§ Mr. W. S. Crawford
rose to support the motion for a committee of inquiry. Inquiry ought to precede the further progress of the bill, otherwise the bill would be considered the first stage in a new era of coercion. It proclaimed a distrust of the whole Irish people from the highest to the lowest. No solid argument had been used in support of it. It had been stated to be founded on former precedents. He admitted there was a long continued series of precedents, but he said that was no reason why they should be continued. The system had lasted for years, and done no good. Precedents, therefore, were of no value. It was said their system had been followed by former Governments. He did not defend former Governments, whether Whig or Tory, and he thought the conduct of former Governments was no reason for this bill. Another reason given was the opinion of the officers of the constabulary. But everybody knew that men intrusted with arbitrary power sought to increase that arbitrary power. That reason, therefore, had no weight with him. Another ground was the crimes that were committed in Ireland, and it was thought that depriving the people of arms would restrain them from the commission of crime. Now, a return had been made to the House of the crimes committed in Ireland in April last. What was the number of homicides throughout Ireland in that month. Eight; and of these only one was connected with firearms. Now, though there was a great quantity of crime in Ireland, it was wonderful there was not more. He did not believe there was an evil spirit in the people. If so, there would be more crime. Political causes might have some considerable weight in arousing to crime. The grievance of the Established Church might be of weight, but all these were nothing compared to the great grievance of the rack-renting system of the landlords of Ireland. That was the grand cause of discontent. The distressed state of Ireland was chiefly attributable to the conduct of the landlords. He alluded to the extensive system of ejectment that had been carried on in different parts of Ireland, and the numbers of families that had been turned out upon the world in consequence.
16 The ejectment system was not confined to either party—both parties were equally culpable. He was bound to say, however, as the county of Donegal had been mentioned, that he did not find the name of the hon. and gallant Member for the county (Colonel Conolly) among those connected with these processes. In connexion with this subject he would advert to the memorial that had been presented by 171 families, tenants of Lord Lorton, complaining of the manner in which they had been dispossessed. That document was an evidence of the existence of a state of things which it was dreadful to contemplate. It was frightful to think of so many poor families being turned adrift. Of course he only spoke from what had appeared in the newspapers, but at the same time it ought to be contradicted, if that was possible. He had also presented a petition yesterday from a place in Armagh, a district not affected by political agitation, in which some alteration in the law of landlord and tenant was prayed for. He had also introduced a bill for the purpose of effecting some such change by giving the tenant an interest in any improvements effected by him on the land he occupied. This, he considered, would afford a sort of guarantee of a fixity of tenure in the tenant. It would assimilate the practice generally to the practice already prevailing on the best estates, and give the tenant a protection against any grasping and hard-hearted landlord. He could not hope at this period of the Session to carry the bill this year, but it would be of advantage to have the subject discussed. He could assure the Government, that a measure to regulate the law of landlord and tenant would do more to tranquilize Ireland than all their measures of coercion. He had always been for the maintenance of the British connexion; but, at the same time, he could not wonder that the Irish people, suffering as they did, should resort to any means to remedy the evils under which they laboured. He desired to see remedial measures adopted, and, above all, some law for the regulation of the law between landlord and tenant, but in the absence of such measures, and entertaining the views he did, he should support the motion of the hon. Member for Waterford.
§ Mr. Lefroy,
who was almost inaudible, was understood to say, the hon. Gentleman had made reference to some charges that 17 had been made against a noble relative of his, Lord Lorton, which charges he (Mr. Lefroy), although having had no notice of them, was most anxious to be able to meet. It was a great evil that Gentlemen on the other side should thus bring forward charges against landlords in Ireland without affording the parties attacked the opportunity of answering them. Those charges, to which the hon. Gentleman had referred, certainly were made with a very ill grace against a nobleman who had lived for forty-three years among the Roman Catholic population, and was beloved by them, and who had expended between 200,0001. and 300,0001. in improvements. The property of that noble Lord was let in 1792 on lease for three lives, and since that time the population upon it had much increased. In 1842 those lands came out of lease, and then the noble Lord reset them in small divisions. One property had been set in twelve divisions, of not more than twelve acres each, at a rental of 1l an acre. Another property had been set in divisions of nine or ten acres, with only one holding of forty acres. The large properties had been held by Protestants, but the divisions were now held by Catholics. Other properties were set in the same manner, and there was only one property, which was formerly let in twenty-seven divisions, that was now let in twenty - six divisions, with one large holding of fifty-seven acres. In fact, the noble Lord, on one property of between 700 and 800 acres, had provided for 100 families. The memorialists complained, in the petition referred to by the hon. Member for Rochdale, that six large farms had been let to Protestants, but those farms had been made out of one large grazing farm of between 500 and 600 acres. The noble Lord had said, with respect to the tenantry, "God forbid that I should put off one man on account of his religion;" and he believed Lord Lorton to be in every respect a good landlord.
§ Mr. B. Wall,
from his knowledge of the character of the noble Lord who brought forward this measure, was prepared for the moderate tone in which it bad been introduced. Would that the moderation shown within those walls might meet with a response in the breasts of the people of Ireland, and influence the conduct of the hon. and learned Member for Cork, who, perhaps, possessed more influence in that country than either the Viceroy or the 18 noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, and who, he thought, would do well to tell the people, over whom he exercised a sway so powerful, to give the English Parliament one more trial, that Parliament, as it appeared to him were disposed to adopt a new line of policy with regard to that unfortunate country. The Whig Government against which something bad been said, for maintaining the Arms Bill during its continuance in power, were obliged to do that because previous legislation had made it unwise to dispense with such a measure. He agreed with the sentiments expressed by Mr. Sheridan and Sir R. Pigot, in 1807, that it would be wiser to attempt to govern Ireland through the affections of the people than by an appeal to their fears. If this bill were really necessary, why not make it part of a general and permanent system? Without wishing to east censure on the Government, he could not help thinking it unfortunate that so many circumstances had occurred lately, calculated to throw suspicion on this bill. What was the state of Ireland at this moment? A fleet sailing to her shores, troops disembarked, the guard at the Castle doubled, loopholes cut in the barracks—all evidences that the Government were disposed to treat that country as if they felt some alarm with regard to its present condition. He did not question the right of the Government to take necessary precautions; but he could not help regarding it as an unfortunate circumstance that such a measure as this should be introduced unaccompanied with others of a conciliatory nature. He objected to the duration of this bill, and he objected to its vagueness. If such a bill were necessary, he thought it ought to be distinguished as much as possible from those in conformity with the constitution; he thought it ought to be made as unconstitutional as possible, in order that it might be fully understood to be a temporary act, necessary for a particular purpose and for a particular time. Another objection was, that it would hamper the Government at a future time, whether that Government should consist of hon. Gentlemen opposite or of any other party. Ireland would be not only the chief difficulty to the right hon. Baronet, but it would be a constantly increasing difficulty. He further objected to the bill, because it created distrust, unaccompanied by any feelings of satisfaction. Look at the state of the country and the 19 powerlessness of the executive. Some measures either of conciliation or of coercion were undoubtedly necessary for Ireland, but he was for measures of conciliation. It was not, of course, the duty of hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House to originate such measures, but he hoped that if the Government failed in this, the noble Lord, the Member for the city of London would come forward and state his views with regard to Irish policy; and he felt convinced that, in the present posture of affairs in that country, all party feelings and prejudices would be laid aside. He should feel it his duty without being factious to throw every impediment in the way of the present unconstitutional measure.
§ Mr. P. Howard
hoped this bill would be withdrawn, and presented again in a more temperate and constitutional form. Some of its provisions were far too stringent; for instance, it exposed men to be transported for the possession of arms on conviction for the first offence. He would rather support a small increase in the military force of the country than resort to such a tyrannical enactment. A conciliatory policy had already been tried in Ireland under the administration of a late Lord-lieutenant, and had been most successful. Unless her Majesty's Government would withdraw this bill, and bring forward a less stringent and oppressive measure in its place, lie should feel it to be his duty to support the motion of the hon. Member for Waterford. He did not pursue this course from any wish to court popularity, and if he had been influenced by the invectives uttered against him by that extraordinary man who possessed great power:among the population of Ireland, he would have adopted a very different line of conduct. During the serious disturbances and riots which very recently took place in several districts of this country it was not considered necessary to adopt such measures as that before the House for their suppression; and yet on the mere anticipation of disturbance in Ireland this measure was brought forward. He considered the bill most unconstitutional in its character, and he would give it his decided opposition.
Mr. Villiers Stuart
said, he would suppost the bill, but he wished to be understood as not pledging himself to many of 20 the details of the measure. He considered that most of the evils under which Ireland was labouring were attributable to the misgovernments of that country. He thought it was not surprising, looking at the general spirit of the legislation adopted by this country with regard to Ireland—legislation which had tended to the degradation of the majority, and to give ascendency to the minority—that all laws applied to that country were looked upon with jealousy and apprehension, and that the administrators of those laws were regarded with suspicion. For a long period Ireland—a Catholic country—was governed by a Protestant minority; and no Catholic could hold a situation of trust under the Government. The people found that they were unable to obtain justice, and was it to be wondered at that, in many cases, they took the law into their own hands, and reduced the country to a most deplorable condition? He did not mean to intimate that, at the present time, there was any just ground for complaint as to the way in which justice was administered in Ireland; but after a former course of mis-government, there still remained a spirit of mistrust among the people. If he considered this a coercive measure, he certainly would not give it his support; but he considered it a bill which would effect improvement in the police system. He trusted that he should not be considered an enemy of the liberties of his country because he did not oppose this bill, for he was influenced by a belief that it would tend to the protection and preservation of life and property. He trusted, however, many of its provisions would be considerably modified, and unless such were the case he would feel it to be his duty to vote against it in a future stage.
did not agree with the lion. Gentleman who had just sat down, in thinking that this bill had any tendency to preserve life and property, he regarded it as a measure of severe coercion, which would materially abridge the liberties of the people of Ireland, and he would therefore give it his opposition. He was surprised that during the former debate which had taken place on this subject some better reasons had not been advanced for the proposal of this measure. The noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland had admitted that within the last five years there had been a very considerable decrease in the number of homicides committed in Ireland; and 21 he asked the House whether, after such an admission, they could give their assent to this bill? The Government ought, he conceived before they brought forward a measure of this nature, to have been in a position to show that the condition of Ireland rendered such a measure necessary. He believed that the Government had acted, and were acting, under great ignorance with respect to Irish affairs. The right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir R. Peel) had long laboured under such ignorance; and, though he had become a convert on the question of emancipation, many of his colleagues and friends still entertained the right hon. Baronet's old views. The Minister of this country was supposed to possess the confidence of a majority of the empire; but while one portion of the Irish nation supported the right hon. Baronet, the great majority of the people regarded him with distrust, and it was difficult to persuade them that they ought to be governed by a Minister who possessed the confidence, not of the majority, but of a minority in that country. He felt it his duty, as he had before stated, to oppose the present bill. The onus lay upon its supporters of proving its necessity. The old Arms Bill had never been enforced in Ireland; and, strange to say, in modern times, the county in which most arms had been registered was Tipperary, in which most serious crimes were committed. One reason for opposing the measure was, that now, for the first time, it was proposed as a preventive of assassination. The right hon. Baronet should state some better grounds for the revival of an absolete measure. Forges had never been practically registered in Ireland. All these restrictions had been proposed at times when rebellions were anticipated in Ireland. Only one pike had been registered in the county of Meath from 1828 to 1832. Was this bill a portion of that system of conciliation which the right hon. Baronet was fond of priding himself upon, as applied to Ireland? The plea for the bill founded on its pretended effect in preventing assassination was utterly absurd, because the monsters who went to murder did not sharpen their deadly weapons at public forges. The people of Ireland had been obliged to allow too many grievances to remain upon the statute-book, and it was ungenerous in the right hon. Baronet to taunt the Irish Members with having been unable to remove them; for it was to the 22 right hon. Baronet himself that they owed this inability. So much had the people of that country been accustomed to endurance that they might perhaps have allowed this bill to remain further on the statute-book had there not appeared symptoms of a disposition on the part of the Government to revise it with increased severity. If the right hon. Baronet would govern the empire in peace he must become as much an Irishman as an Englishmen.
perfectly agreed that it was the duty of English not less than of Irish Members, to consider temperately, the grounds on which they meant to give their votes on the measure; and he begged first to express his surprise that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, and who professed to be desirous of considering the measure duly, should have ventured on an unworthy taunt at the right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government. If the epithet "ungenerous" were ever correctly applied it was to that man who owing his seat in that House principally to the right hon. Baronet, could utter such a taunt. The right hon. Baronet had done more to forward the substantial welfare of Ireland than any other Minister. It was difficult for English Members to understand the different views taken of the question before the House. The hon. Member for Guilford, who opposed the bill, regretted that it was not more unconstitutional and more repugnant to the principles of liberty, whilst the hon. Member for Carlisle, who also spoke against it, expressed a hope that it would be rendered less unconstitutional in committee. After a debate of three nights no new fight had been thrown upon the question. It had been argued that the bill was not the same in principle as the previous arms bills. This however, appeared to be an after thought, suggesting itself since the discomfiture on the former debate. [Mr. Redington bad urged the argument before the second reading.] He understood during the whole of the former debate that, the bill was admitted to be similar to the former one, and he did not understand that any distinction had been shown between the present and the previous Arms Acts. He admitted that the measure was an unconstitutional one, and that nothing could justify it but the unhappy circumstances in which Ireland was placed. The hon. Member for Sheffield accused the present Government of being the cause 23 of the increase of crime in Ireland, which rendered necessary such a bill as the present. In making the statement, the hon. Gentleman admitted the increase of crime. What charge, however, had the hon. Gentleman brought against the present Government, of whom, when speaking of those who composed it, he used the handsomest language, giving them every credit for high character, just designs, and benevolent intentions? Whilst using this language, however, the lion. Gentleman asserted, that the disturbance in Ireland was attributable to the present Government. He would tell the hon. Gentleman that the disturbed state of Ireland was attributable to one cause, and to one cause alone. One man caused the disturbance in Ireland. It was admitted by the hon. Member for Lambeth, that one person caused the agitation by his power in the country, but it was urged that the present Government was the cause of the existence of that power. What, however, had been the act of the Government which caused the agitation? He was anxious to avoid saying anything which might be deemed offensive, but he was bound to state the truth, and he would tell time reason of the present agitation in Ireland—it was because the present Government had not thought proper to vest the whole of the patronage of that country in a single individual. He, too, was of opinion with the Government that it was not their duty to do so; and if that, as be believed to be the case, was the cause of the present agitation in Ireland, he could not admit, that the disturbed state of that country was attributable to the present Government. The hon. Member for Sheffield stated the Established Church to be one of the grievances of Ireland, but this was no addition to the stock of information, as the same opinion had been previously expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Bath. He would not deny that a church with the doctrines of which a majority of the people differed would necessarily be a difficulty in the way of any Ministry, and the present Government admitted the difficulty; but he could not agree in thinking, that the way in which such a difficulty was to be overcome, was by sweeping away the Church, and confiscating its revenues. That which, above all other things, retarded the improvement of Ireland, and prevented the advantages which that country would reap from tranquillity, was an 24 agitation such as the present, from which no class in the community could possibly derive any advantage. If Mr. Pitt, when in office, had had power to carry out his intentions at the time of the union, and could have done what he proposed by means of the Roman Catholic priesthood, Ireland would not be now in her present state. There was some truth in the arguments of those who urged the application of the British constitution to Ireland; but that could not be done whilst an agitation was going on in that country, which was swayed by one man, nor could the Irish people expect it until they showed on their part a disposition to abide by the principles of law and justice. The leaders of the people in Ireland goaded them on to madness, and then their wild passions forged fetters for themselves. It had been well said, that this was not, as had been represented, a bill to fetter the people of Ireland; but that it was a bill to protect them, and, so far from being unnecessary in the circumstances of that country, it would most probably restore them to a state which would fit them for the enjoyment of better laws, and an extension towards them of their full share in the British constitution.
§ Mr. Sergeant Murphy
felt called upon to make a few observations on a question so interesting to the people of Ireland, and more especially after the present state of Ireland had been so frequently referred to to warrant the introduction of the bill. He was not open to the reproach, if reproach it were, which, during the debate upon this subject had been so frequently levelled against hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House—namely, that they assented to propositions of this sort when made by the late Government. He had no seat in the House at the time, but if he had he would have been equally prepared to give the same opposition to those measures which he then intended to offer to the present. What was it that rendered this bill necessary? His right hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Clonmel, had shown last night, from statistical documents, that offences of the nature, the suppression of which the bill was supposed to contemplate had considerably decreased from 1837 to 1841. If that were the case, and if the species of crime alluded to had increased since 1841, he (Mr. Murphy) contended, that the altered state of things was referrable to the alter- 25 ations in the administration. But what was the object of the proposed bill? Would it prevent crime in Ireland? Would it protect those who were allowed to have arms in their possession? Its practical effect would be to add violence in procuring arms to the additional violence to which their possession was to be applied. The hon. and learned Gentleman who last addressed the House, and other hon. Gentlemen on the opposite Benches, attributed entirely different objects to the bill. The noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, stated that the measure was introduced quite irrespectively of the agitation which was now taking place in Ireland, whilst the right hon. the Attorney-General for Ireland appealed to the existence of what the right hon. Gentleman called violent and outrageous meetings. The right hon. Baronet at the bead of her Majesty's Government agreed with the noble Secretary for Ireland in stating that the bill was irrespective of the agitation, while another right hon. Baronet, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, said, that in the present state of things in Ireland, it would be worse than perilous now to abandon the bill. Which party was in the right? The hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Winchester, argued in favour of the bill, because, as he said, the country was agitated to gratify the ambitious views of one individual, who, for his own objects, would thwart the power of every Government. He would ask, did the hon. and learned Gentleman ever know in the history of any country—did he ever know of any individual acquiring such entire sway over the popular mind as the hon. and learned Member for the county of Cork, if there was not something behind, sonic real and practical grievance, which enabled him to fan the flame of agitation? The hon. and learned Gentleman was one of those who had opposed the measures which the people of Ireland sought to have carried. Did he want to know how it was, that the hon. and learned Member for Cork had acquired such sway over the minds of his countrymen? That Gentleman was familiar with the wrongs of his countrymen; he was well acquainted with the insults which had been offered to them; he knew how slowly every concession hail been made, and with what a bad grace each grievance had been redressed. It was not to he wondered at, 26 then, that in every agitation, whether for Catholic emancipation, whether on the subject of tithes, or whether as related to the question now agitated in Ireland—it was not to be wondered at, that the hon. and learned Member for Cork should be the mouthpiece of his country. There had this new element been introduced of late years into agitation in Ireland—namely, that the opponents or the masses there had now to deal with temperate, sober men—men who had given that best of all examples, the example of conquering their own bad passions. The manner in which the elements of discord now abroad in Ireland had been dealt with by Government was most unfortunate. He believed indeed that, in their secret souls, the right hon. Baronet and his colleagues were in the highest degree angry and annoyed at the most ill-advised proceeding of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland; but there the proceeding was, and had produced its effects, just as though it had been the deliberate act of the right hon. Baronet. Another most infelicitous coincidence had been, that the denunciations which had in the first instance been made of the agitation in Ireland had gone forth from the quarter in either House which was peculiarly unpalateable to the Irish people, as being identified with that principle of ascendancy which had been the cause of such severe suffering to the Irish. He called it a fortuitous coincidence, for it was nearly impossible that a man so astute, so adroit, so cautious, as the right hon. Baronet, could have made a selection of means so utterly unadapted for conciliating the Irish people. The consetquences of Sir Edward Sugden's proceeding, were most mischievous. He honoured the motives of those magistrates who had resigned their commissions, but he regretted that they had found it necessary to take that step. The history of the disturbances which had taken place in Ireland for a long series of years, showed that a great proportion of them had been owing to the fact, that there were so few magistrates in whom the people could place confidence. The practical result of the measure itself would be to place arms in the hands of those whom the people rightly or wrongly believed to be hostile to them. As to the proposition which had been advanced, that mere numbers, without reference to the object of assembling, constituted illegality, it was mere absurdity.
§ If this principle were admitted, the crowds who had met on Ascot Heath during the last four days were all amenable to the law. What suggestion of violence had there been at any of the late meetings in Ireland? There had been numbers, vast numbers, collected together, but no violence of any sort. Not a single tendency to outbreak had been manifested, not a single act of aggression upon "the peaceable and well-disposed inhabitants." All that these immense crowds had done, was to listen quietly to the discussion going on, and then to retire peaceably to their homes: multitudes, composed of 20,000 men, of 200,000 men, bad acted as peacefully, as properly, as though but twenty had been assembled. What was it they did at these meetings? What was it they sought? What they did, was to discuss an act of Parliament; what they sought, was to have that act of Parliament repealed: and he (Mr. Sergeant Murphy) did not conceive that any person would be found to say, that these were illegal proceedings. Certainly, no one had as yet suggested them to he illegal, although the House had been challenged on the subject by the hon. and learned Member for Bath. Some of the provisions of the bill were as absurd as they were unjust and oppressive. There was the 26th clause for instance, which made it penal for any person to have in his possession any weapon, or any instrument that would serve as a pike or spear. [Sir Robert Peel: similar words were in the measure introduced by the late Government.] He did not care how many bills they had been in, nor by whom introduced, let the framer of them be Tros Tyriusve, Whig or Tory, the words were absurd and preposterous. According to this clause, a man could not have a spit in his kitchen, without being liable to seven years' transportation. The clause went on: "unless he can show that such weapons are for some lawful purposes, or were placed there without his knowledge, privity, and consent." How was a man to know anything about the matter? What was there to hinder a man's enemy from concealing some weapon in his hay-loft, or in the thatch of his cottage, or anywhere about his premises; and then, as those who have hidden know where to find, informing against the unhappy victim of treachery before some magistrate of ascendancy principles, and having him assuredly transported, It was 28 well known, that when the constabulary in all such cases had the power to investigate and examine, they well knew how to give a colour and a turn to the simplest things, and, with such witnesses, such an informer, and a prejudiced and hostile judge, what chances of escape would the most innocent have. Nay, with such a trap as was here prepared, even the best intentioned and most upright magistrates might fall into the snare. A case of a very horrible character occurred a few years ago in the county of Tipperary, where a pistol was concealed by some person in a churn, or some other vessel full of milk, belonging to a poor woman, whose husband was seeking work in England. The poor woman, the mother of seven children, one of them at the breast at the time, was informed against, convicted of having this weapon found on the premises, and sentenced to transportation. The husband on his return home was agonised at the deep and undeserved misery that had befallen his wife and his children. Fierce passion took possession of his mind, and, bent upon executing what had been termed the wild justice of revenge, he murdered the magistrate who had taken the most active part against the poor woman, and was himself shortly afterwards taken and executed for the crime. Law should be, not a trap for the unwary, but a protection for those who mean to do well. Laws, however, of the present description had, time out of mind, been made use of in Ireland for the worst purposes. Riband passes had, in many cases, been secretly conveyed into a man's pocket, and immediately afterwards made the subject of an effectual information against him. He therefore asked the Government whether they would allow it to go forth, that they were determined to adhere to such stringent provisions as these, when they would afford to the spirit-stirring speeches of the hon. Member for the city of Cork, such ample means to attack the Government? He prayed the Government to take these provisions out of it. [Sir J. Graham: Let us go into committee when they can be modified.] He was fully prepared to go into committee, and he hoped that these clauses would be modified. But he would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, but for the opposition which bad been so largely made to these clauses, he would have been prepared to modify them.29
§ They had obtained that modification now, and he was glad of it; he, however, placed perfect reliance on the good feeling of English gentlemen, who, when any case of hardship was made apparent to them, would not allow any party to be run down. He trusted, when the right hon. Baronet went into committee, that be would be prepared to give up the two particularly hard clauses to which he had adverted. He had not intended to speak on the present occasion, and he had no wish to present himself to the House, when the bill had already been so fully discussed, and when he was aware, that he could give no new feature to the debate. It was a matter, however, the topics of which were perfectly familiar to his mind; he therefore had trespassed on the House. He could not bring himself to support these stringent clauses for any such reason as had been urged by the hon. Member for Win-Chester, who said that they involved the elements of control, and they would enable the people to enjoy liberty at some future period. He might tell the hon. Gentleman, however, that the people of Ireland were determined to maintain the position they now held. If her Majesty's Government wished to do away with the agitation respecting Repeal, the only course they could adopt would be to wipe away every invidious distinction which existed, and put the people of Ireland and England on a footing of perfect equality.
§ Lord Eliot
wished to say, that the clauses which had excited so much indignation on the part of the learned Sergeant, had been expunged from the bill. He had stated this before, and he would go into further explanation when the House got into committee. If the learned Sergeant would look at the amended copy of the bill, he would see that clauses 25 and 26, which appeared in the former bills, had been struck out.
§ Colonel Conolly
could not conceive what the hon. and learned Member meant, by saying that under the present agitation there were some latent principles, which appeared to the minds of the Irish people to proceed from misgovernment. The lion, and learned Gentleman ought to have given some explanation of this, for to him (Colonel Conolly) the present agitation seemed to involve two points: the one was an interference, or rather, a forfeiture of property, by the adoption of what was called 30 fixity of tenure; and, the other was the attack upon everything Saxon or English, which meant total separation from this country. The truth was, that under the pretence of this agitation, which was to adjust all the wrongs of Ireland, it was intended that any one should interfere with the tenure of land but the landlord. He protested against the attacks made by the hon. and learned Member for Cork on the magistrates of Ireland. It was possible that cases of abuse might formerly have taken place when the magistrates did not keep a record of their proceedings; but at present they reported every month all that occurred in their respective districts to the Attorney-general, who would take care that nothing improper should pass unnoticed. The allegation which the hon. Member had made, with respect to the woman who was transported for having concealed arms, must have occurred at a very remote period. [An hon. Member : "It occurred in Tipperary in 1818."] He had never heard of the occurrence before, and he thought that it was one of those matters that were put forth from the peace of Limerick as grievances of Ireland. One of the great evils of Ireland was, that interested demagogues by exciting and inflammatory speeches induced the people to keep arms, which led to the resistance of the law, and to the commission of the most serious crimes. He could not sit silent and hear the attack made by the learned Sergeant on the Irish magistrates, who he was sure, would not prevent any person who was fit to be intrusted with arms with having them.
§ Mr. Tuite
was decidedly of opinion that an Arms Bill was necessary for Ireland, but not one containing such harsh provisions as were embodied in the present bill. He would suggest that if the Government were determined to brand arms, that they should also either brand or place some mark on the police, who had to look after arms, so that they could be readily recognized and identified. One of the provisions of this bill appeared to him to be monstrously absurd—namely, to enact that there should be a register of forges, with the view of preventing the manufacture of pikes, because, notwithstanding any such register, you never could prevent their being made. The present bill increased the severity of the penal clauses to such a degree that it would almost appear that there was some desire on the part of the Government to show great feelings of 31 alarm as to the state of the country. He deeply regretted the nature of much of the agitation that had obtained in Ireland, but the accounts that had been given of the extent of it had been greatly exaggerated; and he could not help feeling that it would be well for the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland to make some inquiries as to the real numbers that attended the Repeal meetings. He knew that in many instances the number was greatly magnified, and there would be no difficulty on the part of the noble Lord to obtain accurate information on the subject. In the case of a recent Repeal meeting in the county of Westmeath, he had seen it stated that upwards of 170,000 persons were present at the meeting. As this took place in his neighbourhood, he had made a point of visiting the spot where it was held, and had the extent of ground covered by the people who attended this meeting at Mullingar measured, and he found that it was quite impossible that more than 12,000 persons could have been present. This was one of the great meetings at which Mr. O'Connell was present, and the accounts of the numbers present at it varied from 90,000 to 170,000. He asked, was the Government doing its duty to allow the country to be alarmed with such absurd statements, when they could so readily obtain tolerably accurate returns of the numbers present at such meetings? Was it the wish of the Government that these monstrous stories should go forth uncontradicted, that it might furnish them with an excuse for passing these extremely severe enactments, many of which never could be put in force. There bad been another Repeal meeting at Longford, with which county he was also connected, and be intended to have had the ground measured where the meeting was held, had he not been prevented; but he had been assured that the most exaggerated statements had been made with respect to the number of persons present. He had hastened to this country to take part in the discussion of this bill, and he wished to know what grounds there were for adding, such severe clauses to this bill. They had been told that the 25th and 26th clauses had been struck out of the bill; this was all that they knew, and they had not been informed when that took place. The truth was, that you might make this measure as stringent as possible, and yet, in a great multitude of cases, it would be inoperative, for those who possessed arms for dangerous 32 purposes secreted them for the most part in bogs and ditches, and it was hardly possible to find any trace of them. If the old Arms Bill had been made effective, the magistrates would have done all that was necessary, without resorting to these stringent clauses. He regretted that the Government had not shown a more friendly disposition to the people in their legislation; for if that were the case it would allay a great deal of the agitation that prevailed. For instance, there was a bill now before Parliament for the amendment of the Irish Poor-law, and he would recommend that the Government should introduce provisions to make the absentee landlords pay four times as much poor-rates as the resident landlords. Such a measure would give much satisfaction in Ireland. He conceived that it was the duty of the House to oppose all stringent and severe measures for Ireland until measures of conciliation had been brought forward and tried. For his own part, he did not care what Government was at the head of affairs, for he looked to measures and not to men, and he had nothing to ask from any administration, provided that they carried out measures that would conciliate the feelings of the people and remove all just grounds of complaint.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, I do not mean, on the present occasion, to enter into any discussion of the general question, having had, on the occasion of the second reading, an opportunity of stating my views on that subject. I rise merely to refer to an individual case which has been adverted to in the course of this debate, by the learned Sergeant opposite, and I know that individual cases, when stated with that rhetorical power which the learned Sergeant can so well command, often make a greater impression than a lengthened or elaborate argument. Now the hon. and learned Member did state a case which I perceive made a considerable impression upon the House, namely, the case of a woman, who, in the absence of her husband, was convicted of having arms concealed on her premises; that her husband was at this time at work in England; that the woman was found guilty, and sentenced to transportation; that her husband, on his return, actuated by wild feelings of revenge, murdered the magistrate, who had been active in the conviction of his wife, and that for this murder he was afterwards executed. Now, the statement that under one of the clauses of the bill similar acts 33 might take place, seemed to make a great impression on the House, although my noble Friend had previously stated, that the clause referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman was one which he was ready to modify, or give up altogether. But my recollection of the case stated by the hon. and learned Member is different so far, as the murder of the magistrate is concerned. I was Secretary for Ireland at the time, and I am now speaking from memory of an event which took place twenty-eight years ago. The House will readily believe, that speaking at this distance of time, I may possibly be in error, but the statement made by the hon. and learned Member does forcibly remind me of the circumstances attending the murder of Mr. Baker, the magistrate alluded to—and when I state the circumstances attending the murder of this gentleman, the House will readily account for the unwillingness of those who remember those circumstances, and who, as part of the Executive Government were obliged to make active exertions to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice—the House will account for the desire of those persons not to part with a measure calculated to prevent the commission of outrages of this description. When I state the circumstances attending this case, the House will see that there are peculiarities connected with the commission of crime in Ireland which do not exist in England. The case referred to was that of the murder of Mr. Baker of Lismacue. My recollection of the circumstances attending the murder of this Gentleman are these—but, as I said before, I may be incorrect in the particulars, as I am speaking now after a lapse of twenty-eight years, and many intervening circumstances may have disturbed in my mind the accurate recollection of the facts of the case, A house in the county of Tipperary was openly attacked, and I am not sure whether some of the inmates were not murdered. Mr. Baker was a very active magistrate in the district, and by his exertion some of the perpetrators of this outrage were brought to justice—in consequence of this, a conspiracy was formed to waylay and murder Mr. Baker. This gentleman had been attending the sessions at Cashel or Clonmel, and he was met on his way home, and murdered by four or five armed persons, who lay in wait for him for that purpose. The Government offered a reward of 5,000l for the discovery of the 34 murderers, being at the rate of 1,000l. for the conviction of each of the assassins. This reward was offered to be paid to any body except the parties who actually fired the shot by which this unfortunate gentleman lost his life. A man came forward to claim the reward, he having given information which led to the conviction of two of the assassins. This man claimed the reward, and I myself paid him 2,000l., on the conviction of two of the persons whom this man prosecuted. This man was a person of profligate habits—he was the natural son of a farmer of considerable wealth, and on account of his habits had been banished from home. Though this person did not fire the shot, he had organised the conspiracy to murder Mr. Baker. it appeared that it being known, that, there were three different roads by which Mr. Baker might return home, there were three parties armed with guns, appointed to put him to death, each party, consisting of four or five persons, and one of those parties was stationed on each of the roads. It appeared that they could have no cause to bear him any ill will personally. It appeared that he was a benevolent gentleman very much beloved and respected, and his only offence was, that, as a magistrate, he had exerted himself to bring the perpetrators of a serious crime to justice. This conspiracy was formed to murder Mr. Baker by means of fire-arms, and on the road on which Mr. Baker actually went, he was met and assassinated, but it was clearly proved that had he taken any other road than that by which he went, there was a party stationed there for the same purpose of effecting his assassination. What a horrible state of society does that case expose! I am speaking, I know, from memory, after a lapse of twenty-eight years, but no case ever made so strong an impression on me as this. Let the House consider of a conspiracy to murder a magistrate, organised by a man who had no reason to bear him any ill will. Fifteen persons were engaged in it; in order that he might not pass in safety, they were all prepared, stationed, in parties of five, acting each for itself, and the man who organised the plan of murder secured the reward for informing. When we are told that it is an insult to Ireland to bring forward measures of this kind, and that Ireland ought to be subject to the same laws as prevail in this country, surely we may call attention to the peculiarities that distinguish the com- 35 mission of crime in that country, and to the peculiarities belonging to the condition of society there. But though the case of Mr. Baker occurred twenty-eight years ago, need I remind you of the recent murder of Mr. Scully, a Roman Catholic gentleman, and the son of the author of "The History of the Penal Laws." This gentleman left his house for a short time for the purpose of fowling. Though an unpopular man in his neighbourhood, he thought, nevertheless, that he might leave home suddenly for the purpose of fowling. He was met and murdered. It is not, therefore, from any desire to interfere with the rights of the Irish, or to invade their liberties, that we propose this measure, but to take precautions against those shocking assassinations which take place in Ireland. This state of society there is connected with remote and complicated causes, but it is such as would make it most culpable on our part to give up any protection which can be afforded to those who do not abandon their duties, and who are entitled to be protected. When I give my consent to a measure of this kind, I do so from my recollection, not of one or two, or ten, cases of persons convicted of crimes like those which I have stated. 1 feel that it is the duty of the Government to give all the protection which the law can afford to persons whose residence in Ireland is of the greatest public advantage, and who, in some parts of that country are exposed to insecurity and danger, from which this country is happily free.
§ Mr. Roebuck
said, it was not his intention to impute to the Government a design to insult Ireland, or to propose anything with a view to her degradation. The Ministers merely acted according to custom, and had proposed these measures so long, as the means of governing the country, that they became habitual to all parties who governed Ireland. For the last fifty years, an Arms Act had been the law of the country—it was acknowledged by all parties; and the right hon. Gentleman was only taking the same steps as others. The argument used by the right hon. Gentleman was the state of the country. He brought before the House a case of extraordinary atrocity, in order to show that the state of society was totally distinct from the state of England. So far he agreed. But the next proposition of the right hon. Gentleman propounded a difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman left unanswered, The right hon. Gentle- 36 man had shown that the state of Ireland was different from that of England, and his next proposition was, that to guard against such atrocities they must have an Arms Bill. That was the argument, but it was strongly urged that the act was not necessary for the protection intended. It was properly said, why you had an Arms Bill when these atrocities were committed. He was anxious to declare, that he did not impute blame to the Government for proposing the measure. The noble Lord, the Member for Sunderland had admitted the necessity for such a bill; but it was an extraordinary law, and he would advert to the true principle, which he thought was overlooked by the resolution of the Member for Waterford. The hon. Member said, that this was an unconstitutional measure, and the onus of proving the necessity of such a measure to preserve the peace of the country lay on those who proposed it. The Legislature said, that as this was an extraordinary, it should be only a temporary law. It was an extraordinary law, enacted for a peculiar exigency, and the Legislature, by passing it for a time had rendered it necessary that the party who proposed to renew the law should always be called upon to show distinctly the ground on which it was demanded. The hon. Member for Waterford said, before you re-enact the extraordinary law, prove the existence of the extraordinary circumstances which require it. He asked the House to make the inquiry. He was answered by the noble Lord, the Member for Sunderland, that the bill was necessary, and by the right hon. Gentleman quoting an old story of something which happened in 1815. The right hon. Baronet was not fortunate in his illustration. He would say, that it was of the highest importance that the House should bear in mind the reason why the law was made temporary. A wise man had said that it was continually necessary to bring back the laws to their original principles. This was what they were called on to do for the present law. The Legislature had made this extraordinary law temporary, that the necessity for it, whenever renewed, might be made apparent to the House. He asked the House, whether during the five nights' debate—he asked the House and the country whether any ground had been laid to justify this measure? Suppose the law were now to be passed for the first time—and so he had a right to consider it— 37 had it been shown that this temporary restriction was necessary? He said, it was not sufficient to justify such a law that it had been in existence fifty years. The onus of proving its necessity remained as strong now, when it was proposed to re-enact it, as when it was first suggested. It was acknowledged, that this was an extraordinary law; why was it? Our country, our Government, and our laws were all founded on free institutions, which meant that certain powers were left in the hands of individuals for their own Government. The Legislature or the Government had conceded that much should be left to public opinion to control and guide individual conduct. That was the distinction between despotic and free Government. In the one, everything was regulated by law, in the other much was left to individuals. England had a free or a liberal Government. One thing admitted here was, that the house of each man and each individual in this country was free from all intrusion, unless some public necessity authorised it; and next all men were permitted to provide for their own safety by their own hands. The bill violated both these established rights. The bill authorised a violation of a man's dwelling, and deprived the population of the arms necessary for their own defence. An extraordinary power was placed in the hands of a Government functionary, though no ground had been laid for such an extraordinary law. The right hon. Member for Clonmel had distinctly proved, that crime, so far as that could be determined by statistical details, had rapidly decreased in Ireland. It was objected to the argument, by the Gentlemen on the other side, that the discussion had wandered away from the Arms Bill, to the grievances of Ireland. His answer to that was, that it was fair and logical to quote them, as the consequences of the principle. He would show why. The proposition was, that this extraordinary measure was necessary to obtain peace in Ireland. He asked, on what grounds the bill was demanded? He was answered by the right hon. Baronet—The state of society in Ireland. He inquired, then, was the state of Ireland such as to demand the extraordinary remedy? Were such extraordinary remedies found to answer the object proposed? Were not these Arms Acts inefficient? and did they not violate liberty without producing security. He was prepared to show, that the state of Ireland did not demand, and was 38 not improved by these extraordinary remedies. Other remedies might be found more efficient, and the Legislature would not experience any difficulty in finding them. Those who took it on themselves to propose this bill, took on themselves the onus of proving its necessity. The noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, who introduced the measure, and the right hon. Gentleman, had said that the state of society of Ireland demanded this extraordinary measure. Suppose the state of society in Ireland to be as bad as described, would an Arms Bill extinguish the evil? He might say, as that state existed with the arms law, Cum hoc propter hoc. That would be bad logic; but lie could say correctly that these things co-existed, and therefere the state of society might be caused by the law. At least the law did not put the evil down. Ought they not to be convinced, after twenty years' experience, that the law was inefficient for its purposes? Every Irishman who had spoken said he knew nothing of the law. One hon. Gentleman said the noble Lord (Lord Eliot) declared incorrectly that the new law was not much altered; the noble Lord said it was only slightly modified; no doubt the noble Lord was right, but the difference showed that the law was not known. It was admitted that the old law was a dead letter. The hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Tuite) had stated that he had attended the assizes and the sessions at Mullingar for many years, and never knew an instance of an application to register a blacksmith's shop. He must say that it was not wonderful that Irish Gentlemen should haggle with the noble Lord as to the state of the law, when such was the evidence of a Gentleman who had lived a long life in Ireland. The present bill was not like the law which before existed. [Lord Eliot was understood to say that. the principal parts of the old act were reenacted, and that sonic parts which varied from it were given up.] He wished the noble Lord would only do that to the whole bill. Now, let them look at the state of society in Ireland, which it was said justified this extraordinary pleasure. What was the state of Ireland? The state of Ireland was compounded of two things— political grievances and social difficulties, and something besides the Arms Bill must heal the disorder of the country. The Church of Ireland was one cause of the state of society in Ireland. The landlords 39 of Ireland were another. It was found in a majority of cases that the atrocities complained of were connected with agrarian disturbances. Ireland had a large population, whose entire existence depended upon the holding of land. There was but little payment of wages to the population, and for a man to be dispossessed of land, was to be deprived of the means of existence, and therefore it was when the possession of land was endangered they were driven to what was called "wild justice," to defend themselves from starvation, by making it dangerous to others to interfere with what was to them the means of existence. He wanted to know how an Arms Bill would mitigate this evil? On the contrary, would it not aggravate, and not mitigate the mischief? He took the noble Lord's most favourite proposal in the measure—the branding of arms. He might suggest to the noble Lord, that suppose he were living in Ireland, and that some ill-disposed man wished it to be believed that the noble Lord had committed murder, the man who desired the noble Lord to be falsely accused, would take his own gun, be would put the brand of the noble Lord upon it. The noble Lord shook his head at this suggestion. The man, however, might put the brand of the noble Lord upon it; and then let it be conceived the horror that would be created throughout the country by such a charge. But then, in the case of the noble Lord it seemed to be impossible that such a project could be successfully acted upon. Ay but conceive two men living in cabins, adjoining to each other—call them O'Brien and Flanagan—that Flanagan murdered a man named Smith, and put into the haggard of Smith a gun branded with O'Brien's name? Was there not the law of evidence on which that man, the innocent man, might be convicted? How, he asked, was that to be prevented, unless there was some specific and peculiar branding method, which the Government alone could use. Every man could brand the gun of every other man, and that brand would expose every other man to danger, for it would be employed as evidence against him. They were to consider the bill as applicable to the present state of Ireland. He wanted to know how this bill was to be of advantage in its present state. The noble Lord said that this proposition of his would be useful as a matter of evidence. That it was proposed for the purposes of evidence. He showed, on the other band, 40 that if it were to be used as evidence, it would be worse than useless. It would create danger to the innocent man, and none to the guilty; for they could not suppose that a man would be mad enough to go and commit murder, with his own gun, with his own brand upon it. Was there ever anything so puerile, so totally foolish and useless as this. They might brand the arms twenty times, and yet it was not upon the bad or the guilty man the risk would fall, but all they could do would be to endanger the poor and unprotected cottier. For the purposes of detection he said that such a provision would be totally, utterly, entirely useless. And yet this was the grand proposition in the new bill—and this, too, was to be proposed in consequence of the state of Ireland. What was that state? Oh! it was said by the noble Lord and the right hon. Baronet, there was a great desire for personal revenge in Ireland—there was there an unhappy passion for avenging one's wrong, by one's own hand, and they did that by murder. He acknowledged that there was that in some parts of the country; but he thought first and foremost, that it was amazingly exaggerated. Suppose he travelled to the north, and then brought to their notice every instance of violence that came under his cognizance, as proving the desires of every man in England to avenge his own wrongs. Take the counties of Cumberland, Northumberland, Yorkshire, and Lancashire; within three or four months he could produce a detail of crime which would harrow their feelings; he could paint a picture, certainly not with the master-hand of the right hon. Baronet opposite, but he could paint a picture of crime in those districts within the period he had named which would harrow the feelings of all who saw it, and would make them think he was speaking of a lawless population. If the right hon. Baronet would watch the calendar for those counties for a short period, he would find that even in England there was a great desire in all ill-regulated minds to redress their own wrongs by their own hands. For every crime in Ireland which might be pointed out to him he would bring one in England; of course, England being a more wealthy country, and having a better educated population, crime took a less decided, and a less dangerous character than in Ireland; but. the multitude of offences in England was so great that there would be no difficulty in matching all committed in 41 Ireland one for one. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) shook his head, but let him watch the state of crime for three or four months in England, and if he then brought in an Arms Bill for England, he would be able to match the assertions as to the present state of crime in Ireland. The Government had instanced two or three cases; but did the House think they were enough to justify such a bill? No; let them calmly inquire what was the difference in the state of society in the two countries. The noble Lord, the Member for Sunderland said, that would not be a proper inquiry; in return, he would ask, why not? Were they afraid of inquiry? It appeared so, for they were challenged to it, and refused. Well, he had proved that the only man who would be in danger under the provisions of the bill was the innocent man—that could not be the intention of the noble Lord nr any of his colleagues. Arms bills were first passed in a time of extreme terror, and had been renewed merely from habit; but by pressing it now, they were producing a feeling of hatred towards England—a feeling that a wrong and an injustice were done, to a whole people. They were proceeding in regard to Ireland as they had not long ago done in respect of the metropolis—they were making the law incarnate in the constable. Suppose that in England they robbed the law of the amazing power which it had in opinion, and made it depend upon the number of constables that were kept in pay; why, the immediate consequence would be, and from the very fact, that we should become a lawless population. They had done that in Ireland—they had armed the police, and made the whole country as one huge garrison; and yet in spite of all that, they were still saying that life in Ireland was not half so secure as it was in England, where all was left to an un-armed constable. Was there, then, not something wrong, something rotten in the Government which could produce such a state of things? He had no hesitation in saying that the church of Ireland was the cancerous sore from which sprung 'the disease which went through all the veins of the Government, and carried its foulness through all the putrescent carcass; it was an abomination which maddened the people—maddened they might be by demagogues, who took advantage of real evils to further their own private ends—who seized upon public wrongs and the sensitiveness of the people to work their own private and per- 42 sonal advantage; it might be that they were led by a cool calculating man—one who well knew and understood the character of the people he was dealing with, and they were misled by such a one, while he, by means of public wrongs, safely worked out his personal purposes. The Roman Catholic priesthood of Ireland felt the full evil of the Church, and they cordially seconded the efforts of the Liberator for they were also working for their own purposes. The priesthood well knew what they were about; they were promised power, and the poor tenant was promised a fixity of tenure; in fact, he was promised the possession of the land of his landlord; with such promises, and considering the state of the people—recollecting that they were almost starving and egged on by the wily artifices to which he had alluded, was it any wonder that they had been roused to the excited state they were now in? Why, the same thing would take place if the population was an Orange, in the place of a Catholic population—if an Orange population were placed in the same circumstances as the population of Ireland now was, the result would be the same. [Colonel Connolly: "Hear." Yes, he would tell the hon. and gallant that, place an Orange population in the same circumstances, and Mid a clever and unscrupulous man to wield them, and the result would be as it now was. And it was for the happiness of mankind that it should be so. Yes, place the hon. and gallant Gentleman under a Catholic priesthood—compel him to pay tithes to a Catholic Church—suppose him compelled to maintain the gorgeous Church of Rome, from which he derived no benefit or consolation, and would not the result be great dissatisfaction on his part? Whether, under such circumstances, the hon. and gallant Gentleman would ever turn out a second O'Connell or not he did not know. They must ameliorate the condition of the people. He was not prepared to say, that he would not interfere with the tenure of land in Ireland; but he must say that he had not yet seen a safe way of meddling with the contracts between landlord and tenant. Still much might be done in order to put a stop to the agitation which had now reached so fearful a height. Let them allay the agitation of the priesthood, and that of the people would soon be suspended, He wanted to know whether it was not possible to purchase them into quietness. He believed with David Hume that:— 43The mischief of a priesthood is very much diminished by depriving them of any interest to be active. Pay them well, and the chances are that they will cease to be misehievous.He said, let the State pay the priesthood, and they might depend upon it in a very few years Ireland would be no longer the Ireland she now was. If they would have a quiet, peaceful population, pay the priesthood and make them small holders of land, and thereby make them interested in the quietude and welfare of the country. They might have peace if they made the priest's interest peaceful; they were now almost in a state of war, because he was goaded by the sight opposed to his eyes every day, nay, every hour, of a dominant Church of which his people were constantly complaining. Ireland was now in a state bordering upon civil war, and it behoved the Government and the House seriously to seek for some way of preventing its breaking out. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had been dragged into a most unfortunate blunder—he had begun a contest with the Roman Catholic and Liberal gentry of Ireland, for discussing a matter which they had as much right to discuss, as he had to address the House, they were insulted and deprived of any honour which had been conferred upon them. He spoke out plainly; he said, in the face of the House, and of the country, that he desired to see the downfall of the Irish Church. Was that treason? Was that any reason why he should be deprived of any honour or right which he enjoyed? Then, he would ask, what right had they to interfere with those, who in peaceful guise—yes, he repeated it, who in a peaceful way, sought to obtain the repeal of an act of the Legislature? The Government had not said, that magistrates attending meetings which were dangerous should be dismissed. No; they went another way to work, and threatened all who attended repeal meetings of any sort: according to the rule laid down, if a man attended at a dinner party of ten, should a certain toast be given, and a reporter be present, he must be instantly dismissed from an honourable post conferred upon him, not for the gratification of his own vanity, but for the purpose of securing good government and peace. He contended, that no magistrate ought to be dismissed who had not made himself amenable to the law. The Government had acted illegally; most certainly, unjustly and illegally, if law was 44 anything like what it ought to be. He lamented, for the peace of Ireland, nay, for the peace of the world, that such an unfortunate step had been taken. He did not believe, that the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) approved in his heart of the course which had been taken, and in which he was forced to acquiesce, a course, the consequences of which it was impossible for any one to foresee. The Government had lighted a spark which, if it did not turn into a blaze, still could never be extinguished. Was not that an unhappy state for that country to be in? A great blunder had been committed. He did not charge the Ministers with doing an intentional wrong; but was not Ireland on the point of a civil war? Was not that the impression of her Majesty's Government? If it were not, he would ask why did they send soldiers to that country, and war steamers too? Were not these significant hints? The language of the members of the Government might be cold—might indicate no apprehensions of the final result of the state of Ireland, but their acts showed their fear. He entreated them, if they Wished to preserve the peace of Ireland, to adopt a diffesent policy towards that country. The course which had been pursued by a certain legal functionary in Ireland, proved that it was possible for an astute lawyer to be a bad statesman. He considered, that in the present circumstances of Ireland, this bill was most ill-timed, and it was his determination to oppose to the utmost so mischievous a measure.
§ Sir James Graham:
Sir, without wishing to detract from the admiration which the speech of the hon. and learned Member may probably excite, or without desiring to say anything which that hon. Gentleman might consider personally offensive, I must be permitted to observe, that the address of the hon. and learned Member for Bath this evening fully establishes the truth of the observation which he applied to another learned individual, viz., that it is possible for a man to be an astute lawyer and a very bad statesman. I should be ashamed, after having addressed the House at large on this subject on a former occasion, if I were to delay them long from the division at which I hope they will arrive this evening. I see signs of dissent on the opposite side of the House, but until I shall see hon. Gentlemen persevere in the 45 intention to prolong the debate, I cannot believe that they will persist in, forcing an adjournment. The hon. Member for Bath has informed the House what is his opinion of the present state of Ireland. He has represented that country to be in a state of extreme peril—that a single spark might kindle the conflagration—that the danger is imminent. The hon. and learned Member dwelt much upon this topic, and then informed the House that there were only two remedies for the disease. He stated that the people of Ireland are engaged in a struggle for a subdivision of the land— for the establishment of an agrarian law; that the Catholic priesthood are also struggling for the property of the soil as well as ecclesiastical power. The hon. and learned Member said, that for this condition of things two remedies only are applicable: — 1st., some enactment limiting the rights of property; 2nd., the immediate overthrow of the Protestant Establishment. The points referred to by the hon. and learned Member have, I am aware, been made the subject of spirit-stirring addresses to large multitudes of the people or Ireland. It is not my intention to go into the question of the legality of those meetings. The hon. Member for Cork has himself admitted, that the question of the numbers attending these large meetings for Repeal is an important point, with other circumstances, to be taken into consideration when deciding upon their legality. What is the state of Ireland? Large bodies of men are marched in array, subdivided, and headed in regular order, with bands of music, playing martial airs, and with all the pomp and circumstance of martial order. The multitudes thus assembled, are addressed in the most exciting language, upon topics which inflame to madness, whether addressed to the priesthood or to the people. The speakers who indulge in these irritating harangues, say, as the hon. and learned Gentleman has said to-night, that there are two great subjects for redress. Upon one of these points, the hon. and learned Gentleman said he has doubts; he has no doubt upon the other, and in this the hon. Member for Sheffield, who spoke last night, concurs with him, namely, that, in order to maintain the peace of Ireland it is necessary to consent to the overthrow of the Protestant Church. The Protestant Church must be annihilated before peace can be purchased. That is the 46 opinion of the hon. and learned Member for Bath. The hon. and learned Member would defer the consideration of the bill before the House; but I think that it is the duty of hon. Members to decide instantly upon so important a question. If such be the state of Ireland—if the circumstances of that country are such as have been described—I put it to hon. Members as men of common sense, whether it would be exercising ordinary prudence to defer the enactment of a measure which is so indispensably necessary? The bill before the House is not now introduced for the first time, but is the re-enactment of a measure which will expire in the period of six weeks—a measure which has been in force in Ireland for fifty years—a measure which originated in an Irish Parliament—a measure which different successive administrations have considered necessary without any reference to the political sentiments of the Members who formed a part of those Governments. For fifty years, I repeat, the condition of Ireland has rendered an Arms Bill indispensable. As to the mode in which the hon. and learned Member for Bath proposed to provide for the pacification of Ireland, viz., by the overthrow of the Protestant Church in that country and the transference of its property to the Roman Catholic priesthood, I am not prepared to consent to have these questions considered in a committee up stairs. Can the House hesitate for a moment in deciding what course to pursue? Are we justified in withholding from the loyal subjects of Ireland a measure which has been indispensable in that country for the last fifty years? Much reference has been made to the speech of the right hon. Member for Clonmel, with respect to the relative state of crime at different periods in Ireland. Now it is not without regret that I allude to this point, but in the discharge of my public duty I feel myself bound to call attention to the proportion, in Ireland, of crime immediately connected with the use of fire arms, as contrasted with crime of a similar description in this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clonmel instituted a comparison between the state of crime in the years 1828 and 1838. The right hon. Gentleman compared the state of crime in these two years respectively, and then proceeded to make the same comparison between 1841 and 1837. I will read to the House 47 returns relating to eleven classes of crime, all partaking of the character of offences of personal violence. The first is that of murder—and after this, those of firing and stabbing with intent to murder; assaulting with intent to murder; conspiracy with intent to murder; manslaughter; robbery of arms; attacking and taking forcible possession; assembling in arms administering unlawful oaths; and attacking or refusing to assist police-officers. In the first place, the convictions for these eleven classes of crime, I will extend from 1838 to the present time, and show, by comparison, the state of society in Ireland and England. [Lord Clements: " Where are the statements respecting these crimes in England, taken from."] From accounts furnished to the Home Office every half-year. In instituting this comparison between the amount of crime in Ireland and in England, let the House bear in mind that the population of the latter country is nearly double that of the former; and let the House further bear in mind that circumstance, which forms so important a distinctive feature in the social state of Ireland—that the proportion of convictions to committals, which in England is 75 per cent., in Ireland is only 50 per cent. The population in England is double; the proportion] of convictions to committals is one third more in England than in Ireland. I will now read the contrasted accounts of crime in the two countries. The number of convictions under the eleven heads I have named is as follows:—
So much, then, for the relative proportion of serious crime in the two countries. If I were to take cases of murder only in the last five years, the number of convictions in England has been eighty-five; in Ireland, with only half the population, ninety-one. But it is said, then, that crime has not decreased in Ireland under Arms Bills. That is not really the question at issue, which is simply whether in the present state of Ireland—looking at the condition of society—her situation as to erime—whether it would be possible for a deliberative assembly in such a juncture of affairs—whether it be conceivable that
men of ordinary prudence could dispense with a measure of precaution which has been for fifty years employed, and up to the present time has been admitted to be absolutely necessary? [Sir W. Barron: The number of murders in England in 1842?] I can tell the hon. Gentleman; 106. [Sir W. Barron: Committals?] The number of committals was 133. [Sir W. Barron: I have it 258.] I have stated the numbers as they appear on the returns, which I can inform the House have been prepared carefully from the most authentic sources. I beg to state, as the general result, that the number of convictions for serious crimes, of the description 1 have mentioned, has increased in Ireland in five years (from 1838), from 689 to 1,141. The amount of crime stained with a character of violence, in that country has doubled nearly in five years. And here I must be allowed to ask, how is it that the hon. Gentleman who has moved the amendment, and, above all, how the right hon. and learned Member for Clonmel, is so anxious to institute inquiry into the state of Irish society and Irish crime, in a select committee "up stairs," when, in 1838, while their party was in power, and Lord Morpeth Chief Secretary, a bill was laid upon the Table more stringent in its nature, even, than that now before the House, and passed a second reading without opposition, and almost without notice? And in 1840, the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself actually introduced a bill continuing the Irish Arms Act—he who now hesitates so much about the necessity for such a bill—hesitates, 1 say, for the hon. and learned Gentleman, with his official experience, is not prepared to affirm, that an Arms Bill is not necessary for Ireland. Never was so specious a speech constructed on such scanty materials as that which the right hon. and learned Gentleman delivered last night. It had but two points; one being that crime in Ireland had decreased since 1827,a matter of fact which I doubt; the other, the inexpediency of a clause about giving a right of search on the warrant of one instead of two magistrates (though as to the constabulary visits, a similar power had in previous bills been given); whereas all these are really points of detail which do not at all affect the principle of the measure, and can be disposed of, not above stairs, but by the wisdom of the
House, perfectly willing and ready as the Government are to enter into a full, a free, and fair discussion. The question which the House has now to determine is, shall we go into committee on this Arms Bill for Ireland, or shall we acquiesce in an amendment to refer it to a select committee up stairs, professedly, as is admitted by the hon. Mover himself, in order to consume time and allow this law to lapse. must admit that much higher grounds have been taken by the hon. and learned Member for Bath, to-night, and the hon. Member for Sheffield, who spoke last night, and I think that the sooner the great question mooted by them is fairly raised, the better for the people of Ireland, and for this country, also, as tending to determine the position which we are to hold with regard to Ireland. The conduct of the hon. Member for Sheffield on this subject, has all along been perfectly consistent. The hon. Member referred in his speech, to the period when he himself raised the question of the Church of Ireland in this House. The hon. Member raised this question in 1834, and 1 beg the House to consider what at that time had already been done for the sake of conciliation with regard to Ireland. In 1829, we passed the Catholic Emancipation Act; in 1831, the Reform Act; in 1833, the Church Temporalities Act, by which a large diminution was made in the hierarchy of the Church; we then passed the Tithe Commutation Act, by which the amount of tithes was diminished about 25 per cent.; after this, the education plan was adopted for Ireland. These were large measures of concession and conciliation, which are now declared to be unavailing, as long as the Protestant Church exists in Ireland. This is the proposition for which those who address those multitudinous meetings which I have already alluded to, contend; and which is now again mooted in this House yet the hon. and learned Member for Bath, and the hon. Member for Sheffield. When the hon. Member for Sheffield brought forward his proposition in 1834, I and my noble Friend (Lord Stanley), at that time in the councils of her Majesty, feeling that it was impossible for us to make such a concession, or anything approaching to such a concession, and having thus the misfortune utterly to differ from our then Colleagues, relieved the Cabinet of any obstruction which our presence might
have created, and withdrew from the Administration. A limited acquiescence in the principle propounded by the hon. Gentleman was obtained from the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) and those of his Colleagues who remained in office; but Parliament had been found so resolved to resist the proposition— the House of Commons had remained so true to the articles of the Union — the House had been so staunch in its determination to uphold the Protestant Church in Ireland, that, notwithstanding the secession of myself and my noble Colleague from the councils of his late Majesty, those who had remained in office, found it expedient to yield to the sense of Parliament, and were driven by an overwhelming necessity to withdraw the proposition. It is now sought again to raise it, to raise it under circumstances allowed by the hon. and learned Member for Bath, to be of great danger and urgency. It is impossible that questions like these can be mooted in Ireland without exciting dangerous hopes and perilous fears. The British House of Commons is the proper place for their discussion. If those views are entertained seriously by a large portion of the House, by any Members of weight or authority, let them be brought forward in the shape of substantive propositions. Let them not be discussed incidentally upon an Arms Bill. They are far too great, far too mighty, far too important, imperial in their character. If the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition party, possessed of great influence in the state—if the noble Lord, in a great emergency of public affairs, does really believe, that some propositions of this kind are absolutely necessary for the salvation of Ireland, let them be brought forward distinctly and fairly. if the noble Lord thinks the pressure of the Irish church too great, if he thinks that church should be reduced let the question be raised, and let it be debated and decided as it deserves. If the destruction of the Irish church, and the transfer of its property to the Romish priesthood, are to be discussed—if the question even of a fixity of tenure is to be mooted, let these subjects be discussed as distinct and substantive propositions but it is unworthy of this House—it is unworthy of the Legislature—unworthy, I will not say, of statesmen, but even of men of ordinary public virtue or common sense — in a moment of great public
danger, thus to tamper with questions of this magnitude. I am ready to debate them whenever they are brought forward; I will not debate them now. On a former occasion there was quoted a passage from a most sagacious speech of the most sagacious statesman of his day (a speech bearing in some parts almost the character of prophecy)—a speech pronounced in this House, in 1817, by my right hon. Friend at the head of her Majesty's Government. I always steadily advocated concession to my Roman Catholic fellow subjects. I supported their claims under a deep conviction that the prophetic warning of my right hon. Friend was not well founded. I believed the assertions made by their nobility and gentry—I believed the solemn oaths of their prelates, given before a solemn tribunal and on a solemn occasion. I believed their recorded statements, statements made in the most impressive manner, that if equal rights, as citizens, were given to them they would rest satisfied with the terms of the Union, and the Protestant church would be safe. My right hon. Friend notwithstanding all these asseverations, arguing from general principles, expressed some doubt whether these persons, honest at the time, and not intending to deceive others, but deceiving themselves, would, under altered circumstances, be able to act in conformity with those assurances. I, however, at the time, did not share the doubts of my right hon. Friend, and here, perhaps, the House will permit me to read the words of a distinguished statesman, who also disregarded the prophetic warnings of my right hon. Friend. Mr. Canning said:—
For my own part, if I thought that we could not move one step in concession without danger to our civil and ecclesiastical establishments, my part is taken. I would stand at all hazard and at all inconvenience where we are. I would not ask the security of those establishments for any theoretical hope of improvement. But as in my conscience I believe there is no such risk likely to be incurred—that ample securities may be taken, not only against real, but even against imaginary dauger, I am not deterred from examining patiently the practical remedies to be applied to a state of things allowed on all hands to be inconsistent and anomalous, and capable, as I believe, of being amended not only without risk, but with advantage and with increased security to the Establishment.'
It was upon these principles, that I supported Catholic emancipation. And
in what circumstances is the country now placed? Catholic emancipation has been agreed to, and conciliation has been carried to its utmost limits in Ireland. [Expressions of dissent from the Opposition benches.] That is disputed. I am glad that issue has been joined on that question; I rejoice at it, and I hope the House will permit me—not in a tone of party triumph, but of sincerity and truth—to say that I am glad, very glad, to arrive at a distinct understanding on this point. If the noble Lord opposite or the hon. Gentlemen who surround him can point out any one measure of conciliation which would not raise the two questions—of total and immediate overthrow of the Church establishment in Ireland, and fixity of tenure in respect to the land—If they can point out any measure which has not the destruction of the Irish Church as its object, or an agrarian subdivision of the soil trenching upon the property of the country, both of which, especially the former, Parliament is distinctly bound by the Act of Union between Ireland and this country to defend, it will be their duty to propose it, and I venture to promise, that it shall receive every attention on the part of the Government. It is for that reason that I say I am rejoiced that issue has been joined on the subject. It is urged that the late Government had more conciliatory measures in reserve; but what could they be? Already a perfect equality as citizens has been conceded to the Roman Catholics—they have Parliamentary Reform in Ireland the same as in England—there has been a great reduction of the Protestant hierarchy in that country—the burthen of tithes has been transferred from the tenants to the landlord—they have a system of national education, and municipal reform has been granted.[Cheers.] The noble Lord cheers; but what was the peculiar character of the old corporations? It should be borne in mind that they were of a most close and exclusive character; that they were established for the purpose of securing Protestant ascendancy; and that their effect was, to give one party a complete power over the other. Now, however, these bodies are not only thrown open to the public at large, but the Catholics are absolutely in the enjoyment of the chief advantages arising from the change. Then with respect to persons, Roman Catholics have been admitted into
the Privy Council of her Majesty, and in this House, lawyers of distinction from Ireland, of the Catholic faith, have taken their place as the legal advisers of the Crown. Then, again, the noble Lord admitted that he had offered Mr. O'Connell not the Chief Baronship of the Exchequer, as that hon, and learned Gentleman asserted himself, but an office second only to that of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland in station and responsibility namely, the Master of the Rolls. 1 say, therefore, that unless the House is prepared to adopt the principle of fixity of tenure, or agree with the hon. Member for Sheffield and the hon. Member for Bath, that the Protestant establishment must be overthrown —unless the House is prepared to accede to schemes so dangerous as these—I do nut see what measures of further conciliation can be proposed. In the meantime, a power which experience has justified, cannot be parted with, and I do say, that in the present state of Ireland, legislative precautions are indispensable; not to take them, I am satisfied, would be little less than madness.
Lord J. Russell:
I had hoped, Sir, that it would have been only necessary for me to say a few words to justify the course which 1 shall take on the important question under consideration. The noble Lord the chief secretary for Ireland purposes to go into committee on an Arms Bill, which he has introduced; my hon. Friend the Member for Waterford desires that that bill should be referred to a select committee, to inquire whether, with respect to the particular privilege of bearing arms, it is necessary to continue the restrictions at present in force. Such, I conceive, are the questions for our consideration; and I should have been satisfied with saying a few words only upon the subject, had not the right hon. Gentleman —following other Members, I admit, but, as I think, very unnecessarily following them—raised a question as to the whole state of Ireland, and entered upon a discussion regarding measures brought forward in former years and respecting the present policy of the Government as it now stands. Into that question I am now obliged to enter; but before I do so let me say a word as to the grounds on which I shall give my vote. The noble Lord proposes—first, certain restrictions regarding the power of having and keeping arms in Ireland; and, secondly, restrictions re- 54 garding the introduction of gunpowder into Ireland. Formerly these two subjects were, I believe, treated separately, and they certainly are distinct from each other. The one affects outrages which take place in the interior, and has reference to quarrels between the inhabitants of the same district arising from disputes regarding the possession of land, or having an origin in private revenge, or those faction fights which have too long been the misfortune of Ireland. The second object of the bill is an enactment originally introduced in time of war, and seems specially to have in view the danger which may arise in case a disposition for insurrection should evince itself amongst any part of the population, and in case any attempt should be made to procure arms and ammunition from abroad for the purpose of carrying that insurrection into effect. Now, I find, as the noble Lord has truly stated, that precautions on this subject, very slightly varying in their stringency, have been continued from time to time for a period of fifty years. With regard to the first object, in 1838, I being then in connexion with the Government, inquiries were made as to whether the power could not safely be abandoned, and whether for all useful purposes a mere registration of arms would not be sufficient. The result of those inquiries was to convince the Government of Ireland, and to convince me likewise, that the effect of such a measure would most probably be to increase outrage, to increase faction fights, and to throw difficulties in the way of the police, who were seeking either to repress offences, or to bring offenders to punishment. With regard to the state of Ireland in 1838 and at the present time, I see no reason why we should now refuse that power which we thought necessary in 1838. With respect to the other power, it certainly could have been better parted with in 1S38 than in 1841. We may believe that there is no present danger of outbreak in Ireland, but certainly I do not think that this is the moment for giving increased facilities for the introduction of arms. So far, therefore, as I am called on as a Member of Parliament, I am ready to go into committee to consider a bill for these purposes. I will not now enter into the details of such a bill, but I may say in passing that I agree with the argument used by my hon. Friend the Member for Clon- 55 mel last night, that power recommended in 1810 by Mr. Wellesley Pole, to be abandoned, is not a power which need now be continued. The power of entering into houses by night may be exercised most oppressively and with much infraction of the liberty of the subject. Respecting the branding of arms, too, I think that is a measure more of odium and offence than of real security; and I cannot but think that the argument of the Member for Bath respecting the stealing of these arms or the forgery of the brands is a most forcible argument upon this part of the question. But, Sir, as I said before, I will not enter into the details of the bill, but will rather come at once to the consideration of the larger question which the right hon. Baronet has raised. The right hon. Baronet, I admit, only followed others; the Members for Sheffield and Bath, no doubt, gave their opinions on the state of Ireland; but still I must say, that the right hon. Baronet, unless he had more attentively considered the subject—unless he had taken into his view the whole state of Ireland, and had come down here prepared to say what his measures should be, and what he was ready and willing to assent to—unless, I say, he had been prepared to do this, 1 do think he had better not have made the speech which he has just delivered. Sir, the impression that speech has left upon my mind is this—that the right hon. Baronet has made it a charge against the Roman Catholics of Ireland that they have not been sufficiently grateful for past concessions, and that they, and others on behalf of the people of Ireland, ask still for concessions when all has been done for them which it is possible for the Legislature to accomplish. Such is the sense which I attribute to the right hon. Baronet's observations. They are most important falling from a Member of the Cabinet; they are still more important coming from the Secretary of State for the Home Department; and they cannot fail to make a deep impression in Ireland. Sir, I thought that as a Member of Parliament I might be permitted to make some suggestions as to the government of Ireland, but I was told by several of my friends that such was their view of the present state of Ireland, that a discussion in this place would most probably only tend to inflame mutual animosities. On that ground I was willing to be silent, but the right hon. 56 Gentleman the Secretary of State has challenged me to give my opinion, and to state my views upon this subject; and though that statement will be rather a suggestion of difficulties and of what it is most important for a Government to consider, than any proposition of measures on my part, still, thus challenged, I feel that I cannot withhold it from the House. Let me first, however allude to that which I have seen, and which I have been told fell from the right hon. Gentleman with respect to a Government of Ireland long since past, that which the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland likewise alluded to, as having proposed au Arms Bill for Ireland—I allude to the Government of Ireland in 1806. Nearly related as I am to the Lord-lieutenant of that period, I cannot think that the measures of that period were of a similar character to those of the present day. There were other measures under consideration at that time. Mr. Ponsonby the Chancellor, Mr. Elliot the Secretary, and Mr. Grattan, who did not hold office, by the advice of the Lord-lieutenant of that day, transmitted to England a plan for the commutation of tithes, which, under the Governments that succeeded, was not taken into consideration for about twenty years afterwards; but which, if it had been adopted, would have prevented much of that ill blood which has since been produced. There was also a plan for the improvement of education in Ireland, and which did afterwards render effective service to the causes of education. Such were some of the measures in the contemplation of that Government, while, at the same time, they thought it necessary to continue the Arms Bill; and what 1 complain of in the present Government is, that while citing the authority of the Government of 1806 or of 1835 for their present measures, they completely shut their ears to everything that is conciliatory and likely to tend to the permanent welfare of the people, and they look only to the temporary restriction of the means of offence against the laws. Is it true, or is it not, that there are grievances to be redressed in Ireland, to which a Government having what this Government has in greater proportion, and far more, indeed, than the late Government had, the means of carrying their legislation into effect, might well look as affording the opportunity for a permanent improvement of Ire- 57 land? There is first the question of the Parliamentary and municipal franchise. Those who are endeavouring to excite the people of Ireland tell them, with regard to the right of voting for Members of Parliament and mayors in those towns having municipal corporations, that the franchise of the people is greatly and unduly restricted as compared with the franchise in England and Scotland. If that is not so, prove to them if you can, that there is no truth in that representation. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) if I understand him, seems to say, "We were those who agreed to that franchise." But with respect to that municipal franchise, year after year we contended for making it similar to the franchise of England. We proposed that we should endeavour to reform the municipal corporations of Ireland on the same principle as those of England had been reformed. I did not expect any opposition to that general proposition; but on the first night of the Session, on the address to the Gown, an amendment was offered, stating, in effect, that the same principle could not be applied to Ireland; and for three or four years that opposition was persisted in, till at length we thought it better to take even a restricted franchise than lose that measure altogether. Now, when the people of Ireland ask you for the franchise, I do say that it is a legitimate ground of complaint, both as regards their parliamentary franchise, with respect to which I will say one word presently, and with regard to their municipal franchise, that they are not placed on terms of equality with the people of this country. Am I to understand the right hon. Gentlemen that there is to be no advance in this respect? I think not; because I beg to call the attention of the House to their conduct in office and out of office. The noble Lord the present Secretary for the Colonies brought in a bill to remedy that which he said was an evil which required urgent means of correction, and he proposed to purify the registration of Parliamentary voters in Ireland. We said, in the first place, that it was incumbent upon us, before that subject was considered, to go on with the amelioration of the Poor-laws in England. That proposition was denied, and the noble Lord succeeded in having the Irish Registration Bill taken previously. Then my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax said, "Yes, but if you are to consider the 58 registration you had better consider the English registration," and there was a division, which decided that the Irish registration should be taken in preference to the English. The House having so decided, we said, "If you are to consider the Irish registration, and if you are to have laws resembling those of England, and the Irish franchise is not sufficiently extensive, we will propose a bill to extend it." But those on the other side replied, "Let us now establish a new registration only for Ireland, and in some future year, if we find the numbers of the electors greatly reduced we will introduce another measure." But their conduct in office has been very different. In the first place they contended that the English Poor Law Bill, last year, should be taken previously to any registration measures. Then with regard to England, the measure applying to it was to be taken before the measures applying to Ireland; and thirdly, having decided these two points, upon the question being asked with regard to the Irish registration, the answer was that they could not introduce a proper measure for Ireland without making an alteration in the franchise. Therefore, in one respect at least, they have improved on their doctrine since they came into office as regards Ireland. But I should have supposed that if they thought it necessary to decide upon this course they would have proceeded with the amended Poor Law Bill, with respect to which they had gone half through committee, and then that they should have introduced a bill for largely extending the elective franchise in Ireland. In that case they would have given some proof that they were prepared to improve the franchise; and if such a measure had been introduced before the Arms Bill, it would have shown that the Government had something like a proper regard for the welfare of the people of Ireland. But the Irish Poor-law bill was put off for the sake of the Arms Bill; and it is doubtful now, whether there will be an opportunity this Session to go on with it. There is a great complaint made upon the subject of tenancy in Ireland, and a most captivating phrase has been put forward by the learned Member for Cork, who is now agitating the whole of Ireland upon the subject under the name of "fixity of tenure," which, as it has been most, truly said, will greatly tend to induce the peasantry of Ireland to think that the Repeal of the Union, if otherwise would be 59 of no benefit at all, will be attended with material advantages to them. Upon that subject I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Bath, that it is most difficult to suggest or advise any improvement. But at the same time I do not think with the Government that on the present occasion, considering the whole state of Ireland, that there are circumstances which require most deliberate attention. Look at what Mr. O'Connell calls the midnight legislation. Then there is the case of tenants being suddenly turned out, contrary to all justice and all the principles of charity and kindness, by their landlords into the waste without sustenance and habitation, and deep schemes of revenge and murder and destruction of houses and property are resolved upon. Take another instance, of tenants neglecting for some years to pay their rent, and going about the country disturbing it, or becoming a nuisance to the neighbourhood where they remain. The landlord says, these are tenants who should no longer occupy my land; and he is perfectly right. But this irregular and midnight legislation which has existed for so many years takes no account of justice or injustice, and the tenant who follows that worthless and good-for-nothing intruder upon the soil, an excellent hand perhaps, applying himself to the business of the cultivation and improvement of the land, is exposed to outrage and murder from those who occupied that soil before him. This is a great evil, and no one can doubt that it is one which deserves the greatest attention from the Legislature, and if anything could be devised to lessen that evil, no one thing would more imperatively demand attention. Another subject has been touched upon by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, and likewise by the hon. and learned Member for Bath; and the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in defiance, asks me to bring forward that subject for the consideration of the House, I namely—the Church. He asks me, in effect, whether I am prepared to make a motion for the destruction of the Church? When I say I am not prepared to make such a motion, it does not imply in my opinion, or in the opinion of any man of sense and observation, that the present ecclesiastical state of Ireland is conformable to reason, or that it at all resembles the state of any other country. You 60 have in Ireland millions of Roman Catholics, and hundreds of thousands of Presbyterians, and solely for your Church Establishment is episcopalians numbering, say 1,000,000 members, forming a small majority as compared with the rest of the inhabitants. Some persons may say, there would be an immediate remedy in the destruction of the establishment of that country. I should say at once, if you destroy your Church Establishment there, considering the manner in which opinions upon Church Establishments waver in this country, and considering, likewise, the present state of the Church of Scotland, you would endanger the Church Establishments of the three kingdoms. It appears to me that the destruction of the establishments in Ireland must have that effect. It has been said over and over again by those who excite the people of Ireland upon this subject, "Look at England, look at Scotland: the people of England have a Church Establishment of the majority; the people of Scotland have a Church Establishment of the majority; but the people of Ireland have a Church Establishment of the minority." It follows, that if you were to make the establishment in Ireland analogous to that in Scotland, the consequence would be not merely the destruction of the episcopacy of the Church Establishment in Ireland, and the substitution for it of the voluntary principle, but the establishment of Roman Catholicism as the established religion in Ireland. Sir, it appears to me that the plan which we brought forward many years ago—to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded—that plan for the partial application of some of the revenues of the Protestant Church Establishment in Ireland to the general education of the community, was a plan which, if accepted then, would have tended greatly towards peace, and that being accepted generally by the people of Ireland the Church Establishment there might have remained unmolested; but that plan having been rejected by those who sit opposite and by the majority of the House of Lords, who said that the plan could not be agreed to without shaking the Church Establishment—I am not arguing whether they were in the right, or we were in the right, but merely stating the result—it could not now have the effect which it would have had then, supposing that we had been able to carry it. What, let me ask, what 61 can you do now? Your course is encompassed with difficulties; but my course would be not so much to depress the Established Church in Ireland as to endeavour to raise that of the Roman Catholics. I do not believe that the Roman Catholics would now accept of a provision from the state. That was a wise plan when it was first brought forward in former days, and if it had been made an accompaniment of Roman Catholics Emancipation it would have had the most beneficial effects. You cannot expect them now to accept it. But the clergy of the Roman Catholic religion in Ireland are the clergy of the great majority of the people of that country. The bishops of that Church are the bishops of the people of Ireland. I think that everything in respect to the foundations of their colleges, everything in respect to the dignity of their offices, every thing that can render their situation in their parishes comfortable, are not on such a scale and in such a condition, I say, in spite of all prejudices that may exist to the contrary, are not on such a scale as a wise Government would like to see. I am aware of the prejudices that prevail on this subject; and that if we had proposed any such plan when we were in office (though I did hint that I thought some such plan advisable), I well know, I say, that the proposition of any such plan would have raised a fresh storm of party invective against us. Whether, however, I am right or wrong with respect to that point, you cannot say that the present state of the ecclesiastical establishment in Ireland is such as can permanently last, if you mean to organise Ireland in such a manner as to secure permanent content. My opinion is, that the state of Ireland has never been organized from the time when the fiction of the law was that no Roman Catholics existed there — when Protestants were only considered by the law, and Roman Catholics as a part of the state were not taken cognizance of by the law. A great deal of your present institutions in that country is conformable to that notion. You have admitted the political and civil rights of the Irish. You ought to organise the whole of Ireland conformably to the new state of the law and the new theory which, by your Emancipation Act, you have recognised. You ought to take all these things into your consideration most seriously and gravely, with a view to conciliation, and without 62 prejudice. Sir, I should say, likewise that you ought to have an executive in Ireland, which should be disposed altogether to feel for, and with the people of that country. The noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, says that he cannot accept any compliment from me at all at the expense of the Government of Ireland. If that be the case, I am only obliged to say—and I am sorry to be obliged to say it—that I do not think the Government of Ireland performs its functions in a manner to entitle it to the confidence of the people. Whether I look to their promotions generally, to the persons whom they have chosen to place on the bench of bishops, filling the sees of Dr. Sanden and Dr. Dickenson, men who were anxious for the benefit of the whole people —when I see chosen to fill their places men who are bigoted against the system of national education which the Government itself promotes, or whether I look to the deprivations that have recently taken place—deprivations that have been made in so hasty and ill-considered a manner —or whether I turn to their vacillating course with regard to the present state of Ireland, their want of firmness against that which ought to be resisted, and their want of conciliation in that which should be granted; whichever way I look at their proceedings, I must say that a Government of Ireland is wanting to Ireland—that the Government of Ireland is wanting in the true character which ought to attach to a Government of Ireland in the difficult circumstances in which they are now placed; and I must here again refer to those words on a former occasion I read from Burke:—That whatever your laws may be, whatever changes you may make in the laws, much depends on the spirit and the manner in which they are administered.But above all, I say as to the declaration of the right hon. Baronet, the Home Secretary, to-night, that if you mean to declare that the Roman Catholics of Ireland are ungrateful because your concessions have not filled up the full measure of their desires, you have as little reason for your assertion as if having put a man in a dungeon where there was no light or air, you should charge him as being ungrateful because he still complained after having been removed from his dark cell to a light apartment, but where he still was immured in solitary confinement. Though you may 63 have done much—and no doubt you have done a great deal—although you may have made many concessions—you have done so because the debt is large; that when there was so much to be done, when the Roman Catholic subjects of the Sovevereign—zealous loyal subjects of the Sovereign—were debarred from their civil rights and from an equality of privileges with their Protestant fellow-citizens, the granting of some of these civil rights by no means implied that more should not be done; and that, although you were quite right in granting them, and deserved thanks for so doing, yet that there still remains much to be done to establish the people of Ireland in the same condition as to their freedom and privileges as that of the people of England. And if you mean to say further, that you are determined to oppose any proposition that can be made —if, when knowing that I, or any other person, may be going to bring forward a motion of conciliation, it shall be enough for you to know that you have a majority of 100 or 150, that you shall look on it as a great day of party triumph, and throw up your caps for joy at your great majority; if I say, you think that you will have performed your duties because you can rely on such a majority, and if you mean to tell the people of Ireland that first you have a majority in the House, and if that should not be enough for your purpose, then that you will proceed to raise all those prejudices in the country which in former times have been raised with such unfortunate success; then, I say, you will but be imitating that bad example against which I am as ready as any man to exclaim—the example of him who talks about the Saxons and the Celts, and endeavours to raise up feelings of embittered resentment by proclaiming an organic and natural difference between the people of England and the people of Ireland. And, whether I look at Dr. M'Hale's proclamation to his flock to be discontented, or to Mr. O'Connell's speeches to inflame that discontent, I find the origin of both in the words which did fall, and which, notwithstanding all explanations, must be admitted to have fallen from him who at that time was al- most the leading person in the then majority of the House of Lords, and who now holds the situation of Lord High Chancellor of England. I do trust that you will think better of the duties of your 64 high station, that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government of this country, who I must say, shows no disposition to yield to the extreme views of those who are urging him on to measures of coercion, I do trust that he and the Government of the country generally will not act in the spirit of that Lord High Chancellor, nor in the spirit of that Home Secretary of State, but that they will consider that if it be necessary to introduce an Arms Bill—if it be necessary to endeavour to preserve peace in every part of the United Kingdom, it is likewise their duty to the Queen whom they serve, to preserve to her that which she had long held at the commencement of her reign—the affections of the devoted and loyal people of Ireland.
I had hoped, Sir, that I should have been spared the painful necessity of taking any part in the discussion of a matter with which officially and individually I am in no way connected, and in which possibly, from former recollections, my personal interposition might have introduced a tone of bitterness which 1 am happy to say, so long as we confined ourselves to the measure itself, has been peculiarly remote from the discussion, and for that reason I determined to take no part in the debate; nor should I have done so but for the speech which has just been delivered, not upon the subject-matter under discussion, but on the subject of the general state of Ireland, and but for the invectives—not the arguments which have been directed by the noble Lord opposite against her Majesty's present Government, and against the course which they have pursued, although the noble Lord has sedulously abstained from pointing out the course which in his judgment they ought to have pursued. Sir, I believe that I am going to vote in common with the noble Lord to-night. I believe, that the noble Lord is as conscious as any man of the critical position of Ireland at the present moment; the noble Lord knows and feels, and his official experience for a long period in the office of Home Secretary of this country leads him not only to feel, but to know, that in the present state of Ireland, as in the state of Ireland while it was under his own immediate superintendence, some such measure as this cannot with safety be dispensed with. The noble Lord admits that danger, he admits that critical position, and yet the noble 65 Lord, dealing with this subject, admitting the danger, admitting the critical position, admitting the excitement, admitting the danger of the excitement, having no remedy to propose, does not hesitate, with the weight of his official responsibility of former times upon him—with the weight of his character and station upon him, to come forward at this most critical juncture of British and of Irish interests, and without venturing to suggest a remedy, nay, telling you, as he did in the commencement of his speech, that it would consist rather of a suggestion of difficulties than a suggestion of remedies—he brings forward at this moment of popular excitement, and, as he admits, of national danger, every topic which can inflame to madness the people of Ireland, and for the purpose it would seem of throwing odium upon a Government to which he is opposed for not having remedied a state of things, which, by the noble Lord's own confession, has existed for years before they came into office; and, at any rate, during the whole period during which the noble Lord himself administered the affairs of this country. I will follow the noble Lord through the statements he has made, and I will ask any Gentleman to contradict me in any of the assertions I make—first, that the noble Lord, following not my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham), but as he admits, the bon. Member for Sheffield, and the hon. Member for Bath, has introduced the most exciting topics, of which he has ventured to suggest no solution; he has told you of the difficulties of the case—he has not told you of the remedy, and the whole tendency and effect of his speech can he this, and nothing more—to excite irritation without pointing out the means of allaying it. The noble Lord complained of the course which the present Government have taken during the two years they have held the reins of office, and contrasted it with the course which former liberal Administrations had pursued on this subject. I don't complain of the noble Lord for the act of duty which he performs in vindicating the character and intentions of the late Duke of Bedford; but he says, it is true indeed that this very Arms Bill was one of the measures which was contemplated by the Administration of the Duke of Bedford; it is true, that this Arms Bill was found in the desk of die British Secretary of the day, it is true, that all succeeding Governments, Whig, 66 Tory, or of whatever complexion they might be, differing in all other points of policy, have agreed in this—that it is necessary for the safety of the empire to impose some restriction upon the free and unlimited use of arms, by the population of Ireland. I will not enter into a discussion of details, they will be much more fittingly considered in the committee; but the point which the noble Lord selects as that on which all parties agreed is precisely that which —the principle being admitted, is the most offensive—namely, that the right to bear arms, which is the universal right in England, and qualified only by individual circumstances, is reversed in Ireland; the right to bear arms here being the rule, the right to bear arms in Ireland being the exception. The noble Lord admits that it has been the principle of all Governments that you should require in Ireland a licence to bear arms, and that the right to bear arms should he held an exception to the general rule, although it be the general rule in England without any licence that every individual should be entitled to bear arms. As far as principle goes, the noble Lord entirely agrees with us; and he supports us in the principle of the bill, He is quite ready to enter into a discussion, and I wish he would enter quietly and calmly into a discussion; of the individual clauses of this bill; if the noble Lord wishes it, let him compare each individual clause of this measure with each individual clause of any bill which has been brought in under his own sanction, in his own administration, within the last three years, instead of entering on the wide field of discussion upon the general policy of Ireland, and I shall be most ready to meet him; but, says the noble Lord, it is true that the Duke of Bedford meditated an Arms Bill, but he also meditated an extensive measure for the commutation of tithes, and he also meditated a measure on the subject of popular education in Ireland. Does the noble Lord throw out this against me or my right hon. Friend to whom he replied, that with regard to those two measures which, he said, the Duke of Bedford meditated, we have taken no steps towards effecting those great objects which the noble Lord considers properly coupled with an Arms Bill? Has no step been taken to render Irish tithes less obnoxious? [Lord J. Russell: I spoke of the year 1807.] Yes, you say, that while the Duke of Bed- 67 ford meditated an Arms Bill, he also meditated an extensive measure for the commutation of tithes and popular education, while we bring forward the Arms Bill, and the Arms Bill alone. Have not the other two measures already been carried into effect? The Duke of Bedford was of opinion that there ought to be a restriction on the population bearing arms in Ireland, but he would have remedied the obnoxious system of collecting tithes, and would have introduced a liberal system of education. I ask the noble Lord whether, according to his own view, we have not gone as far as the Duke of Bedford would have desired with regard to the two principal measures he refers to; and 1 ask him why, therefore, he draws a contrast between the Duke of Bedford and the present Government? But the noble Lord says the measures of Parliamentary reform were altogether unequal in England and Ireland. Is that so? and why is it so? And who was the leading Member of Lord Grey's Administration in the House of Commons when that unequal, inefficient measure, was brought in? Why did not the noble Lord then feel the injustice which seem to press on him so heavily now? Why did he not then remonstrate against the inequality of the measure? I was then his colleague; I heard no remonstrance, although I sat by the side of the noble Lord; and with me the noble Lord, if I mistake not, was prominent in rejecting the amendments for an extension of the franchise which were made in corn-mine on the Irish Reform Bill. But I will go further, and tell the noble Lord this—and I challenge him or any hon. Member on the other side to disprove it—that the franchise conferred by the Irish bill is not only as extensive, but more extensive, than that conferred by the English Reform Bill. And I tell the noble Lord this—repeal the Irish Reform Bill to-morrow; substitute for it a measure similar to the English bill; interpret it as you interpret the English bill; carry its provisions into effect as you do these of the English bill; introduce the English registration, and act upon it; test the votes as they are tested by the English Registration Bill; and I challenge you to prove—except in the case of 40s. freeholders in fee, and that class is small in number, the lowest and most corrupt portion of the constituency, and confined almost entirely to the county of kildare, 68 and to some few places where persons have established themselves upon common lands,—I challenge any hon. Gentleman to show me that the franchise conceded by the Irish bill is not more extensive than that which has been conferred upon the people of England. At the same time I do not say that the circumstances of the case do not require it to be so. I may now be allowed, perhaps, to refer for a moment to the noble Lord's taunt on the subject of the Registration Bill. When 1 sat on the other side of the House, it was represented to me—and I fully satisfied myself of the fact by careful examination— that there were in the system of registration of Ireland defects, abuses, grievances, the existence of which no one denied, and which loudly called for a remedy. I brought forward a bill which I believed would afford an efficient remedy for those grievances, and which I still believe. The bill was unfortunately, considered more as a matter of party contest than as a subject for calm deliberation. I admit, while I regret, that circumstance. I brought forward the bill, I solemnly declare, with no party views; and never was I more surprised than when I found that bill converted into an organ of fierce political discussion. It was our duty, on succeeding to the Government, again carefully to examine the provisions and to consider the probable effects of that bill, and in that examination it became apparent to us that that measure, however it might have the tendency of remedying grievances and of correcting frauds, would, from the state of the constituency in Ireland, have tile practical effect of narrowing the franchise very considerably, It would have done so by applying to the franchise in Ireland that test, which you apply to the franchise in England; and unless you find a substitute, you must diminish to a greater degree than is desirable the amount of the county constituency of Ireland. Seeing this, and being charged with the responsibilities of office—>[Lord J. Russell. That makes all the difference]. Yes, Sir, it does make all the difference. Being charged with the responsibilities of office, we were bound to look at the whole of the measure; and, thinking it right that it should be combined as a whole, and not dealt with separately, we were compelled—as my right hon. Friend stated the other night—to postpone it till, by the improvement of die Irish Poor Law, we could find 69 a basis upon which we could rely with more satisfaction than upon the present valuation, to test the right of persons to exercise the franchise. I have concealed nothing from the House. I have stated, as my right hon. Friend frankly stated the other night, the reasons which induced us to postpone that measure, and for which postponement we have been taunted by the noble Lord. But the noble Lord says, "Why do you not go on with your amended Poor-law? Why do you permit it to lie by fill you have passed the Arms Bill? I will tell the noble Lord what was our reason. If the noble Lord had been in office, lie might have found that the possession of office does make some difference. He might then have been aware that as the Arms Bill expires at the conclusion of the present Session, if it were advisable to re-enact that bill at all, it was necessary to take precautions that the lapse of time did not prevent us from passing the bill—and the adoption of that bill in the present Session is a matter of absolute and imperious necessity. The noble Lord says:—I find great fault with the course the Government have pursued. They have done nothing, as they ought to have done, to conciliate the people of Ireland. I find fault with their appointments of bishops and judges. What have they done, for example, with respect to the question of tenancy ! What have they done with regard to the Church !I took down the words of the noble Lord in allusion to the question of tenancy. "I admit," he said, "with the hon. Member for Bath, that it is difficult to suggest any improvement." But, if it is difficult to suggest any improvement, is it expedient, is it wise, is it patriotic, is it safe, to hint a fault, and to excite discontent with an existing system? But this is the lame and impotent conclusion to which the noble Lord comes on the subject of tenancy:—I admit (says he), that if there he a tenant who has not improved his farm, who has paid no rent, who has let his farm go to ruin, it is quite wise, quite right, quite justifiable that the landlord should eject him.." "But," (adds the noble Lord), the wild justice of revenge does not stop to consider what are the merits of the cause of that ejectment.No; but if this be the case, did it, not occur to the acute mind of the noble Lord, that it may be somewhat desirable, at all events, ho place some limit upon the possession, by those who would execute this wild justice of revenge, of the means by 70 which their purposes may be accomplished? Midnight revenge," said the noble Lord, takes no note of justice." The noble Lord says, that there are circumstances in the condition of Ireland at the present crisis, which require most careful and deliberate attention on the part of the Government. Undoubtedly there are; and I suppose the noble Lord has been be stowing deliberate attention on the circumstances of Ireland for ten years past: but the deliberate attention he has paid to the subject does not enable him to suggest a remedy. The noble Lord says, that it any remedy can be devised for ameliorating the condition of Ireland, it is most advisable that it should be adopted. It needed not the acuteness of the noble Lord to discover, that if such a remedy can be devised, it is most desirable that it should be adopted; but it does seem rather illogical, that when the noble Lord finds fault with the Government for having failed to devise some remedy for the evils which exist in Ireland, he should say, "'True, I blame you; but I admit also, that for the life of me I could not find a remedy." But now let me refer, for a moment, to the observations of the noble Lord with reference to the Church. The noble Lord says that he is not prepared to make any motion on this subject. The hon. Member for Bath is prepared to make such a motion. The hon. Member for Sheffield is also ready to propose a motion on this subject. I wish those hon. Gentlemen would bring forward their propositions. I should like to see how we really do stand upon this question. The noble Lord has told us that the two great sources of discontent in Ireland are the nature of the tenancy and the state of the Church. But the noble Lord is not prepared to suggest any remedy for either; he does not see that anything can be done, or what should be done; but he thinks it very natural, that the people of Ireland should be dissatisfied with the nature of the tenancy; and he considers it by no means surprising, that the circumstance of the whole of the ecclesiastical revenues being possessed by a million of Episcopalians, should excite great dissatisfaction in the minds of the Catholic majority. But why does not the noble Lord go on to a legitimate conclusion? Is he prepared to do so? No; he knows that if the hon. and learned Member for Bath brought to-morrow a 71 bill for the abolition of the Church of Ireland, he would be compelled by a sense of shame, by a sense of duty, at least I give the noble Lord credit for it, to stand up in this House and oppose such a measure. But if the noble Lord can suggest no remedial measures, why does he urge complaints against the existing stale of things which tend to inflame the minds of the people, while he himself tells you that he can propose no remedy?Oh ! (says the noble Lord), if we had but got the appropriation clause, if we had but obtained the application of a portion of the revenues of the Church in 1834, I think the remaining Church revenues would have been quite safe from any future attempts at alienation.The noble Lord, notwithstanding the warning he received at that time from the hon. Member for Cork, who, using a somewhat homely expression, said that he would be very glad to get the first bite of the cherry, though he thought it of little use making two bites instead of one,—but in the face of this statement, and notwithstanding the influence possessed by the hon. Member to whom he alluded, the noble Lord said, that he thought, if a partial sacrifice had then been made, the remaining revenues of the Church would have been safe. The noble Lord says:—When we gave up that proposition, we did so because we were compelled to surrender it. We found that we could not make that partial remedy, and even if we had made it, I tell you it would have had no effect.Why then, does he taunt her Majesty's Government with having brought forward no remedy? Now let us see how the matter stands; let us see if we can give the Irish people that which will satisfy them consistently with the maintenance of the Union, and of the peace of the empire. If we cannot do this, let the noble Lord speak out, and tell us at once that two things are required to satisfy the Irish people—the abolition of the Protestant Church, and the confiscation of the landed property of Ireland, under the new name of fixity of tenure, with which the people of Ireland are deluded.These (says the hon. and learned Member for Bath) are the two levers by which Ireland is moved; and these (says the hon. and learned Member), I am ready and willing to apply.These (the noble Lord says) are the two causes of discontent in Ireland; but God for- 72 bid that I should say I am ready or willing to apply them as levers.Now, I wish the noble Lord would come a little more to the details of his charges against the Government of Ireland. He says he gives my noble Friend near me (Lord Eliot) all credit for good wishes to the people of Ireland. My noble Friend, with good faith, declines to accept this invidious—perhaps I might say insidious —compliment, at the expense of those with whom he cordially co-operates in the administration of the affairs of Ireland.But (says the noble Lord) the Government of Ireland, as at present constituted, does not share the confidence of the country.If the noble Lord mean that the numerical majority of the people of Ireland, under the guidance of their present leader, and encouraged by some persons in higher stations, who halt between two opinions in a way that is productive of highly mischievous effects if the noble Lord mean that the present Government of Ireland does not possess the confidence of the numerical masses of the Irish people, I admit the fact, and I admit the difficulty of administering the affairs of the country which that fact occasions; but if the noble Lord means the wealth, the intelligence, and the property of the united empire of Great Britain and Ireland. [No ! no !] Oh, then, hon. Gentlemen don't raise that issue? Oh, then the wealth, the intelligence, and the property of the united empire is in favour of the present Government of Ireland? If, then, the union is to be upheld, is the government of Ireland to be conducted according to the will of the masses, or by means of a machinery which possesses the confidence of the wealth, the property, and the intelligence of the entire empire of Great Britain and Ireland? That is the question. But it would have been more candid in the noble Lord if he had specified the measures by which the Government of Ireland has forfeited the confidence of the people. To no one such measure has the noble Lord pointed. What, I ask, is the Legislative act, what is the executive act of the present. Government of which he complains? What just cause of complaint has he, according to his sense of the situation of Ireland? Is it in the mode in which the Government has maintained the system of national education, supported warmly by the noble Lord at the risk of alienating several of 73 those who usually support our measures in this House? Is that a proof of want of courage in her Majesty's Government; that they have maintained the system under such circumstances? What, then, is the executive act of the government of Ireland of which the noble Lord complains? I wish the noble lord had stated which of the appointments to the judicial bench he condemns; I wish the noble Lord had told us in the face of the bar of Ireland of any one man whom, with reference to standing at the bar, and not on the ground either of religion or politics, the noble Lord could have mentioned as superior in point of business or in standing at the bar to those whom we have appointed. He cannot name one. I wish that any hon. Gentleman would name one man, either Roman Catholic or Protestant, superior in point of eminence and standing at the bar to Mr. Baron Lefroy—superior in point of eminence and standing at the bar to Chief Justice Pennefather —superior in point of eminence and standing at the bar to Mr. Blackburne or to Mr. Justice Jackson; and I tell you that unless the Government had fixed the ban of proscription, and something like that has been done in other times by some governments, on every one who held Conservative opinions, we should not have been able to select any others than those who have been appointed, and whose professional claims rendered the choice of them indispensable. [Sir C. Napier: Now for the bishops.] Sir, I admire the gallant Commodore's naval merits, but though 1 willingly bow to his professional skill, he must excuse me if I decline to concede to his claims to be an authority as to appointments in the church. The noble Lord, confining himself to generalities, again says, "How can the Catholics be satisfied, removed as they have been from a dungeon into a light room, but still being kept in solitary confinement?" That was the simile of the noble Lord, I believe, and it may be a very pretty simile. But I must say I do not understand it; I want to know what is the entire liberty the perfect equality with reference to their fellow-citizens which the Roman Catholics of Ireland do not now possess? But if the noble Lord complains of the Roman Catholic being in confinement, why did he not liberate him when the noble Lord was in power? Why did he not fling open the windows, and let loose the prisoner? I 74 want to know what more is to he done for the Roman Catholic? You say "Much." What is it? "No," says the noble Lord, "I can suggest difficulties, but I cannot devise remedies. But Low," says the noble Lord, "how can the people of Ireland be satisfied when they see in the high office of the Chancellorship one who has let fall expressions which have been considered disrespectful to the people of Ireland?" Why, Sir, I see sitting near the noble Lord an hon. Gentleman, a near relation of the hon. and learned Member for Cork,—I hope he does not think there is anything offensive in speaking of our having a different language, and being a different race from the Irish, because l think he cannot but feel that this is the kind of language his hon. and learned relative has been using lately, and indeed for many years, of the English nation. If "aliens from England" be offensive, how can he justify calling us Saxons and other names which fall thick as hail from the lips of the hon. and learned Member for Cork? Surely the two things are very much the same; the only difference is, that in England we have sufficient good sense to laugh at all these epithets. But I am glad that the noble Lord is impressed with the necessity of the extreme caution with which speeches in Parliament ought to he made, which are liable to misconstructions and misinterpretations out of doors. I wish this necessity had occurred to him at a little earlier period, and he will excuse me adding, before the speech which he has just delivered. I have seen within the last week a number of placards couched in language of which I will not say that it is within the reach of the law, or that it, is treasonable, but which I will say is calculated to inflame one class of her Majesty's subjects against another, and which might lead to very disastrous consequences. I say, that in holding these meetings in Ireland, which, if not illegal. and I pronounce no opinion upon that, I think the noble Lord will agree with me, are dangerous to the public peace, and calculated to frustrate all attempts at good government, I find that placards have been exhibited, headed by the words,With respect to the repeal of the onion, it is like any other measure, and is liable, like any other statute, to modification or amendment.—Lord JOHN RUSSELL.I do not complain of the sentiments uttered by the noble Lord. I admit that 75 the statute, like all other acts of Parliament, is liable to be made the subject of modification and amendments; but when the noble Lord spoke of the impropriety of using imprudent expressions at an inconvenient period, and at a crisis when the use of them might, be attended with dangerous consequences, and be productive of injurious effects, the noble Lord should himself be peculiarly cautious of the language which he uses in the House, and take care not to give encouragement to the proceedings of those who disturb the public peace, and who excite dissensions amongst the people of the empire, from which most dangerous consequences may be apprehended. Amidst much animadversion in which the noble Lord had indulged, he does not himself suggest any substantial change of policy with respect to the government of Ireland. He has touched upon many topics well calculated to excite discontent, but he has presented no remedy—he has suggested no palliation of the evils under which he says Ireland is suffering. The noble Lord agrees with us in the necessity for the present measure. We both think it necessary to restrict the use of arms in Ireland. We both consider the bill not as a measure of oppression, or even of coercion, but as a measure of protection to the well-disposed in that country. We are both desirous of going into committee for the purpose of discussing the bill, and by fair argument in its details to render it of such effect as to make it instrumental to the peace and welfare of Ireland, and to the orderly administration of the laws in that country.
§ Mr. M. O'Ferrall
, who obtained a hearing with difficulty, said, that he should not at that late hour have risen to address the House, as it might be considered presumption in him to obtrude himself after the speeches of the noble Lord and the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, were it not for the extraordinary speech of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, and the excited manner in which the right lion. Gentleman had alluded to the class to which he (Mr. O'Ferrall) belonged, Namely, the Roman Catholic Members of that House. He should feel it an unworthy act to have heard the observations, and, even though unprepared, not to reply. Everybody in the House would admit, that this Arms Bill had been discussed with singular moderation by the Irish 76 Members, for they felt, though perhaps the right lion. Gentleman did not feel, the deep responsibility and the serious import of the question. The present were times of extraordinary difficulty as regarded Ireland, and it was of great importance, that no language should be used in that House, calculated to increase the excitement which prevailed in that country. He would ask when no Roman Catholic Member of the House uttered anything calculated to cause provocation, was it right in a Minister of the Crown to attack them? As he had risen, he felt it right to state the course which the Roman Catholic Members had pursued with respect to the present Government. When they felt that the late Government had been constitutionally dismissed, they felt it their duty as Irish representatives, not to impede the Government, though they could not support it, and he would challenge them to show one instance of a Roman Catholic Member, a person of property, either in or out of the House, who had offered what could be considered a factious opposition to the present Government. If for such conduct, then, they were not entitled to credit, they were at least entitled to forbearance. The hon. Member for Bath, as well as the hon. Member for Sheffield, had alluded to exciting topics in adverting to the Established Church in Ireland, but had it ever been alluded to by any Roman Catholic Member? What right, then, had the right hon. Gentleman to attack the Roman Catholic Members? If the observation came from an hon. Gentleman near the right hon. Baronet, he should not have been much surprised, but coming from the right hon. Gentleman, he must say, that much as he was before, alarmed at the state of Ireland, he was still more so now. If one who held a place in the Cabinet, and was a responsible adviser of the Crown, entertained such opinions as the right hon. Gentleman professed, and had the impolicy and imprudence to give utterance to, he must again say that it was calculated greatly to add to his alarm respecting the state of Ireland. He hoped however, that the difficulties would pass away, that the evils which had been predicted would not occur, but, if such happily should be the case, it would not he owing to the prudence or the policy exhibited by the present Government, either in this country or in Ireland. Before he sat down, he would remind the House, that on the accession of Earl de Grey to 77 the Viceroyalty of Ireland, the greatest anxiety was evinced by the Roman Catholic hierarchy of Ireland to pay all due respect to the representative of the Crown in that country. The levees were attended, and if the visits were not repeated, it was because of circumstances to which it was not now necessary to advert.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 67; Noes 235:—Majority 168.
|List of the Ayes.|
|Archbold, R.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Hindley, C.|
|Barron, Sir H. W||Hollond, R.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Bernal, Capt.||Howard, hon. J. K.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||Howard, P. H.|
|Brotherton, J.||Howard, hon. H.|
|Browne, hon. W.||Mitcalfe, H.|
|Byng, G.||Murphy, F. S.|
|Byng, rt. hn. G. S.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Carew, hon. R. S||O'Brien, J.|
|Chapman, B.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Childers, J. W.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Clements, Visct.||O'Conor, Don.|
|Collett, J.||Oswald, J.|
|Corbally, M. E.||Parker, J.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Dawson hon. T.V||Redington, T. N.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Stuart, W. V.|
|Duncan, G.||Strutt, E.|
|Duncombe T.||Tanered, H. W.|
|Ellice, E.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Elphinstone, H.||Tuite, H. M.|
|Ewart, W.||Wall, C. B.|
|Fielden, J.||Ward, H. G.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Fitzroy, Lord C.||Williams, W.|
|Forster, M.||Wood, B.|
|Gill, T.||Wyse, T.|
|Gisborne, T.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Gore, hon. R.||TELLERS,|
|Granger, T. C.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Bowring, Dr.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Ackers, J.||Baring, hon. W. B.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Barneby, J.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Barrington, Visct.|
|Acton, Col.||Baskerville, T. B. M.|
|Adare, Visct.||Bateson, R.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Beckett, W.|
|Alford, Visct.||Bernard, Visct.|
|Antrobus. E.||Blackburne, J. I.|
|Arbuthnot, hon. H.||Blackstone, W. S.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Blakemore, R.|
|Arkwright, G.||Bodkin, W. H.|
|Bailey, J. jun.||Boldero, H. G.|
|Bannerman, A.||Borthwick, P.|
|Boyd, J.||Godson, R.|
|Bradshaw, J.||Gordon, hon. Capt.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Gore, M.|
|Broadley, H||Core, W. O.|
|Broadwood, H.||Gore, W. R. O.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Granby, Marq. of|
|Buckley, E.||Greenall, P.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Greene, T.|
|Bunbury, T.||Grogan, E.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M,||Halford, H.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Hamilton, J. H.|
|Campbell, Sir H.||Hamilton, G. A.|
|Cardwell, E.||Hamilton, W. J.|
|Castlereagh, Visct.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Hampden, R.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Hardinge, rt. hon. SirH.|
|Cholmondeley, hn. H||Hardy, J.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Hay, Sir A. L.|
|Chute, W. L. W.||Hayes, Sir E.|
|Clayton, R. R.||Henley, J. W.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Hepburn, Sir T. B.|
|Clive, Visct.||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Codrington, Sir W.||Hodgson, F.|
|Colborne, hn. W. N. R||Hodgson, R.|
|Collett, W. R.||Hogg, J. W.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Hope, A.|
|Compton, H. C.||Hope, G. W.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Hornby, J|
|Courtenay, Lord||Hughes, W. B.|
|Cresswell, B.||Hussey, T.|
|Cripps, W.||Ingestre, Visct.|
|Damer, hon. Col.||Irton, S.|
|Darby, G.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Dawnay, hon. W. H.||Jocelyn, Visct.|
|Denison, E. B.||Johnstone,|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Jones, Capt.|
|Douglas, Sir H.||Kemble, H.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Knatchbull, rt. hn. SirE.|
|Douro, Marq. of||Knight, F. W.|
|Dowdeswell, W.||Lambton, H.|
|Drummond, H. H.||Law, hon. C. E.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Lefroy, A.|
|Dungannon, Visct.||Legh, G. C.|
|Du pre, C. G.||Leslie, C. P.|
|Eaton, R. J.||Liddell, hon. H. T.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Lockhart, W.|
|Eliot, Lord||Lowther, J. H.|
|Escott, B.||Lygon, hon. Gen.|
|Estcourt, T. G. B.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Mackinnon, W. A.|
|Fellowes, E.||Maclean, D.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Mc Geachy, F. A.|
|Ferrand, W. B.||Mahon, Visct.|
|Filmer, Sir E.||Manners, Lord C. S.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Follett, Sir W. W.||Marsham, Visct.|
|Forbes, W.||Martin, C. W.|
|Forester, hon. G. C. W.||Master, T. W. C.|
|Fox, S. L.||Masterman, J|
|Fuller, A. E.||Maxwell, hon. J. P.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes||Meynell, Capt.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Miles, W.|
|Glynne, Sir S. R.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Morgan, O.||Scarlett, hon. H. C.|
|Morris, D.||Seymour, Sir H. B.|
|Mundy, E. M.||Shaw, rt. hon. F.|
|Neeld, J.||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Neeld, J.||Shirley, E. J.|
|Newport, Visct.||Smith, A.|
|Newry, Visct.||Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.|
|Norreys, Lord||Smollett, A.|
|Northland, Visct.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|O'Brien, A. S.||Stanley, Lord|
|O'Ferrall, R. M.||Stanley, E.|
|Owen, Sir J.||Stuart, H.|
|Packe, C. W.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Paget, Col.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Pakington, J. S.||Taylor, T. E.|
|Palmer, R.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.||Thesiger, F.|
|Peel, J.||Thornhill, G.|
|Pennant, hon. Col.||Tollemache, J.|
|Pigot, rt. hon. D.||Townley, I.|
|Pigot, Sir R.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Plumptre, J. P.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Polhill, F.||Trollope, Sir J.|
|Pollock, Sir F.||Trotter, J.|
|Ponsonby, hon. J. G.||Turnor, C.|
|Praed, W. T.||Verner, Col.|
|Price R.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Pringle, A.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Pusey, P.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Rashleigh, W||Welby, G. E.|
|Rendlesham, Lord||Wellesley Lord C.|
|Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.||Wilbraham, hn. R. B.|
|Ross, D. R.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Round, J.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Rous, hon. Capt.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Rushbrooke, Col.||Young, J.|
|Russell, Lord J.||TELLERS.|
|Russell, C.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Sandon, Visct.||Baring, H.|
§ Question again put.
considering the vote he had given on the Irish Coercion Bill, would be sorry that the debate should close without his giving his reasons for the vote to which he was about to come. Shortly after the vote on the Coercion Bill, he had accepted office under Earl Grey; consequently, he had to return to his constituents, and having been before at the head of the poll, he found the sympathy of Englishmen with Irishmen so great, that owing principally, he believed, to the vote he had given, he was rejected. At that time, lie happened to be a resident in Ireland; the repeal question was then in agitation; but, under different circumstances from the present; there was violence, danger, all which was not now the case. He had at that time confidence in the Government of Earl Grey, and he felt sure that, in giving that Coercion Bill, its powers would not be used, if it were possible to avoid it; he had not the same confidence in the present Government, and 80 he was not prepared to give to them more stringent powers with regard to an Arms Bill, than upon former occasions. If this bill had been a bill similar to those passed in former days, he would have given to it his assent, but it was not the same, and he must certainly vote against it.
§ Mr. Gisborne:
The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, had chosen to throw down a challenge to the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), and to divide the House into two sections; and as he (Mr. Gisborne) formed one of those sections, and intended to take part in the debate, which he could not do at that time in the morning (two o'clock), he would move that the debate be adjourned.
Mr. M. J. O'Connell
hoped the House would give him its indulgence whilst he said a few words. He would not have spoken if it had not been for the peculiar, if not the ungenerous appeal made to him by the noble Lord, the Member for Lancacashire. [Mr. Borthwick: Why not."] There was no other Member than the hon. Member for Evesham who would have asked, "Why not?" There was no one else, save the explainer of Lord Lyndhurst's words, although the explainer and the explanation were both thrown over by the Government, would have asked that question. The noble Lord had referred to him (Mr. O'Connell) to justify certain expressions which had been made use of elsewhere by a near and excellent relation of his, It was not his place in that House to justify, or to become the apologist of every expression used by the hon. Member for Cork out of doors, still less could he be called upon to condemn any. If, upon any question he happened to differ from the hon. Member, it would be ungenerous and unfair in him to say so, and if he agreed with him, his argument would be deemed worth little, as it would be attributed to his close relationship. He did not intend to take upon himself the office of dissenting from, or of defending the hon. Member, who, if he were present, was quite able to defend himself. He could, however, conceive a great difference between topics used without meaning any harm and arguments coolly used elsewhere. In a large assemblage, expressions were more excusable than in small meetings. He found, that some small assemblages were very excitable. He could well think, that where 81 the orator and the listeners were warm alike, expressions might fall which, though possibly censurable, were still more censurable when they were used calmly, and in the first deliberative assembly in the world—expressions used Dot merely for the purpose of vain declamation, but for the purpose of withholding from the people of Ireland those rights, which, five years afterwards, the opponents were compelled to give, though they had the usual bad grace, by nibbling at details, to render the act as little worth giving as it was possible, and he would say, that however exciting, and injurious, and dangerous anything might be which had been said with respect to Ireland, he did not think that it could be half so exciting or so dangerous as the speech which they had that night heard from the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department.
§ Mr. Philip Howard
said, that if he was opposed to the bill before the speech of the right hon. Baronet, he now felt his opposition should be doubled, for it showed the "animus" of the Government with respect to Ireland. It might lead to the discovery of a few rusty arms perhaps, and therefore, it might be termed not unappropriately the "Rusty Arms Bill," it would create jealousy and discontent, without conferring power, for great evils, great remedies were required. He could not see the great gratitude he owed in receiving back those civil privileges, and that constitutional freedom which his Catholic ancestors had wrung from the hand of power by their perseverance, and cemented by their blood. The Catholic powers of Europe had placed their Protestant subjects on a footing of equality nearly twenty-years before the same rights were conceded to those who in this country believed with him. He had strictly confined himself to the subject before the House—that course had been pursued by those of his creed who had addressed the House, and for whatever sentiments may have been expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Bath, or by his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, he was not answerable. When the Bishops of the Established Church were menaced in their rights, when it had been proposed to take away their privileges as Peers he had by his vote and voice opposed that innovation. He threw back with indignation those reflections of perjury. During rather a long Parliamentary career he had never voted in a manner to merit such a taunt; 82 during a long winter of persecution his forefathers had been debarred from every object of ambition by the sacred restraint of an oath. He thought that Government an object of pity which could descend to such means of undignified retaliation.
§ Sir W. Barron
had used the word with reference to his country, and he repeated that the speech of the right hon. Baronet had been insulting to Ireland and to his Catholic fellow-countrymen. He hoped the debate would be adjourned, if only to enable the Catholic Members to recover their composure, which was very necessary.
§ Sir J. Graham:
I am sure, Sir, after what has fallen from two hon. Members in succession, one or other, or both of them, will be so obliging as to specify the expressions which they refer to as having been insulting to themselves personally? or, what is far more important, to my Catholic fellow countrymen? or, which would have been even more unpardonable, to a large portion of the British empire? I appeal not to their generosity, but to their sense of justice, and as gentlemen.
§ Mr. P. Howard
said, the right hon. Baronet had alluded to the solemn oath taken by the Catholic Members of Parliament; and what inference could be drawn from the allusion, but that they had infringed those oaths.
§ Mr. Wyse
said, the right hon. Baronet's words were to this effect:—" I thought the Roman Catholic Noblemen and Gentlemen might be trusted on their oaths which they took at the time;" and, certainly the manner in which the right hon. Baronet repeated the words had produced the impression upon him and the Gentlemen around him, that the right hon. Baronet intended to convey the charge that the Roman Catholic Noblemen and Gentlemen to whom he referred had, if not openly, at least passively, violated their oaths.
said (amidst some confusion) that he thought the language employed by the right hon. Baronet was wicked and mischievous. He repeated it, wicked. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman would shake the peace of Ireland, and was more calculated to do mischief than all the harangues of Mr. O'Connell. The words of the right hon. Baronet—[Sir J. Graham : What words?] 83 —he regretted the use of such language, and he pitied the person who could use it.
§ Sir James Graham:
I shall appeal, Sir, not to the indulgence of the noble Lord, but to the judgment of the House. I thank the three Gentlemen who responded to my appeal by giving substantive form to the charge urged against me. Nothing was further from my intention than to have spoken at all this evening; and till nearly the end of the learned Member for Bath's speech I did not make up my mind to do so. I had heard last night strong observations upon great questions of policy made by the hon. Member for Sheffield; and to-night observations fell from the learned Member for Bath, which appeared to me highly dangerous in the present state of Ireland. Having but a short time to exercise any reflection, I did think it would be inconsistent with my duty to allow that speech to pass without observation. I appeal to the judgment of the House if it was possible to pass by the topics adverted to by the learned Gentleman, and whether it was possible to avoid, in discussing these topics, the use of language that, to some, might seem exciting. The subject naturally induced a warm and animated tone on the part of one, who, like myself, was expressing his conscientious opinions in all sincerity. The hon. Member for Waterford says, that I indulged in insinuations. Now it appears to me that the; complaint is, that in what I addressed to the House I was too plain, and was not sufficiently cautious and guarded in the expressions I used. I am most anxious to abstain from attempting to give the slightest colouring to what I formerly said, or to utter anything which is not perfectly consistent with the exact truth. If I recollect rightly the observations which have been complained of were made with reference to a speech delivered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth, in 1817, which had been referred to in a previous part of the debate by the hon. Member for Sheffield, and what I then said referred to the answer of Mr. Canning to that speech. My observations were to this effect, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth had then stated, that if the Catholics obtained an equality of civil rights with their Protestant fellow subjects, it was not in human nature that they should not try to obtain a supremacy for their Church. Mr. Canning in his reply, which I read to the House, demurred to this opinion, and said 84 that he did not believe that there would be any result of the kind, but that the Catholics would be perfectly satisfied with equality, and that lie was firmly convinced, if the Legislature granted concession to the Roman Catholics, there would be no danger to the Protestant Establishments of the country. I, for my own part, went on to say, that I had been always a warm and sincere advocate of the Catholic claims, and that I uniformly advocated them in and out of the House, although I might be exposed to some obloquy for doing so; and that I had done so from a firm belief that the Roman Catholics would be satisfied with equality, and would not do anything to endanger the Protestant Church as by law established. I went on to say that I placed implicit belief in the solemn statements and asseverations made in the most solemn manner by noblemen and gentlemen professing the Roman Catholic religion both in England and in Ireland, and that I had readily believed in evidence given on oath by the Roman Catholic Prelates, before the other House of Parliament. This was in substance and in form, nearly what I said, I said, that I did not impute to those hon. persons, any wilful attempt to depart from their oaths, but I was satisfied that they had deceived themselves, and did not seek to deceive others by the evidence they had given, and the statements which they had made. If any one will refer to the speech of my right hon. Friend of 1817, it will be seen that what my right hon. Friend had referred to, what he pointed out as the effect of concession was the result of the great principles of human nature; and that, although the Catholics believed that they should be satisfied with an equality of civil rights, still, looking at circumstances in the condition of Ireland, where the great mass of the people professed a religion which was not the established religion; and the bulk of the property belonged to those who were members of that establishment; he went on to argue from the principles of human nature, that the Roman Catholics could not be satisfied with an equality of civil rights alone. I thought that the declarations made by the Roman Catholic noblemen and gentlemen were well-founded, and sincere when they gave them, and I have no doubt now, that they were perfectly sincere at the time, but I wanted to show in what I said, that the views taken by my right hon. Friend as to the general feelings of human nature, 85 were sound, and had proved to be correct. And now, judging from declarations that have been most boldly made—judging from opinions and statements prominently put forward by the Roman Catholic hierarchy of Ireland—I own with sorrow and alarm, that their present demands appear to we inconsistent with the safety of that Protestant Church, which heretofore they declared it was not their purpose to overthrow.
§ Mr. Redington,
being one of the Roman Catholic Members who had felt very indignant at the charges he supposed the right hon. Baronet had made against those of his religion, must say that, after the calm statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, had his former speech been delivered in the same quiet tone—[Hear.]—yes, he did say, that had the former speech been given in the same quiet and deliberate tone, he should not have felt so indignant as he acknowledged he had felt. If the right hon. Baronet admitted that the prophecy of 1817 was likely to be realized, he was receding from the opinions of his youth. If any one had a charge of perjury to make against him or any other Roman Catholic Member, let them come boldly forward, and make it in the face of day; he and they would be glad to meet any charge that was manfully made on the floor of the House.
The O'Connor Don
felt bound to say, that what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet was satisfactory to his feelings, and would tend to remove much of the irritation which the former speech would create in Ireland.
§ Debate adjourned. House adjourned at Three o'clock.