§ The debate on Arms (Ireland) was resumed.
§ Mr. Ross:
My hon. Friend, the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Bateson) in giving in his adhesion to this bill, has gone so far as to say, that no man acquainted with the present state of Ireland, can oppose it on any other than factious grounds. He will doubtless be surprised to find in the course of this debate many Gentlemen intimately acquainted with that country, and above the suspicion of being actuated by factious motives, most decidedly hostile to a restriction on the common-law right to bear arms, not justified by a proved necessity. That the bill is an invasion of a constitutional right, is admitted by its authors—and how precious is that right! It leaves no man defenceless as regards his person, his family, or his property. On other grounds 1099 it is of inestimable value. It fosters a hardy and warlike spirit in the nation; and this was in other days so strongly felt, that Englishmen were not only permitted, but by statutory enactments, and proclamations, enjoined to perfect themselves in the use of arms by exercise, so that they might stand at all times prepared to fight for their country. It was this that enabled the Tyrolese to offer a glorious resistance to the disciplined armies of France; it was this that made Spaniards formidable in the war of independence; it was this that enabled the people of the United States to oppose to our tyranny a resistance which will be held in honour, as men shall remember the great deeds of their progenitors; it was this, that but the other day, checked the invading hosts of Russia, and rolled back the tide of victory from the hills of Circassia to the shores of the Black Sea. And this right with its attendant military virtues you now propose to restrict. There is yet another point of view in which the right of possession of arms ought to be regarded. An armed nation is commonly a free nation, and will protect their liberties as well as their national independence. I know this is a delicate subject, to be treated with the same reserve as those latent powers of the constitution, which are reserved for emergencies, but whose existence ought never to be forgotten. Now, what have the promoters of this bill to urge against these weighty considerations? Some of them remind us, that to regulate the power of possessing arms is not to abolish it; and that "proper persons" will still retain them. But then comes the question, who are to be judges of this propriety? The magistrates? There are two sets of magistrates in Ireland—one magistrate might think a man ought to possess arms, whom another magistrate in another county, might consider a very improper person to be so trusted. What I apprehend is this, that the effect of the bill will be to arm a class, the same from which the yeomanry was formerly taken—and to deprive the Roman Catholics of their arms, so that in case of civil commotion, the poor Roman Catholics would be left a defenceless prey to the violence of the armed yeomanry. Better, if the people are to be disarmed, to act impartially, and disarm both classes alike. Others have told us that Ireland has been, time out of mind, subject to such restrictions on liberty. As if antiquity justified 1100 abuse! The measure, they say, is not new. No, indeed, it is as old as the oldest record—as old as tyranny itself. I read in a very ancient book by what politic arrangement the Philistines kept the subjugated Hebrews in order. Will the House permit me to give the passage.Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel; for the Philistines said, lest the Hebrews make them swords, or spears. But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock. Yet they had a file for the mattock, and for the coulter, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads.On this venerable model is your bill framed. But I want to know the extent to which your definition of arms will go. A pitchfork, a scythe, or a marlin-spike in the hands of a resolute man might be converted into very formidable weapons. What we require, and what we have not found, is a justification of this jealousy and apprehension. Local disturbances, and instances of agrarian outrage, within a confined district, are not surely sufficient. As to rebellion, nothing of the kind is to be feared. The Irish are actuated by no feelings of hostility to the people of this country. Violent, and very improper language has, I admit, been used at the Repeal meetings; but all these exciting declamations against the Saxon, have failed to produce a single insult, much less an injury to an Englishman. The frequent repetition of such language seems to have deprived it of all power over the minds of the people; in short, it goes in at one ear, and out at another. My countrymen, I repeat, are not the enemies of the people of this country; and as to our common Sovereign, do you want any additional security for her? There is not (I speak it without fear of contradiction) there is not upon the face of the earth a people more cordially attached to their Sovereign than that people whom this bill would place under ban. In them, respect to the Crown is blended with and exalted by a tender and chivalrous regard to the youth, and sex, and I may without flattery add, the virtues of her who wears it. But it may be said, does the devoted loyalty of the Irish extend to the Church? I cannot pretend to say it does; nor do I see why it should. The Church by law established, has done little to win the affections of the Irish 1101 people. It was introduced and maintained by force; and ever since it has plundered and oppressed the nation. Not by works of charity and mercy has its influence been felt, but by the exercise of high-handed power, and through the medium of the tithe proctor. Ireland was treated as a conquered country, and the Established Church, and its supporters, the garrison by which it Was held. Remember the penal laws, — there are men living who saw them in operation. If an angel from Heaven had come with the formularies of the establishment in one hand and the penal laws in the other, doubtless he would have been rejected. Therefore, the establishment has no title to regard, and the feelings of the people towards it have ever been, and still continued to be, just what our national poet has expressed:—
Thy rival was honoured, while thou wert wrong'd and scorn'd;Thy crown was of brier, while gold her brow adorned:She wooed me to temples, whilst thou laidst hid in cavesHer friends were all masters, while thine alas! were slaves;Yet cold on the earth at thy feet would I rather be,Than wed what I loved not—or turn one thought from thee.Such were the feelings of which Moore has been the eloquent exponent.
There are two opposite ways of governing a country. The worst has been chosen for Ireland, and in spite of experience persevered in. You have not borne in Wind a saying of one of the wisest of men: "Nations are not primarily ruled by laws — less by violence;"—nor another, a particular application of it by his illustrious disciple, Charles James Fox: " The best way to govern Ireland is to let her have her own way." You have chosen rather to govern by force than through affection; to apply rough and arbitrary, rather than conciliatory, measures; and you find the inevitable consequence. Even your ameliorations have been negatived by some accompanying affront or wrong. When Roman Catholics were admitted to Parliament, Mr. O'Connell was sent back for a new election. I have no disposition to detract from the value of the Emancipation Act, but I lament that in granting it you abolished the class of 40s. freeholders instead of educating them up to a capacity 1102 for exercising their elective franchise with knowledge and intelligence, as they had before done, with zeal and honesty. Under the successive administrations of Lords Normanby and Fortescue, proof was afforded of the degree in which good administration compensates for vicious or defective law. Troops were withdrawn in large masses, and more might safely have been spared. A feeling of general confidence was inspired,—it seemed as if harmony was about to be at last established; even Orange violence was suspended; for in the year of the Queen's accession to the throne, no Orange procession took place in my county. At present, instead of withdrawing troops from Ireland, you are rapidly pouring them in. And why?—is it for the purpose of dispersing the repeal meetings. I warn you not to attempt it. 1 warn you that a collision between the troops and the people, brought about by forcible interference with meetings legal in themselves and peaceably conducted, will kindle up a flame from one end of the country to the other which you may find it extremely difficult to quench. Try conciliation and concessions. I heard the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies at the commencement of the Session express himself with regard to Canada in terms which afforded me the highest satisfaction. That noble Lord justified Sir Charles Bagot's policy, and declared that he thought a country which could not otherwise be held than by force of arms, was not worth holding. Why is Ireland to be held an exception from the principle laid down by the noble Lord? Is it because Canada has a powerful neighbour on her frontier, that it is held unsafe to treat her as Ireland has been treated? I tell you, you dare not thus treat any of your powerful dependencies. Do you think it would be possible to govern Hindoostan as you govern Ireland? Why, if you were to attempt to strip Juggernaut of the 60,000 rupees that we were talking about the other night, or any other of the bloody or filthy idols of the country—of their endowments, and apply them to the support of our own establishment, you could not hold Hindoostan for a month. You are just to Canada and to Hindoostan — Ireland is excepted. The system on which Ireland is governed, may be said to reverse the boast of an Englishman, that the slave who sets foot on British soil is free; for who ever crosses 1103 the channel, and sets foot in Ireland, becomes a slave, as far as the forfeiture of the right to carry arms involves slavery. One other consideration I would respectfully press on the attention of the House. Take into account the character, and position of the people, with whom you have to do; a people who, to their many virtues, have lately added a self-denial, and constancy of purpose, hardly to be paralleled in the annals of mankind; a people ardent, intelligent, gifted with sensibility, and imagination in the highest degree, who treasure up the memory of a kind word, as if it was a benefit, and resent an insult more deeply than an injury. How easily might such people be governed? Make a noble experiment. Address yourselves resolutely to the task of redressing grievances and procuring benefits—spare no abuse however hoary with age, abolish every institution that will not stand the test of truth and reason. Trust the people; act justly and generously towards them, and you will have no need of Arms Bill or Gagging Bills, or any other clumsy expedient to repress the free spirit of the people; and if the day of trial should come, and the Queen should demand the services of her Irish subjects, believe me, they will answer the call as they have done before, and will shed their blood like water, in defence of the country, or to maintain the honour of the Crown.
Mr. Stafford O'Brien
said, he had no intention to stand up in vindication of the past treatment of Ireland. The conduct of England towards Ireland was a black page in history. He would go farther, and say that there was one part which he deeply regretted of the conduct of the present Government towards Ireland; he meant the subject to which reference had been made by the right hon. Member for Dungarvan —the measure which had led to the increase in illicit distillation. He thought it unfair in hon. Gentlemen opposite to press their arguments to the length of saying that it was an injustice not to extend the same laws to both countries, when circumstances were different. Had not the right hon. Member for Dungarvan last night told the House that, in order to elicit truth, it was necessary to condemn the witness at criminal trials to eternal banishment, that being the only means by which their lives could be protected? Hon. Members might not be aware that 1104 there were always, in every town and village in Ireland, two or three turbulent fellows, whose chief object was to obtain the possession of arms for their own bad purposes. It ought to be the object of the House to assist the peaceable and well disposed in resisting such a tyranny; and how cruel such a despotism was, those who had mixed with the agricultural population of Ireland alone could tell. It would be a boon to the Irish peasant to pass this bill. The right hon. Member for Dungarvan said the bill would have the effect of pressing severely in its operation on the good, while it would offer no impediment to the designs of the evil-minded. He was convinced, on the contrary, that if this bill passed, the magistrates of Ireland would be able to make it fall with a feather's weight on all who were peaceably disposed, while it would act as a band of iron on those who were inclined to commit agrarian outrages. Let hon. Members reflect how much would be added to the peace and security of the people of Ireland by the increased safety for life and property which the bill would insure; let them not confine their sympathy to the disloyal and the ill-affected He pleaded on behalf of fathers of families, who would be able to lie down on their beds after their day's work without having their rest broken; on behalf of industrious young men, who would not be dragged against their will to join meetings of the idle, profligate, and the secret traitor; of young women, who might have saved a small pittance out of their hard earnings, and who would not have to fear because of that pittance, abduction, and brutal violence. He thanked the Government for bringing forward this bill, because he believed it would not be the only measure with reference to Ireland which would proceed from them, and because he thought that, when it should become law and its provisions be fairly carried out, as they would be by the magistrates of Ireland, they would bring to the peasantry not oppression and tyranny, but benefits and blessings.
§ Mr. Redington
said, if the Government introduced measures of this kind, and forced them on the statute book, they would cause the law to be despised—the people would regard it as an engine of oppression, and a spirit of opposition would be roused which it would be very difficult to allay. How had the law with respect 1105 to the registration of arms been acted upon? It had been used for every purpose except that which the framers of it had in view. It had been made use of at contested elections, against troublesome tenants, and against poachers to ensure convictions under the game laws. When the disturbances took place some time ago in the manufacturing districts, and the people were in possession of arms, the existing law in England was found sufficient for the purpose of preserving order; and the law in Ireland, if properly administered, would answer every purpose without the necessity of resorting to a violation of the constitution. The onus probandi of showing the necessity of such a departure from the constitution rested on the Government. The noble Lord, on introducing this measure, said, that its object was to continue the existing acts; but he proposed to extend it over a period of five years. There was but one precedent for such a course, and that was when Ireland was so much disturbed twenty years ago. The noble Lord said, the present measure was similar to the one introduced by the late Government. He was not there to defend that Government; but he must say, they did not propose to suspend the liberty of the subject in this manner for five years. How did the matter at present stand with respect to forges? Without carrying out the present law they called for fresh penalties— penalties of a most monstrous description. Under the present law no smith could be deprived of his forge licence unless he had manufactured pikes; but by this bill he would be liable to lose it for any crime or misdemeanor; nay, even if he should be thought an improper person. What would the people of England say to such a law? Why should the Government try an experiment with the people of Ireland which they would not attempt with the people of England? With respect to that perfectly new clause relating to pikes, he must say that it would have a most vexatious and inconvenient effect. He should be afraid to walk with his fishing-rod in his hand, for fear it should subject him to disagreeable inquiry under the provisions of this measure. He was sorry to see the disposition that was strongly manifested to pass this bill. If it should pass they would find it much more difficult to keep arms out of the hands of the people than heretofore. What was the difference between England and Ireland for the last few years that the Government should be induced to 1106 introduce a measure of this description for the latter country and not for the former? Did the noble Lord (Lord Eliot) never hear of riots in the different towns of England? Did he not hear of riots occurring recently in Staffordshire and Wales? The noble Lord seemed to doubt these facts; but he and his Friends had a right to turn round upon the Government and say, that England was as prolific of crime as Ireland, and he therefore felt he had a right to complain of the unjust application of this obnoxious law to Ireland exclusively. Every person remembered the riots that had taken place in Monmouth, when an armed mob came down from the mines and collieries to storm the town. Did the Government of that day get hold of the arms of this mob, or did they come down to this House with any proposition of this description? No, but they permitted these rioters to retire back to their respective homes with their arms still in their possession. Let them but consider that it was only the other day that a most serious affray took place in Manchester, to which he could not now avoid drawing their particular attention. He had seen in the morning papers of that time a description of this outrage, which was one of the most extraordinary description he had ever heard. He doubted whether the noble Lord would be able either in England or Ireland to match this statement. Upon the 19th of this month the London papers recorded this outrage in Manchester, in which there was a well disciplined and organised mob of 300 or 400 persons engaged, armed with muskets, pistols, and others arms. There were ten volleys fired by each of the antagonistic parties, and a most desperate struggle ensued, which lasted about fifteen minutes. Why, the reports of the war in Algiers were, in his opinion, but mere marauding parties in comparison to what had then occurred in Manchester. Nothing but the want of further ammunition had put an end to this deadly encounter. He would ask her Majesty's Government had they ever attempted, or had they it in contemplation, to bring forward any bill of this character to prevent these 400 men from again recurring to a similar outrage, and yet they were telling the House that they were treating Ireland in the same way as they treated this country? He considered that this was the most pitiful kind of legislation, and which had a tendency to spread the most general discontent throughout the country. He should give it every opposi 1107 tion, and as far as his vote went he should never consent to its introduction into his country. He cautioned the Government against tarrying forward this obnoxious bill against the will of the people. If they did not desist in time they would deeply regret it. They might go on unmindful of this caution until they saw 8,000,000 of people driven to the very verge of rebellion, when they Would no doubt perceive the necessity of offering conciliation to the injured people of Ireland. But were men acting in such a way fit to govern any country? He told the Government that they ought to have purchased wisdom by the experience of the past. The noble Lord, as a pretext for this measure, said that outrages had taken place in Ireland. He would, however, refer the House to a record of the crime in Ireland in the year 1837 and the present period. The homicides in 1837 were 230, and in 1842, 106. Persons charged with firing at individuals in 1837, 91; in 1842, 74. Aggravated assaults, in 1837, 924; in 1842, 420. Robbery of arms in the former year, 246; in the latter, 138. Attacking houses, in 1837, 603; in 1842, 337. He would remind the House of the observations Which had been made by a gentleman of great eminence in this House when a measure of this description was proposed in the year 1807. Sir Arthur Pigott at that period said,If this be the boon you are granting to Ireland—if Parliament does not see the necessity and the wisdom of governing Ireland by lenient and conciliatory measures, and thereby fulfilling the hopes which it has taught them to expect, it would only excite hatred and disgust towards the British Government, and I can only say that I greatly lament your blindness.He must say, that he, too, lamented the blindness of the present Government. He was determined to offer to the measure every opposition in his power. They might, however, succeed in carrying it through Parliament, but before many years were passed by, they would lament this course with feelings of the utmost bitterness.
§ Colonel Conolly
said, that in earnest desire for the prosperity of Ireland—in anxious regard for its best interests, he could not yield to the hon Member who had just sat down, or to any other Gentleman on either side of that House. In the fullest anxiety for Ireland's true interests he was prepared to give his support to the present measure. As a magistrate of 1108 many years' standing—as a resident who gathered his information from actual and personal experience, he would be bold to say, that there was hardly an offence of any description, whether in violation of the law, or arising from the resistance made to carrying the law into effect, that was not created, or at least seriously aggravated by the habitual resort to arms and deadly weapons. In the very ordinary proceedings of law in the serving of notices, law papers of every kind, resort to arms was constantly had, and in almost all those cases arms were opposed to arms. The deplorable results of this widely prevalent practice be needed not to detail to the House, the existence of the evil was not denied, and he must say that no argument had as yet been adduced to weaken his firm belief, that the evil might be mitigated by a measure which would deprive all parties of that facility in resorting to arms, from which there were constantly occurring pernicious results. He agreed with the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. S. O'Brien) in regretting that in many instances unwise conduct had been pursued towards Ireland, and he, too, felt that, in the two instances specially adverted to by that hon. Gentleman, the course adopted by the present Government had not been most satisfactory; but he also agreed with the hon. Member in demanding protection for the peaceable and well disposed in Ireland. To that end he contended this measure was imperatively called for: and to that end it was introduced by the Government. He had listened with attention—with anxiety, and he must add, with great pain—to the addresses of hon. Gentlemen opposite in the course of this debate; he was sorry to find the measure met with such continued volumes of abuse. Since first it had been brought into the House by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, this protective measure had been assailed with the most unjust and unfounded clamour. Even in this House it encountered unfair and unscrupulous opposition. Hon. Members opposite had indulged in long and eloquent tirades, but tirades most uncalled for, and observations most irrelevant—not venturing on any evidence to prove that the bill Was unnecessary—not attempting to show that it was uncalled for, but apparently confining all their reasoning to the assertion that a measure such as this for the prevention of the frightful abuse 1109 of fire-arms, would strengthen the hands and would justify the conduct of those who in Ireland were straining every nerve, exerting every influence, grasping at every means of exciting and infuriating the Irish people. They were asked tauntingly, by some, why there was any difference between England and Ireland? There ought to be no difference either in the law or the mode of its application in both countries. But a difference, a sad contrast did exist, and he feared not to assign the cause: it was because the Irish people were not let alone. It was because that in Ireland there were demagogues driving the people to distraction, infusing notions of jealousy that bad no foundation, sowing the seeds of social hatred, and unwearyingly, everlastingly, irritating and exasperating the feelings of the duped and deceived people. Of his fellow-countrymen he felt happy he felt bound to say—and he said it with a grateful experience of their affectionate disposition, when not misled by ruinous and traitorous counsels—that they were as amenable, as susceptible of every kindly impression, as ready in obedience to the law, as the inhabitants of any other land. But they were never let alone — their generous disposition was abused, their quick feelings excited, their ardent imaginations fired, by gross and cruel misrepresentations, by relations of unreal grievances and fancied wrongs. He feared that he must inculpate hon. Gentlemen opposite, the hon. Member for Dundalk in particular—that he must ascribe to those Gentlemen participation in the unfair and unjust means used to excite the people-those Members who even in this House displayed so much heat and so little fair play towards their opponents, in trying to keep arms in the hands of an infuriated populace. The most gross sad scandalous misrepresentations were being daily made to that people, the fiercest agitation was being fostered and fomented—not for the removal of any positive, demonstrable existing ill, but for the visionary attainment of some remote and unknown good. Unfeeling men were worrying and distracting the people, diverting them from their ordinary occupations and cares, congregating them in thousands and holding out to them false hopes upon the ideal repeal of the legislative union — a speculative question of the character and merits of which the vast majority was wholly ignorant, and the very meaning of which not 1110 one in ten understood. The cry of repeal was only a delusion; it was raised but to mislead—it was meant to conceal the real objects of the agitation. Through the assumed concealment he saw—the wicked intentions were seen through the thin veil, and he, in common with his class in Ireland, knew what was the real object of attack; and he thought he was justified in inferring that even in that House the object was discernible. He thought he was justified in saying that the line of argument and observation pursued by the hon. Member for Rochdale upon this bill was a dissertation on the law of landlord and tenant in Ireland. But that was a subject of a very tender kind, one which, at least, required calm consideration. It was one to which unguarded language ought not to be addressed; for it was an exceedingly exciting topic in that country ~a topic which had, by the foulest misstatements used in respect to it, rendered the possession and the use of arms still more dangerous. He thought the language of demagogues even more dangerous than gunpowder; it was infinitely more inflammatory in every way. Not alien to this consideration was his regret in listening to language used by Members of that House in relation to the magistracy of Ireland, upon whom sweeping condemnation was cast, by the hon. Member for Dundalk in particular. [Mr. Redington reminded the gallant Member that he had taken care to make exceptions.] It was true the hon. Gentleman had admitted there were exceptions, but he complained of the assault on the general body as unwarranted. He must protest against that sweeping abuse of the magistracy, and pronounce as unfair and unfounded the imputation, that in the discharge of their official duties under this bill they could lend themselves to unworthy motives, whether of a personal, a political, or a religious animosity. And why was this abuse volunteered? Because the magistracy was the mechanism by which the enactments of this bill were to be carried into effect. Surely this was most unjust. He had bad the experience of many years acting in conjunction with that body, and from his intimate knowledge of it, he would blush to permit such undeserved reproach, such unfounded and sweeping abase to be cast on its Members without an indignant protest on his part. He said it with pride and with fearleesness 1111 that in a high-minded sense of duty, in anxious regard to justice, in questionless impartiality, that body was inferior to none. He could not stoop to vindicate the magistrates of Ireland as incapable— they could scorn the gross attacks of those who calumniated them; but he would unhesitatingly vindicate the body against the charges—the groundless charges—brought against them in this House. He was glad, however, that it was only as an objection to this bill that the hon. Member for Dundalk had made his charge against the magistracy—he was glad that their general merits were unassailed. But even as regarded the enactments of this bill, how stood the case? Admitting for argument's sake—but not, for one moment in reality admitting—that the hon. Gentleman's fears were well-grounded, and his imputations not utterly unjust—supposing that in particular localities individual magistrates might be liable to suspicion on personal, political, or any other grounds, in their official conduct towards persons affected by this bill, that objection was answered by the fact, that the present measure would remove the power to carry out its provisions from the local benches to the quarter sessions. Surely hon. Members would not contend that, at quarter sessions, a whole bench of magistrates would do that which was unfair, improper, or oppressive. Whatever may be the calumnies circulated against Members of that body, he had ever heard the quarter sessions spoken of by all classes, and all parties, with all imaginable respect; that court was looked on as a great and indisputable benefit and blessing by all. It was absurd—it was monstrous, to anticipate from that court unfairness and oppression, personal malignity indulged, or political antipathies triumphant over justice. The questions which would arise under the provisions of the bill would be decided in open court, where juries would be empannelled on the following day, where every care had hitherto been taken with perfect success, and where every care would continue to be taken that everything should be done with strict impartiality and unquestionable fairness—where public confidence was, and would continue to be safely reposed. There had been a great deal of beautiful eloquence about Irish slavery. True, there was slavery in Ireland. She was enslaved—she was tyrannised over by the force of an agita 1112 tion to which numbers were compelled, against their honest convictions and their secret, earnest wishes, to succumb—to which thousands were subdued by clamour, tumult, intimidation—who, if they had the protection requisite to individual security, would gladly extricate themselves from their grievous slavery. That was the slavery under which Ireland laboured. To aid in rescuing the people from that slavery this bill was meant; and no just ground existed for now raising that everlasting tocsin that rang so gratingly of domination and oppression. It was utter nonsense—nothing short of that offensive term was applicable to the attempted analogy—under such circumstances to talk of not treating Ireland in the same manner as England. Before Gentlemen talked thus, let them, at least, permit an effort to be made to introduce something like an equality between the two countries in respect to the security of life and property—let law vindicate her own injured, and insulted dignity in Ireland— let the peaceably inclined be secured their unbroken quiet—let them not, with trembling and unwilling hearts be forced into courses which they abhor—let them be rescued from the indiscriminate oppression of congregated multitudes, and the heartless machinations of restless demagogues, seeking to incite disorder and wide spread confusion, promising out of the turmoil, the realisation of prospects that are illusory, and can only be ulterior to the dismemberment of the empire. It was not creditable to introduce into that House all that sort of spouting which was unhappily so much in vogue in Ireland; and which here must only be looked on with contempt, when those who indulged in it were enabled to urge no relevant or rational argument against the continuance of a measure which had been so long in existence, and which was of such distressing necessity.
§ Mr. Carew
said, that, in rising to support the amendment of the hon. Member for Rochdale, it was not his intention to detain the House by any details which the importance of the measure under consideration might perhaps justify, but rather to attempt to impress upon hon. Members opposite a few important truths relating to the state of Ireland at present— truths which, however well they might have been known, however well they might have been acknowledged, had not, 1113 at all events, been acted upon in that manner which proved that the knowledge of them had had the effect which truth might generally be supposed to produce in the minds of those who were disposed to govern a country on the principles of equity and on the principles of justice. He felt it his duty to oppose the bill of the noble Lord, because he was convinced that it was not the kind of legislation that Ireland wanted, because the bill itself was unnecessarily stringent and severe, and he thought that he represented the feelings of his constituents on the occasion, when he said that they deeply lamented that the Government measure as regarded them should be such as this bill sanctioned. For the sake of Ireland—the prosperity of that country—the well-being of the various classes of which society was there composed, were all so intimately connected, so closely bound up with the prosperity of England, that in that House he trusted it was needless to enlarge on that point. The question was, how did the Government promote its welfare? How did they contribute to its prosperity? In what state had they found it? In what state was it now? And to those simple questions he feared that an answer but little satisfactory to the well wishers of the country could be returned; and, he feared much, should not a conciliatory policy be acted upon, that, before long, perhaps before very long, that answer would be still less so. They had already tried the rigours of the law; penal enactments had, before now, been enforced, which had far surpassed in their practical results that which even a refined cruelty might suggest. They had oppressed where they should have cherished, and how could they now wonder at the results of their oppression? They had used the power which had been put into their hands, a mighty power for evil or for good, and what was the result? They had entirely —they had most signally—failed, Such, then, being the case—and he contended that it was undeniable—he appealed to hon. Members opposite if it was a course which might be considered unwise—or if it was a course which might be deemed inconsistent with an earnest regard to the interests of the country—if he pressed upon the House the necessity of legislating upon a different principle from that which was embodied in the bill before the House. Coercion had been tried before now— 1114 with what success hon. Members had seen. Let them try what an opposite line of policy might effect; and if they sincerely adopted that line of conduct, if they were not satisfied with words, but if they acted up to their professions, let them be assured that the bill of the noble Lord would be unnecessary, as it would be useless. If example could have the effect of causing the House to take this view of the question, he would suggest the difference between the effects of the Government of Lord Fortescue and the noble Marquess who had preceded him, with the results, and the necessary results of the present system. To illustrate that statement by a plain and undeniable fact, he would call the attention of hon. Members opposite to the reception which the Marquess of Normanby met with during an extensive tour of Ireland, made in the year 1836. Nothing could exceed the enthusiasm of the country. Large public dinners were given to the viceroy in all the important towns; addresses of loyalty and congratulation were poured in at every stage; in fact, his progress was a continued triumphal procession through the land. And was there no cause for the demonstration which, not only locally, but generally, took place? Could it not be traced to the gratitude which the Irish nation felt towards the sympathising and conciliating Government of the day, who had pursued a policy to which Ireland had unfortunately been little accustomed to, and which to demonstration was the only policy which could produce a lasting and a permanent effect in that country. He mentioned this circumstance because he thought it strictly illustrative of the case in point. And if the union, which bound Ireland to England, was to be more closely cemented, it was not to be effected by penal statutes, nor by a coercive and distrustful legislation. Let them redress the grievances of Ireland, and then they might trust her with arms without peril. Let them grant measures of equal justice, and they would effect what every well-wisher of the country must desire. They would establish peace, order, and their necessary consequence, prosperity; whilst they would make their Government strong, respected, and, what it was not at preseut, successful.
§ Lord Bernard
said, that it was with great reluctance, that he came forward to take part in a debate which had been mixed 1115 up by hon. Gentlemen opposite with those party feelings, which marred the prosperity and retarded the improvement of Ireland; but representing a constituency in the south of Ireland, and speaking the sentiments of Gentlemen possessing a large stake in the most important agricultural county in Ireland, whom political circumstances prevented from being represented in that House, he felt bound to come forward to thank the noble Lord and her Majesty's Government for not yielding to the clamour which had been raised out of doors on the present dreadful state of Ireland. He rejoiced, that the Government had not consented, under such circumstances, to withdraw a power which would expire at the end of this Session of Parliament. His right hon. Friend (the Attorney-General for Ireland) had shown the principle of the measure to be the same as that which was brought forward by the Government in 1841, when, not a single Irish Member opened his lips. The speeches of the hon. Member for Rochdale, and other hon. Members opposite, had powerfully shown that this measure was most necessary. It had been admitted by them, that the state of Ireland was not satisfactory. The noble Lord, the Member for Leitrim (Lord Clements), had told the House of a case which had occurred in his own county, in which he had induced a party to give up concealed arms. The noble Lord's position and influence might have enabled him to do this, but was it probable, that other magistrates, not having the same influence, could do as much in crushing the evil complained of. What had the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Sheil) stated on a former evening relative to the frightful condition of the county of Tipperary? Had not that right hon. Gentleman shown, that witnesses, who had given evidence which convicted the offender, had been actually expatriated? Was this a state of things to exist in a civilised country Hon. Gentlemen said, why not bring forward whatever measure may be necessary for the disaffected parts of the country? But those hon. Gentlemen knew that such a measure would be inefficient unless it extended over the whole of Ireland. Connected as he was by property with an agricultural county, which was greater in size by 700,000 acres than Tipperary, he might be asked why he supported the bill. He did so because, seeing that by the last report there were but nineteen outrages in Cork, whilst in Tipperary 1116 there were sixty-eight, he desired to know why the exertions of the county of Cork for the improvement of the country were to be paralysed, and capital kept out from employment? Was it because one part of the country was legalised to be disaffected? To show the progress which the repeal agitation was making, the noble Lord read a letter he had received from a magistrate in the county of Cork.I am sorry to tell you, that the repeal is rapidly progressing, even in this remote neighbourhood, the peasantry are persuaded the union will be repealed at once, and then they will get their share of the property of the country as they have been slaves long enough, I am not alarmed, but feel satisfied if Parliament breaks up without passing some measures to stop these large meetings, and to punish seditious language, the worst results may be apprehended.The noble Lord then adverted to the injury which would be done to agricultural improvement, and alluded to the great agricultural meeting at Cork, and read the following from the report of the Agricultural Improvement Society of Ireland.The council has to congratulate the society at the conclusion of its second year, upon the progress it has made in public estimation, as well as in effectually carrying out those objects which were originally put forward as the basis of its institution. In the increased confidence they have met with in every question; but above all, in the wide extended desire and spread of agricultural improvements, which has lately displayed itself in Ireland. They cannot but see evidence of the practical and beneficial effect they have already produced. It must be gratifying to all who are interested in the society to reflect, that notwithstanding all the difficulties it had at first to contend with, its progress has been uniform and undisturbed, every feeling seemed to be merged in the one all-absorbing desire of directing the newly developed energies and excitement in a proper channel, and to the public good. In the year 1841, only twenty-three local societies were in connection with the central one, in the year after the number had increased to fifty-three, at present there are no less than eighty.And he would, therefore, ask the House whether, in order to satisfy some fancied notions of liberty of the people of one part of the country, they were to paralyse the exertions which were made in the country through such societies as those to which he had adverted. He wished to make a few observations with regard to the speech of the noble Lord, the Member for London, who had supported this bill on what appeared 1117 to him (Lord Bernard) extraordinary grounds. The noble Lord stated, that when his Government brought forward a measure of a similar nature they at the same time introduced measures of conciliation. Now, he was at a loss to conceive to what measures the noble Lord could have alluded. Did the noble Lord forget that he and his Colleagues came into office, pledged to the people of Ireland to carry the appropriation clause or resign. He begged to ask the noble Lord whether he redeemed that pledge? The measure which in his opinion had produced the greatest dissatisfaction in Ireland, on mistaken grounds, he admitted, was the Irish Poor-law; but was it not unfair to taunt the present Government, because they could not, under the present circumstances of the country, abolish that measure, which had as yet scarcely had a fair trial? The whole mischief had resulted from the manner in which that bill had been drawn up by the late Government, and from their mixing it up with politics. As in political questions the battle was fought on the hustings, so the battle of the municipal franchise was fought at the Poor-law boards. In his opinion too, the Poor-law commissioners were by that bill invested with political powers which they never ought to have possessed—he alluded to the power given them to define the franchise for Poor-law guardians, a difficult question at the time, even for Parliament to settle; he alluded also to the appointment of chaplains. The noble Lord claimed for his Government the whole credit of having conciliated the Roman Catholics. He (Lord Bernard) would yield to none in anxious desire to conciliate that body; he had always used his utmost endeavours to that end in private life; nor was there any concession which he would refuse them short of what he believed detrimental to the Established Church and the legislative union. But when the noble Lord claimed to have made these concessions to the Roman Catholics, he ought to have said, that he threw every disgrace in the way of the Protestant magistrates, and endeavoured as far as he could to exclude from offices of honour those who were opposed to him in politics; and yet the noble Lord made it a matter of accusation against the present Government, that they had not appointed their "political" opponents. But he had yet to learn why an hon. Gentleman who had earned distinction in political life was unfit for a high judicial office. If the noble Lord had acted upon the principle he re- 1118 commended. If there was one man more respected than another, of the highest legal attainments, it was Chief Justice Penne-father; and his predecessor, in the seat which he now filled (Judge Jackson) had upon his first circuit in Cork, an address presented to him, signed by men of all parties, congratulating him on his appointment. While he strongly deprecated coercion, and sincerely wished to preserve the liberty of the subject, he nevertheless sincerely hoped, that if the time should come when such a step should be deemed necessary, the Government would take the earliest opportunity of asking Parliament for additional powers, in order to put a stop to the agitation for the purpose of dissolving the legislative union. He could not look upon that as merely injuring England, it would affect the happiness of Ireland no less than the welfare of this country. It is my firm conviction (continued the noble Lord), should this agitation at the future time succeed, that our children or our children's children will have cause to lament the day, and live to deplore the folly of their ancestors; and looking back on their prostrate strength, the tarnished honour, and the departed glory of what was once the mightiest empire of the world, will exclaim, in the impassioned but melancholy words of the poet,
Venit summa dies et ineluctabile tempus Dardaniæ: fuimus Troes, fuit Ilium, et ingens Gloria Teucrorum: ferus omnia Jupiter Argos Transtulit: incenseâ Danai dominantur in urbe.
§ Mr. W. S. O'Brien
opposed the present bill, not only on account of its special enactments, but also on account of its general principle. He claimed for Ireland the same rights with respect to bearing arms as those enjoyed by Englishmen, the same rights as those enjoyed by the subjects of the most despotic powers, the same rights as those permitted to the New Zealand savages, who were lately allowed to attend the funeral of the governor of that colony with muskets in their hands. He did not mean to assert that emergencies would not arise of sufficient gravity to warrant the Government in applying to Parliament to strengthen their hands; but had such a ease been made out? He had expected that the noble Lord would have alleged the notorious and wide-spread discontent in justification of his measure, but the noble Lord prudently abstained from touching upon that topic. Nothing could prevent the repeal agitation but a rebel 1119 lion, in which victory could be scarcely less disastrous than defeat, or ample, fair, and full justice, to the Irish people. The only ground alleged by the noble Lord was the outrages committed in Ireland. A lamer case was never attempted to be made out. On what testimony was it founded? On the evidence of the landholders and resident gentry?—No; but on the authority of Scotch commissioners of police. Without intending to say anything to the disparagement of these gentlemen individually, he must be permitted to observe, that it was the uniform tendency of ail connected with official departments, whether in the Poor-law commission or the constabulary, to take to themselves as much power as possible. On referring to returns, he found that the number of outrages committed during the last few months in England exceeded those perpetrated in Ireland. Did the noble Lord wish to put an end to repeal agitation? He would tell him the way. It was not to be accomplished by an arms bill, but by looking to the welfare of the people. He was the last man to exclaim against the landholder or the rights of property; but, at the same time he held it to be the duty of the executive Government to endeavour by all possible means to check that tendency to depopulation which was but too prevalent even with the head landlords, he would not except himself. Never did anything raise so great an outcry as this fatal system of clearance—this principle of extermination. Within the last two months a series of letters had appeared in the Irish papers stating that Lord Hawarden had, within a certain number of years, turned out not less than 200 families, comprising 1,300 individuals; and this was done in the most disturbed part of Ireland. He thought some explanation was due from the noble Lord himself, or from some of his friends, for the statements were put forward under the name of a Roman Catholic clergyman who resided within two miles of the spot where the transaction was alleged to have taken place. He called upon the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, to follow up the maxim enjoined by his predecessors, "that property has its duties as well as its rights." He found many unwelcome novelties in the present bill, such as the branding of arms and the necessity of applying to petty sessions in case of losing the licence to keep arms, with other similar vexatious regulations. The statute at present in force was comparatively an inno 1120 cent measure, and if the renewal of that had been proposed, it would most likely have passed without any observation. His objection to the bill now before the House was, that it would have the effect of disarming all the respectable people of Ireland. Persons of the most unexceptionable character would be prevented from having arms or ammunition. Should such an enactment be passed, the first thing he should do, would be to send his arms to the constabulary, and beg them, to keep them in safe custody until the law should have expired. But the greatest objection to the measure was this, that whilst it would be operative on all the respectable classes, it would be utterly nugatory upon all the disreputable classes. It would render their disposition more confirmed to disobey the existing law. But while it would be utterly nugatory as a measure of rigour for the repression of crime, it would be anything but nugatory as affecting the feelings of the people. It had already excited great discontent. It was only yesterday that he met a gentleman, well known to many in that House—Mr. Bianconi. That gentleman had hitherto been adverse to a repeal of the Union, but the first effect of his reading the Arms Bill was to induce him to send in his subscription, in order that he might be registered a Repealer. That gentleman said, that his reason for doing so was, that when he first came to Ireland he saw so much oppression and persecution in the administration of similar measures, that he was determined to do all he could to prevent any Government in future times to enact such a law. In conclusion, he would once more implore the noble Lord to abstain from pressing this measure. But should the noble Lord persist, he would find his opposition, so long as he had a seat in that House, a determined one. He could tell the noble Lord, that not only he, but many whose sentiments he spoke, would divide not only on every stage of the bill, but upon every clause.
§ Captain Layard
said, that for his part it was not so much against the different clauses of the bill now before the House that he meant to object, as that he objected to the bill entirely and altogether. He felt that a more dangerous measure could not be brought forward at any time, and particularly at the present, when Ireland was known to be in such a fearful state of excitement; and he did trust that her Majesty's Ministers, finding how extremely unpopular such a measure would 1121 be, and how likely a perseverance in it was likely to lead to consequences the most deplorable, would at once and without further delay abandon it, and by that means show to the people of Ireland that it really was their intention to govern that country with justice and impartiality. But should the Government remain deaf to all warning, and determine to take the heavy responsibility upon themselves, he still trusted that the love for fair play which was supposed to govern Englishmen would, upon this occasion, make a large proportion of that House at once step forward, and by their votes record that they would be no parties to the passing of a law which was an insult to the feelings of the people of Ireland, as well as a cruel injustice. He asked the Government, he appealed to the right hon. Baronet at the head of that Government, if when the people of this country in the late disturbances not only bad arms, but used them, if they dared to bring forward a bill like the present? He asked hon. Members if they believed such a bill would have been submitted to in this country? He appealed to the Members for Scotland if they believed such a measure could have been carried into effect in their country, and what right, he asked, had any Government to bring in a bill for Ireland that the people of Scotland, that the people of England would not submit to? Was this even-handed justice? Was this what Ireland had a right to expect? The right hon. Baronet had told them on coming into office that Ireland would be his chief difficulty; it must and would continue to be so, if different laws were thus to be thrust upon the Irish. If the right hon. Baronet found he could not govern the country, why not resign? There were those who had governed it, as Lord Normanby and Lord Fortescue, who by mild and yet firm measures had made Ireland happy and contented. He knew he should be told that there was always an Arms Bill, but this bill was more stringent. But he objected to an Arms Bill at all. He objected to any and every measure that could for a moment make the people of Ireland believe—which, alas, they had too much reason to do—that they were to be treated differently to this country. He believed this bill to be unconstitutional and in every way adverse to the liberty of the subject. It was said—but by the commonest observer it would be treated 1122 with ridicule—that this bill was to prevent assassination. Now did any man in his senses believe that it would? Certainly not. When those wretched men attempted the life of her Gracious Majesty, did the Government think it advisable to bring in such a bill? or when the life of that unfortunate gentleman (Mr. Drummond), whose fate all must deeply deplore, fell a sacrifice to the hand of the assassin? But those fearful crimes did not seem to the Government a sufficient reason for bringing forward such a measure. He could assure them that Irish Gentlemen wanted not their kind interference, and for his part he thought that life was not worth having if it was to be protected and enjoyed only under such a law as this. But the fact was, that Government had other fears; and which fears he believed, only treat the people with common justice, would be found to be perfectly groundless. He felt assured the people of Ireland had no wish or intention to break the laws of the country. He believed that the spread of temperance (that most wonderful of all reformations) would make it impossible that anything like an outbreak could or would take place. The voice of the nation—the voice of the Irish people was against this bill. Formerly it was said, Vox populi, vox Dei. Do not let it be said in this case, Vox populi est nihil. He had been quartered in most parts of Ireland and had resided there for some years. He had, therefore, an opportunity of bearing witness to the many excellent qualities of the people, amongst which a sincere love of justice was one of the most prominent. He could hardly express his astonishment and dismay, when he first saw this bill, knowing, as he did, the fearful effect it must have on the minds of an easily-excited people. He called upon the House, he entreated hon. Members, not to do so foul a wrong as to pass this measure. What! are those who have carried your arms to the furthest parts of the world with honour and renown— who have offered their lives, and spent their best blood in defence of your liberties—are they to have this cruel indignity passed upon them? It was said by the ancients that those whom the gods meant to destroy they first allowed to go mad. For his part, he believed the Government must be bordering on that state, to bring forward such a measure at such, a time, a measure that could have no practical good result, but would only 1123 serve to inflame men's minds. If the Government wished to play into the hands of their enemies, they could not more effectually to do so than by bringing forward such a measure. He could tell them the effect it would have; it would drive men to become what they never had been and never intended to be. For his part, he believed this bill to be contrary to the British constitution—a constitution from which men drank in that spirit of independence which forms the foundation of every moral and political virtue; for let it be remembered that moral and political virtue, properly understood, are the same. For who can be a lover of morals, of virtue, and of God, that would oppress his fellow men, or give his voice in favour of a measure that so evidently had that tendency? He conjured them to consider well before they voted in favour of this measure; and at any rate he trusted that no Irish Member would be found voting for a measure that was so directly contrary to the liberty, and therefore the welfare of his country.
§ Mr. Watson
said, that although an Englishman, as an Irish Member, he thought it his duty to offer some objections to a bill the operation of which was to place 8,000,000 of their fellow citizens beyond the pale of the constitution. It was a bill destructive to liberty and contrary to the constitution of the country. It was acknowledged by the Bill of Rights, which being declaratory was part of the common law, that every citizen had a right to possess himself with arms for any lawful purposes, and that bill was as applicable to Ireland as to England. When he first read the present bill, he could hardly conceive such a measure could be submitted to the Legislature of this country. What were the arguments in favour of it? The noble Lord (Lord Eliot) offered two reasons. The first was the reports of several persons connected with the police in Ireland. Now, he would not pass a bill of this nature on the report of all the persons connected with the police in Ireland, because he knew that the police in every country always acted in restraint of liberty, and always represented the powers given to them as not sufficiently strong to enable them to perform their duties. Before they were called on to pass a measure so destructive of the first principles of liberty they should have the opinions of magistrates, noblemen, and gentlemen resident on their estates, and 1124 not rely solely on the opinions of the constabulary. Another argument was, that acts substantially the same had been in operation many years. The first of these had been, he believed, found in the cabinet of a predecessor of the noble Lord, and was brought in by the Whig Government in 1806. It had been said that these measures differed from that before the House, but he had looked at all of them, and found them all so radically and entirely bad, that he would not waste the time of the House by comparing and collating them. The noble Lord stated, as one of the arguments in favour of the bill, that there was a precedent for its introduction. The worst of all reasons, that of a precedent, was offered as a satisfactory reason to that House for demanding its assent to a measure of the tyrannical nature of the bill under consideration. The Government was doing that in 1843 which had been done in times of riot and disturbance, and the only argument brought forward in defence of this measure was, that a similar one had been introduced by the late Government and sanctioned by the House. Why, there was not any species of tyranny and coercion which could be put in force against a people that might not be justified by reference to what had been done in former periods of danger and disturbance. He could not, consistently with the view which he conscientiously took of this question, support a measure so much opposed as the present to the liberties of the people. The eloquent and logical speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dungarvan had been followed by the hon. and learned Member the Attorney-general for Ireland, and all which that right hon. and learned Gentleman had to urge in defence of the measure was, that a similar bill was proposed and carried by the late Whig Ministry. Reasons like these, if admitted, might be rendered subservient to the justification of any similar act of oppression; and simply because Whigs and Tories had, during many years, alternately oppressed Ireland this treatment was to be perpetuated, and the chains which hung round that ill-fated people were to be rivetted closer. The House and the country had heard much of the repeal movement going on in Ireland; but who, let him ask, was at the head of that agitation?—whose name might be pointed to as that of the person 1125 most conspicuous as the promoter of repeal? Was it not that of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. So long as the Government acted fairly towards Ireland, the repeal movement made no progress; but the moment coercive and harsh, as Well as unjust, measures were adopted towards the people of that country, the repeal agitation advanced so rapidly that it had every prospect of being carried into successful operation, and that not by the people of Ireland, but by means of that Government which would not legislate for them. From the year 1841 to 1843, what conciliatory measures had been adopted towards Ire-laud? None. What was the purport of the right hon. Baronet's recent declaration respecting repeal? It Was, that her Majesty's Government was resolved upon putting down that movement. Let him tell the right hon. Baronet that the present was the moment when the repeal agitation could be most successfully suppressed. Let the noble Lord (Lord Eliot) be permitted to do justice to Ireland as he believed was the noble Lord's wish and disposition, and that course, if persevered in, would conciliate the people and strengthen the bonds of Union between them and this country; whereas all the attempts to curb and intimidate them by means of bayonets and cannon would only excite them to make still stronger efforts to relieve themselves from their oppression. He would give his determined opposition to the bill.
Lord Claude Hamilton
said, that the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down had talked as if the bill before the House was an entirely novel measure, and as if it had been first brought under the notice of Members by the noble Lord in the present year 1843. He must, however, remind the hen. and learned Member that the provisions of the bill wire of very ancient date in the legislative history of Ireland, and they had been considered to be absolutely indispensable by every Government that had, during many years, ruled the country. The hon. and learned Member had talked of rivetting the chains of the people of Ireland by means of the present bill, but he must take the liberty of observing that neither the principle upon which the measure was founded, nor the provisions embodied in the various clauses, were novel: but, on the contrary, they were long recognised, and had been 1126 sanctioned by repeated acts of the Legislature. The inconveniences, as well as the unconstitutional nature, of the provisions of the bill, had been much dwelt on, but it ought to be recollected, that every class of persons was equally treated by it, and he, as Well as the poorest man in Ireland, would be obliged to submit to the restraints which it imposed. The bill made no distinction in persons, whether rich or poor, high or low; nor was there any distinction drawn between persons professing different religions—in fact, it was perfectly impartial in its application, and it would be far better if the hon. and learned Member had shown where the rivets that he spoke of were to be found in the bill, than to indulge in mere declamation. The hon. and gallant Member opposite had also put the question to hon. Gentlemen who represented Scotch and English constituencies, whether they would submit to have such a measure as the present carried into operation in their own districts or counties. It Was obvious that laws were meant to remedy social evils, and to impose wholesome restraints upon all classes; and if the evils for which a measure such as the present was introduced did not exist in the countries referred to, with what justice could such a remedy be said to be necessary there? The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Dungarvan, had drawn a vivid and eloquent picture of what the feelings of the people of Yorkshire Would be if such a bill as the present were to be enforced in that district. But Until that right hon. Gentleman could show that Yorkshire was in a state that needed such restraints as much as Ireland did, he could not admit that there was any parallel existing, It such a state of things could be shown to exist in Yorkshire, as unhappily was witnessed in Ireland, then he would be the first to join the right hon. Gentleman in his demand for an equal application to that county of the measure. Who that had heard the eloquent and forcible speech of the right hon. Gentleman who did not feel that there was a total dissimilarity between the two cases drawn by him, and, therefore, that identity of measures could not be said to be equal justice? What he meant by equal justice was that it was essential to afford protection to the innocent and peaceable, and to punish and deter the guilty both in Ireland and in Yorkshire; and if circumstances rendered it necessary to have recourse to a different mode of proceeding in one county to that 1127 which was adopted in another, it would be extremely wrong to say that injustice was committed by this difference of proceeding. If hon. Members were to apply themselves to allay the irritation and to calm the passions of the people with half the energy which they displayed on behalf of Ireland in that House, there would, he apprehended, be a very different state of things observable from what was now seen there. He did not mean to imply by this, that they did the reverse, but it was a natural consequence for men when wrapped up in and engrossed by their own thoughts, to neglect other distant and less pressing matters. Let him ask the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Dungarvan, whether he would for an instant put the county of Tipperary on a footing with Yorkshire in point of internal tranquillity or security of person? Did not that right hon. Gentleman, in the height of his indignation at that clause of the bill which provides that any person convicted of the illegal possession of arms in Ireland shall be subject to seven years' transportation—did he not, even whilst denouncing that proviso, afford an ample proof of its necessity, by stating, that he was obliged to use his influence on one occasion in Ireland to procure a safe asylum for some witnesses on a prosecution, before they would be induced to give their evidence? and was this course not necessary for their safety, as otherwise they would have been shot by the friends of the convicted party? This was the reason why it was necessary to deprive the people of Ireland of arms. The hon. Member for Limerick had objected that the bill would only deprive the peaceable, well-conducted, and honest classes in Ireland of their arms, whilst it would leave the ruffians and turbulent part of the population in possession of theirs, for the former would give up their weapons, whereas the latter would secrete and preserve them. Why should this be the necessary consequence of the bill? Why should the honest, peaceable, and well-conducted peasant or farmer in Ireland be deprived of his arms? He could retain them upon applying for a certificate; and what shame would there be in applying for that which the first nobleman in the land would, equally with himself, have to provide himself with? Who but the person that meant to make a bad and revengeful use of his fire-arms would neglect to provide himself with a certificate, or would seek to conceal his possession of such a weapon? The particular arms 1128 sought to be obtained under the act were not those used in sporting, but were muskets, rifles, and other firelocks of a more dangerous description, and it was for the House, therefore, to consider what purpose those arms were destined to serve when their owners would at all hazards conceal them from observation, and refuse either to give them up, or to obtain a legal permission for their retention. The bill should have his hearty support.
§ Mr. C. Buller:
If this bill were introduced without reference to immediate objects, I confess I should not feel a deep interest in its fate. This bill, under other circumstances, and as the mere continuance of the law as it formerly stood, need excite very little interest in this House, or out of it. That such must be the case, is shown by the conduct of the Irish Members, when this bill was proposed by the late Government, and when it was accepted as a matter of course, without the slightest objection to its provisions. I shall not, in order to defend the present conduct of those Members, maintain that there is any difference between the provisions of this bill, and that formerly introduced. I, myself, am resolved to defend my conduct on far more general grounds, and I say frankly, that if this bill were brought in by Lord Morpeth, and if the powers to be exercised under it were to be exercised by Lord Morpeth, who so unquestionably enjoyed the confidence of the Irish people, I should think this bill a matter of perfect indifference. But, Sir, I look to what hands the powers given by this bill, are to be committed. It cannot be denied—the Gentlemen opposite have admitted—that it is restrictive of liberty, that its provisions go to enlarge the powers of the executive. Is it illogical, that before I assent to grant such powers, I should ask in what spirit they are to be exercised, and whether they are to be entrusted to a Government having the confidence of the majority of the Irish people, or only that of a minority detested by that people? On this plain ground I rest my opposition to a bill, of which I thought nothing when it was formerly brought before Parliament. The Government to whom I formerly entrusted the powers of this bill was a Government which, amongst other advantages, exerted the whole of its administrative powers in accordance with the feelings of the Irish people. If it could not complete its good intentions by measures of legislation, it was not its fault. And the Irish people attributed their short- 1129 comings to the absence of power. Sir, the present Government wants no such power. They have a majority in this House, they have a majority in the other House, ready to assent to any measure brought forward by them for the remedy of the evils of Ireland. Even on the avowal of hon. Gentlemen opposite, the Arms Bill by itself does not propose to remove those evils. It was put very ingeniously by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire—whose speech gave a promise of good feeling and ability, which I am sure future opportunities will amply fulfil — that this bill was intended to protect the well-conducted portion of the people against assassins. Does not experience show the miserable futility of such measures for the suppression of outrage? Have not secretary for Ireland after secretary given us details of the invasion of houses, the destruction of property, and the reckless sacrifice of human life? All that time you had an Arms Act. Is there the slightest evidence that it ever prevented any number of outrages? I must confess it seems to me to be the universal characteristic of such a measure, that it disarms the victim without putting any serious difficulty in the way of the assailant. Do not suppose that they who wish to commit deliberate murder; who plan it as they do in Ireland, for days, weeks, and months; who come from distant parts of the country to localities in which they are unknown; who are assisted by a band of ruffians—do not suppose that such men will ever fail from want of arms when they come to a house to pillage, or to massacre an aged man (as was referred to) in the midst of his family, or to assist at the abduction of a young woman from the house of her parents? Why, these outrages have been committed during the operation of bills founded on allegations of violence, far more startling than those adduced by the noble Lord. But I must confess that I should have taken little part in those debates, if I looked to nothing but the bill before the House. I look at it in connection with the government of Ireland. Under pretence of protecting one part of the peasantry against another, the real object is to protect the Government against insurrectionary movements. I want to know by what means you intend to prevent them? Is it by an Arms Bill that you are to quiet the Irish people? Or is it by such a policy as will deprive them of all inclination to rise against the law? I perfectly admit, that the late accounts are calculated to, inspire the utmost terror; I 1130 believe such ah organization for effecting a change in the constitution was never before witnessed in any country, and could never be allowed to go on without succeeding. It is quite clear, that it is the determination of the Irish people to reject all offers from the Government; it is quite clear they have no confidence in them. It is quite clear that they look to nothing—that is, nine out of ten of the Irish people—but legislative separation from England as a remedy for all their evils. Now, it is needless for an English Member to argue against such a doctrine. None of us can say a word in favour of it. It must be fraught with unmixed evil; it would be an end to the existence of a great and powerful empire, by making hostile neighbours of those who ought to be our peaceful fellow-subjects. One would think, supposing the Irish people were well governed, that, as the weaker and the poorer nation, they ought to feel a horror at separation much more than we do. If the union had been productive of good Government, the degradation of the empire, which must ensue from the repeal of it, might be expected to fall most heavily on that poorer portion which ought to have enjoyed the benefit of our superior civilization, strength, and wealth. And when the lamentable fact is brought before you, that in spite of all these reasons, the people of Ireland wish (and no one can doubt it) for the Repeal of the Union, I ask you to explain this? I ask you what remedy you propose for such a state of things? Is it by such a bill as this, that the disease in the mind of the nation is to be cured? Do you think it is by Arms Bills you can be restored to the affections of the Irish people? Expand, then, the far more important remainder of your policy. Tell us what other and larger measures of a remedial nature you have in store. It must be a preliminary in discussing any measure which, on the face of it can afford but temporary and partial relief, that you should say how you mean to go to the root of the evil; how you mean to ameliorate the condition of the Irish people; and reconcile them to the laws and institutions under which they now live. On the one or two occasions, that I have spoken on Irish subjects I have used a frankness which has given rise to astonishment. I will say, on the present occasion, that the Government of England in Ireland has been for centuries our scandal in the eyes of Europe. We must not disguise these things; we cannot hope, by 1131 a mere denial, to remove from ourselves what all the world agrees in designating as our greatest disgrace, I appeal, not merely to works of a permanent character; but to the periodical literature of every nation of Europe, that the opinion of the world is, that there is no Christian state which has suffered such misgovernment as Ireland, by you. Do I say, that without the corroboration of such circumstances as must carry conviction? Look at the material condition of the Irish people? Is there in Europe poverty so wretched? Is there a country, the physical condition of whose people is so bad? Has not that condition deteriorated during the present century, while all Europe has made rapid strides? I am going to appeal to statistical authority, which you ought to respect, in as much as you have legislated upon it. If you say, that the produce of Ireland has increased—that the agriculture of the country is greatly improved—1 do not deny it. The fact, the shameful fact is, that during the last century, the produce has been doubled, while the condition of the people has deteriorated. I refer for my authority not to the vague declarations of Irish agitators, but to the report of the Poor-law commissioners, sanctioned by every local commissioner who has inquired into the clothing, firing, and food of the Irish poor. I have not the slightest intention of reading those reports, but I shall be borne out by the recollection of all who have read them, that they testify to the fact, that no other people are huddled together as the Irish are, while their food has universally deteriorated. Contradict that if you can. You cannot, though you might have done so when we had not this evidence seven or eight years ago. Arthur Young, comparing the state of Ireland with that of England, said complaint is made of the Irish being badly off, but I must remark this, that while the English poor eat bread and cheese they have rarely a sufficiency, while the Irish, who use potatoes, have not only enough for themselves but for the beggar who asks their charity. Now what is the statement of the commissioners? That the quantity of potatoes now used is scanty, and the quality has notoriously deteriorated. I may remind you of the passage by repeating a particular phrase which struck me in reading that report; the general complaint was, they were reduced to "lumpers," which formerly were given only to hogs. Such is the evidence of the effects of English Government—that while the produce of Ireland and the rents have increased, 1132 the condition of the people has been daily growing worse and worse. And if of late some improvements can be observed in the cottages and in the appearance of the people, this change is not to be attributed to the care of the Government, or the kindness of the wealthy, but simply to the energies of one excellent individual, who has used his priestly character to reclaim the Irish people from that vice which had been the cause of half their misery. And what evidence have you to show of good Government in the institutions of the country? I do not believe, that such an experiment was ever before attempted in the civilized world, as your experiment of governing a country by no other instrument of rule than an army and an armed police. Who are the guides of the people? What leaders have they to win confidence for the Government? In other countries, and I must say in this country, whatever political disputes I may have with them, I never will deny, that a great part of the gentry promote order, civilization, and charity amongst their neighbours. I am personally ignorant of Ireland, but deriving my information from the concurrent testimony of all writers and travellers, I assert that the great mass of the proprietors (I don't deny that there are honourable exceptions, including of course all the landlords of Ireland in this House) present the greatest contrast to the English gentry which can be conceived. In any other country the influence of religion—of a clergy trusted by the Government, and honoured by the people, would have some salutary influence in preserving order and attachment to the executive. You have an Established Church there, which is an insult and eye-sore to the community. Yes, I say the Church of a minority is imposed on a reluctant people by an army, and by Arms' Bills. You have taken the funds destined by the bounty of our ancestors for religious instruction from the rightful owners, and expend them on a clergy living either in disgraceful absenteeism, or being more deplorably mischievous from residing in Ireland. You have also a real Church, whose priests are 1 powerful from their influence over the people; belonging to a religion that most readily allies itself with the State; a priesthood that have always been found the willing agents of aristocracy and Government. What have you done with regard to these men? By insult—-by exclusion, you have made them the leaders of agitation, and the enemies of your Government. There is a third class of men who might exert an in- 1133 fluence for good government. 1 mean the political leaders of the people—they who have advocated their cause, and gloriously won their battle. Upon what principle have you acted towards them? You have decreed for then a hopeless exclusion of all share in the government of their own country so long as the Government of England is constituted as at present. Can the people have confidence in the administration of the law when they see Orangemen raised to the bench of justice, and every office of the magistracy filled by those whom they look on as their enemies? Is it by removing from the commission of the peace all those who have evinced any attachment to the popular cause, that they are to be conciliated? Such measures at all times must have caused disaffection; and your perils are greatly increased by the experiment which has been recently made. 1 acknowledge, that to remedy the evils of Ireland, must be a work of great patience and honest intention. The late Government made one great step towards amelioration. The late Government, were prevented from making the laws which they proposed for removing inequalities which had been jealously maintained; but there was one thing which you could not hinder while they held the rein of the executive; and that was, governing through the leaders of the people. This effort to secure the affections of the people had its return, for, from 1835, when Lord Melboure took office, down to the period of his resignation, you had the cessation of disaffection; you had the people cheerfully uniting in yielding obedience to the law and the leaders of the people and their priesthood, the agents of order and good government. And now what change have you effected? From the time of your coming into office you allied yourselves with the Orangemen of Ireland. [Sir Robert Peel expressed dissent.] The right hon. Baronet denies that; but I wish he would point out the difference between Toryism and Orangemen. It is said that they who arraign the conduct of Government for the appointment of the judges, must give evidence of deliberate and systematic acts of injustice by those functionaries. Sir, when we wish to conquer the feelings of the Irish people, we should use no such test. You must look to human nature at large, and placing ourselves in the position of the Irish people, ask what our feelings would be if so treated? There were two Gentlemen in this House, Dr. Lefroy and Mr. Sergeant Jackson, more 1134 gentlemanly or agreeable men in private I never met, hut I must say that never on an Irish question (and they both spoke often, and one at great length) have I heard them express a feeling of sympathy for the mass of their countrymen, and never did I hear any two Gentlemen who were more constantly inclined to expressions of religious bigotry and national animosity. You took these men on the ordinary principles of English party politics, and not considering the difference as applied to Ireland, you raised them to the bench because they were your supporters in this House, and the representatives of their party in Ireland. We are not very tolerant of strong party men in England, when raised to such positions, but what must be the feelings of the Irish Catholics, recollecting the sentiments they uttered, the policy they supported, the party with which they were associated, and the measures which, to the detestation of the Irish people, they promoted? I ask what must be the feelings of an Irish Catholic on seeing such men on the bench. Could he be expected to have confidence in the administration of justice by the propounders of such doctrines have already said, that I have never been in Ireland. But I received a portion of my political education in a country where dissensions have raged, though not for a tenth part of the duration of those in Ireland, and where the hatred of race is not embittered by the animosity of religion, I know how delicate is the work of legislation for such a country—how easily prejudices are excited, and how easily, and completely they are allayed by governing for the benefit of the mass of" the people. Compare more in detail than my right hon. Friend the Member for Dungarvan did last night your policy as regards Canada and Ireland. The Tory party came into power by a majority in England. In Ireland, as a necessary consequence of that triumph, every friend of the popular party was removed from office, and every vacancy supplied by Members of the minority. Look across the Atlantic, and you see the ministry composed of the French, the Catholic, and the domestic party. Though Tories in England you looked at Canada with Canadian eyes, and you placed in power those opposed to your own politics. You go further, you take a man who has distinguished himself under the late Government, and you send out an English Liberal to administer the affairs of Canada, in conjunction with a liberal Canadian ministry. Now, do not suppose that I an 1135 going to say a word in favour of the repeal of the Union; do not suppose that I am at all inclined to that retrograde and barbarous step for weakening the empire, but put yourselves in the place of the Irish people, and suppose you were subjected to the government of a Tory minority, not because you had changed your minds, but the English theirs; and then looking at the different measure meted out across the Atlantic; say, whether you would not prefer a domestic Legislature and a Government responsible to your own people, instead of a Government dictated by England, and representing only an odious minority. These are lessons not thrown away on the people of Ireland, and they are not thrown away on the people of England. There is a great change since you last raised the No Popery cry. People ask why you have not tried in Ireland the experiment that has succeeded in Canada, and which was already successful in Ireland. If you wish to fight successfully against the repeal cry, you must put it down, not by Arms' Bills, but by acting as Lord Normanby acted in Ireland, and Sir Charles Bagot in Canada. I speak earnestly, for I look on this as a great crisis in the affairs of Ireland. I never, in addressing myself to the right hon. Baronet have done so in terms of party acerbity and injustice. I think he is influenced by higher motives than those which move inferior statesmen. I remember his avowal, that he was actuated by the probable opinion of posterity, and by a desire for posthumous fame. I ask, how will posterity decide when the right hon. Baronet summoned to its bar, is asked how he has governed Ireland? He must say, I found her on my accession contented and obedient to the law, but in one year and a half of my rule I managed to alienate the people of Ireland from those of England. I managed to raise the cry of repeal, which had completely died away. And when asked what measures he brought forward to improve the condition of the people, he must reply, I proposed as proofs of my sagacity and wisdom, the Irish Spirits' Bill, and the Irish Arms' Bill. I do think the right hon. Baronet means something better for Ireland. He has only, however, given us a hint of the worst part of his policy, this measure of coercion. He has omitted to say what measure for the improvement of the material condition, and the alleviation of the moral and social state of the people he means to introduce. I will not adopt—until I see the vindication of your 1136 professions—by a larger spirit of legislation—an Arms' Bill, as the only measure of legislation for Ireland.
§ Mr. Shaw
said the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Buller), like much of the debate previously, had wandered from the bill immediately before the House, to the general state of Ireland. He was happy to have heard the hon. and learned Gentleman declare that he had never been in that country, for in the remarks with which the hon. and learned Member had favoured the House, with regard to the gentry, the peasantry, the habits, the feelings, and the general condition of Ireland, the hon. and learned Gentleman having spoken so freely of his (Mr. Shaw's) country, and many of his personal friends, must allow him to say, that in reference to every one of those topics, the hon. and learned Gentleman had exhibited the profoundest ignorance. As the debate had, as he had already observed, diverged into a general discussion upon the present state of Ireland, he trusted that he should be borne with while he offered a few observations to the House on that question which was at that moment one of all-absorbing interest. He had hitherto refrained from taking part in the incidental references which had been made to that subject in the House; but he felt that the time was come when it became his duty, as an Irish representative, to give to the House and the country the best opinion which he was capable of forming upon it, without reference to party, to whom it might be pleasing or to whom displeasing, but with the single view to what he believed sincerely to be the truth. He was sorry to be obliged to say, in the first place, that he considered the present condition of Ireland most unsatisfactory—he might, he feared, truly add, alarming. In his recollection — and he spoke the experience of much older men when he said in theirs—the general mass of the population were never so violently agitated, and all other classes so depressed and dejected; each thus operating upon the other, as both cause and effect. Various had been the reasons assigned on different sides for this state of things. He believed it arose from a combination of causes not yet adverted to; at all events, in that House. There was, first, the general depression of the agricultural interest, affecting, even to an extent far be. 1137 yond what happened in England, every grade of society, from the highest to the lowest in Ireland, greatly, though he admitted not entirely, caused by the enactments of last year respecting the Corn-law and the tariff—still more by the panic which succeeded them; and then, he must say, in some degree stimulated by the Canada Corn Bill then before the House, the importance of which he believed had been exaggerated; but still it was a further concession in the direction against the agricultural interest; and he could not help thinking that it was most imprudent and unwise so soon again to stir an exciting question which had been considered as settled. Next there was the temperance movement. Now, he could not allude to that without joining with the hon. Member (Mr. Buller) in bearing testimony to the great benefit which it had conferred on Ireland, and to the sincerity and honesty of the motives with which it had been promoted by the rev. Mr. Mathew. Within the jurisdiction over which he presided, he was convinced crime had been reduced one-third within the last few years owing to the change in the habits of the people from intoxication to sobriety; but, alas! in that unhappy country, even the blessing of temperance was turned to a curse; the bands, the symbols, and the organisation, he had no doubt, Mr. Mathew himself now deplored, as having been originally indiscreet, though, perhaps, well meant; it was certain, however, that they had since been turned by designing persons into a nucleus of most extensive and alarming organization for other and far different purposes. There was then the removal of the Whigs from office, which necessarily took off the drag which, as regarded their adherents and expectants, they had put upon the repeal movement by making all participation in it a ban to any share of their patronage. He must now come to what was to him a more painful part of the subject. The party, which for shortness he might call Protestant, although containing within it many Roman Catholics—that was the Conservative party in Ireland—had undoubtedly, up to a very recent period, been apathetic and almost indifferent to the present agitation, to a degree most unusual, and, indeed, unprecedented, amongst them. They had shared largely in the general agricultural depression, but there were other reasons. A cry had 1138 been most artfully raised by those whose object was to embarrass the present Government. It was still continued in that House, and had been especially mentioned by the noble Lord the Member for London and the Member for Liskeard in that debate, viz., that the Irish Conservative partly desired extreme measures, and would be content only that the country should be governed for them alone. There never was a more unfounded assertion. When the present Government came into office, there was not a class of men in the United Kingdom of more moderate views than the great, the overwhelming majority of the Irish Conservative party. [Laughter.] Yes, hon. Gentlemen opposite might laugh, and, in the absence of argument or any foundation in fact for the assertion to which he was referring, that kind of sneer was one of the means taken to impose upon the too great credulity of English gentlemen upon that subject on both sides of the House, but hon. Gentlemen opposite who came from Ireland, however much they might assist in the deception, knew right well that he was stating nothing but the truth, when he declared that the great and influential portion of the Conservative party in Ireland desired nothing more than to see the country firmly but temperately governed—the laws impartially and equally administered—and no favour or distinction shown to any man on account of his religious creed—but while they did not desire the country to be governed either for or by a party, they certainly were not such children in politics as to fall into the Utopian notion, that a representative Government could exist in this country without a party to support it—or without bestowing on its own supporters, with discrimination and every regard to the competency of the individual, but still upon its own supporters, the patronage which that Government had to dispense. This was a Quixotism—a very favourite piece of political sentimentality with the Whigs, so far as the preaching it in theory went; but they took good care most religiously to eschew it in practice—and of all the Governments that ever existed in Ireland, that with which the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) was connected made the most unscrupulous partisan appointments — witness Lord Campbell and the offer of the highest judicial authority to the man who was then disturbing the peace of the whole 1139 country. Also, the appointment of a right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Clonmel (Mr. Pigot) who, though undoubtedly his subsequent conduct had been unexceptionable, was, at the time of his appointment to the office of legal adviser to the Irish government, an active member of an illegal, or at least, an unconstitutional association. The noble Lord, with a most amusing ingenuousness and simplicity, asked his right hon. Friend (Sir R, Peel) would he have appointed Sir M. O'Loghlen as a judge. No, to be sure, he would not. From the time that Sir M. O'Loghlen became a judge, no one respected his judicial character—it was universally respected—more than he did; but before he was a judge, he had been opposed to him both at elections in that House, and there was not in the Whig party a more thorough-going partisan than Sir M. O'Loghlen. The noble Lord was a great stickler for equal laws and equal practices for England and Ireland; but suppose the noble Lord to change places with his right hon. Friend, and that any Member of that House had the face to get up and ask the noble Lord did he mean to appoint, say, for instance, the present Solicitor-general to a judgeship—what would be the noble Lord's answer?—why, he would put him down by a sneer, amidst the laughter and derision of the House. The noble Lord, by the disparaging observations he had made on such men as Baron Lefroy and Judge Jackson, might gain a cheer in that House; but depend upon it, such observations would be regarded as an insult by the whole bar of Ireland, whatever their politics—for they knew the character and professional qualifications of those truly amiable and learned men. He could scarcely trust himself to answer the unjust and ungenerous attack which had just been made upon them by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Buller). That hon. and learned Gentleman asserted that neither of these two learned judges, while Members of that House, had ever spoken with reference to Ireland, except in the language of religious animosity and national antipathy. He in the strongest terms the usages of that House would permit, denied the truth of that assertion, and he defied the hon. and learned Gentleman to produce a single title of evidence in support of it. If he spoke warmly, he trusted the House would pardon him 1140 in consideration that he did so in the vindication of absent friends, who had been grossly maligned. Judge Jackson had ever been the friend of Roman Catholic emancipation, and both he and Baron Lefroy had all their lives been remarkable for the kindness, the good feeling, and the active benevolence they had evinced towards every class of their countrymen. Had not the noble Lord promoted his political supporters, Sir M. O'Loghlen, Judge Perrin, and Judge Ball? and what was the difference of the noble Lord's liberality from that of his opponents? We had contended with those men fairly as political opponents, when they were politicians we took no objection to their appointments, and found no fault with them on the bench. Let not the noble Lord suppose that that arose from any apprehension of bringing them into professional comparison with such names as Blackburne and Pennefather, Lefroy and Jackson. No, but he might turn upon the noble Lord and ask him who affected such scruples in making political appointments to the bench. Why did not his government appoint such men as Pennefather, Blackburne, and Warren, preeminently the first men in the profession, and who had never taken any active part in polities?—Nay, it was believed that the noble Lord's Government violated something like a very solemn promise to Mr. Blackburne, on the plea that he consented for a short time to serve in a professional office under the Government of his right hon. Friend, Sir R. Peel; and now the noble Lord had the modesty to taunt his right hon. Friend for not making his appointments from amongst his active political opponents. But to return to the present state of Ireland and the causes which had combined to produce it. The Conservative party of Ireland, whether rightly or erroneously, were under the impression that that imaginary danger cunningly presented to English prejudice had imposed upon the Irish Government, and where their Irish supporters in every part of the country felt that they deserved confidence, they thought that they were treated with distrust and suspicion. This produced the natural result of such conduct on generous minds—they shrunk into themselves, and in their turn became distant and reserved. They looked on with wonder and amazement at the blindness of the Government to the progress of the 1141 present agitation, but they would not step uninvited beyond the limits of their own peculiar duties — they would not intrude opinions that were not sought, and were probably apprehensive that if they did, they would be unheeded, and bring upon themselves the imputation of ultra politicians and of being the advocates of unnecessary coercion. It could not be disguised either that throughout all parties in Ireland there existed a prevailing opinion that there was a want of vigour and independent power of action in the executive Government of Ireland. For individuals composing that Government every personal respect was entertained; no person who had the slightest intercourse with the distinguished nobleman who filled the highest place in that Government could doubt of his ability, high-mindedness, and excellent intentions. But the truth was, in times of any emergency, the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland was a most anomalous office—it was a painful position for any man of high and independent spirit; be had neither the irresponsibility of the Crown nor the power of a minister. He was controlled in what his own better judgment would dictate; and constantly blamed for what he had not authority to control. Here, be it observed, he (Mr. Shaw) spoke of the nature of the office, and not of the practice pursued towards the individual Lord-lieutenant. Then as to his (Mr. Shaw's) noble Friend the Secretary for Ireland, nothing could exceed his courtesy and politeness, and his disposition to please everybody, and to do all that he thought for the good of the country; but men of business and irrespective of party, complained that there seemed no independent power belonging to the office. What was agreed to in Dublin might or might not be ratified, or even heard of in London. The care of our public institutions—the legislation for meal objects— measures for opening the internal resources of the country, and giving labour to an unemployed population, and the general and unpolitical interests of the country, appeared to be postponed to the more pressing and urgent business of the departments in England through which Ireland was indirectly governed. It was difficult to know where Irish business was done, or omitted to be done—an unseen hand was supposed to direct it, and that of one who was unacquainted with the 1142 wants, the feelings, the wishes, or the circumstances of the people of Ireland. These impressions of feebleness in the Irish executive encouraged the evil-doers, the agitators, the disturbers of the public peace, while, in the same proportion they discouraged and depressed the well-disposed and peaceable of all classes and creeds in that country. They were, however, at length, all aroused and alarmed. The Government itself had awoke to the real state and danger of the country, and it was equally the duty, the interest, and. he trusted. the inclination, of all who valued the security of person and property in Ireland, to aid in allaying that agitation which was spreading as a flame through that country. In his opinion, there was no danger of an outbreak so long as the leaders could prevent it—how long that might be, if their career was not checked, he could not say. Mr. O'Connell —[Order, Order.] He was aware, that generally speaking, it was out of order to refer to a Member of that House by name; but, in that instance, he thought he might with greater propriety speak of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cork, in his capacity of Irish agitator, than as a Member of that House, the functions of which office the hon. Gentleman seemed to have renounced. Well then, Mr. O'Connell, in one of his last speeches, speaking of physical force, exclaimed:-I know a trick worth two of that—what 1 want is to organise the entire of Ireland by means purely constitutional.In the same paper, a leading one of that party, and one conducted with great ability— The Nation—there was a programme of their intentions, and an intimation of the means by which they were to be effected. Having spoken of the English people as their enemies, the paragraph runs,—
"No! Irishmen! ourselves, ourselves alone. Go on organising—contribute to the repeal treasury—not suddenly to make a show for your county or parish, but gradually and regularly. Work heaven and earth to conciliate the Protestants, and to show your armed brethren in red and green coats that Ireland is wo-begone, and will unite; will be mighty, and worth serving. Meet by myriads, meet with your temperance music—the badge of your new virtue—meet in order, and separate in order. Obey your leaders, learn all the elements of success, distrust and watch, and be 1143 fearless of England; organize, observe the law agitate and be patient.
But how long would they meet in order and separate in order, if they met in myriads, with military organization, with military music, obeying their leaders, and learning the elements of what was there called success. Dr. Johnson it was, he believed, who said, " I don't care who makes the laws, if 1 could but write the ballads;" and what were the ballads circulated by that their most widely circulated print?—There was one in the next column to what he had read:—The music's read, the morning's bright, Step together—left, right—left, right; We carry no gun, Yet devil a one But knows how to march in Tip'rary,0! By twelves and sixties on we go, Rank'd four deep in close order, O ! For order's the way To carry the day— March steadily, men of Tip'rary, O ! We'll get repeal in a year or so, If we're active and true to each other O ! Then the rents will be low, And the taxes also, And Ireland will be a great nation, O!If there was any doubt of that here was another he (Mr. Shaw) had copied that morning from the last number of the same paper, which spoke more plainly:—The Saxon and the Dane Our immortal hills profane, May destruction seize the twain, Says the Shan Van Vocht. And what are we to do? To nerve our hearts anew And to treat the hireling crew To a touch of Brian Boru, Says the Shan Van Vocht. They came across the wave But to plunder and enslave, And should find a robber's grave, Says the Shan Van Vocht.As to repeal of the Union, talked of as a practical measure, it was a mere delusion. In Ireland no one was duped by it, except the unfortunate ignorant beings who were collected by masses in its name. He was astonished when, in the first instance, the declarations of her Majesty's Ministers were directed against that as if it were the real danger. As well might the wily incendiary, after he had applied the torch, and the conflagration was spreading through the premises, attempt to persuade the owner that the danger he had to provide against was from some disant thunder-storm or earthquake. The 1144 real danger- in the present instance is, that the whole country is being organised in passive resistance to the laws; but repeal is only the pretext for collecting the masses together; and what are the objects set forth, as if to be carried by repeal, but really to be dreaded without it, if this systematic organisation be not stopped? What is fixity of tenure as described by Mr. O'Connell? No rent without twenty-one years' leases—then that rent to be fixed by the tenants themselves or a jury of their neighbours; and no party to be evicted except on the payment of such sum as the same parties may award him as compensation. Fixity of tenure may be a high-sounding name for such a system, but in plain English it meant confiscation of property. Then they are to pay no tithes, no rates, no cess, in short, they are to be released from all the obligations of civilised society. It was, in fact, a combination of the Roman Catholic clergy and the masses who have no property against property and law. Mr. O'Connell expresses his greatest delight to be in witnessing the union, at the multitudinous assemblages he is drawing together, of numbers of the people and of the Roman Catholic clergy. He would say nothing of that clergy but what they say for themselves. Witness Dr. MacHale and his 101l. subscription in his own words: — "The offering of 101 devoted ecclesiastics on the altar of their country." Dr. Higgins proclaims, that from shore to shore the hierarchy are all repealers; and we find them by hundreds, and eighties, and fifties, assembling at Mullingar, Cork, and Cashel. It is possible that many have been carried on by force or the popular clamour, and may find it easier to head than to check the movement; but without any disrespect to them, or accusing them of being worse than other men would under the same circumstances be, it cannot be overlooked that, as a body, they have not the same domestic relations and endearing ties to bind them to society which restrain other men. Then, in connexion with the Roman Catholic priesthood, he might be permitted to allude to the attack of one of that body upon a noble Friend of his, Lord Hawarden, and that night pointedly referred to by his hon. Friend, the Member for Limerick (Mr. S. O'Brien). His hon. Friend referred to a mere newspaper report, and he was surprised that his hon. Friend should have 1145 countenanced so serious a charge without having made some inquiry as to its truth. He would read, upon Lord Hawarden's authority, the answer —Of the whole 143 families mentioned by Mr. Davern, nine only have been ejected during the last eighteen years; and it was necessary to resort to the sheriff in four cases only out of these nine, in one of which the tenant had no family residing on the land; fifty-six families included in his list have not been tenants of Lord Hawarden during the last twenty-one years; three families are twice mentioned; twenty-nine left of their own accord, and received compensation on quitting; twenty-two exchanged for other holdings on the estate, and twenty-one families held as undertenants to lessees, to whom they surrendered their lands, and not to Lord Hawarden, which accounts in a summary manner for the whole of the 143 families mentioned by Mr. Davern, the details of each individual case being stated in the foregoing remarks, opposite to their names.And how was that charge introduced by a minister of religion in those times of excitement against a resident landlord?Since the above period (1662), it appears your ancestors have enjoyed legal and undisturbed possession of these forfeited estates. The character they have bequeathed to posterity shows them to have been distinguished for their rank bigotry, rabid intolerance, and rigid enforcement of the penal laws against the unfortunate Catholics of their day. Was not your Lordship's immediate relative the foreman of that sanguinary jury who, in the year 1765, promoted the legal conviction of a Catholic priest—the rev. Father Sheehy—for the murder of a man who was known to have lived for many years afterwards." "Before I conclude," says the rev. Mr. Davern, "I cannot avoid making a short appeal to the humane and tender-hearted of the public to enlist their sympathies and commiseration for the misfortunes of these afflicted, forlorn families, whom agrarian legislation made victims. Their houses were burnt and demolished, and they themselves were driven as outcasts on the highway. The expulsion took place in the dearth of summer, as well as the inclemency of winter. Among the ejected were to be found persons of every age and every sex, the widow and the orphan, the aged and infirm, the wife in the throes of labour, and the husband in the rage of fever.Now, if the latter statement were true— he would be the last man in the House that would stand up to say one word in its defence; but when Lord Hawarden declares upon his honour as a gentleman, that it is untrue, what is to be thought of a clergyman whose duty it was to restrain an excited populace, and lead them in the 1146 ways of peace, to put forward such a statement against a resident landlord in his neighbourhood. Even had it been true, was that any reason for referring, in the same letter, to forfeited estates, and an ancestor of Lord Hawarden having been on a jury that convicted a Roman Catholic priest nearly eighty years ago? Lord Hawarden never heard of such a circumstance, and believes it never occurred; but suppose it had, would that justify an exasperating allusion to what happened near a century past, and for which Lord Hawarden could be in no degree responsible? Alas! this was but a part of the system for driving landlords from their properties, in order that others might gain possession of them. Such persons as this Dr. Davern declaimed against absenteeism as a curse, yet were they not labouring to bring a curse upon every proprietor who resided? There was Lord Hawarden, a man of ample fortune, and most amiable disposition—spending large sums of money amongst the labouring poor in his neighbourhood —looking after their wants and improving their condition. A man might be brave as a lion—ready to force the cannon's mouth in battle, or meet any open danger unflinchingly, but there was no man whose mind was so constituted as that he would not prefer the humblest cottage, in peaceful retirement, in this country, to living in a palace where he was to be pointed at as the prey of the assassin, where his family could never enjoy a moment's ease of mind while he was outside his door, lest he should be cat off by the hand of some wretched hireling murderer lying in a place of lurking concealment. He knew no class in Ireland so alarmed, or who cried so loudly for protection, as the respectable Roman Catholic laity and the Whig party residing in that country; it was in that respect no sectarian or political question; and what they most dreaded was, that if not aided quickly, they would not much longer be able to resist, but would be carried before the torrent which was threatening to devastate the country. This state of things could not continue. It was in vain to say that meetings of from 300,000 to 500,000 men quickly succeeding each other, in all parts of the country, suspending all weekday occupation, and desecrating the Sabbath, so that the peaceable inhabitants could not attend their different places of worship—but by terror were led either to 1147 mingle in the mass or hide themselves in their own houses—it was in vain, he said, to deny that such meetings were dangerous to the public peace, created terror in her Majesty's loyal subjects, and were against the law. He believed the constitutional law of the land was strong enough, and he was very Sure, that if the law was not, or was not made, strong enough to put them down, that they would very soon put down both the law and the constitution. He was against coercion bills and enactments suspending the constitution; till all the powers of the existing law had failed; and he had every confidence in them if vigorously administered. He knew not whether the dismissal of the magistrates might have a good effect; but he could wish it had been earlier done. The remedies of the right hon. Gentleman were—banish the Orangemen from Dublin Castle. The right hon. Gentleman knew well no official was there who was or ever had been an Orangeman. It was ungenerous thus to refer to the Orangemen, who had given up their cherished habits in obedience to not only the letter, but the spirit of the law—and now thought with bitterness over their meetings, with tens and hundreds, their few ribands, and their favourite tunes, when they saw parties of tens of thousands marching in derision by them, playing party tunes, and flapping in their very faces their flags, inscribed with rebellious mottos, with impunity. Then the right hon. Gentleman said," reform," by which he meant destroy, "the Protestant Church" —'' conciliate the Roman Catholic priesthood"—and both the right hon. Gentle-mar) and the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Buller) vehemently urged as the panacea for all the ills of Ireland, to Canadianize that country. That he supposed meant—make Mr. O'Connell Attorney-General—subvert the Protestant Church, remove our Primate, our Archbishop of Dublin, and bishop of Meath from the Privy Council, and replace them by the right rev. titulars, Doctors Mac Hale, Higgins, and Kennedy. Admirable expedient for preserving Ireland to the British Crown, and making that ill-fated country peaceful, prosperous, and happy. He thanked the House for the kindness with which they had heard him. He felt deeply for the unhappy condition of, his country, and he had spoken as he felt. He saw her blessed with every natural resource— 1148 her population overflowing and unemployed, yet, from the insecurity of property and person, capital driven from her shores, and men of science and of skill, together with the proprietors of the soil, deterred from residing where they could spread employment, comfort, and civilisation around them. He had not spoken as a sectarian or partisan. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Buller) would probably maintain that he too Was actuated by animosity against his Roman Catholic countrymen; but no, he had always lived upon terms of good will with them. From his earliest childhood he had seen the poor around him, without distinction of religion, treated with benevolence and affection, and kindness returned with attachment and gratitude. He had himself employed Protestants and Roman Catholics in com. mon—he had been favourable to the removal of civil disabilities on account of religious belief, and he might be permitted to say that for fifteen years he had administered the law to thousands of Roman Catholics annually, and that he did not believe there was one amongst that number who thought that he was capable of doing them an injustice. He had not addressed the House as a party man, for he apprehended that what he had said was not entirely pleasing to either of the great parties into which that House was divided—but he believed that in the capacity of an independent representative he had spoken the sentiments of the Constituency who had sent him there—namely, the gentry, the professional men, and the educated classes of Ireland generally. As an Irishman it was that he had especially desired to speak. He loved his country as faithfully as those who, on the other side, made greater professions of patriotism. All the property, that belonged to his family and himself, were at stake there. His earliest and dearest remembrances were connected with that country, and he prized, far above all considerations of sect or party, that he should have peace for his home, and happiness about his dwelling with the prospect of peacefully transmitting those blessings to his children. With regard to the bill before the House he would vote for the second reading, without being pledged to all its details, Until they shall have been fully discussed in committee. He, however, thought that a measure founded upon the principle of the bill was necessary in the present state of Ireland; and it was 1149 little more than a transcript of the bill introduced by the late Government.
Mr. M. J. O'Connell
was certainly beholden to the hon. and learned Gentle, man for having, at the end of a speech full of irrelevant matter, given one sentence in reference to the bill before the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that Mr. Baron Lefroy was a mild politician. Now, he would beg to refer to the speech of that learned personage in 1829, wherein he declared that the King would sacrifice his right to the throne if he gave his assent to the Catholic Emancipation Bill, and the Duke of Northumberland who was then the Lieutenant of Ireland, in consequence of that speech, thought it his duty to abstain from employing him to sit on the bench in the absence of the judge. The noble Lord opposite said that there was nothing new of any importance in the present bill; yet he would remind the noble Lord, that in a former year the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire moved a bill, one of the clauses of which contained a provision for the branding of arms in Ireland, and that, such was the unanimous expression of discontent on the subject, the proposition was rejected. Yet this most offensive proposition was renewed in the present bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that this bill was identical with the bill introduced by Lord Morpeth in 1836; but such was not the case; it differed from it in several material particulars. The very first clause gave great additional trouble in the process of registering arms, requiring the cooperation Of two householders, which caused not only delay, but inconvenience. But the main complaint, in his mind, was against the proposal to brand all the licensed arms throughout the country, indicating, by means of numbers and letters, the district and individual to whom every one belonged. He really thought, that hon. Gentlemen who had been silent in reference to this matter on former occasions, might ground their opposition to this bill upon these very registering clauses alone; an additional grievance of which was, that they were so dovetailed into one another throughout the measure as to render the act doubly difficult to comply with, and doubly penal into its consequent effect. But even supposing the bill to be the same as previous ones, was there any reason for continuing such a measure? Were those who considered 1150 that this measure was an invasion of the constitutional rights of the people of Ireland, to be met with the tu quoque rejoinder, " You let it pass before, and therefore you should do so now?" With respect to the former occasion, he admitted frankly, that he and his friends had been too remiss upon this subject. The bill, however, had been brought in at the end of the Session. And why? Simply because all the measures for the relief of Ireland's grievances which the Government had proposed, had been opposed and protracted in their career by hon. Gentlemen opposite. That was one reason for their comparative inattention to the previous measure on this subject. The other reason was, that they had great confidence in the Government who introduced the measure. But, if this law was only a renewal of an old law, why had it been allowed to remain; why, also, had so little been done for the relief of the grievances of the country? He read history, as Lord Plunket did, and he agreed with a remark of his, when he said that, as evidenced by this measure, only the most severe points of the old laws were retained for Ireland. He referred, for instance, to the blacksmith's clause. For thirty-five years, this clause had been in existence, compelling every blacksmith to register every forge ho had. But, he would ask, was there one magistrate in Ireland—was there one on the benches opposite, who had convicted a man for a neglect of this tyrannical enactment? And why not? Simply because the law was one too severe for the ordinary course of rural despotism to wield. He would ask, if the law were now enforced, would the people bear it? Would it be borne that no man should carry on the trade of blacksmith without a licence from a magistrate at Quarter Sessions? Indeed, what was the necessity for such precaution? The trade of a blacksmith was one which could not be carried on by stealth; it could not be carried on without noise and smoke, and the parish blacksmith must be as well known to everybody as the parish priest. He would ask hon. Gentlemen whether they thought Englishmen would, under any circumstances, bear such a measure as this as applied to themselves. Bad and tyrannical, however, as the measure was in itself, it was particularly unfortunate in the time at Which it was brought forward—a time when magistrates were 1151 dismissed from the commission of the peace for attending political meetings which were admitted not to be illegal. Supposing that Ireland were the predominant power in the union, and that she endeavoured to enforce such a measure against England, as England now imposed upon her—he asked, would they be as patient under it as the Irish had been. The Attorney-general for Ireland said, that the bill referred to "what was called" the common law right to carry arms. Now, he would ask, had the hon. and learned Gentleman any doubt as to the existence of this right at common law? For his part, he had always been led to believe that the common law in the two countries was identical, and by the bill of rights, the right to carry arms for self-defence was not created, but declared as of old existence. This, indeed, was the first time when he had heard any hon. and learned Gentleman get up in that House, and insinuate that the common-law rights of the two countries were different. He had listened to the speech of the noble Lord, the Member for London, with mingled feelings of pleasure and regret. In great part of what the noble Lord had said he cordially concurred; he only regretted that the noble Lord should have felt himself coerced by the false position in which leading Members sometimes were placed, to promise his vote in favour of this bill. He could not help thinking, that if the noble Lord had looked a little more attentively, not only at the principles, but the details of this measure, he must have voted differently. All he could hope was, that those who saw the record of the vote of the noble Lord, would also read the speech by which that vote was accompanied. If the noble Lord's conduct on this occasion produced no more fatal result, it would lead to this, that the people of Ireland would begin to see, that from neither side of the House was there anything to be hoped for in their behalf. For his own part, whatever might be the result, he should give this bill his most strenuous opposition. He knew it would be said, that some of the most strenuous friends of Ireland had been absent during those discussions. He regretted their absence, which, however, was, he believed, occasioned in a great measure by the feeling, on their part, of the utter hopelessness in the present constitution of the House, to give effectual opposition to any measure 1152 of oppression. [Laughter.] This might be a matter of merriment to some; but to him it was a matter for melancholy reflection, that so large a party in that country was reduced to a conviction of the hopelessness of obtaining any good for Ireland, or any measure to mitigate the evils of the Union. As he said before, he did oppose this bill in all its details. If carried into law, so far from promoting the peace and harmony of Ireland, it would only perpetuate the ill-feeling and misery which had so long prevailed there.
Mr. V. Stuart
hoped he might be allowed to say, that he differed from his hon. Friends. He thought there was a necessity for some such measure as this in Ireland. At the same time, he thought some of the clauses objectionable, but they could easily be amended in committee.
§ Sir R. Peel
put it to the House whether there was any reasonable ground for adjournment (at about a quarter to twelve.)
§ Again were the galleries about to be cleared, when
§ Viscount Palmerston
put it to the right hon. Baronet whether, as many Members on both sides were prepared to speak, it would be possible to divide to-night; and, if not, whether it were wise to waste time in debating adjournments
§ Sir R. Peel:
No one is less disposed to waste time in debating and dividing on adjournments; but I must say, that I wish generally, and not alone in reference to this particular case, that when it is the evident wish of the great majority to proceed with the debate, the minority will yield to the general opinion, and not " waste time by dividing." The hon. Member who wishes to speak, would have been most attentively listened to. I never heard a debate with less disposition to interrupt. But I saw, certainly, no signs of that disposition to address the House which is now represented to exist in the minds of many on the other side.
§ Debate adjourned.
§ House adjourned at half-past twelve o'clock.