§ Lord John Russell
then rose and said: I think it will be the most convenient course, in moving the order of the day for taking into consideration the Lords' Amendments to the Bill relating to Municipal Corporations in Ireland, that I should state to the House the view which is taken by his Majesty's Ministers of those amendments, and the motion which will be made by my right hon. Friend, the Attorney-General for Ireland, in proposing the mode in' which the House should consider and deal with those amendments. Sir, I wish to do this without making any remarks which may tend to excite any exasperation upon a subject on which so much interest is felt; but at the same time I must say, that I think I should be deserting my duty if, for the sake of any compliment to the proposals of the other House of Parliament, I were to propose to barter away the privileges of this House, to diminish the rights of any portion of his Majesty's subjects, or to impair, in the least degree, the well-known principles of the Constitution. Sir, we stand upon this subject at present on the defensive. It has been the policy of this House to send 218 up to the other House of Parliament Bills for reforming Municipal Corporations", first in Scotland and afterwards in England. Upon both those Bills some discussions took place. In the latter, many amendments were introduced by the House of Lords, but it seemed to be the general agreement of both Houses, that corporations in themselves promote good government, order, and regularity, in the towns in which they are established, and contribute to the welfare of the country in general. We have proceeded upon the same principles, though without adopting exactly the same provisions, yet with provisions nearly resembling them, in respect to the corporations of Ireland. We sent up to the other House of Parliament a Bill for the regulation of the Municipal Corporations of borough-towns in Ireland. That Bill has been returned to us with the title altered, with the preamble changed; and of a Bill consisting of 140 clauses, 106 have been in substance omitted, eighteen other clauses have been introduced, and of the whole purport and intention of the original Bill, little is to be found in the Bill which is now come down to us. If I wanted any proof of the intention to change the whole frame of our Bill, it stands recorded in the fact, that the other House of Parliament have adopted, upon an instruction to a Committee of the whole House, an alteration which could not be proposed without that instruction, and which instruction had for its object to effect that which this House had already deliberately rejected. Such, I say, is the form in which this Bill is returned to us; and certainly, I must say, if the object was not to attain that cordial harmony between the two Houses of Parliament which we have been told today, it is the desire of the House of Lords to promote, but to sow dissension between us, I should think that there was no more obvious method of effecting it, than to adopt the very proposals which this House had declared to be unpalatable to them, and to alter a Bill which they had sent up in such a manner, as to make it entirely a new Bill, and a new law upon the subject. However, with respect to anything which it is possible for us to propose, as the means by which this Bill may ultimately become law, I was anxious to find some method by which, consistently with precedent and usage, we could say that this Bill might finally receive the sanction of this House. 219 I conceive that, in conformity with our privileges and the recognised rights of this House with respect to Bills which come before us for discussion, there are but three courses which it is possible for this House to adopt. The first is to reject these amendments altogether, with a view to substituting or introducing a new Bill, which should contain the provisions made by the Lords. The second method would be the restoring all the original parts of the Bill, and disagreeing with all the amendments of the Lords; and the third course would be, disagreeing with the greater part of those amendments, and restoring in principle the original intention and spirit of the Bill, but not insisting upon the original forming which those provisions were proposed. Sir, there is a fourth course, which I have not mentioned, because certainly I could not recommend it to the House to adopt, and I think there would be few Members found in the House who would think it conformable with our privileges to agree with. It would be to adopt these amendments at a single sitting, without any previous notice or consideration of them. If we were to do this, we should be surrendering altogether our privileges and due deliberation: and, instead of having a Bill sent from the Lords which we might read a first, a second, and a third time, and then carry into a Committee, where we might examine its provisions in detail, we should then be content to say, that any Bill which is sent up by this House to the Lords, might be totally altered in its provisions, in its nature, in its title, in its intention, and that, with one single reading, and by one motion in this House, we might dispose of the greatest questions which may be involved in any Act of Parliament. I will not be so unmindful, for I think I should be un-mindful of what is due to the privileges of this House, and to its station in this country, to propose so new, so dangerous, and so humiliating a course. I will, now then, take the liberty of reading to the House, before I go into the substance of the amendments made by the House of Lords, a precedent with respect to a Bill which was sent up from this House, at a time when certainly this House was not over anxious either to dispute with the House of Lords or to set up any pretensions dangerous to the other branches of the Legislature. The precedent of which I am going to give an account is one made by the Parliament which sat in 220 1661, of which this description is given by Hume:—The royalists and zealous Churchmen were at present the popular party in the nation, and, seconded by the efforts of the Court, had prevailed in most elections. Not more than fifty-six members of the Presbyterian party had obtained seats in the Lower House, and these were not able either to oppose or retard the measures of the majority. Monarchy, therefore, and episcopacy were now exalted to as great power and splendour as they had lately suffered misery and depression.It was in such a spirit—and after reading this extract from Hume, I need not quote any instances to prove its existence,—but it was in such a spirit that, the House of Commons of that day legislated, anxious by their zeal and by the fervour of their loyalty, to build up what the men of the Commonwealth had destroyed. Sir, this House of Commons, so disposed, having introduced a Bill into this House, which they called a Bill for the well-governing and regulating the corporations of England, sent it up to the House of Lords, where it underwent many alterations. The original Bill was a Bill for the purpose, by means of Commissioners, of displacing from corporations all who belonged to the Presbyterian or Republican party, and to replace them by persons well-affected to the Crown. The Bill was altered in the House of Lords, and, among other things, in this manner. They proposed that the mayor of every town should be named by the Crown every year, out of six persons to be presented by the corporations. They made several other alterations in the details, and as to the nature of corporate powers. The House of Commons took these amendments into consideration, and entered on the journals of the House, that they disagreed with the amendments, and they appointed a Committee to draw up the reasons for their disagreement. The Committee reported several reasons, of which I will quote two or three to the House. The first reason reported by the Solicitor-General of that day, was,Because the Bill for the well-regulation of the corporations placed the government of the towns in the right hands, which by the Bill sent up from the Lords so far from being effected by the amendments, was not so much as thought of, and that in the provisions for the appointment of the mayor and recorder, no care was taken for any other members of the corporations.The seventh reason is, 221Further, the amendments are repugnant to the title of the Bill, which is a Bill for the regulation of corporations, whereas the amendments do either extirpate, or, at least, new create them. The reformation contemplated by the Bill sent up to the Lords was of a temporary nature, and such as was reasonably believed would be agreeable to the times, and suitable to our trust; whereas the amendments made by the Lords were such as would be in no case agreeable to the people, or suitable to, or consonant with, our trust.Now, it is clear from this example of a House of Commons, upon which no imputation can be cast that it wished to overturn the constitution of this realm —it is manifest from this example, that the House of Commons were unwilling to agree to the amendments of the Lords, which completely altered the nature of their Bill, and which they said were "not consonant with their trust." Now, Sir, I hope this House will act at least in the spirit of this Restoration Parliament, and that we shall act in a manner "consonant with our trust," and that, if there is anything in this amended Bill which injures the liberty of the subject, or which destroys the nature of the corporations themselves, that we shall consider whether we, the Commons of England, shall be justified in giving our consent to these amendments. Sir, the result of the conference upon those reasons was, that the House of Lords desired further time to consider the matter. They said, that owing to the thinness of the House they could not then proceed; and the question was, therefore, put off from July to December. In December, the most obnoxious amendments made by the Lords were withheld; some of them were in some parts accepted, and the Bill was finally passed by both Houses. The main purpose for which I have quoted this precedent; is to show that if we are not able to agree to the amendments made by the Lords, we may yet restore in spirit the Bill which we sent up to the Lords, and that we are not obliged, on account of the objections which we may entertain to the extensive nature of the alterations made, to consider that we have before us but one course, namely, to reject those alterations altogether. I will now proceed to state the general effect of the greater part of the proposed amendments. In the first place, and that which is the head and front of the whole matter, the Bill which we sent up to the House of Lords was a Bill for regulating and renewing Corpo- 222 rations in Ireland, but allowing corporations still to subsist as they now subsist in England and Scotland. The House of Lords, on the contrary, have introduced a clause putting an end to the corporations altogether. But in doing this they have taken care—and I think they could little be aware to what extent that care went, —they have taken care, I say, to preserve for their natural lives, to many of the persons who hold offices in these corporations, all the power, all the trust, and all the property which they now enjoy. I thought it was an objection to the Bill as it has come down to us, that it totally abolished corporations. Indeed it is most objectionable in principle, as I shall by and by argue, to abolish these corporations, but it would not be giving a complete, or anything like an accurate notion of this amended Bill, as it is called, to say that it destroys corporations, and puts other powers in their place. It is a Bill to continue for the present generation, under less responsibility, with less restraint than they at present feel in their situations, the persons who hold office in these corporations —which corporations you yourselves declare to be corrupt and indefensible. I will show this to be the effect of some of the clauses that now stand in the Lords' Bill. By the 5th Clause bodies corporate are dissolved, and the power of electing new officers ceases after the first day of January next. By the 12th Clause clerks of the market, weigh masters of all goods, weigh masters of butter, and tasters of butter, are to continue to hold such offices during their lives. In the Bill which was originally printed in the Lords, it was provided, by the same clauses, that those persons who should be named to these places after the passing of the Bill, and before the 1st of January next, should continue in their offices subject to removal at the pleasure of the Lord-Lieutenant. That certainly must have been an oversight, for so gross an opening for jobbing never was made; and that clause, therefore, has been altered so as to prevent persons hereafter coming in to enjoy the same rights as the present holders of those offices enjoy. By the 13th clause town-clerks, bailiffs, treasurers, and chamberlains, with other ministerial, and executive officers of bodies corporate, are to continue to execute their duties until removed by the Commissioners appointed by the Act. By the 14th Clause compensation is extended to the members 223 as well as the officers of any body corporate deprived of their emoluments by the Act. By the 15th Clause pensions and allowances are extended beyond what we originally provided, being made to include annual sums granted in conformity with established usage, and only limited by this, certainly very necessary and useful, proviso at the end, "unless the property of such body corporate shall not be sufficient for the payment thereof." Undoubtedly the person who framed that proviso must have considered that what he had consented to insert in the former part of the clause would probably entirely eat up and destroy the whole property of these corporations; and that in order to take care that these persons should not overrun the country, and make claims upon other funds, he felt it proper to enact that when the whole corporate property was consumed, these persons should have no further claim upon us. By the 19th Clause charitable trusts are vested in the persons who shall, on the 31st of December, have been mayor, aldermen, or members of the governing body. By the 20th Clause trusts, other than charitable trusts, are vested in the same persons; and by the 23d Clause, when any body corporate is part of any other body corporate, their places are to be filled up by these same fortunate mayor, aldermen, and members of the governing body who may be in office just before the 1st of January, 1837. By the 92d Clause, in every town where the town-clerk is now in right of his office clerk of the peace, registrar of the court of record for the trial of civil actions, and clerk to the court of conscience, the person who shall be town-clerk on the 31st of December shall continue to hold these offices. Well, these are the clauses then which provide, not, as I have said, for the extinction of corporations—not for the destruction of those corporations against whom every Member of the other House was so indignant, and which there was no one willing to defend— but for the possession during their lives of these offices, unless they are removed, as some of them may be by a method I shall hereafter mention, to all those persons who may or may not have been in the active exercise of the abuse of the trusts which were vested in them. There is a difference between one or two of these official personages and the others, which I do not well understand; for, by a certain clause, the treasurer may be removed by the 224 Commissioners; while by a former part of the Bill, it would appear, that those fortunate persons who are the clerks of markets, weigh-masters of butter, and tasters of butter, are taken especial care of, are not to be the least injured—nothing is to happen to them; but they are to be preserved until, in the course of nature, they shall fall off. Why, Sir, then the real effect of this Bill is not what we supposed it to be; and those who determined upon the abolition and destruction of corporations, seem to have some faultering in their own purpose. When they came actually to execute this destruction, this abolition, this death to the old and abusive corporations of Ireland, some compunctions came over them; and while they were content to abolish the name, and leave nothing hereafter of the same kind, they took care of the persons who had been the especial friends of those who were now consenting to their destruction. It puts me in. mind of that dying miser of whom we are told by Pope, that the ruling passion, strong in death, would not suffer him to relinquish that which he was too old to retain or to enjoy:—'"I give and I devise (old Euclio said,And sigh'd) my lands and tenements to Ned.'Your money, sir?—'My money, sir! what all!Why—if I must—(then wept) I give it Paul.'The manor, sir?—'The manor! hold (he cried),Not that—I cannot part with that'—and died.'There seems to have been a similar ruling passion operating on the minds of the persons who framed these amendments. Those who made the will, by which they "gave and devised" these corporations, certainly felt so much reluctance to annihilate and destroy all these precious relics—these corporate offices—that even with their dying breath they chose to leave them all by a devise that should preserve them at least during the natural lives of the objects of their bounty. Well, after having taken this care, and made these provisions for the existence and continuance of the present corporate officers, we then come to that which I may call the constructive part of this Bill —very different from our constructive Bill —and the clauses of which are to this effect: —By the 26th clause the Lord-Lieutenant is to appoint five or seven Commissioners to be Commissioners of corporate property: in these Commissioners, by Clause 23, is vested the whole property of corporations. By the 29th Clause they appoint a treasurer. By the 34th Clause they are empowered to bring and defend 225 actions, and compromise and settle accounts. By the 41st Clause they are to pay the salaries of the recorder, judge of the court of conscience, to pay to the Commissioners under 9 Geo.4th, any surplus, and if there shall be any farther surplus, to apply it for the public benefit of the inhabitants of such town. By the 43d clause they may abolish tolls, and by the 45th Clause they may remove any town-clerk, bailiff, treasurer, or chamberlain. By the 6lst Clause the Lord-Lieutenant is to appoint to any office of clerk of the market or taster of butter. Sir, the effect of these clauses is to place in Commissioners, named by the Lord-Lieutenant for Ireland, the whole corporate property of Ireland and the nomination of all corporate officers in that country. And, Sir, I declare at once that I never can agree to such clauses. I consider that the corporations, even in their worst state, are a species of local government which it does not belong, which it ought not to belong, to the supreme executive to supersede. I consider that in their reformed state they are instruments which, by means of popular control, the inhabitants of our towns may manage their own affairs in that way which most concerns them; and I never will agree, admiring the principles of these institutions—admiring the ancient principles of our constitution in its rise and growth, and in what has been done to reform them—to admit this new and despotic principle, connecting with the executive and central government a power which is locally so well and so duly placed. Only let us consider the mischief and injury that must ensue from a Lord-Lieutenant and his Commissioners interfering in every transaction, and in the smallest appointment for regulating the local concerns of a place. Let us consider the clamouring there would be, the favours that would be asked, the jobbing that would be created by placing the nomination of all corporate officers in these Commissioners. And let us consider, further, the great violation that there is in the very principle of placing in these Commissioners the whole property of these corporations, with power to defend and to undertake suits, to arrange disputes, and to settle contests about the rights of property, and to dispose of that property as they shall think fit, with merely the general limitation, that it shall be for the public benefit of the town. Why, Sir, can it be 226 believed that there will not be continual efforts made by the different parties in every one of these towns to obtain the favour of these Commissioners with respect to the manner in which the corporate property shall be disposed of, and with respect to the favours to be granted to one person or the other, not in one place only, but in every town which has corporate property; and not only relating to he property, but to every action in which that property may be concerned—if all these powers shall be confided to a set of Commissioners at the nomination of the Lord-Lieutenant? But, Sir, is it not most objectionable, in principle, that these matters, which have all, hitherto, been treated, and which should be treated, as matters within the cognizance of local bodies, should be placed in the hands of these Commissioners named by the Government? And let me ask, how those who profess to pay so sacred a regard to property,—let me ask, how they can consent that this property, which is altogether to be taken away from these towns, shall be left in the hands, and to the uncontrolled direction, of persons named by the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland as to what manner hereafter that property shall be applied? Therefore, Sir, taking this view of the clauses I have mentioned, it is quite impossible for me to consent to the first part of them, which destroys the corporations, or to the second part of them, which places their property and powers in the hands of the Commissioners; and I shall venture to state to the House in what manner I propose to accomplish that which is necessary, in order to replace the clauses for effecting the real intention of this Bill, to be adopted by the House. I will not propose, for it would be but to lead evidently to the rejection of the Bill—that the whole of the towns now placed under the government of a mayor and council shall hereafter be placed under that species of government. I will not propose that all the clauses which we introduced should be restored; but I will propose that the great towns, which stand in the first and second schedules of the Commons' Bill— schedules A and B—shall be placed in a single schedule, and that the whole of the clauses which have been struck out should be again inserted, with a view of applying them to those towns. There are eleven of these towns—Belfast, Cork, 227 Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Waterford, Clonmel, Drogheda, Londonderry, and Sligo. There is another town, which by reason of being a county of a town I shall propose to place in the same schedule —I mean the town of Carrickfergus. I have next a proposal to make with regard to the towns which are in schedule C. I think it is not advisable to have these towns altogether either under the Municipal Corporations, which you have declared to be defective, or to leave them out of the Bill. I have already declared, that I never will consent to apply to them or to any of the corporate towns in Ireland, those clauses which have been inserted by the Lords, making the Commissioners appointed by the Lord-Lieutenant the sole corporators. It is, therefore, necessary to frame some provision which will not be exactly conformable to our former provisions, but which shall provide means for the purposes of municipal government in these towns. I propose, then, to put into a second schedule all those towns which are important and of considerable size, and also those which possess corporate property of any extent. For wherever there is corporate property to any extent, I think it is the duty of Parliament, having ascertained the abuses in the management of that property, and those abuses having been generally recognised, to provide an immediate remedy. I propose, therefore, that with respect to them, the provisions of the 9th Geo. 4th —provisions with which Gentlemen seemed so much pleased when the question was under deliberation before, should immediately apply to these towns, and that as soon as the Commissioners are chosen by the 5l. householders, so soon all the corporate property, and power to appoint to any necessary office, such as clerk of the market, should belong to these Commissioners. This schedule will contain twenty towns. With respect to the first schedule, it will be a schedule of towns where the 101. householders will have the power of electing the mayor and town-council; and with respect to the second schedule, it will be a schedule of the towns where the 51. householders will elect, but where, instead of electing a mayor and town-council, they will elect Commissioners under the 9th of Geo. 4th. These Commissioners will have the powers of watching, paving, and lighting. But the difference between the proposition now 228 made, and the proposition introduced in the Lords, is, that to these local Commissioners elected by the 51. householders, and therefore elected by the inhabitants, and not to Commissioners nominated by the Lord-Lieutenant, the corporate property will be intrusted. I think I need not dwell upon the very important difference between these two modes of appointment, or trespass long upon the House in order to prove which of these two propositions is most constitutional. These Commissioners will be, at all events, persons having the confidence of their fellow citizens; they will be persons anxious to promote the welfare of the town—they will be persons acquainted with its circumstances, and they will be persons responsible to their fellow citizens. From these Commissioners, in every one of these respects, the Commissioners to be appointed by the Crown, as proposed by the Bill at present, will totally differ. We cannot expect from them the same knowledge of the town—we cannot expect from them the same regard for the interests of the town—and, above all, we have not in them the same responsibility to popular vigilance and control. A third schedule I shall propose will contain all the remaining boroughs from section 2 of schedule C. In the boroughs contained in this third schedule I do not propose that the provisions of the Act of the 9th of Geo. 4th should be immediately adopted, as they are boroughs which possess but little corporate property; and as it may be hereafter found, that it would be better for them not to incur the expense either of Corporations or of Commissioners under the Act of 9th of Geo. 4th: I propose that, with respect to them, the adoption of the provisions of 9th Geo. 4th, shall be voluntary; and if it should subsequently appear to Parliament that they had not adopted the provisions of that Act, and that Corporations in those towns (they having no property to administer, and but few individuals to govern) were not required, I am sure I for one should make no objection, either in the case of Belturbet, or any other town similarly situated, to any proposition for abolishing the Corporation. With respect to any other part of the Bill, I do not think there are many points on which I need occupy the attention of the House. There have been several alterations made by the Lords in those clauses which concern the quarter sessions and the recorder; but although several alterations 229 have been made in those provisions, still the spirit of the Bill is preserved. If there be any differences of opinion on those clauses, they will be merely differences of detail. It was an opinion that the administration of justice by the recorder, should be vested in the appointment of the Crown. That is likewise the opinion of the Lords. They have not agreed that quarter sessions should be held whenever the council think fit to require it; but they have agreed, that there should be recorders named by the Crown, and not by those Corporations. I know not, then, Sir, that I need go further in this general statement than I have done, in pointing out the differences which exist between the Bill which has been sent down to this House by the House of Lords, and the Bill which I propose to send up to the House of Lords for their concurrence. It will be observed that the difference between those two Bills in point of principle—I do not disguise it—is very wide indeed. I do not pretend to say, that I have adopted the principle of the House of Lords. I do not pretend to say, that I have adopted the principle of abolishing Corporations, destroying local governments, and establishing a central government in their places. I think I need not long detain the House with the general reasons which have induced me to prefer the one plan, and not to consent to the other. When Bills were introduced for the Reform of the Corporations of England and Scotland, we did not think it necessary, and right hon. Gentlemen opposite did not think it necessary, for us to enter into the general reasons which induced us to think that Corporations were beneficial, and that if they ought to be reformed, they ought not to be destroyed. If we look to history, we shall find that all the historians, who have written of the transactions of Europe in earlier times, attribute all the civilization, attribute all the wealth, attribute all the good order, attribute all the regularity of our corporate cities, entirely to their municipal institutions. They attribute to them, likewise, the having kept alive and fostered the spirit of civil liberty. Dr. Robertson has many pages of eulogium on Corporations for this reason. It is said by Gibbon "that at the feet of these popular ramparts, the pride of the Csasars was humbled, and the spirit of liberty triumphed over the two greatest monarchs of their age." "It was in those times taken for granted, that any 230 infringement of the rights of Corporations, that any blow to the rights of Corporations, that any destruction of the Corporations themselves, was a blow directed at liberty herself; and when, in later times, we have thought it necessary to propose, that the defects of these Corporations should be remedied, and the principle of popular control introduced, we have had the general concurrence of this House in the opinion that it was desirable to vest these trusts in local bodies, that such a proceeding was conformable to the Constitution of this country, and that we were discharging our duty to our constituents, by doing everything in our power to preserve and maintain them in the chief towns of England. But, Sir, it is not in this country alone that in later times free Corporations have been introduced. I was reading over this morning a decree of the Prussian Government, bearing date in the year 1808, for the introduction of Corporations on a free basis in that country. I regret to have to refer the House to Prussia for a precedent of freedom on this subject, but it is so apt an illustration that I cannot avoid it. The preamble to that decree contained the following passage:—It has been remarked that the citizens do not take interest in concerns which are of importance to them in consequence of the defective arrangements which have hitherto existed in the Corporations and classes of each town. In order to remedy this fault, it has been decided to make new municipal arrangements, of which the principal object is to give an independent constitution to the towns, to create in them a centre of interest to the citizens, and to grant to them a real influence over the administration of the public property, and induce in it a community of action.In conformity with the preamble, so the enactment proceeds on the most liberal basis, with one or two exceptions, which I am informed do not affect the freedom of the towns. With the exception of securing to the Crown the power of refusing its consent to the election of a mayor, if it shall so think fit, and with some other exceptions of the like nature, the decree establishes an independent constitution on the most liberal basis. I said before, that I was sorry to refer to Prussia for a precedent. I repeat it, because I come now to the question whether it be necessary to deny municipal institutions solely for the reason that the country to which it is proposed to apply them is Ireland? There is a sentiment of Mr. Burke's, the passage in which 231 it was delivered I will not pretend to quote, which I am sure every Gentleman who hears me must have in his recollection. In his beautiful speech on the subject of conciliation to America, Mr. Burke said that, "Slavery your colonists can have anywhere, it is a weed that grows in every soil. They may have it from Spain, they may have it from Prussia. But until you become lost to all feeling of your true interest and your true dignity, freedom they can have from none but you. This is the commodity of price of which you have the monopoly." Shall I be reduced to the necessity of reversing the proposition? Shall I be told that municipal freedom may be allowed under a despotic constitution, that it may be encouraged by a Prussian government, but that, in the whole of Ireland, under the free Constitution of Great Britain, it shall not exist? Why, Sir, have Gentlemen seriously reflected upon the proposition which they have come down here to give their votes upon? Have they well considered how deep a wound must be inflicted on Ireland, not merely by the provisions I have detailed to the House, but by the reasons on which it is notorious that they are founded, by the words in which I heard it with my own ears declared, that, "three-fourths of the people of Ireland were aliens in blood, differing in language, differing in religion, and waiting only for a favourable opportunity of throwing off the Government of this country as the yoke of a tyrannical oppressor?" These, Sir, are the words which fell from the lips of one who is supposed, by the public, to be the chief organ in introducing these Amendments of the House of Lords—of one who, but a few months ago, held the high and responsible office of Lord High Chancellor of England. Can it be conceived, Sir, that these enactments, were they far less bitter than they are, were they far less hostile to the spirit of our Constitution, were they far less different from the laws we have adopted in other parts of the United Empire, could be received, founded on such motives, and having such a preamble affixed to them, with any other feelings than those of the deepest indignation? Tell me of speeches made at the Corn Exchange!—tell me of agitation! I tell you that these words, and those enactments which are founded upon them, will tend more to promote agitation—will tend more to prevent tranquillity—and will tend more to keep alive discord, than a thousand 232 such speeches—uttered, it may be, by men who are speaking of impossible and unattainable objects; but speaking, nevertheless, in favour of the extension of the liberties of their country. I tell you that if you consider this Bill with the view of establishing upon it some new law which shall be applicable to Ireland alone, and couple it with such motives, you ill understand the sound policy of Government in attempting the infliction. I will add upon more general grounds, that, having heard what passed in this House, and having attended to much of what passed, or is said to have passed, in the other House of Parliament, I have never heard anything like a plausible reason assigned for making this distinction between the two countries. Differences there are—great and wide differences, I am not the man to dispute their existence; but the question here is simply this—are there such differences in the towns of Ireland as to render them unfit to have popular and municipal Corporations? It is nothing to tell me that there have been dreadful outrages committed in the country parts of Ireland, that trials have taken place which shock the feelings, and that much crime is committed throughout that portion of the empire. I ask, and as I have never heard it stated yet, Task for the sake of information—is it contended that in the towns of Ireland there prevails a greater degree of disorder and a greater unfitness for popular government than exists in other parts of the empire? If it be so, I have not heard it; if it were so, I should very likely say that, in conformity with the examples we have of the early ages of Europe, it is but reasonable to suppose that the introduction of municipal Corporations would be the best remedy for the evil. But is it so? Let any man go over, in his memory, the transactions of the last few years. Which are the towns, where are they situated, in which scenes have taken place of great outrage and calamity? In Dublin, Cork, or Limerick? I recollect one in 1819, in Manchester. I recollect a deplorable scene that occurred in 1831, at Bristol; but I do not think that there has been in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, or any other great town of Ireland, anything resembling scenes like these. If there had been, if Cork had suffered the fate of Bristol, should we not have heard of the danger of extending, and of the dreadful results to be apprehended from the extension of municipal Corporations to such a 233 city? And yet no man contended, no man ever thought of contending, when we had the Municipal Corporation Act under discussion last year, that it ought not to be extended to Bristol on account of the out. rages which had taken place in that city. But I say, on other grounds, give municipal Corporations to those towns in Ireland. Their inhabitants will then busy themselves with their own local concerns. They will learn, if they have not already acquired, the habits and practice of self-government; they will become a model to the rest of Ireland; they will acquire all those means, and pursue all those means of political order, improvement, and embellishment, which make municipal Corporations a blessing and an advantage to all great towns. I say, moreover, give it for another reason, if you have no valid obstacle to bring forward—-give it for the reason that under the present laws and Constitution of this empire, and after the passing of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, you have no right to make a distinction between 16,000,000 of Protestants and 6,000,000 of Roman Catholics, but are bound to unite the whole people under one Government of the same kind, and to treat the inhabitants of Ireland as you would treat the inhabitants of Lancashire or Berkshire. And is it only on the Roman Catholics that this slight and degradation is to be affixed? Is it because you wish to mortify and degrade the Catholics that you deprive the Protestants of Londonderry of their power of electing municipal Magistrates? Are they, too, to be told that they are unfit for, that they must be deprived and suffer the loss of, all the advantages of municipal government, because you wish not to have the appearance of making, while you do in fact make, religious distinctions? Are they to be told, that they, too, must suffer these penalties because they are Irishmen, and because, being Irishmen, they have the misfortune to be fellow-citizens and fellow-countrymen with Roman Catholics? Such, Sir, are the reasons, and such are the grounds on which I shall ask this House to restore the clauses that have been omitted by the Lords. If I want an authority in favour of the general policy of this measure—if I be told, as I was told by my right hon. Friend opposite, the Member for Cumberland (Sir James Graham), on a former occasion, that this was concession, and that we ought not to make concessions, I will 234 examine the question as it was propounded in the year 1829 by a great authority in the other House of Parliament. That authority said—A most reverend Prelate had said last night, that the project of his Majesty's Ministers would not be accomplished; that the Legislature might make large and ample concessions, but that they would fail in the object which they had in view. Now, he saw no ground for indulging in an anticipation of that nature. He would ask why the Legislature had not been able, long before this, to frame efficient laws on this subject? It was because there had been a divided Cabinet; it was because there had been a divided Parliament; it was because there was an unwillingness on the part of Government to exert its power for the purpose of effectually tranquillising Ireland. But now there was a united Cabinet. Let them, then, do that which justice requires. Let the legislative body of the country— let the Government of the country—let all those who had influence in the country—join in one happy union, to accomplish that great object, the tranquillization of Ireland, which he thought concession alone would produce [cheers]; and if they could not effect it by that means, they could have recourse to the exercise of legitimate authority."*These are the opinions which were expressed in 1829 by Lord Lyndhurst, in the House of Lords! And, Sir, when reproach is cast upon the constant repetition of the words "justice for Ireland"—a phrase which the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny is certainly very often in the habit of using, —I think he has very high authority for it in this single sentence of Lord Lyndhurst's,—"Let them do that which justice requires." That, Sir, is in fact the whole of what is demanded. You passed an Act to place the Roman Catholics of this country, with respect to office and power, on a footing with the other subjects of his Majesty. Will you now contend, that three-fourths of the population of the United Kingdom are entitled to the peculiar privileges, and to municipal franchises, because they are Protestants, and that the remaining fourth are not entitled to them, because they are Catholics? If this be your reasoning, if this be your argument, you do not do that which justice requires; you do not act fairly and equally by all parts of the empire, and you cannot expect that this will be in reality an United Kingdom. My right hon. Friend opposite (Sir James Graham) and others, have said that the difference, after* Hansard (New Series) vol. xxi. p, 196.235 all, is not so very great: that they agree with us in the destructive parts of the Bill, and that it is only on the constructive that they differ. Why this is, indeed, the whole difference. I had the honour of being associated with my right hon. Friend in the consideration of that Reform in the representation of the people in this House which we fortunately carried, and when we agreed, without much ado, that a great number of the corrupt boroughs of this country—amounting, I think, to fifty at first—should be destroyed. Suppose if, after agreeing upon this point, and when we came to consider the propriety of the admission of Manchester and Leeds, and other places, to a share in the representation, my right hon. Friend had said, "Here is a very small point upon which I differ from you. We have agreed thus far: I have cordially agreed in the destruction of these boroughs. But I do not like agitation; I am not a friend to popular elections; I think you have done wel1 in destroying the close boroughs, but as to conferring the power of holding popular elections upon Manchester, Bath, or any other large town, there I totally differ from you." Supposing my right hon. Friend had made this declaration, I should have thought that his difference was not one of degree merely, but one which went to the whole principle of the measure. Sir, the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Robert Peel), at a very splendid dinner given to him last year, in a very splendid building, by the Goldsmiths' Company, said, "I think you have done wisely; you have built upon the old foundation." The Goldsmiths' Company were highly gratified with the right hon. Baronet's compliment. But what if the right hon. Baronet had said, "I quite agree with you in the propriety of pulling down your old hall. It was a very unsightly and inconvenient edifice, and you did quite right in pulling it to pieces. I cannot think you have done well, however, in erecting this handsome building. I quite differ from you in that. I think it was a very useless waste of your local revenue, and I cannot help thinking that you would have done much better if you had asked the King's Ministers to take care of your funds, by vesting them in the hands of Commissioners." Undoubtedly, so far from considering this as any great compliment from the right hon. Gentleman, they would have been somewhat 236 astonished at his selecting the very point on which they felt the most pride as the theme of his disapprobation. I therefore, Sir, differ entirely from the assertion, if it be intended to be made again, that there is any small difference, or any difference which ought not to be felt and insisted on, between the construction and reformation which we propose, and the entire destruction of these corporations advocated by the Lords. In the one I see a wide plan, similar to that which Parliament has already adopted in the other parts of the empire, suited to the enlightened principles of the age, fitted to lead to harmony, fitted to produce good local government in Ireland, and to awaken feelings of concord and harmony between that and other parts of the empire. I see in the other a mark of degradation, a wish to create an invidious and cruel distinction—a determination, that the more you seem to place all the King's subjects on an equality in future, the more Ireland shall be viewed with a sort of suspicion approaching to enmity, and placed beyond the pale of remedy or redress. I ask you to adopt a more generous, to adopt a more conciliatory, to adopt what I think the wiser of these two alternatives. Depend upon it that your decision will spread wide abroad, and have a great and a lasting effect. If you mean fairly, really, and justly to consider the people of this United Kingdom as one people, as one people will they stand against their enemies. Then may you say,Sir Romana potens Italâ virtute propago.If you adopt the other course you embark upon one fraught with difficulty and danger. Look around you upon the state of the world, and see how firmly the British empire and the British Constitution stand. Foreign powers in relations of amity, and no fear of an interruption of the general peace: domestic tranquillity established in England and Scotland — the people devoid of the least alarm; destitute of the slightest apprehension; trade and manufactures flourishing; agriculture, I hope, recovering from its late depression; an empire strong in arms, strong in wealth, strong in character, strong, above all, in the reputation of being a free country. To an empire thus blessed and thus favoured, there remains but one point from which danger may arise. Truly was it said, as I see it reported to have been, by an hon. Friend of mine, 237 who for fifty years has sat in this House, and who never acted contrary to his professions or swerved from his avowed principles—truly was it said by him—(the noble Lord referred to Mr. Byng) "You may make Ireland either your weakness or your strength." So say I. If you choose to make her your strength, the whole affairs of the empire stand indissoluble and compact; but if you make her your weakness, you will then have to carry on, if not a struggle against force and physical strength, at all events, in the midst of dissension, and against the most formidable discontent. You will have a large portion, consisting of three-fourths of Ireland, in a state of exasperation and disquiet, and the first cannon-ball fired in Europe will be the signal for retracting all your denials, and making that concession, and doing that justice in your need, which you refused in the hour of your glory and the day of your strength. Then I will say, with pain and with sorrow, that this country is no longer that great country for which I took her, refusing what is plain, obvious, and undeniable justice from ill-founded prejudice, and a determination to keep up disunion and promote discord. The noble Lord concluded by moving that the Lords' amendments be taken into consideration.
§ Lord John Russell
again rose and said, the way in which he proposed the House should proceed, consistently with their usual forms, would be to postpone for the present the two or three first clauses, in which the amendments were not of any vital importance, and apply themselves at once to the fourth Clause, which had been struck out of the Bill. He should therefore move, that the House disagree with the Lords' Amendments to that Clause.
§ Sir William Follett
was anxious to approach this subject with those feelings recommended by the noble Lord who had just sat down, although he did not know why the House, in considering whether they should agree to the Lords' Amendments made in this Bill, important as it might be taken to be, should be so peculiarly called upon to approach the question in a different temper to that in which they were bound to deal with every other subject. With due regard to their privileges he was ready to admit, although he could not think it was at all necessary for the noble Lord to quote precedents from the Jour- 238 nals of 1661, to show that the House of Commons had a right to dissent from amendments made in a bill by the other branch of the Legislature—a precedent, by the way, of which, with all deference to the noble Lord, he could not very well perceive the precise force and application. The noble Lord seemed to hint that "it was not consonant to our trust," in other words, agreeable to the representative constitution, to agree to amendments that went either to extirpate Corporations or create new ones; but the noble Lord should recollect, that at the time to which his precedent referred, the Members of the House of Commons who put that entry on the Journals, were the representatives of those Corporations, and were speaking as trustees for them when they declared, "It is not consonant to our trust to agree to amendments of the other House, the effect of which will be to extirpate or new create those bodies." The intention of the noble Lord, therefore, in reading that precedent, was wholly fallacious—the extract had no application whatever to the present question. Let them look to the position in which they now stood. The noble Lord had reminded them that the amendments of the Lords had carried into effect a resolution which had been moved in that House by his noble Friend, the Member for South Lancashire (Lord F. Egerton), which had been supported by a very large minority, and proceeding on a principle which had again been affirmed by a very considerable minority against the third reading of the Bill. He agreed that the effect of the alterations made in the Lords was to embody in the Bill the instruction so moved by his noble Friend, and supported by a very considerable minority in that House; and they were now to consider whether they should agree to the amendments of the Lords, sanctioning that instruction, approved of by so large a proportion of Members of that House, or disagreeing with those amendments, adopt the proposition of the noble Lord, which he (Sir W. Follett) understood was presented by way of compromise between the two. Before dealing with that proposition of the noble Lord, it was important that the House should fully understand the effect of the Lords' amendments, because he could not admit that the noble Lord, in the statement he had made, had fully or completely laid them before the House. What was the Bill as originally introduced 239 in that House? The Bill, as originally introduced, was a bill for the purpose of abolishing, or, to use the language which the noble Lord quoted from the Journals of the House, for the purpose of extirpating the existing Corporations in Ireland; it was a Bill for abolishing them—for dealing with their property as public property, and then for creating new bodies in the municipal towns in Ireland. Such was the Bill as originally introduced into that House. The minority, who supported his noble Friend's instruction to the Committee, agreed with that part of it which abolished the existing Corporations, and he must be allowed to say, when taunted with being unfriendly to the majority of the people of Ireland, that in the course he had taken he had always been most anxious to see fully carried into effect the principles of the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act, wishing to see every civil disability removed, and the most perfect equality established between Roman Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. He might be mistaken in his apprehensions, but it was because he believed that part of the Bill which went to create new bodies would have the effect of establishing unequal, more formidable, and by no means less dangerous exclusive bodies, that he was induced to give it his opposition. First of all, then, in their amendments the House of Lords had agreed with that part of the Bill which contemplated the abolition of the existing corporations. The noble Lord, however, seemed to say, that the Lords had in some manner preserved the members of the existing Corporations. The noble Lord, he believed, was mistaken. He could find no such provision; in fact, there was no such provision in the Bill. The members of the existing Corporations, with all their rights, privileges, and powers, would cease at once, they could no longer remain members of a corporate body. No doubt certain officers, who would otherwise have been entitled to compensation, but who were not members of the corporate body—persons, for instance, such as those alluded to by the noble Lord, appointed to act as weigh-masters, market-clerks, &c, holding their offices for life, and hating a vested interest in them, had been preserved by the Bill. But the noble Lord must remember, that the compensation clause introduced in the English act with respect to pensions and allowances had been copied into the 240 present Bill; and he did not believe there was any essential alteration. But, without dwelling upon those trivial questions, which were hardly worth discussion, he would come at once to the main principle. To the abolition of the existing Corporations the Lords had agreed—they had agreed completely to remove what had been called one of the great evils of Ireland—exclusive Protestant Corporations, They had agreed to abolish them—they had agreed to treat the property of the Corporations as public property—they had agreed that that property—and here he should not shrink from meeting the noble Lord—they had agreed that that properly should be vested in Commissioners, and be applied for the benefit of the municipal towns of Ireland. On that part of the Bill there was no difference of opinion. The Lords had also adopted that clause in the Bill as it went up from that House, preserving inviolate the rights, property, and privileges of the existing freemen. With respect to the functions of the existing Corporations, he had stated in a former discussion on this subject, and he challenged right hon. Gentlemen opposite to contradict him when he repeated, that the present bodies in Ireland exercised no power whatever but that of the administration of justice. Political power had been taken from them—they had no control in municipal arrangements, the watching, paving, cleansing, or lighting of the towns, nothing that was ordinarily called municipal power; but they did exercise the functions of justices of the peace, they appointed the sheriffs, magistrates, and coroners. What did the Bill propose with respect to them? The Bill, as sent up from that House, vested in the Lord-Lieutenant or in the Crown the appointment of the magistrates—it vested in the Lord-Lieutenant or in the Crown the appointment of sheriffs in counties of towns, and cities in Ireland, and left the appointment of coroner, also a most important officer, to the nomination of the town-council; by the Bill, as it came from the Lords, it was provided that the coroner, sheriffs, justices, and judges of the local courts should all be appointed by the Crown. The Bill as it went up, and the Bill as it came down, from the Lords, agreed in this—that in both they proceeded upon a different principle from that of the English Bill; both proceeded on the assumption, that at least as regards the 241 administration of justice, there was something in the present state of society in Ireland which called for a different mode of legislation from that which had been adopted towards England. That was the principle of the Bill as it left that House; the Lords had adopted it, both proceeding on the same foundation, that the administration of justice should be taken from those bodies and vested in the Crown. The noble Lord had spoken most eloquently of the great use of Corporations to the cause of civil and religious liberty in different periods of the history of this country, and he could very well understand, that in a savage state of society, or just emerging into civilization—he was not speaking of the present state of Ireland, but of the times when Corporations might be said to have been of service to the cause of civil liberty and social improvement— at such a time, when it was found necessary to increase the power of towns against the encroachments of the barons, such institutions might have preserved liberty, and effected all the good attributed to them by historians; but it did not follow that, at the present moment, when liberty was so widely spread in this country and in Ireland, municipal institutions, as they were called, but which were institutions in reality of a totally different character, were at all necessary or likely to be productive of local advantage. If he were told, that the principal towns of England were indebted to the existence of their Corporations for the prosperity they had attained, he should like to know where was the difference between those towns which possessed them and those which had them not? What would they say to Manchester and Birmingham? Could they tell any difference in local government between Westminster, bordering as it did on the city of London, with its popular Corporation, or Marylebone and Finsbury? He did not think the prosperity of the Irish towns at all depended, with respect to good government, on their enjoyment of municipal institutions; if he thought so, he would at once vote for them. The Bill, he believed, was altogether fallacious; it would effect no good whatever, either locally in the different towns, or as regarded the general prosperity of Ireland. What had the Lords done with respect to the municipal functions now exercised in those towns? They had let them, not in. the hands of the 242 existing Corporations, for they were abolished; they had left them under the control of the local boards appointed by local acts of Parliament, which, according to the testimony of all parties, had worked so well in the great towns of Ireland. The municipal affairs of towns—the watching, paving, cleansing, lighting, everything connected with the municipal regulation of towns, had been admirably conducted by those local boards, which had never been converted, and were in no danger of being converted, into theatres of political contention; the Lords, therefore, had left those matters to be provided for under the 9th George 4th, and under particular local acts. There was another point to which he would address himself—the property of the old Corporations, for they were dealing, first of all, with the necessity of creating new bodies, the propriety of creating them, and the advantage they would produce in Ireland. There was considerable difficulty about the property of those Corporations; but both sides of that House and the House of Lords proceeded on the principle that that property was to be dealt with as public property. They had so dealt with it in the Bill as sent up from that House; they had taken it from the Corporations, put it under control, prevented its alienation, provided against advowsons being sold, and vested it in a new body, to be elected in some cases by the 5l., in others by the 10l. householders. How did the Lords propose to deal with it? The noble Lord opposite certainly proceeded on the assumption, that the Commissioners appointed under the Lords' amendments would have the complete control over the corporation property, checked only by the words, "to be applied to public purposes." But that was not so. By the Bill, the Commissioners had no such power. There were other checks provided besides the general words alluded to by the noble Lord. The amendments did this—they vested in Commissioners, to be appointed by the Crown, the property of the corporation; but directed, at the same time, that the whole of the income of that property should be applied in the first place to pay the salaries of the recorder and judges of the local courts, and that the remainder should be given to trustees under local acts, or where local acts did not exist to trustees under the 9th George 4th., where that Act had been adopted. How, then, could the 243 property of these corporations be misappropriated? The Commissioners were confined by the Act—they could not spend one penny of it beyond satisfying the salaries of the recorder and the judges of the local courts, and all that might remain would go under the local acts, or the 9th George 4th to trustees, and in aid of the rates; so that, in fact, the Commissioners possessed no such discretion, and could give occasion to no such jobbing as had been represented by the noble Lord. The expenditure of the money was still vested in trustees under local Acts of Parliament, or, where the 9th of George 4th existed, in the Commissioners under that Act. It was only in those towns in Ireland where there happened to be no local boards, or where the 9th of George 4th had not been adopted—it was only in such cases that the Commissioners had any discretion at all. Now, it so happened that every one of the eleven towns enumerated in the schedule by the noble Lord had local boards. Others had adopted the statute 9th of George 4th: but there was, he believed, no town in Ireland with property of any amount which had not some local board, to which the Commissioners would be obliged to hand over the corporate property; indeed, this might be done in every town, because, as the law now stood, by adopting the provisions of the 9th of George 4th, and electing Commissioners by the 5l. householders, the Commissioners under the present Act would be bound to give up the whole property to the trustees to be added to the rates. But there was another species of property to which the noble Lord did not allude, and with respect to which, as public property, what the amendments of the Lords proposed would be of very considerable advantage—he meant the tolls. If vested in towns for their benefit, he was convinced every town in Ireland would be greatly advantaged by the abolition of tolls on goods brought into the town. That was a suggestion in the Report on which the Lords had acted, and abolished tolls. The noble Lord had stated, that the Bill, by the amendments introduced, had been altogether disfigured and destroyed, there being out of 118 clauses 104 essentially changed; but the fact was, the Lords had made no alteration in the Bill but what was necessary for the purpose of vesting the property of the Corporations in the Commissioners, and regulating its disposal. It would not do, therefore, to appeal to that House, as they might to a popular assembly in 244 Finsbury, and ask how they should treat a Bill which had undergone so much mutilation. All parties agreed in this, that the existing Corporations should be abolished; but they did not agree as to the formation of the new bodies. That was the question on which the House had now to decide. He would not fatigue the House by going over all the reasons and arguments which induced him to think that acceding to the Lords' amendments would be the most advisable course for the House to adopt; but one thing, at all events, was perfectly clear,—there was no necessity, as far as regarded the local government of towns, and the administration of justice in them, for the creation of those new bodies. They were not wanted for the purposes of municipal government, and if wanted at all, it could only be for some other purposes. The noble Lord had said, he did not propose that the House should insist on the Bill as originally sent up to the Lords, not having any hope that it would pass in such a shape; but he proposed, as far as could be collected from the noble Lord's speech, something which probably might be agreed to by way of compromise. Now, if the compromise offered by the noble Lord did not essentially differ in principle from the amendments made in the other House, he should most cordially have coincided with the noble Lord in the hope he expressed that the Lords would immediately accede to it; but when he found that the proposition of the noble Lord could not be assented to either by hon. Members on that (the opposition) side of the House, or by those of the other House, who had taken the same view of the present question without involving on their part a complete sacrifice of principle, and a total abandonment of the ground which they originally took when the matter was formerly before the House, he told the noble Lord it was quite impossible to expect that what the noble Lord offered as a compromise could be accepted. The noble Lord had found fault with the other branch of the Legislature, and called upon that House to assert its dignity, because the Lords had, in fact, sanctioned the proposal which had been supported by a considerable minority in that House; and yet, by way of what he called compromise, he proposed that instead of having Corporations in all towns, many exceedingly small, with no property, twelve of the largest towns in Ireland should be selected, the noble Lord presuming that the Lords would agree to that proposition, 245 although it had been already discussed with reference only to seven of the towns, and negatived by a very large majority of the Peers. What sort of a compromise was that? The Lords had rejected the proposition to confine Municipal Corporations to seven of the largest towns in Ireland, and by way of compromise, the noble Lord now proposed to give Municipal Corporations. It was a most extraordinary mode of making a compromise certainly, and seemed to him not at all to meet the difficulty of the case. On what ground did they object to the creation of these new bodies? Because they were useless for municipal purposes, and would form local schools of agitation in every town in Ireland, which, communicating with each other, and with a similar institution in the capital, must be productive of the greatest mischief to the peace and tranquillity of Ireland. And if it were said, they excluded the small towns, still they would create those normal schools of peaceful agitation, of which so much had been said, in the larger towns. That was the first step of the compromise. The next was, that they were to take the twelve great towns and give them Corporations, exactly as specified in this Bill. Then, as he understood the noble Lord, they were to take twenty-two towns, on which they were to render it imperative to adopt the provisions of the 9th George 4th. He believed he had understood the noble Lord correctly, when he said, it would be imperative on the inhabitants of these towns to accept the provisions of that Act, and then, that all their corporate powers and privileges would be handed over to the Commissioners. Was the House aware, he would ask, of the regulations of the Statute of the 9th George 4th, of the mode in which that Act could be introduced into Ireland, or of the mode by which taxation should be regulated under it? It could not now be introduced into any town in Ireland, except on the requisition of twenty-one inhabitants, who were, at the same time, householders to the value of 20l. It was they who should put the Act in motion; and upon an application by them to the Lord-Lieutenant, he might direct a meeting of that portion of the inhabitants which consisted of 20l.householders, a majority of whom could decide whether they should adopt or reject the Act; and if rejected, it could not, under the Act, be 246 again introduced. The power of accepting the Bill now rested with the 20l. householders. If accepted, the Commissioners appointed under it had the power of imposing a rate of a different nature from the rates imposed in this country; it was a graduated rate. Persons occupying a house of a certain extent, to pay 1s.; of a less extent, to pay less; and so on, to a rate of 6d. in the pound. That was the Statute of 9th George 4th. A similar Act had been passed with regard to England —viz., an Act to make provision for "lighting, watching, cleansing, and paying;" but in the same way it could not be put in force without this check—without, in fact, a still further check, for it required the inhabitants to vote according to the terms of the Vestry Act; so that, unless three-fourths of the inhabitants so assembled agreed to adopt it, that Act could not be introduced. It was now proposed to force the inhabitants of seventeen or eighteen towns in Ireland to take the Act of the 9th George 4th. The Commissioners under it were then to have the whole of the corporation property under their control, and to have the power of imposing this graduated rate. In what, then, did the difference consist? They were to be elected by 5l. householders, were to have the whole power of appointing officers, &c.; they were to form a body by the 9th George 4th, and if they were to be forced upon the inhabitants of those towns by this Bill, there would, he contended, be the same evil existing, and to the same extent, as under the present system. He must say, for himself, that the fact of the view he had originally taken upon this question having come down from the other House of Parliament, sanctioned by a large majority of that House, was, in his mind at least, an additional reason why he should not depart from it. The noble Lord had complained that parts of his Bill had been omitted. Certainly, all the clauses (some fifty or sixty clauses) which related to the mode in which burgesses were to be constituted, to the construction of polling, to the appointment of revising barristers, had been expunged. Now he would ask, if they were discussing the question for the first time, and if the Bill had not come down from the House of Lords in its present shape, he would fearlessly ask, could it be likely, in the present state of Ireland, no matter what might be its laws, but seeing the great 247 bulk of the population arrayed against the property of the country,—was it likely, he would ask, that the peace, the tranquillity of Ireland, could be promoted by having these annual elections—by having, in fact, the whole theory of election reopened every year? He was not speaking of the effect of the creation of those bodies after they should have been called into existence, or of the probable mode in which they might be conducted, but of the very elections themselves, and whether in the present state of Ireland they would be likely to tend to its peace or happiness. And let it not be forgotten, that this Bill, the preamble of which the noble Lord complained had been altered, was introduced for the purpose of securing the tranquillity and better government of Ireland. Would it effect that? Well, during the discussion in that House he had heard hon. Members say, that those who opposed it were offering an insult to Ireland. ["Hear," from Mr. O'Connell.] The hon. and learned Gentleman, he supposed, meant to confirm that assertion, but he could assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that he would be the last person to offer insult to the people of that country. He might have taken a mistaken view on the subject, but he was not by any means satisfied that the mode in which those who called themselves her friends—that the mode in which they acted towards the inhabitants of that country, was at all likely to tend either to the prosperity of the country itself, or to the happiness of the people. ["Hear," from Mr. O'Connell.] The hon. and learned Gentleman cheered him when he said he did not believe that those could be the real friends of Ireland who acted as the hon. and learned Gentleman had acted in reference to the starving population of Ireland—who could tell the House that there were 2,000,000 of people in that country in an actual state of starvation, and who, at the same time, would do nothing to elevate or better their condition —who would do nothing to give them food, but whose course, in his humble judgment, must have the effect of preventing what was so anxiously to be wished for in Ireland—commercial and agricultural prosperity. The hon. and learned Gentleman had drawn a contrast between Ireland and Scotland, and the noble Lord opposite had asked, were they to make a difference between them? Now, he was 248 afraid the contrast was too great to admit of the conclusion that had been come to by the hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord. He would ask, was it to "schools of agitation "that Scotland was indebted for her prosperity? [Mr. O'Connell: "Yes."] Was it through the exercise of these schools of agitation she was enabled to "crowd her estuaries with ships?"—to "beautify and enrich her towns?"—and to place her commerce and manufactures upon an equality with the manufactures and commerce of England?" Or was it, as the hon. and learned Gentleman had also said, to the abolition of episcopacy— to the destruction of the Episcopal Church in Scotland by the broad-sword of the Scottish people, that that country owed her present prosperous condition? He would ask, too, was it owing to her having had the same institutions and the same laws as this country! Certainly not. She had not the same laws or institutions, and yet how was it that she had advanced? [Mr. O'Connell: She has no tithes!] Tithes! Had they no tithes in England? —ay, and in Scotland too! But he would ask, was not her prosperity owing to this—was it not owing to the energies and the spirit of her people having been directed to make the most of those advantages which her union with this country had given her? When the first burst of national discontent had passed away, was it not into that channel the energies of her people had been directed? He should therefore attribute the prosperity of Scotland, not to schools of agitation, but to her ready obedience to the laws, to her fidelity to the throne, and to the safety thereby guaranteed to life, to property, and to capital. And why was it that Ireland did not enjoy these advantages? Was there any commercial restriction upon the trade of, Ireland now? Had she not for many years been upon the same footing with England and Scotland? Had she not the vast dominions of Great Britain open to her? How was it, then, that capital was not employed in Ireland in giving to that country a full share of the commercial advantages of England and Scotland. He would ask those who pretended to be the friends of Ireland—and when he used this expression, he did so in reference to the taunt which had been thrown out against him, in being called her enemy, for his view of friendship to Ireland was wholly different from the view 249 of those to whom he alluded; for example, when he asked those who taught, he should say who misled, the people of Ireland and them, he would ask what benefit could arise to the people by inducing them to believe that any disobedience to the laws, whether organized or not—that any agitation, even though it should lead to the abolition of tithes, to the establishment of municipal institutions, or to the supremacy of the Catholic Church itself, could produce that prosperity which another country had arrived at by a far different course? Neither agitation nor disobedience to the law could benefit the people of Ireland. He objected, then, to the noble Lord's compromise, because he believed it would put fresh instruments of agitation and disturbance into the hands of the agitators of the country,—because he believed it would establish a system calculated to keep up that spirit of insubordination in Ireland, which, while it existed, must for ever preclude all hope to see commerce flourish in the country; and because he believed that those institutions, instead of having the effect which the noble Lord had eloquently described, would, in the words of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny himself, turn out to be mere schools of agitation, than which he could not conceive anything more prejudicial to the happiness or prosperity of Ireland. He had been led by the taunt of the hon. and learned Member from the course of observation which he meant to have taken, and he had now only to state, which he did most conscientiously, that he had no wish whatever to offer insult to the people of Ireland, or indeed to any portion of his fellow-countrymen; he had no other motive, and he believed the minority with which he had voted on this subject, and the large majority in the other House, had no other motive in the rejection of a portion of the noble Lord's Bill, than that of conferring a benefit upon the people of Ireland, by saving them from the evils to which he had just adverted. For the same reason should he vote against the proposition which he understood to have been made by the noble Lord—namely, to reinsert the 4th Clause. To the minor points, such as the appointment of weigh-masters and other officers to which the noble Lord had adverted, he should offer no opposition, but from the great principle which the clause 250 involved he certainly dissented, because he believed it would have a most injurious tendency. He did not think the propositions of his Majesty's Ministers likely to carry into effect the objects which they professed—namely, the removal of existing evils, and the introduction of tranquillity and peace. On the contrary, he was certain that the bringing forward this measure, the discussions which had arisen upon it, ay, and the passing of it, should it be so, would only have the effect of irritating and increasing those evils. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite supported this Bill in its original form, because he said it would be giving justice to the people of Ireland, and he opposed it, because he conceived it must unavoidably tend to their unhappiness. He should, therefore, give his most cordial support to the amendments of the Lords. He should have supported these amendments, even if they had not been sanctioned by the other branch of the Legislature; but having been so sanctioned, the respect which he felt bound to pay to the opinions of their Lordships operated as an additional reason in their favour. He did not agree with those who called on the House to stand on their privileges, because the Lords had dissented from a measure sent up to them. It was true they had privileges; but so had the House of Lords. The Lords had a right to make amendments in a Bill, as well as the Commons; they had made amendments in this measure; these amendments had been confirmed by the previously expressed opinion of a very large minority of the Members of that House; the amendments thus made were at the least entitled to respectful consideration, and to him they became an additional reason for again taking the same course which he adopted when this Bill was first proposed.
said, that in whatever terms the arguments upon which the Lords' amendments were founded might be conveyed—and the more soothing the language employed the more humiliating it was— the substance of that reasoning was, that Irishmen were unfitted to enjoy the same rights and privileges as Englishmen and Scotchmen. The point in debate was not whether municipal institutions were or were not the best instruments for securing the well-being of local communities—that question had been by the British Parlia- 251 ment already determined—it had been determined that good corporate self-government, under a system of responsibility to the people, was a blessing to the towns of England and Scotland. The question tonight in debate was, whether there was anything in the circumstances of Ireland, or in the character of her people, which disqualified them from enjoying that blessing—from partaking in those rights. For himself, for his countrymen, he indignantly denied the existence of any such disqualification. Into the House of Commons he entered as their equal, and their equal he claimed to be in his own native land. If he were unfit to perform the duties of a town-councillor in the town in which he might reside in Ireland, still more unfit was he to be sent as a delegate to the great council of the empire. If those who had sent him to Parliament were unfit to choose a representative to manage the petty concerns of their own locality, still more were they unfit to appoint representatives in whose hands might hang the balance of the great parties which divide this kingdom on whose decision might rest the spirit and the character of the measures by which this great empire was to be governed. If the House of Commons, by acceding to the amendments of the Lords, were to admit this principle of disqualification, if they were to affix to the representatives of Ireland the brand of degradation, he saw not what would remain to every man of independent spirit, but to return home to his country, to refuse altogether English legislation, and to seek the dissolution of an union from which England reaped all the advantage, but which to Ireland brought nothing but derision, oppression, and disgrace. But happily they were not brought to such an alternative; neither the House of Commons nor the people of England would sanction this principle, and from the injustice of one House; he would with confidence appeal to the justice of the other. He would with confidence appeal to the sympathy of the people of England— and he trusted that if the accommodation now proposed was rejected by the other House, Government would not lose a week in making such an appeal, by a dissolution of Parliament—in order that it might be fairly seen whether the people of England would range themselves upon the side of those who sought to maintain the union of the two kingdoms by the powerful bond of equal laws—equal rights—reciprocal interest—mutual affection—or on the side of 252 those who would dissociate the two countries in feeling and legislation, by infusing into the mind of one country suspicion and distrust, into the mind of the other a galling sense of oppression and its accompanying sentiments of indignation and hatred. It was said, these amendments were framed with the view of protecting the Protestants of Ireland from exclusion, and by way of preventing the Catholics from excluding the Protestants from participation in corporate government. The Lords said, we will exclude you ourselves. As a Protestant he was as such excluded by the Bill of the Lords from the management of those local concerns in which he was as interested as if he were a Catholic. And there was this peculiar acerbity in his position, whether Protestant or Catholic, that if he went to reside in any town in England or Scotland, he was eligible to all those municipal offices which in his own county he was declared unworthy to undertake. The apprehension of exclusion of Protestants was founded upon a false view of the state of society in Ireland. All recent experience showed that in the struggles of party in that country, the question was not whether a man was Catholic or Protestant; but whether he was Liberal or Conservative; and if any party should exist in the municipal elections, which he very much doubted, they would be those of Liberals and Conservatives, and those of Protestants and Papists. But, supposing that the latter should be the case, would it be worse than the struggle between Churchmen and Dissenters in the towns of England? Such an argument as that he was combating was a mere pretext, and if it could apply at all, it applied to the towns in England and to the Churchmen and Dissenters, with quite as much force as to the towns of Ireland and to Protestants and Catholics. Then it was said that these corporations would become normal schools of agitation. And what was the remedy? Why, they had converted the whole of Ireland into one great school of agitation, and such it would continue as long as Ireland was denied the advantage of equal laws, and similar rights. In this school who were now the teachers? Men of property, of rank, of station, of intelligence—men deeply interested in the maintenance of order, but who were also nobly jealous of the honour and the interests of their country. And who were their disciples? The universal people of Ireland. But neither the experience of history nor the suggestions of a sound philosophy would 253 justify the view of agitation which was taken by the opposite party—agitation never was, nor ever could be the mere creature of one individual or set of individuals. For discontent and turbulence there existed in Ireland but one real cause —misgovernment. Remove the cause, the effect would cease. But if unhappily that should be found a difficult task in a country where there was such a mass of wretchedness to contend with, and to retrace so long a career of unjust legislation, he would maintain that it was much safer that discontent should find its legitimate expression, through the means of these corporate bodies, than that it should display itself in a more irregular form, and in a manner inconsistent with the peace and order of society. If a grievance existed in Glasgow or Liverpool, who could so properly communicate that grievance by their strong remonstrances as the local representatives chosen to manage the concerns of the town and to watch over its interests? There was one part of the argument of the opposite party which to his mind was peculiarly humiliating— namely, that in which they contended that this measure would weaken the British dominion in Ireland. They spoke of Ireland as a conquered country—a subordinate portion, not as an equal incorporated part of the United Kingdom. Now whatever other demerits the treaty of Union might have had, at least on that occasion the Irish Parliament approached the consideration of this international compact in an erect attitude, on a footing of the most perfect equality with England, and he had yet to learn that Ireland was so much fallen in power, in resources, in moral influence, in its present, compared with its past condition, that it was to be treated with less respect now than at the time of the Union, and he would tell the House that if they had no better security for the maintenance of the Union than British power, it would indeed be of short duration. The true and only bond of union between the two countries was reciprocal interest, strengthened by mutual attachment, and if once those links were broken, if once the people of Ireland were convinced that they had ceased to have a common interest with England—if offering affection and esteem they met with repulse and contempt, the bond between the two countries might be riven asunder in a moment. He thought it a matter of perfect indifference whether to such towns as Belturbet and Middleton, corporations were conceded; but to deprive 254 the second class towns of Ireland of corporations appeared to him to withhold from them a great good. Inasmuch, however, as the measure proposed by the noble Lords fully recognised the principle of corporate responsible government—inasmuch as it vindicated the right of the people of Ireland to equal franchises with other British subjects—inasmuch as it wiped out the insulting stain which had been impressed on the former Bill by the Lords, he was not prepared to withhold from it his support. If this Bill, however, should be rejected, it was impossible not to foresee the inevitable consequence—and if foreseen they ought to be duly weighed and timely conceded. It was impossible that things could remain in their present situation. In the continued differences of opinion between the two Houses of Parliament all legislation was suspended. If the conduct of the Lords upon a series of Irish questions were such as was wholly incompatible with order or good government in Ireland—if it brought to himself personal degradation, and to his country national dishonour, he should be compelled to make his election between interests which ought never to be brought into conflict with each other; and in such an event he could not prefer the maintenance of irresponsible power, in the hands of a few individuals, to the rights and the interests of his country.
§ Mr. Ewart
said, he had been, as every Member of the House must have been, both surprised and delighted by the dexterity which had marked the arguments of the hon. and learned Member for Exeter, and the elegance of the phraseology by which he had enforced them. But acute as all the special pleading of the hon. and learned Member had been, he (Mr. Ewart) had looked in vain throughout the whole of his speech for an answer to the great argument which had been brought forward by the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department—viz., that by adopting the course of legislation proposed by the Lords, you were producing gross inequality between the two nations, whereas the basis of the Union between the two countries was perfect equality. The hon. and learned Gentleman had, indeed, said, that by granting Corporations to Ireland you would make them exclusive Corporations. And he said so, because the great majority of the inhabitants of Ireland were of the Roman Catholic persuasion. Why, in a nation, in which out of 7,000,000 of people 6,000,000 were Catholics (even supposing 255 that the effect of granting Corporations to Ireland would be to make every Corporation exclusively Catholic), could it, with any show of reason, be said, that those Corporations were exclusive? It might just as well be said, that in England the Corporations were exclusive, because an immense majority of the members of those Corporations were of the Protestant religion. In the town, for instance, which he had the honour to represent (Liverpool), the great majority of the inhabitants were Protestants; only about one-fourth being of the Catholic religion. Yet had it ever been brought forward as an argument why Liverpool should not have a Corporation, that the effect of giving that town a Corporation would be (as it certainly had been) to make it exclusive? exclusive, i.e. of the minority. With how much less force, then, could that argument be applied to Ireland, where so vast a majority were of the Catholic religion. The hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Exeter, had stated in the course of his speech, that Municipal Corporations were very fitted to act in barbarous times, as a barrier between the Monarch and the people; that they had been very beneficial at the period in which they were introduced into Ireland, as protecting the people against baronial encroachments, but that they were not required in this more civilized and enlightened age. Whether or no there might not even now be some need of protection for the Irish people against "baronial encroachments," he (Mr. Ewart) would not take it upon himself to determine; but this he would ask the hon. and learned Member for Exeter, whether Prussia, when she chose to confer, at no earlier a period than the year 1808, the benefits of Municipal Institutions upon her people, was a barbarous or an enlightened nation? And the same question might be asked as regarded France. But in truth there was no necessity to travel so far to prove the fallacy of this argument. Why, if it were a sound and statesmanlike argument, why was it not used by hon. Gentlemen opposite when new Municipal Corporations were about to be conferred upon England, and when they were about to be re-introduced into Scotland? Were either of these countries more uncivilized than Ireland? And what consistency was there, then, in the argument of the hon. and learned Gentlemen, which would give the civilized and enlightened country the benefits of Corporations, and, at the same time deny those 256 benefits to the country, the inhabitants of which were still in a great measure uncivilized, rude, and uninstructed? The hon. and learned Gentleman had contended that there was no necessity for Corporations in Ireland for the purposes of civil government, or for the administration of justice; and he dwelt particularly upon the latter. But he never reflected that Municipal Institutions were not required merely as instruments of police. They might be applied to the attainment of many other equally and more beneficial objects;—to the instruction of the people, the encouragement of knowledge and the arts among the people; in short, they might be useful in a thousand, though not at first sight obvious ways, in promoting the welfare of the people. He believed that Corporations had been already in England productive of an incalculable amount of good, and could he, as a friend to Ireland, refuse to grant them to such cities as Dublin, Limerick, Cork, and Belfast? He could not help remarking upon the situation in which by supporting, through the various shapes it had assumed, the proposition that Corporations were unnecessary, and should not be granted to Ireland, the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, had placed himself. He could not refrain from respectfully observing, that having now advocated a different system of legislation for the different portions of this empire, history would point to him as having, in 1829, recognized a principle which he had abandoned in 1835. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would, by the plan which they were now advocating, deprive the people of Ireland of the means of political education. They had already given them the right of electing Members of Parliament; they would now refuse them the best means of instruction in exercise of their political franchise. Municipal Corporations would supply the best possible schools in which to study the principles of government; and by acquiring a knowledge of those principles in the management of their own local concerns, men would be fitted to exercise the franchise with which the Legislature had invested them, for the general government of their country. Besides which, the result of his (Mr. Ewart's) experience led him to believe, that the men who were accustomed to the administration of the local concerns of their Municipal Institutions were most likely to be orderly and useful members of society. But if hon. Gentlemen opposite could not be in- 257 fluenced by a sense of duty, or by feelings of justice to Ireland, he (Mr. Ewart) would ask them, whether by refusing Corporations to Ireland, instead of merely having normal schools for peaceful agitation, "they would not turn Ireland, from one end to the other, into one vast university of agitation?"—He asked those orthodox agitators who opposed the measure of Government, whether, in doing all they could to produce such a state of things, they were consulting the interests of Ireland,—the interests of Great Britain? They were in so doing acting as the enemies both of the people and the Crown,—for it never could be the interest of the Sovereign of these realms that gross inequality should exist among his subjects. What ground had the hon. Members opposite for the scheme they proposed as a substitute for Municipal Corporations in Ireland. What ground could they produce for acting in regard to Ireland upon different principles from those on which almost every other Government in Europe acted. He (Mr. Ewart) could tell them, that in demolishing Corporations in Ireland, they would be following the example of Napoleon Buonaparte alone; for when he stepped from the First Consulship to the empire, his first act was the suppression of Municipalities throughout France. He (Mr. Ewart) congratulated hon. Members opposite on the admirable precedent they could point to in their favour. Would the course proposed to be taken by hon. Members opposite be favourable to the stability of the other House of Parliament? In his conscience he believed that if any question was likely to shake to its foundation that House, it was the question whether or not Ireland was to have Municipal Institutions analogous to those of England and Scotland. A country already so agitated by intestine divisions, was not, in his opinion, likely to be soothed by the refusal of a just concession. And if the agitation which would ensue upon that refusal, should lead to the agitation of another question which would strike at the very existence of the other House of Legislature, those hon. Gentlemen, themselves, would be answerable for all the unfortunate events which the agitation of such a subject might produce who had provoked its discussion, by denying justice to Ireland, and on their heads would rest the responsibility of having, by refusing equality in Municipal Institutions to Ireland, kindled a flame, which might not only put an end to all peace of society in that country, 258 but might end in destroying the integrity of the British Legislature itself. He (Mr. Ewart) believed that the people of England and Scotland would respond to the noble and eloquent appeal of the noble Leader of the Government in that House; at the same time he was glad to see combined with the manly assertion of the principles on which Ireland ought to be governed that dignity and calmness which should be inseparable from all the proceedings of that House. He felt convinced that the people, not only of Ireland, but of England and Scotland, would support the Government in their refusal to participate in the system of legislation, with respect to Ireland, proposed by the House of Lords; and that if an appeal were made to the people, the result would be strongly in their favour, and he believed, that not only the present generation, but posterity would condemn the unequal and unjust principles of Government, adopted by the other House of Parliament.
§ Colonel Conolly
said, that the manner in which the Gentlemen on that side of the House, from which the hon. Member who had just sat down had spoken, conducted themselves in this debate, seemed to show that they were disposed not to take any notice of the real merits of the question, but to content themselves with stamping hon. Gentlemen on his side with unfair, illiberal, unjust, and unjustifiable motives. Hon. Members had talked a great deal about the dignity of the House, but he could not understand how that dignity was in the slightest degree preserved by applying to hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House such contumelious terms as "Orthodox Protestant agitators." That was as unfortunate an expression as ever escaped from the mouth of any man; indeed, it was difficult to know what they meant. He could not understand how the term "agitation" could be correctly applied to the course of conduct, or the style of language, of any hon. Member on his side of the House. They had only complained of the dangerous course of agitation pursued in Ireland, and were anxious to prevent fresh power being put into the hands of one for whom it was intended. The object of the measure, he contended, was to strengthen the hands of that individual. The hon. Member had characterized the old Corporations as the greatest nuisances, and now that both Houses of Parliament had agreed to abolish them, 259 he objected to the very position he had before laid down. But if those Corporations were nuisances, and useless, as not only had the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny, but many hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, asserted, would it be desirable, considering the peace and welfare of the country, to renew those institutions. Hon. Members on his side of the House had made a considerable sacrifice, in which the Lords had agreed, in surrendering the Protestant ascendancy of those Corporations; they had deprived them of their exclusive character, and should they now invest them with it again? Could any Irishman say, that it would have any other effect than that of strengthening agitation. Was such a Course likely to produce the least good effect? During the recent Parliamentary recess this question had been industriously agitated in Ireland, and he had heard even of a learned Sergeant attending a meeting in Dublin, in company with two culprits, who had been liberated by the Royal clemency from Kilmainham gaol, to agitate. Such was the use made of the recess; the people were forced up into action by circular letters, calling them out, and desiring them to demand Municipal Corporations. He had reason to know, however, that they were not so anxious upon this question as some Gentlemen wished to make it appear. The learned Sergeant, however, and his two culprits, who had been convicted of a flagrant outrage committed at the same place, were lamentably in want of an audience on the occasion referred to. They tried to throw the public mind into a state of agitation, but they lamentably failed. He had received letters from Belfast and Derry, informing him, that letters mandatory had been received from Dublin, directing the agitators in these places to excite agitation—but comparatively speaking, the attempt was a failure. There were hon. Members opposite who always spoke as though they represented the whole feeling of Ireland; but he had the honour to represent a large county, and being also connected with the counties adjoining, he should do the people of Ireland injustice, if he did not say, that the feeling of indignation which was said to prevail universally at the refusal of Corporations, did not exist at all in that part of the country. The merits of the question were entirely overlooked, because it was too much the fashion now in that House 260 to speak, not to the hearers, but to people out of doors, so that even the House of Commons itself was made to a certain extent the means of ultimate excitement and agitation in the country. But it ought to be known that there were towns in Ireland which did not wish to have Corporations. The principal towns in Ulster objected to the measure as it was originally put forth, and many of his hon. Friends had received letters from several parts of Ireland, requesting them to sustain the Lords' amendments. In the compromise, as it was termed by the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, it was made compulsory on the minor towns to avail themselves of the 9th George 4th. Why should it be attempted to force Corporations upon the towns of Ireland? Only seven of the towns had adopted them when left to their own free will. Why should places which were unable to bear the expense of Corporations, have them forced upon them against their will by Act of Parliament? The fact was, that the real object of the Bill was to get possession of the property belonging to the few Corporations that remained, and to establish places of political discussion in the twelve large towns proposed. It was a mere subterfuge, adopted for promoting the Repeal of the Union, by carrying on a systematic course of agitation, under the subterfuge of conducting Corporation business. Although the House declare, that they would not entertain the Question of the Repeal of the Union, they would practically effect that object by adopting the amendments proposed by the noble Lord. As a freeholder of the city of Dublin he had a right to express his views, and to declare that to be his apprehension. If they entertained the measure as it was again proposed to them, he was sure they would hasten the Repeal of the Union, and effectually dissolve the connexion between the two countries. In Ireland the practice was to connect this subject with tithes, in order to increase agitation; but, for want of a better topic, a ridiculous attempt had been made in London to mix it up with the question of monopoly in coals. The real object of (said the gallant Member) this Bill, I repeat it, is to get hold of the property of the Irish Corporations— that is, whatever property they possess, and to transfer whatever of political power or influence such bodies must possess, to the Roman Catholics, to be wielded at 261 will by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny. The more, however, that hon. and learned Member possesses, the worse shall it be for the peace of Ireland and the general integrity of the State. The more means of agitation the hon. and learned Gentleman and his party obtain, the more rapid will his strides be to the goal of his reckless ambition, and this is, what he has ever declared it to be, the destruction of the Protestant Church of Ireland. For these reasons, Sir, I shall give my cordial support to the measure as amended by the House of Lords. As I have ever entertained towards it a high respect, so I shall ever repose the most sincere confidence in any opinion which emanates from that branch of the Legislature. That House, in these days of danger to the empire, I look upon as the last bulwark of the Constitution against the inroads of an unprincipled democracy.
§ Viscount Clements
said, the hon. and gallant Gentleman on the other side was somewhat indignant at the application of a term. He complained loudly of being designated "Protestant agitators," and as he progressed towards the conclusion of his speech, he became absolutely furious at the idea of their being characterised as "orthodox Protestant agitators." The hon. and gallant Gentleman was anxious, he had no doubt, to repudiate the charge so far as he himself was personally concerned; but he thought it was an excess of chivalrous feeling which prompted him to repudiate the description when applied to his Colleagues For his own part, he had felt more than indignant when he heard three-fourths of his fellow-countrymen described as aliens in blood, aliens in language, and aliens in religion, by a noble Lord, whose genealogical pretensions were founded on little that was English, either in feeling or in birth. He had no hesitation in designating such terms as these as "orthodox Protestant agitation." He believed that the declaration of the noble and learned Lord embodied the feeling and the prejudice of a party in the other House of Parliament, who were anxious to put a stop to popular government in all countries, but especially in that country to which he had the honour to belong. If that party dared to speak in public what they thought in private—if they had the manliness or the candour to give free expression to their feelings, they would admit at once, that popular government and popular control 262 was their abomination. Let them state the broad principle on which they refused justice to Ireland, and the universal people of England would rise to a man against them. They refused to apply the same principle to Ireland which had already been applied, and found to work so well, in England and Scotland. But if the principle of municipal government had been applied to Ireland, and if the same principle had been refused to England, what would have been the feelings of the people of that country? Why, they would not endure the tyranny for a single hour. It had been said, that Ireland would be better without municipal government. This was a matter of opinion, but he presumed the people of Ireland were the best judges of what was calculated to benefit them. It had been said that Scotland had done very well without municipal government, but it had not been asserted that she did still better when she had obtained it. He had observed that a spirit existed, in certain quarters, to deprive Ireland of free institutions; but he could tell them that the people of Ireland would never rest satisfied till they were in possession of every right to which they were justly entitled, and till they were placed on a perfect equality with their brethren of England and Scotland. It had been advanced as an argument against Ireland, that she was not ripe for municipal government. Such an argument as that carried its own refutation along with it. It had, however, been completely exposed by the noble Lord, to whom, on the part of the Irish people, he tendered his cordial thanks. The reformation of the Irish corporations was absolutely necessary. This was admitted on all hands. The measure was not intended to last merely whilst the Irish were good boys. It was to be a final measure, and the sooner they set about rendering it such, the better for themselves, and the better for the peace and prosperity of Ireland and the empire. The noble Lord concluded by saying, that although the measure proposed by the Ministers, did not go as far as he wished, or as far as Ireland was entitled to expect, it should have his cordial support, inasmuch as it recognised the right of his country to the same privileges and institutions as England.
said, on a former occasion he had been taunted by the hon. Member for Kilkenny with having received hospitality in Ireland, and having voted for the Coercion Bill. He had felt it his duty 263 on that occasion, to vote against the principles he had ever professed. He did not then think that the day ever would come when he should almost blush for the vote he then gave; but when he heard the speech of the noble Lord in another place, asserting that the people of Ireland were aliens, he felt that his vote was wrong— that he ought to be a repealer. But he did not believe it possible, that that language would be responded to by any man in that House. He would appeal to Irishmen, with their characteristic generosity, to forget that the words were ever used by an Englishman, and to be assured that they were not responded to by the English people. They were the words of a self-willed, bigoted person, who would cast firebrands through the country, rather than give up his own selfish purposes. When he gave the vote he alluded to, he gave it conscientiously; and he would now conscientiously vote for the proposition so modestly but firmly brought forward by the noble Lord.
Mr. Grove Price
was unwilling to use any observations derogatory to the character of any individual Member of the other branch of the Legislature, but he must say, that the words attributed to a noble and learned Lord, as having been used by him in reference to the people of Ireland, were unworthy of any senator in his place. But he would never believe that the word "alien" was used generally; on the contrary, he would contend that it ought to be taken in connexion with the other parts of the argument—it was, he believed, mentioned in explanation of that which appeared to have been mistaken by those who raked up the early history of Ireland, without rendering it in the least degree applicable to the present measure. He regretted, then, that a noble Lord opposite should have thought it necessary to drag in the mention of such a phrase merely for the purpose of exciting a temporary feeling in the debate. It would be unfair and wrong in any course of argument to fix upon a particular expression which ought not, and which could not, with propriety, be separated from the general course of the argument. To the speech of the noble Lord opposite he had listened, as he had to other speeches on that side of the House, with patient attention, and he could not help saying that they forcibly reminded him of an anecdote which, as the noble Lord was an historian, he might probably recollect; it was not one of the middle, but rather of the later, ages;—it was recorded of the 264 Chancellor of Sweden, that in sending his son to the Congress of Westphalia, he said to him, "Nescis, mi fili, quam parva sapientia regitur mundus." He begged permission to call the attention of the House to that which really was the state of the case with these Corporations. They were planted in Ireland for two purposes; to that statement he hoped and believed that the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny would subscribe: and those purposes were to civilize and humanize the semi-barbarian inhabitants of that country, and to diffuse what he would call the pure light of the Protestant religion; according as the principles of constitutional law became better understood, as civilization advanced, and as the people began to repose increased confidence in the impartial administration of justice, their continued existence became less and less necessary; he still, however, should say with Burke, that he abhorred the abolition of ancient institutions, but there were cases in which a departure from the rule became a duty. Would it not be infinitely better to put down the Corporations than to see them converted into Jacobin clubs? into normal schools of agitation, with Dan-tons and Robespierres in every town in the empire? He was as fully aware as any man living could be of the difficulties with which the question was surrounded—he felt that to be called on to make a choice was most embarrassing, but that of two evils he should, of course, choose the least. It was alleged that Ireland would be badly treated if she did not receive a measure of Corporate Reform of exactly the same kind as England and Scotland. That opinion was founded upon most unphilosophical and unconstitutional views. Nothing could be more grossly erroneous than to assume that a measure must of necessity be advantageous to Ireland, because it had proved so to a great part of the United Kingdom, wholly dissimilar in all the elements of national character. But it had become a very serious question whether or not the Bill for reforming Municipal Corporations in England and Wales had proved successful. He would ask, had it added to the peace, good feeling, and kind offices of society? He believed that a general answer in the negative would be given. Then, if it had not succeeded in England, what chance of success could such a measure have in Ireland? Surely, perpetual elections ought not to be allowed to dissolve the bonds of society by keeping up perpetual heart-burnings, ill humour, and distrust. There was no one having the least practical acquaintance with 265 the subject could for a moment doubt that one Municipal election was worse than fifty elections for Members of Parliament. The establishment of such a system in any country was not to be endured. Men were surely born for higher purposes than for spending their days amidst the contention and violence of popular elections. He admitted, that it was a difficult question to deal with a people circumstanced as the Irish were, and of their peculiar temperament; they were kind-hearted, but at the same time liable to sudden impulses, and easily made the prey of impostors and mountebanks. In that country the power of popular agitation existed in all its force, and, held out terrors there peculiar to itself. He hoped the House would recollect that the present measure was the same Bill which a large minority of the House of Commons had voted against, and which the House of Lords had actually rejected by a very large majority. How, then, could the noble Lord call upon Members, sitting at that side of the House, to abandon what they had previously pledged themselves to; the more especially when that pledge had received the sanction of the other House of Parliament? Were the two Houses blended together, the present proposition would be at once scouted. Was it then to be supposed, that in calling upon the House of Commons to reverse its previous decision, a single waverer would be found amongst the number of those with whom he had been in the habit of acting? On the contrary, he felt persuaded that there was not one amongst them, who would not rally round that portion of the Legislature which he could not but regard as now presenting one of the best bulwarks and protections of the people's rights. For his part, he knew nothing of the secret divans that might have sat at Lichfield House,—he knew nothing of the documents that might have been signed and sealed there, but he thought it not utterly impossible that a scrutinizing eye might discover amongst them some mention of the Church of Ireland, and the Municipal Corporations of that country. The hon. and learned Member for Tipperary avowed all that he but ventured to surmise, while the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny denied the whole; he begged to say, he entertained so high an opinion of the former, that he could not refrain from yielding him implicit credit, and taking for granted that the statements respecting the conferences at Lichfield House were perfectly well founded. The noble Lord and his 266 supporters then presented themselves in a situation somewhat similar to Hotspur and Owen Glendower in which the one said to the other (he did not profess to quote the exact words,) "Thou shalt have a district here, and I will take a territory there; this shall be mine, and that shall be thing, and thus shall we partition the realm." In such manner, then, was it, that the noble Lord expected, by partitioning the dominion of Great Britain and Ireland, to conciliate the worst enemy of the empire, the inveterate foe of England. To him the noble Lord seemed to say, "You shall have the Corporations and the Church of Ireland provided you maintain me in power here. You shall be Dictator there, and let me be Minister here." His wish was to deal with the question before them in a spirit of perfect good temper and frankness, and particularly so when he spoke of the apprehended collision, the bare mention of which appeared to be so alarming. Now, he begged to know, if the House of Commons should not acquiesce in the alterations of the Lords, did that of necessity involve a collision? By no means, according to his view of the matter. He should like to hear any constitutional lawyer get up in his place and say, that such a proceeding amounted to a collision between the two Houses. He professed not to be able to recollect more than two instances of collision between the Houses of Parliament —one in the reign of Charles 2nd, the other in the reign of Queen Anne, and those arose out of matters of privilege materially affecting the independence of the other House. He presumed it would not be for a moment disputed that the House of Lords possessed as ample and as perfect a right to alter, amend, and even reject every bill submitted to Parliament as the House of Commons had; to deny it would be to carry the democratic principle to a most violent and unconstitutional length, and he was glad to be able to say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer agreed with him in that; it was absurd to suppose that the mere rejection of a bill amounted to a collision, as it was an event of very frequent occurrence that the one House should reject the measures of the other. Had that ever before been called collision? No, it could not with truth be called collision; but the fact was, the democratic principle had gone so far, that in the opinion of some it had become impossible to resistits further progress. [Hear 267 heart from the Ministerial Benches."] The constitution was now to be defended upon its real grounds, and it appeared from the cheers of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, that when the facts were fairly and fully brought forward, they did admire the advancing and encroaching spirit of democracy, but that they did not admire the British Constitution. The equal and undoubted rights of the House of Lords did constitute one of the principles of the British Constitution—at least so he read its principles, after the most careful and attentive perusal of the writings of those who had watched over the constitution in its darkest hour, and presided over the revolution. It was their writings which formed the true political scripture, and not the Babylonish jargon of certain modern politicians. Heretofore, it had ever been held, that there were three estates of the realm—King, Lords, and Commons, but recent events had created a fourth power—that of popular agitation; it was a power unknown to the constitution, and at variance with all law, which went to give the supreme power to the mere will of a certain number of individuals, without regard to education, virtue, property, knowledge, or any of the means by which a sound judgment on political affairs could be formed — which gave to mere brute physical force that ascendancy which ought to belong to high moral and intellectual qualities. He would repeat, that that fourth estate was one of brute physical force, and he used the words in the manner that "alien" had been used as part of the argument; and he would further say, that if that fourth estate were to maintain its ascendancy gross ignorance would soon ride roughshod over public virtue and knowledge — that fierce passion would assume the place of cool deliberation, and thus the nation be at the mercy of those who had the talent to guide and those who had the folly to obey.
§ Mr. Ward
stated, that there was one observation which fell from the hon. Member opposite in which he was disposed to concur—it was this, that the world was governed with very little wisdom. He did not see any necessity however for referring to the treaty of Westphalia to illustrate that which required no better instance than another branch of the legislature. It required no better instance than the conduct of an individual whose words appeared now to have an undue weight attached to them; for however obscure 268 himself, as an individual, that person was, yet he was put forward by the proudest aristocracy in the world as their leader. That individual had stood in his place in another House to stigmatise the people of Ireland. [Order!]
§ The Speaker
observed that it was exceedingly inconvenient to make personal observations reflecting upon the language of any individual in another place. He wished to impress upon the House, that upon this occasion it was most important that the language used in another place should not be referred to.
§ Mr. Ward
did not mean to observe further on the subject. A defence was made, and an explanation offered, for that expression upon one side of the House—an attempt had been made to explain it away. Now he had distinctly to say, that he had heard the words used which had been referred to. An hon. Member opposite had proceeded even to argue that no such words had been used; now he had to state distinctly, that the words were applied in the manner that had been stated.
§ Mr. W. Duncombe
spoke to order. It was quite contrary to the rules of Parliament to alluded to anything whatever said in the other House of Parliament.
§ Mr. Ward
It was not by him that the rule had been violated. He did not wish now to press that topic any further; but it had been used as an argument on the other side. He came now to consider the course which the noble Lord had proposed. The course suggested was one that he with some reluctance could be brought to adopt. What he would have wished was, that when the resolutions proposed to them, on a former discussion upon this Bill, had been set aside, and they found that those resolutions which had been rejected were again sent down to them, that the plain and simple course was adopted of refusing them. That, however, was not the line which his Majesty's Ministers had taken, and which some of their supporters would have wished them to adopt upon this occasion. It was his belief, it was his expectation, that the measure of conciliation which his Majesty's Ministers proposed, and the attempts at compromise that they made, would be rejected, if it so happened it would place them in a situation to prove that they were more in the right in the eyes of 269 the public. When he considered what were the first principles of government, and that in this case an insult was offered to Ireland—to one-third part of the British empire—he was astonished at the temerity of those who presumed so to act. Upon what rested the opposition to this measure? It was the old story of normal schools of agitation—it was the old stale story of coalescing with the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny. Did any one taunt hon. Members opposite with their meeting at Bridgewater-house on the preceding morning? They coalesced who were friendly to the same principles—they were fond of coalescing who had congenial tastes and feeling. The hon. Members opposite cheered the expression. They were led to unite from congeniality of principle—it was injustice to Ireland—while congeniality of principle upon his side of the House united them to obtain justice for that country. He was prepared to go the length of saying, that congeniality of principles was a fair bond of union upon both sides of that House. The hon. Member for Sandwich had spoken of secret covenants —who ever yet had talked of a secret covenant confided to 300 persons—for they were 300 in number, and they had outvoted their opponents in a Parliament called by their opponents. In their own Parliament, by a majority of sixty-four upon a great public principle, they professing to maintain those principles, they drove the right hon. Baronet from the benches on which he sat, while those who supported those principles were, thank God! borne to that place which the right hon. Baronet had occupied. He told those who opposed those principles, it was vain for them to struggle against the success of them. He would place the question before them. They (the Opposition) were now acting in conjunction with another branch of the Legislature—they were a minority in that House—a minority in conjunction with a majority in the other House. Great principles were involved, great and serious consequences were to be apprehended, and the difficulties were such as not to be easily other. Let them fight the battle fairly, but let them not do so concealing from themselves the consequences. In reference to what had been said by the hon. Member for Sandwich upon the subject, he would say, that he did not look forward with pleasure to a collision—God forbid! He did say, that he could not see, without very grave apprehension, that collision; he could not 270 tell how it would terminate. They saw it bringing the whole machinery of Government to a stand—leaving the people without a Government. The Opposition, instead of lending their hands to a compromise, were prepared to maintain by their opinions the majority of the other House, in their aggression. Then the sense of the country was to be appealed to. Would not the Opposition fail in procuring their opinions to be maintained by the country? Let them, he said, agree upon a course to be adopted. Let that appeal to the sense of the country be final, or there was no knowing what the consequence might be hereafter. Hon. Members had spoken of the authority of the other House; they had spoken with respect of the course adopted, which went to deprive eight millions of British subjects of their rights and liberties, by taking from them their privileges as freemen. The doing this was a legitimate cause for agitation; and he would say this much, that if he were an Irishman he would join in that agitation—if he were an Irishman he should never cease in that agitation until he had obtained those rights. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter had brought into this discussion the question of poor-laws as a charge against the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny, and after arguing upon some technicalities, he made a charge against the hon. Member, that he had done nothing for the advantage of the poor. When that hon. and learned Member made such a charge, he was not aware that the hon. Member for Kilkenny had come down on the preceding evening to support a motion the sole object of which was to benefit and relieve the poor of Ireland. He (Mr. Ward) had himself this motion on the paper—it was acceded to— but he was prepared to enter into the question of emigration; and the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny was prepared to support his motion. The hon. Member concluded, by stating that he was prepared to give his support to the course proposed by the noble Lord.
said, I rise as a Representative of the city of Dublin. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, the Member for Kilkenny, may call me perhaps the representative of the Corporation of Dublin; if the fact be so, I shall not be ashamed of the designation. That Corporation had performed faithfully their political duty. Constituted originally as a link to connect the interests of the two 271 countries, reconstructed afterwards by j subsequent monarchs for other and most important objects, to cherish and keep alive a spirit of attachment to the British connexion, a spirit of submission to British law, a spirit of devotion to Protestant institutions, and a spirit of loyalty to a Protestant king; they had kept their faith. They discharged their political duty heretofore, and in voting for the Bill as amended by the Lords, I am persuaded I shall be speaking their sentiments, and in acquiescing in those amendments, and resisting the proposition of the noble Lord opposite, they will be discharging their political trust now. Sir, I am not at all surprised that hon. Members on the other side of the House should be disposed to dissent from, or sneer at, the assertion I have made, or that they should urge against us and against them—against us, that we are acting inconsistently with our own principles; against them, that they are instruments of their own degradation, and committing a kind of political suicide. It is not my intention to occupy much of the time of the House. I am unwilling to trespass upon it at all, but I think I should not be doing my duty to my constituents or myself, if I was to abstain from stating my reasons for the vote I shall give; and I trust I may be able to show that there is nothing paradoxical in the proposition I have advanced, and nothing inconsistent in the course we are taking. Sir, I will confess it does appear to me, that in the political conflicts we have been witnessing here of late, hon. Members on the other side of the House, wisely for their own purposes, have put forward rather the details than the principles of their measures—that they have endeavoured to make the conflict a conflict of details of particular measures, rather than of principles, or if of principles—that the principles they have put forward had been subordinate and not primary principles—and that by drawing us into a war of details, into a defence of secondary principles, they have endeavoured to fix on us a charge of inconsistency, and, under cover of those secondary considerations, have studiously kept out of view the great primary objects and principles in reference to which Members on all sides of the House are really actuated, in reference to which the questions ought mainly to be argued, and our consistency or inconsistency determined. I think the question now before the House 272 —the question of our Irish Corporations— the combined question of our Corporations and our Church, for they are combined in argument, will illustrate very appropriately what I have been endeavouring to urge. It has been thrown in our teeth, and brought against us as a charge of inconsistency, that while, with reference to our Corporations, we argue that they should be abolished in Ireland, though they are retained in England, on account of the dissimilarity in the circumstances of the two countries—with reference to the Church, we argue it should be supported in Ireland, notwithstanding the disparity in numbers, on the ground of its being necessary to maintain an identity of institutions; and then, Sir, we are drawn into long calculations with regard to the amount of Church property, the probable extent of the contingent surplus, and the stipend that may be sufficient for the support of a clergyman; and in respect of the Corporations, questions are raised as to the nature, and object, and amount of corporate property—the application of its funds, and the right or expediency of domestic management. Sir, I will yield to no man in the estimation I entertain of the importance of these details; but still I cannot help thinking that even the hon. Member for Kilkenny cannot but agree with me in opinion, if he would but confess it, that the real question in the one case is not merely the state of the Irish Church, or the amount or distribution of its revenues—or, important as it is, the inviolability or appropriation of its property—or, as to Corporations, that we are now assembled here merely to discuss the management of about 20,000l. a-year, or even the assimilation of institutions—but that, in both cases, behind these questions there is another and more important one, in reference to which we are really actuated in giving our votes. Why, may I inquire, do we resist the appropriation clause? Surely it is not merely for the sake of our religion and our Church. Sir, I agree in this with the hon. Member for Weymouth — I have no fears for my religion; resting on the basis of revealed truth, and upheld by an arm that is stronger than the arm of man, it needs not the support of law; but are there no other considerations involved in the Church question? Has the appropriation question no bearing upon the Constitution? In demoralizing the religious structure of the 273 State, will the political structure sustain no injury?—and in demoralizing the constitution of these Corporations, will not the principle of democracy be itself advanced? Sir, it is because I feel that in the present state of these countries there are two great principles contending for supremacy, and now nearly balancing each other—the one a principle, as I believe, of constitutional freedom—the other, a principle of reckless and ungovernable democracy. Is the one unfavourable to real and practical reform? Look to the measures of the right hon. Baronet—look to his labours in improving the criminal code—look to that great measure, the abolition of negro slavery, the measure of the noble Lord, the Member for Lancashire. Is the other productive of real amelioration? Let the paralysis of legislation during the last two Sessions afford an answer to that. And whence has that paralysis arisen? Why, from measures having been brought forward, not for the sake of the measures themselves, but for the sake of the principles covertly involved in them—from propositions being made in politics, for the purpose of whetting, but not of satisfying the appetite of the people for change. Sir, it is because I feel that in all questions reference should be had to these important considerations—that the object to be continually had in view, under existing circumstances, should be not so much the advantages of adverse or contending measures, as the predominance of adverse principles—because I feel that if there is any force in these observations, as they apply to England, there must be tenfold force in them as they apply to Ireland— a country in which the spirit of democracy is organized, and concentrated, and directed by a master-mind—because I feel that by the proposition of the noble Lord, increased power and increased means of extending itself, will be given to that democratic spirit — because I feel that agitation will be thereby increased, and the improvement and prosperity of my country be thereby impeded, I think that I should be inconsistent, and not consistent, if I assented to that proposition.
§ Mr. O'Loghlen
was somewhat surprised to find the hon. Member who had last spoken, and one too who represented a city containing 220,000 inhabitants, come forward and support a Bill which deprived that city of any corporation whatever. He should have expected from that hon. 274 Member, who professed so much respect and veneration for Corporations—he should have expected from him, that he would have supported the proposal submitted by his Majesty's Government, including a proposal to give to that City a Corporation, founded upon the principles of this Bill. In the course of the debate, an observation had been made by the hon. Member for Exeter. It had been said, that there was very little difference between the measure sent up to the House of Lords, and the amendments that came down from that House. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter alleged, that the Corporations of Ireland had hitherto had very little to do, except in the administration of justice. Now. it happened that the Bill as sent from the Lords effectually took away from these Corporations all share in the administration of justice. But did the hon. and learned Member really mean to say, that the Corporations of Ireland had had nothing else to do but to administer the laws? Let him look at the Corporation of Dublin, with a revenue exceeding 34,000/. per annum, which had been almost exclusively devoted to sectarian and extrinsic purposes. And did he mean to say that these Corporations had had no effect upon the constitution of society in Ireland? He (Mr. O'Loghlen) appealed to the local affairs of Dublin, and other corporate towns in Ireland, both as related to the administration of justice and otherwise, for many years past; and he would ask, had they not had a very considerable influence on the state of society in that country. But the fact was, that the Bill as it came from the Lords, deprived the Corporations of Ireland of all share in the affairs of justice; and in that respect, if in no other, it was entirely different from the measure of Municipal Reform which had been passed for England. Now with regard to the corporate funds. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter said, that the Royal Commissioners would be bound to give the disposal of the funds into the hands of the Local Commissioners, under the 9th Geo. 4th. But the words of the 40th Clause of the Bill as it came from the Lords were, that the Commissioners should "cause to be invested in their names, or in the name of their treasurer, any monies forming part of any town fund, in any stocks, funds, or securities, and alter and vary such stocks, funds, and securities, as they shall think proper; and 275 in all other respects manage the property comprised in every or any such town fund, and invest or dispose of the same, and all revenues thereof, in such manner as they shall think most advantageous;" and yet they were to be told by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter, that the Royal Commissioners would have to give up the town funds into the management of the Commissioners appointed under the 9th Geo. 4th. Now the fact was, that it was only as related to such a very small portion of the corporate funds as would answer to certain matters for which the inhabitants were at present rated, that the authority of the Commissioners of the 9th Geo. 4th. could at all exist. It happened further, that there were only eleven towns in all, in which there existed boards under the 9th Geo. 4th, who were entitled to dispose of public money. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter declared, that the Commissioners under the 9th Geo. 4th. were not a political body, and had done their business admirably well. Then, he would ask, what objection was there to give the town property, directly into their hands, instead of circuitously through the hands of the Royal Commissioners, as was now proposed. But taking the proposition which was held out to them, let them suppose the case—namely, that these Royal Commissioners should one day be appointed and directed by persons, who considered the great mass of the people of Ireland, as aliens in blood, in feelings, and in religion; what prospect would there then be, that the corporate property should be disposed of in a way agreeable to the interests or the feelings of the people of Ireland? It had always been the policy in framing Local Acts in reference to Ireland, to make the corporate officers ex officio Commissioners, and it appeared, therefore, that the deliberate intention of those who framed the amended Bill, was to preserve to all the corporators, during their lives, the powers and advantages which they at present enjoyed. In Dublin, for instance, there was one Board alone, which dealt with an annual income of 12,000l.; he alluded to the pipe-water rates; all the trustees were corporators; and though the funds were, properly speaking, not corporate property, they had sole power of disposing of" them in any way they thought proper. In Belfast, there was no corporation, but there were twenty-four Local Commissioners, of whom the sovereign 276 and twelve-burgesses were the Commissioners for the disposal of 17,000l. of income, levied upon the inhabitants. The hon. and learned Gentleman further observed, that there was no material difference between the compensation clause, as sent up by the Lords, and that in the original Bill; in that case he must say, he was at a loss to imagine why so much ingenuity had been wasted upon it in the Lords, unless it were the opinion of the House of Lords that the Royal Commissioners would not have a single shilling to dispose of, for they confirmed all the existing officers in their situations, whose salaries would amount to the entire corporate property of the respective towns. In Limerick, for instance, with an income of 14,070l.. per annum, there were a weigh-master and a butter-taster, the latter of whom did not find it agreeable to reside in Ireland, but who, nevertheless, received about 500l. a year, whilst the weigh-master took from 600l. to 700l.. more. By the operation of this Bill, their powers would be preserved to all the local authorities and Boards, who would be permitted to intercept the funds on their way to the Royal Commissioners. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter said, that the administration of justice should be vested in the Crown; yet what did this Bill do? It preserved in their offices the existing clerks of the peace, and all other officers connected with the execution of the laws, in the corporate towns of Ireland. What did this amount to but to this—that the present Bill was not intended to confer any benefit upon Ireland, or to amend any of her institutions; and that whilst one mode of legislation was adopted for England, a totally different one should be directed against Ireland. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter asked what use had the Irish Corporations for town-councils? had they not their Commissioners under the 9th Geo. 4th to go back upon? How happened it that the hon. and learned Gentleman had not used the same arguments in respect to England last year, for England also possessed an Act of Parliament, exactly analogous to the 9th. Geo. 4th.? The Acts and the principle were precisely the same in both cases; then why did not the hon. and learned Gentleman stand up in his place last year and say, that it was not necessary for England to have town-councils, because they had this Act already to make use of? But the hon. and learned Gentleman thought it quite enough for Ireland to have the 9th Geo. 4th, and 277 he asked what necessity there was for any other enactment. He would take the case of Youghal as his answer. This Corporation possessed property which was well paid at 1,000l. a year; and this sum being just sufficient to divide amongst the mayor and other corporate officers of the place, the inhabitants, by virtue of the 9th Geo. 4th, had rated themselves to the amount of six hundred pounds a year for various local purposes. Now it was evident that the effect of a measure of Municipal Reform for Ireland would be, to relieve the inhabitants of Youghal from this tax of 600, by giving over the l,000l. of corporate property to defray the local necessities of the town, out of which a surplus of 4,000l. would remain, which would be quite sufficient to defray all the salaries which would be called for under the new arrangement. It remained now to be seen, however, whether the House was prepared to legislate for Ireland, upon a different principle from that which was applied to England. They had reformed the Corporations of Liverpool, a town which was very near to the coast of Ireland, and they now proposed to take away the Corporation of Dublin. He would ask, whether they expected that the people of Ireland would be satisfied with such an arrangement. A respectable merchant in Ireland would not henceforth be eligible to the dignity of mayor, or of alderman, or other corporate offices; but let him come across to Liverpool, and he would immediately become eligible to the highest municipal offices, and this simply, because the people of Ireland had the misfortune to differ in religion from their neighbours on this side the water. It must come to that, it would come to nothing else than that, because the people of Ireland entertained a different religious persuasion from that of the people of England, the House of Lords declared, and perhaps the House of Commons might declare so also, that they should not enjoy the same liberty and the same local privileges. If that were the principle upon which this measure was to be treated, the sooner it was understood the better. For his own part he knew no principle so well calculated to shake the bonds of Union between the two countries; he would go further, and declare that no person placed in the degraded predicament which the Irish would be by that Bill, but ought to desire a separation of the two countries. "We," continued the hon. and learned Gentleman, "We, who were taunted with being aliens in blood 278 and in religion, to the British people, should be also aliens to British feelings if we submitted to so insulting; a proposition. I do not speak this in the language of threat. I have all my life considered, and I shall continue to consider, that the connexion between the two countries is essential to the prosperity and the stability of both, and I have heard, with feeling of surprise and indignation, the use of an expression which goes to show, that I and my fellow-countrymen are not only aliens in blood, in religion, and in feeling, to the people of England, but that we are desirous of shaking off the connexion which exists between the two countries." The hon. and learned Gentleman sat down, declaring that he considered the passing- of this Bill upon popular principle, with provisions capable of insuring a sufficient popular control in the municipal affairs of Ireland, to be indispensably necessary to the good government of that country.
§ Mr. Shaw
said, he hoped the House would not think it necessary he should follow the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. O'Loghlen) through the various matters of detail, and, as the right hon. Gentleman himself termed them, the trifling subjects to which he (Mr. O'Loghlen) had adverted; they were immaterial points, which could be easily adjusted, if once the supporters and opponents of the measure were agreed upon the important question of principle. He (Mr. Shaw), however, could not help observing, that in respect of the officers to which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded, the amended Bill did not make any alteration in their condition. They were offices which these parties held for life, and so the Bill left them. With regard to town-clerks and such officers, the right hon. Gentleman could not have read the 45th Clause of the Bill; for he stated that their offices were preserved to them for life, but that clause empowered the Commissioners to remove them on the 1st of January next. The right hon. Gentleman was wrong, too, with regard to 9th Geo. 4th. cap. 82, for it did not follow, but it preceded, the English Act on the same subject. The English Act, however, required three-fourths of the voters to concur in the taxation, whereas, the Irish Act gave the same power to a majority; and he (Mr. Shaw) thought to make the 9th Geo. 4th compulsory in the towns mentioned by the noble Lord, would be a 279 change for the worse from the original enactment of the Bill, the present check of twenty-one 202. householders having in the first instance to apply for the meeting of the 51. householders would be removed. The present alteration would put it in the power of the lowest rate of householders to impose a rate of graduated taxation on the higher; besides, the reason the Act had already had so little operation was, the expense now incurred by adopting it. Why should that expense be inflicted upon them compulsorily? Such a change, he considered, would render the Bill in that respect much more than it was originally. That, however, was not the important consideration connected with the present measure, which should that night engage the attention of the House. That question, though changed in form, he contended was substantially the same which the House had twice already discussed; for it was, after all, the large and important towns that constituted the real object of those who forced on the present measure, and it was those large towns that would involve the whole mischief, against which its opponents desired to guard. The thirty-nine boroughs in schedule C were comparatively unimportant. Their whole population was little more than 200,0001. their united property but 13,0001. and there were thirteen of them which had no property whatever. These small places, in short, only rendered the measure ridiculous on the showing and principles of its own promoters. Throughout the discussions of the Bill in detail, when the Government were asked upon what principle any of these insignificant places were inserted, the answer was, that they might be struck out, if objected to, when we came to the schedules. The noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, conscious that these were only an in cumbrance, seemed anxious to court objection to them, and, in fact, struck off many without suggesting any rule or reason, which were not equally applicable to others which he retained. In short, the Bill was utterly devoid of any intelligible principle of selection. It was neither property, population, subsisting charters, nor any combination of these; for as to property, thirteen of the boroughs contained in the schedules had none whatever. As to population, seventeen of the boroughs which had been inserted in Mr. Perrin's Bill of last year, with a population of 280 80,000, were omitted from the present Bill, and seventeen others were retained, whose united population only amounted to 58,000. Besides this, Newry, with a population of 13,000, and Dungarvan, with 10,000, had been expunged, while Bangor, Wicklow, and Belturbet, with populations of 2,000 each, had been retained. And if, as the noble Lord had contended that night, it was an insult to refuse corporate government to the cities and towns in Ireland, how could he reconcile that insult to the people of Newry and Dungarvan? Newry and Dungarvan were reported by the Commissioners to have on record charters of incorporation, and, at all events, the circumstances of having existing Corporations could not be alleged as the ground of selection, for the Bill altogether omitted ten boroughs, which would be found in page eight of the Corporation Report, enumerated under the head of "Effectively existing Corporations." And then, as if to evince the entire contempt of the framers of the Bill of any intelligible rule of selection, they first inserted Antrim and Ballyshannon, which had no Corporations, and in the end, they rejected Thomastown and Middle-ton, both of which had Corporations, and both of which had property, while thirteen boroughs were contained in the schedule which had no property. It was also a fact, that both the boroughs rejected, each had a population greater than some of the boroughs which were continued in the schedule. Laying aside, then, these comparatively insignificant places, and assuming that the real question at issue between the two sides of the House had reference to the larger cities and towns, the House came back to the point from which it had originally started, namely, whether it was more for the peace and tranquillity of Ireland—the general interests of the country at large—and above all, whether it was more likely that the cities and towns themselves should be well regulated and quietly governed, by simply putting an end to the corporate system that had so long prevailed in Ireland, or, by only transferring the functions of the Corporations, which had been little else than political, and their religious exclusiveness, which was the great evil they were charged with, from one of the rival and contending parties which unhappily, both in politics and religion, divided that country to the other, 281 Let the question between them be fairly stated, and it was this:—The opposite side of the House proposed the complete extinction of existing Corporations. To that the House of Lords assented. The original Bill maintained the existing rights of freemen—provided for charitable trusts—and vested in the Crown all that related to the administration of justice. In all this he (Mr. Shaw) and the friends with whom he acted agreed. But then came the great and essential difference— the Bill established Town-Councils and legalised Debating Societies, with all the accompaniments of constant elections, annual registrations, daily canvas sings, the never-ending trials and displays of party strength, and the excitement consequent upon all these. Besides which, the Bill proposed to vest in these Town-Councils the Corporate property, which would be found scarcely sufficient to defray the cost of town-halls, mansion-houses, mayors, town-clerks, and their incidental expenses; whereas, by the amendments, it was proposed to appoint Commissioners, merely men of business, to attend to the paving, lighting, and other corporate duties of the locality, and to apply the funds to the public benefit of all the inhabitants, and the local improvements of the several cities and towns to which they belonged. He would take the Corporation of Dublin as an example; first, because he was best acquainted with it; and secondly, because no other corporate city or town bore comparison to it in respect of population, property, or general importance. Indeed, in these respects combined, Dublin might be considered as nearly equal to all the other Corporations put together. Take then Dublin alone—grant it a new Corporation, according to the plan of the present Bill—that would do all for the purposes of agitation, which the hon. gentleman opposite required, and would cause the whole mischief which he (Mr. Shaw) deprecated. He had been much misrepresented in the admissions which he had been said to make with respect to the Corporation of Dublin. He never had admitted that, as a body, it was either close, self-elected, or corrupt. The Commissioners did not, indeed, charge the Corporation with corruption. The representative body consisted of about 170 persons, more than double the number which the present Bill assigned to it. The constituency were about 4,000, and they 282 had triennial elections, vote by ballot, and popular control; but he did admit that both in politics and religion they were an exclusive body. Seeing, then, the changes in the law and constitution for the last ten years, and desiring rationally to regard and deal with the existing condition and circumstances of the country, he did not desire that exclusiveness should continue, but above all things he protested against its transfer. The Corporation of Dublin (and it was a fair sample of the other important Corporations in Ireland) never had been created for—never had been suited to—and scarcely could have been said ever to have exercised strictly—corporate functions. It had its paving board, its ballast office, its wide-street Commissioners, and its whole system of police, (as other Corporations had their local boards), entirely independent of the Corporation; and upon that point the Commissioners observed in their Report on the City of Dublin, that "in fact, the present establishment of the paving board is adequate, with the addition of a few clerks, to regulate the affairs of all the local taxes, if consolidated under the same management." And a most remarkable feature in the present Bill was, that it betrayed the full consciousness, on the part of its framers, of its utter inadequacy in a corporate capacity, to perform the duty ostensibly assigned it; for in the case of the city of Dublin, the Bill expressly exempted all the existing boards from any interference by the new Corporation. What then was the object of the Bill, or at all events its inevitable tendency, but to inflame political discord, perpetuate religious animosity, and permanently to establish what so many Acts had passed that House to suppress—a Roman Catholic association in the city of Dublin. Witness the proceedings in Dublin on this subject. He (Mr. Shaw) had before quoted the resolutions of a meeting called by the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny, for the avowed purpose of securing the independence of the city; but the means stated in the resolutions to effect that purpose, were the securing to the members of the club every situation of emolument and influence in the Corporation. And here it was most important to observe, that so far from there being any genuine feeling in favour of these new corporate bodies in the minds of the respectable part of the Irish public, many 283 influential Roman Catholics and eminent commercial men, opposed to him in politics, had stated to him and to others, that their opinion was favourable to the complete and entire abolition of Corporations in Ireland. He would not state any name in public, but he would be happy to mention their names to any Member on either side of the House, who would afford him the opportunity in private. Under all these circumstances, and in the absence of every other argument, was the House to yield to the unmeaning cry—the hacknied twaddle of" Justice to Ireland."No crime so bold but would be understoodA real, or at least a seeming good.Was there in the catalogue of crime one that it had not been attempted to perpetrate or justify under the desecrated names of justice and liberty? Let the phrase of "justice to Ireland" be well defined and properly understood, and all would be ready to agree to it. But as well might they confound a real and well-regulated liberty with a licence to every evil disposition and bad passion to riot uncontrolled and with impunity; as well might they mistake eternal truth for that name which every sectary gave to his own Opinions; as well might they take their notions of an exalted patriotism from a late graphic description of an Irish patriot exacting his tribute, as be content to take the definition of justice from those whose every word and action contradicted its precepts. They might, perchance, discover the meaning of the phrase by its application to other subjects from the same quarter. The House might learn then from that authority, that justice could not be effected as to Parliaments without their being annual, as to suffrage without its being universal, and as to voting without the ballot. Then take the question of the Irish Church. Justice to it meant its subversion. [Mr. O'Connell: No, no.] What! did the hon. and learned Gentleman forget the short and pithy sentence that he had pronounced in that respect —delenda est Carthago? As to the laws, what was the hon. Member's sense of justice? His sense of justice was, that if they were not liked, they ought to be resisted. [Mr. O'Connell: No, no.] The hon. and learned Gentleman said "No." Perhaps he meant actively, for that would incur danger, and required courage—but passively; still, actively or passively, they, 284 nevertheless, were to be resisted. Then as to the House of Lords, "down with them "was his cry of justice. As to hereditary succession, it was mocked at as the hon. and learned Member mocked at an hereditary tailor. What was his justice as regarded the Union between the two countries? To repeal it. As to the empire? To dismember it. As to the Whigs? When one day they opposed the hon. and learned Gentleman, they were "base, bloody, and brutal,"—and the next, they were "noble, generous, and high-minded," because they submitted to his dictation. And was it consistent with these same notions of truth and justice for the hon. and learned Member to go, as he had done within the last few days from house to house, and from meeting to meeting. describing the highest and the most distinguished men in the country as miscreants and liars, and in language that would disgrace a frequenter of Billingsgate, to heap upon them every abusive epithet? Was it from such lips as these that the Ministers of this country and a British House of Commons were to learn the lessons of justice? He, too, would implore for his country justice. [Mr. O'Connell: Hear.] Yes, notwithstanding the sneer of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he would earnestly implore that justice to Ireland which would render to every man his due. Equal laws impartially administered—a settled and firm Government—safety for life—security for property—such as would preserve as well the wealth of the rich, ay, and the labour, and the fruits of the labour, of the poor, from the grasp of brutal outrage on one hand, and the grasp of selfish avarice on the other. The Protestants of Ireland desired no preference. This Bill established no sectarian distinction—it gave all equality [Hear, hear.] But he would intreat the House not to do the great wrong of adding the fuel of such a measure as the present to the flame of political, religious, national and social discord, which had so long wasted that unhappy country, and now threatened to consume there the vitals of civilization. [Hear, hear.] He would say in conclusion, with regard to that and every other question which had reference to Ireland, and he trusted that in its true sense and sound and sacred spirit the sentiment would animate every branch of the Legislature, and be echoed throughout the country—"fiat justitia, ruat cœlum."
§ Mr. Callaghan
said, that since this subject had come under discussion, he had not the good fortune to be enabled to address the House upon it further than making a few observations sufficient to explain the petitions which he had presented with respect to it. He had listened with much attention to the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, if for no other reason, because he had frequently heard the hon. and learned Gentleman make speeches to that House on the subject of Ireland, to the truth of the assertions and statements contained in which he was unfortunately never able to subscribe. But he was certainly somewhat surprised that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should have indulged, on that occasion, in the repetition of much that he had heard from him on former nights; and should have entered into the discussion of particulars and details respecting this measure, from which he might have well spared the House. The remainder of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech consisted of trite observations selected from some of the prints of the day; and amongst these was the assertion, which had been so often reiterated, that his Majesty's Government was forced to adopt this measure. Now he would not hesitate to state his conviction in their presence, that his Majesty's Government were not forced by anybody to adopt their present course. He should be sorry to give them his support, if he were not persuaded that they were actuated by no other feeling with respect to this measure, than a sincere desire of doing justice to his country; and so long as they continued to act in the same manner and spirit towards his country, they should have his warm support. The hon. and learned Gentleman had made a speech, garnished from the newspapers and caricatures of the day; but he rose to represent to the House the fact that he was there the representative of a large constituency that had long panted for a reform, in Irish corporations, and were now anxiously expecting a participation in municipal privileges. They had waited paitently for several years in the hope that that object would be accomplished. They had petitioned in the year 1831, praying for an extension of that corporate reform which was intended, and they patiently waited for the application of the principle of the measures which 286 Scotland and England had obtained to similar bodies in Ireland. But he must say—and he had lately an opportunity of learning their sentiments—that their indignation could not be restrained if their just expectations were disappointed, and that they did not at length get that measure of justice to which they were unquestionably entitled. He had heard amongst his constituents great disgust and surprise expressed at the assertions which had been made in another House that the people of Ireland were subject to the complete control of priests and demagogues in the large towns. He could state, without fear of contradiction, that there Was no foundation for any such assertion. He had the honour to represent a town, the constituency of which were as honest and independent as the electors of any city in England or Scotland. He knew they would not brook the insult which was intended to be offered them in another quarter, and they felt equal indignation and surprise at hearing those who undertook, as they said, the duty of legislating for them make accusations against them, and attribute motives to them which they were conscious had no foundation in fact. On a late occasion he had presided at a meeting, consisting of several thousands of his fellow-citizens, and at that meeting there was not a single Roman Catholic priest. Not that he saw any reason why a priest should not attend such meetings because he thought a man did not forfeit his rights of citizenship by becoming a priest, But. it was a fact to which he could bear testimony, that the Roman Catholic priests did not attend political meetings in the city which re represented. They have quite enough to do to attend to their religious pursuits and to supply the spiritual wants of the people. The amendments which had been made in the Bill by the House of Lords would have the effect of continuing in the hands of those who now controlled it, that management of local taxes which they had so long abused. His hon. and learned Friend's (Mr. O'Loghlen) measure, as it was originally framed, left much to be remedied in the local institutions of the city of Cork. It was only necessary for him to state that funds to the amount of 30,000l. a year were raised by local acts, and these were allowed still to remain in the hands of the old corporations, according to the Bill of his right hon. Friend the vacancies being filled up by election from 287 the citizens as they were created. It would, no doubt, have been necessary to introduce some further legislative measure to meet this evil. But the inhabitants relied with confidence on the intentions of the present Government, as displayed in the measures which they introduced. But in the name of his constituents, he protested against the amendments which had been inserted by the other House of Parliament, as he believed them calculated to perpetuate those abuses which had been the subject of such strong and just complaint.
§ Mr. Dillon Browne
rose under considerable excitement, and was happy that he gave way to the hon. Member for Cork. He felt much surprised at what had fallen from the hon. Member for the University of Dublin. The great vehemence and extraordinary action of the right hon. Gentleman, he would call the histrionic speech. He had addressed the House in a manner better suited to the boards of a county than of a British senate. He was not surprised that there was much agitation and discontent in Ireland when a person holding a high judicial office in that country asked what was meant by justice to Ireland. Was it possible a judge of the land could be ignorant of the definition of the term—or was it possible that he (Mr. Browne) heard the hon. Gentleman exclaiming against the principle of a people demanding their just and legitimate rights, whilst he stated at the same time that they had no better argument to support their claim than the hacknied cry of justice? He asked the right hon. Gentleman on what purer principle of civil liberty could a people rest their claims than the great principle of equal and impartial justice? The right hon. Gentleman had indulged in one of his annual tirades against the hon. Member for Kilkenny. There were some persons who found it necessary to do so for sinister purposes. It was the tenure by which they held their seats in that House, and they did so to gratify the base and malignant feelings of the base and corrupt Corporation of Dublin. An hon. and gallant Gentleman, the Member for Donegal, had felt indignant at the term Protestant agitation. He asked the gallant Member if he had ever heard of the lay association? Was it not to agitation that the hon. and learned Gentleman (the Member for the University) owed his seat, and was it not by that system that the hon. 288 Members for Dublin were placed in that House?—was it not agitation which produced the decision of the other House of Parliament?—to that secret agitation by which the Opposition hopes to dissolve the present Ministry, for he was confident that they only sought to make Ireland and her Corporations a' means of getting into place. The Bill, which was sent to the House of Lords, was calculated to afford peace and happiness to a long-distracted and long-misgoverned people. The amendments which had been sent down by that House were an insult to his country. The Irish never could, they never would receive it. The question was were the whole people or were they not, to be governed by the same laws?—were the Irish, or were they not, to have the same institutions as the people of England and Scotland? The people of Ireland demanded equal laws—they would not be satisfied with less. If the Irish were refused this full measure of justice they would then say,—" Give us back our own Parliament." The motion of the noble Lord had his hearty concurrence.
§ Mr. Finch
said, that he was most anxious to approach the consideration of the question wholly divested of party and political feeling. While he disclaimed, therefore, all desire to treat the subject as a question of party, he could not, on the other hand, but view it as one in which the interests and welfare of Ireland were nearly concerned; and the strong wish which he felt for the tranquillity and welfare of that country would overpower any other motive in bringing his mind to the consideration of the important measure now under discussion. He confessed that, viewing the Government Bill in every possible way, and wishing to put upon it as favourable a construction as he could, he was nevertheless forced to the conclusion, that it was not calculated, either in its spirit or substance, to effect the welfare of Ireland. Since the period at which that country was admitted to a participation in the blessings of the British Constitution, she had been cursed by a system of agitation, which unfortunately existed there even up to the present hour, and he was perfectly convinced that the Bill proposed by his Majesty's Government would, under the plea of introducing corporate reform, produce ten-fold the evils it professed to remedy, and give a new impulse to agitation, discord, and outrage. He thought that it was the duty of the British 289 Legislature to pause before they consented to abolish one monopoly by the substitution of another far more objectionable than that which now existed. The avowed object of the promoters of the Government Bill was to place corporate power in the hands of the Roman Catholics of Ireland. Now, nothing was more natural than that the Catholics should wish to possess power; but it was the duty of the House to consider how far that power was likely to be usefully directed, and whether it would be exerted, not for the interests of one sect or party, but for the general good of all. In his opinion, the British Legislature would be deficient in duty if they sanctioned any measure that would remove power from the hands of one party in order to place it in those of another. Yet such was the principle for which his Majesty's Government contended. If upon mature and deliberate consideration the House of Lords had been induced to come to that conclusion, had they not a full right, as an independent branch of the Legislature, to act upon the view which they had taken? He was sure, whatever might have been said to the contrary, and however strongly hon. Members opposite might feel upon the subject, their own calm good sense must tell them that the House of Lords had an equal right to exercise their judgment as the House of Commons had to decide upon any measure brought before them. It could not be denied that certain parties who supported the Government in this measure had ulterior objects in view. The House had been told by a Gentleman who belonged to that party, that nothing but the total extinction of tithes would satisfy the people of Ireland. Thus had one concession led to the demand for others, and he was quite satisfied that the effect of the present Bill would be to establish Catholic supremacy in Ireland. The cry of justice would never be silenced but by the granting of new concessions; but the Protestants of Ireland were not to be intimidated by agitation, and he was equally sure that the people of England would see that reason and justice were on the side of those who objected to the principle upon which the Government Bill was founded, and that those who conscientiously opposed it had no desire not to do justice to Ireland. Let any man look to the situation of Ireland for the last thirty years, and consider the system which had been pursued there of intimi- 290 dation, violence, and open violation of the law; let them but consider the way in which Church property was dealt with notwithstanding all the efforts of the Government to prostrate the rights of the clergy; let them but weigh the fearful consequences which must necessarily result if the present Bill were passed, when the flood-gates of agitation would be opened, and tumult and bloodshed would follow. He contended, that the passing of the Government Bill would enable that party who wished to sever the connexion between the two countries to put their design into execution. No Government could then hope to administer justice in Ireland, for the laws would be openly defied, and nothing but the dreadful alternative of civil war could restore tranquillity.
§ Debate adjourned.