§ The Order of the Day for the adjourned Debate on the state of Ireland having been read,
§ Lord Leveson
observed that the able and comprehensive manner in which the noble Lord the Member for London had treated this subject last night could not fail of having a useful effect not only in Ireland, 809 but in this country. He lamented much to hear the right hon. Baronet, who spoke afterwards, declare that he never could agree with the noble Lord in his views as to the principles upon which the Government of Ireland should be conducted, because he firmly believed that they were the only principles by which the Legislature could hope to give peace to Ireland, or security to this country. He had not had much experience in the House, but within his time he had seen such wonderful changes of opinion amongst public men, and such wonderful interruptions of old acquaintances and confidence, and such wonderful formation of new ones, that it would give him less surprise than pleasure were he yet to see the right hon. Baronet come over to this side of the House in support of the principle of a liberal Government in Ireland. Under the present system, the tranquillity of Ireland was only preserved by the presence of a large military force, and he hoped that the House would be able to convince the Government that whatever remedial measures they could apply to the grievances of Ireland, unless they redressed all those grievances by a bold and wide course of policy, they would never be able to dispense with the presence of that military force. The right hon. Baronet went into a long discussion in reference to the late prosecution, as to the admissibility or non-admissibility of certain jurors; but, for his part, he thought that this was not the important point to which they should direct their attention,—but rather what the effect of all these proceedings would naturally be on the minds of the Irish people. It was of the first importance to the public estimation in which a Government should be held, that all their acts should be characterized by perfect impartiality. But was there any pretence of this principle in the present Government of Ireland? In the first place, was it not notorious that all the patronage of the Government was bestowed upon a small minority in the State. Then, had not the spectacle been exhibited to the Irish people of the man who had secured their affection and their confidence by a long course of talented and devoted service, brought to trial for alleged offences in the cause of that people against the Government of this country, to be judged by a Protestant Judge, prosecuted by a Protestant Attorney-general and a Protestant Solicitor-general, and before a jury scrupulously composed, according to the words of the old penal statute, "of 810 known Protestant jurors?" Who could say that the same advantages were afforded to the traversers in this case as would have been afforded to a Protestant Orangeman under parallel circumstances? In the next place he regretted much to hear the right hon. Baronet declare that he could not accede to the noble Lord's proposition to give increased means of education to the people of Ireland—[Sir J. Graham: "No, no."] He should be sorry to misinterpret the right hon. Baronet, but he certainly thought he understood him to say that he was determined to leave the Church as it stood. [Sir J. Graham: "Yes."] He was sorry to hear it, for he must say that the principle on which the Irish Church was established was erroneous, and he believed that the cause why that institution had not prospered as a national Church was mainly attributable to Government protection, and he was further of opinion that all similar attempts founded on exaggerated notions of the power of human government over conscience would inevitably fail. As to civil liberty, it was admitted not only here, but in foreign countries, that we enjoyed its fullest advantages, but we had no right to claim an equal station with France or Northern Germany as to religious freedom, as long as the State, with large funds at its disposal refused to do anything for the religious education of eight millions of its subjects. With regard to the verdict, intelligence of which had arrived on the previous day, if the Government conceived they would gather strength from that verdict, if they thought they would gather strength from the sullen discontent of the whole Roman Catholic population of Ireland and the triumph of the Orange party, they would be disappointed. He hoped however, that whatever might be the result of the division, the tone of the debate upon the question then before them would convince the Ministers of the necessity of returning to those principles which they professed on entering office, and that complete impartiality would be observed for the future in administering the affairs of Ireland. If, however, they determined to take a different course, he would warn them in words far more powerful than any he could command—in the words of Henry Brougham, now Lord Brougham, he would say to them,Beware how you convert discontent into rage, and how you arm rage with new weapons. On you the responsibility must rest of such misguided and deluded conduct. You 811 alone are responsible if the present Ireland he torn from the present country.
§ Mr. Bailie Cochrane
remarked, that it had been stated in 1839, by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), on taking office, that the greatest difficulty of the Government would be Ireland; and he was sorry to say, that since the present Ministry had been in power, everything had occurred to fulfil that prediction. All other questions were of trifling importance, as compared with that. The Corn-law League agitation, the moment the right hon. Baronet had come boldly for- ward, and declared his determination to uphold the Corn-laws, that moment that agitation had declined—Ireland alone was the difficulty, No measure could be brought forward, no proposition could be made in reference to that country which was not made the ground of party strife and opposition. For three centuries there had been a contest of classes and creeds carried on in Ireland; was it not extraordinary, that in a country with natural resources unsurpassed and almost unequalled—with a people remarkable for their industry, their patience under the most severe suffering, their forbearance, and for all the social virtues, the feuds and prejudices of centuries should be perpetuated? Many causes had been assigned for this anomalous state of things; but he could not agree with those who considered the great evil of Ireland to be either the Church Establishment, the state of the Suffrage, or the Legislative Union. He did not believe, that the people themselves believed, that to either of these causes, the difficulties of the country were to be attributed. Take the Repeal of the Union. In the Parliament that followed the Union, not a single Member forfeited his seat for having voted for that act, and, except in the county of Dublin, no Member thought it worth while to appeal to the people on account of the vote he had given. Then, as to the Church Establishment. They had it on the evidence of Mr. O'Connell himself, that that was not the great difficulty. Mr. O'Connell had said, in his evidence before a Commission of the Lords, that if they removed the causes of the distress of the country, the question of the clergy or the Union would cease to be of importance. He believed the great cause of discontent in Ireland 812 was the distress of the people, and under the pressure of their sufferings, they were ready to take up any question, either the Clergy or the Union, which could be made a fruitful subject of agitation. With regard to the proposition of a state provision for the Roman Catholic clergy, it was now a received opinion, that if such a provision were offered, it would be refused. This had been declared by the clergy themselves. But he (Mr. B. Cochrane) did not see how, except by a provision from the State, in a country in which the Protestant religion was established, they could do anything to help the Roman Catholic clergy. This was the only course, unless they prepared to give way on every single point as to the Roman Catholics and to uphold no State religion in Ireland. While he expressed this opinion, he would not only tolerate, but do all he could to educate and give equality to the Roman Catholic clergy. Mr, O'Connell had more than once asserted, that the Roman Catholic clergy should have a State provision; and that if that were given, and a superior class of persons educated for the clergy, much of the evil and discord which prevailed in the country would cease. He was justified, therefore, in the opinion, that neither the Church Establishment nor the Union was the cause of the difficulties of the Irish Government. His opinion was, that the principle causes of the distress of Ireland, and consequently the great evils under which the country laboured, were the constant changes and breaking up of property in Ireland—the subdivision of the land into small holdings—the uncertainty of tenure—and lastly, there was the evil of absenteeism; and, he believed, that until measures were adopted to remedy those evils, and to improve the social condition of the people, that agitation, and those outrages, which were now charged against Ireland would at all times prevail. The question, then, was—what was the remedy? It would be presumption in him, to speculate upon what might be the result of the Landlords and Tenants' Commission, but he hoped they would bring forward some plan by which the social condition of the people might be ameliorated. With regard to the tenure of land and the subdivision of the soil, the evils of the existing system had been pointed out in the report of the railway commission of 1836; and the com- 813 mission on the bog and waste lands, which sat in 1812, pointed out the manner in which those lands might be brought into cultivation for the benefit of the people. It appeared that the bog lands in Ireland amounted to 3,000,000 acres, and with the mountain lands made up 5,000,000 acres, and it was impossible to say to what extent those lands might be made available to the public benefit. In the province of Ulster the allotment principle had been acted upon with great advantage and it was a question worthy of consideration whether that principle might not well be more extensively applied. Again, absenteeism was an evil which required some remedy. The income-tax had been levied with the view of preventing the practice, but the tax was by no means an equivalent for non-residence. Another suggestion he would throw out for consideration in reference to the office of Lord-lieutenant. He thought it was productive of great inconvenience in the country, that that officer, who represented the person of the Sovereign in Ireland, should be changed with every change of Government. It might be well to make the appointment to the office bf Chief Secretary dependent on the Minister of the Crown, but not that of the Lord-lieutenant. It was to be regretted that a Lord-lieutenant, beloved by the country and possessing its confidence, like Lord Norman by in recent times, or like the Duke of Rutland in former times, was no sooner known and appretiated by the people than a change of Government took place, and he was removed. The conviction which had recently been obtained against the man who had so long possessed great influence in Ireland had been alluded to. It would ill become him to make at such a time, any rash comments on the course of that hon. and learned Gentleman. It was not a suitable moment, when they had such a conviction to irritate national feelings by indulging in any tirade upon the conduct of the parties convicted. He would merely observe, therefore, that it was a sight to be regretted to see a man of Mr. O'Connell age standing with his son at the tribunal of justice, and to see them both convicted of a conspiracy against the State. He did not pretend to say that early in life Mr. O'Connell might not "have done the state some service," and that at different period he might not have been influenced by high aspirations, and great and noble intention, 814 but that was no excuse for his more recent conduct. Nothing that had occurred in the life of the young man justified the conduct of the old man. They must remember that though Manlius saved the capital, he was afterwards banished from Rome. He trusted and believed that the Irish people would now be disposed to take a different view of those popular questions by which the public mind had been for some time agitated, and that so far at least, the conviction might be of service to the country. He trusted that they would remember the words of Mr. Justice Day:—That it was not by wounding their enemies through the sides of the Constitution, nor by trampling on the laws, that they could hope to enlist any sympathy in their favour, or add to the number of their friends.He trusted the Irish nation would see that it was interested in putting down agitation, and that its true benefit was to be derived from the progress of Education, and that the improvement of their social condition would be the establishment of peace, instead of the discord which had too long prevailed. They had, in his opinion, one duty to discharge, and that was to tolerate, to promote religious liberty, and at the same time being always prepared and energetic in vindicating the law; in a word, in not permitting everything and not forbidding everything, but being on their guard, so that they should always feel with the people and for the people, by strewing flowers in their path which they might gather hereafter in the privileges and blessings that would be bestowed upon them and their descendants. Before he sat down, he wished to notice one point to which the noble Lord the Member for London had referred. He agreed with him that it would be far better if the proclamation had been issued earlier. He was one of those who had ventured, early in last Session, to say something of coercive measures towards Ireland, but he had been met by the keen sarcasm of the noble Lord the Secretary s for the Colonies; that was in the month of July. Parliament subsequently broke up, and nobody could imagine what course the Government meant to adopt. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department had said, that the Government had interfered on account of the meeting at Clontarf, and in consequeue of the outward and visible signs of 815 rebellion that were apparent. Be it so. Now he did not see that in the indictment which was spread over a period of nine months. In his opinion, it would have been a better, a wiser, and a safer course, if the Government had issued their proclamation at an earlier period. He thought in cases of treason and conspiracy there ought to be no mistake or doubt, and then they should have avoided that which had been said with regard to the present case, and have rescued the legal functionaries from anything like the taint of suspicion in the discharge of their duties. If, after all these meetings had been held, it was at length discovered that they were illegal, he might apply to them the words of Strafford, and ask, "Where had all that crime been so long concealed?" The noble Lord had said, that he hoped the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government intended to legislate for Ireland in a wise and just spirit of conciliation, and he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would not only legislate in a wise and just spirit, but in a spirit of generosity, and that he would take into consideration the sympathies and affections of that most noble and gallant-hearted nation. Then their future victories would be victories over the affections and sympathies of the Irish people; so that by a constant and lively consideration of their happiness and welfare, peace and good-will, truth and justice. and religion and charity, might be established amongst them.
§ Lord Clements
regretted very much the statement that had been made on a former occasion by the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department, that concession had reached its utmost limits. That declaration had gone forth to the Irish people, and had been productive of much discontent and dissatisfaction in that country. The right hon. Baronet had admitted that a military government was an unwholesome one for any country, and he fully agreed with him. But what was there in Ireland at the present moment, but a military government? They saw indefensible barracks fortified which were actually the ridicule of the peasantry of that country. They had an armed constabulary of 9,426 men and 277 officers equipped and drilled in a military manner. In the present day it was very much the habit to introduce the Code Napoleon for the purposes of centralization. Now, he was the decided opponent of that system. 816 He believed, that the great source of liberty in England had always been in the recognition of local government, and the want of the centralization which had been established in France, and had been so destructive of the liberties of the people of that country. He thought there was great danger to be apprehended when he found an armed police, amounting to 9,000 men, all under the command of a single individual, and altogether irresponsible, except to the Minister of the day. That was, to all intents and purposes, a military force, although it was termed a civil force, and he thought such an establishment highly dangerous to the liberties of the country. The charge for that force was excessive, and pressed with great severity upon some of the counties. There were also many abuses connected with the police fund, among which might be reckoned the superannuations to officers, amounting, in some cases, to 900l. or 1,000l. per annum. The noble Lord referred to the Arms Bill of last Session, and quoted an order issued in the year 1842, by a Mr. Stanley, the secretary of the commissioners of the Dublin police, empowering the police to enter vessels on their arrival, for the purpose of ascertaining whether there were any arms on board. This order, the noble Lord said, was one of a most stringent character, and was quite uncalled for at the time, inasmuch as the importation of arms was then only a misdemeanor. The Government of Ireland, however, thought there was nothing too offensive for that country. He should now read to the House a case of a most distressing nature with regard to the operation of the Arms Bill:—John Hall, who was licensed to make and repair fire-arms, in Aungier-street, Dublin, having died in the last month, the Dublin police took charge of his stock in trade, pending the appointment of legal representatives. Letters of administration having been since granted, the administratrix obtained a licence from Government to sell off the stock, and the police authorities have restored it to her for that purpose.Let hon. Gentlemen opposite put themselves in the situation of the poor widow whose husband was just deceased, when her house was entered by the police for the purpose of taking possession of her deceased husband's stock. [Laughter.] He confessed, that he could not conceive there was any matter for laughter in such a case. He, however, saw that the feeling 817 of the House was contrary to him, and he would not pursue the subject. He really did imagine that it would be viewed by the House as a most distressing case. He did not think, that there was any joke at all in it; but he would not go further in the matter. He would next refer to the case of Colonel Hodder, who was a gentleman of high respectability in the county of Galway, and who had left a gun behind him in Nottingham, to obtain which he applied for a licence. In reply to his application he was furnished with the following letter:—Council Office, Dublin Castle, Sept. 1843.With reference to Colonel Hodder's letter of the 24th inst., which was forwarded to the Secretary, requesting a licence to import a gun from Nottinghamshire, the Clerk of the Council begs leave to inform Colonel Hodder that an Order in Council is necessary for the importation of arms, the fee upon which is 2l. 12s. 6d. On the receipt of this amount, Colonel Hodder's application will be submitted to the Lord-lieutenant in Council.He had also to complain of the circumstance of no proclamation having been issued in reference to the carrying into operation of the Arms Bill. He now wished to call the attention of the Government to the laws regarding distraint in Ireland, from which more hardship, he thought, arose, than even from ejectments. To mention but one instance out of many:—A few mouths ago he met a bailiff driving away cattle that were worth 25l., which were distrained from a poor tenant, who only owed 3l. Such practices as these were no doubt likely to lead to breaches of the peace, and, perhaps, ultimately, to transportation or other punishments. The system of conacre in Ireland was one fraught with the most dreadful hardship. In the quarter sessions of his own country he saw 40l. worth distrained for a debt of 4l., which arose out of this conacre system. He thought it would be very much for the advantage of the poor of Ireland, if gentlemen having estates in that country would give their attention to this matter of conacre. The whole system was full of mischief; it created constant disputes—constant actions at law; and was one of the most fruitful sources of discontent in that unhappy country. But when he spoke of discontent and poverty, he did not wish the House to suppose that he spoke solely of the Roman Catholic population. He be- 818 lieved, that no people were more to be watched over, or were at present in greater poverty and discontent than the poor Protestants of Ireland, and he wished to bring their case before the House. He regretted, that neither last year, nor during the present debate, had their cause been advocated. The Protestants were, in many instances, worse off than their Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, and not only was their distress as great or greater, but, he believed, that their discontent was fully equal. He begged to say, that he entirely sympathized with their feelings. Their reverses were excessive; they had fallen from comparative affluence and luxury to poverty, and, in some instances, starvation. Such were the effects of the law—such were the effects of that bad system, which former generations had thought proper to establish. Where were the middle-men of Ireland? In wretchedness and misery, unable to turn their hands to labour, too proud to work in their own country—if they had not the means to emigrate, they were destitute, and, in some instances, starving. He had witnessed amongst these people the most appalling distress, of which he would mention only two instances. It was only the other day that a respectable person said to him,There is my cottage, which is all I have left. I am an old man on the verge of the grave. It does not signify. There was a day when the whole of this and the adjoining town land was in my possession, at a less rent than is now paid to the county cess per acre.The other instance was that of a gentleman with whom he had sat as grand juror, who was now in that degree of poverty that his wife, who had been accustomed to the luxuries of a lady, was now obliged to milk her cow. He would now refer to another matter. In the parish in which he lived, there were nearly 41,516 acres, with a population of 21,225. The total value of the houses, deducting one-third for repairs, and including the market town, was 221l. 18s. That would show the House that it was not one enactment only which would relieve the misery of a country so circumstanced, or one bill which it might please Her Majesty's Government to bring forward; but it must be a watchful anxiety to improve the means and to employ the industry of that noble country. He saw no prospect of any such change. With the single exception of the improve- 819 ment of the navigation of the Shannon he saw nothing undertaken. That he hailed as a boon. But was it so considered in the county which he represented? It was not. They thought that the country ought to have paid the whole of the expences out of the public purse. He did not go with them. He voted for that improvement bill; he took it, even in that form, as a boon; and in that form he still regarded it. Unless Her Majesty's Government were prepared to meet the distress of the poor in Ireland, so as to afford assistance to the people, their legislation went as nought. The people were in that condition that they were neither clad, nor had they the means of supporting their existence. It was only last Friday, whilst he was in the town in which he resided, that a medical officer came and begged for a family, whom he had just left, who had not so much as a blanket to cover them, or a loaf to eat. He never knew people more anxious for employment than the people of Ireland. Their good conduct was exemplary; they were, without exception, under the circumstances in which they were placed, the most exemplary peasantry in the world. They were anxious for education, and unless Her Majesty's Government were prepared to adopt the hint given by the hon. Member for Waterford last night, and to establish colleges for the gentry and middle classes in Ireland, those who were now studying in the national schools would soon outstrip those who, at present, considered themselves their superiors. With regard to ecclesiastical matters, that was a subject with which he wished to deal as little as possible; but, on that point, he might be allowed to refer to the destitution of the Protestant population. In his own parish, the parish of Cloone, there were a considerable number of Protestants. He held in his hand a letter from a clergyman of the Established Church, in which he said, that there were 200 Protestant families, of whom a considerable number had to walk six or seven miles to their parish church. The person who acted as schoolmaster, having been refused any kind of assistance, had at length retired. The population of Cloone is 21,225, and the annual valuation of the houses they occupy, according to the Government valuation, only amounts to 221l. 18s., including a market town; and this parish, consisting of no less than 41,516 acres, of 820 which the inhabitants were so much in need had received no assistance from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Was it proper that those who paid tithes should receive nothing in return? He had conversed with gentlemen, lay and clerical, out of the House, and he had not yet heard a single syllable in favour of an ecclesiastical commission. He could not believe anything more monstrous than that the funds should go into the hands of persons to be misused, and that a congregation should be in distant parts of the country paying tithes to the Established Church, and yet at the same time receiving no benefit therefrom. The Rector in this parish was an absentee, and in the next parish the Rector was also an absentee. The Curates who did the duty were most exemplary men, but it was impossible that these gentlemen, exemplary as they might be, could render those services to their parishioners which the Rector would be bound to do. He thought it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to look into this matter, to see that the funds in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were turned to a proper account, and also to see that these Commissioners made the most of the estates entrusted to their charge. He had for two or three years been complaining of the hardships to which the poor people, who looked to him to represent their grievances, were subjected. He felt bound to do that, but he did not conceive that he was bound to travel out of his own district. He thought that if the Government were sincere in their desire to benefit Ireland, they would do infinitely more by attending to the physical and moral wants of the population of the country than by enforcing prosecutions, or endeavouring to allay a feeling which it was as impossible to stem as it was to stop the current of that river which flowed by this House.
§ Mr. Young
trusted to be able to show, before he concluded, that the professions of kindness and regard towards Ireland, made on various occasions by Ministers, were not mere empty words, but that they had been adhered to, and carried into effect, and that not without some loss of popularity on the part of the Government. The noble Lord who had just sat down, had complained of the provisions of the Arms Bill; and he would direct his attention to that subject before referring to the question immediately under the 821 consideration of the House. The grounds on which it was deemed necessary to introduce that measure had been fully explained in the course of the last Session to the satisfaction of the majority of the House, including many hon. Members belonging to the Opposition. One of the grievances in that law of which the noble Lord more particularly complained was the regulation respecting the importation of arms; but the noble Lord appeared to forget that that provision had been in force throughout the long period during which the late Government remained in office, without any attempt having been made to alter it; and the cases of grievance such as that adduced in the present instance, were of extremely unfrequent occurrence. The utility of the present law was doubted by the noble Lord; but what were the facts? During the entire period that the late act remained in force, there had not been more than 10,000 stand of arms registered, whereas, in the comparatively short period which elapsed since the present law came into operation, there had been no less than 120,000 notices served for the registry of arms. He considered that fact alone a full vindication of the necessity of the provisions introduced into the measure by the present Government. He would not detain the House by following the noble Lord through the scarcely relevant arguments which he had used in the greater part of his speech. The gist of his arguments, as well as of all others who had spoken on the same side, was to shew, not that Her Majesty's Ministers had neglected the interests of Ireland, or committed this or the other error; but that there was in them, and the party who supported them, on the one hand a despotism so unfavourable, a mind so hostile to Ireland, and on the other hand in the people of Ireland so keen a sense of this hostility, that it was impossible they could carry on the affairs of that country with credit or success. This House was called upon, under these circumstances, to appoint a committee of inquiry into the affairs of Ireland, or, in other words, to divest Her Majesty's Ministers of the control of Irish affairs. This demand was made mainly upon the assumption that the persons to be appointed upon that committee, the noble Member for London and his colleagues—were especially the friends of the Irish people, and were so recognized by that people. 822 If they were to take Mr. O'Connell as the mouthpiece of the people of Ireland, they must remember that he had disclaimed the friendship and alliance of the party opposite in as strong and emphatic terms as he had ever applied to Ministers or their supporters. The question connected with the affairs of Ireland, on which the most marked difference of opinion existed between hon. Gentlemen in that House, was the mode of dealing with the Protestant Establishment in Ireland. This was the line of separation between parties. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side were prepared either entirely to destroy or materially to impair the efficiency of that Establishment; and surprise, if not indignation, had been expressed by the hon. Member for Waterford at the announcement, that with regard to "the Church, concession had reached its limits." For his own part, he could not conceive any leader of the Conservative party, any statesman who for a series of years had accepted support from the Protestant constituencies of the empire, could without dishonour to himself, and ruin to the party and the opinions be professed to uphold as interwoven with all the best interests of the country, could make any other declaration than that he was determined to maintain inviolate and intact the dignity and possessions of the Established Church. He did not think that the maintenance of that Church in Ireland could be justly regarded as a grievance by the great body of the people of that country. The maintenance of the Church did not press on the people. Church-rates had been wholly abolished; one-fourth of the tithes had been given up, and the remainder were not paid by the people, but by the landlords; and, if tithes were remitted to-morrow, they would go, not into the pocket of the tenant, but into that of the landlord; and it had been demonstrated over and over again, that the possessions of the Church were not too great in proportion either to the extent of territory it had to cover, or the numbers who sought and engaged its ministrations. The grievance, as appeared to him which might be complained of, was, that no regular provision was made for the support of the Roman Catholic religion, and no fixed place in society allotted to its ministers. He was firmly convinced, that if Government adopted and endeavoured to carry out a measure 823 for making such provision, the result must be their complete discomfiture, and the kindling of a flame in this country which it would not be easy to quench. If that measure was to be entertained, it would only be so, as the result of long and frequent discussion, which might familiarize the minds of the people of England to it, and wear away that vast mass of opposition which prevailed against it. The real question now before the House was this—whether the principles of the party which now possessed a majority in that House, and the policy which Her Majesty's Ministers had pursued with regard to Ireland, would stand the test of reason and of justice, and whether they were consonant with the enlightenment of the age, and the spirit of the British constitution? The question now proposed for consideration was not whether this or that particular grievance existing in Ireland, could be cured by this or that particular remedy. It was true, however, that many evils did exist in that country. Some beyond the reach of the legislature as was admitted on all hands. Numbers of the people were in a state of poverty, which prevented their enjoying any degree of comfort or happiness, and rendered them reckless and prone to outrage—outrage produced insecurity—insecurity repelled from the Irish shores, the capital, the industry, and the enterprise of England, and so made employment scarce and poverty lasting, the cord was complete, in order to break it, the late Ministry adopted various measures, almost utterly reckless, and disposed them to violence and outrage. The two most prominent evils in Ireland, as they found from the evidence of Mr. Drummond, than whom no man had applied greater industry and energy of purpose, to the public business, were these:—first, the combinations, attended with outrage among tradespeople in towns, which had destroyed eight or ten of the most important trades in Dublin including ship-building; and, secondly, the existence of secret societies in the country, whose object was to fix the tenure of land. What were the principle measures which the Whig Government introduced to check these evils? Passing over their measures relating to the Irish Church and the Municipal corporations—which for so long a time engaged the attention of the House, and involved us in a series of party conflicts, but which at length be- 824 came the subject of compromise, which should at least be gratifying to the so-called Liberal party, as they curtailed the Church of a great proportion of its property, and transferred the whole power and patronage of the Municipal Corporations to their hands—there were four measures specially and immediately directed to the social state of Ireland—the equal administration of justice—the improvements in the constabulary, the Poor-law, and the measure of National Education. In the fair and judicious maintenance of all these measures the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell) had no cause to complain of the present Government. In the administration of justice and the striking juries, no alteration had been made. The rules laid down by M. O'Loghlin, and improved by Mr. Peronet Brady, were not deviated from in the slightest degree. Those able and well-devised alterations which had made the constabulary one of the most efficient and well-ordered corps in Europe, were purchased by the late Government at a large sacrifice of patronage. In that sacrifice they had been at least equalled by the present Government. To some of the improvements which had been effected in that force the noble Lord the Member for Leitrim had taken objection; but he (Mr. Young) believed, that the constabulary were generally regarded in Ireland as an orderly and well-conducted force and the best safeguard of the well-disposed portion of the community. He understood that three counties in Ireland had recently applied that the strength of the constabulary force might be increased. The Poor-law—for whose introduction Ireland was indebted, and ought to be most grateful to the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell)—as a measure, in its principle of purely in-door relief, admirably suited, as a test of destitution and a measure of relief, to the genius and habits of the Irish people, had received a firm and judicious support. It had been maintained and received those amendments which practical experience had suggested. While he accorded to the noble Lord full merit for the original adoption of that measure, he trusted to see it, under the auspices of the present Government, come into general operation, and confer on the country all those vast advantages of which it was capable,—not merely in the direct amount of relief 825 which it might afford, but indirectly in many ways, by softening down animosities, by bringing together as it did, in the board-rooms, men of different ranks and different opinions, and by affording a nucleus for many useful objects, as it had already done for the agricultural societies which were springing up all over the country under auspices at once practical and enlightened; and which, without the convenient divisions of the country into Poor-law unions, could scarcely have existed at all, and certainly could not have been so generally and evenly spread over the country. The system of National Education, on whose theory such great differences of opinion existed, but which had certainly taken deep root in Ireland, and afforded instruction to vast numbers of children, had received from the present Government no niggard support and countenance; and this had been rendered, let it be recollected, at the cost of some political support, and certainly with the loss of some political popularity. To this list he might add a measure which had originated with the present Government—the Landlord and Tenant Commission, which to say the least had evinced the disposition of Ministers to grapple with the source of those evils in the agricultural districts which had hitherto baffled all cure and produced so much mischief in Ireland. The noble Secretary for Ireland also, the Session before last, passed through the Legislature at great cost of time and labour, two measures which he believed were admitted on all hands to be of great practical advantage, one for the improvement of inland navigation and drainage in Ireland; which had already called large masses of capital into activity in different parts, and another affecting a most important tract of national industry, viz., the general regulation of the fisheries. He believed, that the evils to which he had adverted, as the main causes of the unhappy condition of Ireland—the combinations in towns, and the secret societies which existed in the country—were unconnected with any political objects. The object of the first class of associations was to fix the rate of wages; that of the latter to establish a permanent tenure of land. Although these were not political matters, those who were best acquainted with Ireland had given it as their decided opinion that these evils were liable to be aggravated to a frightful 826 extent by the prevalence of political agitation. The agitation against tithes and for the repeal of the Union had in every instance been accompanied by a resistance to all legal imposts, and an increasing disposition to violate the law; and in one case, the agitation against tithes had proceeded to such a height, that a learned judge declared from the bench that the triumph of that agitation had resulted in the utter prostration of all law. When they saw such results threatened by agitation, it became the duty of Government to watch most anxiously the course of agitation, and to oppose it not only with vigour, but with extreme caution. An imprudent step at the commencement of the agitation, which distracted and demoralized Ireland, might have given its leaders triumph and kindled a flame throughout the country; and on this ground he was glad that the Government had exhibited a forbearance which had been characterised by the noble Lord opposite as supine and unwisely protracted. He was glad, that so long as there appeared any chance of the agitation dying away of itself, and so long as there was any hope that the leaders might confine themselves within any limits, however wide, not wholly incompatible with the public safety, the Government had refrained from interference. He was glad that they had so acted, also, on another ground—because it evinced a desire on their part to afford the people the most full and ample field for proper and fair discussion. But that forbearance must not be carried too far—there were bounds beyond which that interference which in the first instance might have been deemed harsh and premature, became justifiably necessary. When these agitators professed to represent the whole people of Ireland—when they, beyond doubt, assumed the character and usurped the functions of Government—when they openly proclaimed that to them and to them alone were owing the peace and the tranquillity of Ireland—when contributions were levied upon the people—when the law officers of the Crown were set at haughty defiance,—when the effect of numbers, of physical force, of the long array of repeal cavalry, was exultingly appealed to,—and when it was attempted to bring into contempt the constituted tribunals of the country, by nominating judges, not in one or two districts but 827 throughout Ireland, who received their diploma from the Repeal Association,—when peaceful and unwilling thousands were forced into the ranks by every act of intimidation, and threat of outrage—surely then, interference was necessary. He was instructed by those whom he had the honour to represent, to state in his place in that House that they looked upon the aspect of affairs in Ireland with the most unfeigned alarm, until Government began to take active measures, they dreaded lest the country should be involved in that worst of calamities, a war of the poor against the rich—they saw all interests suffering—and feared lest commerce should die away and industry be superseded. Much had been done of late years, and in many directions improvements had made rapid strides. Great improvement had taken place in the flax and linen trade—the staple of the North of Ireland—that trade no longer fettered or injured by bounties or drawbacks, and desiring no aid from Legislative protection, covered a greater breadth of land, by some thousands of acres, profitably employed more hands and was altogether in a more flourishing state than at any former period—in cattle, of which not only had the number exported greatly increased, but the quality had improved—so that they were now worth from 12 to 20 per cent. per head more than formerly—in the meal and flour trade which had increased eighteen-fold in no very great number of years—and in that which was apparent to every eye, the improved condition of the people with regard to clothing and habitations, especially in the neighbourhood of Dublin, where the men of villas, terraces, and ornamented buildings, proved incontestably the increasing prosperity and wealth of the country. But his constituents believed, that if anything could retard the progress of this improvement it was some expression of violence, some interruption of tranquillity, into which the masses of people seemed likely to be goaded by intemperate and designing leaders. They could imagine nothing more violent or more absurd than to exchange the discussion of practical measures, of which, indeed, different minds might take different views, but which were day by day advancing in the public mind, and becoming of easier solution and adjustment, into a question between the countries, which must array them in irre- 828 vocable hostility, and whose event must be to waste and humiliate Ireland, or utterly to destroy the strength and power of the empire. But the apprehensions of those who resided in Ireland arose principally from their view of the parties engaged in this agitation. They knew that the Protestants and Presbyterians were universally and decidedly hostile to the Repeal of the Union; they had good grounds for believing that a vast number of Roman Catholics, nobles, men of landed possessions, the wealthiest and most active among the traders and merchants, and the educated classes generally, shared in similar sentiments. But, on the other hand, they saw enormous masses congregated from time to time,—masses so blended by prejudice and so credulous from ignorance, as to receive with implicit confidence the most palpable absurdities. They saw their passions excited and their feelings misdirected by unscrupulous leaders; they knew not at what moment a spark falling on such inflammable materials might kindle an universal flame,—a flame which the very leaders who had fanned it might not be able, when once it broke forth, to restrain or extinguish. At every Repeal Meeting, at every dinner, there was a numerous attendance of Roman Catholic Clergymen. They were amongst their most active getters-up; they were amongst the most prominent speakers; but had an outbreak actually taken place, did any experience of history, or of the working of human passions, entitle them to hope that their influence, if exerted, would have been sufficient to stay the torrent? Who in the early stages of the French Revolution attached themselves most warmly and disinterestedly to the popular cause? The rural priesthood—the humbler ranks of the Clergy. Who made the first sacrifices on the altar of their country? The Clergy of France. And yet—and let the Roman Catholic Clergy of Ireland think upon the lesson—that very Clergy was the first class whom the revolutionary progress of the popular cause consigned to the dungeon and the scaffold. But could trust be placed upon the political heads of this movement, that they would be able to subdue and moderate the angry passions which they now fomented? True it was, they held out brilliant expectations; they promised that when the Union should be dissolved, peace and good-fellowship and abundance would reign throughout the 829 land, there would be combined with fixity of tenure perfect respect for the rights of property, and reared upon the ruins of the Protestant Church the altar of free and universal toleration. He would, with the permission of the House, quote from the page of history, a parallel to the speeches of the hon. and learned Gentleman, the opinion expressed on a not very dissimilar occasion by a man who, like Mr. O'Connell, wielded at will the mind of vast masses of people,—whose eloquence and ability were of the highest order, and whose character, though he was led on by events or necessity to crimes and bloodshed, was uncontaminated by the base alloy of lust or avarice. These were the words:—The people have by their conduct confounded all their enemies. 80,000 men have been under arms nearly a week, and not one shop has been pillaged, not one drop of blood shed. Their insurrection was spontaneous; the result of an universal moral conviction. The insurrection was a great moral and popular effort, worthy of the enlightened people among whom it arose.There were the words of Robespiere, and the occasion on which they were made was the insurrectionary movement of Jacobin clubs, which destroyed all that remained of virtue and patriotism in the democracy, and handed over France in fetters to the reign of terror. Such were the reasons which persuaded him that no reliance whatever was to be placed on the assertions of the popular leaders, or their power to maintain public tranquillity in Ireland. He could conceive nothing more prejudicial to the interests of that country than the agitation which had prevailed, and he must say, that the forbearance which had been adopted towards Ireland, combined with the vigour that had been manifested in instituting the law proceedings, and sending a force into that country, had given satisfaction to all men who were peaceably and reasonably inclined. The result of those measures was peace for the present, and of security for the future. The law had furnished us with the one, an irresistible armament assured us of the other. Both combined to give time for the excited temperament of the giddy multitude to cool, to reflect, to be better advised, to calculate the good and evil of peace or war, to measure their means, and to weigh their chances. He still had confidence in the good sense of the people of Ireland, who, when they 830 found that the powers of the constitution, which Mr. O'Connell had so long defied, were exercised and put in force, that they were to be met by a steady and powerful resistance instead of carrying their objects easily by acclamation as it were, he was sure, would see the folly of agitation, and gradually fall off from the ranks of Repeal. He was aware that any encomium on the Government from one holding office under it would be received with some distrust; but he hoped the House would give him credit for having never merged the independent Member in the government officer. The House saw that the course which the Ministers had prescribed for themselves was wise and temperate, and well calculated to develope the resources of Ireland, and to raise the people in the scale of comfort and happiness, and that their conduct throughout, from first to last, had been such as to redeem the pledge which the Prime Minister gave while yet in Opposition, that he would not surrender his own opinions to any party or any set of men, but would walk in the open day and in the direct paths of the constitution. He believed that the Ministers had done so, and they might appeal to the public opinion of the Empire for an acquittal from the charges brought against them by the noble Lord, and that while that, public opinion would honorably free them, it would visit with condemnation the parties who attempted by intimidation, conspiracy, and all the wildest excesses of popular licence, not only to bring into contempt all the courts and constiuted authorities of the land, but even this assembly, specially framed for redressing the grievances of the nation, and in which no question whose foundation was in justice and reason ever yet failed of making progress—public opinion would condemn a course so fraught with evil, nor would it exempt from censure those who, by long and exaggerated recitals of grievances, and by such motions as that before the House gave colour and encouragement to such violent and unworthy proceedings.
§ Sir G. Grey:
Whatever difference of opinion may exist as to some of the topics introduced into this debate, whatever difference of opinion may be found in the House as to the policy of her Majesty's Government in Ireland, or as to the measures which the present state of things in that country may demand, upon one point the House must be agreed, and no dif- 831 ference of opinion can exist; I mean the importance of the crisis at which the motion of my noble Friend has been submitted to the consideration of the House. It has not been denied by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, nor attempted to be denied by any Gentleman who has addressed the House in this debate, that wide-spread excitement and dissatisfaction exist among the great bulk of the population of Ireland. It has not been denied that Ireland is now occupied by troops—held by military occupation, as was stated by my noble Friend in the opening of his speech. Indeed, I should say that the case was put still more forcibly by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State; for he distinctly and emphatically declared that such was the hazard to which that part of Her Majesty's dominions was exposed, such the emergency to which affairs had been brought in Ireland, that military occupation of the country had been rendered necessary by an attempt to wrest it by force from the authority of the British Crown. It is under these circumstances, Sir, that my noble Friend asks, not as the hon. Gentleman who last spoke seemed to suppose, for a select committee of inquiry into the affairs of Ireland, but that the whole House, according to the constitutional and Parliamentary practice, should resolve itself into a committee, in which the state of Ireland may be fully discussed, taking that step which will indicate on the part of this House a sense of the importance of the crisis now arrived at in Irish affairs, and their determination to adopt measures for averting those calamities which seem in Ireland to threaten the integrity of the British Empire. It becomes us, Sir, to ask what are the grounds on which Government invite the House to reject this motion? I ask, what are the grounds of hope and encouragement for the future offered by the right hon. Gentleman in his speech of last night, no other Member of the Government having addressed the House except the right hon. Gentleman, and the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. The right hon. Gentleman stated, indeed, that he objected, and I have no doubt that he spoke with perfect sincerity, to the continued military occupation of any portion of her Majesty's dominions—that he did not look to that as a permanent 832 remedy for the evils with which Ireland is afflicted, or as a permanent means of security to this empire. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down tells us, however, that the loyal portion of the people of Ireland do look to the army for future protection. I ask, then, what are the measures which Government contemplate? What is the course of policy they lay before this House as that which they are determined to pursue, and on which they rely for the future good Government and tranquillity of Ireland? And I ask the House, after having considered that policy, whether any reasonable man can hold that that policy, taken in connection with the policy hitherto pursued by Her Majesty's Government, is calculated to bring back the affections of the people of Ireland, alienated as they have been from the Imperial Parliament and the Government of this country, whether it be calculated to detach one man from the ranks of Repeal agitation? Ireland, as my noble Friend remarked, is occupied by a military force. There is some confusion in the papers laid on the Table, and the right hon. Gentleman elicited a cheer from his party by attempting to show that there had been comparatively only a small increase of the military force in Ireland. But from the papers, as well as from the right hon. Gentleman's own statement, it is clear that, comparing the 1st of January, 1844, with the 1st of January, 1843, there has been an increase of 7,000 rank and file in that country. [" Hear, hear," from the Ministerial Benches.] Then there is no meaning in the right hon. Gentleman's vaunt last night; who elicited a cheer by attempting to show that there had been little or no increase. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley), with that courage which ever distinguishes him in the defence of any Administration of which he may happen to be a part, cheers my statement as to that increased force, and doubtless feels confidence in the efficiency of her Majesty's troops to maintain the public tranquillity and to produce, for a time at least, that security for which the hon. Gentleman who spoke last relied upon them so entirely. Let the House mark this, however, that within the course of a few months, there has been an increase of 7,000 men rank and file employed in Ireland, in addition to that naval force which hovers about the coasts, and to say nothing of the battalion of marines who are 833 likewise placed upon the same service. I do not find fault with the Government for adopting those measures. It was the duty of the Queen's Ministers, in the actual state of Ireland, to take measures to provide against the consequences of their own misgovernment. [Cheers.] I agree with those hon. Gentlemen opposite who cheer that, in the state to which Ireland was reduced, under a Government of which they are the vociferous supporters, it was the bounden duty of the Government to maintain the authority of the Crown, and the integrity of the Empire.; But is the state of things which now exists in that country to be its permanent state? If not, what is to be its permanent state? What is to be the change in that policy of the Government which has produced' this state of things? Upon what can this House rely for the maintenance of the peace and tranquillity of Ireland, and for the security of the British empire? The right hon. Gentleman addressed an able and elaborate statement to the House, able and elaborte, indeed, as all the speeches of that right hon. Gentleman are; and I may add my opinion, that his address of last night possessed one quality which I could have well wished his speeches had been distinguished by during the time he sat on these Benches—that of being also remarkably moderate and calm. I must do the right hon. Gentleman the justice to say that, speaking under a sense of the awful responsibility which rests upon him as the Minister peculiarly responsible for the peace of Ireland, he avoided every expression which could tend to increase irritation and exasperate angry feeling; and I could wish that the same moderation had characterised the right hon. Gentleman's speeches when he sat on this side of the House. I wish that language had not then been used which must have infused into the mind of the Irish people a feeling not easy to be eradicated. The speech delivered by the right hon. Baronet last night consisted of two parts; the first was a defence of the Government against the charges preferred against them in respect of recent occurrences in Ireland; and the second related to the future plans of the Government with regard to that country. Upon the first of these, I wish to address a few observations to the House. The right hon. Gentleman feeling that the pure administration of justice was a subject upon which the house and 834 the people of this country were most deeply and properly sensitive—feeling the force of the observations which had been made, both within the walls of the House and out of doors, upon certain parts of the proceedings in the late trials in Ireland, addressed himself first to the defence of the Government in reference to the exclusion of Roman Catholics from the jury, by which the traversers in the Court of Queen's Bench were tried. Upon that subject I am bound to say, taking up the question at the point where the Crown Solicitor attended to strike that jury, and placing implicit reliance on the statement of the right hon. Baronet, I am not prepared to assert that the Crown Solicitor could have adopted any other course than that which he took. In expressing this opinion I say nothing at present of the policy of the Government in instituting prosecutions which necessarily involved such a result. But if, as appears to have been admitted, eight out of ten Catholics were members of the Repeal Association; and of the remaining two, one, although not a member, was proved to have signed the requisition for a meeting, for so he had understood the right hon. Gentleman, Sir J. Graham, "was believed to have signed it and not denied"—believed and not denied, then to have signed a requisition for calling one of those multitudinous meetings, the proceedings at which meeting were to furnish pats of the evidence for the prosecution. I am bound to say that with regard to these nine out of the ten Catholics, the Crown Solicitor would not have discharged his duty had he allowed them to remain upon the jury. With regard to the remaining one, the right hon. Gentleman has pledged his word that that person was believed to be a Protestant, but that for reasons known to the Government, which they did not feel themselves called upon to disclose, he had been struck off, those reasons being irrespective of the question whether he were a Catholic or a Protestant. But if this were the state of the case, if this absolute necessity existed for striking off any Roman Catholic from the jury list, what is to be said of the admission it involved of the condition of Ireland? A great State prosecution had been instituted after months of observation and of deliberation on the part of the Government, with ail the solemnity which must ever attend such an act—the eyes of England, of Scotland, and of Europe, were 835 fixed upon the proceedings; the integrity of the empire might be at stake; the trial—a trial of Catholics—took place in a country, seven-eighths of the population of which were Roman Catholics, and yet not one Catholic could be found qualified to sit upon the jury who were to try the issue—not one whose sympathies were not enlisted with the traversers, not one who was considered a safe man to trust with the investigation of the crime with which the accused stood charged. Why were the Catholics excluded from the jury list? Because, upon the shewing of the Government they were parties to the cause, because in their estimation the traversers had a good defence, and the object and proceedings of Mr. O'Connell had their approbation. That proved that the indictment was not against Mr. O'Connell and the half dozen traversers, but an indictment against the whole Catholic population of Ireland. The right hon. Baronet has stated that the majesty of the law has been triumphant, and took credit to himself and the Government for not asking for military law and a Coercion Act. If the right hon. Gentleman had done so, I should undoubtedly have been one of his opponents; and I am bound to give credit to the Government for not taking that course. But does not the right hon. Gentleman know that even with a strict adherence to the forms of law great injustice may be committed? The moral effect of a verdict, though strictly in conformity to law, is valueless unless accompanied by a conviction of its justice and of the impartiality of the tribunal before which the cause was tried. The right hon. Gentleman illustrated his view of the case last night by a reference to a supposed action against a master of hounds, or a lay impropriator; and asked, could any one blame the attorney in such a cause, if he struck off from the jury all the members of the hunt and all lay improprietors. But the case here was wholly different, and what would the right hon. Gentleman say, if, notwithstanding his right to strike off jurors, his cause should ultimately be tried before a jury composed wholly of lay impropriators? In that case did the right hon. Gentleman believe, although the jurors might be all honourable men, above suspicion in private life, and in their individual capacities, that their verdict would carry with it a moral power or be looked upon as a just decision of the cause 836 submitted to them? But the case of a trumpery action against a master of hounds, or a lay improprietor, as put by the right hon. Gentleman, was altogether different from that of the Irish State Trials. In such cases as the former, a skilful attorney would doubtless take every pettifogging advantage which his knowledge of the law enabled him to take. He, perhaps, would not be doing his duty to his client were he not so to act; but this, as I said before, was a great State trial. Here was a solemn case involving the administration of criminal justice, and it is admitted that several Roman Catholics, upon a serious and important charge, in a country where party feeling and religious animosities ran higher than in any other on the face of the earth, have been tried by a jury holding religious opinions and, it is supposed, political opinions also directly opposed to those of the traversers. Such an admission must, I repeat, deprive the verdict of all the moral weight and effect which ought, under other circumstances, to have attached to it. Then as to the course the Government has pursued with regard to the meetings that had been held from time to time, ending with the proclamation by which the Clantarf meeting was prohibited. For months they had looked on as passive spectators, sending, indeed, troops, week after week, into Ireland, to maintain the public tranquillity, but still they looked on at these multitudinous assemblages, which long before the meeting at Clontarf, according to the right hon. Gentleman's own statement, had been held with military array, and under circumstances calculated to inspire terror and create alarm—they looked on upon these meetings, without issuing a single proclamation to warn those whom they now call the deluded victims of agitation, from attending those meetings, thus taking a course which must have led the people to suppose, that so long as the public peace remained unbroken, so long as no violence was perpetrated, so long as they kept within the law, Government would not interfere with them. Such had been the course of the Government for months, such as it appears from the extraordinary statement of the right hon. Baronet and the minute details he gave of what took place in the first week of October, such I say would have been the course of the Government with respect to the Clantarf meeting itself and the five or six other 837 meetings which Mr. O'Connell had expressed his intention of holding, and those meetings would have been allowed to take place had it not been for a certain placard couched in military terms, which reached the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, on the 29th of September, headed "Repeal Cavalry:" in which were some original terms, such as "troops," and "half distance," which, it appeared, excited the apprehensions of the right hon. Gentleman. That proclamation had been very properly transmitted to the Home-office by the noble Lord, who seems to have been the only individual who acted with due promptitude and activity in the whole proceeding. The Lord-lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor were absent; it was, therefore, evident, that no interference—no new course of proceeding was in contemplation, or they would have been in Dublin. Had it not, therefore, been for this placard, the same course of inactivity, supineness, and indifference would have continued to characterise their proceedings as had marked them for six or eight months before. What course, however, did the right hon. Gentleman take? Having received this placard I presume on the Sunday evening, he summoned the law-officers, the Lord-lieutenant, and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who happened to be in England, to a meeting on Monday, at the Home-office. There there was some discussion—perhaps some want of unanimity (though on that point the right hon. Baronet has afforded the House no information) for, like the debates in this House, notwithstanding the frequent objections made by hon. Members opposite to adjourned debates, the discussion, it appears, was adjourned from the Monday to the Tuesday, and it was again adjourned from Tuesday to the Wednesday. Meantime, it appears, a substituted placard reached the Government, amendments had been made in the original proclamation, and the Lord-lieutenant, the Lord Chancellor, the Attorney and Solicitor-generals, appear to have been employed with the right hon. Gentleman on the Tuesday and Wednesday in comparing the verbal and literal distinctions between the original and amended placard, and speculating whether the substitution of the word "groups" for "troops" was such a material alteration as to alter the character of the placard, and exempt it from the interference of the law. Every thing depended upon this 838 point, as the Government evidently thought, that until they were satisfied with the authenticity of the "Repeal Cavalry Proclamation," it might be hazardous to move against the meeting at Clontarf. On the Wednesday, however, the discussion at the Home-office ended though without a decision: except that it was on that day determined that the Lord-lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland should return to Dublin. Now, I beg to ask why, if the Government had resolved upon putting down the meeting at Clontarf, the noble Lord and the right hon. and learned Gentleman had not instantly been sent off? Why was a single moment lost in warning the "deluded victims of agitation" against coming to the meeting, which had been fixed and appointed to be held at Clontarf on the following Sunday? I do not know whether in the case of any noble Lord the Government countenance the same strict observance of Wednesday which it is notorious in another place leads to the adjournment to a later day of a debate, however important in its character, so that it may not interfere with spending the afternoon of that day at the social and festive board. Be this however as it may, Thursday morning still found the Lord-lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor in London, armed not with a proclamation, but with "certain fixed principles" with which the right hon. Gentleman had furnished them. One would at least have supposed that they would have carried with them a proclamation to put down the Clontarf meeting ready drawn and prepared, so as instantly to be used on their arrival; or it might be imagined, that having been so prepared, it had been transmitted to the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, so that on the arrival of the Lord-lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor in Ireland, the noble Earl would have had the Privy Council summoned to meet them, that thus no time should be lost. But charged with no such proclamation but only with these fixed principles, the Lord-lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor arrived in Dublin ou Friday, and then, as the right hon. Baronet stated, the Privy Council had to be summoned, the proclamation had to be drawn up with care as to its wording—a care from the responsibility of which the right hon. Baronet had absolved himself—and when this was accomplished, the proclamation had to go to the Hanaper-office, and 839 under all these circumstances the right hon. Baronet appeared to think that great diligence had been exercised, because by three o'clock of the Saturday—the day preceding that on which the Clontarf meeting had been long since appointed to be held—the proclamation had been posted all round Dublin. Now, I must say, that if the right hon. Baronet wished to show that the machinery of Lord-lieutenant, Lord Chancellor, and Chief Secretary, was an obstruction to the Government in Ireland, and calculated to risk the peace and security of the country, instead of maintaining it, he has made out a complete case. The right hon. Baronet could not better have shown the necessity for the abolition of the office of Lord-lieutenant than by his statement of last night, and it was not without some surprise, that when he came to the future policy of the Government the right hon. Gentleman did not include in his remedial measures, a proposal for the abolition of that office, as one of the remedies for the evils of Ireland. Who can doubt that if the Chief Secretary of Ireland had only to communicate with the Home Secretary, the latter would have at once walked to Downing-street to consult with the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury, and on the Monday directions would have been sent off to Ireland sufficient to prevent the fearful risk occasioned by the delay which actually did take place. I must, however, congratulate Her Majesty's Government upon the escape they had from a most fearful responsibility. Can the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Home Department deny—can any man in this House deny, that by delaying to so late a period the publication of the proclamation against the Clontarf meeting, great risks were run of making Clontarf a scene of tumult, disorder, and bloodshed, and of kindling on that spot the flames of civil war? This reminds me of one passage in the right hon. Gentleman's speech to which I will make only a passing allusion. The right hon. Baronet admitted in terms that did him credit, that the exertions of Mr. O'Connell were added to those of the Government in maintaining tranquillity, and deterring the people from attendance at that meeting, and after that admission on the part of the right hon. Baronet, it was pressing rather hardly upon the hon. and learned Gentleman to urge that on 840 this and other occasions, he had used those exertions with a view to the success of the conspiracy with which he stood charged. The right hon. Gentleman said, this had been proved at the trial. Such was not the case. On that point no evidence was submitted to the jury, although it was suggested in the speech of one or other of the counsel for the Crown. I will not enter further into this part of the subject than to say, that this reflection upon Mr. O'Connell might well have been spared, as ungenerous and unjust. I now come to the declaration made by the right hon. Baronet in regard to the future policy of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman enumerated several measures which it is the intention of Ministers to bring before Parliament. With respect to those measures, whether taken together or separately, so far as I understand their character, I fully approve of them. There is to be an extension of the franchise, a removal from the voters in boroughs of the necessity of paying part of the taxes, which now must be paid before the franchise could be exercised. Then there was the appointment of the Landlord and Tenant Commission. Next came the augmentation of the grant for Education. All those measures might be valuable, and might have a tendency to do good. But take them separately, or take them together, I ask, are they in the smallest degree adequate to the crisis at which the country has now arrived? I ask whether a trifling extension of the franchise (nay, whether trifling or extensive I care not)—but whether an extension of the franchise, or the removal of the necessity for paying those taxes, or the proposed augmentation of the Education grant, is adapted or equivalent to the urgent necessity of the case; and here I will take occasion to express my hope that, when this Education grant is proposed by the Government, it will not afford the opportunity to hon. Gentlemen who sit around and behind Her Majesty's Ministers to indulge in virulent attacks on the religion of their Catholic fellow-subjects, or elicit from them that species of opposition in which even Gentlemen in connexion with the present Government have been sometimes found active. Admitting that the labours of impartial and diligent men were devoted to the Landlord and Tenant Commission, could the prospect of a partial report from 841 that Commission towards the close of the present Session, which is all that is held out to us, allay the ferment of excitement which prevails in Ireland? Would it win back the affections of the Catholic population of that country? Are such measures as these remedies for the evils that existed? Are they a security for the tranquillity of the country? No; those measures are wholly inadequate, and I fear they will utterly fail to be effective for that purpose. There was, however, another most important point which was touched upon my by noble Friend the Member for the City of London—the Irish Church. I ask, if that is not a grievance deeply, keenly felt by the Irish people? What hope has been held out in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to this vital point? What hope are the people to entertain of any redress whatsoever of what they consider at least as a weighty grievance? It is impossible for any one who knows what the feelings of human nature are to suppose that the Irish people can look upon the present state of the ecclesiastical system in Ireland without the deepest dissatisfaction. It is not a mere question of money—it is one which concerns the feelings of a people. Among all the nations of Europe, we find that Ireland alone is so peculiarly circumstanced that, while seven-eights of her population are Roman Catholics, and the remainder divided between Episcopalians and Presbyterians, there exists in that country an exclusive Church Establishment for the Episcopalian minority. This is a grievance that comes home to every man, irrespective of the question of payment. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this question is one beset with difficulty, but I deny that it is a difficulty sufficient to deter a Minister of the Crown from dealing with it, or of a nature that justifies Parliament in refusing any attempt at conciliation. On this subject I certainly entertain very strong feelings. I am impressed with the difficulty of saying what is the precise remedy which should be adopted. But this I will say, that nothing appears to me worse, nothing more hazardous, than for Parliament to declare that they will not entertain the question as to the state of the Church in Ireland because it involves, and must necessarily involve, considerations of a difficult and complicated nature. The Protestant Established Church in Ireland, 842 the right hon. Baronet had stated, was framed at the time of the Reformation. I do not yield to any man in the deep sense of the benefits and blessings which the Reformation conferred upon this country. I glory as much as the right hon. Gentleman himself can do in being a Protestant, but I should be ashamed of the name of Protestantism, if it were made the instrument of inflicting injury or insult on those of another creed; and I cannot help feeling that the continued maintenance of an exclusive Protestant Establishment in Ireland has been the means and instrument of insult, if not of injury in that country. Excellent in their private character as are many of the individuals, I might say the great bulk of the individuals who compose the body of the Clergy and Hierarchy of the Established Church in Ireland, still I believe that the existence of that Church in its exclusive power, in spite and in defiance of the wishes, feelings, and sympathies of the people, is the source of many of the evils which that country labours under, and one great cause of the present condition of that part of the British empire. But because difficulties stand in their way, the Parliament of the United Empire ought not, therefore, to abandon the attempt to redress the evils acknowledged to exist. If we were to have recourse to Hansard, to which such frequent reference is made, I do not doubt we should find speeches made by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, containing arguments equally clear and convincing against Catholic Emancipation, founded on the insuperable difficulties which stood in the way of its concession. And yet those difficulties vanished when the Government of the day—under the apprehension of what might be the consequences of a continued and determined refusal of that measure—set themselves vigorously to consider what those difficulties really were, and how they might best he overcome. They were overcome, and Catholic Emancipation was carried; and I doubt not, that if Her Majesty's Government and the House of Commons would equally determine to consider the difficulties that now exist in respect to the Church in Ireland, and would honestly and vigorously set to work to conquer them, those difficulties would vanish, and the people of Ireland would begin again to look to the Imperial Parliament for a 843 redress of their grievances, and not seek the relief they feel themselves entitled to demand from the hands of only a local Legislature. What, I would ask, is the position in which those Gentlemen will be placed by your refusal to entertain that question who, while honestly and conscientiously avowing opinions unfavourable to Repeal, are at the same time the earnest and sincere friends of the Irish people? What will be their position if Parliament determines to shut the door against redress, called for on behalf of the people of Ireland? Hitherto, these Members have endeavoured to induce the Irish people to look to the Imperial Parliament for those remedial measures which were called for; but if the doors of Parliament should be closed against them, what else can they do, but go back to their constituents, and state that the Ministers of the Crown supported by a majority in Parliament, had determined that there should be no change in the Church Establishment, that all they were to expect was an extension of the grant for the education of the Irish people, while they were resolved to leave the whole ecclesiastical system in its present state; and that, therefore, the people of Ireland must no longer look to an Imperial Parliament for the redress of this grievance? I hope, when the House shall have deliberately considered all the bearings of the case, that they will not be deterred by the mere statement of the right hon. Gentleman, of the difficulties that present themselves—difficulties which any man might state, but which I believe an honest effort by men of influence on both sides of the House might soon overcome, I say I hope the House will not, from such considerations, be deterred from attempting to grapple with this important subject; and that the Imperial Parliament will not disregard the wishes and feelings of the Catholic population in Ireland. The great object which the House ought to have in view, and which I think is the only way in which the demand for a Repeal of the Union can be checked, is to induce the people of Ireland to look to the Imperial Parliament for the attainment of every reasonable and legitimate object which they hoped for from a domestic Legislature. There are, undoubtedly, unreasonable objects desired, but is the House prepared to say, that because of these unreasonable desires they will not listen to 844 the just complaints of the Irish people? And does the present state of the Ecclesiastical Establishment in Ireland afford no just ground of complaint? This is not a case in which the question of the truth of a religion was concerned. It is not a case which involves the question as to what was true, or what was not true. Parliament has to deal with men as it finds them—we have to deal with millions of fellow-subjects separated from us by a small channel, and who have embraced a faith, whether true or not, to which they are conscientiously attached. We might wish that these differences did not exist—that they were of one mind with ourselves, but having to deal with men, not as we could wish them to be, but as we find them. I would ask whether it does not behove the House to take care and not adopt such a course as should be calculated to fill that large porion of our Catholic fellow-subjects with disappointment and despair? It is desirable to render the Union of the two countries equal and complete; and I would ask the House, in a spirit of warning, to consider what—when placing themselves in the position in which the people of Ireland are—they must feel must be the result of a determined resistance on the part of the Imperial Parliament to all concession? The Union must be maintained, but a complete union never could be effected so long as an Established and endowed Church of the minority exclusively existed, while the Church of the majority was wholly without provision. I would refer for a moment on the subject of the Union to the sentiments which had been lately republished by one of the most eminent writers of the day—the present Lord Jeffery. In an article published some years ago in the Edinburgh Review, that eloquent and eminent man expressed his sentiments upon this important subject, and pointed out in language of the most forcible and convincing character the calamitous consequences to both countries, of an attempt to dissolve the Union between Great Britain and Ireland. After stating what the result would be to Ireland he proceeded—To England it is obvious that such a contest would be the source of unspeakable calamity, and the signal, indeed, of her permanent weakness, insecurity, and degradation. That she is bound, therefore, for her own sake, to avert it by every possible precaution and 845 every possible sacrifice, no one will be hardy enough to deny; far less that she is bound in the first instance to diminish the tremendous hazard by simply 'doing justice and showing mercy' to those whom it is, in all other respects, her interest as well as her duty to cherish and protect.…. The Union, in short, must be made equal and complete on the part of England, or it will be broken in pieces and thrown in her face by Ireland.I would ask, whether England has yet, by every possible precaution and sacrifice, endeavoured to avert what they were told by Lord Jeffery would be an unspeakable calamity as the result of a contest between the two countries; and if not, will they refuse to take one step to avert the approach of that calamity by rejecting the motion of my noble Friend? But there is one other observation which I have to make. What is really wanted for Ireland is, not only measures calculated to meet the circumstances of that country, but a Government in whom the Irish could place confidence—a Government conducted in unison with the feelings and sympathies of the people. ["Hear."] The right hon. Gentleman cheers that sentiment; I do not know whether by way of approval—but what is at present wanted, I repeat, is a system of government that should cement the Union, and that it should be conducted in unison with the feelings and sympathies of the people. Now, the measures which Her Majesty's Ministers intend to present to the House are, no doubt, good in themselves; but independently of their inadequacy, the Irish look to the past policy and past conduct of Members of the Government—and what has that been? Their words now are smoother than oil—time was when they were sharper than swords. The Irish cannot forget the conduct and language of the present Ministers when they sat on the Opposition Benches. They chose Ireland for their battle-field against an administration they wished to supplant, because they thought the feelings of the English people would be with them. The people of Ireland remember their conduct on the Appropriation Clause, when, as now, they refused any change as to the Church. They remember the conduct of the party now in power in respect to the Municipal Reform Act, and the adjustment of the Municipal franchise, and they know that the distinction made between the corporation system of Ireland and of 846 England was made because the Irish were Roman Catholics. They remember that when that bill had repeatedly passed through the House of Commons it was arrested in the House of Lords, through the agency and activity of those with whom you were in daily communication, and with whom you now sit in the Cabinet of your Sovereign. They remember your conduct on the Registration Act. [A laugh.] The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) smiles, I hope that the noble Lord may never find it to be a subject of bitter regret and unavailing remorse. The conduct of the Ministers was now, no doubt, widely different, but in order to prove the sincerity of their repentance, and that they are ready to conciliate the feelings and meet the just demands of the people of Ireland, and not trust merely to putting down disaffection by force, they must retrace their steps by wider strides; they must give more ample evidence of a change of feeling and of purpose than can be done by the bills which they have promised to bring in, or by a Landlord and Tenants' Commission. Something else is necessary on their parts to enlist the affection sad confidence of the Irish people, and to make them the loyal, devoted, and united subjects of Her Majesty in common with the people of Scotland and of England. I believe, that the present moment is not the least favourable one for such a proceeding. "The majesty of the law having been triumphant," it affords an opportunity to the Government to realise those professions which were made in the Speech from the Throne, in which Her Majesty expressed a desire to do justice to Ireland, and redress the grievances of her Irish subjects. I believe it is not now too late to win them back, and make them look for redress to the Imperial Parliament with hope, if not with confidence. Should this opportunity be lost, I fear the result; and to re-lease myself from all responsibility as to that result, I shall give my cordial support to the Motion of my noble Friend.
§ Lord Eliot
said, that his right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, had already so ably vindicated the policy of the Queen's Government with respect to Ireland, had so successfully defended every act of theirs, that he should be well content to remain silent; but considering the situation which he held, and feeling anxious to correct 847 some mistakes—mistakes he would call them—into which the right hon. Baronet fell, who had just sat down, he would take the liberty of trespassing upon the attention of the House for a few moments. He should advert in the first place, to that portion of the right hon. Baronet's speech, in which he commented on the statement made by his right hon. Friend, with respect to the military force employed in Ireland at different periods. The object of the right hon. Baronet was to show that the present Government had, on their accession to power, found a small military force, and that they had greatly ncreased it. But a reference to the official returns quoted by his right hon. Friend would make it evident, that between September 1841, and March 1843, there had been a considerable reduction; one cavalry regiment, and four battalions of infantry. With that fact before their eyes, and with a knowledge of circumstances respecting which no one could plead ignorance, he ventured to assert that no Member of that House could suppose that Her Majesty's Government had shown any disposition to effect a military occupation of the country. His right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, had shown beyond the possibility of successful contradict ion that no such disposition existed; but, at the same time, every one must have understood him to say, that whatever force might be required in Ireland for the protection of life or property, such force should be readily supplied, and should, as long as was necessary, be maintained in that country. He believed he might say, that the state of Ireland was not now worse than at the time when the right hon. Baronet opposite supported a coercion bill—a measure which he himself acknowledged he should not have supported, if the present Ministers had been in power. So that the question of coercion or of leniency was merely an affair with him of men, not of measures. The noble Lord, as the right hon. Gentleman had very properly stated, did not ask for a committee to inquire into the grievances of Ireland, and to propose measures for their amelioration. No. He asked for a committee of the whole House, which was tantamount to a vote of censure on the Ministry. He tried to wrest the reins of power from the hands in which they are placed. The right hon. Member for Waterford, and the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, dwelt in fine and 848 vague phrases about measures of amelioration, but they did not condescend to tell the House what were their own measures in Government, nor what they would now be if they should be successful in this motion. He had listened with attention to their speeches, but all he had heard was such phrases as "we disapprove of this," or "something else is necessary." They told us the Church Establishment was a grievance, but not what they would do with it; and if, as the right hon Baronet said, it is not a question of money, he was at a loss to know what object could be attained by withdrawing any portion of the revenues of the Irish Church. He would next come to the observations which had been made by hon. Members on the opposite side of the House respecting the striking of the jury. With a degree of candour which did the hon. Member opposite high honour, he admitted, that the Law Officers of the Crown could not have acted otherwise than they had done. His right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, had already sufficiently vindicated the Law Officers of the Crown, and it was only necessary for him to corroborate the statement which his right hon. Friend had made; but in doing so he desired to call the attention of the House to a letter which he had received from the Crown Solicitor in Dublin, from which it was evident that there was a strong desire on the part of the Law Officers of the Crown, to retain Roman Catholics upon the panel, provided they could do so with safety to the interests of justice. The Crown Solicitor, in his letter, stated, that previous to striking the special jury, he had been assured by a gentleman well acquainted with Dublin, that William Hendrick was a Protestant, and that this was his, the Crown Solicitor's, belief when he struck the list. I think it unnecessary, continued the noble Lord, to pursue this further. My right hon. Friend has already explained the case of Michael Dunn. There were four persons of that name. The names of three were appended to the Tara requisition, and another to the requisition for the meeting in St. Patrick's ward, and there being no places of residence attached to their signatures, and but little time for inquiry, it was naturally concluded, that the name was at least one of those four; but whether it was so or otherwise, I am not prepared to say, for, as my right hon. Friend stated, 849 though Michael Dunn denied that he was a member of the Repeal Association, he did not deny that he had signed the requisitions. [An Hon. Member.—He has not been accused of it till now.] I can only say, I think that the fact of Mr. Dunn's name being appended to such a requisition, was a valid ground for believing that he would be a biased and prejudiced person, so as to be unfit to serve on the Special Jury. I do not admit, that it is any imputation on a man's honour, or equivalent to suspecting him to be capable of perjury, to say that he is not fit to serve on a Special Jury; because in a case of great importance, in which the acts of one's friends or relations, or of a body to which we belong, are called in question, it is not in human nature to look on the evidence in that calm and unimpassioned manner in which alone it ought to be considered. I may observe here also in passing, that the right hon. Gentleman said, that all the traversers were Catholics. Now, this was not the case. Five of them are Catholics, but three of them are Protestants, and, therefore, strictly speaking, the argument is not so strong as is supposed; and without wishing to get out of the case, for I think it would be no justification of the conduct of Government, I cannot help reminding the right hon. Gentleman of the conduct of one of the traversers himself, who, as counsel in the case of Sir G. Bingham, at the Cork Assizes struck off from the panel the names of seventeen Protestants in succession. I come now to that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which there was the most acrimony, that in which he spoke of the conduct of the Government respecting the Clontarf meeting. He spoke of the inconsistency of the Government in permitting so many meetings to go on, and then suddenly interfering as they did on that occasion. I think the Solicitor-general for Ireland has so clearly explained the conduct of the Government on this subject, that I shall take the liberty of reading to the House his statement. He says,—A meeting might be unlawful, because it had an unlawful object; because it was the means resorted to to bring about an unlawful end, and until it was known what that end was—until clear evidence could be adduced to prove the conspiracy to which these meetings were ancillary—until the time had arrived when the crime and purpose were ca- 850 pable of legal proof—it would have been impossible to show that any one meeting was per se illegal.Now, supposing the Government had issued their proclamation, the meeting not being clearly illegal, what would have been their condition if they had not power to enforce it? Were they to allow it to be disregarded, or to send troops to enforce it? If they had done the first they would have been ridiculed; if the second, they would have allowed their agents to interfere with an assemblage, the legality of which was only doubtful. The Government, therefore, would not have been justified in preventing any previous meeting; but the case of Clontarf was different. With respect to that meeting, he would read another extract from the speech of the Irish Solicitor-general, which he thought placed the matter in the clearest possible light:—When, however, circumstances had occurred to show the purpose kept in view all along by the parties who caused that meeting to assemble—when that purpose was clearly demonstrated by their subsequent acts, as the conspiracy proceeded to its termination, then, indeed, the subject assumed a different complexion; and the original meeting, which, standing by itself, could not be prosecuted as illegal, became at once criminal, illegal, and open to prosecution. It was for this reason that the Crown counsel considered the Repeal meetings unlawful; because it appeared, that they were held for the unlawful purpose of exhibiting to the Legislature, and the people of England a demonstration of the physical force of the country, which it was expected would frighten and intimidate them into the concession of the measure which they (the Repealers) wished to attain. Repeated warnings had been given to the traversers—in Sir R. Peel's speech on May 9, 1843; in the Speech from the Throne; in the dismissal of magistrates. Connivance, therefore, could not be charged against the Government.Until Her Majesty's Government were advised by the law officers of the Crown, that this combination was dangerous, not only to Her Majesty's Government, but to every peaceable man in Ireland, and until the Government had legal evidence in its possession to enable it to interfere, it was the duty of the Government not to interfere. The right hon. Gentleman talked of the state of Ireland. I hold in my hand a letter, which I hardly know whether I ought to read to the House. I will, however, as a specimen of the communications made to the Government, state its 851 contents. It is from Mr. Saunderson, the late Whig Member for Cavan, and addressed to the lord-lieutenant of Cavan. It runs thus:—Castle Saunderson, 8th June, 1843.—My Dear Lord,—The greatest alarm pervades this part of the country (county of Cavan), and both Protestants and Catholics expect an immediate insurrection—at all events a parochial enlistment of Repealers is taking place at the chapels, and, the well-disposed Catholics are reluctantly joining the ranks, seeing no force in the country to resist the movement expected; there is not a soldier in the county of Cavan. On the other hand, the Protestants are preparing their arms, in some instances sitting up at night; and the magistrates, feeling that if a simultaneous movement does take place, they will have no power to resist it, know not what to say to the poor people. Whatever measures of a political nature may be adopted to allay this fearful commotion, at least the Government should lose no time in demonstrating its strength, both to discourage the disaffected, and to relieve the just apprehensions of the peaceable. Our present situation undoubtedly is, that if a simultaneous movement were to take place at this moment, we should all be overpowered in twelve hours, except perhaps a few bodies of Protestants, who are preparing for the conflict; and for these, as there are no military to concentrate on, their resistance would only embitter our fate. I am urged to do something, to call a meeting of magistrates, county meeting, &c., but I do not like to do so without being able to communicate to such a meeting some measures which may appear practicable and sufficient, and which the Government approve of and promise to support us in. I shall be much obliged by your advice.[Dr. Bowring.—What date?] The 8th of June, 1843; and at that time the military forces were beginning to be poured into Ireland. I must take the opportunity of saying that the Protestants of the north of Ireland are eminently entitled to the gratitude, not only of the Government, but of the country, for at that period they were convinced that their lives and property were in imminent peril. They heard language used by the Roman Catholic peasantry, which it was impossible to hear without alarm. They believed, that an insurrection would take place, and though filled with well-founded alarm, they acted in a manner to entitle them to general gratitude; they obeyed the law; they said they did not see any difference between a procession with orange flags, and a procession with green flags and music; but knowing that an act of Parliament existed, which made one of these processions illegal, and 852 which did not prohibit the other, they set an example highly creditable to them, and abstained from processions of any kind. I return again to the Clontarf meeting. I have already said there were circumstances connected with this meeting, which induced me to believe the meeting was illegal. I consulted the law officers. The right hon. Gentleman will recollect, that at this time the Lord-lieutenant was absent, having been compelled by severe illness to go to England for a short period. The right hon. Gentleman is also aware, that the Lord Chancellor, exhausted by continued sittings in Chancery—and no man had ever adorned that court who had conducted the business more effectively than that learned Lord—had also been obliged to retire to England for a short period. In their absence, I consulted the law officers as to the nature of the placard which my right hon. Friend has read to the House. We were of opinion, that the circumstances which were described in the proclamation subsequently issued rendered the meeting illegal, and I communicated to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government, and to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Home Department, my determination to take upon myself the responsibility of prohibiting the meeting if their instructions should not reach me in time. I transmitted my opinion to London, and, also the view which the law officers of Ireland had taken of the the same subject. Government concurred in these views, and it was agreed upon, that a proclamation should be issued, but in the meanwhile, namely, the 2nd of October, the first having appeared on the 30th September, the amended placard was issued. I brought the amended proclamation under consideration, and I asked how far the character of the meeting had been altered by it. This information reached London on the 4th of October, the day on which my noble Friend was to take his departure for Ireland; and a fresh consultation was accordingly had on the subject. My noble Friend was thus detained in London till Thursday and did not reach Dublin till Friday. It is necessary to mention this, because the right hon. Gentleman twits my right hon. Friend for not sending by my noble Friend a proclamation ready cut and dried. How could he foresee that twenty-four hours would not alter 853 the character of the meeting, or how could he frame a proclamation to meet all emergencies? No; it was left to the Irish Government to act according to circumstances, the Government here laying down principles—that is, explaining their views on almost all possible circumstances which might be likely to arise. A consultation was held at the Castle on Friday, at which the Lord-lieutenant, the Lord Chancellor, the Commander-in-Chief, and the Law officers and myself were present, and the unanimous opinion was, that the meeting should not be allowed to take place. The proclamation was drawn up, and on Saturday it was finally agreed to at a meeting of the Privy Council. I must here advert to something that has been said, not in this House, but by a right hon. Gentleman, a Member of this House, out of the House, as to the mode in which the Council was summoned. It has been stated, that an insult was offered to the Roman Catholics, because Chief Justice Brady and the right hon. Anthony Blake, two gentlemen whom I am happy to call my friends, were not summoned to the Council. Chief Baron Brady is a Protestant; but let that pass. I take the whole blame of omitting these two gentlemen on myself. I thought, that the step about to be taken ought to be taken on the responsibility of the Executive Government alone, and I did not think it expedient to ask our political opponents to share this responsibility. They might have dissented from the step, but they would have only formed a small minority, and no practical effect of their dissent could have followed. Their dissent could not be known, because it could not be recorded; and notwithstanding their dissent, I feel they would in a certain degree have shared in what might be termed the odium of that measure. The Irish Government, therefore, took all the responsibility on itself, and they therefore thought it right to summon only those who were with them to share it. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the risk of collision. In answer to that, I say that these meetings never took place until after mass. At day break the ground on which the meeting was to take place was occupied by an overwhelming military force; and no mass of people that could have been brought together, would have thought for a moment of encountering such a force, Measures had 854 been previously taken to send the proclamation to all the police stations within thirty miles of Dublin, and I believe all those places had a copy. I have also reason to believe, that very few, if any, persons proceeded to the place of meeting the day before it was to take place. But I say again, that the imposing military force on the spot rendered collision impossible. There is one more point to which I wish to refer, it relates to the doubt expressed as to the illegality of the meeting at Clontarf. If the meeting was legal, nothing was so easy as for the hon. Member for Cork to try the question. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had gone there with two or three friends, he might have tried the question at once, by bringing an action of assault against any one who prevented him from appearing there. We now come to the main question. The noble Lord proposes to the House to go into a Committee of the whole House, not to consider measures of amelioration, but to propound resolutions condemnatory of Her Majesty's Government. [An Hon. Member.—Both.] From the course of the speech of the noble Lord, I am unable to understand what resolutions are to be brought forward; and the noble Lord studiously avoided stating any measures he wished. The only practical measure which the noble Lord suggested, was the appointment of more stipendiary magistrates. But my right hon. Friend gave the noble Lord a lesson respecting stipendiary magistrates which I am inclined to believe will induce the noble Lord to regret the statement which he made on that subject. The right hon. Gentleman, repeating what the noble Lord said—I do not mean to speak invidiously,—referred at considerable length to the Established Church of Ireland; but he carefully abstained from explaining his own views on this question. The right hon. Gentleman, and the noble Lord, talked of a tripartite division of the property of the Church, and of making the revenues of the Church support the three establishments of Protestant, Catholic, and Dissenting Clergy. The right hon. Gentleman, however, is even less explicit than the noble Lord; for no one could possibly make out what the right hon. Gentleman really intended to do. The hon. Member for Waterford has repudiated the idea of a state provision for the Roman Catholic Clergy. If so, it is hardly worth while to discuss the point, 855 for the only object which Goverment could have in view in adopting such a measure as a state provision for the Roman Catholic Church, would be to secure the friendship and goodwill of the Roman Catholic Clergy; and if we are told, that to make such a provision would be considered an insult and an injury by the Roman Catholic Clergy, why I say that to expect any advantage from such a measure is impossible. I now come to the question, are you to subtract any part of the revenues of the Protestant Church in Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman declined to do this, for he said it is not a question of money; then it must be the actual existence of the Established Church which is threatened. I am sure there will be found a party in Ireland—I do not say the Roman Catholics generally, for I believe that in stating, as many witnesses of that persuasion did before the Committee of the House of Lords, that there was no intention to interfere with the integrity of the Established Church, they were sincere; but I do say there is a class of agitators in Ireland who will be satisfied with no measure short of the actual subversion of the Established Church. I do not, however, believe that this House, or indeed any Parliament in this country, would consent to the subversion of the Protestant Church. When the noble Lord introduced the Church Temporalities Bill, he declared that it was introduced for the purpose of strengthening the Established Church. With respect to the Appropriation clause, the object of that clause was general, and not, certainly, religious education in any particular sect or creed—and in my own opinion, had it been carried the concession would not have neutralised the opposition of the enemies of the Church. Some reference has been made by hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side to declarations which I put forward when about to join the Government to which I have the honour to belong. I do not recollect the exact words of those declarations, but to the spirit of them I strictly adhere. I predicted that my colleagues would conduct the Government of Ireland in a spirit of perfect justice and impartiality, and, notwithstanding all the imputations which have been thrown upon them by hon. Gentlemen opposite, I am utterly unable to fix on one single act which requires defence or justification. The present Government has now been in power 856 for the space of nearly three years, and during the whole of that time, I have not heard any imputation of partiality or injustice fastened upon them, except the charges now made against them in reference to the striking of the special jury, when I contend that the Crown Solicitor did no more than his duty. This, indeed, has been admitted by the right hon. Member who has just sat down. As to the exercise and distribution of patronage, hon. Gentlemen must know that it is impossible for any Government to dispense favour or patronage to their political opponents. Let the House see how Government is situated with respect to this point. It is true that the mass of the people of Ireland are Roman Catholics, but it is equally indisputable, that the great majority of the members of the liberal professions in that country are Protestants. I will give the House one instance of it in the constitution of the Irish bar. There are, I believe, about sixty or sixtyfive Queen's Counsel, and of those, how many does the House think are Roman Catholics? Exactly twelve. Nor can such a disproportion be owing to any undue exercise of patronage, for no one will for a moment suppose, that Roman Catholic gentlemen of standing at the bar could have been passed over by preceding Administrations. In a country where the great mass of the people are Roman Catholic, there are only twelve gentlemen who have attained that rank in their profession which has been bestowed on fifty Protestants. That disproportion is strikingly shown in the trials of the Traversers, where, no doubt, every efficient member of the Roman Catholic religion, was and would have been put in requisition for the defence. There were eight Queen's Counsel engaged for them, of whom five were Protestants and Conservatives. [Hear, hear.] It was certain, that only three of those gentlemen Messrs. Sheil, Monaghan, and Pigot, were Roman Catholics. [An hon. Member: "Mr. Moore."] That gentleman is a Protestant, though not of Conservative opinions: but, in pointing out these differences, I am not making any invidious distinctions, or entering upon a religious question, but I am merely endeavouring to show how difficult it is for Government to dispense their patronage as has been recommended to them. I ask Gentlemen opposite to name the man at the Irish bar of the Roman Catholic per- 857 suasion, and not an opponent of the Government, who is fit to be made Lord Chancellor or Master of the Rolls? I contend that they cannot name one; and it is hard, then, to taunt Government because they have been unable to find Catholic barristers to promote. As so much has been said about the elevation of unfit and improper persons to the Bench, and the undue advancement of Englishmen to places of trust, it is right to observe, that for my part, I am satisfied no better selections could have been made, than were made in the case of Mr. Lefroy, Mr. Jackson, and Mr. Blackburne; and with respect to the latter charge, I will only reply, that not one Englishman has been promoted to any permanent situation of trust by the present Government. Now, with regard to the manner in which Government has exercised its patronage in other departments. There are the situations of stipendiary Magistrates—places of high trust and importance—vacancies in three of which have been filled by Roman Catholic gentlemen. In the same way, they have nominated a gentleman of the same religion, as assistant barrister, which is, also, as hon. Gentlemen are no doubt aware, a post of great importance and considerable influence. For the distinguished situation of one of Her Majesty's Serjeants, the Government selected Mr. Howley, a Roman Catholic, a gentleman well qualified indeed for the high and honourable office to which they have appointed him, a gentleman who has conciliated the respect, and gained the affections of those amongst whom he had exercised his judicial functions. He has been paid the highest honour that could well be conferred upon him, for upon his leaving Tipperary, he received the most flattering addresses from the inhabitants of that county, of every class and denomination. He was the only man whom Government could select among the Roman Catholic members of the bar, and notwithstanding all I have said in his praise, I can assure the House that there are many Protestant barristers, whose professional claims are, to say the least of them, equal to those of Mr. Howley. Such has been the disposition of Her Majesty's Government to bestow just favour and patronage on Roman Catholics, that they have put aside the claims of their own friends, and promoted a gentleman, who, though moderate in his politics, had not been a supporter 858 of the Government. I have now, I hope said enough to satisfy the House, that in the distribution of their patronage, Government has been actuated by no unworthy sectarian spirit, but has bestowed it whenever they could, without reference to any religious distinctions. I maintain that there has been no dereliction of duty on their part—no tampering with the administration of justice—no desire to promote the ascendancy of any sect, but, that throughout their conduct, they have evinced the strictest spirit of impartiality. There is not a single act of theirs, which I am not prepared whenever called upon to defend and vindicate. It is difficult, indeed, to deal with vague, general accusations: but I have taxed my memory carefully, and have been unable to recollect any part of the conduct of Government which requires vindication or defence. Of the legislative measures proposed by the Government, I will not now speak—more fitting opportunities of doing so will present themselves. It is not my habit to indulge in exaggerated expressions of feeling, but I will say I have ever entertained a strong desire to be of service to Ireland. This disposition, which existed before my official connection with that country, has been strengthened by that circumstance, by the hospitality I have received, and by the friendships I have formed there. All that I have seen of the country and of its inhabitants has endeared it to me, and I am sure the House will give me credit for sincerity, when I say, that I never will become a consenting party to any act which I do not conscientiously believe to be calculated to better the condition, and to promote the welfare of the Irish people.
§ The debate further adjourned.
§ House adjourned at half-past twelve o'clock.