HC Deb 27 April 1843 vol 68 cc1010-2

Lord Eliot moved for leave to bring in a bill to amend and continue the laws relative to the registering of arms, and the importation, manufacture, and sale of arms, gunpowder, and ammunition in Ireland. The object of this measure was to renew the act, which would otherwise expire at the close of the present Session—an act which established regulations with respect to arms which every one of whatever political party-would, he thought, concur in deeming essential to tranquillity. There would be so many opportunities of stating the variations he intended to propose in the present state of the law, that it would be quite unnecessary for him now to enter into details. On another occasion, however, he would be happy to explain those points on which hon. Members might have any doubt.

Mr. S. O'Brien

regretted that the Government had nothing better to offer Ireland than an Arms' bill. They might depend on it that such a bill would not prevent a single outrage, and that they would do much better if they applied themselves to remedy the cause of discontent, by protecting the middle and humble classes in their constitutional rights, and saving them from the extremities into which they were now too frequently reduced.

Mr. Hume

said, he had objected to a similar bill last year, and he equally objected to the measure now offered for their acceptance. To obtain the confidence of a people they must confide in them. It was the privilege of free men to carry arms if they pleased, and a measure to preclude the exercise of such a privilege was nothing less than a measure to degrade freemen. The present Government had been in office now nearly two years, and had as yet done nothing to remove the causes of discontent in Ireland. The people of Ireland required nothing more to make them contented and cheerful than the enjoyment of equal laws and equal rights with the rest of their fellow-subjects, and of which rights this bill tended to deprive them. It was a reproach to the Government that they brought in such a bill, instead of endeavouring to find a remedy for the causes of outrage, and for his part, if a division were taken on the introduction of the measure, he should be glad, by his vote, to evince his condemnation of their conduct.

Mr. French

said, that the noble Lord being, as he observed, determined in all things to legislate and act against the wishes of the Irish people, did that which was most prudent in him, to commence with a measure to deprive them of the use of arms for their defence.

Lord Eliot

in reply to the observations which had been made from the other side, begged to remind the House that this was not the first time of proposing an Arms bill for Ireland. The first measure of this kind had been adopted as long ago as 1807, and it had been continued ever since. The bill was not intended to prevent the use of arms in Ireland, but their abuse; and he asked if the House would not be prepared to adopt some measure for the same purpose for England, if it were found that the people of this country made use of arms in their possession for the unlawful acts which too frequently disgraced the annals of the Irish assizes? The bill which he was about to introduce would do nothing more than make the present law more effective, which was now constantly evaded. He really thought it was a misplaced sympathy on the part of hon. Gentlemen to claim the right of possessing arms for men who made use of them for unlawful purposes, thereby exposing the lives of innocent and unprotected persons to peril.

Mr. B. Escott

defended the wise and conciliatory policy which had distinguished the policy of the present Government in reference to Ireland.

Leave given, bill brought in, and read a first time.

House adjourned at a quarter past seven.