§ On the Order of the Day being read,
§ Mr. Roebuck
said, it would be in the recollection of the House that he had given notice of a motion relative to the state in which the Government stood, and he considered the present occasion a fit opportunity for redeeming his pledge. The Order of the Day for the second reading of the Irish Tithe Bill had been put, and it appeared to him that they were about to lose their time by so doing, because even if they passed that Bill it could not become a law, at least under the auspices of the present advisers of the Crown. The circumstances in which that House stood were most remarkable, and required deep consideration. Two bills had been sent up to the other House of Parliament, but they were told the House of Lords would not take them into consideration until something had been done by that House to please them. Of that threat no notice was taken, and particularly none by his Majesty's Ministers; and he was bound to say, from their whole conduct, that they did nothing for the people, though they did much against them; their labours, in fact, were little better than nothing. The House and the country had been told at various times that justice was to be done to Ireland; but what he wished to call the attention of the House to, was the situation in which this House, the country, and the Government were at the 1338 present moment; and he asked the House, and he asked his Majesty's ministers, if they were not in a very extraordinary difficulty? What was the difficulty? There was no Government of the country. The difficulty was, that the time of the House was spent to no purpose; and further than that, the stoppage to business was not only caused by the other House, but also by the House of Commons. But the other night the Government had really suffered a defeat on the Church-rate Bill, when, on a division, they had only a majority of five in their favour. Now, every one knew that was virtually a defeat, and the Bill could not again be brought forward in that House. Ministers were not in the position in which they stood at the commencement of the Session. They stated then they would place their existence as Ministers on the fate of the Corporation Bill for Ireland. The noble Lord the leader of that House stated in his place, that if the Bill did not pass the House, he and his colleague would retire. What had become of that Bill? Why, it had been postponed, and it was distinctly understood that it would be postponed till the Lords knew what that House was about. The other House thwarted and obstructed measures sent up to them and virtually said to the House of Commons, "if you will not do what we like, we will not pass your bill." That was the position of the House of Lords; but obstruction and delay were not confined to the House of Lords. What had been done in that House? Every proposition—every measure brought forward for removing the evil, the noble Lord and the Government had distinctly and unequivocally refused to pass. Every one of these propositions the noble Lord had got rid of by an evasion. In what state, then, were they? Paralysed. And he asked the noble Lord, he asked the House, and, further, he asked the country, what good was to be derived from playing over a farce by discussing the Irish Tithe Bill? Did they not know that, if it passed that House, defeat awaited it elsewhere, and that it could not become a law? Every one said to his neighbour, that it was of no use to discuss such a measure, because it was sure to be lost. He wanted, therefore, to see if the position of the country could be altered he wanted to see if there were any means of extricating the House and the country from the difficulty. Every body knew 1339 the difficulty was great—every body knew that the existence of the ministry hung on a thread, and if present circumstances continued, there would not be a ministry much longer. Now, that was said in private. Why should it not be said in public? Why should the government not admit and give publicity to the fact? But that was the way in which a ministry called liberal and returned to office by the popular voice, rendered the services the people expected of them. They pursued a line of policy which their best friends dreaded and which their enemies admired. They were useless for good purposes—they were of use only for evil, and as far as the people were concerned were only mischievous; and if they remained in that hopeless condition there would be no result but mischief to the people. I am willing to allow, that Ministers have honest intentions, and are desirous to carry out the fruits of the Reform Bill; but still I must ask what has been done? It must be in the recollection of every one that on the passing that Reform Act the unrepresented classes (that is, those who were to remain unrepresented after the passing of the Reform Act) determined to forego their claim to the franchise, upon the representations made to them by their friends of the advantages to be derived from that measure when it became a law. Solemn promises were made on the part of the new constituencies of great reforms to be effected in all departments of the Government, and the public at large entertained great hopes in consequence of these magnificent promises. For example, the people were told that important reductions should take place in the expenditure of the state. Improvements were promised in the administration of the law in all its branches. Justice to Ireland, so long delayed, was now confidently anticipated. It was supposed that by a reformed Parliament effectual means would be provided for the education of the people, and thus the ground laid for getting rid of every objection to the extension of the suffrage to all classes of the people. And, furthermore, we were told that the government of corruption was to be ended for ever, and Tory domination was said to be doomed to eternal destruction. The hopes then raised have been miserably disappointed—the promises then made have been shamefully broken. The expenditure of the country is as wasteful and 1340 extravagant as in the palmy days of Toryism. There has been no actual reduction of expenditure [Oh, oh!]. Hon. Members may cry "Oh, oh!" but unfortunately there are certain o, o, o's at the end of certain figures [Cheers and laughter]. The administration of the law is as disgraceful now as before the days of the reformed Parliament. Now, under the auspices of a liberal Government, there is one law for the rich and another for the poor, and justice is utterly denied to the indigent. Justice has not been done to Ireland. The education of the people is left to the government of chance, and so far from attempts being made to extend the franchise, every nerve has been strained to narrow and curtail it. The government of corruption is not ended, neither are the days of Toryism numbered. A few nights since the so-called liberal Government were defeated—not in the House of Lords—not in the Chamber of hereditary and irresponsible Legislators—but here, in the Commons House, as it is denominated;—here, by the representatives of the people, have the measures of the liberal Government been repudiated. Here, by the very power by whose aid we expected to overawe and control the opponents of the popular will, have all our vain hopes been destroyed; and we have learned, at length, that, before good government can be attained, yet more extensive and searching reforms must be made in the frame and constitution of the Legislature. And, to sum up the catalogue of evil, it is now evident to every one that the present Government is doomed; every one says this to his neighbour in private; I cannot understand why it should not be publicly avowed. We all of us well know that the termination of the present ministry is but a question of small time; and we look upon the early incoming of that party which we were confidently told was for ever destroyed as inevitable as to some it is painfully disagreeable. But, while we are all thus agreed as to the result—while every one knows, and by a sort of instinct feels, that the early dissolution of the present Cabinet is certain—we are far from universally understanding the cause of this disagreeable effect. When it is asked why things are so, few are prepared with any, still fewer with the right, answer. I will at once offer to the House my explanation of the causes of the present embarrassments of the Government, and de- 1341 scribe the only remedy for the disease under which they labour. I will assume, Sir, by way of hypothesis, and for the purposes of the present argument, that the Ministry are honest in their intentions, and that when they came into power they really desired to obtain for the people that which the people believed to be the legitimate fruits of the Reform Bill. The real state of the Legislature at that time ought to be carefully recollected. One branch of the Legislature, viz. the House of Lords, were well known to be bitterly hostile to the popular demands, and the House of Commons also was known very imperfectly to represent the whole population of the country. Working, then, with instruments thus defective, two courses lay before the Ministry seeking to obtain for the nation that good Government which they had long demanded. They might endeavour to win over their opponents by compromise, in the hope of disarming opposition; or they might pursue a bold and determined course, and thus force their enemies and the people's enemies to yield. Unfortunately the present Cabinet determined on the first course; and from the moment of their accepting office down to the present hour their Government, has been a constant see-saw between hostile principles. On no occasion have they laid down a rule on principle and steadily adhered to it, but have always sought to attain their ends by a shifting and evasive policy. For example, they have never hardly laid down and faithfully followed to all its consequences the leading principle of popular Government, viz., that the governors ought to be responsible to the governed. They have, however, constantly hinted at this doctrine, and have sought by side-wind attempts to carry it into practice, while, at the same moment, they have in words done every thing to impugn it. To-day they are liberal; tomorrow the reverse. Aristocratic in principle; democratic in pretence. So far as relates to the manner of their proceedings. The matter of their proposals has been of the same nature. They have come forward with large promises and mean performance. Vaguely liberal has been their talk—ineffective and useless have been their measures. What has been the necessary result? They have to the utmost angered their opponents; they have created an hostility that cannot be surpassed—fierce, bitter, and undying, it is impos- 1342 sible to increase and apparently impossible to allay it. But they have not done anything to inspirit their friends; and they have allowed the great body of the people to become indifferent respecting them; and exceedingly suspicious as to the honesty of their intentions. The people say that their expectations have been deceived, that none of the vaunted benefits of the Reform Bill have accrued to the nation, and that in every important particular the Government is now essentially the same as that in existence before the supposed improvement of the representation. The fatal consequence of this feeling on the part of the public is apathy respecting the present administration and all which may succeed it, while our institutions remain unaltered. And apathy among the people is destruction to a liberal administration. I have stated in this House before, that the existence of any administration which dealt in compromise, and which by this means sought to keep our institutions such as they are, could only be maintained by keeping the people in a state of constant excitement. This I then adduced as a great evil, and I still insist upon my former statement; and I complain now, as I complained then, of the conduct of the Ministry. A wise Government would have understood and properly appreciated the evil, and would have taken the only means of quickly and effectually remedying it. They would have placed before the people a plan of a constitution which would insure peace and good Government in a calm as well as an excited state. They would have told the people that one great effort was necessary; and they would have guided the movement they had created to a definite and certain end. But the present Government has, as usual, done only half of this. They have sought to keep the people excited—but not by hope, but by fear. They have not told them what they ought to desire, but have striven every nerve to point out an evil they ought to avoid. The great terror, the standing hobgoblin, by which they have wrought upon popular fear, has been the return of the Tories to power. This instrument of excitement has at length lost its power. The game of the Whigs has been played to the end, and failure and defeat now stare us in the face. The people are no longer terrified by the cry of "The Tories are coming." 1343 They answer, "If they do come, what evil will follow? Our position under the Whig administration is no better than it was under the Tories, and if the latter come into power we shall be no worse off than now. We, through the instrumentality of the Whigs, have for the last five years lived a life of feverish hope and fear. Our hopes have been bitterly disappointed; we have begun to believe that our fears were as idle as our hopes." Such is now the language of the people; and the Gentlemen opposite who are so eager for power are thought to be strong because the Liberals become weak. They have not a greater hold upon the affections of the nation now than they had a few years since, but the Whig administration has lost its influence, and the cruel position of our Government is such that no Liberal Government can maintain its existence except during a state of popular enthusiasm towards liberal doctrines. The Whig Government has done nothing to take advantage of the favourable moment—they have not strengthened popular institutions, but have, by their neglect and trifling with every great principle, cooled down the enthusiasm that might have rendered them triumphant, and disgust has succeeded to hope. If it be asked why the people feel disappointed, I need only point to three cases in which, amongst others, their hopes have been cruelly disappointed. First, all hopes of justice to Ireland are at an end—at least all hope of justice being peaceably rendered to that country has vanished; second, all hope of justice to the Dissenters of England has also gone to the same borne; and lastly, the unrepresented millions see no chance of obtaining what they desire—a share in that Government which decides upon their lives and fortunes. In everyone of these cases, which I have selected from a mass by way of illustration, the cause of the people's disappointment is the same; and that is the course of compromise, the weak and dangerous trifling and tampering with principle, which the Government has followed and adopted. They were told at the outset of their career that this course would fail, and that such dishonest dealing with principle would lead to defeat. Has not the event justified the prediction? You have tried on your knees to obtain justice for Ireland—your real principles have been cloaked, hidden, shuffled over, distorted, twisted; degradation could not go further 1344 than I have witnessed on the part of the ministerial advocates of justice for Ireland: and what has been your reward? Contempt and scorn. Your enemies have trampled upon your measures; they have contemptuously delayed, changed, or rejected them, as the humour of their insolence suggested; and you have bowed and humbled yourselves to the dust, and with supplicant voice, and crouching, crawling subservience, have prayed them to be moderate in their supremacy. What ought you to have done? What you did not dare to do. You should have raised on high the banner of freedom for England and for Ireland. You should have boldly told the people of both countries justice could not be gained by either while an irresponsible body of hereditary legislators could at will dispose of the fortunes and the happiness of the people. Did you do this? Never. But you did all you were able to bring contempt upon those who pointed out the real seat of the mischief. You said you desired to introduce responsibility into the local Government of Ireland—so far you maintained the democratic dogma. But you scornfully treated all who explained to the people that the reason of the failure of your attempt was the irresponsibility of the House of Lords, and so far you, after the true see-saw or Whig fashion, favoured the aristocratic doctrine. The people looked on—they began to grow angry with the hereditary band of legislators. A word from you—a hand lifted up by one of the Ministerial leaders—would have created a feeling which the Lords could not have withstood. But, then, hereditary privileges would have been in danger, and your order would have suffered. Be it so—let us allow that your conduct was natural. It is plain that you love those exclusive privileges more than you love good government for the people, and that when the two things come into collision you in reality side not with the people, but with their enemies. Let the world know this—be honest in the matter, and do not pretend to be Liberals with such feelings predominant. So much for the way in which you dealt with a great principle when the happiness of Ireland was concerned. Now, let us look at the conduct you pursued when the great doctrines of religious freedom were at stake here in England. The Dissenters have petitioned this House to relieve them from an impost which, they 1345 tell us, presses hard upon their consciences—they tell us, that to maintain a church from whose doctrines they dissent is to them a grievous calamity—and the Ministry listen to their complaints, and they immediately assume the name of Friends of the Dissenters and of religious liberty. How do they manifest this their devotion to the cause of religious freedom? Do they come down to this House and openly avow the doctrines upon which alone these imposts ought to be abolished? No; they assure all those who maintain the supremacy of the Church of England, and who resist this proceeding as an attack upon that supremacy, that they are among the warmest friends of all the exclusive privileges of the Church of England; they say, also, that they are enemies of the voluntary system. Thus far they maintain the doctrines of religious tyranny. But, on the other hand, on the see-saw principle, they bring forward a measure the tendency of which is to support and advance the voluntary principle, and which can be properly supported only by an appeal to that principle: so far they are friends to religious liberty. The consequence of this proceeding has been defeat in this House—ignominious defeat, and disgust out of doors. The people are disheartened when led by such men, whose principles they cannot understand, and whose honesty consequently they begin seriously to doubt. Their conduct concerning the franchise, and the reforms yet necessary in this House, has been in the same way marked by a constant wavering between opposite opinions. The noble Lord who represents the Government in this House, often talks of the control which the people ought to have over their concerns; and at times he speaks the language of one who is really indignant at the vagaries of irresponsible rulers; and yet he does nothing to strengthen the hands of the people in this House, and thus enable them to coerce irresponsible power elsewhere. Every thing yet offered to this House by the friends of popular Government, has met its chief opposition from the Ministerial bench. To the ballot, the Ministry have constantly shown an inveterate hostility; to every attempt to enlarge the suffrage, they have also set themselves in opposition; and even now I am hardly certain whether the noble Lord is really intent on curtailing the mischievous effects of the 1346 rate-paying clauses of the Reform Bill. Thus it is that on every occasion a doubtful course is pursued, no principle is steadily adhered to, none followed to its legitimate and necessary consequences; and the effect of this as regards the noble Lord and his Friends, has been, that the people are now careless of their fate, and will soon view with complacency any event which drives them from power. It is often said, in defence of this conduct, that the Ministry are not to blame, because the people are unprepared for greater liberality. That is the present state of parties; the Cabinet, therefore, have been obliged to shift their ground, and by a side wind to attempt to carry what to attain directly was impossible. I object to this defence, that it is dishonest and foolish, unworthy of men who seek a great and just end—even were it politic—and in the actual state of things utterly ridiculous. It is said, for example, that the people are not prepared in many matters for the true liberal doctrines, and that if we hope to attain our ends, we must keep those doctrines in the back ground; and I often hear it asserted, that the extension of the suffrage is not popular; and then I hear harangues like the following—"Do not shock the feelings of the people by too open an avowal of your doctrines. You must advance step by step. You must not give to babes the food of men. Do not embarrass the Ministry by impracticable proposals, or foolish enthusiasm—let us gain as much as we can, and each advance aids us in going onward." This language I call dishonest; furthermore, it is exceedingly foolish. All this time you suppose your opponents blind or foolish—in fact, you fancy that what you all see plainly they cannot discern. Is not this supremely ridiculous? What! are we to suppose that the right hon. Baronet opposite is not so shrewd as we? Do you believe that he and his party, here and elsewhere, do not, as plainly as we can, understand all the consequences of this proceeding; and do you believe that they will be silent,—that they will not tell the world what they conceive to be the inevitable consequence of any measure you propose? Have they not done it? Have they not accused you of hypocrisy, of pretended tenderness of conscience—and have you not winced under the accusation? for you had no answer to make. I am met, however, with the assertion, that "we cannot carry 1347 our measures if we avow our principles." Had I no other answer I could reply, it is proved that you cannot carry yours, even though you should disingenuously endeavour to hide and distort them. But my real answer is, if you cannot honestly attain your end, forego it. Be content to wait till the people are prepared to admit your principles; labour to convert them—labour to prove your doctrines wise and just; but never seek to attain your object by dishonest subterfuge. I know well, that the timid and the disingenuous will multiply in every shape and form the accusation of imprudence against myself on the present occasion. I shall be said to have unwisely laid bare before an unprepared people, my views and intentions. My answer is, that I have told the truth. I have asserted my principles, and I have protested against the tampering that I have witnessed with the great doctrines of civil and religious liberty. I ask of those who speak against me to look back to the history of all the struggles for freedom. By whom and by what conduct have all our advances been made? Has it been to the wily and trimming politician that we have been indebted for that liberty we now enjoy? Was it any assertion of half principles, of wavering and uncertain doctrines, that won for us, step by step, the inestimable blessings of freedom in thought and action? No, it was the sturdy and uncompromising assertion of great principles, the steadfast adherence to truth, the rejection of all unworthy means, which gained for us this mighty victory. The weapons by which we can advance and defend the great cause of freedom, must also be taken from the bright armoury of truth, and we, like our predecessors in this mighty argument, must watch, with religious caution, that by no unworthy means we cast a shade upon their lustre, or dull the sharpness of their edge. We must wait patiently till we can, by honest means, attain honest ends; and not hope or seek, by wily artifice, to lead the people to acts which they would not perform did they clearly see all the consequences that must flow from them. One excuse may be, and often is, put forward to palliate this conduct. The party of the Tories, it is said, are so unscrupulous, that to meet them with any chance of success you must adopt unfair weapons also. I grant the first assertion, but utterly refuse my assent to the conclusion drawn from it. I allow that 1348 the Tories have been unscrupulous in their conduct, both in this House and out of it. I allow that, for the purpose of gaining an election, or of bringing the liberal party into discredit with the people, they have never scrupled to assert what they well knew to be false, so that it served their turn. It is true that they, knowing such accusations to be untrue, have accused the Ministry of being enemies to all religion; and in the next breath have declared that they sought to set up Popery. They have endeavoured to persuade the people that they, the Ministry, desired to pull down the churches, or convert them into prisons or stables. Unfortunately, this sort of conduct is not confined to the Tories; would that it were! I remember when I was opposed to a Whig candidate, that the very same accusation was brought against myself. And I have seen the super-sublimated pietists even on this side of the House, assert, with bigot self-complacency, "Oh! ye are naught, for ye are not as holy as we." Suppose, however, that the Tories have done all these things, why, I ask, need we be dishonest also? If we look at the matter merely as one of policy, we shall at once perceive, that while they may safely employ dishonest means, we must be ruined by them. Be it remembered that the Tory party represents he sinister interests of this country. Every one that desires to live on public plunder—every one that desires to preserve unjust privileges or irresponsible power—all who oppress the weak, the poor, and the humble—all who seek to maintain ignorance and prejudice among the people, every quack in religion or politics, every one who desires to curtail the power of the many, and to increase the power and immunities of the few, are banded together, and form, what is called, the Tory party. Now, what does it matter to men with these ends, what means they use? Every falsehood propagated, every popular error maintained, is so much in their favour. The errors and the ignorance of the people have allowed these sinister interests hitherto to flourish; by error and by ignorance alone can they continue. Therefore, every means which tends to maintain and increase ignorance, is to them legitimate. But to the liberal cause ignorance on the part of the people is fatal; you seek to give the people power, to make their servants responsible. This cannot be accomplished but by spreading 1349 knowledge among them—by the propagation of truth. Pursue the courses of those opposite, and you will shortly see falsehood triumphant and your enemies in the ascendant. Some there are, however, who say, that the people are not prepared for the truth. This estimate of their feelings I believe to be utterly false. There is now a great and growing feeling in favour both of civil and religious liberty; and it has been a short-sighted policy on the part of the ministry to attempt to establish the one or the other, without acknowledging the principles upon which they are demanded. In the present constitution of the legislature, a liberal government cannot be maintained, in power unless the people be enthusiastic in their favour. This fact I bitterly lament and deem it the most grievous circumstance connected with our present position. The people, to be safe from the inroads of a plundering faction, must be ever on the alert in a state bordering on revolution. A wise ministry would endeavour to remedy this crying evil by one great effort, and, having an enthusiastic people at their backs, would so alter the constitution of the legislature as to render a wise administration as certain in a calm, as in an excited condition of the people. To create this necessary and generous enthusiasm, a bold and determined course is needed. Show the people something to strive for—place before their eyes a prize worth their attainment, and you will quickly have at your command a force which will overawe all opposition. You must not, however, deal with great questions after the fashion of your church-rate policy, or that shewn by you respecting the church of Ireland—or as you have hitherto done in all that relates to the improvement of this House. It is not by compromise or the see-saw statement of conflicting doctrines that you can create enthusiasm; and without this feeling in the people, inevitable destruction in the present condition of the legislature awaits every liberal ministry. As every one, no matter how dull, reluctant, or sanguine, now sees the fate that hangs over the present Government, I may be excused for suggesting for their consideration something concerning the future. The destinies of the liberal cause will be greatly affected by the course which they may pursue, and much of good or evil to their country will be the result of their conduct during the trial that awaits them. For myself, in no 1350 circumstances do I despair of the fortunes of the liberal cause; neither do I permit myself to be blinded as to the dangers which that cause has to encounter. A time of trial is coming; and upon the determinations of the present Government it depends whether we shall fight the battle aided by an enthusiastic people and a majority in this House—or have to stand the encounter in opposition, and in a minority, and with a people disheartened and disgusted. In other cases I do not despair of victory; but it must be evident to every one, that the labours and the dangers of the encounter will differ much in the different circumstances I have described. Without circumlocution, then, Sir, I will state, (what every one knows to be true) that the present ministry will cease to be a ministry in a few weeks, if the people remain in their present apathetic condition. The Gentlemen opposite are strong, not because the public sympathise with them, but because they are indifferent as regards us. They (the people) have learned to feel, that little or no difference to them results from the existence of a so called Liberal or a Tory administration. This House, therefore, unchecked and unimpelled from without, follows the natural bent of its inclination, and that is rather to the Tory than the Liberal side of politics. Every day increases the indifference of the people; every day, therefore, strengthens the opposite party here. But a few weeks will elapse before their minority of five will have swelled to a majority, and then, those hopes which are so plainly evinced in the eager eyes of Gentlemen opposite will be fulfilled, and they will be introduced to the cares and the emoluments of office. Now, the question is, can this be prevented? My belief is that it may. To the ministry, two courses are open—they may yield to their fate and quietly sink into obscurity; or, acknowledging the error of their past plans, they may discard the Whig doctrines of compromise, assume a bolder tone, come forward with an effective reform of the Reform Act, thus inspirit and enlist the masses into their ranks, and put down their opponents by the aid of the enthusiasm of an expectant people. The timid, the irresolute, and the dishonest will say that this is a visionary scheme-—they will say, as they have said, that the apathy and indifference of the people have resulted from their dislike to change, and 1351 from the belief that Ministers have already gone too far. I know this is a favorite doctrine, and no persons have been so sedulous in the propagation of it as the Ministers and their immediate adherents. The doctrine has been applied as a battery against their Radical supporters. It was a natural and useful argument to those who wanted an excuse for inaction, as well as some means of putting a stop to the complaints of those who desired to advance. Much has thus been done to throw odium upon what are called extreme opinions; but one result has followed which the propagators of slanders against the Radical party did not anticipate. Men have reasoned thus: If further changes be unnecessary, and the present condition is the best we can hope for, then, indeed, the toils necessary to effect reforms are not repaid by the results. The Reform Act itself, which cost us so much labour, was nearly a useless task, for the benefits we have hitherto derived from it have not rewarded us for the pecuniary loss which many of us have sustained, for the painful excitements which all have undergone, for the mental and bodily labour which every Reformer had to endure. If so, let us seek quiet—let us turn our minds from political to our mere personal concerns, and leave the business of politics to those who make a trade of it. Such has been one effect of the preachment of the Ministry and their friends respecting going too far; another, perhaps still more injurious to their cause, has resulted from it. The Ministry, and more especially that section of them which is publicly believed to lean to Toryism, have on all occasions been eager to express contempt as well as hatred for the opinions and characters of their Radical supporters. This has led to reciprocal ill-will, and the masses whose opinions the Radical party here represent have been led to believe that the Ministry have really no desire to advance; that their chief object of solicitude is their places, and the next the aristocratic and exclusive privileges of their order. The millions of this country, I mean the unrepresented millions, have no confidence in the honesty of Ministers, and this doubt has been created and fostered by the whole tenour of their conduct respecting the demands of the unrepresented masses. On all occasions they have been repudiated with scorn and openly-avowed disgust. Thus while one large section of the people 1352 have been rendered indifferent, another, still more numerous, have been made active enemies. This has been the effect of your doctrine respecting going too far. They who preached that doctrine have never condescended to take into their consideration the masses who are not represented, nor to understand or appreciate the value of their support. Let it, however, be remembered, that all great reforms have been, and while our Legislature is as faulty as at present, must be, gained by the unrepresented. The Reform Act was gained by them; and every reform that Ireland will receive will be obtained by the overwhelming power of the unrepresented masses. Create enthusiasm amongst them, and it spreads to the constituencies—allow apathy and indifference to prevail, a feeling of caste arises in the constituent bodies, and they become careless of liberal doctrines; Toryism comes gradually into the ascendant, and the dishonest among the reforming ranks keep up a constant clamour about going too far. Whatever may be the confidence of Ministers in their own opinions, or their doubts respecting what I now advance, this much is certain—back they cannot go; if they stand still they are ruined; their only chance of success is by going forward. If they will heartily and cordially co-operate with the Radical party, they may again have the support of an enthusiastic people, may retain their present position as leaders of the liberal cause, and run a brilliant as well as useful career. This charge may be made with ease, and without injury to their character as honest politicians. They may now safely assert, that to obtain for the people that which the people expected from the Reform Bill, by the compromising plan hitherto adopted, has been proved by experience to be impossible. Desiring to fulfil the people's wishes, they may now try another and a bolder course. Their enemies, and the people's enemies, have driven them to this alternative. The headlong obstinacy of the Tory party here, and in the House of Lords, their signal and loudly-declared contempt of the popular demands, their refusal to be parties to any compromise, compel you, as friends of the people, to pursue a new conduct, to adopt as stern and unyielding a principle as their own—and since they will not yield to the mild remonstrance and requests of the people, you must now demand as a right, not to be refused, what 1353 you have hitherto sought as a favour. If the Ministry determine upon this conduct, the result is certain—if they refuse to adopt it, equally certain will be the consequence; but it will be a fatal one to them. And now, as an earnest for a new course of conduct, and a commencement thereof, I would entreat the noble Lord solemnly to consider his position, and grant the inquiry. He may soon, if he pursue this course, contemn the taunts and threats of his opponents, secure in the love and respect of the nation. But if he should determine not to adopt this plan, then his ministerial reign will be quickly over, and he and his friends will be thrown aside as tools worn out and useless, and he and they will very soon be utterly forgotten. Then, in opposition, supported only by a minority, the Radicals will have to fight the battle of freedom with their implacable enemies. The day of our final victory will be distant; but he whose eyes are not dimmed by prejudice, whose courage does not quail in danger, will see in "clear reason" and solemn vision the hour of our certain triumph. Labouring patiently for the great cause of human freedom, we must abide our time, well assured that though our reward in the welfare of our country may be distant, yet it will be finally accorded; and when that happy time arrives, we shall have the proud satisfaction of having, single handed, fought the good fight for freedom, and, single handed, gained for her a glorious victory. In the present state of parties in this House and of the Government, the whole machinery of legislation is at a dead stop. Under these circumstances, does it not behove us, instead of proceeding with a Bill which we know can in no case pass into a law, to endeavour to discover the means of rescuing ourselves from the difficulties in which we have been involved by the conduct of his Majesty's Government? I, therefore, Sir, ask the House to resolve itself into a Committee for the purpose of taking into consideration the state of the nation.
said, Sir, I have nothing to do with the motives which may have actuated the hon. and learned Member for Bath in making the speech which we have just heard; nor is the effect which such a speech can have on the country to me a matter of great concern. If, also, the object of the hon. Gentleman's speech had been merely to inculpate his 1354 Majesty's Ministers for the course which they have thought it their duty to pursue, I might well have sat silent, and left to them the task, of which they are fully capable, of making their own defence. But the hon. and learned Member was not content with that. His speech involved a serious inculpation of all those hon. Members who, like myself, have honestly and strenuously supported the present administration; firmly believing that the course they have been pursuing is best calculated to promote the advance of liberal opinions; opinions which I think the speech and the political conduct of the hon. and learned Gentleman tend to repress and injure. The hon. and learned Gentleman claims for himself the merit of an extraordinary attachment to the principles of liberty and of liberal government. Sir, I will not yield to him or to any man in that attachment; but experience has shown me that the cause of liberty, which is that of liberal government, is more practically advanced by other means than by loud professions of attachment to that cause, while the hon. and learned Member at the same time impugns and endeavours to destroy every measure the tendency of which is to carry into effect the very principles which he pretends to hold so dear. The hon. and learned Gentleman has thought proper to put into the mouths of his Majesty's Government when they came into office declarations of the vast economical and other reforms, of their determination to do justice to Ireland, &c., &c. Sir, I do not remember that when they came into power they made any such extensive pledges. I do remember that there was one point on which they insisted—namely, the propriety of adopting certain measures respecting Ireland. The hon. and learned Member says, "You cannot do justice to Ireland, your power as a Government is effete, and you can do nothing to benefit the people of Ireland." Sir, the proper answer to such an assertion is an appeal to the feelings of the people of Ireland with reference to his Majesty's present Government. Have the people of Ireland complained of the conduct of his Majesty's present Government to that country? Have the people of Ireland said to his Majesty's Government, "You came into office full of professions of what you intended to do for Ireland; but either the power or the inclination has been wanting, for you have done nothing for us?" On the con- 1355 trary, have we not seen numerous declarations of bodies of the people of Ireland expressive of their gratitude for what his Majesty's present Government have done for Ireland, and of their conviction that it would be highly conducive to the interests and benefit of that country that that Government should remain in power? How, therefore, can the hon. and learned Member for Bath say that Ireland has derived no advantage from the present Government, when it is evident that the very reverse is the truth? So much, Sir, for Ireland. What more does the hon. and learned Gentleman say? "Mark what you have done; or rather what you have neglected to do. You have not had the courage to come forward like men and effect the overthrow of the Church of England, and therefore you are deprived of the aid and support of a great majority of the people of England." Now, in the first place, if his Majesty's Ministers had come forward with any proposition the effect of which was to overthrow the Church of England, although backed by the hon. and learned Member for Bath, they would most unquestionably have found themselves in a miserable minority, both in this House and in the country. The opinion on the subject which the hon. and learned Member for Bath alone entertains (for although he uses the pronoun "we," I am convinced that he does not speak the sentiments of any man in the House but himself), is one which I have no hesitation in declaring I never could, under any circumstances, be induced to adopt. I never could consent to any measure the object of which was the destruction of the Church of England. "But," says the hon. and learned Member, "if you had taken a contrary course with reference to the Church of England, you would have had with you the whole country—Dissenters and all." Did the hon. and learned Gentleman pretend to assert that there was any body of Dissenters in the country hostile to the measure which was introduced by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer? I tell the hon. and learned Member—and I defy him to contradict me—that among the whole of the Dissenters of England, from those who are the furthest removed in doctrine from the Church of England, to those who most nearly approximate to that doctrine—from the Unitarians down to the Independents—there is scarcely an exception; there is, 1356 in fact, perfect unanimity in favour of the measure of his Majesty's Government, and a perfect willingness to receive it as a measure satisfactory to the most scrupulous conscience, and giving the Dissenters all they ask, wish, or require. Again, the hon. and learned Member for Bath seems to consider it to be the duty of his Majesty's Government to drive on such measures as may lead to a collision between this House and the House of Lords. Now on that point I differ from the hon. and learned Member in toto. It is the duty of his Majesty's Government to propose, and of this House to pass, such measures as they think essentially beneficial to the country; but in considering those measures it is consistent with wisdom and prudence to endeavour so to modify them as to afford the best probability of their obtaining the sanction of the House of Lords. Whoever maintains a different doctrine, is, in my opinion, in the first place, a real enemy to the measures of which he professes to be the friend; and, in the second place, precipitates the production of those great constitutional changes which ought not to be resorted to except in cases of indispensable necessity. If, after a long series of measures, and after the people of England have unequivocally showed their approbation of such measures, they should continue to be rejected by the House of Lords; and if, after ample time and consideration, it should appear to be impossible that the present constitution of the House of Lords should continue compatibly with the welfare of the kingdom, and that something must be done to remedy the evil, I am not one to say, that that something ought not to be done. But, Sir, I am desirous of going on by degrees; I am desirous of avoiding such a proceeding until the last moment; I am desirous of avoiding it until it appears to be a matter of unavoidable necessity, called for by the unanimous, or almost the unanimous, voice of the people. The hon. and learned Member for Bath anticipates the rejection by the House of Lords of a measure in progress in this House. Now, as that measure stands upon grounds different from those of the measure of last Session, I am by no means prepared to say, that if the measure in question meets with the approbation of this House the House of Lords will not give it a fair and candid consideration. But what is the 1357 course advised by the hon. and learned Member for Bath? What is the nostrum which he recommends to his Majesty's Government, to enable them to regain the confidence of the people of England? To go to the utmost extent of his own theoretical notions; without the slightest regard to evils which might flow from such a proceeding!—And what is to be the result of the coquetry which the hon. and learned Member is practising upon the opposite benches? The hon. and learned Member during his speech had, as a consolation for the silence of the rest of the House, the faint cheer of an hon. Member for a northern county, faintly echoed by the leader of the opposition benches. But I must do the right hon. Baronet the justice to say, that I am quite aware of his utter dissent from the hon. and learned Members political doctrines. Sir, I have had much experience in this House; and I have always found that the men who in the commencement of their career professed the most, that the men who boasted most of their singular and extraordinary zeal, that the men who assumed the possession of peculiar correctness of conduct, that the men who treated with contempt the efforts of those who were engaged in the same cause as themselves,—I have always found that in the end such men proved the weakest supporters, and sometimes the bitterest enemies, of the very principles of which they considered themselves the warmest friends.
said, a fat soldier once presented himself to a reviewing general, and said, "I am the skeleton of the hundred-and-first regiment." It might have occurred to the hon. and learned Gentleman who just sat down, that the seconder of the amendment, however closely he might approach to the position of that skeleton, was at all events likely to make an exception to the assertion that there was nobody who joined in the opinions of the Mover. He must state, therefore, openly and fairly, that he coincided entirely in the principle of everything that had been said by the Member for Bath. Their complaint was (and he would willingly use the dual number if he was speaking Greek or any language that possessed it), that from the earliest period when it was practicable to form any judgement of the practice of the Ministry, the Ministers had adopted a 1358 course calculated to let down themselves, and every body connected with them, and to bring advantage to nobody but their enemies. They had started with a large stock of popular energy in their favour, and in their terror lest the steam should burst, they had let the fire go out. One of their first movements, was at one swoop to alienate from themselves the hearts of all the working classess, by their proceedings towards the Dorchester labourers; and if those classes had not absolutely gone over to the enemy, they had, at all events, been cooled of any attachment to the Ministerial side. Like Spanish generals, the Ministry had always had one eye in their own camp, and another in their enemy's; every effort for the success of their own side, had been paralysed by the fear of that side being too successful. The situation to which they had brought themselves was plain to all men. If any event in the chapter of human accidents should happen to give them a reprieve, the only consequence would be, that as they dwindled, dwindled before, they would dwindle, dwindle again. There was no stock of good luck, which such conduct would not run out. It was clear what must come at last; the hon. Gentlemen opposite must return to power, and he hoped they would feel no contempt for those who had foreseen it all along. How long they would stay there, was another question; but there coming in was a phasis, a phenomenon, which the conduct of the Ministers had rendered it inevitable to go through. When this took place, we should possibly see the present Ministers renewing their strength like the eagle, and declaring their willingness to set about doing in good earnest, what they had much better have done before. Though the Member for Bath and himself might be dual in these opinions in that House, there was nothing like duality out of doors; they were both of them supported there by masses of men, who, though moved by nothing like original hostility to the present Ministers or their party, agreed with them in believing that the favourable chances had been thrown away, and that nothing was before us but the process he had endeavoured to describe.
was at a loss to know whether the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down was serious or not. He made one allusion—that of letting out the fire 1359 lest the steam should burst the vessel, which all who had heard of a recent dreadful calamity must agree in thinking the hon. Member for Hull ought especially to have abstained from. Did the hon. and gallant Member for Hull wish that the steam should be kept up till an explosion took place, from which calamities more disastrous than those which had occurred at Hull should follow? He learned, with regret, that the hon. and learned Member for Bath had forgotten all those evils which his Majesty's Government of the present day had prevented in Ireland. Did the hon. and learned Gentleman really and seriously wish to see the Tories in power—that party which had for centuries misgoverned Ireland? He wished him to confine himself to the state of Ireland. His Majesty's Government had directed their attention to the cause of Ireland; and, for the first time, they had a Government which regulated their patronage by a sense of the real merits of individuals. There had been two appointments of gentlemen as King's counsel who were not of the party of the King's Government, but who, on the contrary, were opposed to it. The gentlemen who had been appointed King's counsel were Mr. Blake and Mr. Collins, and the appointments had been made within the last few weeks. None could be more just; one of these learned gentlemen was a Roman Catholic and a Tory, and, therefore, his opinions might naturally be supposed to be less favourable to his Majesty's Government than they otherwise would be. The other was Mr. Collins, whose success in his profession not only warranted but called for his promotion. But would the Tories have done this to those who were in the ranks of their enemies? Was such a thing ever done by that Tory Government whom the hon. and learned Member for Bath would support? The present Government, however, had done this, and they had given to the people of Ireland an opportunity of showing the readiness of the people of Ireland to support his Majesty's Government, who, although they were not able to do all they wished for Ireland, yet showed the disposition to maintain the due execution of the law. The people of Ireland were most ready to give up their most favourite objects to give the present Government the means of carrying out a variety of great public measures which they had in 1360 view. Had not the present Government passed the Bill for the regulation of Municipal Corporations in Ireland, which they had sent up to the House of Lords? And was the Government to be blamed for not doing more, when these great measures were denied to them because they were the people of Ireland, and because the Tory faction were delighted to report the sarcastic expressions of the hon. and learned Member for Bath? The hon. and learned Member for Bath blamed the Government for not being stronger; and with equal reason might Sangrado, who was always bleeding his patients, blame them for not being stronger. He felt it his duty, in the name of the people of Ireland, to protest against his Majesty's Government being blamed for not doing more. That Government had the confidence, and had gained the affections of the people, because they had shown a wish to serve the best interests of the country at large. Whatever might be the opinion of others, he, for one, whatever might be the opinion of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, hoped his Majesty's Government would long continue to occupy those stations which they at present held.
§ Mr. Hume
hoped it would long be the privilege of that House that those who entertained opinions different from others should be at liberty to express them fearlessly. His hon. and learned Friend had said that the hon. Member for Bath accused the Ministry of being weak, and that he likened him to that practitioner of old who, whilst taking blood from his luckless patients, blamed them for not getting stronger. Though he did not feel the justness of the application of this simile, yet he agreed in many of the statements of his hon. Friend, whilst he differed from him in many others. His hon. Friend, the Member for Bath, never said that he wished to see the Tories in power. He stated that the Ministry at the commencement of their career promised to support certain public measures, and to carry out those general principles upon which they received the support of those who sat on that (the Ministerial) side, and that the people out of doors complained that they had not done so. He contended that they had not done so. He thought that they had not taken those measures which the Reform Bill required. Then, his hon. Friend had argued, that by not support- 1361 ing the measure for triennial Parliaments they had not carried into effect the intentions of those who advocated the Reform Bill, and had thereby lost many of their Friends. And in this view of the case he concurred. This, then, was the opinion of his hon. Friend, though he had not expressed it perhaps in so pleasant a manner. He concurred with the hon. Member for Bath in thinking that his Majesty's Government had not supported those great popular principles which he and others contended they might have done. But he should be very wrong if he did not take into consideration the opposition which they had met with; and he could not think with his hon. Friend that their course was so clear or those difficulties so light as he had represented them to be. He could not shut his eyes to the fact that there were 300 persons in that House who were opposed to his Majesty's Government. He knew that his Majesty's Ministers did every thing in their power to secure popular rights, but as often as they did so their efforts were met by a negative. He thought, however, that there was no opposition either in that House or elsewhere which ought to have prevented the Government from taking a bolder course; but he could never agree with his hon. Friend that the country had not derived great advantage from their administration; and though there were many of their measures which had not passed into law, yet depend upon it they ought to persevere in bringing in good measures. So with reference to the Church-rates Bill, if it were again frustrated elsewhere, still, having passed that House, they owed a great meed of praise to the Government for having brought forward that measure, a measure which went to put an end to that state of degradation to which the Dissenters were exposed, to support a religion in which they did not concur. He did not believe that his Majesty's Government ever advocated the voluntary principle; and he was glad to find that they did not intend to do so. True it was that they had been too chary of speaking of the abuses which existed in the Established Church. He had observed, on the part of the noble Lord, a disposition to remove those laws which were oppressive to the Dissenters; and a desire to remove all invidious distinctions, and to promote religious equality. He denied the allegation which had been re- 1362 peatedly made, that the Church-rates regulation measure did not give satisfaction to the Dissenters. He was quite sure that his hon. and learned Friend was not the person to deny every merit to his Majesty's Government for having brought forward and carried the English Municipal Corporations Bill, and for having sent the Irish Municipal Bill up to the Lords, Again, with reference to Ireland, he rejoiced in the appointment of the Earl of Mulgrave as Lord-lieutenant of Ireland. He believed that the Government would be strengthened every day by strengthening the Reform Bill, and by giving protection to every voter in the exercise of his franchise by the ballot. The majorities in that House had decreased; but the reverse would have been the case if the Government had pursued a course more in consonance with the great principles of the Reform Bill. With reference to the Tories, he did not believe that the country would bear with a Tory Government. He was bound to take into account the many difficulties with which the Government had had to contend; and he could not agree in the opinion that it would be beneficial to the country to have Gentlemen on the opposite side vested with the Government of the country. He, for one, wished to see the House of Lords bombarded with good measures. The Lords had told the country that day that all legislation on their part was at an end, and the people of Ireland would soon be apprised of this fact. Their Lordships complained that various measures were not sent up to them. Why, the Irish Municipal Bill was in that House; their Lordships had postponed the Committee on a former day till the 9th of June; and that day having arrived, they had further hung the Bill up till the 3rd of July. Let his hon. Friend reflect on that circumstance. When they should make the House of Commons more completely represent the people, all these acts on the part of their Lordships would be properly treated; and his hon. Friend might rest assured that if that House carried up good measures to the other House which stopped them, and his Majesty's Ministers could not help that, yet by bringing better and better measures before them, every day would they be better supported, and therefore that House should not stop the progress of these Bills. He hoped his Majesty's Government would 1363 not disregard the truths which had been told them.
§ Lord John Russell
said, I feel myself compelled to take part in this debate, though I do not admit that there is any necessity for its introduction; and I must observe to the hon. Gentleman who has introduced it, that while I do not find fault with him for any notice on his part, yet that, as a public question, I may be permitted to put in some words of excuse, or palliation, or, it may be, justification, as to the delay which takes place in proceeding with the measures of the Government. Sir, the case is really this—that Gentleman, one after another, bring forward motions of their own, till they have occupied some two or three dozen evenings fixed for the discussion of those measures, and then they all join in chorus, and say, "What a dreadful thing it is that those measures have not proceeded!—what a dreadful delay there is in the public business—we have already arrived in the month of June, and the measures which the Government declared expedient and necessary have not yet passed!" I might say, with regard to the particular course which the hon. Gentleman has adopted to-night, if I were to use his phraseology, that his course had been dishonest, he pretending to one thing while he was doing another. That, Sir, is the charitable supposition which he puts on the course pursued by his Majesty's Ministers—that is the way in which he thinks proper to impute motives to, or invent them for, those whose public conduct he arraigns. What was the course of the hon. Gentleman? He made a speech, pretending to be highly in favour of the principles of liberty—pretending to be very much in favour of an improved course of legislation—an improved course of public action more favourable to popular power and popular control in this country; and in the whole of that speech he never got a cheer of assent, except from those whom he represents as the most decided enemies of that public liberty, and from whom he totally dissents in political opinions. I say, then, Sir, that if I were to judge of motives as rashly and as wantonly as the hon. Member, I should declare that in taking the course which he has taken, he was, while he pretended to be aiding public liberty, in fact, endeavouring to obstruct the course of those who were striving to do what they possibly could in its behalf, and 1364 that in proposing for attainment an object which he knew to be either impracticable or impossible, he was aiding a course and bringing about a system of policy less favourable to public liberty than that which is now adopted, and which he now arraigns. But, Sir, I attribute no such motives; and he will allow me, as an older if not a better soldier in this House, to say that different parties may entertain totally different political sentiments in this House, whether going to the extremes of democracy or ultra-toryism, or whether, being moderate Tory or moderate Whig—that they may all honestly and consistently hold those opinions respectively, and at the same time be endeavouring to do that which they think is for the public good. He will allow me also to say that it neither tends to the preservation of good temper in this House, nor is conducive to the public interest, to be throwing out motives of hypocrisy and of attempts to do one thing while intending to do another; and that the imputation of all such motives, unless the hon. Gentleman wishes them to be retorted on himself, had better be restrained. The hon. Gentleman has introduced a serious subject to this House a subject which indeed is of so important a nature, that if I were to attempt to go through the various considerations belonging to it, I should altogether lose the hope of being able this night to proceed with the measure before the House, and give rise to a much longer and more protracted discussion than I think desirable. I will, however, touch on two or three topics on which the hon. Gentleman's accusation is founded. He says that the course of the present Ministers has no effect—that it ends in nothing for the public. Now, Sir, I will mention first that subject to which he adverted, and to which it is necessary to advert, because it is the immediate subject which stands for consideration to-night, and on which the hon. Gentleman has moved his amendment—I mean the questions respecting Ireland. I must declare my opinion, that whatever it may be proper or necessary to do with respect to England, either in regard to legislation or administration, the evils of Ireland are far more deep, far more crying, and that more attention is necessary, both on the part of the Legislature, and on the part of the administration, to act wisely and generously towards Ireland, than to introduce any improvements which may be yet wanting 1365 —and there are, no doubt, many yet wanting—in England. I will say, therefore, that I do think that if we utterly fail with regard to Ireland—that if our administration be culpable with respect to Ireland—if it be weak, inefficient, or remiss, and that if we do not succeed in establishing those principles of legislation generally which we hold ought to be established towards Ireland—we do fail in the main purposes of a Government of this United Kingdom. But with respect to the administration of Ireland, do we really stand in that situation? What has been the voice of the people of Ireland? Have they denounced us? Have they entreated his Majesty to accept our resignations when offered? Have they not, on the contrary, sent up petitions with an opposite prayer?—Is not the opinion of the people of Ireland—of a great portion, at least a great majority—favourable to the present administration of affairs in that country?—The opponents of that administration have not refrained from accusations and charges of great weight and importance, respecting its conduct: but have they proved those charges? On the contrary, what has been their course? In the one House of Parliament they have brought forward a petition embodying those charges, which has been ordered to lie on the table of that House, but upon which no further proceedings have been taken. What has been their course in this House? A similar petition was presented here. Is there a day fixed for its consideration, when the charges shall be brought forward, and a motion made, declaring that the Government of Ireland has lost the confidence of this House?—Has any such motion been attempted—or is it likely to be made? I see no chance of it at present; because I know that a motion, of which notice was given for the consideration of that petition, has been allowed to drop. I think, then, that I may infer that the wealthy and powerful minority, who disapprove of the conduct of the Government, do not feel their disapprobation to be sufficiently well grounded to proceed with the charge against it. And is it to be left to the hon. Member for Bath, and the hon. Member for Hull, in the dual character which the latter hon. Member had attributed to them, to be the only persons to say, "The majority in Ireland are satisfied, the minority show no complaint; but we denounce 1366 your Government, and on that denunciation that Government is to be condemned." With respect now to legislative measures:—we are about to have before this House to-night, a Bill relating to a question which has unfortunately been the subject of long discussion in Parliament, which has been the subject of difference in this House, and between the two Houses of Parliament. We have likewise under discussion a Bill of very great importance, to which this House has paid great and laborious attention—I mean the Poor Relief (Ireland) Bill, respecting which I may say that this House has generally approved its provisions and negatived the propositions of its opponents. There is another measure which has already gone to the other House of Parliament—I mean that respecting Municipal Corporations. I need not go into the nature of that measure now. But I will say that I do not think that a Government, which has brought forward in a single Session a Bill for Municipal Corporations, approved of by a considerable majority of the House, a Bill for the introduction of Poor-laws into Ireland, and a Bill for the settlement of tithes and the regulation of ecclesiastical revenues, is a Government which can be stated to be remiss. But then, says the hon. Gentleman, "Oh! these measures will lead to nothing, and I am quite sure that they will not pass." Sir, I think that the hon. Gentleman is rather premature in his prophecy.—My opinion is, however I may very often disapprove of the course taken by the majority of the other House of Parliament, that upon subjects of this deep importance there is not a disposition in that House to refuse to consider and deliberate seriously on those measures, with the view to some settlement on the subject. They say—which I do not say—that these measures ought to be taken together and not separately. That is not my view; but, at the same time, I can well conceive that that view may be taken. I say that we ought to pass the bills before us in the best form in which we can, and send them to the other House of Parliament; and in leaving them for deliberation there, I see no cause to despair that that House will take them into consideration, and that we may be able to come to some agreement respecting them. The hon. Gentleman says, we may, perhaps, perceive the object which 1367 he may have in view in making this motion—an object, be it remembered, in the whole course of policy which he recommends—that the other House of Parliament is an irresponsible body—that you cannot trust to an irresponsible body, and that we abandon popular principles in making a compromise with that irresponsible body. Sir, those are the doctrines of the hon. Gentleman; but I think that it does not follow that I ought to adopt those doctrines, because I cannot adopt them without abandoning all the principles which I ought to maintain—namely, the principles of the British constitution. I do not agree that the term "irresponsible body" is a term that can be applied to the House of Lords. My opinion is, that they must feel, and that they will feel that they are persons acting in the sight of the whole public of the United Kingdom, and that if they are once aware and persuaded that the mass of intelligence, and the mass of opinion are in favour—as I think they will be—of a course of justice towards Ireland, the House of Lords will feel that they would be undertaking a responsibility, which they never could wish to undertake, if they attempted to thwart and control that opinion. I know nothing at present which prevents me from entertaining that expectation, which I know to be in conformity with the former history of this country; but if I did not entertain it, I cannot come to such opinions as the hon. Gentleman entertains, that we ought not to agree to any amendment, any changes proposed by the House of Lords—that our object ought to be to ruin that body in the public opinion, and to place some elective body in its place. That, I conclude, from the hon. Gentleman's speech, and from what he has said at various times, to be the object at which he aims—[Mr. Roebuck was understood here to intimate that it was to abolish the House of Lords]. I beg pardon for misunderstanding the hon. Gentleman; I was not aware that such was his opinion. But I beg to declare frankly, that I as totally dissent from his opinion for abolishing the House of Lords, as I dissent from the opinion of making them an elective body. I do not look upon the abolition of the House of Lords as the millennium which we are approaching. My opinion is that there is nothing—I hope that there will be nothing—in the aspect pf public affairs to induce us so to abandon 1368 the principles of the British Constitution. The hon. Gentleman says, that men of moderation and compromise never succeeded in establishing anything useful in this country. My opinion is so adverse to that, that I think the moderate and prudent course pursued by Lord Somers, and the great leaders of the Revolution, when there were some for keeping James the Second on the throne, and others for appointing a regency, and others again, like the hon. Gentleman, for abolishing the House of Lords, with the addition of abolishing the monarchy. I say my opinion is so adverse to his that I think the prudent course of Lord Somers in establishing the Government of the Revolution to have been one of the main causes of the prosperity of the country. With these feelings, therefore, I am not likely to concur in the views of the hon. Gentleman. But the hon. Gentleman has said that, with respect to Church-rates, and some other measures, we had not conciliated the Dissenters of this country—that we ought to have adopted the voluntary principle, and that we should thereby have conciliated the popular favour. On that subject I must declare, for one, that my opinion is not in favour of the voluntary principle, and, therefore, though that were to conciliate popular favour, I should not adopt it. But I totally disagree that any such course would conciliate the popular feeling. My belief is, that the people of this country are in favour of an established Church and not in favour of the voluntary principle. My opinion is, likewise, that the Dissenters are generally satisfied with the measure which we introduced respecting Church-rates; I have not heard from them any complaint that that measure did not go far enough. But the hon. Gentleman also finds fault with us, because we had a majority of no more than five on that question. Why was it that we had not more? If we had introduced a measure less agreeable to the views of the Dissenters we might have had a much larger majority; and here I may mention that that majority of five might have been a majority of six, had it not been that the hon. Seconder (Colonel Thompson) was absent from the House. My opinion, Sir, concerning the policy which we ought to pursue is, that we ought to bring forward measures which we think calculated for the good of this country, and that having produced them to Parliament we must 1369 then rely on the support which we meet with in this House, and the support which we meet with in the public opinion, to carry those measures; if we meet with a large support in this House, and if we are still further supported by the general opinion of the people of this country, then I do not doubt that those measures will come to a triumphant issue. But if we do not meet with that support, I do not think that we ought to be blamed, because the measures which we have thought right have not immediately become acts of the Legislature. The hon. Gentleman who has not been long a member of the House, of Commons, has thought it proper to taunt us sitting on this bench with a narrative of the acts which we have been unable to carry; with the failure in point of performance after we had produced measures of considerable importance. I will take the liberty of mentioning to him, that during the time which we have sat in this House, for the greater part of us have sat in it during the last few years, we have carried the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, which made a degrading separation between Churchmen, and Dissenters.—We have carried the Reform Act.—We have carried the Poor-law Act. We have carried the Act for the Reform of Municipal Corporations, the Act for the Commutation of Tithes in England, and the Act for the total and entire Abolition of Slavery—With respect to administration, I will not go into details of expenditure and taxation; we have kept up to that promise of retrenchment which Lord Grey gave when he took office. It is a glory on which I shall always pride myself, that I have acted with Lord Grey first, and since with Lord Melbourne in carrying these important measures; and if some other measures have not reached their consummation, I do not see that it justifies the hon. Gentleman. When only two-thirds of the Session have been gone through, and many of their measures are yet coming to their completion, I say I do not think that it justifies him, who has never done any thing for his country—who has never carried any act, or, as far as I know, proposed any measure by which the liberties or interests of this country might be promoted.—I say I do not think that it becomes him to come forward now to arraign us, he having so little of his own performance to place in the balance against ours; to make himself 1370 the accuser, with bitter and ironical sarcasm, and seem to be aiding the cause of liberty, which, in fact, if his reproaches had any effect, they could have no effect but this—to mar the calm and steady progress of reform, and, making many despair of that calm and steady progress to induce them to go back, or at least if not to lead to a retrogression, to lead to a stoppage—a standing still under the guidance of those who have always felt that reform was dangerous, and that we ought to go no further.—Motion negatived.
§ The Order of the Day was then read.