brought up the Report on the Address, which was read paragraph by paragraph, by the Clerk at the Table. Upon arriving at that paragraph of the Address which pledges the House to maintain inviolate the Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland.
§ Mr. Sharman Crawford
rose to object to the retention of this portion of the Address. If it were not right, as was elsewhere most justly stated, to take into consideration or to pronounce an opinion upon events in Ireland, in respect to which proceedings were pending before the proper legal tribunal, it was certainly not right to call upon the House to pledge themselves upon the subject of Repeal, a matter which assuredly had a great deal to do with the events now pending in Ireland, and a declaration upon which, on the part of the House, must have a very considerable influence, directly or indirectly, upon those proceedings, He objected, under these circumstances, to the House giving such a pledge as this at present. He had taken no part in the Repeal agitation, he did not belong to the Repeal Association, he had hitherto abstained from joining it; but, on the other hand, he must protest against giving any pledge, that under no circumstances should he think it proper to advocate a Repeal of the Union. For he felt 161 this, that unless the Union was to be carried out in an effective manner, so as that Ireland should receive full justice in every respect as well as England, the Union ought to be repealed. If such laws as the Irish Arms Bill were to characterise imperial legislation for Ireland, if Ireland were uniformly to be denied equal rights, mid equal justice, her people were fully warranted in demanding the Repeal of the Union, and the Repeal of the Union ought to be granted them, The House had often before entered into pledges expressive of its attachment to the Union, and had combined those pledges with declarations of their anxious desire to improve the condition of Ireland, and to raise the Irish people to an equality with the English people, but these pledges had uniformly been broken, and faith had not been kept with Ireland. The pledge was here again proposed, accompanied by a similar declaration, but he, for one, would be no party to the pledge, until he saw some practical steps taken towards realising the promise to do justice to his country. He conceived that those who were desirous of asserting the rights of Ireland should be very cautious how they adopted any such pledge as this. The Union had hitherto been maintained in a manner which inflicted the greatest wrongs on the people of Ireland. It had been said that there was a conspiracy in Ireland against the Government, he considered that there had been a conspiracy elsewhere against the people of Ireland. He would, however, abstain from entering on any part of the subject at present, and with the view of keeping clear in that House of any declaration of opinion, which might have any influence upon the pending trials—which most assuredly such a pledge as that proposed would have—he should move the amendment he had mentioned. He would merely warn the Government that the steps which had lately been taken in Ireland, had been adding to the numbers of the Repealers and the power of the Repeal agitation more than anything that had ever taken place here. Men the best affected to the British connection were placed in such a position that they really did not know what course to adopt. He himself was well inclined to maintain the connection, and had always been desirous of maintaining it, but if he were called upon to maintain it any longer at the sacrifice of the rights and liberties which he, as an Irishman, held most dear, he would throw the connection to the winds. The 162 hon. Member concluded by moving the omission from the Address of the following words:—We humbly thank your Majesty, that your Majesty, at the close of the last Session of Parliament, was graciously pleased to declare to us your firm determination to maintain inviolate the Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland; and also that your Majesty expressed at the same time your Majesty's earnest desire to co-operate with Parliament in the adoption of all such measures as might tend to improve the social condition of Ireland, and to develope the natural resources of that part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. F. French
would suggest that the whole paragraph should be expunged, or not inserted until the Government had made some explicit statement as to what remedies they really proposed for the grievances of Ireland.
The O'Connor Don
concurred in thinking that at the present moment it would be extremely injudicious to insist upon the House coming to such a pledge as this, upon a subject which was the direct matter of important judicial proceedings now pending. It appeared to him that the opinions of Her Majesty on the subject of the Union had already been so explicitly declared in former sessions, that it was unnecessary to renew the declaration, or for the House to come to such a pledge as this at the present moment. It could hardly be doubted that an explicit declaration like this, under the existing circumstances, would practically amount to a declaration that the proceedings of those whose conduct was now the subject of inquiry, were at variance with the feelings and wishes of Her Majesty, and this could not but have an effect in influencing the jury; on this account he thought the House ought to be very chary how they adopted any such expressions. This was not an occasion for discussing the policy of repeal, and therefore, he would merely observe that, when a more fitting time should arrive, he conceived the subject itself was perfectly open for discussion. As had been observed by the noble Member for London last year, the question of repealing an act of Parliament, and the Union was only an act of Parliament, was one the discussion of which was no infringement of the constitution; but, on the contrary, it was part of the constitution that Parliament and people should have full liberty to discuss such questions. The 163 question agitated in Ireland was not the separation of the two countries, but the restoration of the domestic legislature, as it existed before the Union.
§ Sir Robert Peel
thought he might safely appeal to the House, whether the general tenour of this Address was not that which carried with it a convincing proof that it was not the wish of the Government, in advising the Speech from the Throne, to influence, in the slightest degree, the decision of the jury on the trials now pending. He had been greatly surprised, therefore, at hearing the objections that had been taken that night, and the more so, because when the subject was discussed on the previous evening, many hon. Gentlemen opposed to the Government had admitted that there was not the slightest difficulty in concurring in the Address which had been proposed. On the preceding evening some Gentlemen had certainly proposed amendments, but they were on altogether different points. The hon. Member for Rochdale himself proposed one, but that was with reference to the supplies, the hon. Member then finding no fault at all with that portion of the Address which he now arraigned. The hon. Member for Montrose also moved an amendment, but that, too, was upon quite a different subject. The noble Member for the city of London, and the noble Member for Tiverton both expressed their entire acquiescence in the Address. He must really look upon it as somewhat fastidious criticism to suggest that this reference to the Union could in any way or degree prejudice the jury. As well might it be argued that the other portion of the paragraph which expressed Her Majesty's earnest desire to co-operate with Parliament in the adoption of measures tending to improve the condition of Ireland, was an untimely declaration under existing circumstances, and calculated to prejudice the jury in favour of the defence. The very next paragraph expressly recognisedThe just consideration of Her Majesty, in forbearing from observations on events in Ireland, in respect to which proceedings are pending before the proper legal tribunal.Nothing could be less equivocal than this distinct declaration on the part of Her Majesty; nothing could more clearly show how great was the desire to avoid any interference with the due course of the law, on the part of those who framed 164 the Speech. He could not for a moment entertain the proposal of the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Blewitt
said, that if he had had time on the preceding evening to take the various paragraphs of the Address into his consideration, he should most assuredly have made the same objection that had now been advanced. He regarded the introduction of the words in question as most unconstitutional, indecorous, and improper, under existing circumstances. He had, last Session, complained of the right hon. Gentleman, as having made use of Her Majesty's name in an unconstitutional manner. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had now committed a similar impropriety in advising Her Majesty to declare to the people of Ireland, who were dissatisfied with the existing law, that she will not have that law changed. Now, the Crown, though it had the power of rejection, had by no means exclusively the power of initiation; the Crown had by no means the power to tell the people that they shall not agitate the question, whether a law of which they disapprove, ought not to be erased from the statute book. It was a great feature in the constitutional privileges of the people of this country, that they might agitate against a law with which they are dissatisfied. The introduction of such a declaration as this would not only unconstitutionally prejudice the pending trials, but it would have the effect of unduly influencing the question when it should be brought forward at a future period. Suppose the right hon. Gentleman were, in a similar way, to declare it to be Her Majesty's determination that the Corn-laws should be maintained for ever, which was just the same thing in point of principle? But the right hon. Gentleman would not venture upon such a step as that; he knew perfectly well that it would create such an agitation throughout the country, as had never existed here since we were a nation. Why then, should the right hon. Baronet take a course with reference to Ireland which he dared not take with reference to England? He (Mr. Blewitt) felt deeply on this subject; when he read the history of this country, and the history of Ireland as connected with this country, he almost blushed at the name of Englishman. He verily believed there had been more atrocities committed by England upon Ireland than had 165 been experienced by any other civilized nation from its neighbour. And still, Session after Session passed away, and no effectual attempt was made to do justice to that most unhappy country. What a spectacle was that presented by Ireland! Seven millions of men labouring under the most oppressive and galling grievances—grievances which he, as an Englishman, could see, could enter thoroughly into; were he an Irishman, he really could not say how far his feelings might carry hint, witnessing and experiencing such monstrous tyranny and injustice. It was his misfortune, most certainly, not to have met with much favour in the House; he knew not why. He could only say that since he had had the honour of a seat in that House he had always in private conducted himself towards Members with the greatest courtesy, and he was quite sure he did not deserve the want of courtesy which was exhibited towards him. He did not profess to be gifted with any eloquence, or to have that power of speech with which other hon. Members were endowed; but this he could say,—he studied the questions which were brought before the House, and endeavoured to understand every question brought before it; and if he were not allowed to express his sentiments, it was full time that the House should tell him that he was unworthy of a seat there, and send him back to his constituents, that some more worthy person might be elected in his stead. He hoped, in future, he should not again have occasion to make any such complaint. He should conclude with stating that the motion before the House had his most cordial approbation.
§ Mr. Roebuck
said,—As the question of the present situation of Ireland has been brought forward, and allusion has been made to the trials now taking place, I will take this opportunity of putting a question to the right hon. Baronet respecting those trials. I shall proceed from that to make some other remarks. I am about to ask the right hon. Baronet, if Her Majesty's Government have directed their attention to the conduct of a person—a gentleman who by his official station is at the head of the law in that country, and who is now conducting those prosecutions? I shall endeavour as much as possible to avoid allusion to the result of this prosecution, not that I at all agree in that species of delicacy that has been thought 166 to be right, but I bow to the general feeling, however I may differ from the House on that point. Still I have a feeling of duty respecting the due administration of justice, which forbids me to be silent on the present occasion—which commands me to exercise the right I now possess, and which I now exercise, of bringing this question before the House. Sir, if there be one thing more than another which ought to distinguish a state prosecution, which is a painful duty at best, undertaken for a great public good—if there is one thing more than another which ought to distinguish such a prosecution, it is a calm, decorous, sedate and considerate behaviour on the part of those who conduct it; and I appeal to this House—I appeal, not to Ireland, but to England, to tell us if that calm, sedate, considerate, and decorous demeanour had been evidenced by the Attorney-general for Ireland? In the presence of the assembled judges of the land, the ministers of the law, and the maintainers of peace, there has been one of the most gross—(I can use no harsher words, for the English language does not supply rue with a stronger)—a more gross breach of the common decencies of his station could not be committed than has been committed by the Attorney-general for Ireland. It is a breach of the law in the first place, and a breach of the law, too, at the time that the Attorney-general was indicting, as the representative of the Crown, "a great criminal," as he says, "for bringing into danger the peace of the country;" and one of the first things he does, as an example to those that he is thus bringing before the tribunals of the country, is to commit so gross a breach of the law which he was vindicating that he ought at the moment to have been committed by the judges of the land. The Attorney-general for Ireland is at this moment, Sir, liable to an indictment. I hope he will be subjected to it; and I should like to hear what his answer will be. I see before me an hon. and learned Friend of mine, to whom I appeal on the present occasion—I speak of him as my learned friend, with pride, and I hope no gentleman from Ireland will take offence—I speak of him with pride when I say the Attorney-general for England—I appeal to him who is a man of long experience, who has set a bright example to the profession and to the country, not simply of a sedate and de- 167 corous, but of a kindliness of manner, which did more to conciliate the very criminal he has prosecuted than even his attempts to vindicate the law—I appeal to him, to confirm my statement. What a contrast there is between my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-general ant the Attorney-general for Ireland! The Attorney-general for England has gone down to vindicate the law as the harbinger of peace, while the petulant lawyer, tin Attorney-general for Ireland has adder fuel to the flame, and has done all In could to instigate confusion and discord in that unhappy land. He has been a torch, instead of a calm and sedate vindicator of the laws of his country. I will not speak of the judges, who were exceedingly remiss in doing their duty. They were filled with a consideration for that officer, which ought to have been over borne by their consideration of the law, and order, and propriety. They ought not to have allowed the interference of any man on that occasion to give advice. Their own breast ought to have suggested to them to do that which the law required them to do—to commit him, and thus to have shown an example to those who should thus break the law. I ask, what will be the influence of this example upon the social condition of Ireland? There is not a man now, Sir, that can speak upon this subject in any other than terms of the greatest disgust. What nice sensibility has been shown by that gentleman in setting an example to call out any man who chooses to make an effective speech on behalf of his client! I am not sure that the practice may not extend further. Why not call out the jury? and I don't know either that the judges are exempt. [A Laugh.] It may well create a laugh; but what I want to introduce into Ireland is what I should consider one of the best things that could result from the Union of England and Ireland,—I mean that conduct which distinguishes the great tribunals of this land, that absence of all emotion, where the judges are as impassible as if they were without emotion, acting with such calmness and decorum that they command the veneration even of the criminal. Can any man for an instant believe, now after justice has been disregarded by this man—who, as I said last year, was unfit to be in the position which he occupies, and who has now proved himself to be totally unworthy of his office—that he will be 168 retained in his position as the chief law officer of the Crown in Ireland? I say, Sir, as soon as the messenger can carry it to that country, that the law should be vindicated, that justice and decency should be satisfied, by the instant and ignominious dismissal of that most unworthy officer. Now, Sir, I have spoken out on this occasion; I have applied epithets to him which I think are fully deserved, and I have no sort of fear that I shall be called upon to apologise or name a friend. If there be one thing which adds to this matter a disgrace beyond the committal of the offence, it is the manner in which it is sought to be defended. The Attorney-general for Ireland, having so far forgotten his position as to challenge a barrister in court, being called upon to explain what he meant, answered his opponent, who had spoken to him in the language of a gentleman, in the language of the law, and told him to make an affidavit. That was mixing up the court of honour and the Court of Queen's Bench in a queer way. But, for a moment, Sir, let us forget all the ludicrous points of this affair—unfortunately there is but a step from that which is the most fearfully mischievous to the ludicrous—let us, however, for an instant forget the ludicrous part of the exhibition, and I most earnestly appeal to the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government, as he respects the peace of Ireland, as he bath regard for the great principles of the Union, as he respects the peace, the honour, and everything that is dear to that country and to this—let us ask the right hon. Baronet, is he ready to vindicate the law upon this occasion?
§ Sir R. Peel
.—Sir, I regret that the hon. and learned Gentleman has felt himself called upon by his sense of public duty to make the observations winch he has made upon the conduct of the Attorney-general for Ireland. I am resolved to adhere to the rule which I laid down last night, and I will not, by any observations, or any comment which may be made upon matters immediately connected with the trials now pending in Ireland, be led into discussion upon that point. I consider it my duty to defer implicitly to the rule which has been laid down in the Speech from the Throne, and to avoid, even upon collateral topics, any observation which can have a bearing upon that matter. I must say, that I think the comments of 169 the hon. and learned Gentleman upon the conduct of the Attorney-general are much more severe and censorious than the occasion requires. The act to which he refers it is impossible for me to justify; the principles for which the hon. Gentleman contends as to the rule of conduct which should influence those who are conducting a great public trial—the justice of those principles I cannot deny. I think it of the greatest public importance, that there should be an absence of all irritation and all exhibitions of temper; but I can state with truth, that a very few hours before the Attorney-general was betrayed by irritation into the act to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred, he did express his entire concurrence in the principles which have just been laid down, and to my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department did give his most positive assurance that no provocation that could be offered should induce him to make such an exhibition. We, who are very imperfectly acquainted with the full particulars of the case, are called upon to express an opinion as to the conduct of the Attorney-general for Ireland. That he was betrayed unfortunately by momentary irritation into the act to which the hon. Gentleman has referred I cannot doubt, and, as I said before, it is impossible entirely to vindicate such an act; but at the same time let us make allowance for the position in which he is placed, let us in justice to him remember the infirmities of our own tempers, and not be led in the absence of the full facts to pronounce a decisive and peremptory judgment. That at any rate the act of the Attorney-general was not a deliberate act, I think must be admitted; there was no retiring from the court, and writing the challenge after some consideration, but by a strong provocation he appears to have been suddenly betrayed into this act. This it was, I presume, that led the Attorney-general to make what was tantamount to a challenge. The court took it up; the Attorney-general expressed his regret for the act; his conduct was noticed by the judges in a manner that must have been very painful to him; and he must have been grieved by the highest authorities in that court, and by the court itself being witnesses of the transaction and expressing their condemnation of the act. The Attorney-general asked permission to 170 withdraw the offensive letter which he had hastily written, and expressed great regret for having been betrayed by sudden emotion into the step which he had adopted. These, I believe, are the facts of the case. As to the question whether Her Majesty's Ministers have taken such notice of the act as shall cause the dismissal of the Attorney-general for Ireland, I say at once, and most distinctly, that Her Majesty's Government have not taken such a step, and do not contemplate it.
§ Mr. Wyse
said, he had heard with much surprise the observations of the right hon. Baronet. He had commenced, by expressing his determination in conformity with the reserve maintained in the Speech from the Throne, and his own pledges of silence on the same questions, not to enter into any discussion, which could bear upon the trials now pending in Ireland, and yet in the very next sentence, when it was expected he would have deferred all farther consideration of the question to some future opportunity, he was betrayed into an ample defence of the recent conduct of the Attorney-general. How far this was consistent, he would not say, but if the debate were now to be continued he must blame himself for its continuance. The observations which had hitherto been made referred to one point principally of the transaction, the utter impropriety of the Attorney-general's conveying a challenge to an opposite counsel in a court of justice, but there was another light in which it was to be regarded, the effect which it had, or might have had, on the case of his client. It appeared from the best authorities, that Mr. Fitzgibbon's observations were in unison with the general instructions he had received, and did not exceed what he deemed necessary for the line of defence which was required for the cause with which he had been entrusted. To establish by admitting for a moment such conduct anything like a precedent for interfering with the right of free speech in defence of a client, would necessarily produce the most dangerous consequences. It would limit the means of protection against charges, which might be the most unfounded, to a narrow circle, and expose the accused to the most cruel disadvantage. But there was a still more important result, not affecting the fortunes of the individual only, but those of the whole country, which must naturally fol- 171 low from this proceeding. The object of all tribunals, of every court and minister of justice, was, it was to be presumed, to vindicate the laws, to impress the public with the conviction of the impartiality, the calmness with which they were administered. It was especially set forth as the great end of these very trials. He fully concurred, it, the importance of this impression; nothing could be more desirable than that the people should be assured, that everything was conducted with a view only to the great ends of justice. But how was this evinced? Here was the prosecutor not only giving himself an instance of a directly opposite conduct, but what he believed to be hardly less injurious to the cause of justice, judges are found to pass over and a Minister of the Crown is found to extenuate such conduct. He was willing to make every allowance for natural infirmity of temper, he could easily conceive how a disposition at all irritable like that of the Attorney-general, with the anxiety which he must of course have experienced at every step of these proceedings, deeply impressed with their magnitude and consequences, affecting not only himself personally, but what he would not refuse him the credit of his believing, that he felt equally affecting the greatest interests of the country, he could easily conceive how such a disposition, especially after the severe test to which it had been previously put by the biting sarcasm and searching eloquence of Mr. Shed, might be easily betrayed in such a moment, and under such circumstances, into language and demeanour to which men of cooler temperaments could never be provoked; but this, though au apology for the man, was none whatever for the Attorney-general; he must add that the slightest consideration of the solemn nature of the duties he had in hand, should have at least led him to notify to Mr. Fitzgibbon, before he resorted to his ultima ratio of arms, the meaning which he attached to his expressions, and have requested an explanation in the presence of the court; or should this have appeared objectionable, another course was open to him, he might have placed himself in the hands of the court, and relied upon its judgment for decision in the matter. This would have been the obvious course pointed out by his position 172 and functions, and the very serious responsibilities with which he was intrusted. Neither of these two courses the Attorney-general thought proper to adopt; but in the very sanctuary of justice itself, almost in the presence of the judges, and in the midst of the exercise of his high duties—when the absence of all passion was most to be wished for and most to be demanded, he sends a challenge to whom? to the counsel of one of the traversers whom he was prosecuting, to Mr. Fitzgibbon!—he could not but say, with such facts before him, with every admission he had already made, that so extreme a step at such a moment, and in such a capacity, was an act of the grossest possible official misconduct, and such as not even Her Majesty's Government could seriously think of vindicating. But he would not at this moment pursue the question further. He wished, that nothing should interfere with the dispassionate judgment of the jury: it should not be said, of this side of the House at least, that they did any thing which could prevent their decision, whatever it might be, from coming as calmly and coolly as possible before the public. Whenever he (Mr. Wyse) had deviated from this rule, he did so on the strongest provocation. The proceedings which marked the selection of the jury, and to which he would not for the present more particularly advert, were such as called for in his mind, the sharpest and most immediate reprehension. He thought it his duty, to resent in terms the strongest and most indignant he could use, the insult and injury offered to the whole religious persuasion of which he had the honour to be a member. He would have despised himself, and others would have a right to despise hint as base, pusillanimous, unworthy of the liberties which he maintained he had a right to enjoy, had he acted otherwise. But this was a circumstance of peculiar moment, calculated to have the deepest and most sinister influence on the feelings and conduct of the whole Catholic community of Ireland. Discussion on the Repeal of the Union in this House, at this period of the Session, or rather in the present position of the trials, was a totally different question. It could not but tend in one way or other to affect the opinions of the jury, and give a bias from which they ought to be kept, as much as possible, exempt. He was not, 173 as the House was aware, a repealer himself: he had given evidence to the contrary both in and out of Parliament, to which he should not then recur; he had lately been called on to declare whether he would join the Association or not, and had found himself compelled by conscientious convictions, respectfully but explicitly, to decline the proposition; he candidly, and openly made this declaration to his constituents. but he felt it not less his duty to declare as candidly and openly to that House, that the reason why he had not complied with the requisition, was the belief which he still, amidst so many disappointments, continued, he hoped not erroneously, to nourish, that intermediate measures for the redress of the many grievances under which his country laboured, might still be found sufficient to render such an extreme course unnecessary: he still had hopes, that the Imperial Parliament would awaken for its own interest as well as that of Ireland, and apply before it were too late, remedies to existing evils, and until these hopes were exhausted, until no prospects of justice, could be farther entertained from their fears, or good sense, he was not disposed to recur to ulterior measures. This however, mainly depended upon this country and this legislature: they were to say, by their deeds, (for words had little value) whether these hopes which he in common with an influential portion of the people of Ireland, still persisted in retaining, were to be justified or frustrated: they were to say, whether the Repeal agitation was to be suppressed, in the only effectual manner in which it could be suppressed, by perfect equality and thorough identification in all rights, privileges, and benefits, of the two countries, or by infatuated perseverance in the opposite course, whether new partizans, from ranks now hostile or neutral, should not be compelled every day to flock to its standards. In a word, on this country, and its Government it depended, whether it should be the question of a part or the whole of the nation. He had thus far noticed the subject, but he should not be betrayed farther: indeed he could have wished it had not appeared in the Speech at all.—It was true its mention was attempted to be rendered palatable by some accompanying phrases on "the social improvement of Ireland."—He presumed that under such terms, not only 174 social in its usual limited sense, but political amelioration was intended to be included, for it would be preposterous to expect in Ireland, or indeed in any country, much social improvement, where a good and stable state of political relations had not previously been established. Could he believe that the words were intended merely to apply to the drainage of bogs, the extension of canals, the opening or bettering of lines of road, the reduction of burthens on industry and commerce, or even to a wiser and jester legislation for the peasantry, in a word, to those measures only which conduce to the more material interests of the people, he (Mr. Wyse) for one should not rest satisfied with such ameliorations, and if the declaration of maintaining inviolate the Union, were not intended to be followed up by any other—by no measures of redress for religious and political grievance—he most assuredly would never give his assent to any recognition of such a declaration. He looked for a pledge, that the House would, without further loss of time, set seriously to work, not merely to consider the whole state of Ireland, but to consider it with a firm determination to carry into action every measure of improvement be it for her political or social condition, with a frank and honest promptitude: if such were given, and redeemed, not in a jealous, but in a wise and liberal spirit, there might be some grounds for proposing with it such a declaration in the Address. But if this were to be omitted or disguised, if the clause were to come nakedly before them, with no such intention declared or implied, if ail improvement contemplated were to be reduced to projects, good perhaps in themselves, but miserably short of the wants or demands, the rightful demands of the country—he for one, did not see how any liberal Irishman, be he Repealer or not, could possibly vote for such a proposition. He should not pursue the subject farther, at the present moment, but reserve to himself the right of expressing more amply his opinions on a future and more appropriate occasion.
§ Lord Eliot
said he should feel that he was wanting in his duty to an absent friend and colleague, if he did not address a few words to the House on this occasion. He had been associated with his right hon. and learned Friend for upwards of twelve months, and he could truly say that a more honourable, a more upright, or a more 175 kind hearted man did not exist. Let it be recollected that the first act of his right hon. and learned Friend, after he had assumed his official functions, was to accept the apology of the editors of some newspapers who had been convicted of an atrocious libel—he would not use so strong a word as atrocious—but had been convicted of a libel upon the administration of justice in Ireland. It was the wish of his right hon. and learned Friend to administer his functions in the mildest and most forbearing manner, and after the testimony which had been so fairly and candidly given in his favour by the hon. Member for Waterford, he was sure the House would feel that there was a wide distinction between a momentary act of indiscretion and a series of harsh or overbearing conduct. He thought the hon. Gentleman had put rather a false colour upon the manner in which the prosecution had been conducted. He had not been present, but he had been in the habit of seeing every day persons who attended in the court, and they unanimously concurred in the opinion that the Attorney-general had shown exemplary patience and forbearance under circumstances of great excitement and provocation. He did not believe that his right hon. Friend had been betrayed into the exhibition of any ill temper on any one occasion, except the particular one in question; and he was sure that if any instances of the kind had occurred, there would not be wanting people who would take advantage of them to denounce him as undeserving of the situation he occupied. He had thought it his duty to say these few words. He did not presume to do more than to say that his right hon. Friend, whose conduct was now so unsparingly condemned, was incapable, in his cooler moments of reflection, of doing any act that could interfere with the administration of justice by the court, but he believed the right, hon. and learned Gentleman thought that base and selfish motives had been attributed to him, and that it was under that impression he had yielded to that infirmity of temper upon which the hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite had bestowed so many strictures.
§ Mr. Wyse
said the noble Lord must have misunderstood a considerable portion of his remarks. He did not mean to say that he could acquit the Attorney-general of gross impropriety and misconduct in the course he had adopted. Far from it. He (the Attorney-general might, no doubt, 176 have been affected by irritability of temper, and he (Mr. Wyse) was willing to make allowance for that infirmity, but still he said that the conduct of the Attorney-general was such as no officer of the Crown should have been betrayed into under any circumstances, especially of that particular trial, where it was of the utmost importance that the greatest calmness of temper, unswerving impartiality, and propriety of demeanour should accompany everything he said and did.
§ Lord Eliot
said the hon. Gentleman had spoken with so much candour and fairness, that he should be very sorry to misrepresent his argument. He understood him to have said that he had himself been present at the speech of the right hon. Member for Dungarvan—that he considered the observations made by that right hon. and learned Gentleman to be such as exacted the observance of the greatest forbearance and good temper on the part of the Attorney-general, and that it was only on this one occasion that his right hon. and learned Friend had deviated from his proper course.
did not think, that the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland had so much as maintained the case which had been made out by the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury, who had pursued the same course that he pursued upon other occasions—viz., that whilst he agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Bath (Mr. Roebuck) abstractedly, he attempted to throw a mantle over the feelings of the lost Attorney-general for Ireland. He (Captain Bernal) altogether denied, that in the conduct of the Attorney-general for Ireland, in the beginning, the middle, or the end,—he had manifested a regard for decorum, common sense, or propriety. The noble Lord had alluded to the opinion of the bar of Ireland. He (Captain Bernal) had an opportunity of being acquainted with the opinions of many members of that bar, and, as far as he had been able to ascertain, there was but one sentiment felt by all parties with respect to the conduct of the Attorney-general, and he was, by friends, as well as foes, pronounced to be totally unfit for the situation he occupied. He (Captain Bernal) fully adopted the language of the hon. and learned Member for Bath. If he were disposed to go back to former times for proofs of the unfitness of the Attorney-general for such an office, it was only necessary to 177 refer to 1837, when he declared that the Roman Catholics had no veneration for the sanctity of an oath, and yet in the teeth of that declaration, the right hon. Baronet appointed him to occupy his present office, being at the same time so little satisfied of his fitness, that he felt it necessary to give him a caution to be temperate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had promised, like a good boy, never to do so again. He had given an assurance to the Home Secretary, not more than twelve hours before, that he would not lose his temper, and yet, within twelve hours afterwards, he outraged the majesty of justice, and insulted the law. He would ask the House, and from the House he would appeal to the country, whether the miserable defence, the lame and impotent conclusion set up by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland was satisfactory. If the law was not to be vindicated before the tribunals of the law, what vanity it was to come down to that House, and talk of the social advancement of Ireland! He called for an assertion of this principle without regard to what was past, and without regard to the forced attempt of the First Lord of the Treasury, to throw his mantle around the lost fame of the Attorney-general for Ireland. This question was totally independent of the great events that were taking place in Ireland. The conduct of the Attorney-general was wholly independent of the merits of the trials; and he called upon the House to urge upon the Government the propriety of at once dismissing that officer from his situation; or, if not, let him conclude the prosecution, and then receive his dismissal.
The hon. Gentleman has complained of my right hon. Friend for having, what he calls, set up a case and thrown a mantle of protection over the conduct of the Attorney-general for Ireland. If my right hon. Friend has interposed, in any degree, to shelter an absent officer from an attack couched in no very measured terms, founded upon facts which, undoubtedly, are notorious, but upon newspaper reports only, I do not think my right hon. Friend is fairly subject to the censure which is sought to be cast upon him by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down; and I do think that it is a more worthy course, on behalf of those who do not press forward exaggerating accusations against an absent man, while they do not 178 vindicate the specific acts which are the subjects of discussion, to consider the infirmities to which it is not the fate of the Attorney-general of Ireland alone to be liable. I have listened with great pain to the able but, I must say, needlessly bitter speech of the hon. and learned Member for Bath; and I have listened with pleasure, if pleasure can be derived from the discussion of such a subject, to the more tender, more candid language, of the hon. Member for Waterford. And I will venture to say, that my right hon. Friend did not, as the hon. Gentleman has stated, concur in the abstract with the language or the sentiments of the hon. and learned Member for Bath; but I do think that abstractedly and practically there is little or no difference between the feelings with which my right hon. Friend viewed the case and the feelings expressed by the hon. Member for Waterford. None of us pretend to vindicate the unfortunate conduct of' the Attorney-general for Ireland. [Cheers.] But the hon. Gentleman who cheers that sentiment (Captain Bernal) may be free from all these infirmities of temper. He may be quite serene amidst, I do not say one, but a succession of purposed, continual, prepared, bitter personal taunts. The hon. Gentleman may be able to remain unmoved under such circumstances; but I cannot refrain from saying, from my long experience in this House, I have learned—I speak it honestly, and perhaps with pain—day by day, how difficult it is to sit by and hear attacks of a much more mitigated character than those made on the Attorney-general of Ireland, and not feel an infirmity which I am not ashamed to confess, and through which one may be provoked, perhaps, into a hasty and irritating reply, afterwards to be reflected on with much regret. Feeling that infirmity myself, I, at least, can make allowances for the infirmity of others. What was the position of the Attorney-general? It was not that which has been incorrectly described by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down; it was not that the Government, conscious of the infirmities and incompetency of this officer, had thought it necessary to caution him against being led into any irritation or imprudence in consequence of any provoking language that might be used towards him; on the contrary, only a day before this unfortunate occurrence, the Government had expressed to the hon. and learned Gentleman in terms sufficiently strong and well merited that we felt greatly satisfied 179 at the coolness of temper, moderation, and judgment, which he had displayed in conducting the proceedings. There was no caution given to the Attorney-general for Ireland; but the Attorney-general wrote a few hours before he was betrayed into this act of indiscretion, and said,I see that day by day a systematic attempt is made to drive me into some act of indiscretion, which may be injurious to myself and the cause I have in hand; and I see speaker after speaker attempting to fix upon me some personal misconduct.I am stating that which is the substance of a letter received from the right hon. and learned Gentleman but a few hours before we got notice of this event, and in which he says, thatAlthough there is carried on against me, as I believe this systematic attempt to provoke me to some act of indiscretion, I am determined to keep the strictest watch over my own feelings, and not to compromise my character or prejudice the proceedings I am conducting.