§ Sir H. W. Barron
rose to call the attention of the House to the necessity of extending the measure to England, on the same grounds that had been adduced by noble Lords and the hon. Gentleman opposite for applying it to Ireland, if it were intended that the laws should be framed and administered on the same principles for both countries. Both the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, and the Secretary for the Home Department, had maintained that the bill was a measure, not of coercion, but for the protection of life and property. If this were really a bill for that purpose, what English Gentlemen could consistently, and in common honesty, refuse to extend its provisions to this country? Hon. Members opposite were in this dilemma—they had either made use of false pretences in order to get the bill passed for Ireland, or they were inconsistent, if they refused to 276 extend it to England. It was said there was a serious difference between the two countries as regarded the amount of crime to be found in each. Gentlemen on his side had demanded a committee to inquire into the truth of this allegation; but a large majority refused to accede to the proposition. He was ready to show that there was no serious difference in this respect between England and Ireland. In 1840, the returns for England, under the head of serious offences, murder, attempt to murder, shooting or wounding, and manslaughter, gave 236 as the total convictions; in the same year, the number in Ireland was 184. He allowed that to bring Ireland to an equality the number should be 118; but as it was, there was only one-fifth more crime in Ireland, taking into account the difference in the amount of population. Under the head of offences against the person, exclusive of common assaults and assaults on peace officers, the number in England, during the same year, was 461, and in Ireland only 258. Although the difference was was slight, he admitted that the proportion was rather against Ireland. He excluded common assaults because there was no return to the Home Office of the summary convictions for petty assaults in England: but as they were returned in Ireland, the number was swelled in the returns from that country. In England the convictions for assaults on peace officers, in the execution of their duty, in 1840, was 376; the whole convictions in Ireland for the same class of offences in the same year, was only forty' three, being eight times less than in England. The convictions for offences against property, with violence, in England, in 1840, amounted to 1,484; the total number in Ireland amounted only to 334; showing that these offences were four and a-half times more numerous in England than in Ireland. The return showed also, that crime in 1840, as compared with 1839, had diminished in Ireland, whilst crime in England had considerably increased, and was increasing. The total number of convictions in Ireland, in 1839, was 12,049; the total in 1840, was 11,194; being a decrease of 855. And this decrease had been progressive from 1829 to 1840. Now, as regards England, the total convictions in 1839, were 17,832; and in 1840, the number was 19,927, being an increase of 277 crime in England in that one year of 2,095; and yet hon. Gentlemen said they must have an Arms Bill for Ireland, and he supposed they would say not for England. In England, too, there had been two insurrectionary movements in seven years, and there had not been one in Ireland. When lie knew that it was almost a miracle that the town of Monmouth was not taken by an insurrectionary mob led by respectable men, and when no one dared to say, that anything like this had taken place in Ireland, he said the two countries were not ruled by equal laws. During the last nine months a violent insurrectionary movement took place in England, by a large armed mob turning out men from their work, and frightening lord lieutenants and magistrates; and yet hon. Gentlemen complained of peaceable meetings in Ireland to petition that House, and stocked the ports and harbours with men of war and steamers for the coast, and sent off hundreds of horse, foot, and dragoons. In England, however, though towns were sacked, no Arms Bill was asked for, nor was the Habeas Corpus I Act sought to be suspended. Again crimes existed in England which were not dreamt of in Ireland; four or five times had the life of our beloved Sovereign been attacked by armed ruffians; high treason had been committed in England; and an armed band, assisted by thousands of people and by 300 or 400 horsemen, which within the last few days had entered one of the largest towns in Wales, nearly sacking the town and burning the workhouse; this armed banditti too was attended by that which frightened the noble Lord so much in Ireland, a band of music. In the peaceful principality of Wales, to which this bill was not to extend, a peace officer sent out to execute a legal process, was surrounded by a band armed with 105 guns and pistols. Would the right hon. Baronet allow an armed mob to pull down the gates, to enter the towns, to pull down the public buildings, to assault the peace officers, and to sneer at the magistrates, and would he not extend an Arms Bill to Wales? And what did the Welsh insurrectionists require; The Irish were blamed for their demands. The Welsh asked for a removal of turnpike-gates, an abolition of tithes, which meant of course, according to hon. Gentlemen opposite, the destruction of the religion of our ancestors; and then came 278 an alteration in the law regulating poor-rates; fourthly, an abolition of Church rates; and, last of all, what would make the hair of the Attorney-General for Ireland stand on end—an equitable adjustment of the landlord's rents. He was sure that in Ireland they would hear no more of '' fixity of tenure," if they would only treat the tenantry in a proper manner, and improve the estates; but without any such want in Wales, there was a demand for equitable adjustment. He asked, then, whether it could be called justice to Ireland to give this bill to Ireland, and not extend it to England. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving, that it be an instruction to the committee to extend the provisions of the bill to the United Kingdom.
§ Lord Eliot
referred the hon. Baronet for au answer to his inquiry, why this bill was confined to Ireland, to the speech of the noble Lord, the Member for London, who said, that in 1839, from inquiries he made, he was satisfied that au Arms Bill for Ireland was necessary. The hon. Baronet was in favour, apparently, of applying the same law to both countries; but till the hon. Baronet moved to get rid of the Party Processions Act, and the act allowing the presence of soldiers at elections, he (Lord Eliot) might be permitted to doubt the hon. Baronet's desire to make the uniformity complete, which he now seemed to advocate. The right hon. Baronet had quoted the returns of the number of convictions for particular offences in the two countries; but he had omitted all reference to the crimes unknown in England, such as the robbery of arms, the possession of arms, of assembling with arms, of administering unlawful oaths, of rescue, and of the refusal to aid the peace-officers in the execution of their duty. He had omitted to say, also, that the proportion of convictions in England to the committals for heavy offences was 50 per cent., whilst it was only 25 per cent. in Ireland. For the most serious offences there were in—
§ And of the total number of crimes committed with violence, the proportions between the two countries of the committals to the convictions appeared to be as follows:—
|1839||484||242||not given||not given|
§ With this difference between the two countries he thought that he had shown the proportion of crime in Ireland to be greater than in England. He would not weary the House by repeating the arguments he had used on a former night: but he must refer to the meeting of the magistrates of the King's County, where men of both sides attended, who declared that they approved of the Arms Bill, as calculated to check crime, and to be of advantage to the country. It must be recollected also, that in Ireland, bands of twenty, thirty, and forty armed men surrounded houses, fired upon the inhabitants, and did other acts of violence unknown in England. The hon. Baronet had referred to isolated cases in England; and God forbid, if there did not exist in Ireland more cases than there were in England, that he should move for such a bill; but in the state of Ireland for many years, her Majesty's Government would have neglected their duty if they had shrunk from proposing not any new measure, but a renewal of the Arms Bill of former Sessions.
§ Viscount Palmerston
was anxious to take that opportunity of stating the grounds on which he had hitherto supported the bill they were about to consider in committee, and why he could not Vote for the amendment of his hon. Friend. He felt, that in the present state of Ireland, it would neither be fair to her Majesty's Government, nor useful to the public service, to withhold from her Majesty's present advisers the powers calculated to maintain order! and tranquillity in Ireland, which were possessed by the Government to which be himself had had the honour to belong. A measure of this kind to regulate the possession of arms by the people of Ireland, had been in force for a great many years. 280 The late Government thought it expedient 1 to ask Parliament to continue a bill on this subject, at a time when that country was far more quiet and tranquil than it now was, and it would ill become those who had made this request, to refuse those powers to her Majesty's present Government, at a moment when it might be more necessary for the Government to possess them. He thought also, that if it were true, that there were persons in Ireland, endeavouring to excite the people to the resistance of the law, it would be better for the people themselves, that there should be a law regulating the possession of arms, rather than that the law should allow their free possession, and that a necessity should occur for the Government's wresting them from the people. Although, however, he was willing to give to her Majesty's present Government every power which was possessed by the last; yet, if there were in this bill any new clauses, giving new powers, or adding any vexatious restrictions, he reserved to himself the full discretion of opposing those clauses, unless full and satisfactory reasons should be given for them; and, as he was unwilling to give a larger bill, with reference to Ireland, so he was unwilling unnecessarily to extend it to England. He thought, however, that the Government and that House of Parliament would take a Very narrow View, at the present moment, if they thought they should discharge their duties as the interests of this country and of Ireland require them to be discharged, by simply passing this Arms Bill. Great and extensive discontent prevailed in Ireland, it was the duty of that House to investigate the causes of that discontent, and to endeavour to remove them. He should be told, no doubt, by some hon. Gentleman opposite, that the chief cause of it was manifest—that the discontent was created by persons who endeavoured to excite the passions of the people, to a degree which threatened an absolute outbreak. He said, that that was not sufficient to account for what we saw. Agitators might inflame discontent, but it seldom happened that they created it. Agitation such as that which now existed, was never found unless with deeply-rooted feelings of injustice; and although, without them, the exertions of agitators might produce a temporary and confined effect, yet that general discontent which now prevailed through the mass of the people of Ireland could not be called into action, unless the people had a deep sense of 281 the injustice of their existence. Then what were the grievances of which the people of Ireland complained? They must look for them in the first place in the expression given to their discontent. Some were within the power of Government and of Parliament to remedy; some, he feared, must be remedied by other means. They had been told that the Irish people had shown themselves ungrateful for past favours, and that concession to the Catholics had reached its utmost limit. He denied both of these propositions. If the word concession were to be used in its ordinary sense—if it were employed to convey the meaning that something had been given which the party to whom the boon was granted had no strict right to expect, and which the party by whom it was given was not bound by any requisition of duty to give—if it were intended to represent some act of grace, favour, or indulgence, he was prepared to say, that in none of those senses had any concession been made. They had granted to the Catholics of Ireland the remedy of a just grievance. They had removed from them a gross and intolerable injustice, under which they had suffered too long; but if they were to state an account as between the British Government and the Catholics of Ireland, he should be prepared to say, that so far from the British Government being entitled to reproach that body for their want of gratitude for benefits conferred, the Catholics of Ireland, on the contrary, had a better right to complain that the reparation for injustice had come too tardily, and was still imperfect. He denied, therefore, that the Irish Catholics could justly be reproached with ingratitude. It was not in their nature to be ungrateful, they were neither born, nor prone to it; they were more ready to think of kindness shown to them to-day, than of injustice or offence under which they suffered yesterday. Then what were the grievances of which the people of Ireland had just cause to complain? He would first deal with that which was not within the province of Parliament to remedy, but which was, nevertheless, a grievance which had been long endured by the Irish people, and which might be cured by the intervention of other persons. He alluded to that grievance which was expressed by the demand for fixity of tenure. He held that it would be unjust for Parliament to interfere in the arrangements between the landlord and tenant. To do so, would be to establish a principle of con- 282 fiscation—to interfere with the rights of property, the foundation of all human society—property which the poorest man by his own industry and exertions, might acquire, as well as the wealthy and powerful. But it was vain to deny, that in the last twenty years, the people of Ireland had had much to complain of in this respect. It was well known, that in former times, large farms—great tracts of—land were let great upon leases of sixty-one years, or of three lives to one individual, who in turn, re-let the same land in smaller portions to others, who re-let it again to a third set, who again let to a fourth, and so on; and thus, in the course of years, the land became covered by multitudes of occupants, greater than was essential to the good cultivation of the soil, or greater than could obtain any insight into the science of agriculture. This was a class which had been greatly increased and augmented when the 40s. freeholders were in existence; but at last the landlords, feeling the inconvenience of the system, and not sufficiently reflecting on the injustice which they were inflicting on others—and, as he maintained, upon themselves also—when they found leases of this sort expiring, and found on their land great numbers of people born and bred there, who were exercising their industry in the narrow limits of some two or three acres of land, turned out by wholesale hundreds of families, retaining only that number which, in their theoretical and abstract imaginations, might be sufficient for the advantageous cultivation of the soil. This might be done in England without causing the same degree of suffering and misery. If they removed any portion of the population of England from its position, they would go to Manchester or Birmingham, or some of the great manufacturing districts of the kingdom, and they might at once find profitable occupation in our manufactures. In Ireland there were no great manufacturing towns. The people when turned out of their homes,—without the chance of obtaining a living—were driven to perish by the road side, or to eke out a miserable and lingering existence as squatters on the fringe of a bog, or in the outskirts of some neighbouring town. This was a great grievance. Cases had occurred where landlords had done this to a great extent, and had deliberately ejected good and sufficient and substantial Catholic tenants, in order to give their lands to Protestants, greatly misjudging the nature of the Irish people in thinking that it was necessary to 283 have an identity of religion, in order to establish that firm sense of regard and affection which was so desirable to be maintained between landlord and tenant. On what ground were these steps taken? It was said that people ate the produce of the land, and that the landlord could not obtain a fair rent from the land. He denied both these propositions, and he maintained that the people, by the close application of their labour to small portions of land, obtained a greater amount of subsistence from the earth than the best farmer could by the application of any system of agriculture. But even if it were that the landlord sustained some pecuniary loss, he would be amply repaid for the diminution in his profits by the cordial welcome with which he would be greeted on visiting those estates on which he had allowed the poorer tenants to remain. It was said, further, that these persons were not in reality the tenants of the land, that the tenants were the persons whose leases had expired, and that the landlords had a right to expel these persons, although bred and born on the land, because they possessed no right of tenantry. He hoped that the landlords would abstain from exercising that power which the law gave them, and that, by showing a little more consideration to the peasantry whom they found on their estates, they would seek to do away with that grievance which was expressed in the somewhat absurd term "fixity of tenure." That was a grievance, however, with which Parliament could not deal. He would now refer to a subject entirely within the power and authority of the Legislature—he meant that of the Church establishment. He, for one, was not prepared to concur in any measure which tended to overthrow and annihilate the Protestant Church as it was established in Ireland. Such a measure he should always oppose, to the best of his power. But every one felt—men on both sides of the House felt—that the Protestant Church establishment in Ireland had been raised beyond its proper and just position. The Government to which the right hon. Baronet and the noble Lord opposite (Sir James Graham and Lord Stanley) had belonged, had brought in a measure greatly reducing the emoluments and expenses of that establishment. He would not say whether that measure had been carried as far as might be advisable then or not, but the principle being admitted on both sides of the House, he maintained that the Govern- 284 ment was bound to take the matter into consideration, and if they found that the principle could be carried further without danger to the Protestant establishment, it was their duty to decide whether there were not still belonging to that Church some revenues which might be applied in aid of the interests of the people of Ireland, and to the appropriation of which to such a purpose no attached member of the Protestant Church could feel any religious objection. He said that this was a matter on which the Government were bound to bestow their attention. The burthen of the Church fell on the possessors of the land, who were chiefly Protestants; and if tithes were abolished wholly and immediately, it was obvious that that abolition would produce no benefit to the Catholic tenant—it might relieve the necessities of the Protestant landlord, but it would not tend to the advantage of the Catholic who held under him. The state of the Protestant Church in Ireland must be looked at in conjunction with that of the Catholic Church. Considering the great proportion of the population who were Catholics, it was a disgrace to the empire that the priesthood of so large a number of British subjects should remain so little cared for as the Catholic priesthood. This was an evil for which there might have been a remedy at the time when Catholic emancipation was carried; at that time provision might have been made by the State in aid of the Catholic priesthood, and it ought then to have been done. There might have been reasons, of which he was ignorant, which would have rendered the insisting on such a proposition fatal to the measure of Catholic emancipation. During the time her Majesty's late Government had been in office, such a proposition could not have been brought forward with any prospect of success. Every one must remember the anxious and energetic exertions which were made to secure the overthrow of the late Government, and there was no man who looked at the question in its fair light, who must not be persuaded that if they had brought forward such a measure, not only would it have failed, but they must have been prevented from taking other steps which had proved beneficial and advantageous to the empire. The difficulties which had existed when Catholic emancipation was carried now no longer presented themselves; the obstruction which the late Government would have met with in any proceedings upon this subject, would not now be opposed to a 285 measure of this nature, if proposed by the present Government. The Government, therefore, had it in their power to carry such a measure, and he sincerely trusted that they would not fail to take it into their earnest consideration. The objection raised to any pecuniary grant from the state to the Catholic priesthood was, that it would, directly or indirectly, appear to render them dependent on the Protestant executive powers. Whether there were my means by which this objection could be avoided he would not pretend to say; but there was another mode of providing for the Catholic priesthood, to which this objection could not possibly arise. There was a vast difference between the Catholic and Protestant ministers of religion. The Protestant either had pecuniary aid from the State, or he had a house and land in the shape of a glebe, on which he was able to live. If it was impossible to supply the Catholic priesthood with the direct means of support by pecuniary aid, why, he asked, should not means be taken to afford them the aid of a house and land? He should be told, perhaps, that if the Government undertook to supply glebe, however limited —say only to the extent of forty or fifty acres of land and a house to every parish in Ireland—an expenditure would be required which Parliament could not sanction. But, independently of Parliament, he Ventured to say that in many parts of Ireland means might be found in the voluntary and spontaneous acts of individuals to secure such provision. If Parliament would pass a law to empower persons to assign to the Catholic priests of each parish a moderate quantity of land as glebe, he ventured to say that in many parts of Ireland such a law would be acted upon. He was acquainted with some cases in which, even as the law now stood, when every thing which was done must altogether depend upon the voluntary act of the landlord, such a mode of proceeding had been carried into effect, in which Protestant landlords had assigned to the Catholic priest of a parish a comfortable house and a few acres of land for his maintenance, and nothing could have answered better than this arrangement. It had secured a great degree of comfort to the priest, and had afforded the highest satisfaction to the people, who were gratified at seeing such a mark of respect paid to their spiritual pastor. He believed that by such an arrangement the priest was placed in a better and more independent position with regard to his flock—that be 286 was better able to discharge his religious duties and to exercise his religious functions, and that so far from his being placed in a position of irresponsibility as regarded his own spiritual superior, the authority of his superior was increased, because, in proportion as the priest was more or less comfortable in his parish, the less disposed would he be to incur the displeasure of his bishop, and run the risk of being removed to another district, where he could command fewer and less substantial comforts. He intreated the Government to take this subject into their consideration; for, surely, there could he no difficulty in procuring for a measure likely to be productive of so much practical good the sanction of both Houses of Parliament. Were there no other matters which required the attention of the Government, and in respect of which the people of Ireland might think that they suffered under hardship? They had given Parliamentary Reform to that country, it was true; but were the franchise and the practice of registration in conformity with that principle which was contemplated by those who proposed that Reform? When he looked at the returns laid before that House, and saw the small number of electors yearly dwindling away, he felt that he might see the time when the number of electors throughout the whole of Ireland should have fallen to an amount short of that of many of the borough towns of this country. This was a subject which required deliberate and immediate attention. Again, they had re, formed the municipal corporations of Ireland; but was there nothing in that measure which required amendment? Undoubtedly there was; and without mentioning other matters of material importance, he maintained that these were subjects which it was the bounden duty of Parliament to take into consideration, and upon which it behoved the Government to introduce a measure satisfactory to the country. There was another grievance, and he believed that it was one which strongly operated upon the minds of the people of Ireland, to which it was more in the power of the Government to apply an effectual remedy. He believed that that which most excited the people of Ireland, was the existence of hon. Gentlemen opposite as the Government of this country. He believed that upon this subject there was no union of sentiment between the people of England and Ireland; for that while the people of England were deter- 287 mined to have a Tory administration, the people of Ireland would remain dissatisfied so long as such a Government should remain in existence. But even this, he thought he could show, was not altogether a hopeless case. He did not ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to retire from their places. Such an appeal, he believed, would be Vain; and from the feeling which they had seen evinced in this country, he believed that even if hon. Gentlemen should yield to the appeal, they might very reasonably expect that they would be Very shortly again required to resume the reins of Government. The time was not yet come when any party but that which now sat upon the benches opposite could, with advantage to the public, and with the general concurrence of the people of this country, administer the affairs of this country, and he admitted that, although as things were now going on, the growing dissatisfaction amongst the friends of the Government, and that increasing want of contentment with its measures amongst its opponents, which was occasionally exhibited, it might be taken that certain indications existed that the days of the present administration were finite, he would not say numbered—as yet it was not probable that any change could be effected in the Government of this country. Such a change, however, would take place, though not this year; but it was this year that Ireland was subjected to great evils, and it was in this year and in this session, that he wished to see her grievances remedied. He did not think that the people of Ireland had any personal dislike to hon. Gentlemen who sat on the other side of the House. It was not to the men who governed in Downing-street that the people of Ireland objected. Those to whom they objected were the men who governed in the Castle in Dublin; not the men sent over from this country nominally to administer the affairs in Ireland, but those who ruled over and governed them—men who, belonging as they did to the ministry of that country, had been known for years to be hostile, conscientiously and zealously, but perseveringly hostile to the rights of the great majority of the people of Ireland—men in whom the people of Ireland could not place confidence, and under whose sway they never could be content. He should be told, perhaps, that this was irremediable so long as a Tory Government existed; he should be told, perhaps, as the House had been already told by the right hon. Gen- 288 tleman the Member for the Dublin University (Mr. Shaw), that the Government would lose the confidence of their friends by not sufficiently affording all their favour and patronage to those persons who gave them their support. He listened to no such argument. He had no doubt that every one of the persons to whom allusion was thus made would cheerfully and readily give up his time to the service and good of his country; but he called on them for a far less sacrifice than this—he asked them to give up for the interest and welfare of the country nothing but their own political advancement. Surely high-minded men like these would not object to give up to their friends and the Government, that which they could not retain without producing great danger and inconvenience to the public service. But was it necessary that the Government should confine themselves to the selection of men of their own party in Ireland—he meant men of the party connected with the Protestant ascendancy? Surely it was not; and when a vacancy occurred on the bench—when a legal adviser was wanted at the Castle, no man should persuade him that there were not in Ireland men learned in the law, high in public estimation, and possessed of all the qualities fitting them for such situations, neutral between the two political parties of the empire, who might receive the appointments. He did not ask the Government to go to their antagonists to seek for men to hold situations of trust and confidence; but surely there must be men in Ireland, not committed to extreme opinions, and who were in other respects well fitted for the offices to which he alluded. Surely it was not necessary to give the appointments to such men as Mr. Sergeant Jackson or Mr. Lefroy, who, however estimable in their private character—however they might deserve the respect of their fellow-citizens as individuals, were, he maintained, disqualified for the situations which they held by the active part they had taken in politics in Ireland. No doubt the late Government had offered a high judicial situation to Mr. O'Connell, who had been as active on one side as the learned persons to whom he had alluded had been on the other. But his answer to this observation was this, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had occupied a prominent position on that side on which the great majority of the people of Ireland sympathised. The other individuals mentioned belonged to a party, small in its amount, and against 289 which all the sympathies of the Irish people were raised; and although their appointment was liable to objection, as being distasteful and revolting to the Irish people, that of Mr. O'Connell, if it had taken place, would not have been open to the same objection. Perhaps he should be told, however, that what he proposed could not be done, that men could not be found free from party bias. But if he was to be told that there were no men of eminence in Ireland qualified by their attainments to fill such situations, who did not form one of the small party interested in Protestant ascendancy, whose feelings towards the Government were such as to render it possible to give them any appointments—if it was shown that the whole nation was so opposed to the Government as this—then he maintained that it became a Very serious question, whether a party which had placed themselves in a situation so much in opposition to the wishes of a large portion of this empire, should continue to administer the affairs of the United Kingdom. These, then, were the grievances and the topics to which he desired the attention of the Government to be directed. He could not believe it possible that the Government could close the present Session and dismiss hon. Gentlemen to their homes, leaving Ireland in the state in which it was now placed—passing no measure for the relief of its grievances, and thinking that they sufficiently performed their duty by giving this Arms Bill to Ireland, and by introducing and then withdrawing some other measures of minor importance. It was a duty which the Government owed to their sovereign and the country to take the present agitated state of Ireland into their most serious consideration, and to propose to that House before the Session closed, and in time to pass them through both Houses of Parliament, measures calculated to secure the tranquillity of Ireland. No doubt he should be told by some hon. Gentlemen opposite that they thought so too, and that the Government ought to propose measures of coercion. He agreed in principle with them —he agreed with those who sent letters to the Government, and who answered those letters, that measures of coercion were necessary for Ireland in the present state of that country; but he, perhaps, took a different view of the character of the measures which he so designated. The measures of coercion which lie thought the Government ought to introduce, were measures calculated to compel the Irish 290 nation to believe that the Government of the United Kingdom meant to treat them with justice and kindness—the measures of coercion which he asked them to propose were measures calculated to force the Irish people to look with confidence and good will towards the Imperial Parliament—the measures of coercion which he desired to see introduced were measures calculated to disarm agitators, and to wrest from them those weapons by which they were now endeavouring to accomplish their disorganizing propositions. if the Government would bring in such measures of coercion as these, they might depend upon it that no others would be requisite. It was the duty of the Government not to allow the two Houses of Parliament to continue sitting many days longer without announcing their intention to take into their serious consideration the present melancholy state of Ireland—not with a view of proposing measures of coercion, such as hon. Gentlemen opposite would approve of, or measures such as those pointed out by persons whose letters they had recently seen published in the papers; but, measures calculated to win and to secure the real affections of the Irish people. The noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire had told the House the other evening, in discussing a bill on the subject of Canada, that it was not worth while that this country should maintain the connexion which now existed between Canada and England, if it was to be maintained by the sword and not by the affections and good feeling of the people. Was not a proposition which was true in respect of a colony, situated at the other side of the wide Atlantic, and numbering some hundreds of thousands of inhabitants, equally true in respect of Ireland, whose shores nearly adjoined our own, and whose inhabitants amounted to millions? He maintained that it Was, and he called on the Government to carry their own principles into practice. He asked not for any answer to these observations. He bad rather that the Government gave him no answer then, because his wish was, that these questions might be maturely considered. Unless that was the case their answer would do no good, and of the inutility of haste they had an unfortunate instance only a few nights ago, when the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) used some expressions, which, from long and intimate acquaintance with the right hon. Baronet, he was sure did not indicate the right hon. Baronet's deliberate opinion. He did 291 not desire that any observations of his should be reserved for future answers; but he begged of the Government that they would not say at once that they intended to take no new measures, but he entreated them that they would at the earliest opportunity announce to the House what course they really intended to pursue, in order to relieve the people of Ireland from the state in which they now were. He hoped that the Government would not tell the House that they were prepared to trust to the chapter of accidents, and would not content themselves with expressing an anticipation that during the autumn things would take a different turn; for he begged to tell them that if they did so, and that if things did take a different turn, it would be in a direction which they would all most deeply deplore; that if any great calamity should happen, which every one would most sincerely deprecate, they would incur a deep and heavy responsibility, and they would lay themselves open to the just accusation of violating the duty which they owed to their Sovereign and their country.
§ Sir R. Peel
I regret, Sir, that the noble Lord should have taken a course which imposes upon me the necessity of interrupting the progress of the bill at present under consideration, upon which, I think, after what has passed, her Majesty's Government and the House generally had a fair right to calculate. We have now been occupied six nights upon the preliminary discussion before entering into committee; and the noble Lord, without notice, upon the motion of the hon. Baronet, which he does not intend to support, enters to-night into a general discussion with respect to the policy to be pursued in Ireland. Sir, I shall first notice that part of the noble Lord's speech which towards its conclusion, had reference to the executive Government in connexion with the affairs of Ireland. The noble Lord made this candid admission, that supposing her Majesty's Government were to take the advice which he did not presume to offer and voluntarily relinquish their situations, such was the popular distrust of the probable successors of the present Government, so great would be the apprehension of a restoration to power of the noble Lord and his late colleagues in office, that the people of every part of the British empire, excepting Ireland would compel the present Government, notwithstanding their voluntary retire- 292 ment, to return to the councils of their Sovereign. The noble Lord is an impartial and disinterested witness as to what the people of England think of himself and his policy, and to such unexceptionable testimony I have nothing to say but that I cordially concur in it. With respect to Ireland, the noble Lord says that a very different opinion prevails there; that it is one of the grievances of the Irish people, which we have the power, but he fears not the will, to redress, that a Government should exist at all holding our principles; and the noble Lord says, our voluntary renunciation of office would give to the people of Ireland universal satisfaction. I doubt that if the noble Lord is to return to power; because I find in a very recent declaration of opinion by him who must be considered the organ of that party— which is now pursuing a course of agitation in Ireland—notwithstanding the indignation expressed with the present Government— yet, even there, in Ireland, with the most violent party in Ireland, I find a most decided and marked preference of the present to the preceding Government. In Ireland, where there might be irritation in consequence of the acts of the present Government, where the sense of immediate and recent supposed injury might tend to inflame those who suffer from it, even there, notwithstanding the recency of the cause of complaint, I found the Gentleman to whom I have referred stating distinctly, that ill as he thinks of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, yet he infinitely prefers his course to that which was adopted by the late Lord-lieu-tenant of Ireland. He says, it is true that Lord Chancellor Sugden has inflicted injury upon us, but, at any rate, the blow struck by him has been struck by a manly and direct foe; but if the late Lord- lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Fortescue, did not strike a direct blow at the advocates for repeal, he attempted to corrupt the youth of Ireland by withholding from them a participation in the patronage of office. Lord Chancellor Sugden, he said, was to be preferred to the late Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, inasmuch as an open enemy was to be preferred to an hypocritical and malignant professed friend. The noble Lord says, the people of Ireland are peculiarly apt to retain a lively recollection of benefits conferred, though smarting under the sense of present injury; but their gratitude for past benefits overpowers the 293 sense of present wrong. I do not say whether that is a just compliment to pay to the Irish people, but giving to them full credit for the thankfulness of their feelings, what must be their sentiments with regard to the noble Lord, his Government, and their representatives in Ireland, when that generous people, so apt to forgive all injuries, yet have an utter oblivion of all benefits received from the late Administration, and boldly prefer the present Government to that of which the noble Lord was a Member? But, Sir, I return to more serious affairs. Not at all disturbed, not influenced by what may be passing at the present moment in Ireland, I repeat now, what I have had occasion to declare before, that my firm conviction is the Government of Ireland ought to be conducted in a spirit of moderation and of forbearance—of perfect justice and impartiality. Sir, I take no credit for the expression of a sentiment of that nature, because it is nothing but a fulfilment of a solemn obligation and the concession of an absolute right—to administer the executive government at least in the spirit of perfect justice and impartiality. The noble Lord says there is a total want of confidence, not in the leading Members of the Government, but in those inferior and subordinate authorities who, in point of fact, conduct the administration of Irish affairs. There, again, I say, is a candid and honourable admission on the part of the noble Lord. The noble Lord says that the people of Ireland have no personal objections to those who hold the highest and most prominent offices, they are not I impressed with a belief, whatever may have been the variance of their political opinions in former times, that it would warp them in the administration of justice and exercising the other functions of the executive. But he says there are certain subordinate authorities that control the chief. Now, I entirely deny that assertion. I admit, that it is not sufficient that you should profess to govern Ireland in a spirit of justice and impartiality, and I admit that the personal character of those who administer the government is of importance in such a country as Ireland. As I stated before, when out of office, so there is nothing in the circumstances of Ireland which will prevent toe from repeating now,—I do admit that it is of importance, for the satisfaction of the people of that country, that those administering the executive 294 functions of Government should by their personal character for moderation in political opinions, possess as much of general confidence as amidst the heat and conflict of opinions in this country any one could expect them to have. And on what principles was the Government formed? I take the noble Earl at the head of the Government in Ireland; the appointment of the Lord De Grey as Lord-lieutenant was received with very general satisfaction. There was an admission on the part of Gentlemen opposite that no better selection could have been made. My noble Friend uniformly voted for the removal of Roman Catholic disabilities, and, so far as the personal character of any man could give an assurance of moderation and impartiality in the carrying on of a government, the public character of Lord De Grey gave that assurance. Whom did the Government recommend for the office of chief secretary? They recommended my noble Friend—whose whole course had been marked by a disposition to act upon a conciliatory policy towards Ireland. Has my noble Friend taken any step which can disentitle him to confidence in his justice and impartiality? I know how difficult it is to act upon any principle which may ultimately be consistent with public interest, and with that which a man believes to be right, either in England, or Ireland, without subjecting himself to imputations which the noble Lord has cast on the present Government, and incurring the dissatisfaction of friends as well as foes. I believe that no Government can act on that principle without being liable to the party censure of hon. Gentlemen opposite. But I must say, whatever comments may have been made upon my noble Friend, that the confidence which Government reposed in him on his first appointment has been confirmed by the course he has subsequently pursued. The next appointment was that of the Lord Chancellor. Lord Chancellor Sugden gained at any rate the good opinion of the bar of Ireland; and I believe his restoration to the office of Lord Chancellor was hailed with satisfaction by the bar of Ireland, which looked upon his appointment as the best that could have been made. So far as professional attainments and moderation of political opinions were concerned no better appointment could have been trade; and in that I am confirmed by the opinion of the late Attorney-general for Ireland. 295 I have now named the three chief officers for Ireland, the Lord lieutenant, the Chief Secretary, and the Lord Chancellor. I will refer to a fourth appointment,ߞthat of adviser to the Castle, Mr. Lucas. What course has Mr. Lucas taken in Parliament which disentitled him to the confidence of Irishmen, to whatever party they belonged? I believe no one ever paid more attention to the local affairs of Ireland, no one could be more conciliatory in his general demeanour, or better qualified for the duties of the office he has to discharge. I admit that the offices of Attorney and Solicitor-general are important offices— have those who now fill them been remarkable for violent or extreme opinions? But the noble Lord supposes that the chief authorities in Ireland are controlled by those in subordinate stations in the castle of Dublin, I believe that the subordinate authorities in Dublin are honourable men,—men as much entitled to public confidence as those who fill the principal offices; and that they have not exercised—and that if they had even attempted it, they would not have succeeded in exercising—any pernicious influence upon those who occupy higher official situations. Then, as to the appointments of Mr. Serjeant Jackson and Mr. Lefroy. I ask, are there others whose professional eminence entitled them to the appointments which had been conferred upon those gentlemen? I much doubt if, when Sir E. Sugden was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1834, some of those individuals who were most opposed to the Government of that day did not imagine that Mr. Lefroy, from his professional eminence, was fully entitled to be appointed to that important post, and if they did not argue that gross injustice had been committed by his exclusion from that office. I believe that those two judges are most honourable men, arid that their appointments are in every respect justifiable. This House has had an opportunity of hearing their sentiments, and of judging whether they are actuated by a hostile spirit towards any class of her Majesty's subjects. What has been the testimony borne to the justice of those appointments by an hon. Gentleman opposite, who is strongly opposed to the Government—a Gentleman whom I consider a much better authority on the subject than the noble Lord? The hon. Member for the city of Limerick stated that he could not 296 concur with his hon. Friends in reprobating those appointments; that the only ground of complaint which he had to prefer against those judges was, that they had administered the law with too much lenity; and I think the case to which the hon. Gentleman referred, when he spoke of the moderation and indulgence which they had exhibited towards certain parties charged with crime, occurred in administering of the law under the existing Arms Act. The hon. Gentleman stated generally that he thought, if any exception could be taken to the conduct of those two learned judges, it was that they had erred on the side of humanity and indulgence. I have stated the principles by. which I think the Executive ought to be influenced; I have referred to the personal character and the political conduct of those who have been appointed to power; and I leave the House to judge whether the insinuations thrown out by the noble Lord, whether the charges made against the Irish Government on account of the personal character or the acts of those individuals who constitute that Government, are founded in justice. If we have done anything that is fairly questionable, why have not the acts to which exception is taken been brought under the cognizance of this House? During the whole of the last Session was any one question raised with respect to the improper exercise of power by any of the authorities in Ireland? And is it probable that, if such power had been unduly or improperly exercised, a Session could have passed—when there are such severe scrutinizers of the acts of the Irish Government—without a single question being raised as to any improper act on the part of that Government? During the present excitement which prevails in Ireland, what act of the Irish Government has been called in question? I appeal to your silence, and to the absence of all crimination, whether or no the Irish Government have committed any act, or pursued any course of conduct, justly rendering it liable to censure or condemnation? Then, with respect to legislation. The noble Lord first referred to what he called that absurd and nonsensical proposal for fixity of tenure. So far as I understand the subject, the two great benefits which are expected to result from the repeal of the union are—first, what is called fixity of tenure; and secondly, the absolute abolition of the Protestant estab- 297 lishment in Ireland. These are, 1 believe, the two great advantages which are anticipated from the repeal of the legislative union. What says the noble Lord with respect to the first of these points? He says he considers it utterly impossible for Parliament to apply any legislative remedy. He thinks it most important for the security of property, that its administration, consistently with the law, should be left to the discretion of the individual possessors; and he conceives that any attempt on the part of Parliament to fetter the power of any individual with respect to the administration of his property would far exceed the proper limit of legislation. The noble Lord is prepared, therefore, to resist any attempt to exercise legislative control over the acts of the landlords. I must say, that I do not materially differ from the noble Lord in my opinion as to the course which has been pursued by some landlords in Ireland. This is a question of morals, rather than of legislation. It is a question whether you ought not rather to trust to the discretion, the humanity, the forbearance, and the sense of right on the part of those who have power, and who are possessed of property, than to attempt to control their discretion by legislative enactments. I have said before, and I repeat it DOW, that I do think the indiscriminate and inconsiderate expulsion of tenantry, without any arrangement for their comfort and subsistence, though it may be legal, must be accompanied with great suffering to individuals, and is a course which I, for one, cannot defend. I think it is for the interest of those who possess landed property in Ireland maturely to consider the position of those who, by the Violent and hasty exercise of power, are dispossessed of the holdings which they have occupied, and are thrown upon the world without the means of subsistence. No pecuniary advantages can be derived from schemes for the improvement of estates, which will at all counterbalance the danger which must arise from such a harsh and inconsiderate exercise of power. If it is right for one individual to act upon this principle, others are equally entitled to act upon it; and if it were acted upon simultaneously the consequences must be pregnant with danger to the public tranquility. No individual has a right to presume that his will be an isolated case,—that others will not follow his example,—that he may 298 safely venture to dispossess the 100 or 200 persons who are holders upon his estate, and that this act will not seriously endanger the public peace. He ought to consider that others, have an equal right to act upon the principle which he adopts, and that such a course may lead to most dangerous consequences; and he ought also to consider that, if property is not endangered by actual spoliation, the ex-pence of maintaining public tranquility, and the disturbance of the relations between landlord and tenant, will more than counterbalance any immediate gain which may result from the improved cultivation of the land. No doubt, there are cases in which it is absolutely necessary to employ the authority of the law to prevent the unjust possession of property which is held without the payment of rent. Great obstruction to improvement may arise from acquiescing in the continued possession of land by an indolent tenant, who refuses to attempt the improvement of the property, and who holds it against the will of the landlord. Continued permission to ten' ants of this description to occupy land, must constitute a serious obstacle to improvement. But it is possible to combine the foundation of future improvement with an indulgent consideration of the circumstances of individual cases. This is, as have before said, rather a question of morals than of law; and the conduct of the parties to whom I have referred, will probably be influenced by a general expression of that opinion, which exercises control when law fails to control. I believe that, generally speaking, the wish of the landlords in Ireland is to reconcile the permanent improvement of property, the vindication of the law, and the assertion of every just right on the part of the landlord, with a merciful consideration of the circumstances of the tenant. Individual cases of hardship have brought unjust discredit upon many who are not at all disposed to sanction the inconsiderate exercise of power; and I entertain the confident hope, that the landlords of Ireland will be actuated by the same principles which influenced landlords in other parts of the country, and that when they deem it necessary to reclaim property, they will not forget the just rights of the tenantry. Most extensive improvements have been effected in Scotland; and in that country individuals entertaining most comprehensive views, and of great liberality, have 299 had to deal with the very evil to which I have been alluding. In consequence of the grievous injury sustained from the holding of land by an indolent tenantry, they have been compelled to face the evil and to make provision for a different arrangement of their property. But in this case, the two apparently conflicting rights have been reconciled,—the means of permanent improvement have been provided, and yet ample justice has been done to the tenantry. The noble Lord has referred to the Established Church of Ire, land, and has declared his determination to support that establishment; I am glad to hear that declaration from the noble Lord. My firm belief is, that the destruction of the Established Church in Ireland would be fatal to the prosperity of the country. I believe, also, that you will gain nothing by concession. [Mr. Ward, " hear, hear."] The hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity of stating his views on this subject on a future occasion, for I believe he has given notice of a motion for the extinction of the Irish Church; and when that subject is brought under the consideration of the House the noble Lord will have an opportunity of acting upon the principles which he has professed. I have no wish to anticipate the discussion which will arise upon the motion of the hon. Gentleman; but I am convinced that any partial concession of the revenues of the Irish Church will not only fail to be satisfactory, but that its only effect will be to weaken the foundations of that Church. The noble Lord also professed his determination to maintain to the utmost of his power the legislative union between the two countries. I wish that a more marked and decided determination bad been expressed on the part of some hon. Gentlemen opposite with respect to the maintenance of the legislative union. This House has declared its almost unanimous opinion that, after the maintenance of the legislative union for upwards of forty years, it is utterly impossible to replace matters as they existed before the union; and that the repeal of the legislative union would be synonymous with the dismemberment of the empire. I hope that there will be, on the part of all those; who are interested in the maintenance of; tranquillity in Ireland, who are anxious for the existence of increased concord between the two countries, who are desirous to maintain the glory and the power of this 300 empire, a unanimous determination to support the executive Government in the maintenance of the legislative union. I do hope that the Roman Catholic body will well consider the position which they now occupy. Every civil disability which affected them has been removed; there is a perfect equality in point of civil rights between them and their Protestant fellow-subjects. Why should we enter, as was done by the noble Lord, into a consideration of the long conflict which preceded the grant of emancipation? The grant has been complete. There is now perfect equality of civil privileges between the Roman Catholic and the Protestant in all parts of the empire. I must say that there has been, on the part of the Imperial Parliament, a strong disposition to consider attentively the peculiar circumstances of Ireland, and to legislate for that country, I will not say with undue, but at least with considerable forbearance. When a great financial effort was made last year, you imposed the income-tax upon every other part of the united kingdom except Ireland. From that tax Ireland is exempt. Then what is the case with respect to the assessed taxes? They are applied to every part of these kingdoms except Ireland. When any question affecting Ireland comes under the consideration of this House, the predominant feeling, I will Venture to say, so far from being one of prejudice or hostility to that country, is a disposition of liberality—a disposition to relieve. But you (the Opposition) point to this bill, and say it is an insult to Ireland. I am Irishman enough to feeling indignant at the identification of Ireland with the miscreants against whose nefarious projects this bill was originally intended to provide. But, unfortunately, a considerable degree of excitement now prevails in Ireland, and when we propose this measure, you say, "Here is an Arms Bill, the only measure you bring forward for Ireland." When I recollect that you acquiesced in the renewal of this bill in 1838 and 1840, I certainly feel some surprise at your present objection to it. If you argue that justice to Ireland requires that there shall be no distinction in legislation between England and Ireland, how came you to support the same bill in 1838 and 1840? If the principle for which you contend, that there ought to be entire uniformity of legislation for England and Ireland, without any reference to the peculiar circumstances of 301 Ireland, be just, your conduct in 1838 and 1840, in admitting this exclusive legislation for Ireland, was quite as exceptionable as is the course we are now adopting. if you admitted in 1838 that such was the nature of the crimes then committed, not by the Irish people, but by miscreants who associated to commit murders, robberies of arms, and other offences,—that you had sufficient reasons for introducing an arms act, how can you consistently oppose the present measure? There may, I admit, be some difference in the details of the two measures, but they can be fully considered in committee. I have endeavoured to confine myself to a reply to the noble Lord's observations as to the conduct of the executive Government; and I hope, considering that this is the 7th night on which we have discussed this question, we shall be permitted to proceed with the temperate consideration of the details of the bill. I trust, above all, that no conflict of opinion in this House will induce any hon. Gentlemen to lend their aid to that agitation which is now disturbing the peace of Ireland. There is no one object (opposed as I was to grant the Roman Catholic claims) for which any public man has laboured more anxiously than I have, to remove the animosity between Protestants and Roman Catholics; and connected as I have been with most of the events in that country, I must own I have found on the part of many friends of mine, holding strong opinions, a sincere desire to co-operate with me in that object. How has Parliament dealt with the Protestants? It has passed a law to prevent the annual procession in commemoration of the landing of King William. It has prohibited party flags and banners, and done all in its power to remove every thing that could wound the feelings of the Catholics. When Parliament passed that law, it was an indication of their sincere desire to promote religious peace in Ireland. That law is still on the statute book, and I venture to say, that the Government has done its utmost to promote its object. I want them now to see the same intention on the part of the Legislature and the Government, without reference to party conflicts, to discourage the agitation which prevails in Ireland. I want the influence of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and to see them come forward and declare their determination to maintain the legislative union be- 302 tween the two countries. After having given the subject every consideration, I avow, on my own part and that of the Government, that we see no security whatever for the continued eminence of this country among the powers of Europe, except in the maintenance of the legislative union. I do hope, therefore, that men of all opinions and all creeds, duly considering what the effect will be of the severance of that union—duly considering what has been the expressed opinion of Parliament—duly considering what has been the declared opinions of every public man, of every party, after mature deliberation of the consequences of the Repeal of the Union, will enable us confidently to rely, that the prevailing opinion in the present House of Commons, is in conformity with the opinion so solemnly expressed in 1834 by its predecessor; and that whatever opinion may be entertained of particular acts of Legislature, men of all parties will, as well by speeches as by acts, avow their determination to rescue Ireland from the miseries which must be inflicted upon it, were that insane project to succeed, and to rescue the united empire from the degradation which would follow from the vain attempt to have two independent legislative authorities, if they are to be independent, acting in concert under one executive.
was glad to hear from the right hon. Baronet the terms which he had used upon this subject, and that might be regarded as evincing a disposition to concede some measures of conciliation and concession; but measures of such a nature were required, and not the mere expression of an inclination to employ them. It was, he confessed, with very great regret, that he had heard the speech, the other night, of the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He thought, that the right hon. Baronet should have avoided rising such expressions; for the right hon. Baronet, it might well be supposed, had enough of religious questions on his hands; he had religious questions in England, and in Scotland, and he ought not to seek for religious strife in Ireland. He regretted much, too, that the same right hon. Baronet had said, that conciliation could go no further. Such an expression should not have been used without the person who gave utterance had weighed well the consequences that might flow from it. It 303 was true, that this was but a phrase in a speech; but then they ought to have considered the effect that it was likely to produce in Ireland. The phrase was but that of an individual; but the responsibility of the sentiment fell upon the Ministry; and he thought, considering the differences that prevailed amongst them, that the words ought to be branded as well as the arms of this united Government. He used to hear it said, that the late Government was a "reckless and dangerous Government." He remembered to have heard the right hon. Baronet thank his God, that they had got rid of a reckless and dangerous Government; but now they found, that "the reckless and dangerous Government" was that on which it was said all the measures of the present administration were moulded. He remembered to have heard the right hon. Baronet opposite declare, that "Ireland was his great difficulty;" but what had the right hon. Gentleman done for Ireland? What measures had he proposed to remedy the grievances of Ireland? Was it a fitting remedy, this miserable measure for branding gun barrels and granting licenses? The difficulties of Ireland appeared to be increasing on the Government; but then it was to be remembered, that the difficulties were very much of their own creation. In the attacks made upon the late Government, it was said, that Mr. O'Connell was their master; but as to the present Government, they were really by their own conduct making Mr. O'Connell their master in good earnest, and he was sorry to say, that they were raising that man to such a position as was not consistent with the honour and due authority of the Sovereign, nor with the security and tranquillity of her dominions.
§ Mr. Shaw
did not rise so much for the purpose of answering the speech of the noble Lord, as of stating why he and his hon. Friends who sat around him had abstained from speaking during that and the last three nights' debate on the bill then before them, although frequently provoked to do so by attacks on their Friends, on the resident gentry, and the church in Ireland. They regarded the whole of the last four nights' debate as irregular—got up for the purpose of obstruction, and in pursuance of a threat openly made by the Irish Members opposite, that they would resort to every means for delaying and impeding the progress of 304 the bill which the forms of the House afforded. It was but assisting in that vexatious policy for hon. Members at his side of the House to answer the speeches of hon. Members opposite. He was of opinion that the importance of the measure had been greatly exaggerated. It was on the one hand absurd to talk of this as a coercion bill, calculated or intended to meet the dangerous excitement at that time prevailing in Ireland; on the other, he thought an undue importance had been attached to the new clauses, as they were termed, He regarded the bill as little more in substance than a renewal of the existing law respecting arms, which had been in operation for the last fifty years in Ireland —and which it would be very unwise under the present circumstances of Ireland to discontinue. He was further ready to support the additional clauses, if the Government upon their responsibility, and from the official information, which they exclusively had access to, said that they were necessary; but he wished it to be understood, that they had not been introduced at the instance of those with whom he was generally in the habit of acting. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had not stated correctly what he (Mr. Shaw) had said upon a former occasion. He had not complained, as the noble Lord represented, that the Government had not concentrated their patronage upon what the noble Lord called the Protestant ascendancy party in Ireland. What he had said, was—that the great and influential majority of the Conservative party in Ireland, agreeing as they did in the sentiments that night expressed by his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury, that the principles upon which the Government of Ireland shall be conducted were those of forbearance and moderation, combined with firmness—of perfect impartiality in the administration of the laws, and no civil distinction on the ground of religious opinions—concurring, he said, in the policy upon which the Government professed to act, the Irish Conservative party felt that they should have been met by that Government with confidence, whereas there was a general impression amongst them that they had been treated with some degree of jealousy and distrust—not from any ill will towards them on the part of the Government, but from the Government wanting the courage to be just and to act uprightly, without 305 reference to the unjust and unfounded charges to the contrary which might be brought against them by their opponents. He had added—that there certainly was a general opinion among all parties in Ireland—that there was an absence of that Vigour and firmness, and independent power of action in the executive Government of Ireland, which were indispensable for grappling with the difficulties and dangers which the present condition of that country presented. He must, before he sat down, say a word upon the attacks made in the course of the debate on Irish landlords and the Irish church. The Irish landlord had difficulties to contend with, arising out of the social condition of the Irish. people, and the minute subdivision of land in the country of which English gentlemen were little aware. What had been denounced as the clearance of estates was sometimes necessary, not more for the advantage of the public than for the interest of the poor and over-crowded occupiers themselves; and, after all, theirs and the landlords' interest, in a sound and enlarged view, must always be identical—Upon full and impartial inquiry it would be found that the general rule was a humane and kind consideration of the claims of the tenants upon their landlord, and that when it became necessary to remove any portion of them, they were either provided with residences elsewhere, or the pecuniary means to procure them for themselves. As regarded the Irish church, since the rent-charge act had transferred the payment from the occupier to the landlord, the people had not uttered a complaint against it, and it had almost ceased to be even referred to by the agitators in Ireland —and he (Mr. Shaw) charged Gentlemen on the opposite side with the attempt—by reviving the subject now—to embitter, by greater religious animosity, the war against property and the law, to which the political agitators were then exciting the deluded masses in Ireland—but the hon. and learned Members for Bath and Liskeard, (Mr. Roebuck and Mr. Buller), and those who spoke of the destruction of the Protestant church in Ireland, as a matter easy of accomplishment, seemed altogether, in their blind attachment to Radicalism and freethinking institutions, to overlook the fact that there was a party in Ireland whose every feeling of attachment and security was interwoven with the existence of the 306 Irish Protestant church. A party, too, let him say, not contemptible in numbers, and powerful in property, intelligence, character, influence, and determination—a party, which, if the emergency arose, would be found prepared to spend their properties and their lives in defence of that church. Let not the advocates of the Legislative Union in this country, who contended, and he thought, contended justly, that even the terrible alternative of a civil war, would be preferable to its repeal—suppose that they can safely trifle with the devoted feelings of the Irish Protestants to their church establishment; for depend upon it, they regarded the Union and the Irish church as integral parts of one system, and that they must stand or fall together.
Mr. M. J. O'Connell
observed, that though some speeches might be made for delay, it could not be denied that they had great encouragement to continue to deliver them, for the effect of those speeches had been the removal of some of the most stringent clauses of the bill. The object for which they had been engaged in debate on this bill really was discussion. There had been no motion made for the purposes of delay. Then he begged to ask to what did the answer amount which the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had made to the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton? W hat did the right hon. Baronet say, with regard to the present position of the established church and of the Roman Catholic clergy. Upon this important question the right hon. Baronet had made no answer at all. After the speech of the noble Lord, he did expect the right hon. Baronet to have said, at least, that he would take into his consideration the condition of that church, in order that it might be placed in a better position, both as regarded the Roman Catholics in Ireland, ay, and in the estimation, too, of the Protestants of England. Public opinion was beginning to manifest itself in various quarters as to the anomalous position of that establishment; and the speech of the learned Recorder for Dublin proved the alarm of those who were for maintaining those abuses of the established church which had lately been so much decried. People were beginning to think, and ask, what was the use of a Protestant establishment on such a scale of magnificence in Ireland, for a small body of the people, 307 The right hon. Baronet had given no practical answer on that subject. The noble Lord the Member for 'Tiverton had thrown out a suggestion, not for the payment of the Catholic Clergy, but one for enabling those disposed to provide facilities for the support of the clergy of the Catholic church. The suggestion was one of a practical nature. The noble Lord, as a proprietor in Ireland, had carried it out on his own property; and he was happy to say, as an Irish Member, that others who belonged to the late Government had acted on the same principle. For instance, the Marques of Lansdowne had so acted in Kerry, and this with great advantage to the condition of the people both as regarded their morality and religion. Then there was the law of landlord and tenant. He allowed that it was a subject beset with difficulties; but then its difficulties were not to be got rid of, nor its embarrassment put an end to, by the utterance of a few fine phrases. The people of Ireland did not want sentiments—they required acts. No one could deny that the hands of the landlords had been too much strengthened in Ireland; and this, he was sorry to say, by acts which had been passed by an Irish Parliament. The phrase that he used on this subject had been employed within the last few months by one whose authority those opposite would not be disposed to deny, namely, Chief Justice Pennefather. When, then, they saw the hands of the landlords strengthened against the tenantry, was it unreasonable in the Irish people to ask of them to take some step in the contrary direction? He might be told that they ought to discourage agitation in Ireland; yet he said this, that if the right hon. Baronet expected to see agitation subside, he must not let this session close without holding out the hope to the people of Ireland of some practical general measure for the amendment of the existing laws. The right hon. Baronet might talk to them of their duties as Irishmen; but if nothing were done by the Government to give alleviation, or to afford relief, the right hon. Baronet could expect to see only an addition to those who had no other hope than in looking to that ultimate resort which the right hon. Gentleman himself had so strongly condemned.
§ Colonel Verner
said, the question before the House—the question to which hon. Gentlemen had addressed themselves, was 308 not a mere question of an Arms Bill—it was a question of the state of Ireland, and to that important subject he must address a few, a very few words. It should be remembered that meetings in purpose and tendency inimical to England and English connexion had been long unknown in Ulster. In that province, other meetings of a very different character and tendency had been customary — meetings of the Protestants of that province for no other objects than those of peacefully commemorating events which had secured the enjoyment of civil and religious rights and the continuance of British connexion. Those meetings and commemorative processions had been discontinued. The Protestants of Ulster had been taught to hope that their abandonment of those meetings and processions on anniversaries of fond recollection, would be received by those who differed from them in a kindred spirit of good feeling and forbearance. The very contrary had been the case. Meetings had been held, and lately in great numbers, within the province of Ulster, calculated in every way to wound the feelings of the loyal people of that province—meetings for the avowed overthrow of that English connexion, and the consequent destruction of all those institutions and those rights, for the maintenance of which their fathers had fought, and they were prepared to die. The power of the Protestants of Ulster was formerly sufficient to prevent meetings hostile in object to British interests, and such meetings they had effectually prevented. But it was highly creditable to them that possessing that power, and conscious of possessing it, they had ever used it with discretion. They had never interfered with national or religious commemorations by Roman Catholics. They had never obstructed processions on Patrick's Day, although not unfrequently that festival was celebrated in a manner hurtful to their feelings, and tunes were played which were identified with sentiments adverse to Protestant and British interests. They had never attempted to interfere with gatherings of the Roman Catholics. Lately, in a particular part of the province, the Protestants had resolved to meet together for the purpose of publicly proclaiming their unchanged devotion to the Throne, and their unalterable adhesion to English connexion. It was not unreasonable to expect that, when the repealers 309 had in vast numbers met to further their own views, the anti-repealers should have been permitted the peaceful and unobstructed exercise of their undoubted right to meet and express their sentiments. Had they been allowed peacefully to assemble, their conduct would have been, as it always was, peaceable and orderly. But they were not allowed. No sooner was it known that they proposed to meet and declare their determination to support the connexion with England, than summonses were sent out in every direction to gather the Roman Catholics for the purpose of obstructing the meeting. A small band of anti-repealers, not more than twelve in number, on their way to the intended meeting, were assailed by a crowd, numbering full two hundred men—they we run mercifully beaten, and one of them had his arms broken, and life would have been sacrificed, had not these unoffending persons obtained refuge in a house. He trusted in the present trying times the Protestants of Ulster would act with the same discretion as they had done in former days. Emissaries, he was aware, had been sent through every district of the province of Ulster, for the purpose of beguiling the Protestants, of impressing them with the conviction that their own rights and religion would be secure under domestic legislation, and assuring them that incalculable benefits would accrue to themselves and to the country at large from the repeal of the union. He trusted they would treat these insidious attempts as they deserved. In April, 1834, when the hon. Member for Cork had found that the Protestants of the north were not to be cajoled by his promises and fair speeches, he turned round on them and published his address to the people of Ireland, in which he told the people that he had spent five years in attempting to conciliate the Orangemen—that he had failed—that the Orangemen, formerly so brave, so enlightened, and patriotic, were the most despicable creatures that had ever excited the contempt and scorn of mankind, and that they must be put down. He knew the Protestants of the north well. He was well aware of their ardent attachment to the British connexion. That connexion and the principle of the British constitution, they were prepared to defend—aye, at the mouth of the cannon; but they would never submit to be the slaves of demagogues, rebels and traitors.
§ Lord Ebrington
said, that the speech of the hon. and gallant Member who had just taken his seat, and the speech of the right hon. Member for the University of Dublin appeared to him both, particularly the former, to he Very wide of the subject under discussion. He was surprised to hear the word "obstruct" used by the Gentlemen opposite. In their mouths the word was most ungraceful and uncalled for, considering that it was, if not introduced, at least much used, by the author of that never-to-be-forgotten outrage on the feelings of the Irish—the Registration Bill. Still less did it become, he thought, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Recorder to apply that term to the Gentlemen around him (Lord Ebrington) who had on no occasion sought to impede any proper objects aimed at by her Majesty's Government. His purpose, however, in rising, was principally to correct a quotation which had been made from a declaration of the late Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, and which had been held by the right hon Gentleman, the Recorder, to justify the infliction of civil disabilities for certain political opinions. The same use had been made of the declaration of the late Lord-lieutenant by the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury; but he was sure that the expressions used by the Lord-lieutenant would not bear that interpretation, nor anything like it. With the permission of the House, as he was in possession of a corrected report of the expressions used by the late Lord-lieutenant, he would read them, and the House would see whether they were justly characterised as involving any civil disabilities for political opinions. After stating his determination and the determination of the Government with which he was connected, to maintain the Union in the strongest terms, the late Lord-lieutenant said: [The noble Lord quoted the expressions previously quoted by Earl Fortescue in his Speech on the 9th of June, see ante 1291.] There was nothing in that declaration which could justify the Government in departing from the constitution, by dismissing magistrates for attending a public meeting at which no breach of the peace whatever was committed. The Government had even gone further, and dismissed a magistrate for proposing at a public dinner a toast, without making any speech, which did not express any political sentiment whatever. For that the magistrate was dismissed. The language used by his father had been tortured by the right hon. Baronet, and the 311 right hon. Gentleman into a meaning totally opposite to that which they bore. The right hon. Baronet had referred, in preference, to the language used by the hon. and learned Member for Cork, a relative to the Lord Chancellor, and the late Lord-lieutenant, and the right hon. Baronet had congratulated himself on the different language held by the leader of the repeal movement towards those two individuals. Certainly, those words were sufficiently offensive; but the right hon. Baronet might have quoted others of a different character. At a dinner given at Dublin to Lord Morpeth, the hon. and learned Member for Cork had spoken of the late Lord-lieutenant as a high-minded English gentleman, who had executed the powers entrusted to him with care. The hon Member who had just sat down had characterised the whole debate as not referring so much to the motion of the hon. Member for Waterford as to the state of Ireland, and that might justify the Parliament in entering into a consideration of the acts of the present Government, in relation to that subject. He felt, and he must say, that the silence of the Gentlemen on his side, which had been represented as a proof that they did not disapprove of the proceedings of the Government, was improperly interpreted. If the right hon. Baronet recollected the principles on which the Opposition acted, the right hon. Gentleman would conclude that his opinion was ex post facto, and delivered after the approval of the House had been distinctly withdrawn. The appointment of the clergy selected by the right hon. Gentleman had been already reprobated by the House. The House had hoped from the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman, when he assumed office, and had hoped from the declaration of the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, on his election for Cornwall, that the Government was disposed to govern Ireland in the spirit of impartiality and justice. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, had convinced the House that the spirit of impartiality and justice must not be looked for from the present Government. One of the first acts of the Government was to dismiss several stipendiary magistrates, and they dismissed those who were Whigs, reappointing partizans of their own. He did not believe that his noble Friend (Lord Elliot) entertained any intention of doing that, but he had suffered it to be done. No regard was paid to the seniority of these 312 persons, but an arbitrary selection was made of Tory partizans, which was not a proceeding calculated to conciliate the people of Ireland. What, too, had the Lord-lieutenant done with respect to the system of national education. It was a year after his appointment before the Lord-lieutenant took any notice of the national schools, and all that time had subscribed to the opposition schools, which was equivalent to a Member of the present Government subscribing to the Reform Club. That was the way the Lord-lieutenant supported the system of national education. The right hon. Baronet, too, had filled up all the vacancies which had occurred in the church, with persons hostile to the system which the right hon. Baronet desired to promote. All his patronage had been disposed of in the same way. Two judges he had appointed were extreme partizans. There was another act which was calculated as much as anything to give great offence to the people, and that was the appointments connected with the Poor-law commission and the removal of Dr. Phelan. That commission was at the best unpopular, and most of the situations were filled by Englishmen. There was one individual connected with it, an Irishman, and he had managed to acquire to a very considerable degree, the respect of the population. But this Gentleman, Dr. Phelan was dismissed, he did not say unconstitutionally, but certainly not in a spirit of impartiality and conciliation. Moreover, there was the Croal contract for mail Coaches, which at the best was not a wise measure of the present Government. He knew nothing with which to compare it, but the contract in Queen Anne's time, with Wood, for the supply of halfpence; but the Government then acted justly towards Wood, which it had not done in the Croal case towards Mr. Purcell. Again, the Lord-lieutenant had made an apology to Mr. West for not appointing him to the sergeantcy, and nothing could lower the Government more in the general estimation than making apologies for not giving appointments. Apologies respecting appointments were always bad, but Mr. Warren was in this case offered the appointment, showing that he was worthy of it, and to Mr. West, an apology was offered, as if he were unworthy, and could not be appointed. Another thing was the marching of troops, and the other measures, to put down the repeal agitation, which had only exposed the Government to ridicule. The expedition to Waterford had caused 313 the Government to be laughed at, which no Government could afford, and least of all the present Government. Dissenting from the course of the Government, he took that opportunity of saying so.
§ Lord Eliot
explained that the Lord-lieutenant had made no apology to Mr. West; but great disappointment having been felt by the Conservative party in Dublin, the Lord-lieutenant had explained to Mr. West that the appointment to the sergeantcy was a strictly legal and professional one, and that it was made without the least intention of throwing a slight on him, or treating him with the least disrespect. With respect to the stipendiary magistrates, the noble Lord was mistaken in saying twelve had been dismissed: the number was only eight, and they had all been re-appointed within a year, and several of them within three months. The circumstances of the country at that time, it was thought, did not justify such a large number of stipendiary magistrates, and eight, being the eight junior ones, were removed.
Lord J. Russell
would not, on that occasion, enter into a discussion on the general condition of Ireland, but there were one or two points touched on by the noble Lord who had just spoken (Lord Eliot), and the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel), he understood, had made some remarks which would not allow him to remain silent. He could not pass by what the noble Lord had stated, namely, that the noble Lord, on coming into office, ' had found the state of the country so undisturbed, so tranquil, that the Irish Government had thought it right to dispense with the services of eight stipendiary magistrates. That was the avowed declaration of the noble Lord. He wished for no better testimony to the state in which the country was left by the late Government, because the House would recollect the numerous discussions which had taken place when the late Government were in office, on the general condition of Ireland; the House would recollect how much that Government was on that account the object of vituperation; it would recollect the numerous inquiries that were instituted in the other House of Parliament to ascertain in what degree outrages of all kinds, murders, and aggravated assaults, had increased under that Government; and now it was proved by the declaration of the noble Lord, that the 314 condition of Ireland had then been one of great tranquillity, of peaceful pursuits, and of general prosperity, which the Government of the right hon. Gentleman, as was admitted by the noble Lord, had failed to produce. Such was the comparison which the language of the noble Lord justified. He understood that the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury had stated, that there had been no complaint during the past Session, and therefore be had a right to infer that there were no grievances in Ireland. When the right hon. Gentleman made that statement he must have misunderstood the motives of those who made no objections to his conduct last Session. He was of opinion when he was in office, and he had stated that opinion when the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies had brought forward his Registration Bill, that it was most desirable, although some legislation was required for Ireland, that the country should be left in its then state of tranquility, and they should wait for a more favourable time to introduce those legislative measures which would satisfy the claims of the people. He objected to the bill of the noble Lord, that it would raise agitation and provoke excitement which did not then exist. According to the opinion which he had declared in office, he had acted upon out of office. He did not consider it advantageous to introduce legislative measures without some hope of carrying them, nor was he disposed to take notice of every step taken by the Government to mark all its faults, when that might provoke excitement, injure the public interests, and disturb the internal tranquillity of Ireland, when the general condition of that country was not brought under the consideration of the House. He should, however, be taught by the observations of the right hon. Baronet, and take care on other occasions not to allow the Government to suppose itself guiltless because it was not accused in the House. His noble Friend (Lord Ebrington) had adverted to one or two matters in which he thought the Government had deserved blame, but there was one fact of which the noble Lord had not taken notice, which he thought reprehensible, and of which he believed the Government had since repented. The subject to which he alluded was a prosecution for libel, in which the doctrines laid down from the bench in Ireland were completely hostile to the con- 315 stitutional freedom of discussion. He was glad, however, to find that such doctrines were not approved of, and the present Attorney-general for Ireland had exercised a proper discretion in not bringing up the person found guilty for judgment. He considered that a wise determination, and the course pursued by the Government the proper one. It was properly said, that they found themselves forced on this occasion by the state of circumstances, to discuss the question, though not regularly brought forward, of the general condition of Ireland. The course which had been taken by the Government had been referred to the course taken by the hon. Member for Cork. He was not connected with the Government, nor had he the influence of the hon. and learned Member for Cork, he had therefore neither the power to put down agitation, nor the influence to excite it. Nevertheless, though he was not peculiarly connected with Ireland, he could entertain no sentiments of the Irish he would not express, and he would allow no proper occasion to pass by, on which be would not give his opinion of the cause of the evils of that country. He would take care, too, after the observations of the right hon. Gentleman, that on other subjects as well as Ireland on every question on which he thought the Government to blame, whether it concerned the settlement of our foreign policy or whether it referred to our internal condition, whether it were a foreign or a domestic question, he would raise his voice on every occasion against the acts of the Government which he thought blameable, that the right hon. Gentleman might not say that he approved and acquiesced in its proceedings. What he meant further, then, to offer to the House would refer to the question under discussion, on which he felt called upon to make a few remarks, particularly in reference to what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Recorder of Dublin. On going into the committee it was some satisfaction to have the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman said he supported the bill, and he spoke of it as not being different from the law already in existence. The right hon. Gentleman said, that greater powers were not necessary, and that the strongest clauses of the bill were not required [Mr. Shaw had said, they were not important.] Not important? Surely, if they were not important, the 316 right hon. Gentleman must be ready to give them up. When there was a case of particular danger to the public liberties, he could conceive that there might be a necessity for a stringent measure, like the present enactment; but when the right hon. Gentleman says that it is not important, why does he not allow the general rule to operate, that the liberty of the people is of the highest value—that the House of Commons should not interfere with its enjoyments—nor inflict, without an adequate cause, this enactment on the people of Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman might say that the particular circumstances of Ireland justified the additional provisions. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government on a former occasion stated, that this bill was introduced merely as an improvement on the former Arms Bill, before the present state of agitation in Ireland existed, and without any reference to that excitement. If this were the case, it was clear that the extraordinary provisions had not been rendered necessary by the unusual state of things in Ireland. It was, indeed, perfectly well known to all parties, that at that period no peculiar circumstances existed; the noble Secretary for Ireland did not pretend that any such circumstances existed. It appeared, then, to him, that the present state of feverish excitement prevailing in Ireland, was a sufficient reason for withdrawing these extraordinary provisions. Unless it could be shown that they were absolutely necessary, it was most unwise to add fuel to the fire already burning by enacting them. He would conclude by stating, that he had been greatly strengthened in his opinions on the subject, by the declaration which had just been made by the right hon. Member for the University of Dublin. Most certainly, if those with whom that right hon. Gentleman was connected thought additional provisions as to arms necessary, would have conveyed that impression to the House. Thus strengthened in his opinion, if the House went into committee on the bill, he was prepared to take or support measures for reducing its provisions to the present state of the law on the subject. He saw no reason for, but every reason against, extending these provisions beyond what was absolutely necessary for the security of life and property.
§ Sir R. Peel
explained, that he bad not 317 said, that the noble Lord approved of the policy of the present Government; he had not inferred, that the noble Lord approved of that policy; but he certainly thought, if the Government had not acted on principles of moderation, of impartiality, and of justice, it was highly improbable the two last Sessions would have passed over, as they had done, without some notice being taken of the matter by hon. Gentlemen opposite. During the last Session, there had been entire silence on the subject on the other side of the House. The only case which had presented any exception at all, was the libel case referred to by the noble Lord, upon which a motion was made by a right hon. Gentleman, a Member of the late Government; and his exception confirmed his (Sir Robert Peel's) statement, showing, as it did, that when a case arose which seemed to hon. Gentlemen to call for comment and animadversion, due notice was taken of it.
§ Mr. Trelawney
said, that Gentlemen on that side of the House had no desire to oppose Government, when it introduced good measures. It was his conviction, that until the present Church Establishment in Ireland was abolished, there would be no peace for Ireland. That Church which presented to the whole people, the exhibition of churches without congregations, shepherds without flocks.
§ Viscount Dungannon
was very glad, that Gentlemen opposite spoke out so plainly on the subject of the Church of Ireland. The right hon. Baronet near him had most truly said, that the moment the Established Church of Ireland was overthrown, there was an end of the Union., He considered the attacks which were so constantly made upon the Protestant clergy of Ireland, as in the highest degree reprehensible. The noble Lord opposite, before he passed opinions on the subject, should visit Ireland, and ascertain the facts of the matter. He could state from personal knowledge, that a more praiseworthy body of men than the Protestant clergy of Ireland did not exist. In his opinion, Gentlemen who spoke of that body of men, in the language which unfortunately had been too frequently heard in that House, who vituperated them as idle drones, living on the fat of the land, and doing nothing, as shepherds without flocks, were responsible for much of the bad spirit which was engendered in respect 318 to that Church in the minds of the people. As to the agitation now prevalent in Ireland, it was owing entirely to the efforts of agitators and demagogues arousing the feelings of the people, and exciting them to objects which they knew could never be effected.
§ Mr. Ward
suggested, that the noble Lord opposite might extend his taunt about the impropriety of persons talking of Irish people and Irish affairs, without having visited Ireland, to certain persons much nearer himself. He believed the noble Lord would find, upon inquiry, that the present Lord and master of Ireland, the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department, who, it must be admitted, expressed his opinions with considerable decision about the Irish people, bad never yet been in Ireland. As to the Protestant clergy, no one on that side of the House had thrown any aspersions upon the Protestant clergy of Ireland personally. On the contrary,—it was admitted that, of late years, they had discharged their duty with a sincerity of feeling, and earnestness of purpose, which nothing but the vice of the system could have counteracted. What he, and those who thought with him, objected to, was, not the conduct of the clergy, but the character of the system; and, when the right hon. Baronet opposite called upon them to support him in maintaining the Union, they were bound, as honest men, to give him their opinion in return, as to the causes, which impeded the proper operation of that Union, and made it a mere parchment bond between the two countries. It was absurd to suppose that they could tranquillize Ireland, while they persisted in perpetuating the evils which rendered her discontented; yet, until Ireland was tranquillized, England could know no security. The danger attendant on the existing state of things was never more forcibly illustrated, than it had been that night; for it appeared that no question, however insignificant, could be mooted in reference to that country, without leading to a most important discussion. A motion, which he did not believe would have occupied in discussion many minutes of the time of the House, had led to two most important speeches on the general state of Ireland. That of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, and that just delivered by the right hon. Baronet, the bead of her Majesty's Government, the speech of the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir R. Peel) was the more particularly important, 319 because it was an answer not to the speech by the noble Lord, but to a speech delivered on a previous evening by one of his own colleagues in the Government (Sir J. Graham), which speech had produced a painful impression, and had been listened to with evident signs of discomfort by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. It was well known, that it was the constant habit of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, when there were differences in the Cabinet, to bring them to the notice of the House, by speeches which he conceived calculated to elicit expressions of support for that side of the question which he preferred. The right hon. Gentleman (the Home Secretary) had done so before. He did so in 1834, when his unlooked for declaration that there were no differences of opinion whatsoever in Lord Grey's Cabinet upon the Irish Church, drew from the noble Lord the Member for the City of London a reply, which the present Secretary for the Colonies had made historical by saying, "Johnny has upset the coach." It was his (Mr. Ward's) firm belief, that the right hon. Gentleman had on a recent occasion acted the same part, well knowing that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government could not concur in it, and which, indeed, that right hon. Baronet had handsomely avowed. The right hon. Gentleman said, that conciliation was at an end as regarded Ireland; and that the only question in dealing with that country was, whether the Government should be conducted in conformity with the will, and the passions of the masses, or with the wisdom of the united property and intelligence of this mighty empire? This view of to question had been placed in a still more decided light by the speech of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, on a subsequent occasion. But time had since enabled them to ascertain better the feelings of the country upon the subject; and to-night down came the right hon. Baronet with another programme, from a more authentic source, of the intentions of the Government with regard to Ireland. Now they were told it was in truth no question between the masses on the one side, and property on the other. They were not to believe what they had been told by subordinate Members of the Government, who had no business to speak at all upon such questions; and if they had done so the other night, why it was a liberty they were not indeed to repeat. The intentions of 320 the Government were to be declared, but by the right hon. Baronet himself,—the head of the Government, whose declarations were, no doubt, perfectly sincere, when he disavowed any design to coerce, and declared that his intention was simply to administer the laws with perfect impartiality, fairness, and forbearance, without any applications to Parliament for unusual powers. [Sir R. Peel here intimated, inaudibly, some dissent from this representation of his sentiments.] He had, then, most unfortunately misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, and he was not in the habit of misunderstanding. He regretted if he had not correctly conceived the purport of the right hon. Gentleman's observations, and if any unusual powers were to be applied for, he hoped they would be asked for fairly; but of this he was certain, after the experience of 1833, that no British House of Commons would be sufficiently degraded to grant them; and the right hon. Baronet might rest assured that the present difficulties in Ireland would be immensely aggravated by the application. But he believed that he had correctly interpreted the right hon. Gentleman's declaration, and that it was not his intention to apply for extraordinary powers, though some of his colleagues would be ready enough to use them. The right hon. Gentleman to-night bad fairly parted company with these impatient Gentlemen. But there had been one great defect in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. If it had disclaimed the intention of asking for anything extraordinary, it also declared no design to confer anything extraordinary. The Government, it appeared, had nothing ordinary, or extraordinary, to suggest or concede at this most critical moment. There had been no intention avowed of dealing with any one of the great questions that had been mooted in the previous debates in short, there was no decided declaration at all, except on the subject of the Irish Church, on which he (Mr. Ward) was sorry to see a very unhappy coincidence between the right hon. Baronet's opinions, and those expressed by a noble Lord on the Opposition side. He was sorry to see the Government taking its stand on that one measure, which had excited more ill-feeling in Ireland than any other single measure that could he named amongst the causes of the present dissatisfaction. He regretted this for the sake not only of Ireland, but of the empire; for he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that the 321 repeal of the Union would be equivalent to the ultimate dismemberment of the empire, for that it would be absurd to imagine two independent legislatures carried on concurrently without any other link than the acknowledgement of a common Sovereign. But it was hopeless to expect that by any Ministerial displays in Parliament, any enunciation of abstract doctrines, unaccompanied by practical measures, conciliation could be successfully attempted, or the agitation now subsisting be put an end to —an agitation which the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies and the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary attributed to the efforts of one individual, as if they could be of any avail if directed against a contented state of society. No ! it was the mud, the rich soil which agitation found to drop its seeds in—it was that to which was to be attributed the growth and strength of the pernicious tree that had taken such deep root in that country. The Opposition had been accused of obstructing the passing of measures which would have placed Ireland in a far different position; but even admitting the fact, which he did not do, for no measures good or bad, had been proposed except the arms bill, which seemed to contain the sum and substance of the whole Irish policy of the present Cabinet—who set that example? Who coined the word "obstruct"? Who first boasted, that he would apply it practically to the business of the House? Why, the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies when he sat in the place where he (Mr. Ward) was now sitting. But there was no disposition to follow his example. If any useful measures were brought forward they would receive from the Opposition cordial support, which might be useful against obdurate supporters. At all events, they were exercising their proper functions in raising discussions, which could not be said to be waste of time when they elicited such satisfactory speeches as that of the Premier that night, softening, as it had done, the irritating expressions of his right hon. Colleague, and leaving fair ground for hope, that, although little had yet been done, a time was coming when some of the great questions alluded to that night, would be taken up by the Government in a more formal shape, and dealt with in a way more satisfactory to the country.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, I am sure, Sir, the House will permit me an explanation after what has been thrown out by the hon. 322 Gentleman, who certainly cannot have been in the House during my speech.
§ Sir R. Peel
Then, I must say, it was natural for me to imagine it had been otherwise, for never was there a more complete, though doubtless unintentional, misrepresentation of what I said. I was defending, of course, what had been pursued by the Government of Ireland, stating, that I was prepared to prove that its policy had been marked by moderation and perfect impartiality. That policy my right hon. Friend near me, as Home Secretary, chiefly directed, and the hon. Member's inference about differences of opinion between myself and other Members of the Cabinet are altogether and entirely unfounded. The course of policy pursued in Ireland, as directed by my right hon. Friend, has been marked, I say, by moderation, justice, and impartiality; and upon this subject, which is under his more immediate superintendence, there has been between him and myself the most cordial concurrence of opinion. And, as to the expression of "subordinates," made use of by the hon. Gentleman, what I said, in answer to the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston), I repeat, that it is not true that any such parties have attempted to influence appointments in Ireland, or that, if they did attempt it, they would succeed. And that the hon. Gentleman tried to pervert into a supposition that I was referring to the speech of my right hon. Friend. Cautioning my right hon. Friend, and intimating a dissent from his declarations—[Mr. Ward denied that he had made such insinuations.]—Sir, the lion. Member did distinctly, commenting on the speech of my right hon. Friend, allude to mine, this night, as throwing it overboard; and made use of the expression "subordinate" in connexion with my right hon. Friend. I again deny, that there is or has been any foundation for the insinuations of the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Ward
said, he had never said, or supposed, that the right hon. Baronet himself had applied the epithet "subordinate" to the Home Secretary. It would have been impertinent in him to put into the mouth of the Premier an expression in such bad taste, as applied to a Colleague filling so important a Ministry. He bad used the word as expressing his own opinion with reference to the position of the two right hon. Gentlemen in the Cabinet; fir he thought it no degradation for any man that 323 he should be (as he believed in fact all the Members of Administration really were) subordinate to the right hon. Baronet.
§ Mr. Wyse
said, that it was quite time the people of Ireland received something more grateful from the Government than an Arms Bill, yet no symptom or promise of any measure of redress or amelioration had been held out to them. The Irish people could not forget the obstructions which the party now sitting on the Treasury Benches had thrown in the way of the Church Temporalities' Bill, the Municipal Reform Bill, the Railways Bill, and indeed every measure of public utility and conciliation; and they required something now at the hands of that party to heal these repeated wounds. The present excitement of the people of Ireland was occasioned by the irritation consequent upon the refusal of all measures of relief; and he apprehended, that the declaration made by the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department, the other day, that the policy of conciliation was now exhausted, would do more to aggravate this excitement than any exertions of disaffected persons. The grievances of which the Irish people complained, were recognised by all sides of the House, and if some legislation were not had upon the subject before the termination of the present Session, he Very much feared that in the interval between this and the commencement of the next Session, they might be called upon to act against the Voice of the country, and to resort to that worst of all expedients of plunderers and wicked men—a civil war.
§ Mr. Ross
was rejoiced that this debate had been protracted, as, besides eliciting the sentiments of a great number of Members upon the subject of Irish affairs, it had afforded an opportunity to two leading Members of the House to give notice of the measures which they thought necessary for the relief of the grievances under which Ireland laboured. He had heard with great gratification the observations of the noble Lord, the Member for Tiverton; but he was sorry to hear him declare that he would support the provisions of this bill to the extent at least of those of previous enactments; for he did not see any necessity for the bill, either as regarded Ireland or England. He very much feared it would be used in a hostile spirit, as a means of op- 324 posing the agitation on the question of the Repeal of the Union.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
rose for the purpose of answering a question which had been put to Members on this side of the House by the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury, who he regretted was not now in his place! but who had asked how hon. Members on this (the Opposition) side of the House could reconcile their opposition to this measure at the present moment, with their concurrence in the bills, f r a similar purpose, of 1838 and 1840. Now he (Mr. Duncombe) was quite ready to profess that the Members on this side of the House were in a false position upon this question. He, for one, confessed the error he had committed on this subject on former occasions; but the fact was, he did not hear the Irish Members make any objection to the measure then before the House, and when he did not hear Irish Members, and those who were interested in the subject, oppose the measure, he certainly did not feel called upon to be the first to throw himself in the breach, and declare that the measure was unconstitutional. He was quite ready to admit, therefore, that his attention had never been directed to the subject before. But looking at the bill now, he could only say that, if it was a measure proposed for England, it would not, for one instant, be tolerated; the English Members themselves would not allow the House to go into committee upon it. He could assure the Government, moreover, that there was arising a very strong feeling amongst the people of this country upon the subject of this bill; the working people of this country thought that the people of Ireland ought not to submit to such a measure. The noble Lord, the Member for Tiverton said, that the people of England supported the present Government, but that the Irish people were op-I posed to it. He, however, held a different opinion; he believed that the people of England were not prepared any longer blindly to submit their destinies and pin their faith to this noble Lord, or that hon. or right hon. Gentleman. The people of England had not as yet seen any very strong demonstration of an intention to take their interests zealously in hand by either party. [Interruption.] I maintain (continued the hon. Member) addressing the Ministers, I maintain that you are 325 most unpopular with the people, and that you are equally unwelcome to the Sovereign. He asked the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he intended to maintain the act of union at the point of the bayonet? The right hon. Baronet had on some previous occasion professed himself a disciple of Fox—describing himself as a I Whig of the good old school. But Fox had said of Ireland that she was not worth preserving if she was only to be maintained by force, and that it was better to have no subjects at all than subjects who were only seeking to throw off their allegiance, at the first opportunity. Now, he asked the right hon. Baronet how he intended to maintain the union with Ireland? They all recollected the remarkable speech which the right hon. Baronet had made the other night, in which he declared that the policy of concihation had now come to an end; and it' was very remarkable that the very next day after that speech was delivered several noble Lords and Members of this House assembled at the house of a noble Lord, and passed a resolution declaring that they cordially approved of the policy of the right hon. Baronet's Government, and would support him in it to the utmost; that is, that they would support a policy which was based upon the principle that conciliation was at an end. [No, no.] Was it not so. Well, then, let hon. Gentlemen stand up in their places, and repeat what they meant. It was no use saying, "No, no," when no one could see who the cry came from. He maintained that hon. Gentlemen had not professed those doctrines in this House which they did when they met at Lord Wicklow's, or other places of that sort. What was the conciliation which the Government proposed to administer towards Ireland? The only evidence he had of it was in the dismissal of the magistrates by the Lord- lieutenant, which had been carried on to such an extent that some forty had been dismissed up to the present moment. He would say that a more paltry, a mere pettifogging, a more mean and cowardly proceeding, he could not conceive, than that of the Lord-lieutenant in respect to these gentlemen. A proceeding more unconstitutional in its tendency he could not conceive, for he maintained that it was the right of every British subject to meet his fellow-subjects for the purpose of pe- 326 titioning for the repeal or continuance of any act of Parliament. With respect to the letter of the Lord Chancellor of Ire- land to Lord Ffrench, he would not give the right hon. Gentleman in the chair so much useless trouble as to ask him whether or not it amounted to a breach of privilege, for he thought there could hardly be a division of opinion upon that point. But he wished to ask the right hon. Baronet, the Home Secretary, a very plain question respecting that letter, whether her Majesty's Ministers advised the framing of that letter or not? [The hon. Member quoted the letter sonic length, for which see ante, Vol. lxix. p. 1064, and then proceeded. Now he would ask when and where it was that her Majesty had expressed her determination to prevent the carrying of a mea- sure for the repeal of the union? No declaration of the kind had as yet, by any legitimate means, been made known to the public. In his letter to Mr. Macdonnell the Lord Chancellor said,It having been reported to me that you have attended certain meetings, assembled for the purpose of agitating the repeal of the union, I wish to ask whether that report is correct, and if so whether any of such meetings took place subsequently to the declaration made by her Majesty's Ministers in Parliament of her Majesty's determination to resist the repeal of that act?He hoped it was the intention of her Majesty to maintain the union; but he apprehended that the Lord Chancellor had no authority for stating that it had been intimated to this House that such was her Majesty's determination. He thought he bad a right, therefore, to ask the right hon. Baronet whether it was he who had communicated to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland what had been said in this House as to her Majesty's alleged intention on this subject? He recollected very well—and so would many now present—that the right hon. Baronet, the First Lord of the Treasury, one evening came down to the House, and got up a bit of solemn farce with the Comptroller of the Lord-Lieutenant's household upon this point, which, but for the solemn con- sequences which might result from it, would be entitled to universal laughter. The right hon. Baronet then stated, that he was empowered by her Majesty to reiterate the declaration of his late Majesty William 4th., on this subject; but 327 he did not produce any authority for that declaration in the shape of a message, or otherwise; and even if the right hon. Baronet had, he contended that it ought not to have had the slightest weight with this House, nor with the magistrates of Ireland. The Lord Chancellor had no right to dismiss those magistrates. He knew nothing in the annals of the dismission of magistrates which came up to the meanness—the cowardliness—of the late dismissals in Ireland, except that of Lord Fitzwilliam from the Lord-lieutenancy of the county of York. In 1811 that nobleman, whose only offence was his attendance at a county meeting, held to petition Parliament to institute an inquiry into the circumstances of the Manchester massacre, were dismissed by the Tories of those days. The right hon. Baronet opposite, Sir James Graham, was then serving in the Yorkshire Hussars, and much to his credit, lie resigned his commission, stating that he could not serve in a corps which Lord Fitzwilliam was unfit to command. He did not know what might be the result of the motion before the House. The hon. Gentleman might or might not withdraw it; but if it should appear that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, in acting as he had acted, had done so in consequence of information received by him through the medium of the press, he should feel it his duty to move in this House that a faithful and true report of the proceedings of this House should not constitute a breach of its privileges. The Irish people were only exercising their rights in attending meetings as a means of petitioning for an alteration or repeal of any act of Parliament. and there was nothing in the Act of Union to make it a special exception to the rule. Let them rest assured that the English people were not disposed to go into a civil war in order to preserve the union; they would not consent to its being kept up by the bayonet; and such being the case, if they asked for any measure of coercion, it would be the duty of English Members, and one, the fulfilment of which would be claimed by their constituents, to resist any such measure to the utmost. If such meetings were to be put down in Ireland, the next thing would be an attempt at their suppression in England, but only an attempt, for if they were to introduce any such proposition with reference to England, it would not be tolerated for one
§ Mr. Sharman Crawford
said, amid general cries of "divide," it was melancholy to hear so many evils admitted as existing with respect to Ireland. and yet to hear no plan proposed for their remedy. He thought that measures might be adopted which with respect to the tenure of land would improve the condition of the people, without trenching upon the rights and liberties of the proprietor of land, and such a measure it was his intention to propose. The only way of getting rid of the grievance of the Church was by taking away all the revenues of the Church, and leaving it to be supported by means of voluntary contributions. As to the motion before the House, he could not assent to it. The principle upon which he objected to the Arms Bill extended to England as well as to Ireland. He would oppose it as applied to either country.
§ Mr. W. S. O'Brien
said, that the constitutional question put by the hon. Member for Finsbury called for an answer from the Secretary of State for the Home Department; and he rose, in order, if possible, to try to elicit that answer. In his letter to Lord Ffrench, Sir Edward Sugden said, that,Her Majesty's Government having recently declared in both Houses of Parliament their fixed determination to maintain the Union, it becomes the duty of the Members of Government to support that declaration.
The Lord Chancellor
could only have information of this, either by communication from the Secretary of State, or through the press. If it was obtained through the latter medium, the question arose whether or not the transaction involved a breach of the privileges of this House, and he should be glad to hear the Speaker's opinion upon the subject. If, however, it was not through the press that the Lord-lieutenant obtained his information of what had passed in this place, it must have been through some organ of the Government; and if so, would not Government avow that communication to the House? He put this simple question, which he hoped would be definitely answered, as one referring to the constitutional rights of the people of Ireland.
desired utterly to deny the assertion of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, that the bill now before them was similar in its character to the existing act of Parliament. This bill contained 100 stringent 329 regulations which the other measure never contemplated. It was so stringent, in fact, that under its provisions the very state sword in Dublin castle must henceforth be branded. With respect to this amendment, he was sorry to say, that if it was pressed, he could not support it. He considered the measure so infamous, that he would not seek to press it upon the people of any country.
§ Sir W. Barron
said, that the sense of the House being evidently against the amendment, he should beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ On the question that the Speaker do now leave the chair,
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
said, that he was not surprised the right hon. Gentleman opposite had given no answer to the question he had put to him. He had asked whether, in the letter in which the Lord Chancellor of Ireland referred to certain proceedings in that House, the Lord Chancellor had so written in consequence of communications from the Government at home, or merely on the authority of newspaper reports? "Now," said the hon. Member, producing a newspaper, "Now, I will take leave to refer to the solemn farce which was some time since enacted in this House. [Cries of Read.] Well, I'm going to read. The report says—[Cries of "Order."]—Ay, " that's exactly the point I wished to bring you to!—that's it—that's the very thing. I had no right to read the newspaper. I know it. I agree that you are right. I am out of order, grossly out of order, and if you call on the Speaker to prevent me from proceeding undoubtedly he must interfere, and I will submit to his decision. But then this brings me back to my important question—the question I put in the right hon. Baronet's absence,—did the Lord Chancellor of Ireland derive his information from a communication of her Majesty's Minister, or did he derive it from the reports of the public press? If he derived it from the public press, are we come to this—that a Lord Chancellor of Ireland shall dismiss and degrade magistrates on the meanest, the most paltry, and cowardly motives, deriving his intelligence from a newspaper, which I, in my place in Parliament, am not allowed to read? Why, if such be the case, in what an anomalous position the privileges of the House stand with regard to the public 330 press! I am called to order for reading from a newspaper that which I believe to be a most authentic report of proceedings in this House; but I shall go on, and now, Sir, unless you tell me that any report or notice taken of proceedings within these walk, whether in the press or elsewhere, is contrary to the Privileges of Parliament, I shall certainly beg to read the first scene of that solemn farce; Yes, of that solemn farce; I called it so to the right hon. Baronet's back, and I now call it so to his face—of that ' solemn farce, which was got up and played in this House by the noble Lord the Comptroller of the Lord-lieutenant's household, and the Prime Minister of England. The report, Sir, runs—[Cries of "Order."]
§ The Speaker
ߞ.I am bound to tell the hon. Member that lie is out of order in referring to, or reading, any report of proceedings said to have taken place in this House.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
.—Very well, Sir; then, I beg to move "That a true and faithful report of the proceedings of this House is not a breach of the privileges of Parliament." That is my proposition. The right hon. Baronet has taken no notice of my question. [An hon. Member.—It's not worth an answer.]—Perhaps so; perhaps, the right hon. Baronet may only make bad worse. I am told that one of the results of his speech was, that on Saturday a number of peers assembled and agreed to resolutions declaring that they would assist in carrying out his principles to the fullest extent. I wonder how the right hon. Baronet reconciles that speech with the letter he wrote when Lord Fitzwilliam was removed from the Lord- lieutenancy of Yorkshire, and when he resigned his commission in the Yorkshire Hussars. This is the letter, it is addressed to Lord de Grey:—
§ "Netherby, October 27.
§ "My Lord,—I sincerely regret the painful necessity which compels me to tender the resignation of my commission in your Lordship's regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry.
§ " I am aware that the moment, which has been forced on me by recent events, may appear to your Lordship most inopportune; but fearless of censure, and regardless of misapprehension, I do not hesitate to avow my public reason.
§ " The removal of Earl Fitzwilliam from the Lord-lieutenancy of the West Riding would seem to indicate intentions on the part of the Government which I hope never to see realiz- 331 ed; and though a humble individual, I an unfit to serve in a body of men raised for constitutional purposes which that noble Earl is unfit to direct. I therefore beg leave to tender my commission.
§ "With strong feelings of personal attachment to your Lordship, and sincere regard for a corps to which I thought it an honour belong, I am, my Lord, your faithful and obedient servant.
§ " J. R. G. GRAHAM."
§ Now, that letter was a credit to the right hon. Baronet. Lord Fitzwilliam was dismissed because he exercised the constitutional privilege of an Englishman, to attend a public meeting assembled inquire into and petition respecting the circumstances of the Manchester massacre, and the right hon. Baronet threw up his commission in the yeomanry because he thought that according to the strict letter of the law Lord Fitzwilliam had a perfect right to attend that meeting. Well, and that was all the Irish magistrates had done. They had attended public meetings to petition for an alteration of an act of Parliament, and it was for exercising that constitutional privilege that they were dismissed. The right hon. Baronet, thought that Lord Fitzwilliam had properly exercised that right, and he now asked that right hon. Baronet— did the Lord Chancellor, in alluding in his letter to certain proceedings in Parliament derive his information from the Government or from any other source? If he derived it from the public press, he (Mr. Duncombe) maintained, that he had no right to act on such in- formation — if he derived it from the Government, or from. Members of the Government, he certainly had a right to act on it; but then the magistrates dismissed, should have been put on the same footing, and the same communication should have been made to all. Suppose Lord Ffrench had replied to the Lord Chancellor — "I don't know anything about declarations in Parliament—I am not bound to know anything of them—I look at the votes, the authorised publications of the House, and I find that they contain no Message from the Crown." Suppose Lord Ffrench, in reply to the Lord Chancellor had asked, "Where am I to find the proceedings you refer to?" what would the Lord Chancellor have replied? He, in the name of the Irish magistrates, now demanded that reply, and he hoped it would not be refused.332
§ Sir J. Graham
must plead guilty to ° having abstained in the first instance from taking any notice of what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman; and if the House should desire to know why he had so (lb-. stained, he thought they might find that he was amply justified by the observation which had fallen from the hon. Member, to the effect that it was his purpose to prevent their going into committee. [Mr. Duncombe: I never said so.] The hon. Member declared he had never said so; he, thought he had heard the hon. Member say so, but since the hon. Member denied having said so, he supposed he must accept that denial. The hon. Gentleman had taken offence at his not having condescended a reply in the first instance. Now, he appealed to the House whether any Minister of past or present times had ever shown greater readiness than he had to answer any question, or to give any information on matters of public interest that it was in his power to afford. But he must say, that although a Minister, he felt entitled to plead in debate the privilege of an individual Member, and he could not think that he was responsible for are ply when any Member might think fit to put a question, in tone and manner similar to that of the hon. Gentleman. He repeated, that under such circumstances, he was not called on to rise and answer any question that might be propounded. With respect to this question lie could not but think, whether he regarded it as a Minister, or as an individual Member, that the language used by the hon. Gentleman, the application of the words "pitiful, paltry, and cowardly," were so far from courteous as at least to afford him an excuse for not answering such allegations. Nor, perhaps, should he have risen to enter upon the question, did he not think it due to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland to state what he had to say. In the most offensive form the hon. Gentleman had twitted the Government with the declaration of his right hon. Friend, that it was the fixed purpose of her Majesty to use all the just powers of the Crown, to preserve the Legislative Union unimpaired. That declaration was notorious throughout the United Kingdom. He said it was known to the Irish Government; he said more—he did not hesitate to declare that express instructions were conveyed by himself on the part of himself and his Colleagues to the, Irish Government, to mark the displeasure 333 of her Majesty's Government, at the conduct of those magistrates who attended meetings for the purpose of furthering the cause of Repeal in the present state of Ireland. When his Colleagues and himself considered the character of those multitudinous meetings of persons collected out of many counties and from distant points in martial array, and with bands of music, and when they considered the danger to the public peace and the terror that was likely to be caused to the people of Ireland by such exhibitions, he did not hesitate to declare that he had written to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland to point out, on his responsibility, that the time had arrived when it was necessary to exercise the undoubted power of the Sovereign, and not to continue in the corn-mission magistrates when it was manifest they were pursuing a line of conduct inconsistent with their public duty, and fatal to the peace of the kingdom. He now announced to the hon. Gentleman, that he was responsible for the advice he gave.
Lord J. Russell
was very glad that the hon. Gentleman had drawn from the right hon. Baronet the declaration he had just made. He really thought that hitherto, as a constitutional question, the dismissal of the Irish magistrates had been left on most unsatisfactory grounds, after the first letter from the Lord Chancellor of Ireland which had been produced in the House, and after the other letters from the same authority. But if her Majesty's Government were of opinion, that there had been meetings in Ireland, attended by great numbers, and under circumstances calculated to inspire terror, and that there had been a succession of such exhibitions, of a character having a tendency to popular commotion — that such opinions being entertained by the Government furnished a ground for the Secretary of State to write to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland as the right hon. Gentleman had described. That he considered was a sound and constitutional ground. He was not discussing the question of the dismissals, or what was the reason of them; but it there were those grounds, which he had referred to, for the right hon. Baronet to act upon, he thought the right hon. Baronet ought to produce the letter he wrote empowering or directing the Lord Chancellor of Ireland to act as he had with respect to those dismissals, with the grounds 334 and distinctions on which they were made, because the matter was by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland placed on other grounds, which were not only unsatisfactory, but failed on every point. In the first place, it was not a mere technicality that the debates of that House were not notice to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland of the intentions of her Majesty's Government, and for a public act some public reason and some public document was required. In the next place, he must say that this conduct of the Lord Chancellor's appeared, on the face of it, to be an unjust interference with public discussion. It was strange to say, that, because Ministers thought any specific object was disadvantageous to the country, then every magistrate who attended a public dinner or a meeting in furtherance of that object should be dismissed. Why, the very next week they might have the repeal of the Corn-laws put under the ban. It was important, therefore, to mark the distinction and have the matter put upon sound and constitutional ground, not that of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland's letter, but this,—that if magistrates had attended meetings which were dangerous to the public peace and accompanied with circumstances of terror, they ought not to be allowed to remain in the commission. But no declaration in the House of Commons made it improper for them to attend those meetings; far less would such declarations render it improper for individuals to hold such sentiments with respect to repeal as numbers of persons held in Ireland.
§ Viscount Jocelyn
said, that he had given notice in the usual way of his intention to put a question, and at the time he had given the notice he had no connexion with the household of the Lord-lieutenant or Ireland.
§ Mr. Redington
could not help remarking the discrepancy between the mode in which the right hon. Baronet had formerly answered his questions on the subject now before the House, and his present explanation; and he would say, that if the Lord Chancellor of Ireland had not before this dismissal of Lord Ffrench received any instructions from the Government, he thought the Lord Chancellor had committed one of the most unjust and most unconstitutional acts and one of the greatest breaches of the privileges of the House of Commons that ever took place.
§ Sir J. Graham
had said, that the Lord 335 Chancellor of Ireland had exercised his discretion, and that it was a matter within his own jurisdiction. But before exercising that discretion, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland had communications with the Lord-lieutenant—which communications were of a confidential nature—and he was then of opinion that the time had arrived when it was necessary to adopt some decisive steps.
§ Mr. W. S. O'Brien
said, that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland in superseding these magistrates, had alluded to a declaration which had been made in that House of Parliament by a Member of the Government. He could only have obtained that information from the public prints. He wished to ask Mr. Speaker whether any individual, be he a newspaper editor or a Lord Chancellor of Ireland, had a right to take the statements of the public press as authority with respect to communications between her Majesty and that House, and to act upon information derived from such sources.
§ Viscount Howick
had not intended to take any part in this discussion; but he thought this incidental point as to the dismissal of magistrates was left in a state of doubt and uncertainty which required some further elucidation. His noble Friend near him had asked the right hon. Baronet opposite, whether he was prepared to lay on the Table of the House the official communications with the Lord Chancellor of Ireland which had led to these dismissals, and the right hon. Gentleman replied, decidedly not. After hearing that answer, lie (Lord Howick) must say, that he deeply regretted the course pursued by the Government. They were well aware that one of the great misfortunes under which Ireland laboured, was that wide difference of opinion existing between the great body of the people, and those classes from whom the magistrates were generally selected; and the people of Ireland had not that confidence in the administration of the law which was desirable. It was, therefore, in the highest degree important, that the dismissal of magistrates who were supposed to possess the confidence of the great body of the people, should, if possible, be avoided. If the Government did determine that magistrates who encouraged the repeal agitation should not be allowed to hold the commission of the peace, they ought to have given some intimation of that 336 resolution. The Government of Ireland had, however, without any warning, acting upon a declaration made in that House, which was no constitutional ground for the course they adopted, dismissed several gentlemen from the commission of the peace. Though he was as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman to maintain the act of Union, he could not forget, that it was open to discussion. If the Government had stated to the magistracy, "You are at liberty to entertain what opinions you please as to the repeal or maintenance of this Act of Parliament; but in the present circumstances of the country the agitation is dangerous to the public peace, and if you sanction it we cannot allow you to continue in the commission," they would have pursued a proper course. But the dismissals had taken place without any such warning having been given; and many gentlemen, conceiving that an unjust interference had been exercised, with regard to the expression of public opinion, had resigned the commissions which they held. He must say, that he thought, considering the present situation of Ireland, the Government were deeply responsible for their mismanagement in a matter of so much importance; and he regretted, that there was not in existence such a formal and official letter on this subject from the Government in this country to the authorities in Ireland as the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) might have Ventured to produce. It was evident that no such document existed. He thought, before such a step as this was taken, the grounds on which it was adopted should have been clearly stated in official despatches, which might have been submitted to the House.
§ Sir J. Graham
said, that previously to the declaration of the right hon. Baronet, at the head of her Majesty's Government in that House, several communications had passed between himself, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and the Lord-lieutenant of that country, with respect to the attendance of magistrates at repeal meetings.
§ House went into committee on the bill.
§ On the first clause,
§ Mr. Redington
moved, that the consideration of the first clause be postponed. He thought the statement of the right hon. Recorder for the city of Dublin (Mr. Shaw), that he considered the new clauses introduced into the bill Very unimportant, was an additional justification of their opposition to the measure; and he hoped 337 this admission would have some weight in inducing her Majesty's Government to abandon the more stringent clauses. Even as the clause had been altered, though it might be palatable to the gentry, it was very unpalatable to the people.
§ After a brief conversation in which Viscount Clements and other hon. Members declared it to be their intention to oppose the clause to the utmost, the committee divided on the question that the clause be postponed:—Ayes 74; Noes 177: Majority 103.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Archbold, R.||Marshall, W.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Morris, D.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Bell, J.||O'Brien, J.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Bowring, Dr.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Brotherton, J.||O' Conor Don|
|Browne, hon. W.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Buller, C.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Parker, J.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Chapman, B.||Philips, G. R.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Pigot, rt. hon. D.|
|Corbally, M. E.||Rice, E. R.|
|Craig, W. G.||Roche, Sir D.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Ross, D. R.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Russell, Lord E|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C.||Scholefield, J.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Scott, R.|
|Duncombe, T.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Stuart, W. V.|
|Easthope, Sir J.||Strutt, E.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Thornely, T.|
|Esmonde, Sir T.||Trelawney, J. S.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Tuite, H. M.|
|Granger, T. C.||Ward, H. G.|
|Hawes, B.||Watson, W. H.|
|Hindley, C.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Horsman, E.||Williams, W.|
|Howard, P. H.||Wood, B.|
|Hutt, W.||Wyse, T.|
|Langston, J. H.||Redington, T. N.|
|McTaggart, Sir J.||Clements, Visct.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Ackers, J.||Baird, W.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Baring, hon. W. B.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Barrington, Visct.|
|Acton, Col.||Baskerville, T. B. M|
|Antrobus, E.||Beckett, W.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Bentinck, Lord G.|
|Arkwright, G.||Bernard, Visct.|
|Ashley, Lord||Blackburne, J. I.|
|Bailey, J., jun.||Blackstone W. S.|
|Baillie, Col.||Blakemore, R.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Borthwick, P.||Hodgson, R.|
|Botfield, B.||Holmes, hn. W. A'C.|
|Boyd, J.||Hope, hon. C.|
|Bradshaw, J.||Hope, A.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Hope, G. W.|
|Broadley, H.||Hornby, J.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Hughes, W. B.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Hussey, A.|
|Bunbury, T.||Hussey, T.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Ingestrie, Visct.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Chute, W. L. W.||Knatchbull, rt. hn.Sir E|
|Clayton, R. R.||Knightley, Sir C.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Lefroy, A.|
|Codrington, Sir W.||Lennox, Lord A.|
|Collett, W. R.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Colquhoun, J. C.||Lockhart, W.|
|Colvile, C. It.||Lowther, J. H.|
|Connolly, Col.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Copeland, Mr. Ald.||McGeachy, F. A.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Mahon, Visct.|
|Courtenay, Lord||Mainwaring, T.|
|Cripps, W.||Manners, Lord C. S.|
|Darby, G.||Marsham, Visct.|
|Denison, E. B.||Martin, C. W.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Masterman, J.|
|Dodd, G.||Maxwell, hon. J. P.|
|Drummond, H. H.||Meynell, Capt.|
|Dungannon, Visct.||Morgan, O.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Mundy, E. M.|
|East, J. B.||Neeld, J.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Neville, It.|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Newdigate, C. N.|
|Eliot, Lord||Newry, Visct.|
|Escott, B.||Nicholl, rt. hon. J.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Norreys, Lord|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Northland, Visct.|
|Ferrand, W. B.||Packe, C. W.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Forbes, W.||Peel, J.|
|Fox, S. L.||Pennant, hon. Col.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes||Polhill, F.|
|Gladstone, rt.hn.W.E.||Praed, W. T.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Pringle, A.|
|Glynne, Sir S. It.||Pusey, P.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Gore, W. O.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Gore, W. R. O.||Richards, R.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Rolleston, Col.|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Round, C. G.|
|Gregory, W. H.||Round, J.|
|Grimsditch, T.||Rous, hon. Capt.|
|Grogan, E.||Rushbrooke, Col.|
|Hale, R. B.||Russell, J. D. W.|
|Hamilton, J. H.||Sanderson, R.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Scarlett, hon. R. C.|
|Hamilton, W. J.||Shaw, rt. hon. F.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Sheppard, T.|
|Hardinge, rt.hn.Sir H.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Hardy, J.||Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Smollett, A.|
|Heneage, G. H. W.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Hepburn, Sir T. B.||Sotheron, T. H. S.|
|Herbert, hon. S.;||Spry, Sir S. T.|
|Stanley, Lord||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Stuart, H.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Sutton, hon. H. M.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Talbot, C. R. M.||Wellesley, Lord C.|
|Tennent, J. E.||Williams, T. P.|
|Thesiger, F.||Wood, Col.|
|Thornhill, G.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Tollemache, J.||Wortley, hn. Jn. S.|
|Trench, Sir F. W.||Wynn, Sir W, W.|
|Trollope, Sir J.||Young, J.|
|Tyrell, Sir J. T.||TELLERS.|
|Vane, Lord H.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Verner, Col.||Baring, H.|
§ On the question being again put, it was moved, that the Chairman report progress.
§ House resumed. Committee to sit again.