§ Well, the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Roebuck) cheers that statement. But with all these strong resolutions, the provocation was too much for the Attorney-general. I do not conceal my regret at the fact, but I put it forward as a real and decided proof that there was no premeditated intention and no design to outrage the ordinary course of legal proceedings, or to commit any act of violence or indiscretion. But the hon. Gentleman cheered just now, as if it were impossible that the Attorney-general's idea of the course pursued could have any foundation. There is a very remarkable corroboration of that view in the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford. That hon. Gentleman has told you, in vindication of Mr. Fitzgibbon,—of whom I say nothing, and of whose speech I know nothing, except by newspaper reports,—that those expressions which appear to have given so much offence to the Attorney-general were not the expressions of the counsel himself, but language which had been put into his mouth by his client to be used in the course of the argument. That was the statement of the hon. Gentleman who heard the powerful speech of Mr. Sheil, and who most candidly and fairly stated how difficult it would have been for him to keep his temper if made the subject of attack in eloquence at once brilliant and forcible, bitter and severe, from Mr. Shed against the Attorney- 180 general. Mr. Wyse spoke of a preceding day.] Precisely so. There was a series of attacks continued from day to day for several days upon the Attorney-general. [Mr. Wyse dissented.] I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. He has spoken so fairly and candidly that I should be extremely sorry to mistake or misrepresent him. It was the first day upon which the hon. Gentleman heard the speech of Mr. Sheil, and he said how difficult he should have felt it to keep his temper if made the subject of it. The counsel who followed Mr. Sheil was Mr. Fitzgibbon, and at the close of the day, before Mr. Fitzgibbon concluded his attack, the Attorney-general fell into the trap which was set to catch him. I do not say that as any vindication of his error; but I state all these things in order to follow it up with an expression of earnest hope, that upon such information as we now possess, derived from the intelligence contained in newspapers only, not being judges of the tone, and manner, and gesture which might have accompanied words which may read as if harmless, the House will not condemn in so sweeping a manner, and in the unmitigated terms proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Bath, an absent officer of the Crown, who has been engaged, and is engaged, in what is confessedly a most arduous and laborious duty, and who is confessedly subjected to the greatest provocation, but who, in a moment of weakness, has at last been led to commit a momentary offence, for which he has already expressed his deep regret, and for which I am bound to say the Government cannot consider him wholly blameless. But I know what allowance ought to be made in such a case, and I trust it will be made, even although it was an indecent and unfit ebullition of temper. I know allowance can be made for it by the country; such allowance as, in my own heart, I candidly feel due to it from myself, who am subject to similar infirmity, and I believe that the House of Commons will show the same indulgence, and not hastily and severely condemn a public officer who has not had the opportunity of answering for himself.
§ Mr. Serjeant Murphy
—I do not think the protection cast over the Attorney-general for Ireland, by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government has been much improved by what has fallen from the noble Lord. Although the right hon. Baronet did not affect for a moment to vindicate the conduct of the Attorney-general, as being con- 181 formable to that propriety of demeanour which ought to have been maintained on so solemn an occasion, he did not allow himself to do what the noble Lord has done,—to condemn that conduct by an epithet which most, forcibly and fully confirms the charge. The noble Lord has treated it as an indecent act, and he has conceded the entire question to which this side of the House, through the instrumentality of my hon. and learned Friend has called attention. The noble Lord has talked of infirmity of temper being provoked in this House, during the heat of debate, and he has thought proper to compare that, and to attempt to make that parallel to the solemn proceedings of a court of justice. Will the noble Lord permit me to say, before I come to the particular circumstances of this case, and to that particular crisis of it which is under discussion, that I do not agree with the noble Lord, that the country at large will look upon this conduct with indulgence, or even in the spirit of sufferance and toleration? But I venture to say, that there is no man in this country, be he Whig, or be he Tory, where the solemn and impartial administration of the law is regarded as the best safeguard of public liberty, who, whatever his complexion of politics, will not denounce this act as a splenetic and indecent outrage, desecrating the temple of justice; an act which would be wrong even if the humblest and meanest individual were upon his trial, but which is eminently so, if I may use the term, when an entire people is upon a multitudinous indictment dragged before the bar. How has the Attorney-general conducted himself throughout? Where are the grounds for attributing to him that calmness of demeanour and kindness of conduct for which credit has been given him? Has he acted in that spirit which has distinguished all the state prosecutions of this country? I will appeal to my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-general for England. I will appeal to my recollection of him, when he conducted the prosecutions against the Chartists in Lancashire. I appeal to what sixty-nine men declared at the termination of the trials, when they said:—Whether we consider the judges, the Attorney-general, the little captiousness opposed to our eager expressions of want of knowledge of forms,—whether we look upon the whole of this trial, or the judges, or the counsel, or the 182 jury, or the Attorney-general, the temper and demeanour of the whole has been that which teaches us, though we have failed, that the law has been vindicated with temper, forbearance, and dignity.'I am happy to confirm this testimony, for I was one of the counsel for the defence on that occasion. Would to God the same demeanour had been exemplified in the state prosecutions in Ireland! What was the first act of the Attorney-general there? He refused, by certain captious objections, every little matter that would have smoothed the way to make the defence with fairness and legality. What next does he do? He turns round upon one of the counsel for the defence, when he attempted to argue the question, and asks him—what no man in Westminster Hall would ask,—if he were licensed? Then he stands up in court, and prejudges the case against the accused, and prejudices them in the minds of the jury before the finding of the bill, by stating that he is prepared to prove the existence of a monstrous conspiracy. Throughout the whole of the case the attention of the bar in Westminster Hall has been rivetted—that hall, in which no such example of such trials and such state prosecutions, has arisen in our times,—and there is but one opinion upon the proceedings there. I was born an Irishman, though I am au English barrister, and I retain all the feelings of an Irishman, and I felt in my secret soul:——Pudet hæc opprobria nobis "Et dici potuisse et non potuisse refelli.The accuracy of the English system has been brought in opposition to the inaccuracy of the Irish, not in the person of a humble individual, but in that of Her Majesty's Attorney-general for Ireland, in a state prosecution. But matters have gone even still further. The Attorney-general seems to have had a warning given to him—a caution lest he should make a slip. He goes on for a while; the proceedings for the prosecution drag their slow length along; then conies the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Dungarvan. I read that speech with attention, and anything more calculated to redeem Irishmen from the imputations cast upon them by the Attorney-general I do not know. It withered the imputation of the Attorney-general that the Irish bar was destitute of talent. It was felt in 183 Westminster-hall that there was but one individual at the Irish bar who could make such an imputation. But the right hon. Gentleman says that he was called upon to listen to attacks made upon him by counsel for the defence. Those counsel acted upon the instructions of their clients, and even if they had used the words, why did he not know how to reserve himself, as gentlemen do where offence is given, for a private intimation after the proceedings were terminated and the trial at an end? He chose to send a cartel of defiance upon the instant, as if he would say, "Mark, I come against you as a prosecutor, but I come against you also to demand satisfaction for anything that may be said in the heat of argument for the defence." For that act alone he ought to be ignominiously dismissed. You institute these proceedings to vindicate the dignity of the law against a man who, as you say, has himself sinned against the law as never man sinned before. You have the whole of the people looking on; you have, as has been said, an indictment against an entire people; and upon such an occasion when you have concentrated upon the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland not only the feelings of this country, but have drawn towards it the attention of Europe and America as witnesses, is it not a reproach to the law, to the impartiality of our legal tribunals, and to the judges of the land, that they should recall Mr. O'Connell, when he had retired upon one occasion into the library, into the court, to please a splenetic Attorney-general, and that they should extract from all the traversers the degrading necessity of standing at the bar as felons, instead of being treated as misdemeanants. I appeal to the Attorney-general for England, would he have insisted upon such a proceeding? I say that the Attorney-general for Ireland ought to have left the administration of the law fully in the hands of the judges, who on their part ought to have committed the Attorney-general, to prove to the assembled people, that the law is no respecter of persons, and that rigid and stern impartiality mark its administration. I am bound to declare it as my opinion, and the opinion of Westminster-hall, that if impartiality had ruled on that occasion, justice would have been vindicated and the majesty of the law upheld. That has not been done. Impartiality being the characteristic of the Government, it is now its 184 bounden duty to vindicate the law, by at once dismissing this public officer.
§ Sir J. Graham
I feel, Sir, after what has fallen from my right hon. Friend and my noble Friend, that it is unnecessary to prolong this discussion; yet, I think I shall not act unworthily nor inconsistently with my duty, if I very shortly express my opinion upon this subject. I must take the liberty to observe, that the hon. and learned Gentleman who introduced this subject and the hon. and learned Serjeant who has just sat down are, as Members of the Bar, naturally most anxious to watch over the administration of justice; and it is in the sacred name of justice they have addressed the House on this occasion. Now, I call upon the House to remember what is the position of the case thus brought before it, A great trial is pending; Her Majesty from the Throne, has announced that her love of justice impartially administered according to law has induced her to forbear to comment upon that trial. Notwithstanding the heat of party differences—various topics having been commented upon in the course of discussion last night, and not without some asperity, it was agreed, I thought, upon all hands, for the sake of justice, that this particular topic should, at all events, be postponsed until a verdict should have been pronounced by the jury which has been empanelled to try this indictment. Disregarding the example of last night, in the name of justice the House is called to discuss this evening a matter bearing directly upon the trials now going on. The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down passed a glowing eulogium upon the speeches of the counsel for one of the defendants. Not satisfied with that, he commented in terms of praise upon the character of at least one of the accused and, with severity upon the trial itself; and I think I heard him say, in the absence of the party he assails, without giving my right hon. Friend an opportunity to defend himself, that that public officer ought to be visited with the condemnation of the House, and that this officer of the Crown ought to be ignominiously dismissed. Now, I call upon the generosity and justice of the House to deal with this last proposition. In a short time these proceedings will have terminated and this public officer will have a fair opportunity to speak in his own defence; at present he is absent from his place and cannot be heard. Is it not just to wait for this? As regards public opinion, my right hon. Friend 185 and my noble Friend have both declared that they are not prepared to vindicate the conduct of the Attorney-general on that particular occasion; and, as far as my opinion is concerned, I hope it will be deemed satisfactory when I say I cannot defend the act now brought under our notice. But then we must consider the circumstances under which this unfortunate occurrence took place. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman deny that strict integrity, great abilities, and accurate knowledge of the law are quite compatible with infirmity of temper and a promptitude to vindicate wounded honour in this mode, however objectionable? I am not prepared to vindicate what has occurred. I agree with my noble Friend, that the provocation which the Attorney-general for Ireland received was most irritating. I am unwilling to repeat the argument of my noble Friend; but the House will remember the testimony borne on this point by the right hon. Member for Waterford who, I must say, stated his opinion on this occasion with remarkable candour—I had almost said, with kind sympathy for the Irish Attorney-general, whose conduct is now impugned. That right hon. Gentleman admitted, that the speech he himself had heard delivered by the right hon. and learned Member for Dungarvan, as counsel for one of the traversers, was most remarkable for the point of satire and the weight of argument and eloquence with which it assailed the Attorney-general, and yet, although he was exposed for many hours to a trial of that description in his presence, I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say his demeanour was unexceptionable. My noble Friend also pointed the attention of the House to other circumstances admitted by the right hon. Member for Waterford, to which I must again refer. I did understand the right hon. Member for Waterford to admit that the line of argument pursued by Mr. Fitzgibbon and the nature of his comments on the conduct of the Attorney-general had not been suggested by the mind of that counsel, but had been dictated to him by his client, one of the traversers, smarting under the prosecution—and all this marks premeditation. The hon. and learned Sergeant the Member for Cork, has entirely misapprehended what passed with respect to the letter of the Attorney-general. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to think that the Irish Attorney-general had been particularly cautioned to pursue a course which should be marked 186 by temperance and forbearance. That was not the statement of my noble Friend. The statement made by my noble Friend was this—that the Attorney-general, after the speech which the right hon. Member for Waterford had heard from the right hon. and learned Member for Dungarvan, and after the two speeches made subsequently by the other counsel, bearing with very great severity personally on the conduct of the Attorney-general—that officer did address to my noble friend the Secretary for Ireland a letter, received on the very same day on which the account of the unhappy occurrence which is now the subject of debate, reached London, in which he stated, that he was quite aware that a design was entertained of addressing a series of observations personally to him of a most exasperating character: and that aware of that intention, he was on his guard, because he felt, that whatever might be his private feelings, he had a great public duty to perform—that he would put a restraint on himself, and would not be guilty of any act of indiscretion, whatever his private feelings might be. But most unfortunately, yielding to a sudden ebullition of temper, under great exasperation and provocation, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-general for Ireland departed from that highly-prudent and judicious resolution to which he had come, and committed a most unfortunate mistake, which I do not justify, but into which, under similar circumstances, others might have been betrayed. I say some allowances must in justice be made for him, and, at all events, I say it is not in a popular assembly, when attacks come from political opponents in the midst of great excitement, that there should be an appeal from a judicial tribunal that heard and saw all that passed, and was cognizant of all the circumstances that took place. It would ill become us in the heat of debate, under political excitement and at the instance of political enemies, to condemn a public officer in the very midst of a great political prosecution, when, if we will but suspend our judgment, in a very short time that officer will be present and have to answer for himself; but, above all, I repeat, it is ungenerous, when the court which heard all that passed pronounced even a limited censure on the conduct of the Attorney-general, and expressed distinctly a hope that the Attorney-general having made an apology and withdrawn the objectionable note, and the coun- 187 sel with whom this unfortunate dispute took place having declared himself satisfied—when the court, acting judicially, because the whole matter had been brought before them and left in their hands, had declared themselves satisfied, and hoped and desired that no further notice should be taken of the matter, and after the counsel with whom the unfortunate quarrel originated, when he had time to reflect in a manner most honourable to himself and creditable to his feelings as a gentleman (not forgetting that he and the Attorney-general were members of the same profession, and entitled to the indulgence of that profession), came forward next morning and most fully and clearly stated that he was sorry that anything should have fallen from him to irritate or wound the feelings of the Attorney-general—that he felt, if any provocation given by him should have led to a step which might be, in the least injurious to the Attorney-general, he should to the latest moment of his life most deeply regret the occurrence—after matters have come to that point, the court having declared itself satisfied, the party with whom the quarrel took place having declared his entire satisfaction with the apology made by the Attorney-general, my right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel) not having vindicated the conduct of the Attorney-general, and I deeply regretting that in the administration of justice such an occurrence should have taken place, which, I must say, is inconsistent with the dignity, decorum, and patient temper which should be held sacred as the great security both of order and peace in courts of law—I sincerely hope, after all this has occurred, that this matter will for the present be allowed to rest. Certainly, for one, I am quite prepared to share in the responsibility of my Colleagues, and entertaining the opinion I do of the honesty, the integrity, the public virtue, and the private amiable qualities of the Irish Attorney-general. I will never consent to be a party to that ignominious dismissal of him which two hon. and learned Gentlemen, members of the same profession, have this night recommended.
§ Mr. Ward
could not see that the present discussion was open to the objections which had been made to it by the right hon. Baronet. It had been introduced not upon a motion, but incidentally upon a question put by the hon. and learned Member for Bath—a question referring to an individual act of indiscretion on the part of a Law-officer of the Crown—a 188 most unfortunate act of indiscretion, as had been admitted by both the Members of the Cabinet who had spoken, committed in the course of an important judicial proceeding, and, therefore, an act eminently qualified to impair the respect in which all relating to the administration of public justice was held. The question of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, in his opinion, stood as distinct from the general rule laid down last night against discussing the merits of the proceedings now pending in Dublin, as the conduct of the Attorney-general regarding those trials had been from the ordinary course of such an officer in such proceedings. As to the amiable private qualities of the learned Gentleman, of his good intentions, and his good heart, those were questions with which the House had nothing whatever to do. He asked, whether if a public officer in the course of fulfilling a public duty, failed of doing so to the satisfaction of this House and of the country, it was not the right and duty of this House to take proper notice of the circumstance. It was alleged in defence of the Attorney-general on this occasion, that a systematic plan had been laid to irritate him, with a view of betraying him into the commission of such an unfortunate mistake as they were now discussing. But this was what was not at all admitted on the other side. Indeed the very last words of the Secretary for the Home Department disavowed such a view of the case—he alluded to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that on the day following the occurrence, Mr. Fitzgibbon had come down in order to heal the unfortunate breach that had occurred, and to disclaim on his own part any intention of wounding the feelings of the Attorney-general. He must say also that he did not see anything in the gentlemanly and temperate speech of the hon. and learned Member for Dungarvan, in defence of his client, which the most sensitive mind could possibly object to. But he would not admit the analogy which the right hon. Baronet adopted between ebullition of temper which sometimes took place in that House, and the occurrence of such manifestations in a court of justice. In that House they were all in eager and heated discussion, and sometimes, in moments of forgetfulness, let drop expressions which they were sorry for. But they were then immediately called to order by the Speaker, to whose 189 decisions they all cheerfully deferred. But in a court of justice, everything depended upon coolness of temper and decorum of proceeding; and if a Law-officer of the Crown was not able to listen to anything which might be urged by counsel in defence of a client under prosecution at the instance of the Crown, he was in his opinion the most unfit person who could be fixed upon to discharge the duties of such an office. And if there was ever an occasion when anything like personal feeling should be laid aside by a law officer, it was this very proceeding which was now going on in Ireland. He agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Cork that from the first of these proceedings there had been a great want of temper and self-control displayed by the Crown-officers; he did not allude merely to details of pleadings, but to other points also, and which all bore out the impression that unfair advantage was sought to be taken by the Government in these prosecutions, an impression which the Government should be the first to disclaim. If the Attorney-general should appear and express his regret at what had occurred, he was sure that no gentleman would wish to carry the matter any further, but still it would not relieve them all from the painful impression, that a high public officer had committed an act of great indiscretion in the execution of an important of doing likewise, and which, if they did public duty; an indiscretion which no it, neither themselves nor their friends Member of her Majesty's Government had felt himself justified in standing up to defend.
§ Mr. Wyse
I wish to say a few words by way of explanation. I did not mean to imply that the client of Mr. Fitzgibbon had given him instructions to use vituperative language, or language applying in a personal manner to the Attorney-general; what I meant to say was, that the course he pursued with reference to the observations he thought it necessary to make on the conduct of the Attorney-general was in unison with the instructions he had received from his client, and appeared to be necessary to his defence; and I said so for the purpose of showing the inconvenience that would arise if on any occasion the counsel for the Crown, considering observations directed to him personally, should take upon himself to resort to measures of violence, and thus interfere with that freedom of defence to which the client had the most unquestionable right. 190 I have only to add, that in any remarks I thought it necessary to submit to the House with regard to the position in which the Attorney-general for Ireland is now placed, and the excitement produced in his mind, I was far from implying, or wishing to imply, that there was anything like a systematic attempt by the counsel for the traversers to create such a state of feeling, or any thing which under other circumstances, and on other minds, ought to have produced such a result.
§ Mr. Shaw
felt extremely sorry to be obliged to say a few words on this painful occasion, which indeed he should not have been led to do, except that the Members of Her Majesty's Government, who had spoken on the present occasion, had defended the Attorney-general for Ireland merely as an official colleague; whilst he (Mr. Shaw) had known him from the earliest period of life, as a private and valued friend. With respect to the act itself, with which his right hon. and learned Friend was charged, it must be admitted at once that no one could defend or vindicate it. The only vindication or excuse that could be offered for it was, that in a moment of strong irritation the right hon. and learned Gentleman had been betrayed to do that which all who heard him might themselves, under similar circumstances, fall into the error of doing likewise, and which, if they did it, neither themselves nor their friends could possibly defend. But admitting this, he did not think that so ungenerous and unjustifiable an attack had ever been made by any gentleman or any lawyer upon another, as that which had been made by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite upon the right hon. Gentleman in his absence. The hon. and learned Gentleman had not only stated the charge against the absent Attorney-general, but had gone at length into remarks upon the impropriety of the act with which he charged him. Now, he thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman was not the very man in that House who should be the first to throw a stone in a matter of this kind. Did the hon. and learned Gentleman mean to say that he of all men was the one to stand up and lecture the House against the impropriety of a practice which they all were strictly bound to condemn? But what he most complained of in this attack upon his right hon. and learned Friend was, because it went not only to the ex 191 tent of this particular part of his conduct, but that the hon. Gentleman opposite had talked of his right hon. Friend as a man altogether unworthy and unfit for the office which he held. Now, he considered this to be the most ungenerous and unjust attack which could possibly be made against any absent individual, and he would appeal to all sides of the House whether it was an attack which they could sanction. With respect to the general character of his right hon. and learned Friend, he would take upon him to say that there was no man in Ireland more eminent in his profession than that right hon. and learned Gentleman; or who was more high-minded in the conduct of all business entrusted in his hands. The right hon. Gentleman, he declared fearlessly, was on all hands esteemed an honour to his country, and a credit to his profession. He saw opposite the hon. and learned Member for Cashel, who was himself one of the Queen's sergeants, and he hoped that he would get up and say whether, in his opinion, the right hon. Gentleman was not an honour to his profession, and what was his opinion of his conduct throughout these proceedings. The hon. and learned Member for Cork had alluded to other circumstances in the course of these proceedings, particularly to the fact that, when Mr. O'Connell left the court to go into the library, as was alleged, the Attorney-general caused him to be called back into court, more like a felon than a misdemeanant. But was the fact as stated, or was it not rather that the traverser had made an appointment to meet the Repeal Association, and that the Attorney-general, feeling the impropriety of such a proceeding during the pending of the investigation before the court, caused him to be called back, and that not as a culprit, but as a member of the bar, with his gown on, to sit as a counsel in the court? The hon. and learned Member for Cork, and the hon. and learned Member for Bath, said that the Attorney-general for Ireland was a disgrace to his profession, and the former hon. and learned Member said that he ought to be expelled from his office with ignominy. Now he asserted that he had heard men of the highest professional rank in this country, and men of all parties in Ireland, agree in saying that upon the whole they considered that under the trying circumstances in which he had been placed, his right 192 hon. and learned Friend had acquitted himself with the greatest ability, and temper, and in every respect in a way to do him great credit. He believed that his right hon. and learned Friend felt, and he believed that he was justified in the impression, that the object of those who were opposed to him in the case was to irritate him and run him down personally. This he believed also was the impression of the public in general; and for his own part, he sincerely believed that it being known that his right hon. and learned Friend was subject to some infirmities of temper, it was part of the system, from the beginning to the end, which was acted upon by the friends of the party, and by newspapers, and in every possible way to attack and irritate the Attorney-general, in order to unfit him for the discharge of his public duties. Now, for his part, he (Mr. Shaw) had never expressed an opinion upon the subject of these prosecutions; but he must declare that on the whole the Attorney-general had conducted himself most creditably throughout the whole of the arduous duty devolving upon him. With respect to the particular point, in which his right hon. Friend had certainly acted in a manner for which he would not attempt to defend him, it should be, at the same time, borne in mind that at the time the hostile message was sent to Mr. Fitzgibbon, the court was actually not present. If they had been present when such an occurrence took place, there could be no doubt but that the court would have at once interposed with its authority, and it would be recollected also that when the court reassembled, on the matter being brought before it, the Chief Justice expressed himself in the strongest terms of displeasure at the occurrence and the note was withdrawn. So far from the court being called upon to do more than it did, he would undertake to say that no court in Christendom would have committed the Attorney-general under such circumstances. The matter complained of was not done in the sitting of the court, there were no proceedings going on at the time. He must say that the case, having been disposed of by the proper tribunal, he thought any allusions to it had better be avoided elsewhere. Above all things he considered an attack of this nature upon an absent individual was most unjust and ungenerous, and he hoped the House would not sanction it.
§ Dr. Stock
said, he should have desired to decline taking any part in the present discussion, but in consequence of the appeal so directly made to him by his right hon. and learned Friend, he found such a course was no longer possible. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had called upon him to bear testimony to the private and professional character of the Attorney-general for Ireland. To those topics, therefore, he should strictly confine himself. With respect to the mode of conducting the state trials that were at present engrossing the attention of the empire, he could not say that he was prepared to lend his testimony to what had fallen from the right hon. Member. The right hon. Attorney, general had shown on this occasion, as in every other part of his professional life, a profound knowledge of the law and very great ability. And he would also say, although he had not himself been personally a witness to the proceedings in Dublin, that the right hon. Gentleman had exhibited, under very trying circumstances—until the last unfortunate exhibition—a control of temper which neither his friends had hoped for, or his enemies anticipated. No public officer who had ever discharged duties of such importance on so critical an occasion had ever been placed under circumstances which called more decidedly for the exercise of judgment and temper; and he was prepared also to state this from his belief that there were not wanting inducements on the other side to bring to the test those infirmities of temper which had been attributed to the Attorney-general. He made no individual accusation, but in common fairness he repeated, that taking every circumstance into consideration, the Attorney-general had acted, up to the last unfortunate incident, with more than the temper that was usually expected from him. In the course of his life he had known the right hon. Gentleman intimately and well; and be would say that a better man—a more honourable man, or one who more virtuously filled all the relations of private life, did not exist in the community. He was also an honour to his profession—he was a man of the greatest legal learning and acuteness—and up to the moment when he was selected as the Attorney-general of the present Government he had entitled himself to and enjoyed the universal deference and respect of the profession; while, at the same time, in private life, he was a man of the most unexceptionable character. Notwithstanding, he 194 thought the choice of the right hon. Gentleman as Attorney-general was a most unfortunate one. Considering the nature of the plans entertained by the present Government for the administration of affairs in Ireland, they had not perhaps made choice of the fittest instrument for carrying those plans into execution. There were other members of the Conservative bar of that country who would have been more peculiarly qualified for the duty than Mr. Smith. At the same time, as he had already said, a more excellent man or a better lawyer did not exist.
§ Lord Ingestre
, having been present during part of the proceedings in Dublin, could bear testimony to the propriety of the Attorney-general's conduct under circumstances of great difficulty and provocation; among others, he need only remind the House of the expression of Mr. O'Connell with respect to him, used elsewhere, when he said, "No verdict; no chief justice." He only mentioned this as an instance of the attacks the Attorney-general met with from all quarters. He repeated, that the Attorney-general conducted himself with the greatest politeness and kindness of demeanour during the trials.
§ Mr. Wallace
said, from all he had heard there was no man who had more occasion to exclaim, "Defend me from my friends," than the Attorney-general for Ireland. From all he had heard from the opposite side of the House, beginning with the noble Lord the Member for North Lancashire, and ending with the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, it seemed to be agreed that the right hon. Gentleman was the most unfit person to fill the situation of Attorney-general who could possibly be supposed to occupy it. Indeed, they had had an instance of his incompetency in this House last Session, in the conduct of the Arms' Bill; and in which the Attorney-general for England was obliged to do all his work. What had been the conduct of Government in reference to other parties connected with the administration of justice? He alluded to those gentlemen in the commission of the peace, and who possessed the confidence of the people. When certain of those gentlemen were found by the Government to be favourable to the Repeal of the Union, they were at once removed from the commission without any trial or investigation whatever. There were no three- 195 cornered notes in their cases. No such course, however, was to be pursued to wards the Attorney-general for Ireland. The temper of that right hon. and learned Gentleman was well known. The House had been a witness of his irritability during the debates on the Arms' Bill of last year, and he would say that he was the last man who should have been trusted to conduct the prosecution now going on in Ireland, and that he was totally unworthy of the situation he filled. It could not be charged to that (the Opposition) side of the House that the question had been brought forward that evening. The fault was in the introduction of the three paragraphs in the Speech, and in the Address, referring to the affairs of Ireland, and to the proceedings now going on there. He could not see for what purpose those paragraphs had been introduced, unless to muzzle the House, and that purpose being seen and understood, the Government had themselves only to blame that the subject had been discussed on the present occasion. He should support the amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale for the omission of the words.
§ Mr. Brotherton
did not rise to make reflections or cast imputations on the Attorney-General—but rather seized upon this as a fitting opportunity for eliciting from the House the expression of their strong disapprobation of a practice, which all must acknowledge to be contrary to the law of God, and opposed to every principle of that religion which the House testified so anxious a desire to uphold. Much had been said in palliation of the Attorney-general's conduct on that side of the House, where it seemed to be thought, that, had he waited till the termination of the proceedings before sending his challenge, his course would not have been open to animadversion. Was not the crime that of murder? Why should not criminals brought to the bar for other heinous offences, be equally entitled to plead the infirmity of human nature in extenuation of their crimes? Let men fear to do wrong; but let them not fear to brave public opinion, when engaged in the defence of that which is just and right. The man who sent, and the man who accepted a challenge ought to be disgraced in the eyes of the country; and then, when it was no longer fashionable to light duels, other modes would be discovered for the adjustment of differences. The hon. Member concluded by calling on 196 the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government to lend his powerful influence, for the purpose of putting a stop to this iniquitous practice.
§ Mr. Curteis
would vote for the amendment, and thought the Government had only themselves to blame for it being brought forward, for if they had not wished the subject to be discussed, why was any allusion made to it in the Speech? It was argued that to discuss the question now might have the effect of influencing the verdict in Dublin, and he agreeing with those who wished a fair verdict to be given, unbiassed by anything that might take place in that House or elsewhere, was anxious to expunge altogether from the Address all those passages that related to Ireland and the proceedings now going on in that country. He regretted that the noble Lord, the leader of the Opposition, had not yesterday moved an amendment expressing the disapprobation of the House at the conduct of the Government towards Ireland, which might have united the whole strength of the party on that side of the House, instead of leaving the party to be divided as they were on the previous day, and their strength frittered away by amendments which few could support, and in which he had been compelled to vote in two divisions with the party on the other side. He gave credit to the right hon. and learned Member (Mr. Shaw) for the warm and manly manner in which he had defended his absent friend the Attorney-general for Ireland. He (Mr. Curteis), while he joined in condemning such an ebullition of temper as that law officer of the Crown had exhibited in a court of justice, could not go so far as to say that he thought his conduct called for his dismissal.
§ Sir H. W. Barron
had understood the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland to say, that the Attorney-general for Ireland had conducted himself with remarkable temper and forbearance during the state prosecutions in Dublin. Now, with great respect for the noble Lord, he must beg leave to tell him that he had been grossly misinformed, for he knew the noble Lord was incapable of misrepresenting facts that came within his own knowledge. He (Sir H. Barron) had been an attentive observer of these proceedings, and he must assert that never in the whole course of his reading and experience, had he become acquainted with an instance in which 197 such gross want of temper had been exhibited, and such insulting language had been used under similar circumstances. During the whole of those transactions, from the beginning to the end, the conduct of the Attorney-general for Ireland had been characterized by want of temper, want of judgment and want of discretion. What had happened at the very commencement of the prosecution? Three of the solicitors employed by the traversers had made an affidavit that it was necessary for the purposes of the defence to have certain papers, and that leave should be given to collect evidence; and they stated that unless this was conceded it would be impossible that the defence could be conducted with justice to their respective clients. And notwithstanding that statement made upon oath by those gentlemen, the Attorney-general had gone down, and upon his ipse dixit, unsupported by any affidavit, told the Court that the application of the three solicitors was made for the mere purpose of delay. A more unusual and improper proceeding—a more gross attempt to pervert justice, had never been witnessed; and so strongly was that opinion entertained by the Court itself, that the Chief Justice reproved the Attorney-general for making use of language so improper. And in the presence of the Court the Attorney-general was obliged to retract the words' he had used, and apologise to the three attorneys who had made the affidavit. [Mr. Shaw: You are surely speaking of some one else]. [A Voice: Mr. Brewster]. Although the facts he had been narrating applied personally to another of the Crown counsel, the Attorney-general was present and took part in the whole proceedings. Again, in opening the case, the Attorney general had not taken the usual course of stating the charge, and saying he should bring forward witnesses to prove it, but he told the Court that he knew of his own knowledge, and could prove, that the traversers were implicated in a most formidable conspiracy. Aggravating the case in every position, and using the most violent language to every one of the traversers in rotation. Such language would not be tolerated in the Courts of this country, and had never been employed by an Attorney-general for England, in conducting a Government prosecution. Then, again, the Attorney-general for Ireland had struck out the name of every Roman 198 Catholic that was on the jury panel. The Catholic portion of the people of Ireland felt this to be an insult offered to them, whilst its injustice to the accused was apparent, by the fact that not one name had been left upon the panel from which the jury was to be chosen, but those of persons who were notoriously opposed to the traversers in politics, and more especially so upon the point upon which the trial turned. Why if a foreigner—if a Turk were accused of a crime in this country, he would be tried by a jury composed partly of foreigners; but in Ireland a man was to be tried for a political offence entirely by his political enemies. And let him ask, if a verdict were obtained, what moral effect would it have in this country? He believed the conduct of the Irish Attorney-general, in reference to these trials, had produced more animosity and ill-feeling in Ireland, and more danger to the British connection, than anything that had occurred for fifty years before. The Roman Catholics of Ireland felt they were insulted by the present Attorney-general being continued in office. On this point there was but one opinion amongst them; an opinion shared by those who were opposed to repeal as well as by those who were in favour of it; and be could assure the Government that they need never expect to rule Ireland in peace or quiet while the present Attorney-general held office. With regard to the question before the House, he thought it would have been far better had all mention of the subject of the repeal of the Union been omitted from the Speech from the Throne. Under the direction of Ministers Her Majesty had already expressed the determination to maintain the Union inviolate. It was, therefore, quite unnecessary to repeat that declaration, and he found that the only effect it could have, would be to bias the jury now sitting in Dublin. The prosecution would, he was convinced, do much mischief in Ireland, but the mention of them in the Speech and in the Address in answer to it, would, he feared, do much more.
§ Mr. Hume
concurred with his hon. Friend who had proposed the amendment, that it would be most improper for that House to do anything which might prejudice the trials now going on, or injure the traversers. The only question whether the words to which reference had been made, as contained in the Speech 199 and in the Address would have that effect. And upon this point, the authorities of the House were divided, They were to consider, whether the words in question did convey the meaning imputed to them by his hon. Friend, and whether or not any harm would be done to the Address by omitting them from the Address. It was disclaimed on the other side, by the right hon. Gentleman, that there was any intention of injuring the cause of the traversers by the insertion of the words, while on his side it was as strongly contended, by the hon. and learned Member for Bath, and others, that that result would follow. He would, therefore say, that the better course would he to admit the amendment.
§ Dr. Bowring
would vote for the omission of the words. If it was intended to maintain the Union between Great Britain and Ireland by measures like those which had recently been brought to bear in that country, he was convinced, that Union could not be of long continuance. And he would ask those who attached importance to the word union, whether they considered the Union, was represented by what was now taking place in Ireland! Were the courts of justice in that country to be so constituted as to exclude the professors of the religion of seven eighths of the whole population from the humblest judicial functions? If that was the law in Ireland it was unjust, and it was not surprising that it was found to be intolerable; and if it was not the law, he would ask by what extraordinary means was it that the protection of the law was denied to those who were the subjects of the state prosecutions in that country? He concurred with his hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. Brotherton) in abhorring the practice of duelling, and when he saw in the highest and most exalted places—in the sanctuary of justice—in the faces of those who represented the law, or ought to represent it, in all its dignity and majesty—that there the law was violated, and so gross an offence was committed by a Gentleman who was charged by the Government with the maintenance of the peace, he thought some expression of their condemnation of such conduct was called for. He regretted to perceive a great disposition to slur over the conduct of that officer, and to regard it in a light and trifling manner. There was a great demand in Ireland for local legislation, and 200 when he saw what had been done by the House of Commons for the well-being of England, Scotland, and Wales, he feared much of the outbreak they witnessed in Ireland, was the result of a national feeling, that the House of Commons was not competent to the task of discharging its duties to the whole community for which it undertook to legislate. Thirty years ago Mr. Ricardo had expressed a strong opinion, that the Union could not be maintained with Ireland. He did not think it wrong for an Irishman to say, that the Union was pernicious to the interests of his country if he thought so, nor that an Englishman would be wrong, in listening to the argument in support of that opinion. Why was he to say, that under no circumstances should Ireland have a local legislature? Why was he to say that this particular act comprises the concentration of human wisdom, and under no circumstances must it be changed? If he consented to this Address it would imply that his opinion was forestalled, and therefore, he should support the amendment.
§ The House divided, on the question, that the words proposed to be left out, stand part of the question:—Ayes 142; Noes 35: Majority 107.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, T. D.||Corry, rt. hon. H.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Cripps, W.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Darby, G.|
|Allix, J. P.||Dickinson, F. H.|
|Antrobus, E.||D'Israeli, B.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Douglas, J. D. S.|
|Arkwright, G.||Drummond, H. H.|
|Bailey, J.||Dugdale, W. S.|
|Bailey, J. jun.||Duncan, Visct.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Eliot, Lord|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Escott, B.|
|Beckett, W.||Estcourt, T. G. B.|
|Bell, M.||Farnham, E. B.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Flower, Sir J.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Follett, Sir W. W.|
|Borthwick, P.||Ffolliott, J.|
|Botfield, B.||Forster, M.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Fuller, A. E.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Gaskell, J. Milnes|
|Buckley, E.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Campbell, J. H.||Gordon, hon. Capt.|
|Cardwell, E.||Gore, M.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Gore, W. O.|
|Clayton, R R.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Clive, Visct.||Granger, T. C.|
|Cochrane, A.||Greenall, P.|
|Compton, H. C.||Greene, T.|
|Conolly, Col.||Grimsditch, T.|
|Coote, Sir C. H.||Halford, H.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Hamilton, J. H.||Newport, Visct.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Nicholl, rt. hon. J.|
|Hamilton, W. J.||Northland, Visct.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||O'Brien, A. S.|
|Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.||Paget, Lord W.|
|Hardy, J.||Pakington, J. S.|
|Hastie, A.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Heneage, G. H. W.||Peel, J.|
|Henley, J. W.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Hepburn, Sir T. B.||Pollington, Visct.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Pollock, Sir F.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Pringle, A.|
|Hodgson, R.||Rashleigh, W.|
|Holmes, hn. W. A'Ct.||Round, J.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Rushbrooke, Col.|
|Hope, G. W.||Russell, J. D. W.|
|Hornby, J.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Hussey, A.||Shaw, rt. hon. F.|
|Ingestrie, Viset.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Stanley, Lord|
|Jones, Capt.||Stewart, J.|
|Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Lawson, A.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Lefroy, A.||Thesiger, F.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Tollemache, J.|
|Lockhart, W.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|M'Geachy, F. A.||Turnor, C.|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Maclean, D.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|M'Neill, D.||Williams, W.|
|Manners, Lord J.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Martin, C. W.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Master, T. W. C.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Masterman, J.||Wyndham, Col. C.|
|Maxwell, hon. J. P.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Meynell, Capt.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Miles, P. W. S.||Young, J.|
|Mitchell, T. A.|
|Morgan, C.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Napier, Sir C.||Baring, H.|
|List of the AYES.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Bernal, Capt.||Murphy, F. S.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||Murray, A.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Pattison, J.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Brotherton, J.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Busfeild, W.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Scholefield, J.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Scott, R.|
|Duncombe, T.||Stock, Serj.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Elphinstone, H.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Esmonde, Sir T.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Fielden, J.||Wakley, T.|
|French, F.||Wallace, R.|
|Gibson, T. M.||Wood, B.|
|Gore, hon. R.||TELLERS.|
|Hume, J.||Crawford, S.|
|Langston, J. H.||O'Conor, Don|
§ Main question again proprsed.
Mr. F. Ffrench
complained, of the Go- 202 vernment appointments in Ireland, under the present Ministry. Patronage had been almost exclusively bestowed upon Englishmen and Scotchmen, to the exclusion of natives of Ireland. The Lord-lieutenant was an Englishman—the Chief Secretary for Ireland, was an Englishman—the Archbishop of Dublin, was an Englishman—the Chief Commissioner of the Board of Works, was an Englishman—the Paymaster of the Civil Service, was a Scotchman—the head of the Constabulary force, was also a Scotchman—the head of the Revenue police, was an Englishman—the Poor-law Commissioners, were Englishmen—the head of the Coast guard was an Englishman, and as to Lord Devon's landlord and tenant commission, its constitution, he considered, to be an insult to Ireland. He certainly thought it very hard, that such a system should be adopted and so strenuously persevered in.
§ Sir Robert Peel
; I will not characterise the attack, which the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has made upon the Government. It is true, Sir, that we appointed five commissioners to inquire into that most important subject, the relation of landlord and tenant in Ireland—to enquire into the state of the law relative to the occupation of land. Sir, the whole of these five gentlemen are proprietors of land in Ireland. It certainly was desirable that one of them should have a knowledge of English law as bearing upon questions relative to the occupancy of land. There was a nobleman, the proprietor of great estates in the south-west of Ireland, and who has also been a Master in Chancery, and who had thus many opportunities of becoming acquainted with the bearings of English law as to land; this nobleman being willing to undertake the duties, and able to bring his legal knowledge to bear upon the question, and being also peculiarly fitted for the task from the circumstance of his having undertaken personally the management of his Irish estates—having managed these estates well, and showed great sympathy with the occupying tenantry—this nobleman, I repeat, was placed at the head of the com-mission, and because he was so placed—assisted, mind, by four gentlemen, differing, indeed, in opinions, but all alike in the possession of the highest reputation for honour, intelligence, and integrity—and the hon. Gentleman calls this com- 203 mission a specimen of the insults offered by the Government to the people of Ireland. I ask the House whether the imputation be a just one? With respect to the secretaryship of the commission, I must remark that in such cases it is usual for the Crown to name a chief secretary. Now, Sir, we expressly declined either to nominate or suggest a gentleman to fill the office. We told the commission that they should have ample pecuniary means for the support of an establishment necessary for the extensive enquiries in which they were about to engage; but with respect to patronage, that the Government would never issue a single appointment—they would not even name a secretary, but having the fullest confidence in the gentlemen forming the commission, they would devolve that duty upon them. Thus, Sir, the whole of the five commissioners are Irish proprietors, I may say, that four of them, at least, are Irish residents, while the other visits Ireland every year. The reason, I repeat, why the Earl of Devon was appointed to the head of the commission was, not that he was an Englishman, but that he had a knowledge of English law and practice relative to the land which it was desirable to introduce for the benefit of the Irish tenantry.
§ Mr. Sharman Crawford
wished to say a few words, for he felt that he should not be doing justice to the commission did he not state his firm conviction, founded upon a personal examination of two days to which he had been subjected, that the commission was most intent upon the best mode of fulfilling its duty, and was most anxious to procure the best information. In the last Session of Parliament, upon the occasion of the discussion of the bill relating to landlord and tenant, which he had introduced, the Government had pledged itself to institute inquiries into the subject of that bill, and he had to express his thanks for the appointment of the commission, and to acknowledge that, by its constitution, the Government had faithfully performed the promise made last Session.
§ Sir R. Peel
I ask the House to suspend its judgment on an occasion of this kind until Government has an opportunity of refuting the charges brought against it. And I ask, upon future occasions of the sort, should they arise, to bring their experience of this evening to bear, and to remember, first, the charges made by the 204 hon. Gentleman, the Member for Roscommon, with respect to an insult to Ireland, and afterwards the reply made by the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Rochdale. I ask for no other refutation than the words of the latter hon. Gentleman to the charges of the former.
§ Mr. F. French
denied having made any attack upon the Earl of Devon sufficient to justify the tone assumed by the right hon. Baronet opposite. However, he feared not the right hon. Gentleman's reply. Both attack and reply would go forth to the country, and the House would see what the people of Ireland would think of both.
§ Sir Robert Peel
had not charged the hon. Gentleman with having made an attack upon the Earl of Devon. The hon. Gentleman had made no such attack, and he had not imputed it to him. But he had complained that the hon. Gentleman had said, that it was an insult to Ireland, that the Earl of Devon had been selected for the head of the commission.