HC Deb 09 May 1843 vol 69 cc23-5
Viscount Jocelyn:

I rise for the purpose of asking my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government whether the Government is aware of the fearful excitement which has prevailed for some weeks past in Ireland on the subject of the Repeal of the Union; and, if so, whether the Government is determined to take any steps for its repression? I likewise wish to know whether my right hon. Friend has any objection to state, for the satisfaction of the loyal people of Ireland, whether or not the Government is determined to maintain, at all risks and hazards, the inviolability of the legislative union between Great Britain and Ireland?

Sir R. Peel:

I rejoice that my noble Friend has given me an opportunity of making, on the part of the Government, a public declaration on the important subject to which he has called the attention of the House; and I think it necessary, on this occasion, to remind the House of what has been, within no very distant period, the publicly recorded opinion and engagements of the Crown and both Houses of Parliament with respect to the legislative union of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1834 the Sovereign of this country, in addressing the Parliament, used these expressions:— I have seen with feelings of deep regret and just indignation, the continuance of attempts to excite the people of that country to demand a repeal of the legislative union. This bond of our national strength and safety I have already declared my fixed and unalterable resolution, under the blessing of Divine Providence, to maintain inviolate by all the means in my power. In support of this determination, I cannot doubt the zealous and effectual co-operation of my Parliament and my people. These expressions of the Sovereign of this country were responded to by Parliament. Both Houses approached the Crown, and in a joint address, recorded in the most solemn manner their fixed determination to maintain, unimpaired and undisturbed, the legislative union between Great Britain and Ireland, which, they said:— We consider to be essential to the strength and stability of the empire, to the continuance of the connection between the two countries, and to the peace and security and happiness of all classes of your Majesty's subjects. On the part of her Majesty, I am authorised to repeat the declaration made by king William; and I have no doubt, that the present Houses of Parliament would, if necessary, be prepared to fulfil the engagements into which their predecessors entered. I can state to my noble Friend, that her Majesty's Government in this country and Ireland are fully alive to the evils which arise from the existing agitation in the latter country in respect to the Repeal of the Union; and I further state this, that there is no influence, no power, no authority, which the prerogatives of the Crown and the existing law give to the Government, which shall not be exercised for the purpose of maintaining the Union—the dissolution of which would involve, not merely the repeal of an act of Parliament, but the dismemberment of this great empire. Of this I am confident, that an executive Government can lose nothing of moral or real strength by confiding as long as possible in the ordinary powers which the law and constitution give them, and in being unwilling, without urgent necessity, to disparage those ordinary powers by asking for increased authority; but I do not hesitate for one moment to state, that if such necessity should arise, her Majesty's Government will, without an instant's hesitation, appeal to Parliament for additional and effectual powers which will enable them to avert the mighty evil that would arise — not only to this country, but more especially to Ireland — from a successful attempt to sever the connection between I the two countries. I am also prepared to make, in my place here, the declaration which was made, and nobly made, by Lord Althorp, that, deprecating as I do all war, but, above all, civil war, yet there is no alternative which I do not think preferable to the dismemberment of this empire. I do hope that what has been called our forbearance and apathy may not be misconstrued. I believe the Government will derive additional strength I from deferring an appeal for fresh powers until the necessity for doing so shall actually occur; but I think I have furnished the House with sufficient proof that we are fully alive to the importance of this subject, and that if the occasion should' unhappily arise, we shall appeal to this House for the fulfilment of those solemn engagements which their predecessors entered into in 1834, and which I doubt not; they will, when convinced that it is necessary, readily fulfil. In conclusion, I thank ray noble Friend for the opportunity he has given me of making this declaration on the part of the Government.

Captain Bernal:

As the right hon. Baronet has referred to one declaration of Lord Althorp, I wish to know whether he will abide by another declaration of that noble Lord, namely, that if all the Members for Ireland should be in favour of repeal, he would consider it his bounden duty to grant it.

Sir R. Peel:

I do not recollect that Lord Althorp ever made any such declaration as that which the hon. and gallant Member attributes to him, but if he did I am not prepared to abide by it.

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