§ Mr. Wyse
in resuming the debate said, that he took on some points a different view of this measure from many who had preceded him. He looked upon it not as a bill of police, but as a political measure likely to be fraught with the most serious consequences. He would admit, that such a bill might have been called for by some sudden and unlooked for emergency, that it might have been required by some violent or revolutionary outbreak; and if such a case had been made out, however sacred the right to bear arms for self-protection might be, he should feel it his duty to support a measure which such a necessity called for. He would, in such a case, at once admit the propriety of acting on the principle of salus populi suprema lex. But had such a necessity been made out by the supporters of the bill? Nothing of the kind. Not even a temporary case had been made out, which would justify the application of such a remedy. The disease to which it was to be applied was of a chronic nature; and when such a disease existed amongst the people to a large extent it might be taken 1154 for granted by their rulers, that some evil was at work which required to be closely examined, with a view to its correction. Such a measure as that now before the House, would not meet the case, and before proposing it to Parliament, Ministers were bound to show that no other remedy would meet it. The noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland had read a long list of outrages, which he said had been committed in several districts in that country. He would admit the fact; but then he would beg the attention of the House to another fact connected with them,—that these outrages were not for the sake of plunder or gain in any way. They were, most of them, committed in anger, and from a sense of injury by some local or general oppression. Had there not been such outrages in many parts of England? Let hon. Members look to the reports made of the state of many parts of England in 1839. There were then large assemblies of men with arms, and other offensive weapons, in Cheshire, Shropshire, in Cornwall, in Kent, and other counties. It was admitted that the inhabitants of many districts owed the safety of their property rather to their own watchfulness than to any protection they received from the law. Here, then, were offences in England similar to those which existed in Ireland, and it would be unfair to say that such offences were indigenous in the latter, or that the Irish were organically violators of the law; but, whatever had been the causes of the outrages, the two countries were not treated alike. The remedy now proposed would not have answered in England, and it would turn out to be equally inoperative in Ireland. The Arms Bill would be injurious only to the peaceful and industrious farmer who needed them for his protection. It would be inoperative for good, but, it would be a fruitful source of evil. Other remedies should be sought for before this was tried. Government should, in the first place, seek out the causes of the present discontents in Ireland. One great cause of them would be found in the demand of high rents for land and the putting out men long in possession, either to get higher rents from others, or for the purpose, as it was called, of "clearing" the lands. Mr. Sadler and others who had made their observations on the state of Ireland during a residence in it, and by 1155 closely noting what took place within their own knowledge, all bore testimony to the many evils which had flowed from this system of "clearing." But these evils did not arise so much from the "clearing " itself, as from the manner in which it was effected. Instead of removing the tenants gradually, whole masses of them were turned loose at once, without any means of subsistence. He was acquainted with the circumstances of one estate, on which a course had been adopted that he thought would be a good example for every landed proprietor in Ireland. The lease of a middleman on that estate had expired. The landlord said to the tenantry on the whole estate, " You must be as well aware as I am that the estate cannot maintain more than a certain number of tenants; there is now a certain quantity of land available; but the whole system on which the estate has been managed must be remodelled; choose, then, amongst yourselves which shall remain and which shall go." The tenantry made their election accordingly; but did the landlord send out into beggary the people who thus were to be regarded as the surplus population? On the contrary, he collected them together with a paternal hand; he guided them in person to the coast; he paid their passage-money to America; he gave them an advance for the purpose of enabling them to establish themselves in the United States, and he returned home to enjoy the just reward of his wisdom and his benevolence. On his estates there were no disturbances; in his neighbourhood the voice of discontent was not heard. That was the conduct to be imitated; but did any one suppose that such a measure as the Arms Bill would effect improvements of that kind? Then as a measure of restrictive police, it was a thing of no sort of efficacy or value. In using this language, however, he hoped it would not be supposed that he was tied up to the principle of repeal by any pledges. In the year 1832 he refused the repeal pledge at Waterford and lost his election, though he might have come in for Tipperary; but he did not blame the people who then voted against him, neither could he altogether blame the present Government for the evils of Ireland— they were only the inheritors of a long system of misrule; but the people of Ireland had at length determined that that, system should cease. In Ireland 1156 there now were two parties standing opposed to each other like two hostile armies, and the quarrel was not a quarrel of opinion, but a dangerous division in which the rich were at one side and the poor at another, without any intermediate class to mitigate their hostility. This state of things was occasioned by the mode in which Ireland was governed. A few years ago there was no middle class in Ireland to restrain the people from the commission of violence. It was only lately that the Catholics were able to acquire property. Formerly, the Catholic who acquired a little property, usually emigrated. A different state of things had commenced; education was now going on, and the noble Lord opposite knew how successfully. He certainly did not apprehend, that the diffusion of education would give the people a greater disposition to disorder. Quite the contrary. But he believed the British Parliament would find itself much deceived, if it imagined, that improved education would not give the people organization and increased power. The truth was, that they must govern Ireland according to the realities of its condition, and not according to fiction. They must take the seven or eight millions of its people as they found them. With feelings and interests like their own, with power increasing every day, with a lively memory of the past, and ardent aspirations for the future, there they were a large population in the land, and they could not be removed from it, and the Government of this country ought to govern those masses according to their sense of right. He did not ask to have the Catholic Church in the ascendant, he merely desired to have the Protestant Church placed on a footing in Ireland suited to its exigencies—to have Ireland in that respect placed on the same footing as Scotland. When the present Government came into power, the people of Ireland were willing to give that Government a fair trial. They believed, as had been said of the Bourbons, that the right hon. Baronet and his Friends had learned much and forgotten much. They were soon undeceived, and the first thing that undeceived them were the legal appointments, which had been made matter of complaint last night. He had no complaint himself to make against either Mr. Lefroy or Mr. Jackson; on the contrary, 1157 he was ready to speak of them in the highest terms. Nor did the people of Ireland complain that two most amiable men had been placed on the bench, but the people did complain that those who had constantly expressed the strongest political hostility to them should have been the first to be selected for judicial preferment. He did not expect a Government to select its officers from the ranks of their political opponents, but the Government might have made less objectionable selections from among their own ranks. The right hon. Recorder himself afforded the strongest refutation to that argument. That right hon. Gentleman would not have been unacceptable. [Mr. Shaw: But I would not have accepted an appointment.] Shortly afterwards an appointment of a right rev. Prelate was made, that was calculated to excite the most painful feelings in Ireland; and the right rev. Prelate took an early opportunity, after his appointment, to let the public know that he retained all his former opinions. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might taunt them by asking what the late Government had done more than they; but it must not be forgotten that the late Government was constantly obstructed in its measures for the benefit of Ireland; aye, and avowedly obstructed. The present Government had no such excuse to make, and, therefore, he did feel that they merited reproach for having brought in no measure for the improvement of Ireland— no Irish measure, in short, but this coercive measure—no large measure for agricultural improvement—no large measure for the promotion of emigration; no measure for the enlargement of the franchise; no measure to enlarge the system of education; and in the absence of all these measures, he would maintain there was abundant reason why the people of Ireland should complain. Every paper that came from abroad was full of allusions to the present condition of Ireland, but this was not the first time that the state of the Irish people had excited the attention of all the statesmen of Europe. He would take the liberty of reading to the House the remarks of Niebuhr on this subject, one of the most observant and philosophical historians of modern times. His words were these:—The relations of Ireland to France, in her very pardonable national hatred, must continue to be still a cause of danger. But that 1158 very warmth of blood, which makes the injured Irishman an object of peril, renders it more easy to win his attachment. The only true and firm guarantee which can retain a people not to be despised, is a hearty and thorough reconciliation and union, not through any forced assimilation, but through common acquired interests, common conquered dangers, and common enjoyed honours. Should England not change her conduct, Ireland may still for a long period belong to her, but not always, and the loss of that country is the death-day, not only of her greatness, but her very existence. The means to avoid this danger are numerous and easy, but must not slowly be put in operation; the Irishmen, above all things, to whom Burke and Swift were compatriots, must not be hated, and cannot be despised.It was not by throwing all magisterial power into the hands of one set of men that the people of Ireland would be conciliated; not by the increased marshalling of troops—not by additional fortifications, or by severe denunciations from that House, unaccompanied by measures of conciliation—but let conduct be tried similar to that of which they had had a recent example in the legislation and administration of Canada. Let Ireland be treated in the same spirit, and, in the words of Mr. Burke,Let us identify, let us incorporate ourselves with the people. At present all is troubled and cloudy and distracted, and full of anger and turbulence, both abroad and at home; but the air may be cleared by this House, and light and fertility may follow it. Let us give a faithful pledge to the people that we indeed honour the Crown, but that we belong to them; that we are their auxiliaries, and not their task-masters; the fellow-labourers in the same vineyard, not lording it over their rights, but helpers in their joy.
§ Viscount Jocelyn
said, he should support the measure of his noble Friend, and trusted that the importance of the question would be considered sufficient apology for occupying the attention of the House for a very few moments. In giving support to the measure he did so because, although he was not sanguine enough to believe that it would be entirely effectual, he sincerely hoped that it might in some measure render less frequent those outrages which disgraced his country in the history of civilised Europe. Would any hon. Member on either side of the House deny that it was the duty of the Government to give security to the loyal and well-affected portion of her Majesty's subjects, and to enable them, without risk of assassination, to make 1159 use of their rights as landlords, and to hold their political opinions, although differing from the majority? If it was unconstitutional to put a stop to the expression of political feeling, at all events, it was the duty of the Government to render that expression as little dangerous as possible to the public peace; and if from timidity and weakness they feared to carry out the power vested in their hands, they became themselves responsible, and in the sight of God and man they were answerable for the innocent blood that fell. Had any argument been adduced by hon. Gentleman on the opposite side to show that stringent measures were not requisite to insure public tranquillity? On the contrary, had it not been tacitly admitted by all who had spoken? The arguments of hon. Gentlemen had been directed against the whole policy of the Government. They had attacked the Government appointments in the Church and on the bench; they had stated no opinions against the necessity for an Arms Act, or that a measure of this stringent nature was not requisite at the present moment. As they had endeavoured to give the House their opinion of the cause of all the evils, he (Lord Jocelyn) wished to take the opportunity of stating his views on the subject. As long as the people of Ireland were taught to consider as their foes those who would quench the flame of discord and prevent its devouring and destroying everything, and those as their friends who would fan the flame, and pour in every poisonous, every inflammatory ingredient, to render it more virulent, so long would there be danger to social order, and there must be stringent measures. When at every meeting language the most inflammatory was made use of, adapted to the character of the Irish people, allusions were made to their power and physical force, and that their object was to be obtained through that power,— when they were taught to consider themselves as conquered slaves, and their landlords as oppressing tyrants, with their minds accustomed to the idea of bloodshed and violence, was it to be wondered if they looked for the attainment of their wishes on the field of revolution? Would the law be obeyed when they were taught to despise the legislature? Would the tie between landlord and tenant be preserved when they were taught to consider him as the only bar to the attainment of their just rights? Was it to be wondered at if an individual of narrow intellects and cir- 1160 cumscribed views, leaving one of these exciting meetings, and encountering in the first individual the representative of him whom he had been taught to look upon as the only object between him and his wishes, took the first opportunity of ridding himself of the hated object? It might be, that his language was strong, but what was the language that had been employed by those of the opposite party? Mr. O'Connell, in addressing a multitude the other day, said:—The people are ready and anxious to do their duty, and they 'bear and forbear, they wait for the good time patiently, under every outrage and insult, but they must have a hope of success. What did I see near the rock of Cashel? A population of physical power, which, if placed in the hands of Napoleon, would have enabled him to conquer Europe. He marched from Boulogne into the centre of Hungary with a smaller effective force than surrounded me yesterday, and then he had no such army in reserve as I saw to-day on my way towards Nenagh.The noble Lord, the Member for London, took credit for having gained for himself and his late colleagues in power the love and gratitude of the Irish people. At what period was that? In 1833, the noble Lord and his colleagues were in power, and in that year it was that Mr. O'Connell, in addressing a meeting, spoke of the noble Lord and his Colleagues as "the brutal and bloody Whigs!" In 1834, in a letter to Lord Duncannon, Mr. O'Connell said:—The Irish people allege truly, that every thing has been done by the Whigs to injure and insult the Irish people.And on October 11, 1834, in another letter to Lord Duncannon, he said:—Ireland had nothing to expect from the Whigs but insolent contempt and malignant but treacherous hostility.Another accusation brought by the noble Lord opposite against her Majesty's present advisers was, that in their appointments to judicial offices they had not been actuated by a wish to consult the opinions and feelings of all classes of the Irish people. But he (Viscount Joscelyn) would ask whether the Government to which the noble Lord belonged had showed impartiality or wisdom when they offered the highest seat on the judicial bench to the Gentleman of whom, on the 28th of April, 1834, the year before the offer was made, Lord Littleton, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, spoke as follows:—
1161Up to the period when Ireland accomplished the victory of complete religious emancipation, Mr. O'Connell rendered most important services to his country; but since that period — I say this from my own official situation, with something of authority, for I say it with knowledge—he has proved a most unfortunate obstacle to the social happiness and progressive improvement of Ireland.After that period the Lichfield House compact was entered into, and Ireland was delivered over, bound hand and foot, to the hon. Member for Cork. But even in that period, so called, of tranquillity, when that hon. and learned Gentleman was thwarted in his views, the Whigs, he remembered, were again termed base, bloody, and brutal. Thus, in the same letter already quoted, the hon. and learned Gentleman said:—Of what value is it to Ireland that Lord Grey should have retired, if he has left to his successors, the same proud and malignant hatred he appears to entertain towards the Irish nation. I know Lord John Russell cherishes feelings of a similar description. The Whigs are enduring the hale, and some of the contempt, of the Irish people.Again, in a letter to Lord Durham, dated October 21, 1834, Mr. O'Connell wrote thus:—The Whigs have found no difficulty in offering insult to Ireland. The Whigs, I am satisfied, would have refused to give any reform to Ireland, if they possibly could.Again, in a speech at Cork, November 17, 1834:—We owe nothing to the Whigs; it is our own vigilance and activity that enabled us to turn their imbecility and hypocricy to account; for, believe me, that if their necessities and anxieties to keep themselves in office had not wrung it from them, they intended nothing for Ireland.He had endeavoured to show that the accusations made by the noble Lord relative to the judicial appointments of the present Government were much better merited by that Government which had shown how little they took into consideration the real interests of the people, by offering the highest judicial appointment in Ireland to a gentleman of whom the Chief Secretary for that country had spoken in the terms he had quoted. He should give his support to the motion of his noble Friend, not because he was sanguine enough to believe that it would entirely put a stop to those evils which unfortunately had for so long a time prevailed in Ireland, but he did sincerely hope that it would in no small degree mitigate them.
§ Mr. John O'Brien:
I oppose the second reading of the bill before the House, I do so from a full conviction that it is unconstitutional in its principle, offensive to the feelings, and uncalled for by the condition of Ireland. I oppose it because there are other and better means to achieve its professed objects, and to secure the pacification of the country. It is true that individual outrages have been perpetrated, but existing laws, in my opinion, are fully able to repress the further progress of crime;—'tis true, that popular movements are now in action to achieve important changes in the political constitution of the empire; but it is not less so that these manifestations have been unaccompanied by any infraction of the law which can justify this invasion of the constitutional rights of the people. England has been, and recently, the scene of a widely-organised conspiracy, matured into crime, and threatening in actual outbreak the existence of its social and political institutions; it has not been thought advisable to make such an experiment upon the unbroken spirit of that country, and why should Ireland be placed in humiliating contrast, why will you proclaim the offensive announcement that we arc unfit for the enjoyment of national and constitutional rights? If such be our position, how trumpet-tongued does it not speak of the character of your past policy; for centuries we have been subjected to your authority, you were the masters of our destiny, and upon you rests the responsibility of that condition, which, as you proclaim, imposes the necessity of this act of severe and unmitigated legislation. I shall not analyze its provisions, they strike the most superficial inspection, they were so various, so complicated, and so penal, that they amounted to an almost practical prohibition of the right of arms, they induce a system of constant espionage, they suggest temptations to private malice, no rank, no character, no object, however legitimate, can protect you from the searching penalties of this offensive bill; and Ireland, after a legislative union of nearly half a century, is treated with all the suspicion and all the indignity of a subjugated province; this will not be held by the country as a realization of the hopes inspired at the advent of the noble Lord to office, as the practical development of that great principle of equal justice to all parties so fully announced at the accession of the present Ministry to power. This bill you cannot carry into 1163 effect in the north of Ireland. A Conservative magistracy will not disarm the partisan yeomanry of Ulster—you reserve its terrors for the Catholic peasantry of the south. This disarming of the people I hold as an inauspicious omen, as prophetic that as the past has been so shall he the future character of your policy—that you will, as heretofore, rule by the few, and for the few, and that you will abandon the legitimate devotion of a people for the venal attachment of party. It is not by measures such as these that you can appease the discontent of Ireland; in her regard you have long tried a coercive policy, would it not be well to make an experiment on her affections, to manifest some generous sympathy in her well being, to interfere with timely foresight and rescue her from that perilous agitation in which she is now involved, fraught as you say, with danger to the destinies of Ireland, and menacing with a fevered strength the integrity of your empire. I shall not stop to analyse the justice of this description, but admit its correctness, and with what an emphatic appeal does it not call upon the British Government to ascertain what it is which thus confederates the people of Ireland in the prosecution of objects so hazardous or so impracticable. Nor, Sir, is this movement limited to the physical power of the country; it is latterly sustained by a considerable proportion of its intelligence and its wealth; nor can it be supposed that this latter class is insensible to the character of the movement but with or without a hope of success, they adopt it as the most distinct announcement of national sentiment, as the most emphatic declaration of their discontent with that policy which condemned by its fruits has been found inconsistent with the happiness, the repose, and the welfare of Ireland. It is idle to explain this formidable agitation by a reference to the ambition of individuals it is not in reason, nor does history warrant the supposition, that an intelligent people forewarned, and with deliberation will embark in all the evils of social and domestic distraction, without some adequate and impelling cause; popular leaders may, according to their respective abilities, assume the foremost station, but the wrongs of a country are the elements of their power, and the Government which refuses a compliance with just demands is morally responsible for the subsequent excesses of a people complaining of wrong and hopeless of redress. It is equally unavailing to 1164 refer, as has been done, in terms of disparagement to the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland. It cannot be denied, that in the present popular manifestations many of that respected body have accepted a foremost station; but let us not mistake the result of their position for a voluntary participation in the political contentions of the country; whatever may be the strength of their opinions they have not been intrusive volunteers, united to the people by identity of religious belief and long community of suffering, grateful to that people for a devotion without limits as it is without example, they could not withhold their sympathy, they obeyed, they did not give the national impulse and could not if they would resist the popular movement; it is unwise to depreciate the influence of that body which in whatever result, whether in the attaintment or in the frustration of national passions constitute our best security for the present safety and the ultimate happiness of Ireland. I fear that the policy of the present Government has been imperfectly calculated to concilitate the confidence of the country, I fear it has suggested to the Catholics of Ireland the not unwarranted apprehension, that though emancipated by law they were still practically proscribed, that the spirit of a past ascendency yet survives, and that they or those who represent their opinions shall continue indefinitely excluded from the honors, the privileges, and the distinctions of the state, it will not answer to say, that such is but consistent with the rules of party tactics. Such may silence the partisan, but it will not satisfy a people, and it is at best but an ungracious doctrine to announce to a country whom your policy places in opposition to your Government, and whose position you thus adduce as an argument to justify their exclusion from the practical enjoyment of the constitution; it is not my wish to use the language of exaggeration, but I apprehend it will be found that, since the accession of the present Ministry to power, the popular or Roman Catholic section of the country has been substantially excluded from the favor, the patronage, and the confidence of the Government; this may be, from their political tendencies, strictly in accordance with the rules of party tactics, but it is not therefore less a source of dissatisfaction and complaint with the people of Ireland. Nor do I find that the proscription (for I am justified in using the phrase) of the 1165 middle or higher classes of the national party is accompanied (and they would gladly have accepted the atonement) by measures calculated to advance the well-being of the great body of the people. The reverse has been the case, they have been refused in a somewhat peremptory manner, the aid of British capital in the establishment of railways. The Poor-law Amendment Bill was well fitted to burthen the occupying tenantry in aid of the absentee and landed oligarchy of the country, no intention has been announced on the part of Government to improve the existing relations between landlord and tenant, but they are threatened with a registry bill to precipitate the extinction of the expiring franchise of Ireland, and it is clear that the Church Establishment is to be maintained in all its oppressive aggrandisement deriving its redundant, its almost unscriptural wealth from the contributions of an impoverished people, by them regarded, it cannot he concealed, with feelings of intense aversion, as the badge of their subjection, the monument of their national humiliation, and to close the enumeration, we are now called on to surrender the liberties of the country under the delusive name of an arms bill. I will not be a party to a policy that generates the evils which it would subsequently and unavailingly correct; I will withhold as far as in me lies the power and the temptations of misgovernment. I will not strengthen the hands of a ministry, which looks to force alone as the corrective for national discontent; I will endeavour to compel them to the adoption of measures of wise conciliation of just concession. I will oppose the second reading of the bill, and I will oppose it in all its stages.
Mr. A. Hope
said, the complaints of hon. Gentlemen opposite about the want of attendance of gentlemen of the county on petty juries would be put an end to by this measure. The absence of those gentlemen was caused by the disturbed state of the country, and for that state of the country the proposed Arms Bill was a remedy. No man was more bound up with Ireland than he was, and he supported this bill because he looked on it as a strong measure necessary for the suppression of a great evil, and he did hope, that when the measure was passed, England and Ireland would be united together in a real and substantial union—of which the Legislative act passed at the beginning of the century was but the adumbration.
said no sufficient reason had been adduced for the infliction of this odious measure upon Ireland. The real cause of the disturbances, so much to be deplored, was the want of sympathy between the rulers and the ruled. Could the Government, which so well understood the value of a majority in that House, imagine that they could govern Ireland by a minority? The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had come down to the House and declared that it was the determination of Government to maintain by every means in their power the Legislative union between the two countries. But the right hon. Baronet had held out no hopes at the same time of redressing the grievances of the people of Ireland, and attaching them to British connexion by kindness, and a generous and forbearing policy. What was the declaration made by Lord Althorpe on the same subject, in that House, on the 8th February, 1831?He by no means intended to say, that the only policy which his Majesty's Government in Ireland ought to pursue was, to suppress the agitation merely by force. The wise policy was, while they firmly suppressed that violent and seditious conduct which tended to insurrection and rebellion, to show the people of Ireland, by measures of conciliation and kindness, that there was every possible disposition to attend to and remove their grievances. That was the policy which his Majesty's Government had resolved to adopt. They were determined to use their utmost exertions to resist the designs of the agitators? but at the same time, by giving employment to the people of Ireland, by repealing such laws as were obnoxious to them, and by other measures of a similar character, to do all they could to conciliate their affections*.The right hon. Baronet had come down like Orlando Furioso, and after having made that celebrated declaration, six magistrates were dismissed from the commission of the peace; and such a flame was raised in Ireland, that he perceived by this day's paper a number of Members of the bar bad given in their adhesion to the Repeal movement, and the Repeal rent had increased to a greater amount than ever. Instead of sending out a pilot balloon of coercion in the shape of an Arms Bill, why should not Ministers act the manly part of removing all acknowledged grievances and causes of discontent? He thought also some definite declaration*Hansard, Vol. ii. p. 325, Third Series.)1167 ought to be made by Government, as to what they intended to do in reference to the Repeal meetings, and that they ought distinctly to say whether they considered them illegal or not. Would they take the bull by the horns, or would they only show their teeth, and not dare to bite?
§ Colonel Verner
said, that he should not have troubled the House but for some of the observations which had fallen from hon. Gentlemen opposite. A noble Lord (Lord Clements) was reported to have said, that he had stated that some of the yeomanry corps were members of the Orange lodges. Now, he not only reiterated that statement generally, but he could add, that in the province of Ulster every member of the yeomanry corps was a member of the Orange institution; and the reason was this, that the only persons on whom the Government could rely there were the Orangemen and Protestants. He felt it his duty to come forward on behalf of the yeomanry of Ireland, and defend them from the attacks which had been made upon them. Parliament in some cases had voted thanks to that body, and from the Lords Lieutenant of Ireland they had frequently received marks of gratitude and approbation; and he could not, therefore, sit still and hear them traduced and maligned as they had been. He could not understand the grievance of which hon. Gentlemen opposite complained. The possession of arms was no very great advantage to the people of that country. The hon. Member for Dungarvan had said that he supposed he must call the yeomanry loyal because that was their title, and for the same reason he supposed he must call the Repeal Association loyal; but what was the difference between those two loyal institutions? The moment the Orange institutions were declared illegal, they disbanded themselves; but, notwithstanding the almost universal expression of opinion amongst the statesmen of this country as to the Repeal Associations, they had declared their intention of not discontinuing their agitation until their object had been attained. Under those circumstances, would it not be madness in any government to allow those people any longer the possession of arms? It had been said, that the Irish had a thirst for arms; he was afraid that they also had a thirst for something else, and that their thirst for arms was frequently for the purpose of gratifying their other thirst. The 1168 subject of the Repeal of the Union was so closely connected with the present question, that he might be excused for adverting to a curious letter which had fallen into his hands, and which came from America. The letter was for the purpose of explaining to the writer's relation how his ancestors were deprived of their property in Ireland, and it said,Perhaps you may say what is this old story to me? But after the repeal of the union, it would be every thing to you. Ireland would be a happy country then; the fortune of war might put you in possession of your long-lost rights; and you ought to know where those rights are situated.That evinced the sort of feeling which existed upon that subject. He would not further trouble the House, nor should he have done so at all but for the reasons which he had stated.
The O'Conor Don
was disposed to agree that it would be unadvisable in some parts of Ireland to leave to the people the unrestricted possession of arms; he was also desirous that the Government should have all necessary power for the maintenance of peace; but when he looked at the clauses of this bill, he felt indignation that such a measure at this time of day should have been proposed. The dissimilarity in the circumstances of the two countries was alleged as a ground for the measure; whence was the dissimilarity of the two countries? It resulted from the nature of the legislation which had been adopted with regard to Ireland. It resulted from the infliction upon Ireland of measures like this, which degraded and humiliated the people. It was no argument to say that a similar bill had been in existence before, especially when it was recollected that that former bill had been almost a dead letter. What was the cause for this bill at present? Had crime increased in Ireland? No! it had decreased; but it bad increased in England, and yet no such measure was dreamt of for England. It was much to be regretted that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin university, who was so sensitive with respect to the character of his own clergy, should have made such charges against the clergy whom the people of Ireland revered. He must say, in justice to the Catholic clergy, that much was owing to them for their zealous and efficacious exertions in preserving the peace of Ire- 1169 land, which could not be preserved were it not for the corrective influence of the Catholic clergy in inducing the people to bear their sufferings patiently in this world in the humble hope of a higher reward in the next. He must deny the charges of disloyalty that had been brought against those who were seeking for repeal—a measure for which he himself had at one time voted. The people were loyal, but wished to be put into the position which great constitutional authorities at the time of the Union said they ought to hold. After what had recently taken place, he should resign the commission of the peace which he held, were it not that he believed he exercised it for the benefit of those about him; and he must say that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland might as reasonably deprive him of the commission for anything he said in that House, as remove Lord Ffrench, on the ground of a speech made in Parliament, when the presumption of the law was, that no one outside knew anything of the speeches delivered within its walls, and that no stranger was present.
§ Mr. Borthwick
said there had been a conclusive case made out for the bill by the arguments on his side, and the admissions on the opposite side of the House. He believed, and he thought it had been fully admitted, that the state of affairs in Ireland wore, at the present moment, a most threatening aspect. There was in that country a numerous associated body, whose object it was to effect a dissolution of the Union between Ireland and Great Britain. He must say that under such circumstances the violent language used by certain persons out of doors, tending to excite feelings of rancour among the Irish people against the executive Government, was most reprehensible. He considered that the present Government had evinced a disposition to do justice to Ireland, and he thought, therefore, that they were entitled to the support of all hon. Members who were desirous of promoting the welfare of the country. He thought that it was the bounden duty of the House to support the executive Government in endeavouring to put down that incipient rebellion, he would venture to call it, which was excited by the hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. O'Connell). He would give his support to the bill, and to any other measure of a similar nature which might be brought forward with a 1170 view to promote the tranquillity of Ireland.
said, that two years ago they were told that Ireland was in a state of comparative tranquillity, and that a spirit of good order was spreading throughout the country. Now, however, they were told that Ireland was in a state of turbulence and excitement which threatened the most serious results. The right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government stated, when he assumed office, his intention of pursuing the same conciliatory policy with regard to that country which had been adopted by the late Ministry. What then had produced that change in the state of affairs in Ireland to which he had alluded? One reason assigned was, that certain appointments had been made in Ireland which had given great dissatisfaction to the bulk of the people of that country. He could not blame the right hon. Baronet opposite for having made those appointments. They might, perhaps, have been unwise under existing circumstances, but he did not think the Government ought to be blamed for having made them; and he thought this was not a sufficient reason to account for the present condition of Ireland. It had also been said, that the recent increase of the spirit duties in Ireland had been one means of exciting dissatisfaction. He considered that an unwise measure, but he did not think that it could have produced the existing agitation and dissatisfaction. He asked hon. Gentlemen opposite, then, what had been the real cause of the excitement which now prevailed in that country? He considered the bill now before the House an injudicious measure. It would not prevent the people from assembling in as large numbers as at present; its object merely was to prevent them from possessing arms, except under certain restrictions. It had been said by the noble Lord who brought forward this measure, and by the right hon. Attorney-general for Ireland, that a law similar to the present bill had been in existence for many years; but they had also been told, that there was scarcely a man in Ireland, of the age of fifty, who did not possess arms. What effect, then, had been produced by such a law?—and what advantage did hon. Members think would result from the present measure? Did they conceive it would prevent the commission of murders? He believed that when a man was actuated by feelings of revenge, and determined on the commission of that 1171 crime, he could easily find weapons for the accomplishment of his object. If any fear was entertained of a general insurrection in Ireland, and this measure was intended for the prevention of such an occurrence, he considered that it was wholly inadequate for the purpose. When he considered the state of Ireland at the present moment, and having no wish to impede any measures brought forward by the Government, with a view to maintain tranquility, he would not vote against the second reading of the bill; but when it came into committee he should feel it his duty to oppose many of its details.
§ Sir A. Brooke
felt thankful to her Majesty's Government for having introduced this measure. The noble Lord who had last addressed the House stated that, though measures similar to the present had been in existence for many years past, it was notorious that great numbers among the people of Ireland were in the possession of arms. But the noble Lord must be aware that the measures to which he referred had not been carried into effect. He believed that this bill would have a tendency to produce tranquillity in Ireland; but he did not think that this measure alone would prove effectual in producing that result. He felt confident that hon. Members on that (the Ministerial), as well as on the opposite side of the House, would ere long call upon her Majesty's Government to enact laws for the preservation of tranquillity in Ireland of a much more stringent nature than that now under consideration. It had been asked, by what means the excitement and agitation now existing in Ireland had been produced? He conceived that that excitement was in a great measure caused by the conduct of the hon. and learned Member for Cork, who had during the last year devoted his time to the agitation of the question of the Repeal of the Union. He must say, that the aspersions cast by the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard (Mr. C. Buller), in his speech last night, upon the clergy and gentry of Ireland, were most unjustifiable; and he did not require to be told by the hon. Member, that he had never visited Ireland, and that he was, therefore, not very well qualified to form a correct judgment on the subject. He believed that in no country in Europe had the progress of improvement been more visible, especially among the lower classes, than in Ireland. 1172 The tranquillity which had been spoken of as prevailing during the administrations of Lords Normanby and Ebrington had been owing to the exertions of the hon. and learned Member for Cork, who took measures to insure the tranquillity of the country so long as the executive conciliated him by deferring to his wishes. Nothing was more plain than that the tranquillity of the country ought to be maintained; and, thinking that it was the duty of every Gentleman to give the executive as much support as possible in the present emergency, he should vote for this bill, which had no other object than the maintenance of peace and order.
§ Mr. Hawes
said it was admitted, that until the last year or two Ireland had been entirely tranquil. Now he thought he was entitled to ask what had been the occasion of the change in the state of that country? They ought to have a very strong case made out for it before they assented to the bill of the noble Lord. He concurred in all that had been said of the spirit in which the noble Lord had governed Ireland, but still he would ask had the noble Lord made out a case for this bill. Had the noble Lord shown any want of subordination to the law? Had there arisen out of these great meetings any tumult— any breach of the peace—any bloodshed? In short, had the noble Lord shown, that there was any one justification for the Government coming forward with a bill of this nature? Before a case could be made out, the noble Lord ought to show at least some decided case of insubordination. He would do the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) the justice to say, that he believed the right hon. Baronet was the very last man to countenance anything of a violent tendency or resort to harsh measures, but the right hon. Baronet unfortunately was identified with a party in Ireland, which, to say the least of, was extremely unpopular. The appointment of Mr. Serjeant Jackson to a seat on the Bench, almost immediately after he had given a decided opposition to the measure of education for Ireland which the Government thought fit to adopt, and before people had recovered from their surprise at seeing the hon. and learned Gentleman still continued in his official situation in that House after such an opposition, showed that the right hon. Baronet was bound to that party. In respect to Canada the right hon. Baronet had pursued a wise course, and 1173 given the people a system of Government, which was in accordance with their wishes and feelings; but how differently had the right hon. Baronet acted towards Ireland; and he must take the appointments made by the right hon. Baronet, and this bill as general indications of the spirit of governing Ireland; that was to say, as indications that it was meant to adopt the system of governing by force, and by means of a party, and not the conciliatory system of Lords Normanby and Ebrington. Why had the right hon. Gentleman departed from the spirit of that system? The House had specific assurances of the right hon. Gentleman, when he came into office, that he would not adopt a violent policy; but now it was evident, that he was seeking the instruments of his Government not from among those who had the confidence of the people of Ireland, but from their opponents. In fact, the right hon. Baronet was reverting to the old system of governing Ireland. Under these circumstances, and with this impression, why should not the hon. and learned Member for Cork, or any other hon. Member, seek a Repeal of the Union. That might be an injudicious step to take; but it was only an act of Parliament of which the Repeal was sought. Why should it not be agitated? Why should magistrates be struck out of the commission for attending peaceable meetings for the effecting that object? To attend such meetings was not inconsistent with the terms on which he held the commission of the peace. If he himself were dismissed from the commission for attending any such meeting in his county or borough, he should think himself justified in opposing the Government, that did so by means of combinations of the people as Mr. O'Connell was doing in Ireland. The appointments to official situations of per. sons not in their confidence, was one reason why it was not unnatural for the people of Ireland to wish for a Repeal of the Union; the obstruction in Parliament of measures calculated to ameliorate the condition of the Irish people was another reason. He confessed, that if he were an Irishman he should be very apt to be of a similar way of thinking; he should not scruple to seek to free his country from such a domination. But with respect to the bill, had any case been made out from the state of crime in Ireland? The noble Lord made out no extraordinary case, and 1174 it was only an extraordinary case that would justify such a measure. On the contrary, the noble Lord showed positively, that there had been a diminution of crime, and particularly of the very crimes which were likely to be committed by means of fire-arms. Then he would fix the noble Lord in this dilemma. Either the bill was to be taken as the first step in a return to the old policy of governing Ireland, or as intended to repress crime, which was on the increase; but the latter it could not be, because crime, the noble Lord told them, was on the decrease. Therefore, he took the bill to indicate the commencement by the Government of a different course of policy from that which they had hitherto pursued, and which had been so remarkably successful in the hands of Lords Normanby and Ebrington. That policy, if pursued, would prove, he was convinced, disastrous to both countries alike. There was one master grievance in Ireland, about which comparatively little had been said in this debate, he meant the Irish Protestant Church. That was the master grievance; there was no denying it. They had a nation of Catholics, and an establishment which, in point of temporalities, was adapted for a nation of Protestants. As had been well said, before the emancipation they had there a Church without a people, and a people without a Church. Did they think that the Irish could submit to that—could submit to see a Church deriving a princely revenue, and discharging no adequate spiritual duties? The feeling against that state of things was increasing every day, and the Government shortly must deal with it. Another topic of irritation, which he ought to have mentioned before, was the Registration of Voters Bill, but he did not refer so much to the provisions of the bill itself as to the spirit of the debates on it. What was the language used with regard to the voters of Ireland? The word "perjury" was freely used; immorality was said to cover the land, and yet hon. Members opposite would not permit the late Government to rescue the land from this stain. Since the hon. Gentlemen opposite had been in office, though they professed so much zeal for religion and purity of morals, they had been perfectly silent as to the remedy for these enormities. From the whole of their deeds in Ireland he judged that there was in the Government a spirit adverse to the people 1175 of Ireland. Was it a wonder, then, that they joined together to oppose such a Government? They would be less than men; they would be slaves if they did otherwise. Cheerfully acknowledging all this, however, he must say, that he saw no good likely to arise to Ireland from a domestic legislature; he had no hopes from that. The history of the Irish Parliament was such, he thought, as no Irishman could look into with satisfaction. He saw no good in multiplying Houses of Parliament, and he should prefer curtailing the Members of the present House of Commons to having separate Houses in Scotland and Ireland. On the grounds he had stated, then, he opposed this bill, and he should oppose it in every stage. He did not believe, that it provided any remedy for the social evils of the country. It would not disarm the ruffian; it would operate only on the honest man; that was the case with all arms acts. He was sorry to oppose a bill which might be said to be merely of an executive nature, but he saw so many symptoms of an intention to revert to the old system of governing Ireland on narrow, partisan, and, he would add, sectarian principles, that he felt he could not act otherwise.
§ Sir J. Graham:
Sir, I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Lambeth, because in one respect he has done justice to Ministers, when he said that he was satisfied that nothing would have induced the noble Secretary for Ireland to recommend this bill but a deep sense of duty. I assure the House, that the feeling which it is admitted actuates my noble Friend, no less influences all his Colleagues in office. We bring forward this measure only under the severe compulsion of present circumstances, and because we are painfully convinced of its necessity. I was struck by the justice of several of the observations made last night by the hon. and learned Member for Kinsale (Mr. Watson) when speaking of popular rights and of the law, which is their safeguard. I admit, that the carrying of arms is a noble and distinguishing mark of freedom, and a constitutional right of great value. I would not infringe that right without the most grave consideration; but when the hon. Member for Lambeth asks what new circumstances have arisen to justify it, I will not enter into any details of the state of crime in Ireland, by which I might, if necessary, harrow the feelings of the 1176 House, but I will rely upon the statement of my noble Friend (Lord Eliot), that unhappily crimes of a sanguinary and homicidal character abound in Ireland. Those crimes in number much exceed the proportion in England, and the failures of conviction in Ireland, instead of being, as in England, 25 per cent., are nearer, if not quite, 50 per cent. Therefore, after the most anxious consideration, I am not able to entertain a doubt of the propriety of renewing a measure which has before been often passed. It seems to me that in the course of debate, admissions have fallen from Gentlemen opposite, which afford the most conclusive testimony in favour of the bill, founded upon the present unhappy state of society in Ireland. Before however, I advert to those admissions, I will make one observation on the subject of the recent dismissals of magistrates, to which the hon. Member for Lambeth alluded. The hon. Member seemed to think that the discontent which the dismissals created might operate to produce the state of society which has been described; but these dismissals are too recent to be regarded as the cause of an antecedent effect. As regards these dismissals, however, I will take upon myself, when the proper opportunity offers, of discussing the question, the task of showing that the Irish Government has acted in the most proper manner; for the present I content myself with saying, that the course pursued by the Irish Government has the sanction and approval of her Majesty's Ministers. Having said thus much as to incidental matters, I will revert to the important admissions which have been made on the other side, painful though it be to dwell upon a consideration of the present state of society in Ireland, described as it has been, not by me nor by those on my side of the House, but by hon. Gentlemen speaking from the Opposition Benches. In the first place, I will refer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dungarvon, which was divided into two parts. The first part of the speech was calm and moderate—full of simplicity and truth, and carrying conviction to the minds of all who heard it. The second part was characterised by all that brilliancy and dazzle for which the oratory of the right hon. Gentleman is so distinguished, but to my taste and judgment, the truth and simplicity which characterised the former part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech 1177 was far more impressive and convincing than the finished and florid conclusion. Some parts of the. right hon. Gentleman's speech were well replied to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. A. S. O'Brien), who spoke so well as to create the wish, that he will more frequently address the House. There are, however, two points which were dwelt upon by the right hon. Member for Dungarvon, to which I wish to call the attention of the House, as showing the necessity for the present measure. The right hon. Gentleman urged the necessity of having Gentlemen of the higher classes to serve upon the petty jury in the county of Tipperary. When there are many farmers of substance to be found in the county, whence should arise the necessity for having persons of higher station upon the petty jury than those who usually fill the office in Great Britain? What is the meaning of that? When I heard such a necessity mentioned, I thought I could perceive something alarming in the admission which it involved, and if I entertained any doubt as to the validity of my suspicion, that doubt was at once removed when the right hon. Gentleman stated that it was the duty of the Crown to contrive, that greater protection should be afforded to witnesses in Crown prosecutions. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to a case in which, by his influence, a conviction was procured of five men who had been guilty of murder. To effect this, the right hon. Gentleman assured the House, it required the right hon. Gentleman's interference with the Government. The family of the murdered man could only be induced to give evidence under a promise of being afterwards removed from the country. What must be the state of society in Ireland when the head of a family, one of whom had been the victim of assassination, could be induced to give evidence only on the condition that he and his children should submit to transportation for life? This is one of the admissions from hon. Gentlemen opposite. I now come to the next. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Water-ford described society in Ireland as divided into the rich and the poor, and stated, that these two classes stood opposed to each other like two armies in hostile array. What did the noble Lord the Member for London say in the present discussion? That noble Lord, notwithstanding 1178 all his love of liberty, his desire to preserve constitutional rights, and to stand up against any attempt to infringe them, still admitted that he was compelled to give his vote, though reluctantly, for this measure. What was the noble Lord's description of the state of Ireland? After stating that when he and his friends were in power those opposed to him attributed the existence of crime in Ireland to their misgovernment, the noble Lord went on to say, that murders were committed month after month, and sometimes three or four in a single day in Ireland, and that this state of things was to be attributed to the unhappy and depraved condition of society in that country. Such was the opinion of the noble Lord the Member for London. What did the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard say? The hon. Gentleman told us, that if the present bill had been proposed by Lord Morpeth he might have voted for it. Is this the mode of defending a constitutional principle—to make the Minister, and not the measure, the test of one's vote? But what was the hon. and learned Gentleman's description of the state of the country? He described it as in an organized state of open defiance to the law and to the constituted authorities of the land, such as had never before been exhibited in any other country in the world—that nine persons out of ten in that country were opposed to the law of the land—and that they were determined not to receive even good measures at the hand of the present Ministry. [An hon. Member: " Who said that?"] It was so stated by the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard, whose absence from the House just now I very much regret. These admissions are very important as respects the measure under discussion. The hon. Member for Lambeth asks what new state of society it is in Ireland which requires this new enactment? I am sorry to say it is no new enactment, but a continuation of an old one; it is no new state of society, but established habits of violence and outrage; and I would remind hon. Gentlemen, that in voting for the second reading of the bill, they do not pledge themselves to the various clauses. They may if they choose in committee oppose the clause relative to blacksmiths, which has been so much dwelt upon, or limit the duration of the measure to two or three years. What is it we are called upon to establish by our vote? The first ques- 1179 tion to be decided upon with reference to the bill is whether under the existing circumstances of Ireland it is fit that any restraint should be put upon the right of freemen to possess arms? and if that be affirmed, the next question is, whether that restraint shall be effectual for the purpose? I contend that the restriction of the right is called for and necessary, and, at the same time that I admit the desirableness of a minimum of restraint, I contend that the quantum should be sufficient to render the restraint effectual for the suppression of homicidal crimes. The proposed bill, instead of enacting a new Jaw, only continues a law which, with some intervals, has been in existence for the last fifty years. It is one which was first proposed by a domestic, and afterwards continued by an Imperial Parliament. With respect to the testimony upon which it is proposed, I cannot altogether reject the evidence of Colonel M'Gregor and Major Miller, though I will admit to the hon. and learned Member for Kinsale that the possession often increases the appetite for power, and that therefore evidence of such a description should be received with some caution; but the necessity for such a measure does not rest alone upon the evidence of these gentlemen. There is, in addition, the testimony of several magistrates, recommending the particular measure now before the House, and more particularly that part of the bill which provides that arms shall be stamped and which is its distinguishing feature. It is a misrepresentation of the bill to say, that it is a measure for disarming the people of Ireland. On the contrary, it presumes that they are to possess arms, but it requires that the possession of them shall be so regulated that when crime is committed by means of those arms, it may be traced home to the perpetrators, It requires that the arms shall be stamped and a license granted to carry them in order to trace possession up whenever the right shall be abused. It is not, then, a bill to disarm, but a bill to prevent the abuse of arms. The hon. Member for Lambeth, following the course of the hon. Member for Liskeard, said that to another Government which showed itself to be influenced by principles different from the present, he would not feel indisposed to grant the power proposed to be given by this bill. It is well to make this measure not a question of policy but 1180 of confidence. I am not surprised to see that line of argument adopted when I remember that three Members of the late Government voted for a measure the same as this in 1838 and 1841—those were the hon. Member for Waterford, the right hon. Member for Dungarvan, and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Liskeard. I feel bound to notice an observation made by the hon. Member for Lambeth on the judicial appointments of the present Government. The hon. Member admitted, in fairness, that a Government, generally speaking, must appoint its friends to offices which become vacant; if there be an exception to this rule, that exception applies to judicial situations. In this matter we must not be regulated by reference to creeds or politics, for if the people of Ireland were to be consulted, the appointments would be almost exclusively Roman Catholic. I appeal to the right hon. Member for Dungarvan whether the claims of individuals have not been fairly considered on professional grounds apart from religious considerations, and I would defy any Government professing the principles of the present administration to have departed materially from the course which has been pursued. There could be no better appointment than that of Mr. Lefroy, who besides his eminent fitness had the claim of priority, having been in the profession since 1797. I defy hon. Gentlemen opposite to prove that in any of the appointments, whether British or Irish, professional claims or professional capabilities have been overlooked. If from our political opponents a judge were to be chosen, both on account of the post which he has occupied in the Government and of his character at the bar, no one could be selected more fit than the right hon. Member for Clonmel, the late Attorney-general; but he was not called to the bar until 1826; whereas Lord Chief Justice Pennefather was a barrister in 1794, and Mr. Justice Jackson in 1816; and if standing, character, attainments, professional distinction were to have weight, no one in justice can impugn the preference which has been shewn. Apart from religious or political considerations, there can be no doubt of the fitness of these appointments. How would the present Government have stood in the face of the British and Irish public if it had yielded to the base consideration of mere expediency and had neglected such claims as 1181 those of the individuals in question? The only assistant barristership which has fallen vacant since the present Government came into office has been given to Mr. Coppinger, a Roman Catholic in religion, but in every respect quali6ed to fill the situation with credit and advantage. The first lucrative appointment at the disposal of the Lord Chancellor (that called Keeper of the Custodes) has also been conferred upon a Roman Catholic. I cannot refrain, even in the presence of my noble Friend the Secretary for Ireland, from saying, that the declaration which my noble Friend and the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland made on undertaking the Government of that country, namely, that they would govern it justly, and without reference to any party considerations, has been sacredly fulfilled. It is admitted that the present Government has upheld the system of national education established in Ireland by my Colleague the noble Secretary for the Colonies. Have we not done this frankly? It cannot be said we have not done it sincerely, neither can it be denied that thereby we have not only risked, but incurred the displeasure of a very powerful body in Ireland. The House witnessed symptoms of that last night. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin complained of the coldness and reserve of the Government with respect to the Conservative body, whom be described as the Protestant party of Ireland. I am bound to say, that the party so described have been the tried and are the sure friends of British connexion, and are entitled to the consideration of any Government; but her Majesty's Government, faithful to its pledge, has been and is resolved to govern Ireland for the benefit of the nation and not for the benefit of a party. It is our determination to consult the feelings of the great majority, but not to do injustice to any class. The right hon. and learned Gentleman also talked, of want of vigour and of the desire of the Government to please everybody, Is not this evidence that we have endeavoured to govern in conformity with the expressed determination of the noble Lord, the Lord-lieutenant, and although there is a difference of opinion as to the success which has attended our efforts, yet with respect to my noble Friend's motives, his integrity, and his purposes, there is not, I believe, the slightest difference of opinion 1182 Then it was said, "Pursue a conciliatory policy, and all your difficulties will vanish." I have rejoiced at every measure of a conciliatory character based upon sound principles of propriety and of justice, but what has been the result? As bearing on this question, let the House observe the facts which have transpired in the course of this debate. It has been stated, and correctly stated, that in 1805 a Whig Government came into office, and under that Government the noble father of the noble Lord the Member for London imbued with the most liberal principles, went to Ireland as Lord-lieutenant, and Mr. Eliot as his chief secretary. Every measure of conciliation was tried, whilst the Duke of Bedford was at the head of the Irish Government, and it is a strange coincidence, that the very first draft of an Amended Arms Bill, more stringent than any other before enacted, at the expiration of the period of conciliation, was found in the portfolio of Mr. Eliot, and it was simply the act of the Government which succeeded the Duke of Bedford in Ireland, to pass the bill which Mr. Eliot had drawn up. I am aware that the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Dungarvan touched upon this point himself, and I do not refer to it by way of taunt, because I am aware that altered circumstances produce an altered feeling, and in the course of human events lead to a change of conduct. In 1825, when the question of emancipation was thoroughly sifted by a committee of this House, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dungarvan, gave most important testimony, and said—I use the spirit of his testimony, not his words—" Grant but this great measure of civil equality, and I tell you that the Roman Catholic priesthood will never again interfere in politics — they will never again exercise influence over the minds and conduct of their flocks, and if they wish it they will be unable to do so; but I tell you positively, the wish on their part will cease." True it is that measure was postponed, and to its postponement, which I, in common with the right hon. and learned Gentleman, regret, the right hon. and learned Gentleman ascribes important consequences. The measure, however, was carried in 1829. Now, the hon. Member for Lambeth tells us, to deal in conciliatory measures; and then, he says, we shall not want an Arms Bill. Observe, in 1829, the emancipation act 1183 was passed; in 1830, the Whig party came into office; in 1831, the Reform Bill was passed. [Mr. Roebuck: Do not forget the Coercion Bill.] The hon. and learned Member directs my attention to a circumstance illustrative of the effects of conciliation. Within three years, as I have said, the Emancipation Act and the Reform Act were passed—both measures of the largest concession—and yet, such is the unhappy state of society in that country, that these concessions proved to be useless; and it was found necessary almost simultaneously with these large popular concessions to pass the coercion bill. That reminds me of another thing. Who introduced the coercion bill? Was he an enemy to liberty—a man hostile to Catholic emancipation? [Sir W. Barron — "Yes; Lord Stanley introduced it."] The hon. Baronet is mistaken—historically mistaken —Earl Grey introduced the coercion bill in the House of Lords. It was not my noble Friend near me, whom I suppose the hon. Baronet pointed at, but Earl Grey, the head of the Whig Government. Yes! Earl Grey, the great author of the reform act, and the constant supporter of Catholic emancipation found it necessary, within a few years, or rather months of the passing of those conciliatory measures to introduce the coercion bill: The hon. Baronet's memory is very treacherous, when it leads him to suppose that my noble Friend near me introduced the coercion bill. [Sir W. Barron: The noble Lord was then Secretary for Ireland.] I am aware that the hon. Baronet seeks to connect my noble Friend with the coercion bill, because he now belongs to a Government of which I, too, have the honour to be a member. The hon. Baronet is doubly erroneous. The coercion bill was introduced by Earl Grey in the House of Lords: but who introduced it in the House of Commons? True, my noble Friend was Secretary for Ireland at the time, but being then engaged in measures which excited a strong adverse feeling on the part of several Members' who were supporters of the Administration, Lord Althorp in consideration of that very circumstance, and from a desire that a particular connection with the measure should not be fastened on my noble Friend, departed from the ordinary official rule, and introduced the coercion bill in the House of Commons on behalf of the Cabinet of Earl Grey, of which 1184 the member for London formed a part. I must, in passing, do justice to my noble Friend upon another point. It has been stated that my noble Friend introduced an Arms Bill, to which exception was taken at the time by several Irish Members, without the sanction of the other Members of the Government. That is not true, my noble Friend who was in Ireland corresponded with Lord Melbourne, then Home Secretary, on the subject; he submitted to Lord Melbourne an outline of the measure with all its principal details, and before my noble Friend introduced the measure, the Arms Bill with all the clauses to which exception was taken, particularly the clause for stamping arms had received the written sanction of Lord Melbourne on behalf of the Government of Earl Grey. I have stated to the House that the Emancipation Act and the Reform Act ended in the coercion bill. Earl Grey's Government was overthrown, and from that halcyon moment, according to the hon. Member for Lambeth, better days dawned upon Ireland. But before that period other large concessions had been made. The Church Temporalities Act effected a reduction of the number of Irish bishops, imposed a tax on the incomes of the clergy, and made a considerable diminution in the number of pluralities. The hon. and learned Member for Liskeard, last night, most unjustly described the Irish Protestant clergy as being disgraceful absentees, or pernicious residents. I believe, that a more unjust accusation never was made. The Irish clergy have ceased to be absentees, and I believe that the principal objection now to them arises out of their honest, zealous, and active exertions in the discharge of their duty. They have, I repeat, ceased to be disgraceful absentees, and if I could appeal to the poor Catholic population, deserted by the rich gentry, and ask them who, in the hour of sickness and want, are their never failing friends, I am sure they would reply that they are those very pernicious residents who have been denounced by the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard. The only justification I can find for the hon. and learned Member is, that he never visited the country, and that he knows little of the Protestant clergymen on whom he has cast so unjust and unworthy a stigma. I will advert to other measures of concession, which have been passed, one of which is 1185 most important, in the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite—I allude to the system of national education. The late Government, also, passed the Municipal Reform Act, a measure which, although not carried exactly to the extent its authors wished, abolished all close and self-elected corporations, established a free municipal franchise, and vested the whole power of the Protestant corporations in the great body of the electors. By this time we have got to 1838; and now let us try the question of conciliation as bearing on the Arms Act. Up to this time it has been seen that the concessions made were large beyond all example and they were conducted by persons possessing the full confidence of hon. Gentlemen opposite; yet these concessions ended in the Arms Bill, brought in in 1838 by Lord Morpeth, which, because it was introduced by him was, in the eyes of the hon. Member for Liskeard, unexceptionable; indeed, the hon. Member has said, that if the present bill had been introduced by Lord Morpeth, he would still be ready to support it. Well, I have mentioned a variety of measures, all making concessions to the Catholic majority, but conciliation did not end here. It may be said, that all the measures I have enumerated, were adopted without due regard to persons, but could conciliation be carried further than in the instances which I am about to allude to. Sir Michael O'Loghlen, a gentleman of great learning and unimpeachable character, but entertaining strong political opinions, was made Master of the Rolls, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Dungarvan, who, be it remembered, acted as teller when the question of Repeal was brought under the consideration of this House, was not only placed in office but obtained a seat at her Majesty's Council Board, and was invested with the highest honour to which a Commoner can aspire. Is that all? Simultaneously with these appointments, the office of Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer became vacant, and to whom did the Government offer it? Can the proceedings in Canada go beyond this? It was offered to the hon. and learned Member for Cork; and why was not the hon. and learned Member appointed to it? It was in consequence of his own sense of propriety, not from any sense of propriety on the part of the Government; the hon. 1186 and learned Member said, that for the sake of justice itself, he ought not to accept this judicial appointment. Now, I ask whether in the history of any country, Canada not excepted, conciliation was ever carried further than this? I do not believe it; and yet, as the result of all this conciliation, the late Government, in 1838, proposed an Arms Bill almost identical with this. The last act of the late Government in 1841 was to continue the Arms Bill, and it is still the continuance of that measure, after a long course of conciliatory administration, that we are now discussing. It is said, that the cry for repeal, during the halcyon days of Lord Normanby's administration of Irish affairs, from 1839 to 1841, completely died away. Is that the fact? [Mr. W. S. O'Brien: " No one minded it."] Was that the opinion of Lord Fortescue? Immediately after the close of the conciliatory Government of Lord Normanby, which the hon. Member for Wickham described as being the perfection of civil Government, Lord Fortescue found the cry for the repeal of the union sorife and dangerous throughout Ireland, that in the first speech which he made on the inauguration of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, he took occasion to declare that no person who advocated repeal must expect to obtain favour or reward from him as the representative of his sovereign. I will do justice to that nobleman. I believe that Earl Fortescue was deeply and sincerely impressed, from the commencement of his Government to its close, with the danger of the repeal movement; that he adhered to his pledge, and did not knowingly allow any place of trust or profit under the Crown to be given to a person who favoured the agitation for the repeal of the union. My observations, Sir, are now drawing to a close, but before I conclude, I trust I may be permitted to advert to an expression which fell from the hon. Member for Lambeth. The hon. Member said, that it was necessary the Government in Ireland should follow the well expressed-popular will. I am unwilling to enter upon topics of this description, but I may be allowed to ask what, in the present state of affairs, is the well-expressed popular will of the immense masses assembled in Ireland? Does it bear on legislative questions, on registration, on railroads or other measures to be introduced into Parliament, which may tend to promote the prosperity 1187 of the people? The hon. and learned Member for Liskeard declared that the condition of the people of Ireland is daily becoming worse and worse; but all the evidence taken before committees of this House proves exactly the reverse. If the people of Ireland were left in a state of tranquillity, I do not believe there is any population in the world whose character would more speedily, become elevated or whose prosperity would increase with greater or more certain rapidity. The hon. Member for Waterford has directly contradicted the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard's assertion on this point. The hon. Member stated, that until (he last fifteen years a middle class had been wanting in Ireland, but that since that period, that class has appeared, and is now growing to great importance in that country. I may also refer to a fact which is notorious. A committee of which Lord Monteagle was the chairman, sat and reported on the condition of the people of Ireland. In the evidence given before that committee, certain facts were stated on which reliance may be placed; and, amongst them, this remarkable one that whilst the growth of wheat in Ireland has been increasing, the exportation of the article has been decreasing. This is a clear and indisputable proof that the consumption of wheaten bread is progressively increasing amongst the population of Ireland. But to revert to the hon. Member for Lambeth's advice, that we should attend to the well-expressed popular will in Ireland. The right hon. Member for Dungarvan spoke in terms of high eulogium of the Duke of Wellington, and considering the efforts which that noble personage made, when, at the head of affairs in this country, to place his Roman Catholic fellow-subjects on a footing of perfect equality with their Protestant brethren, the compliment appeared to me to fall gracefully from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman; he said, that the Duke of Wellington's was a fame with which the world was filled. Now let us try the well expressed popular opinion in Ireland towards this noble individual. Recollect it is in "Saxon;" it is an Irish hero, whose fame, it is truly said, fills this habitable globe. At a meeting recently held in Ireland, the Duke of Wellington was designated a "corporal; a blood-stained Indian Seapoy," amidst the shouts and acclamations of assembled multitudes. Is this the well-expressed 1188 popular opinion in Ireland? Is this the will to which the British Parliament must bend? Sir Samuel Romilly exclaimed in 1807, we are told, "To pass such a bill as this, is it not madness?" I, on the other hand, ask you to omit to pass this bill which has been in force for fifty years, which a domestic Legislature declared to be necessary, which all Governments, whether Whig or Tory have been driven by the force of circumstances to adopt—I ask you to omit to pass this bill, in the present state of affairs, would it not be madness, aye, worse than madness—would it not be cowardice, and treachery to the State?
The Earl of Listowel
said, if it were a bill simply to continue the former Arms Act, he should have been bound in consistency to accept it; but he looked upon it as a measure most coercive and most offensive to the people of Ireland, and he was therefore bound to give it his warmest opposition. It was clear, that the bill was now brought forward with especial reference to the agitation going on in Ireland, and in his opinion it would be no effectual check. He was persuaded that the people had a right to meet to petition for the Repeal of any act of Parliament, so long as the meeting was tranquil and respected the law; and at the recent meetings the law had not been violated. No man could deplore more than he did the agitation now going on in Ireland, which prevented the introduction of capital, and the amelioration of the condition of the people; yet they should recollect, that to this agitation seven-eighths of the people were parties, and it should be met not by unconstitutional coercion, but by the redress of the people's wrongs. Admitting even, that the claims now made were most unreasonable, and that their concession would be most impracticable, yet it became Parliament to consider whether the people of Ireland had not reasonable grounds for cherishing a growing desire for Repeal. He asked Englishmen to make the case their own. He asked them to consider how they would like to see the tithes applied to a Church to which not one-eighth of the population belonged? How they would like to see their municpal rights and their franchises far more restricted than in any other part of the country. The whole difficulty of governing Ireland, that which distracted the country and excited the passions of the people, was the existence of an Es- 1189 tablished Church in the country, which was the Church of the minority, and not of the majority. He had no desire, however, to annihilate the revenues of the Church; indeed he always thought it a great wrong that twenty-five per cent. of them should have been given to the landlords to console them for having been made tithe proctors to a sinecure Church. The lands were bought subject to the tithes, and he desired that the produce should be paid to both the Protestant and Catholic ministers, in proportion to the duty each had to perform. If the Catholic clergy would not accept their share, he would give an equivalent amount towards building churches, religious houses, colleges, or other religious purposes, most acceptable to the heads of that Church. If the Government had the moral courage to grapple with the ecclesiastical establishment of Ireland, he was persuaded, that the difficulties with regard to the Government of that country would cease. They should govern Ireland as they governed distant dependencies of the Crown, whether Hindoo or Roman Catholic, whether India or Canada. They should respect her Church, and her song would respect and support the Government. He should vote for the amendment, and against the second reading of the bill.
§ Mr. Roebuck
said it was impossible to consider the Arms Bill for Ireland without considering the general policy of the Government towards Ireland, and it was impossible to consider the conduct of the present Government without reference to the late Administration, and the past history of that country. The subject of Ireland was fraught with melancholy considerations to any one who wished to stand as a disinterested party between contending partisans, and also a fruitful subject of invective and furious hostility to the contending parties themselves. It was, however, to be hoped that Englishmen, though they had been the chief cause of the miseries of Ireland, would at this time, at least, keep their minds calm amid contesting factions, and endeavour to discover the right mode of governing that large section of the empire. Let them not forget the true question before the House— whether or not such a measure as that on the Table was requisite for the government of Ireland or any other civilised country in the world? Let him not be understood as putting the question in the shape of an 1190 imputation on the present Government, for he should be able quickly to show that they had been only stepping; in the footprints of their predecessors, and carrying out the principle upon which Ireland had been governed for centuries past; but that principle he was prepared to impugn. That he would show by and by, when he brought the subject to the Bar of cairn reason and quiet consideration. As ho was one of those who for years past had been regarded as nominally taking a part in the Government of Ireland, he would show them how they had been kept in the dark with respect to that country. True it was, that the present measure was a continuation of a system which had lasted for centuries, but he deeply lamented that the cautious spirit which had usually distinguished the Administration of the right hon. Baronet appeared to have forsaken him; or it would have enabled the right hon. Baronet to see, that at the present time it was impolitic, to soy the least of it, to press such a measure upon the consideration of Parliament. A little consideration would have shown the right hon. Baronet, how futile, how useless, and how insulting, at the same time, such a measure was. The right hon. Baronet should have taken advantage of the opportunity which was offered to him to step beyond his predecessors in the race of liberality, and to show that he understood the feeling and spirit of his times, and better understood than those whom he had displaced, the principles upon which Ireland ought to be governed. He was not blaming the right hon. Baronet for not going beyond his predecessors, but he was about to vindicate him from the charge of having brought a fresh insult upon Ireland. He would show that the right hon. Baronet had not done that. But at the same time he regretted, that the right hon. Baronet had not gone beyond them, and proved himself wiser than those who had preceded him. He had said the bill was the continuation of an old system. It was a remarkable fact, that of the late Administration there was not a single Member in the House, except the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Dungarvan. [An hon. Member — "He was not a Cabinet Minister."] The right hon. and learned Gentleman was so distinguished, that he derived no additional honour from being a Member of the late Administration. In that House he 1191 was sorry to say, that there were parties who took advantage of this measure for their own peculiar purposes in different ways. Of those who might be considered as peculiarly the representatives of the Irish people, there were two great sections. The hon. and learned Member for Cork, at the head of one of them, threw himself upon the masses of the Irish population, and identified himself with their feelings and prejudices — and passions, if they would have it so. And there was another section in that House, with whom he had no sympathy, who spoke like Irishmen, who complained, not because the Government of Ireland was bad, but because it was not an Irish Goverment, and the patronage of the Government was not given to Ireland. [Sir W. Barron—" Hear."] Rem acu tetigisti. But there was a third and distinct party in that House, the Reform party, who were desirous of seeing Ireland governed upon the great principles which ought to influence and actuate every Administration; and as a humble Member of that Reform party he claimed to express his opinions. He was ready to put his shoulders to the wheel, and endeavour to drag Ireland out of the slough of maladministration. He had looked into the Arms Bill in company with a learned Friend, who was an English lawyer, and to whom he said, "Let us learn what was the previous law; what was the prior act to this extraordinary measure." He did not profess to be an Irish lawyer, but he had made an appeal to an Irish lawyer upon the subject, and could get no definite opinion from him. He had a work in his hand, however, to which he could appeal with confidence; one which directed him not merely to the statutes of the Imperial Parliament, but of that domestic legislature which was so earnestly desired, and which was to be the panacea for all the ills of Ireland. He knew how the Irish Parliament was established, and he knew that it was a mischievous Parliament; but it should always be recollected, that it was an Irish Parliament. The Arms Bill was passed by the Irish Parliament first in the 36th year of George 3rd; it was continued from that time till the time of the Union, and it was in existence and force, and continued, so after the Union. It was therefore, from the beginning an Irish bill, and conceived upon an Irish principle of Government, which, by-and-by, he should impugn. Let it be 1192 recollected, that it was not a Saxon insult. "It came from your own country."[Addressing the Irish Members on the Opposition Benches.] "The poison, though reptiles, it is said, do not flourish in that country, was produced in Ireland." In 1807, the Imperial Parliament reconsidered all these acts, and he held in his hand which he did not think the "learned" Gentleman would dispute — the Irish statutes. In 1807 they were repealed, consolidated, and re-enacted by the 47th of George 3rd. That continued to be the law up to the 50th of George 3rd; and that 60th of George 3rd had been the law, and was still the law, but which law would expire at the end of the present Session. This bill of the 50th of George 3rd, according to the hon. and learned Member for Kin-sale (Mr. Watson) was minutely different from the present bill. He had in vain listened for anything like a substantial difference that had been pointed out between them; and that he took to be the great imputation upon the policy of the present Government. He wondered that the Government should have brought on such a measure, and have created such a turmoil for such a purpose, when in two lines to have re-enacted the 50th of George 3rd would have placed them in the position of continuers of the law, and would have enabled them to derive all the benefit which could be derived from such a measure without incurring the imputation of having heaped a new insult on Ireland. That bill was re-enacted during the reformed Parliament, and during the administration of the Whig Government. The hon. and learned Member for Cork, and the hon. and learned Member for Dungarvan, jealous of English domination and alive to Irish honour, had assented to the passing of this bill. Looking on them as watchful guardians of Ireland, he (Mr. Roebuck) and others had put faith in them; and it had read him a lesson never to put faith in the representatives of Ireland when the interests of Ireland were at stake. He meant no offence. The Members for Ireland had been misled by believing that the existence of the then Government was the grand thing for which to strive. The present Member for Rochdale was the only exception to that line of conduct, and both in and out of the House he had raised his warning voice against the then leader of the Irish people. 1193 But the superior authority of those who were then considered the chief leaders of the people lulled to sleep all watchfulness on the part of hon. Members, and the bill of the 50th of George 3rd was re-enacted; and why? because, as the hon. Member for Liskeard had said, it was to be carried into execution by a Whig Administration. He thought that the Coercion Bill would have been a slight hint that they ought not altogether to trust a Whig Administration; however, they did trust to it, and now came the moral. If, when there was a Government which conciliated the people of Ireland, they admitted the principle that an Arms Bill was necessary, à fortiori, when there was a Government which did not conciliate the people of Ireland, an Arms Bill was necessary. The social condition which was created in their minds remained the same, but the Government was changed, and was the measure rendered unnecessary now because the Government did not conciliate the people? To that question he wanted an answer. The 50th of George 3rd being thus re-enacted under the auspices of the hon. and learned Members for Cork and Dungarvan, he had looked to see if there was any distinction between that bill and the bill now on the Table of the House. He should be very glad for any Member to point out to him any difference which would affect an English mind. It might do very well to tell him that there was a branding of arms, as if that made any difference. By the 9th section of the 50th of George 3rd, it was enacted that no person should exercise the trade of a blacksmith without previously registering his name, and where his forge was situated, at the nearest sessions. These licences were to be withdrawn from them if they made pikes, and those who made them were to be punished; search was to be made for the pikes, and those having them to be punished, and the person convicted a second time of any of these offences was to be adjudged a felon and transported for seven years. A right hon. Member drew this distinction between that bill and the present, that this punishment was inflicted for the second offence, while under the present bill such persons were liable to be transported for the first offence. The hon. Member for Kinsale said, that this was so slight a difference to the mind of an Englishman, that he could not contain his indignation at one act or the other. 1194 But he found that the Irish could sit quietly under what roused the indignation of the hon. and learned Member for Kinsale; but they started into ungovernable fury if this punishment was to be inflicted for a first offence instead of for a second. [Sir J. Graham: the 47th of George 3rd made the punishment of the first offence transportation.] The difference between the two acts was where arms were found in a person's possession. Whatever the distinction might be, then in this respect, if hon. Gentlemen opposite should turn to them and say, "You have justified this principle," he should tell them that they had no answer to make, for that, having admitted the principle, they were out of court. For his own part he wanted not to make this an Irish question, nor to make it a ground for the existing discontent; but he wanted to place the question on the broad principles which ought to govern our administration in Ireland; and it was in this view of the case that he advanced to the consideration of that, measure as one introduced to secure the due administration of the law in Ireland. This was answered, first, by the Members of the late Government; and, secondly, by the Members from Ireland. But it was no answer to him. He quarrelled with it because it was a system which prevented anything like good Government. But he would call to mind some of the circumstances connected with the history of Ireland which they never should forget, and which the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard said, made the history of Ireland a blot and digrace in the history of this country. Ireland was unhappily a conquered country, and we bound the people down to a state of almost slavery. As Englishmen went by degrees to Ireland, they got merged to a certain extent into the population of the country, but still the great bulk of the population continued a subdued race. Circumstances, which were most happy for the advance and civilization of England, proved to be the cause of great misery to them. For instance, take the Reformation, with its accompanying circumstances, and see what results it produced in this country; but for the people of Ireland misery was the result; and even for them the establishment of religious liberty proved a source of misery. He did not wish to speak of the effect of religious opinions, one way or the other; but he alluded to 1195 the results that had flowed from the Reformation in this country, and he could not help feeling that it was one of the most miserable circumstances that could have happened to the country that the Reformation did not extend to Ireland. The large body of the people of that country remained Catholic, when the large number of the people of England ceased to be Catholics, and while we changed our institutions for the altered circumstances of this country, we endeavoured to enforce them in Ireland. Again, in 1640, when for the great good, and honour, and renown, and prosperity of England, such changes were effected, the same effects, which were productive of so much benefit here, became the source of poison in Ireland; and those who were the greatest friends and upholders of liberty here, became the most cruel and relentless tyrants there; and those that established that bill of rights, which had been so pointedly alluded to by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kinsale, brought that petition of right to bear in such a way, that it became the source of the most severe tyranny that Ireland ever knew. Thus had been created for Ireland that baneful feeling of hatred, and next, that imperious and direful opposition to any change, or to the adoption of anything, which they would almost necessarily regard as heretical. Such a state of things as this had counteracted all moderation to the present hour; and the present Arms Bill was a faint manifestation of the spirit which had obtained in legislating for Ireland, but which in England would be condemned as destructive to liberty. If Ireland had been governed in conformity with laws which were thought good here, what necessity could there be to propose such a law as that now under consideration. He confessed that he had been very much struck by the declarations made in the course of the present discussion by several Irish Members, for whose opinions the House must entertain great respect, and who had distinctly stated that some arms bill was necessary for Ireland. [No, no.] He said, yes, yes, and would call to the recollection of the House the opinions expressed by the hon. Member for Roscommon, by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, and the hon. Member for the City of Waterford, and other hon. Members on that (the opposition) side of the House, 1196 that for the security of persons and property in Ireland some measure was necessary with respect to the registration of arms. Now, in England no measure of the kind was required. There might be some restriction as to carrying arms in England, for the country gentlemen wished to preserve their partridges, and therefore it was somewhat dangerous for a poor man to carry a gun; but no offences affecting our social relations were feared from that source; there was no danger of assassination apprehended by such means, unless it was the assassination of a partridge. But how was it that the feelings of the people of Ireland were so perverted that such a law was necessary for their government? He agreed with the right hon. Member for Dungarvan in his pointed observation. Did you deprive the assassin of the means of attack, who came from a distance to carry out his diabolical object? Not at all; but it was his victim that you deprived, by your bill, of the means of defence. True, you tell him that he must go and get a licence before he could be allowed to carry arms. But suppose that he could not get security for this from his neighbours, and suppose he was exposed to the ill-will of certain persons; and this he was justified in supposing, for it was an every-day case in that country. Now it happened that the attack of the assassin in Ireland was seldom directed against the large landed proprietors of that country, or those whom the right hon. Baronet had described on a former occasion as living in slated houses; but the poor man who had happened to take a few acres of land over his fellow. By such a bill as this they took from him the means of defence which science and art gave him, but did not deprive the assassin of the means of offensive attack. Could they show him the proof that this act had kept down crime in Ireland? He replied, that it never could or would. The Government by pursuing these means were creating hostility towards themselves, and as the people from day to day increased in knowledge, and improved in manners, it would become more and more difficult, and at last impossible, for them to govern Ireland after such a fashion. Why so. Because the people of Ireland were beginning to see the effect of such legislation as this, and they would prevent you. It was often said of Ireland that it could not continue for any time to be governed on 1197 the same principles as this country. This, then, was not now to be imputed as the fault of the present Government, for the same complaint existed under their predecessors, for the right hon. Gentleman opposite, when they came into office did not change the great principles on which Ireland was governed. It had been pointedly said by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, that he could not vote against the second reading of the bill. What did that mean but that the Government of conciliation to which the noble Lord belonged, and which they were told had for so many years maintained Ireland in peace and tranquillity, considered that a bill founded on a similar principle to the present was necessary? Therefore he (Mr. Roebuck) contended that on principle there was no distinction between the Government opposite and their predecessors, as regarded the government of Ireland. The noble Lord, if he votes at all, will record his vote for a measure most offensive to the mind of Ireland. The noble Lord said that he agreed in the principle of the bill, but the principle of the bill was not evinced merely in the bill itself, but in the whole political relations and government of the country. In the whole political relations of the country there was no essential difference between the present and the late Government. The truth was, that the real evil in the system of government in Ireland was the rampant domination of the Church in Ireland. This church of the minority, which, after so much bloodshed, was created by the invader, was now supported and upheld by your serried bayonets. The noble Lord who spoke before the right hon. Baronet said, that he did not wish to infringe on the temporal revenues of the Church of Ireland, but that he wished this Church of the minority to be altered. Now he (Mr. Roebuck), wished to know what alterations the noble Lord wished to make in the Church, if it was not in something affecting its income. He presumed it was not in the doctrines of the Church. Was it not, then, in its revenue, or that which was called by hon. Gentlemen its vested interests, but of which if he had the power he would disencumber it for the sake of the peace in Ireland. If any man, then, said that he wished for an alteration in the dominant Church of the minority, it must be in the means of paying the ministers of that Church, and, in short, in 1198 the revenues of the Church. He, for one, would, without hesitation, propose at once that the revenue should be taken from the present Church in Ireland and given to all churches there, or to the church of the majority. This must be the real meaning of every man who attacked the Church of Ireland as being the Church of the minority. He did not altogether approve of the Church in England; but still it was less offensive as it was the Church of the larger number of the English people. The noble Lord said, that he was against the present state of the Church. Did he mean to attack its creed or its doctrines? No certainly not, but to attack its revenue. [The Earl of Listowell wished the Church revenues should be made available for others as well as the Church of the minority.] Very well; but then the noble Lord would take from the existing minority Church, and share the revenue among other existing sects in Ireland. But this was a very serious interference with the revenues of the Church, and he should like to find any Gentleman who had a benefice, who, when he found he was robbed of nine-tenths of his income, would not loudly exclaim against it. He did not use the term rob offensively, but he was determined to be above board, and to say what he really meant. He wished them to take the revenues of the Church, and he did not intend to say one thing and mean another. [Mr. Sergeant Murphy: " The Irish will do that."] Oh! my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Cork, exclaims, " Please God, if the thing goes on, we will do it." That, then, was only what could be fairly and honestly meant by alteration in this most mischievous institution, which he sincerely believed was the great plague and sore of Ireland. He could not help recollecting what this plague and sore had inflicted upon that country under the system of what was called Protestant ascendancy. What did this Protestant ascendancy mean, but that it was a symbol of subjugation of the people of Ireland to the invader? and it was what you formerly considered a triumph over heretical opinions. He never could believe that the continuance of this Church could be consistent with the preservation of the peace of Ireland. For the support of this establishment, measures of which this Arms Bill was a specimen would be constantly called for. The Liberal party in Ireland unfortunately acted with the 1199 late Government. But when the present Government came into office. the light of truth suddenly broke upon them as to the evil of the whole system of Government in Ireland. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liskeard had exclaimed against this bill, and denounced the despotism involved in it, but he had not objected to this principle of despotism for some years. No, the hon. Member only now found out that he disliked it under the present Government. Now, he hated despotism from every hand and from every quarter; and he objected to the Arms Bill as an act of despotism, whether it came from the noble Lord the Member for the City of London or from the right hon. Baronet. What he found fault with in the hon. and learned Member for the City of Cork was—and although he was not present, he should not abstain from making the observation, for he could not help the hon. Member's absence—that for the purpose of maintaining the late Government in office, he sacrificed the principle of public liberty in supporting previous Arms Bills. Was this the time of day, when a Member of Parliament, in the performance of his duty, should be driven by any wind that might arise—was this a time, when a public man should one day support an Arms Bill, and on another put himself at the head of some hundred thousands of men for the purpose of carrying out an idle whim, that could be productive of nothing but evil, was it consistent thus to be driven about by every breeze and wind that blew. He was glad for one that the present discussion had taken place. This was really the new era in the government of Ireland —the era when the chief, the leader of the Irish Members, was absent from Parliament—choosing to be away when, for the first time, the question was raised in the United Parliament of Great Britain, of the principle of governing by an Arms Bill. Now they would see who voted for the principle of government for Ireland as manifested in the present bill, for that was what they were called upon to do. Every Irish member and every English member who did not vote against this bill, or by staying away avoided voting against it, as well as every man who voted in the majority (for majority it would be) with the Government, gave in his adhesion to the whole system of domination in governing Ireland. And, on the other hand, every man who voted for the amendment of the 1200 hon. Member for Rochdale went with the spirit of the age in which they lived, and vindicated the true principles by which men were to be governed, and set his seal to the great truth, that for the maintenance of the peace of Ireland, or the proper Government of that country, no such means of force or coercion were necessary. He would direct the careful and serious attention of every Irishman to the present condition of his country; he would call upon the well-thinking people of England also to consider it. He did not wish for a separation of the two countries; but it was a fair conclusion that if, in governing the Irish people, they maintained that spirit—that olden spirit of domination which had resulted from successful invasion and religious intolerance, the Irish would fly to those means which were presented to them to relieve themselves from this intolerable burthen; and to say that they call for those means of relief now and had not done so before was to say that they were more wise and more enlightened than they formerly had been: he did not say that the Government were as cruel now as in times past, or that there was cruelty in thus maintaining the olden law; but he held it out to them as a warning, and a warning to statesmen who should derive advantage from experience—that this cry of repeal now was a cry that should be listened to, not with a view of admitting the demand, but to be listened to as showing the necessity of governing Ireland in the way they would govern England, and that was not by extending the Church of England to the people of Ireland, who were opposed to that Church, but that they must govern Ireland in all respects on the principles which directed them in the Government of England. The Church of England was the church of the majority in England. He objected to it in this country; but here it had a sanction which it had not there—[Hear, hear.] Here it was not, as it was in Ireland, an outrage on religious freedom and religious liberty, and a curse which the people of that country were right in endeavouring to remove. In England, feelings of respect and love were with the institutions of the country: while in Ireland there was hatred, fierce and bitter hatred, and now threatened vengeance. What were they to do with the present movement in Ireland? It behoved the English Parliament fairly to meet that question. Did they intend 1201 to put it down by force, and were they about to enlist the English army against the Irish people? The Irish people had risen already, and he could not help wondering that the right hon. Baronet opposite—usually so cautious and so careful, that he was wont to be regarded as the very exponent of political sagacity and prudence—that he, for one petty feeling, should have expressed his disapprobation against the leaders of that movement, so as to give them the pretext of martyrdom. The right hon. Baronet by that unadvised and imprudent declaration had pointed out to the people of Ireland, that their leaders were feared by the Government, and those whom the Government feared the people loved; they could not disarm those leaders of the power they possessed but they exalted them by making them appear to be martyrs. This would be but the commencement of the struggle; who could tell what would be its conclusion? Were they prepared to pass a new coercion bill for Ireland? How were these millions who had risen up in Ireland to be put down? Were they to be told in that House that the mere discussion of a law was to be held high treason? Not against the state but against the Government. What! were not the people to be allowed to meet to discuss the merits of an existing law? Had he not a right, in reference to any law, to write about it, to speak about it, to think about it, aye, or to rail about it, if he chose? True, these things were done in Ireland, but so long as they were done peaceably, why not? He looked then upon the impolicy of the course of the Government in Ireland, in reference to those who had taken part in those acts, and upon its injustice. It was impolitic, because they could not dismay the party they attacked; and it was unjust, because the attack was illegal. One leader, a magistrate, had given offence to the Government, or rather the Established Church, the Protestant party of Ireland, and was dismissed. He marked the answer of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department when a question was put to him on the subject. That right hon. Gentleman, usually so clear, so definite, so precise in his language, when he was asked had the Government given any information or instructions to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland on the subject, had given no answer. Why? Because the 1202 Government had given no such instructions. He never said that Government had desired the Lord Chancellor to take such a step. But the Lord Chancellor of Ireland wished to busy himself in putting down repeal, and in his zeal he had written a letter which would be a warning to all future generations of Chancellors. He had given reasons for a system of policy. Chancellors should confine themselves to giving the legal reasons for their decisions, and the Government was dragged into serious errors when its policy was administered and explained by a Lord Chancellor of Ireland. The Government bad been obliged, it was said, to adopt the policy of the Lord Chancellor. The Government could not remain divided against itself. It often happened that other Members of the Government committed faults which the right hon. Baronet covered with his great sagacity, holding it as Ajax held his shield before Teucer, and enabling his little men to run off. By the Chancellor's conduct the Government of the right hon. Baronet had been shaken to its base. It was endangered by the present movement in Ireland. The right hon. Baronet had on a former occasion prophesied that his chief difficulty would be Ireland. It was clear now that his chief difficulty was Ireland, and was to be found in the support of the hon. and learned Member the Recorder of Dublin and his friends. The Government was making shipwreck by following their advice. The right hon. Baronet might depend on it that his Government would be continued in difficulty by accepting their support, and that unless he escaped from their support the Government would escape from him. His Government was getting involved in difficulties which would require all his skill to escape. Let him look at the state of the country, from John o'Groat's House to Ireland, and there was everywhere danger and difficulty. If he proposed measures, at present, of coercion for Ireland—if he were involved in contention with Ireland, he might look for the latent feelings which were rankling in the bosoms of the working classes of England to show themselves. They would again set up their claims. There were strong feelings excited in Scotland too, which would have way. How could he escape? By what measures could the right hon. Gentleman escape from all those difficulties and dangers which were brought on him by his desire 1203 to satisfy the demands of the dominant minority in Ireland, which was the weakness of the Government, and the plague-spot of the domination of England. He bade the right hon. Gentleman take warning. He might be assured that there was a great danger hanging over the country. If the right hon. Baronet would not risk the peace of the country, he must govern in the spirit of the age, and not with a view to satisfy the Orange Conservatives of Ireland. Following the dictates of his own enlightened mind, knowing what is right, feeling what is just, he must do that justice to Ireland which, if the right hon. Baronet but concedes it, he need fear nothing for himself.
§ Sir H. W. Barron
condemned the vehement and improper language which had been applied to the great and illustrious warrior at the head of the army. At the same time, it was not very decent in some of the Gentlemen opposite to condemn such language, for they had used similar language themselves towards the Duke of Wellington. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had persons sitting near him who had used similar or worse terms not very long ago. He thought therefore that right hon. Gentlemen opposite should look into their own recorded speeches. In common with other hon. Members, he must condemn the appointment of Messrs. Blackburn, Lefroy, and Jackson to the judgment seat. These were all persons who had been all their lives violent partizans, who could not see them placed on the bench without loosing their confidence in the administration of justice. Mr. Jackson, who had been so much praised, had been all his life opposed to the Catholics, and had never, before emancipation, signed a petition in their favour. He had been secretary of a society which had endeavoured to proselytise the Catholics, and continued secretary of it after it had been abandoned by all the Catholics who had been members of it. The best proof of the character of the society was, that the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) had withdrawn from it the grant of public money which it had received. The House could not be surprised, therefore, that the appointment of Mr. Justice Jackson should cause discontent, for that gentleman had always been the enemy of the rights and liberties of the people. The same observation applied to Mr. Blackburn. As to Mr. Lefroy, he 1204 was so violent a politician, that even the Duke of Northumberland, a Tory Lord-lieutenant, would not allow him, when a sergeant, to go circuit as a judge. Again, with respect to education, the opponents of the system of education were all selected for promotion in the Church. The last three bishops who had been made were all opponents of the system. The appointment to the bishopric of Cashel and Waterford had been conferred on the most determined opponent of that system there was in Ireland. Such proceedings made the people believe that the scheme was all a delusion. It was a sure passport to promotion to get up public meetings against the system of education which the Government supported. Coming to the bill, he denounced it as the most unjust and most unconstitutional. It was not a repetition of the measure of the Whigs, it was much more stringent. Under their measure two justices were required to order a search, but under this bill one was sufficient, which exposed men to the spite and malice of individuals. Their houses might be broken into in the dead of night, and their whole families alarmed and insulted. To obtain a license also sureties were necessary that were rated at 20l. to the poor. Why, there were districts in Ireland twenty miles in length, in which there was not one person rated to the poor in the sum of 20l. He could tell hon. Members, that if this bill became the law of the land, and were enforced, the result of it would be, especially in the north of Ireland, that the Roman Catholics would be disarmed, and arms would be left exclusively in the hands of the low, violent, and ill-conducted Orangemen. Why, he asked, was such a bill to be applied to Ireland? As far as crime was concerned, England was in a worse state than Ireland; and they would not dare to apply such a bill to this country. Let them compare the crimes committed in the two countries. The number of crimes committed in Ireland in 1841 was 5,361; in 1843, 6,535. There were more crimes in 1842 than 1841. The population in Ireland was 8,000,000. In England it was 16,000,000. The number of crimes according to the relative proportion of the two populations ought to be in England 16,000. Instead of that, the crimes in England were 32,000. There were four times the amount of crimes committed in England than there were in Ireland. [An hon. Member; Compare the murders.] 1205 He had compared the number of crimes. In England he only took the number of committals, whereas in Ireland he took the police returns as the basis of his calculation. Thus the return was the most favourable that he could take for England, and yet not only were the crimes double those of Ireland, but they quadrupled them. It had indeed been said by the hon. and learned Member for Bath, that an Irish Parliament had passed the Arms Bill. That Parliament was not deserving of the name of " Irish "—it was a sectarian Parliament—it was a Parliament opposed to the views of the Irish people—it was a Parliament that did not represent their feelings, and acted contrary to their interests, and the Parliament that passed that Arms Bill, had it forced upon them by an English Secretary, an English Government, and an English Lord-lieutenant. It was no such Parliament as there would be now, when there was religious liberty, and the persons that would be sent in as representatives would be under popular control. Instead of a bill of coercion, they ought to have a bill for extending the franchise. They ought to have this, for now the franchise was so much diminished, from one end of the country to the other, that Ireland was becoming almost a rotten borough. They claimed, he told the Government, an extension of the franchise, and please God! they should have it. They claimed, top, a larger representation in that House. They claimed a thorough reform of the magistracy in Ireland. There were also nine measures of improvement for Ireland introduced into that House by Mr. Lynch, now one of the masters in Chancery. The Government had never attempted to grapple with any one of these bills. He had himself introduced a measure of reform for the Ecclesiastical Courts in Ireland. They had attempted a reform of these courts in England; they had not done so for Ireland. He had also introduced a measure relative to the management of charities in Ireland. Here were seventeen different measures; several of them not political, and all affecting Ireland, and yet the Government did not grapple with any one of them. Now, he asked the Government of what portion of the Irish people had they the confidence? He believed of none, and he could bring some testimony to show this. He took the three papers published in Dublin, which might be said to repre- 1206 sent the three different parties. These were the Dublin Evening Mail, the Dublin Evening Post, and the Pilot. The Pilot was the organ of the extreme party. They might be assured it liked none of these measures, and he would not trouble them with what its opinions were against them. Then there was the Evening Post, it represented the moderates, or what they might call the juste milieu party; and it disapproved of their measures, their appointments, and their policy, from the beginning of their career to the present day. Then he came to the Evening Mail. It was one of their supporters in Ireland, and it showed that the number of troops in Ireland were doubled since the Tories came into office. This was shewn when they had this fact before them, that when Lord de Grey went to Ireland, he dismissed twelve stipendiary magistrates, on the ground that they were not necessary, the country was so quiet. Let them now listen to this "recorder" of public opinion. It declared, that in Ireland, the Government was only supported by the place-holders and place-hunters. He now came to three papers published in this city, that might be regarded as the organs of different parties. [Interruption.] Such noises were better suited to the quarter-deck than to that House; and there was one noble Lord, he thought, would do much better not to increase it. He quoted the Times to show that it did not approve of the Irish policy of the Government. The Morning Chronicle was not more in their favour; it could hardly be expected it should be. The Morning Post, certainly the most consistent and honest of the Conservative organs, said of the conduct of her Majesty's Ministers in reference to Ireland, that,—There could certainly be no policy worse for Ireland than the frigid indifference and cold contemptuous tone of conciliation which they applied to all the affairs of that country.The fact was her Majesty's Ministers had lost the confidence not only of the people of Ireland, but of Scotland and of England, and he would ask, did they think they could go on much longer with this do-nothing principle, or rather worse than do-nothing principle, for the only measure they proposed was this obnoxious Arms Bill? The noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland said, that this Arms Bill was rendered necessary by the disturbed and threatening state of affairs in Ireland. If so, the 1207 confession was a disgrace to the Government, for the country was never in so peaceable a state as at the period when the present Ministry took office. This Arms Bills was but an attempt to continue the old Tory system of governing by force and intimidation; but he could assure the Government that they would not succeed in their attempt. The Irish were a high-spirited and brave nation, who had never yet calmly submitted to be governed by force, and, please God, they never would. There was one other point upon which he wished to say a few words. The City of Waterford, which he had the honour of representing, hitherto possessed six magistrates, who were more than enough to do the business of that city. These magistrates were of different parties, and no complaints had ever been made of the mode in which they administered justice in the town. Yet, notwithstanding these facts, the noble Lord opposite had thought proper to appoint six new magistrates to the City of Waterford; and it happened that nearly all these newly-appointed magistrates were men who took the most prominent part in party politics and in the promotion of party measures. Under such circumstances, these appointments had lighted a flame throughout Waterford, it being considered that this move was intended to confer power on particular parties. The noble Lord, perhaps, was not aware of local matters of this description in Ireland. He had every respect for the high honour and integrity, and the general good feeling of the noble Lord. But these qualities were not enough for a man who governed a great nation; he should have practical experience and a sound decision. He was too apt to be led by other parties; and when he knew that the advising counsel of the government at the Castle had distinguished himself by his violent political character, he felt that he could have no confidence in the Government of the noble Lord. The information upon which the noble Lord acted in reference to Ireland, was taken from the worst and the most polluted sources; and the most grievous part of the question was, that the Government was surrounded by men who were the most inveterate enemies of the Irish people. He called upon the Government to consider what a continuance of this state of things might lead to. He called upon them to recollect the American Revolution 1208 There were then not more than two millions to coerce in the revolted States; let him remind them of the words which were used upon that occasion by the immortal Burke, " that force was feeble to coerce men so great in moral character, so glowing in energy; and that a nation could not be said to be governed, which had to be perpetually conquered."
§ Sir David Roche
felt bound to say a few words, in reply to the attacks which had been made on his friend Mr. Justice Jackson, He believed that that learned judge, from the time he had been called to the bench, had given universal satisfaction in his judicial capacity, and he felt that he should not be doing his duty if he did not, in his place in that House, express his high sentiments of the learned judge's character. Strong political partizans had been appointed to the bench in Ireland by both parties in the state at different periods; but as far as his experience went, he believed that those judges had always conducted themselves in a manner to command the respect and confidence of men of all parties. With respect to Baron Lefroy he was not so well acquainted with him in his judicial capacity, but he believed that there was no ground of complaint against him, except that he sometimes displayed a little too much humanity in the cases brought before him. With respect to the bill now before the House he objected to its provisions, because he thought they would not succeed in depriving the evil-disposed of arms, whilst they would subject to unnecessary inconvenience, and to severe pains and penalties, those who were well disposed. He hoped, therefore, that some modification of the bill would be made in committee to meet the objection upon this score.
§ Sir H. W. Barron
said, in explanation, that he had not the least intention of impugning the conduct of Mr. Justice Jackson and Baron Lefroy since they had been raised to the bench.
§ Sir R. Peel:
I do not consider at this hour of the night, in the absence of many Members of the late Government, though I do not refer to the fact as any matter of blame, for I think the noble Lord the Member for London intimated his intention of giving his support to the bill—I do not, I say, consider it desirable at this hour, and remembering the nature of the question before us, to enter, in the absence of many whom. I should desire to be present, into a 1209 general vindication of the conduct of the Irish Government. When the proper time arrives I shall be perfectly ready to vindicate the acts of the Government in Ireland and of the Government in this country, in connection with it. I shall be prepared to show that I have redeemed every pledge which I have given, with respect to the Government of Ireland, and that the Government here and the Irish Government have attempted to administer affairs in that spirit of moderation, impartiality, and forbearance, with which I think the affairs of Ireland ought to be conducted. And I cannot accept the testimony which, with not a very laudable industry, the hon. Baronet collected from every newspaper, as conclusive evidence of our failure in those attempts. Sir, before Gentlemen not immediately versed in Irish matters, add not having any local experience in that country, draw an unfavourable conclusion with respect to the conduct of our Government, I entreat them always to bear in mind the testimony so honourable to himself, which we have just heard from the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir D. Roche). The chief charge alleged against us is, that we have appointed to the judicial office two Gentlemen of high professional distinction, Mr. Justice Jackson and Mr. Justice Lefroy. The hon. Gentleman, hearing their judicial conduct attacked, he a Roman Catholic—[Cries of " No."] well, if not a Roman Catholic, and I beg the hon. Member's pardon for the error, a Gentleman decidedly friendly to Catholic claims—of strong political and party opinions—a Gentleman connected with the Liberal party in Ireland, cannot remain silent when he hears an imputation on those learned judges which he knows to be unjust; and he states, therefore, from his personal experience of the conduct of one of those judges, and from his general knowledge of the conduct of the other, that the discharge of their official duties is free from all blame. He says if there is any one respect in which they have failed, it is in too great humanity in the exercise of their duty. I say, then, remember the testimony so borne—a testimony so creditable to himself, and of such weight, from the disinterested character of the witness from whom it proceeds, before you place implicit confidence in the other charges against the Irish Government; remember, I say, the refutation of the charges brought against them as to their 1210 judicial appointments. Sir, I wonder that hon. Gentlemen do not exercise a little of that tolerance and liberality of which they profess themselves the champions. In speaking of the judges, and the performance of their judicial duties, they do not refer to these acts; they do not regard their professional eminence; they never refer to their professional claims or ask whether they have entitled themselves to public approbation for the discharge of their judicial duties, but they ransack speeches made at a former period in a political character, and on some passages of those speeches hon. Gentlemen condemn our appointments. If I had pursued the same course with regard to Sir Michael O'Loghlen for instance, or with regard to the other Attorney-general for Ireland, elevated to the Bench under the late Administration, whose professional eminence, I admit, fully entitled them to the honour conferred on them, what would have been thought of me if I had said, " true, his professional rank supplies a claim to distinction; true, his judicial conduct hag been above exception; but he held strong political opinions on some particular measures, and he is not therefore entitled to reap the reward of his professional merits." If I had taken such a course as that, in what light should I have been regarded by the House and the country. But, Sir, to confine myself to the particular measure before the House, I must say the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Waterford, has not answered the question put to so many others who have denounced this bill—" If you entertain the opinion which you now profess—if you believe this bill to be an insult to Ireland—if you believe the Bill of Rights conceded a privilege which this bill infringes and infringes unjustly—if you think that independently of the Bill of Rights the common law of Ireland, as well as that of England, gave the subject this right, which he ought to continue to possess —if these are your opinions in 1843, why did you abandon your Parliamentary duty, and give your sanction to a similar bill in 1841." You say we found Ireland tranquil; you say that outrage was suppressed, there was no necessity for vigorous measures; and yet you, the representatives of Ireland, considering this as an insult offered to Ireland, did in the year 1841, when there was no necessity for vigorous measures—out of complaisance to the then Government, 1211 consent to take this infraction of the common law right of the subject, and without inquiry to vote in favour of it. And what says the hon. Gentleman one of the chief opponents of the present measure (Mr. O'Brien)? Why, that if we had not done him the favour of explaining the provisions of the former law, he should not have known what they were. He, a legislator, passes laws without knowing their provisions, and as a magistrate executes the laws without knowing what they enact. Sir, we thought it not right that we should re-enact the old law with a few continuing lines—that law which this worthy legislator and magistrate passed and executed without knowing anything of its provisions, until we called his attention to them. And is that your zeal for the liberties of Ireland? I think better of you than you would lead me to entertain from this debate. I do believe you supported the bill in 1841 because you thought the peculiarity of the circumstances of Ireland justified a bill of that sort: that you did not think you were offering an insult to, or unjustly infringing on, the liberties of the people by passing this act; but that having an intimate knowledge of the circumstances at the time, and knowing the peculiar outrages and class of crimes against which it was directed, namely, the assassination of the peaoeable and unoffending subjects of the Queen, you thought yourselves justified in making an exception to the general principle of the law, and in taking security for the life and property of those entitled to ask for security from the Legislature under which they live. It is well to talk of general principles; but bear in mind the position of a man with a family liable to be attacked by assassins. If you can give him security against these, it is your bounden duty to do so. You can do nothing more likely to retard improvement than to banish from their residences those who are afraid of their lives. Read a description of any one of the murders recently committed, beginning with that of Lord Norbury and coming to the last case of Mr. Gatchell, who consoled himself with the reflection,I took what security I could against assassination, but it was impossible to watch every bush that lay along my road.Take the details of such cases into your consideration, and then say whether you can refuse your assent to this measure. And when did we propose this act? Not 1212 now with reference to the present state of excitement. You know perfectly well that we gave notice, at an early period of the Session, of this act, with reference to a totally different state of things, and intended for a different purpose—you know that there is no fair analogy between the extent of general crime in England and in Ireland; and that the question is, life not being secure, whether, on account of the possession of fire-srms, murder be not committed with greater facility, and the chance of escape increased, and whether it be not desirable, in order to facilitate the detection of the assassin, that there should be some regulation for the registration of arms. If the hon. Baronet who just addressed the House had, instead of referring to scraps of newspapers, considered the provisions of the bill, he would not have fallen into the mistakes which he has committed. The hon. Baronet said that, under this bill, the Protestant yeomanry will be protected, whilst Roman Catholics will be prevented from having arms. The hon. Baronet said he knew of districts in which the bill would have a tendency to facilitate the possession of arms by Protestants. I think I can satisfy the House that the Government have no desire to show favour to one class of her Majesty's subjects at the expense of another. By the existing law on the statutebook, and in actual operation, an exception is made in favour of persons serving in yeomanry corps; they are exempt from the liability to register their arms. By the bill now before the House, the members of yeomanry corps are placed on the same footing as all other persons, and the exemption they now possess will no longer be extended to them [Sir H. W. Barron: There are no yeomanry corps now on service in Ireland]. I say that at present the members of yeomanry corps are not compelled to register their arms, and by our bill we compel them hereafter to register their arms. At any rate, that provision shows the spirit in which this bill is framed. The speech made on the night before last by the right hon. and learned Member for Dungarvon was characterised, as is usually the case with all the speeches made by that Gentleman, by this peculiarity, that it contained a vindication of the measure which he so strenuously opposed. It was justly observed by my right hon. Friend (Sir James Graham), that in the first part of his address, 1213 the right hon, and learned Gentlemna spoke with the calmness of a witness. In that speech, the right hon. Gentleman, once the Member for the county of Tipperary, one of the principal scenes of outrage in Ireland, and now, I believe, a resident, certainly a proprietor, in that county, knowing its local circumstances, acquainted with the disposition to outrage which prevails among the people, and aware of the peculiar character of the crimes by which some parts of that county had been disgraced,—the right hon. Gentleman gave a picture of the state of Tipperary which establishes that distinction between the circumstances of England and of Ireland which justify the House in prolonging the duration Of the measure now before them. I have heard nothiug in the details of crime—I have seen nothing in the reports of police-offices —I have heard no opinions of magistrates on the subject, which have made half so strong an impression on my mind as the few sentences delivered in the character of a witness by the right hon. Member. He said that the state of that country was Such, that he thought crime could not be effectually repressed unless the landed proprietors came forward to serve upon the petty juries; and he advised that, as it was found difficult to induce persons to undertake the voluntary performance of inch important functions, the landed proprietors should supersede the class of ordinary petty jurors, being compelled to serve under a fine of 500l. or 600l. That is to say, the principle of the taw being " Judicium parium et lex terrœ." that jurors shall, under ordinary circumstances, be selected from persons of the same class and position as the individual whom they are to try,Such," (says the right hon. Gentleman) "is the state of this district with which I am perfectly acquainted, that on a fine of 500l. or 600l. I would compel the gentry and the landed proprietors to come forward and perform the functions of petty jurors.Why, what is the effect of such a course? The outrages being of an agrarian character, the disputes relating to the possession of land—the question at issue being between the tenants and the landed proprietors—the remedy proposed by the right hon. Gentleman would enable the landed proprietors to sit as judges in cases between their tenants and themselves. What must be the state of this district when the right hon. Gentleman, a Privy 1214 Councillor, an eminent lawyer, considers it necessary, under a penalty of 500l. or 600l., to require the landed proprietors to perform such duties?Then," (says the right hon. Gentleman) "it is necessary, for the purpose of facilitating the detection of crime, that you should give full security to the witnesses.These engagements to provide for the witnesses, unless entered with the utmost caution, partake of the character of an inducement to give evidence. The right hon. Gentleman added,I know a case in which a humble neighbour of mine prosecuted persons charged with murder to conviction; I applied to the Government, I claimed their interference, and by the exercise of my legitimate influence I induced the Government to provide for the expatriation of that man, and of his family, and for their continued maintenance in the colony to which they were sent.And," (said the right hon. Gentleman) "apply the same principle; invite witnesses to come forward; guarantee to them their removal to a distant land, and on their arrival there, subsistence for themselves and their families.Sir, there are many things which Whig and Liberal lawyers will say, which, were they uttered by Conservative politicians, would excite suspicion, and meet with grave condemnation. There are some who, when a Whig Government administered the affairs of this country, could reconcile it to themselves to give an unanimous vote for the second reading of this bill, but who, when the same measure is proposed by us, denounce it as an outrage and an insult to Ireland. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman, in applying his principle, would, as far as possible, guard it against the possibility of abuse. He would, I am convinced, as far as possible, take care that this promise to provide comfortable appointments and subsistence in distant colonies should not degenerate into an encouragement of false testimony. I am convinced that if the right hon. Gentleman's will could prevail, none but the honest witness—the witness determined to declare the truth—would be selected by him for this mark of favour— favour, at least, as compared with the consequences of continued residence in his own country. But, speaking not of honest and truth-telling witnesses, what is the state of a country as to the commission of crime, and as to the administration of justice, when he who is disposed to bring the assassin to punishment is obliged to flee 1215 his native country, and to seek refuge for himself and his family in a distant land? "And his family," says the right hon. Gentleman very significantly. Oh no, it will not be sufficient to remove the witness, it will not be sufficient to provide the man with employment; you must remove his innocent wife and children with him, or they will be the victims of the assassin's confederates. It is an easy matter to talk lightly of this way of providing for witnesses; but I ask you to consider what is the attachment of a peasant to his native land. You take this unoffending man— this man disposed to co-operate with you in the execution of the law, in furthering the ends of justice; you bring him to the witness box; you ask for his testimony against an assassin. Compare the number of committals with the number of convictions, and is it improbable that the trial may result in the acquittal of the prisoner? He is restored to his family; he retires triumphantly from the dock in full possession of his liberty, laughing at the administration of justice. What, then, is to become of the honest man who gave unavailing testimony? He is not to remain in the country. The farm that he has cultivated he is to relinquish, and you think it will be a compensation to him, perhaps advanced in life, to offer him an asylum in Canada or some other colony! That is the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, and he too says he would apply the same laws to England and to Ireland. But I say, cannot we find better means of giving security to that witness, by facilitating the registration of fire-arms and preventing the improper use of them, than by admitting him to give his evidence on the expectation of our afterwards facilitating his expatriation to one of the colonies? I must repeat that the picture of the state of society in Ireland which was drawn by the right hon. Gentleman, coming as it did from such unquestionable authority, constitutes, in my opinion, a sufficient reason in itself for passing a law to provide greater security for life in that country. With respect to the character of this bill, I have heard in the course of this debate much declamation against unconstitutional bills, but I must say that I have heard more unconstitutional doctrine from hon. Members opposite than I ever before heard in the course of one Session. When I heard an hon. and learned Gentleman in the midst of those 1216 expressions of respect which he was pleased to apply to myself, say that this detestable bill, if it had been proposed by Lord Morpeth should have had his assent, I must confess my surprise. [Mr. C. Buller: considered the bill a matter of indifference.] Then, according to the hon. and learned Gentleman, this bill is a matter of such entire indifference that his vote for or against it would be given according to the politics of the Irish Secretary who might propose it; but I cannot accept that compliment to the bill. I consider it a measure of grave importance. It is with deep regret that I propose such a bill. I am sorry to maintain a distinction between England and Ireland in this respect. I do think that the obligation to register fire-arms, and the trouble you give, and the prohibition to bear arms,—all this I do think a matter of great regret, which nothing but necessity can justify; but that necessity would be equally cogent whether the bill was brought in by a Liberal or a Conservative Irish Secretary. It rests for its vindication, not on political considerations but it rests for its vindication on necessity —the necessity of taking security for life in a country where outrages of a peculiar description prevail. I cannot, therefore, admit that the bill is a matter of indifference. The question, then, for the House to consider is, whether after the admission of the Irish Members so late ago as 1841, that such a bill was necessary for Ireland, the whole difference being a change in the Government, the House will take upon itself the responsibility by their vote of to-night of putting a stop to any measure for the registration of fire-arms in Ireland? Particular parts of the bill will be open to discussion hereafter; the question for tonight is, whether with respect to a measure which has been felt to be necessary, by successive Administrations, which has not been brought forward in any spirit of insult, but in reliance upon the opinion of the magistrates, and the reports of those who are charged with the preservation of the public peace, who have stated that they consider such a measure necessary, —whether you, unacquainted as you are with the local circumstances of Ireland, will undertake the responsibility by negativing the second reading by putting a stop to the system of registering arms in Ireland? As I said before, the measure was brought on at a period of the Session 1217 which was too early to allow of its having been framed with reference to the present state of Ireland; in fact (as my noble Friend behind me (Lord Eliot) states, and, I am sure, no hon. Gentleman will desire to question his assertion), the bill was prepared last year, and, therefore, I again repeat, was not brought forward with reference to the agitation that is now going on in Ireland. With reference to the other subjects, which, though not properly subjects of the debate of to-night, have, nevertheless, not unnaturally been brought on in the course of it, I shall be perfectly ready to go into them on other occasions. At present, I shall only say, on the part of the Government, perfectly prepared as I am to vindicate, I trust successfully, the course which the Government has thought it right to pursue—determined as we are to exercise every legitimate and constitutional power which we possess for the purpose of contending against the accomplishment of those acts which the unanimous opinion of every Member of this House, from England and Scotland, and of a great number of Members from Ireland, declare to be equivalent to a dismemberment of the empire, and a separation of Ireland from the sister country—but postponing for the present the discussion of that question, and the consideration of other measures we have adopted, I ask the House, which will have the opportunity at a future time of considering the clauses of the present bill in detail—I ask the House not to take upon itself the responsibility of declaring by its vote that, with respect to Ireland, there shall be no special condition imposed as to the registration and the use of arms.
§ The House divided on the question that the word now, stand part of the question.
§ Ayes 270; Noes 105: Majority 165.
|List of the AYES.|
|Ackers, J.||Ashley, Lord|
|Acland, T. D.||Astell, W.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Bagot, hon. W.|
|Acton, Col.||Bailey, J.|
|Adare, Visct.||Baillie, Col.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Baillie, H. J.|
|Ainsworth, Peter||Baird, W.|
|Alexander, N.||Bankes, G.|
|Allix, J. P.||Baring, hon; W. B|
|Antrobus, E.||Barneby, J.|
|Arbuthnott, hon.||H.Barrington, Visct.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Baskerville, T. B. M.|
|Arkwright, G.||Bateson, R,|
§ Bill read a second time. On the question that the Bill be committed,
§ Mr. W. S. O'Brien
moved as an amendment, that a select committee be appointed to inquire whether the condition of Ireland is such as to require statutory enactments relative to arms different from those which are in force in Great Britain, and if so, to what causes such necessity for different Legislature is to be attributed? The hon. Member read a letter from the rev. Mr. Darvren, Roman Catholic clergyman, confirming his statement previously published in the newspapers, respecting 1221 the dismissal of 200 families from Lord Hawarden's estate, and declaring his readiness to prove it by the evidence of credible witnesses.
§ Lord Worsley
said, his noble relative had assured him that the statements which had appeared in the newspapers relative to this matter were not by any means correct.
§ Original question agreed to. Bill ordered to be committed.
§ House adjourned at two o'clock.