservatives talk of religious animosities? By whom are they most sedulously fostered and maintained? Look at the public journals in their interest, and at the emissaries of theological rancour whom they send, as incendiaries, to propagate the worst feelings, and inculcate detestation through the country. Are not our clergy designated as surplice ruffians? are not their followers represented as banded assassins? and are not the Representatives of the Irish people held up as guilty men, basely foresworn upon the word of the living God? And when such language as this is applied to us, to our country, and to our religion, can it be wondered at, there is a feeling of inevitable resentment produced in the nation's heart? And what estimate ought to be formed of those who first raise this religious excitement, this miserable "No-Popery" howl, and, then avail themselves of it, for the purpose of party; and, in order to deprive us of the benefit of British institutions, appeal to the passions which they have themselves excited, on which they blow and fan, and whose flame by the incendiary spirit of a factious theology, its fatal aliment, is unremittingly supplied? Sir, we are entitled to British institutions, and have them we must and will. What is the plan of the Conservatives? to transfer the nomination of Sheriffs, of Magistrates, of police, the management pf pro- 1100 perty, the administration of local justice to the Crown. This in England they did not dare to propose; this, in Ireland, please God and the people, they shall never carry. No; we must have Municipal, as we have secured Parliamentary Reform. By the same policy both countries must be governed? and if Corporations in England have been submitted to popular control, in the true sense of the word, "popular" Corporations must in Ireland be submitted. Do you think that we will, or that we ought, to acquiesce in any measure short of complete equality with England? Don't you know, that if you treat us as a province and a colony, and not as part and parcel of yourselves—if you refuse us what we call justice, and what your hearts must tell you that as justice we rightly designate, a perilous question will be revived, and its discussion will inevitably be resuscitated. But if you carry the great international compact into real, substantial, practical effect; if you abolish all distinctions, natural and religious; if you give us the same laws, the same rights, the same privileges, the same institutions? if you place us on a noble level, and establish a glorious parity between us; if you fill our hearts with the glorious consciousness of British citizenship, and make us feel that we are even as you are—then you will not only have refuted the argument for Repeal, but you will have annihilated its pretence; you will not only have removed the motive, but eradicated the desire; and that you may act this wise part is the prayer of one who holds at heart the interest and peace of his country, and the glory of that great empire of which it forms so essential, and of which I trust that, ere long, it will prove a prosperous part.
§ Colonel Conolly
said, that the bad spirit which prevailed in Ireland had not its origin in any jealousy which the Protestants entertained of the Roman Catholics. It was created by the hon. and learned Member who had just addressed the House, and his associates, who went about the country inflaming the passions of the people in order to serve their own interested: purposes. The hon. and learned Member and his associates were constantly declaiming in favour of what they called popular rights, but their real object was the subversion of the Protestant religion, and the dismemberment of the empire. He (Colonel Conolly) felt no jealousy of, Roman Catholics—God 1101 forbid that he should entertain such a feeling. He lived upon as good terms with his Roman Catholic neighbours as it was possible for the hon. and learned Gentleman to do. The hon. and learned member in that House dealt largely in professions of philanthropy and kindly feeling, but in other places there was no tongue which knew better than his how to give utterance to the most bitter spirit of acrimony. He (Colonel Conolly) would prove himself to be the friend of peace, by supporting and endeavouring to carry into effect the suggestions of the great statesman who sat below him; but in none of their acts did the hon. and learned gentleman, and those with whom he associated, consult the peace, welfare, or prosperity of Ireland; in no case did the hon. and learned Member put in practice those principles of philanthropy which he professed to admire, and so eloquently expounded. Such professions were made only for the purpose of courting popular favour, and exciting the popular mind in Ireland. Let not hon. Members suppose that the hon. and learned Member played the same game in Ireland which he pretended to play in that House. In that House he indulged his auditors with classical allusion and brilliant, but laboured antithesis, and above all he deprecated any thing like acrimony. But it must not be supposed that there were no acrimonious speeches made in Tipperary—there the hon. and learned Member was not the apostle of harmony and love. Such conduct as the hon. and learned Gentleman exhibited was a gross and scandalous deception. [Order! Order!]
§ The Speaker
said, the hon. and gallant Member must be aware that it was disorderly to attribute deception to a Member of that House.
§ Colonel Conolly
apologised to the House, but must say, in his own justification, that the passions of the lower orders of his countrymen were worked upon in a way which it was horrifying to witness. He would now beg to correct a misstatement which the Attorney-General for Ireland had made with respect to the Corporation of Naas. He had been requested by the Corporation of that town, in the vicinity of which he resided, to state that no bond or any other document had ever been executed for the purpose of transferring property of the Corporation to the patron of that borough. Some years ago it was proposed to convey the corporate property to Lord Mayo, in trust, but that design was never executed. 1102 A more honourable and high-minded man than Lord Mayo did not exist, and to those who knew his Lordship it was unnecessary to say that he was incapable of plundering a Corporation, He had in his pocket a letter from his Lordship stating that he was anxious that a general account of the funds of the Corporation, including all disbursements, from the period of the Union down to the present day, should be exhibited. The noble Lord required no defence from him, but he must do his Lordship the justice to say, that owing to his exertions the funds of the Corporation had been augmented nearly threefold. With respect to the question before the House, he was proud to follow in the wake of those who went before him in the debate that evening. He was exceedingly happy to find the distinction between England and Ireland, so ably and convincingly described by two statesmen of such eminence and power. As far as the opinion of an humble individual residing in the country, and offering that opinion because founded on his own experience—he would venture to say that he entirely concurred in the convincing, eloquent, and statesmanlike views which had been expressed by the right hon. Baronet, and the noble Lord below him. He was likewise opposed to that part of the Bill which admitted the granting of Corporations to small towns, and for this reason; that as hardly any of them would have a sufficiency of funds for the support of the Corporation, and as the election of the councillors and aldermen would create a kind of local agitation in Ireland, they would thereby be only keeping up a constant excitement in those towns, without the least benefit to the public. He also most heartily and above all concurred in the suggestions of the right hon. Baronet which were applied to the prevention of violence, fraud, perjury, and every thing horrifying to the human mind, in the operation of this Bill, because he deemed the adoption of those suggestions necessary for the preservation of the public peace in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had also shown that the population of many of those towns named in the Bill, was not sufficiently wealthy or numerous to entitle them to a Corporation. The very nature of the franchise proved that they were not. He, however, hoped when the details of the measure came to be discussed—that the suggestions which fell from the right hon. Baronet would not be disregarded, and that the peace of Ireland would not be sacrificed by the in- 1103 troduction of a system such as the Bill in its present shape would go to establish.
§ Lord John Russell
I am so perfectly satisfied with the speeches addressed to the House by my right hon. Friends, and they have so fully conveyed my opinions, that I do not consider it necessary to state my reasons for assenting to this plan of reform. I shall only just observe, that if the amendment of the right hon. Baronet be carried, it will be incumbent on us to engage the services of Sir Charles Wetherell, in order to be heard at the Bar of the House against so gross an invasion of rights and property as that which the right hon. Baronet contemplates. So far does the astounding proposition of the right hon. Gentleman exceed any thing ever proposed by us in the way of reform. I shall now state the course proposed to be taken by my right hon. Friend. We propose that the Bill should be road a second time to-night, and go into Committee on Monday next, and I wish to know whether the right hon. Gentleman will embody his proposition in an instruction to the Committee, or whether he will move an amendment in the Committee?
§ Sir Robert Peel
I will state at once that I am desirous to give the House an opportunity of deciding between the two plans submitted to it; and with that view I shall simply move an instruction to the Committee. If the House should negative that, I shall not give the noble Lord much trouble with respect to the details. I will not vote for the second reading of the Bill, though I assent to one of its principles-that on which the extinction of existing abuses is promised, because I totally dissent from the other principle of the Bill; and it appears to me that the best course to ascertain the sense of the House as to the comparative merits of the two measures in this respect, is to move an instruction to the Committee on Monday for the substitution of my proposition in the place of that of the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ The Bill was read a second time.