§ Mr. Wyse
said, that if in the course of the discussions which had already taken place on this bill, he had heard any reason given to show either the justice or the policy of the measure, he might have been disposed to take a different course from that which he was determined to pursue on the present occasion. He considered the people of Ireland to possess every constitutional right equally with the people of England, and that if any infringement of those rights, or any suspension of them, were proposed, it was his duty to ascertain the ground upon which such infringement or suspension was required. During the debate on this measure, he had not heard any sufficient ground urged in support of this bill. So far from an increase of crime in Ireland, there had been a considerable decrease, and he could not, therefore, understand why such a bill as this should be introduced, unless it were upon the philosophical principle of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who considered it to be the duty of the Legislature to prevent the occurrence of crime. If this were a restrictive bill (and who would say that it was not?), why had not cases been stated, or proved to the House justifying restriction? Why had it not been established, that arms had been used in defiance of the law? Above all, why was this measure to apply to the whole of Ireland, when even 1579 Ministers admitted, that it was required only for a part of that kingdom? It was not so in the time of the Insurrection Act, which applied solely to those parts of the country where the disease was known to rage, the only rational mode of proceeding, whether with regard to the human body, or the body politic, and such was the universal course with such exceptions only as Mr. St. John Long. It was, as he had already observed, incumbent on the Government to prove these things, but even though they should have proved them, he should still hesitate in believing the course proposed to be the best remedy for the alleged evil. He was by no means satisfied that they would succeed in repressing outrage by taking away the arms of the people. What then could be a worse legislative enactment than one which failed to accomplish the object for which it was passed? Many of the outrages committed in Ireland were not the result of bearing arms; the greatest excesses committed in that country were those perpetrated by large assemblages of people who burned people out of their houses. There were, undoubtedly, laws for the suppression of such outrages, but by no means of the same stringency as that now proposed. The result of this measure would be to deprive of his arms not the evil-disposed, but the farmer who needed them for his defence. After all, was it to an Arms Bill that they looked for the improvement of Ireland? Why not first try other measures before resorting to this ultima ratio? The Attorney-general seemed to view this as a precautionary measure designed to prevent the popular discontent from breaking out into acts of open violence. Was this the hon. and learned Gentleman's individual view, or did he speak the sentiments of the Government? Did the Government imagine, that the people of Ireland were to be controlled by so paltry a measure as this? They might as well hope to drive a French fleet from our coasts by means of martello towers armed with a single gun. Anxious as he was for the peace and tranquillity of the country for which this bill was intended, he deeply regretted to see such a line of policy adopted by any Government; the fortification of the castle of Dublin was ludicrous, the marching and counter-marching of regiments, armed cap-a-pie as though an insurrection was immediately at hand, 1580 was absurd, and last of all the ludicrous expedition to Waterford, a town in which the gaols had been almost untenanted for many years, was the consummation of folly. And how did this expedition originate? He believed he knew the quarter. He knew a certain lane inhabited by men who were to be bought and sold at any election, men who piqued themselves on their loyalty and devotion to the English connection, for which they appeared to enjoy an exclusive patent. One of this body made certain communications to one of the coast guard, by whom they were revealed to the inspector, who, in his turn, carried the intelligence to a stipendiary magistrate. Why not seek information respecting the state of the Irish poople from those who enjoyed the confidence of that people, instead of shaking the confidence of that people, and the confidence of the people of England in the tranquillity of Ireland, by giving circulation to rumours which were calculated to disturb the current of commerce and peace. He regretted also the proceedings with respect to the magistracy, because if any measure more than another could be pointed out as calculated to tranquillise the country, and keep in check the spreading disaffection, it would be to leave authority in the hands of men who enjoyed the confidence of the people, and being men of high character and honour would have prevented their fellow-countrymen from going too far. The great evil in Ireland was, that the middle class, who were just rising into importance, who, more than any other, were interested in the repression of outrage, and who, if they had been allowed to develope themselves, might have prevented those excesses which always prevailed when this class was wanting, were in a fair way to be extinguished by these events. Day after day the magistrates were sending in their resignations, stung by the insults to which they had, not intentionally of course, been subjected. The result of the present proceedings would be the creation of two great parties in Ireland—the repealers on one side, and the Orange party on the other. These parties you place face to face, and then talk of being anxious to prevent disaster. These were evils which stared every honest man in the face. Ireland they had owned was their diffi- 1581 culty, but it had been no difficulty with their predecessors in office. The truth was, that the present rulers of Ireland did not understand the genius or feelings of the people, and how could that people have confidence in them? When the late Government came into office, the people of Ireland saw in it a strong disposition to govern the country for the welfare and benefit of the great body of the inhabitants; they, therefore, relied upon the Whigs for justice and equality of rights and privileges. Even after the Tories came into power, the people of Ireland for some time waited patiently in the hope that the new administration would not abandon the beneficent system the late administration had established. They hoped that the Tories, while sitting on the Opposition benches, had learned something from their political adversaries, and that they would avail themselves of their experience. The people of Ireland had been grievously disappointed; for a mild and temperate rule they saw coercion and severity substituted, and how could Ministers wonder that they obtained no confidence? He was aware that he could not put an end to this most injurious measure, but he would do justice to his own convictions, and to the country which gave him birth, by protesting against it in the most earnest and solemn manner. He did not oppose it as a party question; he did not wish to offer any factious resistance to it, with a view to the embarrassment of Ministers and the removal of them from office, but because he was deeply persuaded that the passing of such a law would be moat fatal to the best interests of Ireland. He concluded by moving,That it be referred to a select committee, to inquire and report how far it is just an J politic any longer to restrict the Irish people from the free exercise of their admitted constitutional right to bear arms.
§ Mr. Blewitt
said, that having adopted the amendment of the hon. Member in lieu of that he had placed on the votes, he now rose to second it. Notwithstanding all he had heard in support of this measure, it was impossible for him to agree to a single clause of it. It had been admitted by the right hon. Secretary of State for the Home Department, that the right of British subjects to possess arms was one of their most important privileges; and the right hon. Gentleman also admitted that this measure was of an unconstitutional 1582 character, and could only be justified on the plea of extreme necessity. It was in fact a measure of privation and restriction with regard to the Irish people; it raised an invidious distinction between the people of Ireland and of England; and it could only be justified by the most overwhelming necessity. It appeared to him, that no necessity for it had been shewn as that no case had been made out for the adoption of this bill. It had been stated by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, that similar statutes had been in existence for a period of nearly fifty years; but the infliction of injustice for so long a period, was no argument, for its continuance. He considered that they ought not to consent to the abridgment of any popular rights without clear and indubitable evidence, that such a step was rendered indispensable by popular guilt. It was admitted by the noble Lord opposite that, at the period when the former Arms Bill was adopted, Ireland was threatened with invasion from France; but no such apprehension was now entertained; and he put it to the House whether there was any similarity between the circumstances under which the first Arms Bill was proposed and those which now existed. The noble Lord contended for the necessity of this measure on the ground, that there was an inordinate passion on the part of the Irish peasantry for the possession of firearms. But he did not consider this suprising, for they were debarred from the exercise of a privilege which was universally valued. They must all have observed the anxiety manifested by boys for the possession of firearms,—an anxiety which, in this country, was generally gratified. He believed that the indulgence of this taste had had some tendency in exciting and fostering a martial spirit, which had in the case of many individuals led to the attainment of high and deserved eminence. The great dramatic poet of our country, in his description of a " certain Lord," who talked " so like a waiting gentlewoman," and who thought—That it was great pity, so it was. That villanous saltpetre should be digg'd Out of the bowels of the harmless earth Which many a good tall fellow had destroy'd,Put into his mouth the confession that—
But for these vile guns, He would himself have been a soldier.Now, the possession and familiarity with the use of firearms tended to remove this dastardly spirit, and he believed had not 1583 been without its influence on the military character of the people. Let them not forget then the gallantry and courage of Irishmen. Who had led the most forlorn of our " forlorn hopes?" By whose valour had the most glorious of our victories been achieved? Had not Irishmen ever been i conspicuous in the display of military enterprise and valour? Why, one-half of the military forces of this country consisted of Irishmen; and yet they proposed to treat the nation to which they looked to supply the ranks of the army with scorn and ignominy,—to refuse to the great majority of the people the possession of arms. He thought this was not a step calculated to maintain that martial spirit which had hitherto been manifested by our Irish fellow subjects. Mr. Macgregor stated, in his report, that a strong passion existed among the Irish for the possession of firearms, and there was scarcely any risk they would not incur to obtain them. This statement was corroborated by Colonel Miller's report. Colonel Miller said, that the most ardent desire for the possession of firearms existed; and in consequence, the timid farmer who had firearms was compelled to lend them to others, and in the event of a refusal houses were frequently broken into, and they were forcibly taken away. These outrages proceeded from the bad passions excited by the present odious law. If it was admitted that the Irish people were not naturally prone to acts of theft and robbery, and if it was found that they were constantly stealing arms, to what cause were they to attribute the prevalence of offences of this nature? He believed the people were excited to the commission of these offences by a sense of deprivation, and that if this deprivation was removed, such outrages would cease. The tendency of this measure was to excite envy, malice, and uncharitablencss in the minds of the people. Partiality would be shown or suspected. Persons who obtained licences for the possession of arms would be regarded by their neighbours with jealousy and envy; and those to whom the privilege of possessing arms was refused would entertain a deep and bitter sense of injustice, not soon to be removed. He considered that the first and paramount object of all law was the prevention of crime. He advised the right hon. Baronet and hon. Gentleman opposite, to consent to the repeal of ail laws similar to that now under consideration, and he believed they would then hear no more of such outrages 1584 as those to which he had referred. The noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland had shown, that since the year 1838 there had been a considerable diminution of crime in Ireland, and yet in the face of this evidence of amendment in the habits of the people, this measure, more stringent than those before in operation, was introduced. He thought the Government would do well to act upon the principles laid down in a proclamation issued by the representative of this country to the Chinese, in which the most ample protection and freedom in civil and religious matters was promised to them. If the Government acted towards Ireland in the spirit of that proclamation, the people would speedily become peaceable, happy, and contented. He hoped that the realization of the desire entertained for a perfect equalization of the rights and laws of the two countries, might ere long take place, and then they might see the pleasing picture of Britannia and Erin walking hand in hand, partaking the same joys and hopes, prepared to encounter the same dangers, a splendid example of national unanimity and prosperity not to be equalled in the world. Lord Eliot would not yield to the temptation of following the hon. Gentleman through the extraordinary series of topics he had chosen to embrace in his speech, extending, as it did, from Ireland to China; and he should confine himself to the question really before the House. When the policy of the Irish Government came in any manner appropriately before the House, he should be perfectly prepared to vindicate the general conduct of the Administration or the particular acts of the Executive; and, sensible as he was of the kindness with which personally he was occasionally mentioned by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and feeling as he did, most sincerely, that the differences of party need never produce personal hostility, he begged firmly to declare that he could not accept a compliment paid to himself at the expense of the Government to which he belonged. He was, he repeated, quite ready to take his full share in the responsibility attaching to every act of that Government, and on the fitting occasion he should be found ready to defend to the utmost of his ability its Irish policy. But the present he could not deem that fitting opportunity; the question before the House being merely whether the House would go into committee on a bill which was substantially similar to what had been the law of Ireland for half a century; and the only 1585 point to be considered whether the state of Ireland was now so altered as to render such a measure unnecessary. The accounts of crime which had been alluded to were not at all exclusively in the hands of the Government, but were laid monthly before the House; and though the number of murders in Ireland had lately decreased, there had been an increased number of offences arising from the possession of arms. These returns were, also, let it be recollected, not returns of offenders, but of offences: so that very often each offence would really comprise twenty or forty offenders. The constabulary never reported a case but one of actual mischief— of committed crime. [Mr. Roebuck " No."] [Mr. Hume, "They are only charges."] The hon. Members were entirely in error; they were not returns of charges, or committals, or even of convictions, to each of which some objection might be made, but they were returns of crimes actually committed, and, of course, wholly independent of questions of number as regarded offenders. Each case in the returns was one of a distinct crime, whatever the number of the criminals. Now, he had been astounded to hear Members of the preceding Government, like the hon. Member who spoke first complain of the bill generally, as though they had not actually supported measures almost entirely the same; and he thought the opposition of those Gentlemen could not possibly be defended, unless they could make out that the circumstances of the country had so changed as to render any such measure no longer necessary. The measure was not desired, nor defended, as at all necessary for the sake of the Government, but for the protection of the peaceably disposed people of Ireland against robbers and murderers. That was the only ground on which he would rest the bill, and if he failed to establish that, he failed altogether in justifying it. Upon the concurrent testimony almost of every Irishman, he believed he might declare the necessity for some such measure. He believed, that at present there were, however, no real restrictions upon the possession of arms in Ireland by respectable and peaceable people; and he would defy its being shown, that the proposed bill would at all increase the difficulties or impose any new restrictions. And certainly (to show the disposition of the Government not to persist in the retention of provisions unnecessarily stringent), he might mention, that they 1586 would not press the clause requiring the certificate of two householders, concerning which the noble Lord (Viscount Clements) the Member for Leitrim, had given a notice, nor those concerning blacksmiths. As to the cry about "equal laws" in the two countries, surely every one must be aware that there were a variety of instances in which the law was necessarily, unavoidably different. Thus, when the Member for Waterford had confessed, that because he had declared against Repeal he had to be escorted to the hustings by cavalry, who could pretend that there could be applied to Ireland the exclusion of troops from the neighbourhood of towns during elections? And again, with respect to party processions, restrictions wholly unnecessary in England, had, with the consent of all parties, been imposed on Ireland, so the statutes against whiteboy offences. All these, and the bill before the House, were restraints on the liberty of the subject, rendered justifiable only by the necessity of the case. And if he were asked how long that necessity might continue, he must reply that it was not possible to tell, though he earnestly hoped that the progress of education and enlightenment in Ireland would, in the course of no very long time, dispense with that necessity. At present the Irish constabulary, excellent and efficient as it was, could not duly exercise its powers for the prevention and detection of crime, and could not, unless empowered by some such bill as this, examine suspected persons as to the manner in which they became possessed of arms. Surely powers like these were essential to the preservation of the peace the protection of property and life. Again he declared that although the measure was not needed by the Government for its own security yet, they were bound to take every precaution to prevent the consequences likely to arise from the exciting language — the seditious harangues—continually employed at meetings of 100,000 or 200,000 persons; and to provide for the protection of the peaceably disposed of her Majesty's subjects from the sudden ebullitions so probable in gatherings of such a character. Those who had already under former Governments agreed to measures substantially the same as the present might, if they pleased, object to different clauses; but they could not with consistency and propriety oppose the going into committee, unless, indeed, it were consistent with their ideas of propriety to declare that measures fit and 1587 proper under a Whig Government were monstrous and unconstitutional in the hands of a Conservative Administration. He trusted the House would now go into committee when a full and fair consideration would be given by the Government to the various amendments that might be proposed.
§ Mr. Ward
thought that the noble Lord had placed the question on very fair grounds, when he said that those who had supported an Arms Bill in 1841, were bound to assign some better reason for not supporting it now, than the mere fact that their own friends were no longer in power. He was quite ready to join issue upon these grounds. His objections to the measure of the Government were twofold—first, that additional stringency had been given to some of the worst clauses of the old law; and secondly, that the general policy of the present Government towards Ireland rendered such a measure unwise and unjust. He admitted that, like many other hon. Members, he had supported the Arms Bill passed by the late Government. If he had not voted for it, he had given it a tacit assent, and he had done so because he considered it part of a system, a bad system, no doubt, but a system which that Government was doing all in its power to improve. The bill, as it was now presented to the House, was placed before them as the whole essence of the policy of the Government towards Ireland, and it was put forward as the only measure which they had to suggest to satisfy the people. He feared that it would only add to that long score of injustice which they had to settle with Ireland already. He had himself, when he first came into Parliament, voted for the Coercion Bill,—he said it to his own shame, for, it was the act of his public life which he most deplored,—the avowed object of which, was to put down even the semblance of civil liberty in Ireland, without the slightest justification in the then state of that country for such a step. But he did this in ignorance of the past history of Ireland, and in blind reliance upon a blind guide—he meant the present Secretary for the Colonies,—-who, with all his abilities, was the blindest, and most dangerous, of guides wherever Ireland was concerned. Subsequent events had proved that it was conciliation, not coercion, that was wanted in Ireland—justice, not force; for, if ever there was a people keenly, and 1588 gratefully, sensible of anything like impartiality, and fairness, in those, who were entrusted with the management of its affairs, it was the people of Ireland, and they had proved it by their conduct from 1835 to 1841. The administration of his noble relative Lord Normanby, of Lord Morpeth, of Lord Fortescue, was a proof how little Coercion bills were wanted to maintain tranquillity. Whatever might be said of their English policy, that was a noble page in the history of the Whigs. And why were things now relapsing into the very state from which they had then emerged? Why was England forced to pour troops into Ireland, and to blockade its coasts with war-steamers, when Lord Normanby had reduced the army by 10,000 men, and offered to spare more, if wanted here? He did not blame Ministers for taking proper precautions. They might be necessary in the unhappy state of feeling that had arisen, and if coupled with a determination to grapple with the whole question of Ireland, and to adapt their future policy to its wants, he would even say that they might be wise. But conciliation must accompany the proof of superior strength. Nothing could be done in Ireland by brute force. He believed that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government was as little disposed to adopt a harsh, or oppressive, policy as any man alive; and as to his noble Friend the Secretary for Ireland, he had known him all his life, and he never knew any man of a more conciliatory character, or of a more thoroughly honourable mind. By what fatality was it that two men, individually the least disposed to commit injustice, were, politically, the least able to do right? It was the curse of their party connections that was weighing upon them. The goodness of their intentions was neutralised by the badness of the instruments with which they had to work. The noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland was identified in the minds of the Irish people with an unpopular party and an unpopular church; and the right hon. Baronet himself bore the odium which justly attached to many of his Colleagues. It was most unfortunate that the Government should count amongst its membersmen, whose speeches had betrayed the bitterest hostility towards Ireland. He found in a speech of Mr. O'Connell's, at Kilkenny, an allusion to this, which every well-wisher to this country must deplore. He did not identify himself with Mr. 1589 O'Connell's sentiments or language. On the contrary, he repudiated both in the strongest terms. He thought the attempt to array Celt against Saxon was a step back into barbarism—a prostitution of his vast influence unworthy his position, and more likely to lead to a war of extermination between two hostile races, than to a struggle for equal political rights, in which both countries might rationally, and honourably, join. But what was the excuse of the hon. Member for Cork? It was, that he had not begun this species of hostility—that, by a person high in station in this kingdom, the people of Ireland—seven millions of her Majesty's subjects—had been declared to be " aliens in blood, in language, and in religion." [Mr. Borthwick; It was explained.] The explanation had come too late. When it came, the mischief was done,—the blow had been already struck, and the words themselves were never denied. How did Mr. O'Connell use them? He said at Kilkenny,—I want to know whether a man in the House of Lords did not say that the Irish were aliens in blood, in language, and in religion? I will tell you why I think the man said it, because I was listening to him myself. It may be said, that he was some every-day talking agitator; but no, the man who used that phrase is now Lord High Chancellor of England. How dare you say that Irishmen and Englishmen are of the same race, when your Lord High Chancellor pronounced his decree that they are not, and you have since rewarded him with a salary of 14,000l. a year, and an annuity of 6,000l. a year after he ceases to be Chancellor? Oh, how I like to hear one of the miscreants, that belong to that party, come out on me, and charge me with making distinctions between the people of the two countries. I did not make that distinction, but it is as good as if it were my own child, for I adopt it.What, then, was to be done? Was the Government to negotiate with Mr. O'Connell? No. He would disarm him—he would strip him of his powers, by doing what was right—what all Europe would say was right, and by dealing promptly, and boldly, with the two questions, which were put roost prominently forward as the cause of the agitation for Repeal— he meant what was called the fixity of tenure question, and the Church. As to the first, there was little difficulty. Mr. O'Connell himself had never denned what he meant by fixity of tenure. He had spoken loosely, and largely, about it at meetings, but he had bees very guarded 1590 in print. In the address of the Repeal Association, he said, that" something must be done for the occupying tenantry of Ireland," and that that something must be conciliated, so far as possible, with existing proprietary rights. Could there be a fitter question for the Government to take up, as had been suggested by his hon. Friend the Member for Kildare? They alone had power to bring it to any beneficial conclusion, and the sooner they attempted it the better. As to the Church, he knew the difficulty with which this question was surrounded, but he meant to speak out. He saw no use in mincing the matter. In 1834, had Parliament been inclined to act upon the motion, which he brought forward, very moderate concessions would have sufficed. The bills of 1835 and 1836 proved this, for very little was done by them, yet the Irish Members gave them their unanimous support. But, Parliament chose to reject these measures, and to buy off the Appropriation clause, by sacrificing 25 per cent, of the tithe; not an unreasonable return to the landlords of Ireland for the risk, and responsibility, of collecting the rest. It was his deliberate belief, that the remaining 75 per cent, must now be given up as the price of peace. He believed that it would be utterly impossible to maintain the Establishment in Ireland, and the Union between the two countries; and he distinctly asserted his conviction that any Government which dealt with this case must regard Tithes as a fund, which could only be preserved for Religious purposes, provided it were distributed on terms of perfect equality between the working Clergy of all denominations. He said, let them get rid of their Bishops and Archbishops. His firm conviction was, that the Establishment must be given up as the condition of future peace. It was very well to taunt him with this, as if it were a novel doctrine: but what bad their own leader said in 1817? In perhaps, the most sagacious speech ever made by that most sagacious man, he had predicted every thing which had since occurred. He said—You propose to open to the Catholics Parliament, and to invest them with political power; —to make them capable of acting in the highest offices of the state, and of being the responsible advisers of the crown. You tell us that the Roman Catholics of Ireland are advancing in wealth and education, and that, as you remove the disabilities under which they labour, their advance will be the more rapid, and they will become more influential in the State. Do you mean then bonâ fide, to give them in Ire- 1591 land the practical advantages of the eligibility you propose to confer upon them? Do you mean to give them that fair proportion of political power, to which their numbers, wealth, talents, and education, will entitle them? If you do, can you believe that they will, or can, remain contented with the limits which you assign to them? Do you think that when they constitute, as they must do,—not this year, or the next, but in the natural, and therefore certain order of things,—by far the most powerful body in Ireland;—the body, most controlling, and directing the government of it;—do you think, I say, that they will view with satisfaction the state of your Church, or of their own ? Do you think that, if they are constituted like other men, if they have organs, senses, affections, passions, like yourselves—if they are, as no doubt they are, sincere and zealous professors of that religious faith to which they belong —if they believe your ' intrusive church' to have usurped the temporalities which it possesses;_do you think that they will not aspire to the re-establishment of their own church, in all its ancient splendour?—Is it natural they should?—If I argue even from my own feelings, if I place myself in their situation, I answer that it is not.Could they have a more correct anticipation of the results of his own measure, than that which the right hon. Baronet had shown in three words? The right hon. Baronet then went on to notice the case of Scotland,The history of Scotland is referred to as proving the policy of granting those privileges, which we are now called on to grant, and though I reject is as affording any precedent at all analogous to the present case of Ireland, I cannot help feeling that it may be, at some future time, with great force, appealed to in favour of establishment of the Roman Catholic religion in Ireland. What was the policy towards Scotland? After vain attempts to impose on the people a form of religious worship, against which they revolted, you abandoned these attempts, and established, permanently, and inviolably, the Presbyterian Church, its doctrine, discipline, and government. Scotland with her Presbyterian Church, has been united to England with her Episcopal Church; all jealousies are buried in oblivion, and the political union is complete.Could they have anything to mark more distinctly the incompleteness of the political Union in Ireland, than the existence of an Establishment, which was looked upon with feelings of national dislike, and antipathy, and which, whether the payment was saddled on the landlord, or the tenant, constantly reminded the people of what was once theirs, and what they had lost? He hoped that he had stated distinctly his reason for the vote he was about to give. He meant to be distinct. He saw nothing in 1592 the present state of Ireland, which did not fill him with anxiety, and alarm. Not that he doubted the present power of England to put down the Repeal movement;—but to make the Union permanent, they must put it on reasonable grounds. They must assimilate the general spirit of legislation in the two countries. They had never tried to do so honestly, and they never would do so effectually, whilst they had connected with them an Established Church opposed to the national sentiments of the Irish. They might refuse to deal with it now, but if they neglected to do so, his belief was, that though it might not be this year or next year, yet in the event of an European war, or of any disturbances at home, we should find that we had converted into the source of our greatest weakness, a country, which, if properly managed, might, and would be, the source of our greatest strength.
Mr. T. B. C. Smith
thanked the hon. Gentleman for the openness with which he had avowed his opinion. As to the question before the House, there were three courses open to the Government. One was to allow the existing law to expire; the second was simply to renew it; and the third was to consolidate and amend the laws upon the subject. This last was the course which it had been thought proper to adopt as the best mode of bringing distinctly under the consideration of the House the nature of the enactment. He had scarcely expected, after the majority by which, upon the second reading, the principle of the bill had been adopted, that a new discussion would arise upon it. Such a measure as the present was no longer than two years ago, considered just and right by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were now opposed to it. But admitting the possibility that what was just and right in 1841 might not be so in 1843, he would refer to the papers laid on the Table of the House to show, that circumstances now rendered such a measure more imperative than in 1841. The class of crime to which the measure applied had increased since 1841. With respect to fixity of tenure, he must remind the hon. Member for Sheffield, that in 1835 and 1836, a measure on this subject was brought before the House. In 1836, the measure was read for the first time, but it never reached a second reading. If the measure were so necessary for the welfare of Ireland, why was it not taken up by the Government of that day, 1593 or why was it not urged on by hon. Gentlemen opposite? On the proposal for the second reading of the bill, an amendment was moved that it be read a second time that day six months, and nothing had been heard of it since. The hon. Member for Sheffield had adverted to another matter with respect to which, he said, it was necessary to conciliate the Irish people, and certainly the hon. Member had spoken out distinctly enough on the subject. He said they must sacrifice the archbishops and bishops of the Irish Church, and the remaining three-fourths of the income of that establishment, or they could not expect to maintain the Union, and to render the Irish people well disposed towards England. Now, he could tell the hon. Member that even these concessions would go but a short way to conciliate those, at least, who were endeavouring at the present moment to separate the two countries. As the sense of the House had been so decidedly expressed on a former occasion with respect to the principle of this bill, he thought it desirable that the House should now go into committee to consider its details. He would remind the House that the expediency of an Arms Bill was urged at a meeting in Kings County on the 6th of June last, at which magistrates and gentlemen, of all political opinions, attended.
§ Mr. D. R. Pigot
said, that Government had no reason to complain of the course taken by his hon. Friend, the Member for Waterford. The Irish representatives were bound to record their opinions, and would do so, without offering anything like a factious opposition. Some had assumed, and others had directly asserted, the identity of this bill with some others which had formerly been before Parliament; but it was because this bill professed to introduce material changes, that, they who opposed it were desirous, before it was adopted, to have it placed upon an intelligible and reasonable foundation, and for that purpose to have a full inquiry. The first Arms Bill was introduced in 1796, but it was not introduced to prevent assassination. The recital showed the intention of the Legislature in passing it; namely, to check the traitorous insurrection which was then latent in Ireland. It was first passed when Ireland was in a state of rebellion, and the flame broke out two years after this enactment. It was accompanied by provisions for pro- 1594 claiming districts, and to prevent the inhabitants from being out of their dwellings between certain hours, which were afterwards introduced as a separate measure; and, indeed, the act was known as the Insurrection Act. In 1798, after the rebellion had broken out, the act was renewed, and the provision was first introduced relating to pikes and other weapons, which had then come into use The act was afterwards renewed from time to time, but was never a permanent measure. In 1807, after the country had gone through two rebellions, Mr. Grattan declared his opinion that for temporary purposes, and in the then exigencies of the country, Parliament ought not to allow those provisions to expire, and it was re-enacted for three years. In the year 1810, the provision for enabling two magistrates to depute the power of making domiciliary visits was deliberately abandoned by the Government. The then Secretary for Ireland, who was the brother of a noble Duke, who now held high office in her Majesty's Government, Mr. Wellesley Pole, in introducing an amended bill said—There was another act also to which he wished to call the attention of the House—an act which was brought in at the same time with the present Insurrection Act, and which had caused much discussion in that House— he meant what was called the Arms Act. He believed that every gentleman would admit that the provisions for registering of arms should not be given up, and that the power of searching for arms should exist somewhere. But the act, as it at present stood, was liable to very great objections, which he proposed to obviate. By the act, as it now stood, any two magistrates might, upon suspicion, search the house of any individual for arms, at any hour, and one magistrate might, upon information, search in the same manner, or delegate a power to another person to make the search. These were unquestionably strong powers, which might in their execution become the source of much vexation and individual hardship, and ought, therefore, not to be suffered to exist, if the object of enacting them could be attained without resorting to such harsh means. It appeared to him, that this act might be so modified as to remove these objections, and to prevent its trenching upon the liberty of the subject more than the absolute necessity of the case required. He should propose that no magistrate, or number of magistrates, should have the power to search except upon information on oath, or in a case that they had such ground of suspicion as might make it desirable to search a district for arms; and that in that case they should send 1595 their information to Government, in order that it might determine whether the search should be made or not. If Government should determine that a search ought to be made, then he should propose that a warrant should be sent by the Lord-lieutenant, authorizing and directing such search. This provision would, in his opinion, be sufficient to guard the subject from any wanton exercise of authority.The multiplicity of domiciliary visits was done away with, and the power was given only to two magistrates, who, by their presence, would show that the visit was necessary, and, by their acting, were a direct check on the perpetration of abuses. Yet the provision, which was abandoned thirty years ago, was now renewed. The provisions in the former act which repealed the domiciliary visits were to be re-enacted by the present bill. The Government in 1810 gave way with regard to the former severe enactments, and made it necessary that at any search two magistrates should attend personally; but this bill proposed to give the power to any one magistrate, not to make a personal search, but to authorise any one inspector or head constable of the constabulary force that he chooses to name to make domiciliary searches. This was not an immaterial consideration, but it was a matter that would be most deeply felt in Ireland. When two magistrates were required to be present at these domiciliary visits, there was something like a feeling of security, in comparison with entrusting the power to a policeman, and he need hardly say, that when this power was left to inferior functionaries, the feeling became most galling to the people of Ireland. But this extreme power was abandoned in 1810, and it was now, after a lapse of thirty-three years, proposed to revive it. Was Ireland, he would ask, more disfigured by crime now than between the years 1810 and 1830, during which period those were in power, who represented the opinions, and who belonged to the party which he saw opposite. Indeed, many Members of the present Government were then in office. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had, during a considerable portion of that period, been Secretary for Ireland, and afterwards succeeded to the office of Secretary for the Home Department, in which he was responsible for the peace of the empire, and while the right hon. Gentleman held these offices, was any attempt made to re-enact these offensive provisions, or to increase 1596 the stringency of the code? Certainly not. The Insurrection Act, he believed, was in force in 1814, in 1815, and in 1816, but during these years, no attempt was made to make an alteration in the modified law of 1810. Upon what principle, or upon what show of necessity, or upon what question of policy then should the House be called upon to enter upon this new scheme of legislation. No provisions of this character had ever been thought of in 1835, or 1839, or 1841, for the laws that were passed on the subject in those years, only continued the mitigated enactments of 1810. His right hon. and learned Friend had alluded to the state of crime in Ireland. But was the state of crime such as to justify them in enacting this measure, which the people of Ireland would justly believe was the adoption of a part of the system of coercion? His right hon. Friend was fully aware of the accuracy and value of the returns relative to the state of Ireland, which had been prepared by the late lamented Mr. Drummond. That gentleman took the period of the three years, 1826, 1827, 1828, and contrasted it with those of Lord Norman-by's administration, namely, 1836, 1837, 1838. The result was, that comparing the former period with the latter, as regarded murder and manslaughter, the decrease in number was fifty-six, or ten per cent; shooting and stabbing were less by forty-two, or 46 per cent; conspiracy to murder, 7, or 29 per cent; burglary 163, or 56 per cent; assembling armed, and appearing armed by night, 26 per cent; house breaking, &c, 548, or 86 per cent; cattle, horse, and sheep stealing, 298, or 34 per cent; assaulting, with intent to rob, 54 per cent. Compare the state of Ireland now with the state of Ireland even at the latter period, and he would ask whether, as regarded the amount and magnitude of crime, there was any ground for increasing the severity of the provisions in the Arms Bill. What was there to induce them during the period between 1810 and 1826, to resort to the mitigated enactments, continued afterwards to the period of 1836, when Mr. Drummond, in his magnificent evidence, showed that such a great diminution of crime had taken place, and now, when there had been a still greater decrease in crime, what was there to justify them in resorting to a more stringent law. The returns before the. House, it was al- 1597 lowed, gave sufficiently correct indications as to the state of the country, and he was sure, that no Member of the Government would dispute their general accuracy. He had just referred to a document, in which they found the state of crime in Ireland at one period contrasted with what it was ten years afterwards. He would again take a period of three years, after the period he had last referred to, and the reason he took that time was, that Mr. Drummond had made his returns on the average for three years. He begged the House then to contrast the state of crime in Ireland in 1837 with what it was in 1841, and to see the great improvement that had taken place during that period. He perhaps should observe that he had taken the year 1837 as the mean of the three years referred to by Mr. Drummond, but he had no objection to take either 1836 or 1838; in the latter year, however, a small increase of crime occurred, but still the result would fully bear out what he wished to show. It appeared then, that homicide, which, by the by, he believed was the offence which this bill was particularly directed against, had diminished to such an extent as to fully justify the Government in mitigating the provisions of any bill of this kind. In 1837 the number of homicides in Ireland was 230, in 1841 the number was 105. He referred to the official returns, and those for last year showed a similar result, and the noble Lord was perfectly right in what he said as to the great accuracy with which they were prepared. In 1837 the number of aggravated assaults, and assaults endangering life, such as cutting and maiming the person, was 936; in 1841 the number was reduced to 798. In 1837 the number of offences of firing at the person was 91; in 1841, it was 66. Then, again, in 1837 the number of assaults on the police—and this was an offence affording a tolerably fair indication of the state of feeling on the part of the people—was 91: in 1841 it was 58. Assaults on bailiffs or process servers, in 1837, 24; and in 1841 only 3. This, be it remembered, was a serious offence, as it manifested a disposition to resist the process of the law. In 1837 the number of cases of resistance to legal process was 60; in 1841 it was 37. In 1837 the cases of rescue of property, a crime which prevailed to a very great extent at one 1598 time, was 38; in 1841 it was 18, In 1837 the number of cases of rescue of prisoners was 34; in 1841 it was 5 for the whole of Ireland. In 1837 the number of incendiary fires was 453; in 1841 it was 390. In 1837 the number of cases of illegal shearing of sheep, was 133; in 1841 it was 84. Administering unlawful oaths, in 1837,36; in 1841,60. Threatening notices or letters, in 1837, 685; in 1841, 752. Pound-breaking, in 1837,33; in 1841, 15. Levelling in 1837,78; and in 1841, 54. The next offence to which he would refer, was one of a most serious character, and he would beg the House to mark the great change that had taken place. In 1837 the number of cases of attacking houses and firing into houses, was 627; and in 1841, the number was reduced to 366. Faction fights at one time prevailed to a frightful extent in Ireland, they uniformly excited the very worst feelings of the people, and constantly endangered the public peace; but by the rigour and prudence of the government of Lord Normanby, and by the assistance of the people themselves, this offence, which formerly almost uniformly disgraced all the meetings of the people, and made their fairs and markets and races general scenes of riot and confusion, diminished from 18 in 1837, to 8 in the year 1841. Now, he thought, after showing this, that he was justified in calling for some plain and intelligible ground for such enactments as were now proposed. Had there been such an alteration in the position of Ireland within the last year or two, as to justify the House in adopting such a measure? Was it right to tamper with the feelings of the people on a matter of this kind? Had the noble Lord shown any necessity for this severe bill? If there was any necessity for this bill, let him grant a committee, and adduce his proofs. If there was anything in the returns—the accuracy of which he was sure the noble Lord would admit—surely the evidence on the subject could be adduced without delay. The fact, however, was, that these returns afforded proof demonstrative of the improved habits of the people, He had heard something like this admitted by some hon. Gentlemen on the opposite Benches, and were they to leave this matter out of account in legislating, respecting, and dealing with matters so materially affecting the habits and feelings 1599 of the people of Ireland. At one time the addiction of the Irish people to strong drink was a matter of general notoriety, and some years ago hardly a comedy was produced, or a tale, in which this propensity of the people was not made a subject of jest and ridicule. But a few years ago the celebration of the natal day of the saint of Ireland was devoted by almost all classes to debauchery; but a change had recently taken place which no exertions of any Government could ever have succeeded in bringing about. There had been something going on with respect to the condition of the people, which prepared them for much that had taken place. Was it the result of any sudden burst of enthusiasm? No such thing. They had had the experience of the beneficial change that had taken place during the last three years, and he could call a witness to attest the extent and magnitude of the change which had taken place, whose evidence he was sure would not be called in question. Not many days ago, the Minister of finance in that House, for he was the person who had to calculate how much the public coffers had gained by the inebriety, or lost by the temperance and sobriety of the people, made the following remarkable declaration, as descriptive of the change that had taken place:—If the House will look at the paper on the Table they will find a reduction to the amount of 1,200,000 gallons in the quantity of spirits produced in Ireland. This is not a novel circumstance in the fiscal concerns of that country, quite independent of any alterations of duty. In the year antecedent there was a reduction in the quantity of spirits of 2,400,000 gallons. But I shall be told that this reduction was owing to the duty of Ad. imposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I will, however, go hack to a year when neither the Ad. duty, nor the Is. duty were in operation. In the year 1840 there was a reduction in the quantity of spirits to the amount of 1,400,000 gallons. So that in the years where no duty applied, there was a diminution equal, if not greater, than that which was now complained of; if, indeed, it could be considered a cause of complaint. And what is the statement with respect to this reduction? There is a growing spirit of temperance there which has led the people to abandon the consumption of ardent spirits; and any one conversant with the south and west of Ireland must be aware that that is a sufficient cause for the diminished consumption of spirits. Within the last year or two the temperance system has extended itself from the south and west of Ireland to the more 1600 northerly parts of the country; and I say that that circumstance alone, independently of any considerations arising out of the imposition of additional duties, is sufficient to account for the decreasing consumption of spirits.Would the House pause for a moment to reflect on the great improvement, as regarded habits of temperance, which must have taken place in Ireland, and which had been going on for the last three years, and which had led to the reduction in the consumption of ardent spirits during that time to an extent of upwards of 5,000,000 gallons. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to observe—Various circumstances tend to show that the decreased consumption in spirits in Ireland arises rather from altered habits on the part of the people, than from the increase of illicit distillation. I have made careful inquiries as to the conduct of the people in Ireland, at public meetings and other assemblages where large bodies of men are brought together, and the result of those inquiries has satisfied me that at no former period was there ever known to be such an absence of those evils which have invariably followed the increase of illicit distillation, namely, drunkenness, and consequent on that, riots and disturbances. The reports which I have received, up to the latest period, uniformly concur in stating that habits of sobriety are extending amongst the people of Ireland to a most extraordinary degree. It is reported to me that on St. Patrick's-day not a single man was seen drunk in the streets in several large towns. That is tolerably strong evidence of the change which has taken place in the habits of the people of Ireland. Having these facts before me, I cannot admit that the imposition of an additional duty on Irish spirits has led to an increase of illicit distillation.Then what was the state of society, and what was the character of the population they had now to deal with in Ireland. What evidence would the noble Lord adduce to justify, he would not say the necessity, but the expediency of resorting to these most stringent enactments, which were abandoned on account of their severity in 1810. He would not call upon the noble Lord to show, for that in itself would be a most difficult task, that a registration of arms would be the means of diminishing or preventing crime, but he would ask him to point out what there was in the amended habits of the people that should induce him to call upon the House to resort to such coercive measures. He had already shown that former Governments had ameliorated the law with the view of inducing the people to place confidence in 1601 the protection of the Government, and to prevent its trenching on the liberty of the subject more than was deemed absolutely necessary, and he had already quoted the language used by Mr. Wellesley Pole in 1810, when the state of Ireland afforded an awful contrast to its present condition. Will you requite the people of Ireland for the general improvement that had taken place in their moral condition, by the restoration of the abrogated code of coercion, and superadd to it the stringent provisions which you abandoned in 1810. Surely the noble Lord must be aware that already a strong disposition existed in Ireland to quarrel with British legislation; and could he expect that such a measure as the present would diminish or alter that feeling. Did the noble Lord see nothing in the past history of the country which accounted for the state of things which he had just adverted to? Was not the noble Lord aware that the delay that had taken place in passing the Emancipation Act had tended to foster a feeling against a strong party in England, which had grown into great jealousy of the spirit in which they proposed to legislate? Did the noble Lord not know that the inevitable result of delaying a measure of justice was that it ceased to be regarded as a boon. Had the noble Lord not now before him pregnant proofs of the evil to which he had adverted, which should prevent his tampering with the feelings of the people; and in this state of things was this the time to venture to introduce his bill. It was vain to deny it, that however you might endeavour to explain your measure away, that the people of Ireland would feel and regard it as a test of a coercive measure. To those, therefore, who wished to cling to existing arrangements between the two countries, the measure of the Government would be productive of something more than inconvenience. They might warn the Government that its proceedings were not merely attended with danger to them, but, if persisted in, would be productive of the utmost peril, he would not say to the connection between the two countries, but to the harmony which should exist between them. It was impossible to pass such a measure in the present temper of the people of Ireland, without increasing in a tenfold degree those unhappy feelings which now existed. If, therefore, the noble Lord had not committed himself to 1602 this measure, he urged him to pause, and consider whether the mere reports of certain officers of the constabulary were sufficient to justify this measure, No one could entertain a higher opinion than he did of the merits, and talents, and character of Colonel Macgregor, and Colonel Millar, but he did not think that the noble Lord was justified in referring to the opinions of these officers of the constabulary as authorities which should guide the Government, and lead the House to adopt such a grave scheme of legislation. He knew that it was almost a natural feeling of persons in the situation of these gentlemen to recommend the adoption of such measures as they thought would relieve then), and the force with which they were connected, from certain onerous burthens. He could understand either Colonel Macgregor or Colonel Millar saying we find difficulties here or there—repeal this or enact that—so as to give us greater facilities in carrying on our proceedings. The same arguments were urged to Mr. Wellesley Pole, when he proposed the modified law of 1810, and when he proposed that a search for arms should take place in the presence of the magistrates, and then only when the Government issued an order authorising and directing such search. In adverting to this kind of reasoning, Mr. Wellesley Pole said:—He was afraid, however, that one great objection would be made to this regulation-namely, that by the delay which it would occasion, the opportunity of preventing the mischief might be lost. He did not, however, think that the delay would be so great as to prevent a sufficient and effectual search from being made, and he trusted that the law was not so weak that it could not remedy any evil that might result from the adoption of the measure which he should propose. He was convinced that the advantages which would result from showing the people that Government determined to give them as much liberty as possible, consistent with the precautions which were necessary for the general safety, would more than counterbalance any evil that might result from this provision.He would take the liberty to counsel the noble Lord, that when a constabulary officer or stipendiary magistrate recommended him to depart from these wise and moderate regulations, which should characterise a Government, that it was extremely dangerous so far to trifle with the feelings of the people, as to allow the wanton invasion and search of their dwel- 1603 lings by an inferior functionary. He called upon the noble Lord to reconsider his course. If the noble Lord passed this bill, he would greatly increase the mischief which now existed, and it would inevitably lead to a state of things which any one friendly to the continuance of the Legislative Union must deplore.
§ Captain Jones
wished to know whether the 24th clause of this bill did not give exactly the same powers that were given in Mr. Wellesley Pole's bill. The charge of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was, that the Government had increased the stringent clauses in the present bill, but he feared that the right hon. Gentleman had not referred to the former acts of this kind. If the right hon. Gentleman would look to the 24th section of the acts which passed in 1830 and 1834, he would there find it enacted that any justice of the peace might enter and search any house for arms, on the issue of a warrant for that purpose, on receiving information on oath. Now, the clause in the present bill did not go beyond this. The whole effect of the right hon. Gentleman's speech depended on the accuracy of his statement as to the clauses. He thought that some Arms Bill was absolutely necessary for Ireland, and he confessed that it appeared to him that the present bill was precisely the same with former acts on the subject.
did not intend to occupy the time of the House with going into an examination of the provisions of the Arms Bill. He thought that it was the duty of the Government to show something like stringent reasons for the adoption of such a measure before it called upon the House to pass it. The House was induced to pass the Arms Bill, which was introduced by Sir A. Wellesley in 1807, because there was a French party existing in Ireland at that time. This was admitted by Mr. Grattan, who deservedly possessed great influence in that House. He stated that the persons against whom the Arms Act was chiefly directed were entirely devoted to the enemy. It had been inferred by Gentlemen opposite that because a Whig Government passed a certain measure that it was a sufficient reason to press for a continuance of it. It would appear that this was a common defence of all Irish governments, for if complaint were made in any matter with respect to their proceedings, they uniformly defended them- 1604 selves by referring to the proceedings of former governments as a justification. He found a striking instance of this in the trial of Lord Strafford in 1640, who certainly was an energetic Lord-lieutenant, and who would not have been satisfied with merely dismissing magistrates. Lord Strafford, in his defence as to the charge of the cruelties he had inflicted on the people of Ireland in 1629, said,I dare appeal to those that know the country, whether, in former times, many men have not been committed, and executed by the deputies' warrant that were not thieves and rebels, but such as went up and down the country. If they could not give a good account of themselves, the provost marshal, by direction of the deputies, used in such cases to hang them up. I dare say there are hundreds of examples of this kind.He did not know whether the noble Lord could justify his bill by hundreds of examples. Without entering at length into a comparison of the present with previous governments in Ireland, he would remind the noble Lord that if the late Government proposed bills of this kind, they also showed a disposition to accompany them with measures of conciliation and kindness. He would just call the attention of the House to two clauses in this bill—the eighth, by which arras were ordered to be branded; and the 26th, by which persons having pikes in their possession were made liable to the punishment of transportation. On the 2d of July, 1831, Mr. Stanley, then Secretary for Ireland, moved for leave to bring in an Arms Bill. The right hon. Gentleman then said,Of the new provisions of this bill, the following were the only ones which he thought it would be necessary for him to enumerate. In the first place, the bill would enact that there should be a general registration of all arms in Ireland, and that each individual weapon should be stamped and branded, so that arms, might be easily traced through whatsoever hands they might pass. Any person having unregistered arms in his possession would not be subjected to a pecuniary penalty, as at present, which, from the poverty of the persons, was never enforced, but would be held to be guilty of a misdemeanour, and liable to be punished accordingly.Now these enactments were exactly similar to those proposed by the 8th and 26th clauses of the present bill; but what was then done with the proposed enactments? These clauses were most strenuously opposed by the hon. and learned Member 1605 for Cork, and the right hon. Member for Dungarvan, and on a subsequent evening, when Mr. Goulburn asked the right hon. Gentleman when he intended to proceed with his bill, Mr. Stanley said,That as such strong sentiments had been expressed respecting the penalties of the bill which had been described as disproportionate to the offence, in deference to the opinion of Gentlemen connected with Ireland, for whose judgment he had a great respect, he should state at once that he should not think it right to preserve that, clause in the bill which rendered the possession of unlawful arms a transportable offence.Again, on the 23d of September of the same year, Mr. Stanley brought the subject forward. On that occasion the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, who at that time did not sit on the same bench with the noble Lord, remarked—That to propose measures of unusual severity, and then withdraw them, savoured of levity and inconsistency.Mark the reply of the noble Lord. He said,His Majesty's Government thought it inexpedient to resort to unconstitutional measures, which had formerly been brought into operation. I am now ready to admit that I withdraw the measure I submitted to the House, in consequence of the decided opposition of those hon. Members connected with Ireland, to whose opinions I am in the habit of looking with deference and respect.Such was the opinion of the noble Lord in 1831; but how could he reconcile it to himself that then, although with such strong feelings of deference to Irish Members, and with so little deference to the right hon. Gentleman, that he could bring himself to support the two clauses to which he had referred. He would now particularly call the attention of the right hon. the Secretary for the Home Department to a document which he held in his hand, which would show what an important effect the disposition and proceedings of the Government might have in allaying agitation. The paper he referred to was an address to Lord Normanby, in 1836, from a borough in Cork, from a large body of persons who had formerly supported a repeal of the union. It statedMay it please your Excellency—We stand before you in number amounting to over one hundred thousand, and the greater part of us avow ourselves as having belonged to that political party in this country who advocated 1606 the repeal of the Legislative union between Great Britain and Ireland, in the eager pursuit of which we dismissed, or aided in dismissing from the representation of this great county and borough in Parliament, individuals who in other public questions were entitled to our respect and confidence; we thought, that the only remedy that could be devised, in the evils of long established oppression and misrule, was a recurrence to a domestic legis lature, when the laws would emanate from our countrymen, under the control of the opinions and feelings prevailing in Ireland. But. the experience we have had of your Excellency's wise, just, and paternal government, carrying into effect the liberal and enlightened principles of his Majesty's present advisers, has taught us otherwise; and we now acknowledge that English statesmen, sent by and representing fairly the people of England, would do full and ample justice to this long-afflicted country. From the hope that we entertain, and on condition that the principles indicated by your Excellency's government will be carried into effect, we tender to your Excellency our solemn abjuration of the question of the Repeal of the Legislative Union, and of every other question calculated to produce an alienation of feeling between the inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland.What was the present state of feeling in the borough of Mallow, from whence this address came which he had read. He would remind hon. Gentlemen that Mr. Grattan had said that if they wished to ameliorate the condition of Ireland, they must improve its agriculture, place the people on a footing of religious equality with the English, and educate them. He would not refer to the two first points; but he would ask whether it were not notorious, as regarded the education of the people, that the very large proportion of the Protestant clergy in Ireland were opposed to the national system of education. He recollected the learned Recorder of Dublin saying that hardly any clergyman in Ireland who looked to be raised to the episcopal bench, was favourable to that system. He knew an instance of a Protestant gentleman in the north of Ireland who wished to establish a school on his property in conformity with the national system, but he met with the most strenuous opposition from the Protestant clergy, and it was only by means of the Roman Catholic clergy that he was enabled to establish his school. Again, the attempt to establish Protestant ascendancy had been productive of the greatest, mischief from the time of Lord Deputy Gray to the present time; and as the Queen was 1607 told in 1.579 that she would have little to reign over in Ireland but ashes and carcasses, so he feared that continued mischief must result from the continuance of the present system of coercive government.
Mr. P. Bortkwick
referred to the use made in the course of this debate, of a remarkable expression attributed to the Lord Chancellor, who was said to have called the Irish people " aliens in blood, in language, and in religion." The speech in which that expression was used was delivered in the House of Lords, in the course of a debate on the Irish Municipal Corporations Bill, on the 26th of April, 1836. On the 27th of June following, Lord Lyndhurst took occasion to give an explanation of his observation, and made use of the following words:—Now, as to the charge itself, what is it? it is this: that I stated as a reason for not granting municipal institutions to the Irish, that they were aliens by descent, that they spoke a different language, and had different habits from ours, that they considered us to be invaders of their soil, and were desirous of removing us from their country. I made no such statement, nor did I say anything at all resembling it. No expression ever fell from me upon which any person, not of a weak intellect, or not disposed to misunderstand and misrepresent what I stated could have put such a construction. That this was the case is obvious from the conduct of the noble Viscunt opposite (Viscount Melbourne.) What did the noble Viscount do on the occasion when it is said these words were uttered by me? He remained perfectly quiet in his place, and made no comment whatever on what are now considered as most extraordinary and most unjustifiable expressions.The noble Lord then went on to say, that he had not used the language in an offensive sense, but had quoted the word " alien" from the speech of an Irish agitator, and had employed it in perfect good-humour, and in order to render his argument more effective. But after all, when Gentlemen lifted up their hands in pious horror, at an expression to which they gave a wrong construction, what was that expression to some used at this Mallow meeting, and of which the hon. Member for Wycombe had said, "That he shuddered to read them." Why, the Member for Cork had actually asserted at that meeting that the Prime Minister of England was sending over to Ireland to assassinate the women of Mallow as Cromwell 1608 had murdered the women of Wexford. The statement might be very ridiculous in that House, but hon. Members must remember that it was originally addressed to a physical force assembly, equal in number, as Mr. O'Connell declared, to the " combined armies of Wellington and Bonaparte at the field of Waterloo,"—an assembly of which he said thatEvery man present was wholly at his beck and nod," and that " under his instructions they would march to the music of their band or follow the repeal wardens us orderly as any army in Europe.With such a speech as that in his eye, he was astonished that so intelligent a Member as the representative of Sheffield, should attempt to find an excuse for the agitation in Ireland on the ground of an expression said to have been used by the Lord Chancellor, which that noble Lord had denied and explained. He was astonished, too, that after that denial and explanation any one should venture upon a repetition of the charge. With respect to the bill before them he did not intend to address the House, but he had no hesitation in expressing his opinion that the present state of Ireland, so far from affording any reason for the discontinuance of a protection to property and to life, afforded the strongest reason for maintaining this measure in operation. Whether the objects of the agitation were for good or for evil, it was quite clear, that the manner of seeking those objects was dangerous to property, dangerous to the monarchy, and dangerous to the lives of her Majesty's subjects. But he would not go into that part of the question. He had only reason to repeat Lord Lyndhurst's explanation, and to express a hope that the words referred to had that night been quoted for the last time; and that Members on the other side would not put into the mouths of their opponents language that never was employed in the sense in which they construed it.
§ Mr. Hume
thought that if there had previously been any doubt as to Lord Lyndhurst's words, the hon. Gentleman opposite had done all in his power to establish their authenticity. But leaving the hon. Member, he begged to ask, was it unreasonable that they should have more information before they proceeded further with this bill? As an inducement to pass the Act of Union, benefits were Promised to the people of Ireland. Let 1609 him ask, was this bill one of the benefits? Were the Irish to consider as a boon a measure that was a badge of slavery and of degradation, that ought to make every Irishman ashamed of himself and of his country, and that took away the best privileges of a free people? For his own part, he alike blamed Whigs and Tories for the share they had in this measure. The Whigs were most culpable for not having altogether removed it from the statute-book. It was not, because the measure was ancient that it was venerable; and, as for the argument that it had existed for so many years, that argument rather told in favour of its rejection than otherwise, for those years had been years of misgovernment and disquietude. He had hoped that when the Tories came into office better things were prepared for Ireland. The appointment of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Eliot) he had always considered a good one—the best, indeed, that the Prime Minister had made. He regretted that that noble Lord had not been left to himself. If he had been allowed to carry out his own opinions, or if he had only been allowed to carry out the opinions of the right hon. Baronet as stated in 1817, he believed that Ireland would have been as quiet now as it was four years ago, and perhaps even quieter, for, expecting a different treatment, the Irish would have been anxious to display their gratitude. But the noble Lord had not been allowed to carry out those opinions, and the consequence was, that he came down to the House with statements that were anything but satisfactory. The noble Lord was not able to show that there was the slightest increase of crime or violence in Ireland to justify such a measure as this. The returns quoted by the hon. Member for Clonmel indeed, were such " damning proofs " to the contrary, that every allegation of the noble Lord, and of the Irish Attorney-general, must be considered to be completely overthrown. The noble Lord had said he had fears for the future but those fears would probably turn out as visionary as his statements of the past had turned out erroneous. Visionary or not, however, they were not to proceed upon a mere suggestion of " fears," and the most they were authorized to do under such circumstances was to refer it to a committee to inquire whether those fears were well founded or groundless. They should recollect that 1610 Ireland was now to be governed after a different fashion from the Government of former times. Experience had taught us now that it was not by acts of aggression or by treating the Irish as "aliens'" that we could quiet them; but, that, on the contrary, it was by acting towards them honestly and justly. When they saw thousands, and tens of thousands of soldiers he might say, sent to Ireland, and the fleet of England sent over there, what did it mean? Let them not fancy that they could deal with Ireland as they formerly did, when the people of that country were treated as savages and hunted as wild beasts. They had become a sober people—they would become a thinking people. Their habits were altered. Let the House then not commence a plan of dragooning them by acts such as this. He wished that no law should exist in Ireland that did not exist in England and he was confident that none would be necessary if they treated Ireland as they did England and Scotland. The giant grievance of Ireland was the church ascendency. Twenty years before he had ventured to lay before the House a statement of that grievance, and he would now state, as the result of twenty years' experience, that he was satisfied there would be no peace in Ireland until that grievance was redressed. Were he an Irishman he never would be satisfied until at was effected. In proportion to the Protestants of that country an establishment should be kept up and should be liberally paid, but let them look to the sinecure church there. For the service of 1,000,000, more than ten times was paid than for the service of 7,000,000. Let them look also to the state of degradation in which the Catholic clergy were. He agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield that that was one of the grievances to which the Government ought to direct itself. But what he wanted now was, information as to the state of Ireland requiring this coercion measure. This bill ought not to be passed until they had such information. The Attorney-general for Ireland, poor, simple man, was so little acquainted with the conduct of Irish bills, that he thought this would proceed as an ordinary measure; but he would venture to assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he were ten years in that House he would find it very difficult to state what progress could be 1611 made with an Irish bill. He thought no Irishman ought to have a seat in that House who did not give every possible opposition to this bill; it was not faction, it was acting justly and wisely; it was supporting the rights of their countrymen, and preventing hon. Gentlemen, who had got themselves into trouble, from getting themselves deeper into the mire. Let him suppose this case—that all the liberal magistrates retired from the bench, and let an individual not entitled to bear arms apply for a licence; if that application were refused, might it not be attributed, though unjustly, to a wrong cause, and, consequently, lead to excitement? Upon that ground he opposed the bill. He had always advocated the Union, but that Union had never been complete. Irishmen had been defrauded of their rights under the belief of obtaining justice here. Partial remedies had been afforded, and even those most unwillingly. Was it at all unreasonable, then, that such a powerful and eloquent individual as his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cork —a man of such talents and character with such grounds of complaint, should come forward to espouse the cause of his country? He counselled Ministers to allow an inquiry, and if they made out their case, they would not meet with opposition from him; but as he doubted not the result of that inquiry would prove that they had been acting under a delusion he hoped they would withdraw this measure, as they had before now withdrawn others.
§ Viscount Dungannon
was not surprised that a Gentleman holding the opinions of the hon. Member for Montrose blamed the Government for having the courage and honesty to introduce a measure rendered necessary by the dangerous state of Ireland. The Government might be blamed, but he contended, that it was the excitement produced by designing men that produced the evil, and Government would do wrong if it had not the manliness to provide for it. He rejoiced at the plain speaking of several hon. Gentlemen at the other side, who declared, that the Established Church must be put down and reduced to the position of a sect, and from whose remarks it was to be inferred, that hostility to the Church was at the bottom of the opposition to the bill, and of the agitation going on in Ireland. They were told, that the established 1612 clergy were wallowing in wealth, and oppressing the people. But there were few Gentlemen who knew Ireland who would not. say, that they were an oppressed, suffering, and most deserving body, with a host of prejudices and difficulties to contend against, and were yet at the head of every beneficent and charitable act for the good of the community. Justice, in his opinion, had not been done to Ireland. Absenteeism and the conduct of the Irish landlords were the great grievances of Ireland. But when the country was in such a state of excitement, it was too much to say that the Government were to blame for protecting the interests of the quiet and peaceable inhabitants. It had been said, that there was no Arms Bill for England. No, because it was not necessary for England. If the doctrines of the hon. Member for Montrose were acted upon, lives would be lost and property ruined, whilst the Government were sending their agents to gain information. No; the Government had acted an honest and straightforward part. Half measures would never succeed. The state of Ireland demanded prompt and energetic action, and, by pursuing it, the Government would deserve, and would obtain, the esteem, respect, and admiration of all the better classes, both on this and on the other side of the water.
§ Mr. Ross
might subject himself to the imputation of factious motives, but he could not allow the present opportunity to pass without expressing his disapprobation of the bill before the House. He had been struck by the contradictory grounds on which the noble Lord who had just addressed the House, and the noble Secretary for Ireland, had advocated the measure. The former noble Lord had referred it to the present excited state of the country, and the noble Secretary had said, that it had no connection with, and had not been intended to meet, the difficulties of the present agitation. As to that agitation he would candidly avow his opinion. To him it seemed absurd to talk of a Repeal of the Union. The Union had now existed for upwards of forty years, and had so blended itself with the condition, the feelings, and the prosperity of the two countries, that to dissolve it would be ruinous—if it were possible. To attempt a division between the Saxon and Celtic families would be an attempt equally absurd, because equally impossi- 1613 ble. They had been so mixed together, that the two races were now in reality one nation. No; the Repeal of the Union would not remedy the evils of Ireland. Absenteeism and the conduct of the Irish landlords had properly been mentioned as great causes of her distress, and to these should be added the domination of a Church opposed to the feelings and belief of a majority of the nation. Alter and improve these things, and the agitation now unhappily raging would die away. He looked upon the present bill as part of a false and impolitic system, and he, therefore, should give it his most decided opposition.
§ Viscount Howick
had not, without considerable difficulty, made up his mind upon the vote he should give. On the one hand, he certainly considered the principle of these Arms Bills objectionable, or at least questionable, and believed that they must either be ineffective or annoying, or both; and he was of opinion that the latter was really the case; and that the effect of such measures was to 1614 annoy the peaceably disposed without effectually answering the end in view. But, on the other hand, looking to the present condition of Ireland, and to what was passing before his eyes there, he was not prepared to withdraw from the Government powers that had been hitherto granted; for the very fact of the withdrawal of power that had so long been possessed by Government in Ireland would have a bad effect on the evilly disposed in that country. But he was not prepared to consent to rendering the measure more restrictive than the law at present was. He certainly should not, even if he opposed the bill, vote for an amendment so much against constitutional principle and precedent as referring so important a measure to a select committee. But he was quite prepared to go into committee upon the bill, when he hoped some of the objectionable clauses would be got rid of or modified.
§ The debate was adjourned.
§ House adjourned at half-past twelve o'clock.