§ Lord John Russell
On entering on the question for the consideration of the House this evening, I will merely say, I am quite sure no Member of the House, and especially the right hon. Baronet opposite, meant any want of respect for the Crown, or showed any indisposition to comply with the usages observed on such an occasion as that of last evening. I must also say, that the whole proceedings of yesterday exhibited but one unanimous feeling of loyalty to the Crown, and a resolute determination not to allow any political duty to interfere with the Address of condolence, or the general wish to show proper marks of respect to the Queen. I now proceed to what is more matter of political concern, and one which entirely regards the advice which has been given by those Ministers in whom her Majesty has been pleased to 1583 repose her confidence with respect to the business which has to be done during the remainder of the Session. Any comments, therefore, which may be made on the proceedings which we have advised, will be comments fairly made, not against the Crown, but directed against its advisers. Her Majesty's Message states that "The present state of the public business and the period of the Session, when considered in connexion with the law which imposes on her Majesty the duty of summoning a new Parliament within a limited time, renders it inexpedient, in the judgment of her Majesty, that any new measure should be recommended for your adoption, with the exception of such as may be requisite to carry on the public service from the close of the present Session to the meeting of the new Parliament." Sir, when his Majesty's Ministers took into consideration the public business before the House, they saw that there were only two courses that could be properly adopted—the one to bring down a message respecting the Civil-list, and propose to the House the settlement of that measure for the new reign, and then proceed with the public business already commenced; the other course is only to consider those measures which are absolutely necessary for carrying on the public service, and for preventing any public injury during the time which must elapse before a new Parliament could assemble. Now, with respect to the former of these courses, although I have no doubt that the present Parliament would have considered the matter of the Civil-list in the spirit of loyalty and devotion to the public service, and that a provision would have been made most adequate for the dignity of the Crown, yet, in considering that measure in conjunction with the other measures now before the House, it did not seem advisable that we should immediately undertake that measure, and proceed at the same time with those other important measures. The obvious objection which will strike every one as to proceeding in such a course is the expectation, the general and prevailing expectation, founded, not upon any advice or any proposition which may be adopted by her Majesty, but by a positive enactment of law, declaring that a dissolution should take place within a certain period. Therefore, if the House should proceed to consider the Civil-list, and the various measures already under consideration of the House, two very certain and inevitable evils would have occurred: the one is, that 1584 a number of Members of this House, anxious to place themselves before those who had hitherto been their constituents would have left the service of the House, and would not attend here on measures of great public importance. The other evil, and which I think ought fairly to be considered by the Sovereign and her Ministers, is, that Members attending here, and performing to the utmost their duties to the public, will be exposed to the disadvantage which must occur—that while they are acting in the manner which they think conducive to the public interest, others will go before their constituents and represent their conduct in a light that is unfavourable, while the Member himself is unable, in consequence of attending this House, to clear his conduct from misrepresentation. That is a reason why I think we should not go on with all the measures now before the House. There are, Sir, up to this day, above sixty bills and orders of the day; combining the discussion of these with the consideration of the Civil-list, would protract the Session for at least two months longer. The question then is, what are the questions on which it would be advisable to call for the decision of Parliament? and what are those measures of which we can postpone the consideration? I have already stated the alternative of either going on with the regular business of the Session, including the consideration of the Civil-list, or of putting off all measures not absolutely necessary, and which might be postponed till the meeting of a new Parliament. Now, I do not think it would be advisable to adopt a course partaking of both these plans, going on with some bills and postponing others, and therefore consider it would be preferable to adopt the latter proposition. The first measure proposed to a new Parliament is the settlement of the Civil-list; and here I will take the opportunity of observing that the mode in which the Civil-list was fixed at the commencement of the late reign has obviated many of the objections that were usually raised against, not the amount of the grant, but against the intricacy and confusion that prevailed so long in the system. Notwithstanding that no one could fail to see that several questions must arise and would arise, motions would be made which would attract a considerable degree of attention both in this House and the country; and I must say, also, that if that question were to be taken up by the present Parliament, there are some others 1585 that call for consideration before that was proposed to the House. The question was different at the conclusion of the reign previous to the last. A measure was, therefore, introduced which, in my opinion, and in the opinion of many others, it was inexpedient to defer to another Parliament, namely, the consideration of the Civil-list when his late Majesty ascended the Throne. The present Queen was then a minor, and it was a matter of great importance that there should be a settlement of the regency, in order that in case of any calamity befalling the Sovereign, the country might not be without a regent to exercise the royal functions. No such necessity or difficulty exists at the present time, and the only proposition that it will be necessary to make now is, that provision be made by Parliament for defraying the expenses that are usually incurred under the Civil-list until the meeting of the new Parliament, when the matter could be deliberately brought under their consideration. With respect to another subject—the supplies of the year—the greater part of them have already been voted, and it would not be proper to depart from the ordinary course, but to bring them forward on supply nights, in order that they might be appropriated at the end of the Session. It will also be necessary to provide for continuing the sugar duties, before they expire. I proceed now to consider measures that had been for some time before the House, and also some of those which have been sent to the other House. The most important measure proposed to Parliament this year relate chiefly to Ireland; and I think, considering the great party differences which exist—considering the great numbers arrayed on one side, and the other with respect to one of these measures, the Irish Tithe Bill—it would not be proper, unless you are prepared to continue the whole business of the Session, to bring that measure further under consideration during the present Session of Parliament. There is another measure to which I have a great wish to call the attention of the House, because it is not a party measure, and also because it is a measure the principle of which has received general support, and is likely to receive the sanction of the House with respect to its general details. I mean the measure for the introduction of Poor-laws into Ireland. But at the same time, for reasons which I have already stated, many Members would be absent, from the belief that Parliament would not be of long con- 1586 tinuance, and it would not be fair to the Members who represented Ireland to bring under the consideration of the House a Bill so materially affecting them, and which is so entirely new for that part of the kingdom, without having the benefit of their opinions, or enabling them to propose what amendments they might judge necessary. I must therefore, and I say it with great reluctance, in fairness to the representatives of Ireland, defer that measure to a future Session. And here I wish to correct a misrepresentation that has gone abroad respecting what I said on that subject in answer to a question from the right hon. Member for the University of Dublin. That right hon. Gentleman asked if the Bill were founded on the Report of the Commissioners, or the recommendation of Mr. Senior, and Mr. Nicholls, and from the answer I gave, it was concluded that Mr. Nicholls was the author of the Bill. Parties then stated that it was presumptuous in that gentleman to go over to Ireland, set aside the Report of the Commissioners, and introduce a new scheme. In answer to that, I said that the Report of the Poor-relief Commissioners for Ireland contained much valuable information and suggested useful measures, but that as a whole it did not satisfy the Government, and they did not think they could introduce a Bill founded on it. The Government, therefore, after sending Mr. Nicholls over to Ireland, took the opinion of Mr. Senior and Mr. Cornwall Lewis, for the purpose of framing a Poor-law for Ireland; and I cannot pass over the subject without mentioning that the paper drawn up by Mr. Cornwall Lewis was a confidential paper presented to the Government; but as it refers to a subject that will again come before Parliament, I recommend Gentlemen who take an interest in the subject diligently to consider the report of Mr. Lewis, which contained arguments on the subject that were founded on great experience and great knowledge, and enforced with a power of argument which had hardly been surpassed by any paper of that kind. In putting off the Irish Tithe Bill and the Irish Poor-law, though they would be postponed for only one year, I must at the same time say that they are measures of great importance to Ireland, and I believe they would have been brought to a conclusion but for the calamity which has befallen us by the death of the King. There is another measure with respect to Irish Corporations—a measure founded on such clear 1587 principles, and supported by every thing that Parliament has done with respect to other parts of the kingdom, that I now state, as I shall always be ready to state, my firm conviction that that measure will be finally adopted by Parliament and the law in Ireland will be founded on principles similar to those which regulate municipal institutions in England and Scotland. The other measures to which I will allude, and which have been under the consideration of Parliament are founded on the Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England and Wales, and I wish to acquaint the House that it is not my intention to propose any Bill for regulating Ecclesiastical benefices, or ask the House to go on with the Pluralities and the Residencies of Clergy Bills, and I feel myself the more justified in this course on account of the provision made last year, which prevents dignitaries of the Church from disposing of sinecures in Cathedrals and churches till Parliament shall take the whole subject into consideration. I have always considered that there was no question of more importance than the moral and religious instruction of the people; but as it is a subject not pressing, and requiring mature deliberation, I think it may be deferred without injury. There is another subject which has been brought before the House, and, in my opinion, prematurely brought before it. I mean the final proposition for the promotion of religious instruction in Scotland. I have on former occasions stated, that I thought the proposition a premature one, and I now state that I do not think it a proposition on which we ought to decide in the present Session. But, Sir, I repeat, what I have said on former occasions, that I am fully sensible of the importance of the subject; and the House and the public may be assured that the question as to the best means of promoting religious instruction, and as to the funds by the aid of which that object could altogether be best accomplished, will form together a subject to which her Majesty's Government will pay the most serious attention. I am in hopes that a part of the funds originally devoted to the maintenance of the Episcopal Church in Scotland, but now not required, under the name of bishops, teinds and feus, may form some portion of the means for the purpose. The House, however, ought to be in possession of some information as to the nature and extent of those funds; and the subject shall be carefully considered, with a view 1588 to ascertain whether by those funds, and by the abolition of sinecures, the means may not be obtained of giving to religious instruction in Scotland the extension which is so desirable. There are some other measures respecting Scotland which have been introduced, the decision of which, however, it does not seem to us to be desirable to precipitate in the present Session; and there is one, to the introduction of which the House has agreed, but which has not been actually introduced—I mean the Bill for the increase of the judges' salaries—with which it is not my hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate's intention to proceed in the present Session. My hon. and learned Friend has also other measures respecting Scotland which it was his intention to introduce. Of these he means to bring forward only those which have in effect received the assent of this House, and the passage of which, therefore, through the House, is not likely to be attended with any delay. Sir, there are several Bills in progress through the House which relate to the criminal law of this country. It must be allowed by every one that it is a matter of considerable importance that Parliament should determine upon the definition of what specific crimes shall be the subject of capital punishment. I am of opinion that these Bills are not of a nature calculated to occasion any long discussion; and, therefore, considering how material it is that those persons who are charged with the administration of the criminal law should be rendered perfectly aware of the opinions of Parliament on the subject, it is my intention to propose proceeding with the Bills in question on the earliest day on which I may find it practicable to bring them forward. Sir, I shall be exceedingly glad if we may also find it possible to proceed with the Imprisonment for Debt Bill. There is another measure, Sir, respecting our colonial administration, which is one of great importance, and with regard to which I yesterday evening promised the hon. and learned Member for Bath that I would give a distinct answer to a question which he put to me on the subject—I mean the state in which the question between the Assembly of Lower Canada and the Government of this country now stands. This House agreed, by a large majority, to certain resolutions on the subject; in which resolutions the other House of Parliament concurred, I believe, without any, or with little difference of 1589 opinion. The sense of Parliament has therefore been fully pronounced on the claims set up by the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada. It remains for us to introduce a Bill embodying the resolutions to which Parliament has agreed; and enabling the governor of Lower Canada to take from the chest of the colony the supplies not voted by the House of Assembly, but necessary to defray the expenses of the civil government in the province. Sir, I should be very unwilling now, at the commencement of a new reign, to enforce a measure which, absolutely necessary as I think it to be, may yet be considered by some to bear a harsh and coercive character. I think the bill which it is my intention to propose, may ultimately be only probably, I wish I could say only possibly, necessary. But to me it appears, that it is not necessary that we should proceed with that Bill in the present Session of Parliament. Whenever it may be introduced, so large a majority of the Members of this House are bound to support it, and it is so obvious that it will meet with no opposition in the other House of Parliament, that the Assembly of Lower Canada may be induced by such a declaration on the part of the Parliament of Great Britain to conclude that their claims and propositions are not consistent with the relations which ought to subsist between a colony and the mother country. It is scarcely necessary for me to add, that I should most heartily rejoice if such should turn out to be the case, and that if, instead of persevering in the inadmissible claims which they now make, the House of Assembly, by advancing claims of a more moderate character, should put an end to the existing differences, and should heal the wounds which those differences have inflicted. But, Sir, when I say this, I do not mean to retreat in the slightest degree from the doctrine which I have heretofore maintained on the subject. I hold to the various propositions which I have heretofore advanced; and Parliament having declared their concurrence in these propositions, I hope the Assembly of Lower Canada, animated by good and patriotic feelings, will see the expediency of modifying their course. If the Bill to which I have alluded do not pass, it will be necessary to agree to a vote of credit for the purpose of carrying on the civil government and of paying the salaries of the judges, as well as of discharging all 1590 the arrears due to them; the advances to be repaid out of the treasury of the colony. There are some other measures which we think it will be necessary to introduce in the present Session; and several Bills will also be called for, for the purpose of continuing Acts that are about to expire. Among the former, it is the intention of my right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Trade, to bring in a Bill to enable the Commissioners to carry on the surveys and maps connected with English tithes. I intend to propose, and I do not anticipate any objection to the proposition, the appointment of a Committee on the subject of Church leases; in order that that Committee may collect and arrange all the evidence necessary with a view to its being submitted to the consideration of a new Parliament, and thereby of saving the time which would be lost if the appointment of such a Committee were to be deferred until the assembling of that Parliament. It will, as I have already said, be necessary to introduce several Bills for the purpose of continuing existing acts; but it is not likely that those Bills will provoke any observation or opposition. I have now, Sir, before moving the Address to her Majesty, which I am about to have the honour of proposing, stated the course which her Majesty's Ministers intend to pursue with reference both to those measures which are already before the House, and to those new measures which they think it their duty to introduce. On the whole, it is our determination to take only those supplies, and proceed with and propose only those measures, which can fairly be considered by the present Parliament, postponing the consideration of any proposition which we think cannot be fairly and advantageously discussed in the present Parliament. I now beg leave to say a few words as to the principle on which alone her Majesty's Ministers will be guided with reference to the measures to which I have adverted, or to any others which we may deem it advisable to recommend to the adoption of Parliament. We consider that, during the last few years several measures of vast importance, of a religious and of a political character, have received the sanction of the Legislature. Of the former, the Bill for removing the civil disabilities of the Protestant Dissenters, and the Bill for the relief of the Roman Catholics, were the chief. Of the latter, the Bill for reform- 1591 ing the Representation of the People, was the great and prominent measure. Sir, there are these who, considering that those measures are on the Statute-book, are willing that they should remain there; but who, having made a determined opposition to them in their progress, although they are willing that they should remain on the Statute-book, are not disposed to agree to any proposition which would carry them into effect. Sir, in any such disposition we never can concur. We shall always maintain that those measures were not intended to be barren; but that they were intended to be productive of fruits beneficial to the United Kingdom in all its future relations and administrations. When you said, that you would no longer impose civil disabilities on the Protestant Dissenter, when you said that you would no longer impose civil disabilities on the Roman Catholic, you said that, preserving all the just rights of the Established Church, you would provide that, in all the civil relations of life, the members of different religions should be placed in a situation of perfect equality. We consider it to be wholly inconsistent with the spirit of the measures which have been already adopted on the subject—an inconsistency not shared by many in this House, but which has been too frequently manifested by persons out of this House—to grant civil privileges to persons professing one religion, in preference to persons professing another religion; thereby mating the Established Church the object of extensive hatred and ill-will, and sowing dissensions, distrusts, and jealousies in every quarter of the country. We are of the opinion which was expressed by William 3rd, "That religion is God's province, and that religious differences ought not to be carried into the civil relations of the State, or into the civil relations of life." Of this I am quite sure, that the attempts which have been made during the last two or three years, to excite differences grounded on religious principles, to disseminate ill-will and distrust among persons of different religious persuasions, can never tend to form the foundation of that united community which it is so desirable that the people of this great empire should become. In this country, a great majority of the people are members of the Church of England, but they are combined with millions of Dissenters of various descriptions. In Scotland, another class, formed of Dissenters, constitutes the great majority of the 1592 people, and forms the Established Church; but of which the Queen is the head. In Ireland, there is a small minority of the members of the Established Church, and a large majority of the professors of another Christian creed. Of all these classes, the Sovereign of this country is the Sovereign. Of all these classes, the House of Commons is the representative. Since the passing the Bill for relieving the Protestant Dissenters—since the passing of the Bill for relieving Roman Catholics—it can no longer be justly maintained, that differences of religious opinion ought to be rendered the source of civil jealousy and disgust. If we wish this empire to be strong—if we wish it to be united—if we wish it to present an unbroken front to any enemy by which it may be attacked, we can obtain that object only by doing that which is not only not contrary to religion, but which is in strict conformity to the spirit of true religion—we can attain that object only by extending to those who, although they differ from us in religion, have the same civil interests as ourselves, the hand of fellowship; by treating them with brotherly love and affection, by respecting the conscientious feelings of those who worship the same God as ourselves, although not exactly in the same form, and with the same ceremonies. With respect to the other great measure which I have mentioned, the Bill for Reforming the Representation of the People in Parliament, while I consider it a final measure in one sense of the expression, I do not consider that it is to remain a barren and unproductive act on the Statute-book, or that it ought not to be followed by any other measure that may be thought calculated to improve, to ennoble, or to advance the institutions of this country. So far am I from thinking that it ought not to be so followed, that, on the contrary, I think it most accordant with the spirit of the constitution that such improvements should be proposed to Parliament, that they should be deliberately discussed, and that, if adopted, they should be adopted on grounds of public benefit; and that, if rejected, they should be rejected on the ground that they are not conducive to the public benefit, and not from motives of bigotry or prejudice. In that spirit, Sir, and in that spirit alone, can we continue to administer the affairs of the country. In that spirit, and in that spirit alone, we have advised, and shall continue to advise her Majesty, who has been graciously pleased to confide to us the responsibility of 1593 directing the public affairs. I am quite aware, that in pursuing this course, we cannot pretend to expect the universal concurrence of the Members of this or of the other House of Parliament. I am aware, that we shall be exposed, as other administrations have been exposed, to misconstruction of our motives, and misapprehension of our objects; but we have accepted our situations with the condition which naturally belongs to them, and we shall be ready at all times to defend our conduct in offering to our gracious Sovereign the best advice which it is in our power to give. We know, that in some cases, we shall not experience the concurrence of persons who believe that they are more attached to the ancient institutions of the country than we are, or who fancy they know better than we do the effect which liberal measures will produce on the State. But we are sure, that the people of the country, generous and just, will give us credit for doing the best we can to promote their welfare and prosperity; and, called by the Queen to submit to her Majesty such advice as we may think proper, we shall always tender that advice in the spirit in which alone it ought to be offered to any Sovereign, and with an anxious desire to advance the freedom, to promote the happiness, to sustain the glory, and to perpetuate the name of this great empire. The noble Lord concluded, by moving an Address to the Queen; which was an echo of that part of the Message to which he had referred.
§ Mr. Hume
said, it appeared by what had fallen from the noble Lord that in a few weeks that House was to separate, after having sat for four months without agreeing, with a single exception, to any one measure of importance. He admitted that the course proposed by the noble Lord was the only one that could be adopted under the circumstances of the case; but it was a matter of grave consideration for the people of England what had produced that state of circumstances, and what steps were calculated to avert its recurrence. Of this he (Mr. Hume) was quite sure, that if the House again met, with parties balanced as they now were, the same results would follow. He was convinced that public business could not go on unless one party had a decided majority over the other. He did not differ from the noble Lord's view of the course which the House ought now to adopt. He regretted, however, that the noble Lord had not said anything about 1594 the emancipation of the Jews. He hoped, however, that that was mere forgetfulness; and that justice would be done to the Jews as well as to the professors of every other religious creed. He begged to tell the noble Lord, also, that he was extremely sorry that, as a minister of a new sovereign, he had not intimated any intention of completing the Reform Bill. There was another measure, the final Registration Bill, the non-passing of which would leave Ireland at the general election in a dreadful state. This should be considered by her Majesty's Government. At present there was not a single election in Ireland in which the candidates were not subject to enormous expense and endless trouble. He was sorry that the noble Lord was determined to persevere in his Canada project. For himself, he would never consent to give a pound of the public money in this country for the purpose of supporting misrule elsewhere. If the noble Lord flattered himself that the Assembly of Lower Canada, when it met, would regard with a friendly eye the resolutions of the Parliament of Great Britain, he was greatly mistaken; and he (Mr. Hume) was sure that the House would not warrant a vote of credit to Ministers who were so unworthy as to endanger a civil war in the state. He trusted that by the commencement of the new Parliament, Government would be prepared to carry out the principles of reform, and would propose the only measure which would enable electors to give their votes honestly and without intimidation—the ballot. Extended suffrage was also most dear. If the noble Lord should not be prepared to make such propositions, he (Mr. Hume) trusted that other Members would; and he was sure that they would be supported by the great body of the population. He hoped that among other matters to be reformed, the noble Lord would not forget our large establishments. A change was requisite in the whole management of the army. He hoped that our military establishment would not only be reduced, but placed under the management of men whose opinions were in unison with those who were pledged to carry reform into every department of the state. He was aware that there had hitherto been a difficulty on that point; but he trusted that that difficulty had now ceased. There was one more subject to which he wished to advert. He hoped that in the new Parliament, Ministers would be prepared to recommend to the House a general system of education for 1595 the people; if not, he was persuaded that they would be compelled to do so by the public voice. He would tell the noble Lord that if education had been spread more widely throughout the country, the outcry against the new poor-law would not have been so loud and general; and that if he wished the principle of that measure, which he (Mr. Hume) again declared to be the best measure in principle which a Government had ever produced, to be generally approved, it could only be by general education. He hoped, therefore, that Ministers would be prepared with a plan on the subject; and that, in point of education, Englishmen might hold up their heads as highly as the subjects of any despotic monarch. The noble Lord had not said anything about the press. If he wished well to the people, he would replace the press in the condition in which it was in 1792, and would repeal the Bill of last Session, which was a disgrace to Parliament and to the right hon. Gentleman by whom it had been introduced. In regulating the civil list, he trusted that Ministers would take care that the public money should not be received by those who were undeserving of it.
said, that however unsatisfactory it might be that after sitting for so long a period as from February to June, they should be compelled to close the Session with so many important measures unfinished, and so few brought to a completion, he should not do justice to her Majesty's Ministers if he did not declare his entire acquiescence in the propriety of the course proposed by them under existing circumstances of postponing the further consideration in the present Session of those measures. He agreed with his noble Friend in the difficulty, and indeed in the almost impossibility, of carrying forward and discussing measures of great importance, not only when the patience of the House was nearly exhausted, but when the near approach of a dissolution must render the attendance of Members un frequent and reluctant; since every man would feel that his private affairs and interests rendered his presence elsewhere necessary. As he agreed in the postponement of those great measures, so he agreed generally in the selection of the measures to be proceeded with. He thought the measures respecting the criminal law had been received with so much favour, and had excited so little difference of opinion, that they ought to be carried into practise; 1596 and he was sure that with respect to that and other necessary measures, every disposition would be shown to aid her Majesty's Ministers in closing the Session; and that no obstacle would be vexatiously thrown in the way of that object. He also thought it exceedingly proper that a bill should be brought in to enable the Commissioners to prosecute the tithe surveys, with the view of carrying into effect the measure of former years. There was one question to which, in adverting to various topics, the hon. Member for Middlesex had alluded as the grounds of difference existing between himself and her Majesty's Government; but he (Lord Stanley) thought that whatever might be the views which her Majesty's Government entertained, they had exercised a sound discretion in not pledging themselves in regard to any particular measures to be brought forward in a future Session. But he would beg to call attention to one or two topics, to which he thought more definite allusions and some provision should have been made. In the first place, the noble Lord had adverted to the circumstances of the late reign, and the necessity which then existed of making provision for the demise of the Crown. Undoubtedly the circumstances of the late reign and accession were very different from those which distinguished the present reign; but he was in no way certain that it would not be wise (little as it might be expected, and God forbid it should occur) that provision should be made upon the event of the demise of the Crown before the meeting of the next Parliament. He thought it would only have been wise to have made a provision for a contingency, even in the case of one so young, and he trusted so likely to live long, as her present Majesty. But though the immediate successor to the Crown were but a minor, yet in the event of the demise of the Crown the probable presumptive heir to the Crown would be absent from the country, he being an independent sovereign residing in his own dominions; and in the event of the demise of the Crown, and in the absence of the heir presumptive, there would be no person in whom the absolute dominion would vest until the heir apparent should return from a foreign country. He need not say that he hoped no such case would occur, yet it was a case in which, if the provision could be made, it should be made before the present Parliament separated. Undoubtedly, he rejoiced that his noble Friend had de- 1597 termined not to proceed on a question which he knew he was most anxious to pass this Session, namely, the Irish Poor-law Act. He was most anxious for one that that measure should be carried into effect this Session; but it was because he (Lord Stanley) thought it a measure which required the greatest consideration—a question on which such a variety of opinion existed—a question which no doubt the noble Lord was most anxious to see settled—one which those less acquainted with the difficulties of the case were most desirous to see made the law of the land, and that it was a measure, of all others, upon which the attention of the public mind would be directed more fully by the intervention of another Session, that he rejoiced at the determination of the noble Lord. There was another measure, however, which the noble Lord had abandoned for the present Session, and he deeply regretted this circumstance, though he did not mean to impute blame to the noble Lord or his colleagues—he meant the measure regarding Canada. He certainly thought it a misfortune that at an earlier period of the Session—his noble Friend having then obtained large majorities in that and the other House in support of the measure of his late Majesty's Government—should not have proceeded at once to carry into effect the resolutions of both Houses of Parliament; and that he had not given effect to those resolutions by the introduction and carrying through a Bill to enable the Government to evercome the difficulty in which they were placed. At this period of the Session he was not prepared to say that the noble Lord was not justified in not acting on the resolutions of both Houses, which involved the repeal of an existing Act of Parliament: and whilst he did not rejoice at, he did not mean to complain of, the course which the noble Lord had pursued, because he had accompanied his abandonment of the measure by a specific assurance with reference to Canada to maintain the position which he had guaranteed to the House. He had suggested the propriety of taking a vote of credit in the event of the Bill not passing, which he, for one, gladly concurred in, because he held that it would be satisfactory to the Canadians that these measures should be carried into effect. There was, indeed, one point upon which he regretted the course intended to be adopted by his noble Friend. He meant that he should propose, under existing circumstances, and at 1598 the present time, to nominate a committee on the subject of church leases, thus keeping alive the excitement which prevailed on the subject without in the slightest degree tending to the settlement of that great question. In saying this, however, he (Lord Stanley) was not disposed to throw any obstacle in the way of the measure which her Majesty's Government might bring forward at the close of the Session. He wished time to express a definite opinion; and he must enter a caveat against the nomination of this committee, and must reserve to himself the discretion of taking any step which he might think it expedient to adopt. He did not think it necessary to offer any observations on the concluding remarks of his noble Friend as to the spirit and temper in which her Majesty's Government were prepared to conduct the affairs of the country, because, having listened very attentively to the many well-rounded periods of his noble Friend, he was just as much at a loss to know in what possible way those great differences arose between one portion or side of the House and the other as he was before his noble Friend made his well-rounded periods. His noble Friend had told them that the measure for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Act was not a dead letter—that the Roman Catholic Disabilities Removal Bill, the Municipal Corporations Bill, and the Reform of Parliament Bill could not remain a dead letter; and he seemed to imagine that in saying this he made an expression of opinion on the part of her Majesty's Government which was not accorded to by every one on the other side of the House. He was one of those who assented to the carrying of all these measures. There were those on that side of the House who had opposed those Bills, but he had not heard any one in that House, or out of it, express the smallest wish or disposition to trench in the slightest degree on these measures, and he had yet to learn who had done so. He recollected the declaration which had been made by his right hon. Friend the member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), that trench on the Reform Act who might, he would not be the first to do so; and he doubted whether the first trenching upon it would not proceed from the other side. He should be sorry if the Reform Act could possibly be made a dead letter; the thing was impossible in itself, because the Reform Bill carried with it its own vitality—it being the Act for the representation of the people 1599 in Parliament, it carried with it its own existence, and therefore it could not be made a dead letter. "But (said the noble Lord) if you mean to tell me that this is to be made the precursor of further organic change, that having given to the democratic party for whom you introduced this great power (I supported that Act), it is now intended to still add to that power, and to interfere with the co-ordinate and equal rights of another branch of the Legislature, I tell you that that is not the spirit in which Earl Grey's Government brought forward the Reform Act. I tell you that that is not the spirit in which I adhered to it. I tell you that in the spirit of Earl Grey's Government I will adhere to the Reform Act as a living Act, but not as the precursor to means affecting further organic changes." Then, with regard to the question of religious liberty, the noble Lord proceeded to say, that he had supported very willingly the repeal of the Test and Corporation Act; and when, in the year 1827, it became his lot to take a subordinate office under Mr. Canning and under Mr. Huskisson, the condition which he had ventured to assert for himself in taking office was that, be the course of the Government what it might, he was at liberty to separate the questions of the repeal of the Test and Corporation Act, the Roman Catholic Disabilities Bill, and the Reform of Parliament Bill. With regard to the latter measure, particularly, it went to sweep away all distinctions with regard to civil rights and privileges, and therefore he had supported it. He did so honestly. He adhered to that measure still. He wished to see any Ministry which might sway the government of this country adhere to that measure; but he could not conceive himself hound to sanction anything which went to infringe upon the rights or possessions of the Established Church. He wished not to introduce topics of discussion relative to Dissenters, but when the noble Lord spoke of the extinction of civil and religious liberty, he (Lord Stanley) would say that, as he had supported the Reform Bill, so he would not give further power than what was given by the Act itself. He supported the Act for the relief of the Dissenters so far that he felt they would resort to no means to overthrow the Established Church. So far he was prepared to go—further he would not go, one way or the other; and as he would endeavour, in whatever situation he might be, to see affirmed that fair, 1600 full, legitimate, construction of all these measures, as strenuously would he resist any attempt which might be made to pervert them from the legitimate purposes for which they were intended. In respect to the concluding observations of the noble Lord, he presumed that the course intended to be pursued by her Majesty's Government was that of the juste milieu between different parties, and he wished them success in their attempt; but looking to the language of the hon. Member for Middlesex, he thought there seemed as many difficulties raised on that side of the House as there were on the side which was occupied by those who were called the opponents of the Government and their supporters.
§ Mr. Roebuck
expressed his dissent to the observations of both the noble Lords who had preceded him with respect to Canada, which was in a state of combustion similar to that of the United Provinces of America in 1774. The Canadians had, by public resolutions, boldly declared their intention of throwing off the authority of this country, and he would tell the noble Lord that they would treat his Act, whenever he passed it, as they had treated his resolutions, unless, indeed, their rights and liberties were secured by it. Her Majesty's Ministers seemed to take up their present position on the supposition that the feeling out of doors was in their favour. It was true that the accession of the young Sovereign to the Throne might naturally excite the enthusiasm of the people, but there was sufficient discernment abroad to discover that her Majesty's Ministers wished to turn that feeling to their own profit. But there was reason to believe that her Majesty was well acquainted with the real character and state of parties in that House, and that she understood the difference between what were called the Liberals and the Conservatives. Both her Majesty and the people, he believed, knew that the one side wished for certain improvements, while the other side was opposed to all changes. He thought the people of England entertained a belief that the education of her Majesty had been such as to make her fully capable of understanding all matters relating to the political condition of the people, without having recourse to the vague modes of expression which were used in that House. The enthusiasm out of doors went a great way, but it would not carry her Majesty's Ministers through, unless they attended to the wishes of the people. The Ministers had now a new lease of the people's 1601 affection, but they must pay a price for it; they must give something for the goodwill of public support. He might be told, that the House of Lords must not be coerced; be it so. It might be said, that the House of Commons was the same as before the passing of the Reform Bill, and that its relative power was unaltered. But if the Reform Act were not to remain a dead letter, the object of it should be fully carried out. What was that object, but that the people should be equally represented, and not a section—not that a mere party in the country, but that the interests of the whole people should be fairly represented? That had not yet been done; and there was one great proof of the non-accomplishment of that object, the failures of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), both in the present and in the former Session. Some fears were entertained that the stability of the Church would be affected in Ireland by the establishment of Municipal Corporations there, and they had been refused, because it was said, that Roman Catholics would become recipients of the civil rights which they would confer. What was the cause of the failure of that measure? Why, the weakness of the noble Lord's own principle in that House. The principle of the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act was, that civil rights should be extended to all, and how could the noble Lord and the hon. Gentlemen opposite carry out the principle of that Act, if he opposed the Irish Municipal Corporation Bill? The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, had cited fine words, and the imagination of each party might be pleased therewith, but the people would ask for something more definite, and would want to know, with the hon. Member for Middlesex, whether they were going to reduce the public expenditure and the standing army, whether they would remove that plague-spot, the Tory Government of the army, and why the noble Lord at the head of the army was continued in the command of it? If the noble Lord wished to continue in office six months after the meeting of the next Parliament, he must do something to advance cheap and good government. If he did not, there would be no excitement or inducement out of doors to support him. [Cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to cheer that sentiment; but he must tell them, that if the noble Lord would secure the affection of the people, he must regard the hon. Gentlemen as his most decided enemies. If the noble Lord wanted to secure the support 1602 of the country, he must not be terrified by denunciations against organic changes. We must have an extended suffrage, and we must have the hon. Gentlemen opposite put down. That was the programme of the coming Session, and it must be acted up to the letter. The noble Lord had on the present occasion attempted to conciliate all parties, but he had stated nothing in fact. He hoped that, before the close of the Session, the noble Lord would be more definite, for if he were not, whatever course he proposed to pursue, he might be certain that he would defeat himself.
Sir G. Clerk
did not rise to oppose the motion of the noble Lord, having been one of those who supported a similar one in 1830, and he congratulated the noble Lord that the powerful arguments which failed to produce a conviction in his mind had now so far satisfied him that he had been induced to make use of them himself. The noble Lord had endeavoured to chalk out a middle course, but, as a natural result, in attempting to please everybody, he had given very little satisfaction to any one. The noble Lord, had, however, made one discovery, which, though late and unexpected, afforded some gratification to those who wished to see the stability of the Church maintained. He had acknowledged the necessity of doing something to remedy the great evils which prevailed in Scotland in consequence of the want of sufficient religious instruction, and he congratulated her Majesty's Government that they were able at last to give an unqualified admission (an admission which hitherto it had been difficult to obtain) that it was the bounden duty of the Government to provide sufficient instruction for the people out of the Established Church. The hon. Member drew a broad distinction between those who sat on that (the Opposition) side of the House, and those on the other (the Ministerial) side, whom he characterised by the more popular name of Liberals, as being anxious to promote the improvement of the institutions of the country, while the Conservatives were opposed to every thing in the shape of change and amelioration. The justice of such a representation he altogether denied. They were doubtless opposed to hasty and reckless changes—to crude and undigested legislation, which either gave rise to tedious and interminable discussions so as altogether to suspend the other public business of the country, or became law in 1603 so imperfect a shape as to require two other Bills to be immediately afterwards passed (which had actually occurred this Session with regard to the Births, Marriages, and Deaths Bill,) in order to explain, suspend, or modify its operation; but, at the same time, they were not backward in advocating and supporting measures calculated to effect a real improvement in the institutions of the country, and adapting them fairly to the spirit of the age in which they lived.
§ Mr. Wakley
said, when his constituents asked him, as they soon would, why so little had been done this Session, he should be compelled to answer, it was because the Tories would not allow, practically, good measures which had been proposed to become law. It was in consequence of the opposition of the Tories that the Irish Municipal Bill, the Imprisonment for Debt Bill, and every other excellent measure had not passed. In fact, while the House of Commons continued as it now was, Tory-logged, no advance in legislation need be expected by the people. He complained that the noble Lord (Russell) had not been sufficiently candid in the expositions of his intentions to his supporters on that (the Ministerial) side of the House. He did not see why the present Parliament should be dissolved with such extreme haste. He did not see why it should not sit till November; besides, a Parliament about to be dissolved was of all others most likely to work well for popular interests. If Parliament were dissolved in a month they might be called upon to meet in November; and if the Conservatives were to join with the Whigs, the Radicals would have to go to the other side of the House, and be content to remain there for the next six years to come. An amusing prospect, no doubt, which he saw excited the merriment of the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department. He wanted to know, then, what the noble Lord meant to do with respect to the Ballot, with respect to the repeal of the Corn-laws, and with respect to the extension of the franchise. He had supported the present Ministers because he could not get better; from a Tory Government he expected nothing. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite had not popular virtue enough to make even a bidding for place. They would not announce to the people the measures they would support, while in the mean time, with civil equality of rights to all classes of her Majesty's sub- 1604 jects on their lips, they withheld the blessings of self-government from the Irish people merely because they were Roman Catholics. Under these circumstances he, for one, was extremely anxious to get all he could out of the present Ministers, and he hoped they would be induced to come forward with some substantial measures. When the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) returned to Stroud, as he must shortly do, he hoped the good people there would not be satisfied with such a speech as that which the noble Lord had addressed to the House that night. He hoped the people of Stroud would apply the Reform screw to the noble Lord's head, and extort from him an appearance of better and more substantial things. He was anxious that the present Ministry should continue long in office if they were really disposed to carry out the principle of reform with integrity and zeal. But if they were inclined to slumber, if they evinced a spirit of tardiness and indifference, he trusted that under a new Parliament they would not be allowed to retain their places, but that they would be succeeded by a Minister who, without hesitation or delay, would apply himself to the working out of all those great measures which the people so ardently desired to see adopted.
§ Mr. G. F. Young
gave credit to the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, for the course he intended to pursue, and could not help thinking, if Government would but discard the support, feeble as it was, and utterly, as he believed, foreign to the sympathies of the people of England, which they received from the Radicals in that House, and throw themselves on the good sense and feeling of the country, they would find, in a gain of twenty for one, abundant compensation for their loss.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, it was impossible for him, consistently with his duty, not to express disapprobation at the conduct of the noble Lord with respect to Lower Canada. He was willing to admit, that in the present state of affairs, considering the unexpected demise of his late Majesty, no other course was now open to him; but the noble Lord had really shown too much vacillation and delay upon this subject. After bringing forward the resolutions, and obtaining such a triumphant majority in their favour, it was not fair, it was not right to allow them to remain for several weeks a dead letter on the votes, and now to call for a vote of credit in order to pay the arrear of salaries 1605 to the civil officers in Lower Canada. Why should the people of this country be called on in the present expiring Parliament to pass a vote of credit for 100,000l., while the money, out of which the officers should be paid, was lying in the chest in the colony? That was a most unwise and undignified course. With respect to the other branches of the business of the country, he could not help observing, that he thought there was too much party spirit evinced in all the proceedings and measures of that House. He belonged to neither Whig nor Tory; he had no predilection for either; he wished to see that party in office most likely to work at good government for the people. But although on a whole he had given a general support to the present Government he must own his hopes had been grievously disappointed. Nothing whatever had been done for the people; and he did not see how the evil arising from the state of parties in that House could be remedied but by the constituencies taking care not to pledge their representative to those party objects which too much engrossed the attention and determined the movements of the present Parliament.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that in adverting to what had fallen from some hon. Gentlemen opposite he thought he should be able to show, and he would on that point appeal with confidence to public opinion, that much exaggeration had been indulged in with reference to the measures which had engaged the attention of Parliament. With respect to the public importance of the measures it had passed he would refer to the Municipal Reform Bill, which had been passed by the present Parliament, a measure second only in importance to the Reform Bill for the good which it had created, and for the evil it had destroyed; if it had done nothing else it had destroyed an irresponsible authority, and if its advantages had not been equally extended to all classes of her Majesty's subjects, the fault did not lie with her Majesty's Ministers, who had carried a Bill for that purpose through the House of Commons. He said this as much in defence of the House of Commons as of her Majesty's Ministers. Did hon. Gentlemen think that in passing the Tithe Bill a question of great importance had been settled? The Bill was one that had long been desired by the agricultural classes, and from which he anticipated much good. They had also brought to an amicable close the claims of the Dissenters. 1606 After a struggle prolonged through many years, was it nothing to have passed a law regulating the marriages of that portion of her Majesty's subjects? Whatever might be said to the contrary, he thought the people of England would accept those measures as some of the fruits of the Reform Bill, and think with him that the hon. Member had misrepresented the House when he said that it had done nothing for the benefit of the public. He would now very briefly advert to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Finsbury, who generally addressed the House with so much point and good humour, although he did not then see the hon. Member in his place. The hon. Member for Finsbury had found fault with the statement of his noble Friend because he had not gone into an enumeration of each measure that he intended at a future time to advocate. Now, he thought the House would agree with him that if his noble Friend had gone into all the acts which he might at a future time recommend to the adoption of Parliament, such a course would fairly have been considered as premature and imprudent. In reference to the advice which an hon. Member opposite had tendered to Government, he could only say, that they had never attempted to frame their measures so as to catch the votes of either one side of the House or the other; they proposed such measures only as they felt it their duty to the public to bring forward, and he did not think it was their duty on the one hand to carry their measures further than they thought advisable to secure the votes of their Radical supporters, nor, on the other hand to pare down liberal measures to suit the views of hon. Members opposite. If they had pursued such a course he did not doubt but that there were many hon. Members in that House who would have seen through and exposed such an insincere and trimming policy. As the House seemed inclined to accede unanimously to the proposition of his noble Friend, it had better proceed to the order of the day for a Committee of Ways and Means.
§ Mr. Maclean
rose only to draw the attention of the Government to some points connected with the Poor-laws. He wished them to take some step in the appointment of chaplains to the various unions. He had stated his intention on a former occasion to move for a return of those unions to which chaplains had been appointed, and of those unions in which permission was not given to paupers, being Dissenters, 1607 to go to chapel. It was a subject which had excited great interest, and though he should not move for those returns under the present circumstances, yet he would express an earnest hope that the noble Lord would not allow so many months as must elapse before the meeting of another Parliament to pass over without giving those Dissenters who were in so unfortunate a situation the opportunity of leaving the unions on the Sunday for the purpose of attending divine worship at whatever places their consciences might lead them to select. The next point to which he wished to draw the attention of Government was the amelioration of the criminal code. He wished that those ameliorations had been carried further than was contemplated by the Bills already proposed. He very much wished that the punishment of death should be done away with altogether.
§ Mr. Sharman Crawford
wished to call the attention of the noble Lord to the state of the poor in Ireland. As the Poor-law Bill must now be unavoidably postponed, and as there was, unfortunately, great cause to apprehend extensive destitution amongst the poorer classes in that country, he thought it would be advisable for the noble Lord to ask for power to expend some money in relieving those unfortunate people who might require it, which advance might afterwards be repaid out of the Poor-rates.
§ Lord J. Russell
In consequence of what had fallen from the noble Lord opposite in the course of the debate, in which the noble Lord had made allusion to a contingency which he earnestly hoped was a most improbable one, that the throne of this country might be vacated, and the crown might be inherited by a foreign sovereign, and that it might be necessary for Parliament to provide for the government of the country in the interval that must occur in that case, he felt it necessary to say, that a Bill to provide for that unfortunate contingency would be brought in before the close of the present Session. An hon. Gentleman near him, had alluded to the sudden distress that might be expected among the poorer classes in Ireland, and had recommended the Government to ask for power to administer relief. He did not think it prudent to adopt that course. It was not necessary nor advisable to commit further powers to Government than those they were already possessed of. With respect to himself, he would only say, that in the course of that Session he 1608 had brought forward every topic that could at all agitate the public mind. At the same time, he thought the House would acknowledge that he had never shrunk from the expression of his opinions; and if those opinions were not in accordance with those of the people of England, it was not fit that he should remain in power; but if they were, he thought he might fairly act upon them, without making any attempt to captivate hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Question carried.