§ Order of the Day read.
said that he rose, as a representative of an Irish constituency, to state the reasons why he thought that the measures of Her Majesty's Government were inefficient, and totally inadequate to attain any desirable result. Had the Government gone down to the House with other measures calculated to improve the condition of the Irish people, they would have had a much stronger case to rely upon than they had at present, when they asked the House to pass the measure then before them. Had they done that, they should have had his support. But the case was very different, when, with the state of Ireland before them—with the appalling destitution, the more than usual misery and wretchedness of the peasantry depicted before them, they took that opportunity of devising a measure, not only unpopular and unconstitutional in its tendency, but utterly inadequate in its principle to attain the desired result. He had hoped that, long before this, the labours of the Land Commission would have been productive of some practical result. But such had been unfortunately hitherto the tenor of their legislation, that they had been invariably too late in the production of their measures, and but too frequently those measures had been inefficient, and ill adapted to the merits and to the exigencies of the case. That some legislation on the state of the relation between landlord and tenant in Ireland was necessary, was, he believed, admitted on all sides; and he apprehended that most, if not all, the crime that afflicted parts of Ireland was attributable to that cause; and that was the opinion of those best calculated to form a sound 613 judgment on the subject. He found from the Appendix to the Report of the Land Commission, that in 1843 there were issued from the civil bill courts 5,244 ejectments, comprising no less than 14,816 persons. The Commissioners, in their Report of 1830, used the following language:—The situation of the ejected tenantry, or of those who are obliged to give up their small holdings, in order to promote the consolidation of farms, is necessarily most deplorable. It would be impossible for language to express the state of distress to which the ejected tenantry have been reduced. They have increased the stock of labour, and, what is perhaps more painful than all, a vast number of them have perished from want.Were we, he would ask, in a better condition now? Lord Devon's Report, when speaking of the agricultural labourer, said—It would be impossible to describe adequately the privations which they and their families habitually and patiently endure. It will be seen in the evidence that in many districts their only food is the potato, their only beverage water. When we consider this state of things, and the large proportion of the population which come under the designation of agricultural labourers, we have to repeat that the patient endurance they exhibit is deserving of high commendation, and entitles them to the best consideration of Government and of Parliament.He considered that that evidence was quite conclusive, and he called upon the Government to take the subject speedily into its consideration, equitably to adjust the question, having regard alike to the duties as well as to the rights of property; and should it be found that the former had been neglected, he did not hesitate to say that a measure to prevent the future recurrence of such neglect would be productive of far more use, and would conduce to far more practical results, than such Bills as the present. He considered, also, that it was not only the interest, but the bounden duty of Parliament to attend to and remedy what had been termed—and he perfectly coincided in the propriety of the designation—the monster grievance of Ireland, the Established Church. He had never heard before of a religious establishment for the benefit of a small minority of a country, of a populous country, of a country possessing more than eight millions of inhabitants, where these eight millions were compelled to pay for the proper service of the religion of scarce eight hundred thousand. It had been said that any organic change in the Irish Church would necessarily lead to similar results in the Church of England here. That consequence he must deny. 614 It did not seem to him to be even probable. Indeed, he thought rather that a satisfactory adjustment of the Irish Church system would tend still further to strengthen the bonds that united the English Church to the people of this country; and he was quite certain that the longer the adjustment of the question was postponed, the worse bargain would the Irish Church be compelled, by the indignant voice of public opinion, to make. A writer on Ireland had justly observed that one reason why the Irish Church was so unpopular with the nation was, that—The religion of the Church of Ireland is Puritanism rather than Protestanism. The tone of its clergymen is much in the same key as the voice of dissent in England. They are, in their notions, very unlike their English brethren. Its clergy have zealously opposed the education of the people, and yet a national property is set apart for their exclusive maintenance.Those, however, who had learned how the Church of England really did feel upon religious subjects, could only feel the deepest dejection at the mischievous industry with which the Protestant religion was exhibited in its most revolting aspect to an Irish people. What, then, was it the duty of the House to do? Were they to pass Coercion Bills for Ireland, or were they by a wise legislation to remove those evils under which the country laboured? He implored the House to adopt the latter alternative. Let them prove to the people of Ireland that they had not only the power but the will to serve them. Let them remove the causes of discontent, and they would thus lay the foundations for years of prosperity, whilst they would have the credit of placing society in that country in a position which it had never enjoyed before, when under their auspices it became contented and prosperous; when property would perform its duties as well as possess its rights; and when the Church would no longer be in that degrading position which now compelled it to receive its support from millions of its poorer Dissenting and Roman Catholic neighbours.
The O'CONOR DON
observed, that this was a Bill of extreme pains and penalties, and highly restrictive of liberty, no one would deny; that it was a measure which would produce beneficial consequences, no one had attempted to establish; nor had there been any attempt to show that there was any connexion between the Bill itself and the crimes committed in Ireland. An appalling detail of the extent of that crime had been submitted to the House by the right 615 hon. Gentleman, and this measure was brought forward as a remedy for the evil; but it was easy to show that, while it would not tend to prevent the commission of crime, it would be the means of inflicting injury on thousands of well-disposed persons. He especially referred to the clause which required any person in a proclaimed district to remain in his own house from sunset to sunrise. There was not a district in Ireland in which this clause, if enforced, would not be productive of great annoyance and oppression, as people, when returning from market and on other lawful occasions, would be under the necessity of being out of their houses after sunset and before sunrise. The Secretary at War had alleged that one of the reasons for this clause was to insure the protection of the poor rather than the rich, as the former were chiefly attacked or shot at night, while the latter were usually assailed and murdered during the day. Now, from the experience which he had had he came to an opposite conclusion, as he found in the county which he represented that a great many poor persons were attacked during the day. The only result of such a clause as this being enforced would be, that offences, instead of being committed in the night, would be committed during the day. The Secretary for the Home Department referred to resolutions adopted by the grand jury for the county of Roscommon, and signed by him (the O'Conor Don) amongst others, and the right hon. Baronet had drawn from this circumstance the inference that therefore he was in favour of this Coercion Bill. Now, he would shortly explain to the House the part he had taken in this proceeding; and he was confident that after having done so the House would arrive at an opposite conclusion to that of the right hon. Gentleman. That there were in Roscommon many violent and lamentable violations of the law he was not there to deny; nor had he ever heard any one in the country, high or low, lay or clerical, but spoke against them in terms of bitter condemnation. At the assizes there were certain resolutions prepared by members of the grand jury, in which it was stated that a Coercion Bill ought to be carried by that House. He informed the grand jury that he did not coincide in such a view, as he could not consistently with his political sentiments support a proposal for bringing in any such Bill. He mentioned that he had always been opposed to Coercion Bills, and begged 616 of the grand jury not to call for such a measure, on the ground that it would be useless, and, as he said at the time, they would only be showing their teeth where they could not bite. Finding that a majority of the grand jury did not agree with him in opinion, he withdrew; but, as this was not thought consistent with courtesy, he afterwards returned, and the grand jury consented to alter the words in the resolution from a call for a Coercion Bill, to a phrase simply calling on the Government to give efficiency to the law of the land; but it did not give any opinion as to how the efficiency was to be shown. The Government was quite aware of the part he had taken on that occasion; for when he returned to that House, Sir Thomas Fremantle told him that he knew he had opposed a Coercion Bill, and that he was quite right in so opposing it, as the present Government would unquestionably not grant a Coercion Bill. But, though the Government were aware of his opposition to such a measure, his name had been introduced in both Houses of Parliament as in favour of the Coercion Bill. [Sir J. GRAHAM: Did this conversation take place after the last summer assizes?] He recollected distinctly that it was on his return to that House from the Roscommon summer assizes. Sir Thomas Fremantle stated to him in the library that he was aware that the grand jury were in favour of a Coercion Bill, and that he (the O'Conor Don) had opposed it; and the right hon. Gentleman gave him the names of one or two persons who had taken part in the proceedings, showing how carefully the right hon. Gentleman had got his information. In reference to the Bill now before the House, he maintained that it would rather aggravate the evils of Ireland, than tend to remove them. Ireland had been the victim of tardy legislation: she ceased to attract attention till the eyes of the Legislature were directed towards her through the medium of disturbances. The sooner Government came to the consideration of such questions as that of landlord and tenant, the better would it be for Ireland. The Secretary at War said he was anxious for the fair fame of Ireland; and Irish Members must have heard with shame that in the Speech from the Throne the nation to which they belonged was spoken of as on the verge of starvation and the scene of assassination; but, if this was the source of sorrow to any Irish Member, was it not a source of discredit to the Ministers 617 of the country, who had the destinies of Ireland in their hands?
§ MR. M. MILNES
thought the House should confine its attention to the matter immediately under its consideration, rather than embark on the great sea of a general Irish question; more particularly as the case under consideration had been brought forward as a peculiar and especial one. He considered it a satisfaction to every English and Irish man in the House, that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, had drawn a distinct line as to the special nature of his case, which he represented as applicable for a peculiar emergency, and carefully separated it by very broad lines from the great questions respecting Irish legislation, which had so frequently been before the House. Indeed, it was impossible for any person to have paid attention to the right hon. Baronet's remarks without perceiving that the present was a temporary measure of prevention, and that in their consideration it was to be regarded as such. It had been maintained by hon. Members opposite, that the House ought not to consider the present Bill without also considering the propriety of introducing large and general remedial measures; but he would suggest whether they were not giving this measure an undue importance, as if it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to interfere in any way with the liberty of the subject more than absolutely necessary for the protection of life and property. He must say that he did not think that any of those Gentlemen could be so sanguine of the success of any remedial measure, or imagine that they could at once be effectual in stopping that frightful system of assassination (for he did not see why they should blink that word) without accompanying it by some strong immediate police regulation. For it was clear that when society had fallen into such a state as to be productive of outrages of the description they had heard, any measures directed to the remedy of the evil ought to be accompanied by some strong coercive measure. He did believe Her Majesty's Government were not unwilling to receive from hon. Members opposite any suggestion that would under this Bill be more practically useful for carrying out its immediate object. In the progress of that Bill through the other House the greatest unanimity prevailed as to the desirableness of the measure. Since he had had the honour of a seat in the House, he had felt very deeply on the subject 618 of Ireland; a subject on which it was impossible for any one to think without a consciousness of its overpowering weight and difficulty, He cordially concurred in the noble sentiment expressed by his right hon. Friend the Secretary at War, that he for one would never join in making Ireland the scene of a party conflict. He hoped earnestly and heartily, that those hon. Gentlemen on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, who had been led into what he believed to be a violation of the great rule of justice in this respect, had been misled rather by the heat of party struggles, over which individually they had little control, rather than by any intention to do anything to the injury of Ireland. In the course of this debate, he trusted they would do all they could to prevent the opinion from being entertained out of doors, that this Bill was brought forward as a measure of insult and injury to the Irish people. He was sure the strongest opponent of Government would readily admit, that since they came into office they had done everything in their power to administer the affairs of that country with justice and moderation, irrespective of party feeling. Her Majesty's Government were determined to adopt the policy of governing Ireland as a whole, and not with reference to any party, how powerful so ever that party might be. He thought the House would admit the difficulty of carrying out such a course of policy. If he should give his support to the Bill, it was simply because he regarded it as a measure of relief intended to meet an immediate evil, which he hoped would be of very short continuance. It had been objected by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, that the Bill failed in one point, namely, in restricting its operations to the night, although it was well known that a considerable number, if not a majority, of the crimes which it was intended to prevent, had been committed in the daytime. But the great object of this Bill was detection; and as outrages committed during the night were most difficult of detection, it was of importance that the provisions of the Bill should provide especially for the apprehension of nightly offenders. It was no satisfactory answer to say, that this Bill would be inconvenient to innocent persons in the neighbourhood in which it came into operation. It was impossible to conceive any system of strong restrictive police that would not be inconvenient to the innocent as well as the guilty. Crime of the character 619 committed in Ireland could only be eradicated by a measure of this nature. He hoped it would have the effect of raising the moral character of the people, by making them feel the expense and inconvenience arising from criminality. He was glad to find that the original proposition to transport offenders for fifteen years had been altered, and seven years substituted. He did not think that the punishment of transportation ought to be inflicted so summarily as the Bill now provided, and he should, therefore, co-operate with hon. Gentlemen opposite for the Amendment of that clause. It was most important that the innocent should not be confounded with the guilty; but as separating them at all times was most difficult under a measure of this kind, its punishments ought not to be severe. Whatever good effects might be produced by this measure, he hoped the Government would not consider themselves thereby exonerated from bringing forward great remedial measures for Ireland. He believed no English Government could any longer go on without bringing forward remedial measures for Ireland. He hoped they would approach that difficult task in something better than a mere party spirit. By so doing they might resolve that difficult problem of legislating satisfactorily for Ireland, and wipe out that great stain of English history, without the removal of which stain they could not look forward to a blessing on this country.
MR. D. BROWNE
stated, that it was matter of congratulation to every Irish representative, and particularly to those whose political opinions were identified with the sentiments of the majority of the people, to witness the calm and moderate tone in which the debate had been conducted, the evident change in the feelings of that House respecting Irish questions, and to see that the dogmatism with which the hon. Gentlemen opposite were wont to discuss Irish questions had been abandoned, and that the sentiments of those in whom the people placed confidence were received with attention and consideration, even by Her Majesty's Ministers. However, it was difficult for an Irish Member to imitate that moderate tone, disposed though he might be to do so; for it would be acknowledged by all, that it was calculated to excite feelings of an irritating nature in the reflection that the Constitution was about to be suspended in Ireland—that the civil and national liberties of the people were about being diminished and disturbed 620 at a period when a most comprehensive measure, perhaps the fullest that could be desired, of commercial liberty, was being extended to England, respecting which, if the people of Ireland were not willing to make great sacrifices, at least they had hazarded a great risk for the sole benefit of the people of England. It should be matter painful to the feelings of every British citizen, who appreciated the privileges and the blessings of the free institutions of this country, especially if he were an Irish Member, to find, while he remained here, that he could enjoy those privileges undisturbed and unimpaired; but that the moment he crossed the Irish Channel, where there was no difference as to the extent of crime, though there certainly was in its character—for while crimes in Ireland were caused by political grievances, the redress of which grievances would be the prevention of those crimes—crimes in England arose out of the morbid passions of the people, individualized in a thousand ways which no legislative treatment could reach, inasmuch as the aggregate of crime, especially of murder, sprung from a thousand causes in the variety of the idiosyncracies of moral guilt—must it not be painful to any Irish representative, with such a state of things, to find that the moment he trod upon the soil of his country, the free privileges of the British Constitution were no longer sacred and inviolate—that he left a land of freedom to occupy a country in a worse condition than a penal settlement—worse, he repeated, for when punishment terminated in a penal settlement, the fullest enjoyment of constitutional freedom commenced: that he was destined to a country where every man's dwelling-house was his prison—where his sleep might be broken at any moment, and the sanctuary of his home violated by those emissaries of the law who, he should prove hereafter, were not very scrupulous in the discharge of their unenviable duties, and dependent upon whose evidence and honesty there was little protection for the lives and liberties of the people. He now came to the question before the House. It should be acknowledged by all—and nobody regretted it more than he did—that there existed unhappily at the present moment in Ireland, prædial excitement of a most dangerous character under a formidable combination in many counties, and that it was quite incompatible with the well-being of society. But then the question was, whether that prædial excitement was to be 621 arrested by the strong arm of the law—whether the strong arm of the law could arrest it—or whether it was to be allayed by the more soothing treatment of remedial measures, and a more conciliatory and national policy in the administration of the Government of the country? This brought him to the consideration whether those evils had arisen out of the maladministration of the Government of Ireland, and the conduct of the higher classes and the landlords, or from the naturally bad passions and insubordinate spirit of the people of the country. If the two former were the causes, the remedy was obvious—a change in the administration of the law, and the application of legislation to, and a wholesome restraint, so far as it could be constitutionally exercised, upon, the conduct of the landlords. He should not go back to the period before the Union. He should not revert to those revolting scenes which defaced the history of Ireland; no, let them be buried in oblivion. It was better it should be so, for the sake of peace, for the sake of good-will, for the sake of that mutual confidence which the remembrance of rankling injuries would be calculated to disturb, and upon which confidence depended the prosperity and permanent happiness of the country. But since the Union, though the rule of England was of a milder and a less barbarous character, more in accordance with the spread of civilization, and the moral duties and obligations of a more tolerant interpretation of the doctrines of Christianity; yet the acts of the Executive still continued rigorous, shamefully partial and one-sided; suspected, in the exercise of its highest functions even on the Bench, under its most sacred obligations; and the same system of class legislation was adopted which for centuries was found to be the bane of Ireland; which governed for a party and not for a people; which ranged Catholic against Protestant, and Protestant against Catholic, till in the struggle for ascendancy on the one hand, and equality on the other, they forgot they had a country, to the development of whose vast resources, material and intellectual, if their vast united energies had been directed, there would be infinitely greater power, benefit, and honour, even to the ascendant party, than from the miserable monopolies and despicable domination for which they had been contending—that class legislation which was based upon the blind and mistaken policy, that a great social or political 622 system, or any system of uniform Government, could be raised up out of the paltry materials which a miserable section of a party could afford; and that the greatness and stability of the one, and the security of the other, were not to be dependent upon the vast materials and their greatest variety of the universal nation, which would be found so plastic to the hands of a statesman, if there were a great design of wise and beneficent government conducted with liberality and grace. What was the nature of their legislation since the Union? After a solemn promise between the Minister of that day and the Catholic people of Ireland, that emancipation would be immediately granted, if they did not resist the Union—were not the doors of both Houses of Parliament closed against the Roman Catholics for twenty-nine years? And when they got Catholic Emancipation—when the Legislature gave them a right to enjoy certain privileges—were they not shut out from the enjoyment of them by every Government of the day? They were showed lofty positions, which they were told they could occupy; but the ladder by which they could climb—the goodwill and patronage of the Executive—was denied them. They had a right to benefit, but an exclusion from benefit. They had perfect equality upon the Statute-book of England, but inequality in the Castle of Dublin, which was proved in every act of its administrative capacity, whether it related to power, patronage, or even to pardon and punishment. Then they had the Church grievance continued, with all its indispensable abuses unabated, until within the last few years. Here, however, he might take the opportunity of alluding to words spoken in some place which the infirmity of his House of Commons' recollection would not allow him to mention. It had been remarked, that in consequence of a solemn compact at the Union, the temporalities of the Protestant Church in Ireland could not be touched. Why, they had been touched several times since the Union, and especially by Lord Stanley, whose Bill flew at no vulgar game, but took down bishops at every swoop with as little respect as if they were Sikhs, or Affghans, or meri Hibernici in olden time, or even Polish noblemen of the present day. But what was the abstract character of such a policy. Did the noble Duke mean to say that one race of men could make laws binding on another—that the human institutions of the present 623 day, which were finite, would remain for ever applicable to a people who were eternal—to a stretch of ages yet to come, and, perhaps, of nations yet unnumbered. Were they to see in Ireland the progress of science stimulated by the Government of the day—and the preferment of that distinguished Catholic gentleman, Dr. Kane, was a disposition to do so, besides also the distinction which they conferred the other day upon another Catholic gentleman, Dr. Corrigan, the most eloquent lecturer, perhaps, in the world, on Materia Medica — were they to see the progress of science in Ireland meet with reward and honour, while the noblest of all sciences — the science of legislation—was to remain stationary and unimproved? Were the people of England to see the merchandise of England, with all its new inventions, borne, as it would be under the new Tariff regulations, over the waters of the world with a rapidity almost increasing with the progress of time, while the machinery of Irish legislation was to be lumbering on in all the dulness of its staid antiquity? And were the people of Ireland to sit down content in the old family coach of Tory or even of Whig finality, while England and every other nation of the world was passing them by with the railroad speed of legislation, casting the dust of reform in their eyes? He next alluded to the coercive measures passed towards Ireland since the Union, and he thought he should show that, while they had the same objects the life and property protective measures seemed to have, they were perfectly inefficacious in fulfilling their objects. Let them just consider the coercive measures enacted from the Union to 1829. He found those Acts so well arranged in a speech delivered by the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government, and quoted elsewhere, that he made no apology to the House for reading an extract:—In 1800 we find the Habeas Corpus Act suspended, and the Act for the Suppression of Rebellion in force. In 1801 they were continued. In 1802, I believe, they expired. In 1803, the insurrection for which Emmet suffered broke out, Lord Kilwardin was murdered by a savage mob, and both Acts of Parliament were renewed. In 1804 they were continued. In 1806 the west and south of Ireland were in a state of insubordination, which was with difficulty suppressed by the severest enforcement of the ordinary law. In 1807, in consequence chiefly of the disorders which had prevailed in 1806, the Act called the Insurrection Act was introduced. It gave power to the Lord Lieutenant to place any district, by proclamation, out of the pale of the ordinary law. It suspended trial by jury, and made it a transportable offence 624 to be out of doors from sunset to sunrise. In 1807 this Act continued in force, and in 1808 and 1809, till the close of the Session of 1810. In 1811 the Insurrection Act was renewed; it was continued in 1815, 1816, and 1817. In 1822 it was again revived, and continued during the years 1823, 1824, and 1825. In 1825, the temporary Act intended for the suppression of dangerous associations, and especially the Roman Catholic Association, was passed. It continued during 1826 and 1827, and expired in 1828. In 1829 a new Act was obtained to suppress the Roman Catholic Association.First, he proposed considering how those measures were calculated to act upon the popular mind. They had for fifteen or sixteen years, out of twenty-eight, laws, for all the time, more or less oppressive; some trenching upon the first principles of liberty, all interfering with the right of petition and the freedom of discussion. The great charters of British liberty, Trial by Jury and the Habeas Corpus Act, were suspended. Absolute power was given to the Lord Lieutenant to place the country out of the pale of the Constitution. To be seen out at certain hours of the night was made a transportable offence, a principle most dangerous to freedom, giving to crime a relative, and not a positive character—making criminality depend, not upon the overt act, the intent or animus, but upon a question of time—making what was innocent this moment criminal the next; in fact, having the conduct of the people, in its legal responsibility, vacillating between innocence and guilt, according to the curfew regulations of the Bill now before the House. Could they, therefore, expect there could be tranquillity and order under such a state of things? Could they expect contentment? Would not the Irish people be more or less than human if they were satisfied? Would they not be more or less than human if they were well affected, under such a state of things, to the Government of the country? Was not the excitement more to be attributed to the Government of England, than to the nationally evil passions of the people? What, let them inquire, were those coercive measures intended to effect; and were they successful in carrying out their object? They were intended to accomplish the same objects as the present Bill, and they were signally unsuccessful. In those days, he should demonstrate by reference to the debates of that House, as well as in the present, the great excitement affecting the peace of society was of a prædial character relating to land, its burdens and occupancy in one form or another; no matter whether it affected the people in 625 the shape of tithes, or rack-rent, or the precarious tenure of land. And, here, he might take the liberty of remarking, differing as he did in opinion from others, that this agrarian excitement never had much connexion with political agitation; and, at the present moment, it had none. Political agitation had never been dangerous to the well-being of society. It had always, since the Union, inculcated obedience to the laws; and the danger had always arisen when the law had endeavoured to suppress it, as in the instance of the State Trials the other day; and the people had not had recourse to lawlessness until they were prevented seeking a redress of their grievances in a constitutional way. One, to use an illustration, was a bright light that pointed out, in the noontide of freedom, the way to rational liberty; the other was a smouldering fire, slacked from the public view, which, during a period of coercion, in the darkness of despondency and despair, ever burned with lurid malignity, avoiding, with ignis fatuus power, the vigilance of the Government. But all those Coercion Bills were to suppress this prædial excitement. He should quote, in corroboration of his statement, from the speeches of the Ministers of the day, who all, by the way, commenced by expressing, as did the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, their regret, and how much it was their painful duty, to introduce such measures. Lord Castlereagh, in the year 1800, in proposing the Bill for the Suppression of Rebellion, talked, as did the right hon. Baronet, of the extent of outrages. Thirty-four men, he said, in reference to Ireland, were condemned to death a few months previously; 207 were tried; and all the crimes were levelled against property. Mr. Secretary Yorke in 1805 used similar language; and in the year 1814 Viscount Sidmouth, in the House of Lords, in introducing the Irish Peace Preservation Bill, said—He regretted to have to introduce such a Bill"—so far agreeing with the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary. "There were, however, districts in Ireland where such a system of terror and outrage prevailed, as to stop the administration of justice, and suspend the functions of the county magistrates. Sometimes a man was told that a certain rent should be given, and those who dared to give a higher rent were exposed to the dreadful punishment of 'carding,' and at other times such persons incurred the punishment of death.Then they had the exact state of things complained of at present; proceeding from 626 the very same cause which existed at present—the competition for land, creating exorbitant rents—no check to that competition in the farmers' high feeling and benevolence of the landlords; and consequently an appeal to the wild equity of village law; which he feared would end, if there were not some remedial measures, in the horrors of a social war. Again, they had in 1822, the Earl of Liverpool "coming forward with deepest regret to propose another measure of coercion." The noble Lord stated—With respect to the state of Ireland, there was nothing political in the nature of the present disturbances. That was a fact which could not be disputed. The disorders did not arise from discontent connected with popular causes, or from a spirit of hostility to the Government. They had, indeed, no political object in view. Their object appeared to be much deeper in the framework of society. It was impossible not to see that it was not solely directed against certain property, and the lives of the owners of such property.The Marquess of Londonderry stated in the other House—That the object of the disturbance was to put down all law—to dispose of all property—everything was to be regulated according to the unknown system of some invisible Government to decide how gentlemen were to let their lands, and if they were to let them at all.Therefore, it was evident that this present agrarian excitement arose from grievances of long standing and deeply rooted in the soil of Ireland; and it was quite plain, from the constant repetition of those coercive measures, how ineffectual they had been to put it down. He firmly believed that the measure before the House would not have the desired effect. He would vote for a more stringent measure if he thought it would be successful; but from the Bill he thought the most disastrous consequences would ensue. It would add fuel to the flames, for he considered there was in Ireland a disregard of life amongst the discontented, great, indeed, in comparison with their sullen determination to resist what they believed to be injustice. Doing justice was the only cure for the evil. It was the only sure foundation on which they could erect the edifice of social happiness and efficient government. Compel the landlords to do their duty; and let the people, who have no security in their present condition, or who could find no redress from their natural protectors, obtain it from the Constitution of England. He next wished to offer a few observations on the system of espionage in Ireland, to which 627 he had incidentally alluded before. That system was carried on to a fearful extent. The police, in some instances, concealed arms in the houses of those they wished to convict; secreted Ribbon documents about their persons, and instigated armed parties to attack houses in order to fix the guilt upon others, and to gain for themselves promotion and reward. Several spies of the police conspired to murder the coachman of Lord Dunraven, in order, after that foul act was committed, to fix the guilt on ten innocent victims. What could be more horrible or atrocious? Projecting a double murder, in which they would be the executioners in the one instance, and the law in the other. They also designed and set a train for the purpose of burning the church of Adare, in the county Limerick. If that vile plot had not been discovered, and if those innocent men had been brought to trial and conviction—and perhaps there were many similarly circumstances in the category of crime read by the right hon. Baronet—how hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side would rail at Irish barbarism, and raise up their eyes in pious horror at this sacrilege of the Church; and, apostrophising Lord Dunraven, state, "that no Irish nobleman ever lived upon his property under such a state of things;" and how the noble Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck), storming in his place, would apply every opprobrious and degrading epithet to Irishmen which the vocabulary of abuse could suggest. But the noble Lord the leader of the protectionist party quoted the other night a case of aggression, where an old lady was attacked. He (Mr. Browne) could read him twenty cases of the murder of women in England in the year 1845, a season of unprecedented prosperity. If such crimes could occur at such a time, what would be the state of England? How fearful it was to contemplate the contingency if bad government had reduced Englishmen to the condition of the people of Ireland! Let the noble Lord hear the catalogue of English crimes, and ponder well upon it. The hon. Member having read a list of upwards of twenty murders committed upon females in England during the past year, proceeded to observe, that such was a statement of cold-blooded English murders perpetrated on helpless women. But the statement was received with little horror in that House, compared with the statement of the single murder of an unprotected lady in Ireland. What was the person? Because they were accustomed 628 to such things in England, and they were no novelty to Englishmen. The noble Lord applied the terms "ruffians," "cold-blooded murderers," &c., to his (Mr. Browne's) countrymen. He (Mr. Browne) would read for the noble Lord the deeds committed by Englishmen in England during the ten months of the year already expired. Having read a long list of atrocities alleged to have been committed in England within the last few months—I have now (continued the hon. Member) almost concluded. I have endeavoured to show that bad government in Ireland has been the cause of crime—that coercion for nearly half a century has been tried in vain—and that the people have been almost uniformly excited by the same causes; have suffered from the same grievances which you hitherto have not tried to redress. For the sake of the peace of Ireland give up coercion, and try the new remedy—a redress of grievances. Particularly would I address myself to the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government, who I feel is well disposed towards my country, to ask his own heart what is most wanting. Let him see the anomalous condition of the people—poverty almost unexampled in the history of any country. Whole millions are drained from the country by heartless absentees; the granaries of our country, bursting with their contents, while the people, in abject wretchedness, are claiming a miserable pittance from the stranger; our flocks, and droves, and herds innumerable, driven to another land, to swell the absentee tribute, while the unfortunate peasantry are at the present moment endeavouring—to use the phrase of the Poor Law Commissioners—to "keep a grip of life." Let the right hon. Baronet look to the state of the Irish metropolis. Even the prestige of our former greatness gone; the houses of our nobility desecrated to mean and lowly purposes—her streets deserted—her shopkeepers bankrupt—her Custom-house a depot for English merchandise—her Exchange a mockery—her Bank a monopoly—and her Castle, as it will be, under this Bill, a despotism. Let him reflect upon these things, and apply the real remedy, and abandon coercion. Above all, let him show to the Irish people a good intention of impartial government. Let him unite—to use language I have heard before—the science of Watt with the policy of the son of Chatham—let him encourage the introduction of capital into Ireland—the sure foundation of political peace and commercial 629 prosperity, and he will behold a glorious consummation, which will add another laurel to the reputation of a name which then indeed will become immortal. The Amendment proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Cork merits my warmest approbation, and I shall deem it my duty to record my vote in its favour, and against the Irish Coercion Bill.
§ VISCOUNT MORPETH
Though I have almost less than any of those around me shared in the late discussions on the subject before the House, yet the frequent and active part I was formerly called on to take in a public and official capacity connected with Ireland, will, I hope, serve as an excuse for my intrusion for a short period on this debate. I say for a short period, for many reasons. On the general political views applicable to Ireland, I have no wish to add anything to what was so forcibly stated the other night by my noble Friend the Member for the city of London. In the next place, the present state of the public business (which I have already had an opportunity of referring to this evening) makes me wish to avoid any course which may unnecessarily protract the farther progress of the measures now before the House; but most of all—and it is the main reason which induces me to speak at all — because my previous experience in the administration of Irish affairs makes me feel considerable caution and diffidence in all I might wish to offer to the consideration of the House. From my own recollection of what I experienced, I am too sensible of the great difficulties of those who have to administer the Government, ever to wish lightly, or without the gravest reasons, to obstruct or embarrass those now charged with the same responsibilities; and, further, my vivid impression of the anxiety with which any unusual case of outrage, or of any added insecurity to property or life, falls on the person on whom the duty devolves of counteracting, and, if possible, preventing such occurrences, would make me naturally shrink from impeding measures which the Executive authority at any time may bring forward, backed by the evidence of facts stated on the responsibility of the Government. I cannot efface from my memory the recollection which such a murder as that of the late Lord Norbury excited in my mind. I do not allude to that occurrence as if the rank of the murdered person ought to produce any difference of sympathy, but because it happened to be, while I held office, among the first of that unaccountable 630 series of offences caused by no provocation, and attended by no clue. And in the face of such things, while the evil lasts and the danger continues—though I am willing and anxious to limit the period of the penalties strictly to the period of the exigency—though I admit it would be preferable that measures of permanent redress and conciliation should be brought in, either antecedently or concomitantly with any measures of harshness and severity, and though I reserve to myself the power of canvassing all the details of this Bill—yet I cannot take on myself the responsibility of refusing to entertain, at least, the proposition for giving, for a very limited time to the Queen's Government some, at least, of those powers which they allege to be essential to the safety of human life in Ireland. On former occasions, I was not restrained from bearing my testimony to what I consider the many shining qualities of the Irish character. I have not refrained—when it was calculated to give offence, and did give offence—to institute a favourable contrast in some points between the people of Ireland and even my own countrymen; and now, too, when I feel called on to give a vote not in unison with that of those representatives in whom the Irish people place most confidence—when I feel called on most reluctantly to join in legislation intended to subdue the prevalence of Irish crime—I am quite as ready, and more ready to allow that in many points, in honesty of dealing between man and man, and in patient resignation under almost intolerable want and privations, there is a conspicuous pre-eminence of Irish virtue probably not to be found in any other nation. My hon. Friend who has just concluded his speech dwelt with much force on the number and atrocity of the crimes committed in England. I am ready to admit that it may be quite easy to pick out of the annals of crime atrocities committed in this country equal to any committed in Ireland; exceeding them in wantonness, and—not in the absence of any palliation, for I will not use that word in reference to murder—but in the absence of any strong permanent cause or motives for their perpetration. But it is not so much the number as the system of Irish crime—the system of combination, and the consequences it entails in spreading abroad a general feeling of insecurity, comprehending all classes, from the highest down to those who socially are the most destitute and unprotected—which seems to me to call for 631 some intervention on the part of the Legislature. I was struck—I could not fail to be struck—with the fact which was so impressively stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War in the course of his speech. The right hon. Gentleman said, that it was not so much the number of actual murders and assaults, as the number of threatening notices and letters, which was to be regarded. No less than 3,520 of those threatening notices were sent throughout the country in eighteen months. What was one of those notices but a sword hanging over the head of him to whom it was sent, depriving him of his peace of mind, placing him in a state of terror by night and by day, and makng his whole life a fear and a misery? Whether or not this measure will be effectual to repress such crimes, is another question. I certainly do entertain great doubts whether it will answer the end proposed, and I believe that many of its provisions are inadequate to reach those evils. But I say, then, let us consider them in Committee; for in such a state of things, I dare not refuse to consider what steps should be taken to terminate such a condition of affairs. With reference to the general policy on which Ireland should be governed, I am willing to go as far as most men in the advocacy of a liberal and enlightened policy for Ireland. When I acted in conjunction with my hon. Friends around me, as one of Her Majesty's Ministers, and was a party, and not a backward party, to the preparation and introduction of the memorable Appropriation Clause, as it was called—on that occasion I stated it to be my opinion—an opinion from which I have certainly seen no reason to deviate since that time—that even that clause did not come up to that which was due in strict justice to the people of Ireland with respect to Church property in that country. I candidly state what is my opinion; but it does not, I confess, seem to me now that this subject is at present the most prominent in the sister country. It is not that which now presses most on the attention of the Irish people, or is most calculated to meet the exigencies of the times. In addition to the measure relating to Church property, my noble Friend the Member for the city of London, and those hon. Gentlemen with whom I had the honour of acting, proposed to place the municipal franchises of Ireland on the same footing as those of England. We were not successful in endeavouring to carry that proposition; but I still think, notwithstanding that adverse decision, that 632 all the franchises of Ireland—making allowances for any adaptation to special circumstances which might be deemed requisite—ought to be placed on the same basis as those of England and Scotland. We introduced and carried an Irish Poor Law; and I still think that the relations between the Irish poverty and Irish property would be benefited by further adjustment. It seems to me that the measure most called for in the present state of Ireland is a law regulating the relations of the landlord and the tenant in that country. Most cordially do I hope that the measure which, as I understand, is contemplated by Her Majesty's Government on this subject, may be found, on its introduction to the House, to have been framed in a wise and a considerate spirit, and calculated to effect its desired object. I cannot dissemble my opinion that the vast tracts of waste lands and bogs in that country might, by some judicious measure, be made much more available than they have ever been as yet, in augmenting the resources of the country and improving the condition of the people. It is true that we did not propose any such measure ourselves, nor am I now prepared with the details of any plan to carry out that object; but it seems to me that where, on the one hand, you have such a vast area of ground lying untenanted and untilled, and, on the other hand, masses of people living on one spot of soil, in indigence and want, without the means of turning to any productive employment the strength which God has given them, that we might devise some method of bringing together those two great elements of improvement, the land and the labour, and turning them to great account. Let me, before I conclude, express one more hope with respect to the Bill itself. Whatever may be the period at which this Bill will pass the first reading, much time must elapse before it can pass through Committee and its subsequent stages. If, during the period which must intervene, any material improvement should take place, and crime in Ireland should diminish, if the exercise of the ordinary powers of the law, if the exertions of the military and police—never henceforth to be employed, I trust, as we have heard of their being on a recent occasion—if the verdicts of the courts of justice (by which I see that, very lately, two men accused of the murder of Mr. Clarke have been sentenced to death)—if the softened tone of feeling and discussion exhibited by this House—if the utter abhorrence with which 633 those cowardly assassinations have been branded by not only the Ministers of the Government and the ministers of the gospel, but by the leaders and favourites of the Irish people—if, above all, the overruling hand of a beneficent Providence shall have checked outrages and restored comparative security—I hope that the Government will not then consider it inconsistent with their duty, or derogatory to their dignity, to meet this improvement in a corresponding spirit, and dispense with the whole, or at least some of the harsher provisions of the Bill. If it should be otherwise, I can only bow to the stern necessity; but at the same time, I am convinced there is a better way than that which you propose for the permanent government of Ireland. In the very first speech I ever made in Parliament—I am sorry I can refer to no higher authority—but in that speech, which I made on the occasion of seconding the repeal of the Catholic Disabilities Bill, I said, "We have made England great and glorious—it should now be our study to make Ireland happy." Since that period, the glory of England has gone on increasing; never, I believe, has that glory culminated to a higher point than it has reached at this moment; but all parties will agree with me in saying that still much remains to be done in order to make Ireland happy.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
I must own, Sir, that I deeply regret the party and political tone that has been given to this debate by the speeches of several hon. Members on both sides of the House—a tone for which certainly neither the right hon. Baronet who introduced the measure, nor the hon. and learned Member who proposed the Amendment, are at all responsible. Both these hon. Members declared their opinion—an opinion in which I strongly concur—that the horrible crimes, the occurrence of which in Ireland forms the ground of the measure proposed to us, are totally unconnected with either political or religious feelings, and consequently with party politics. I, Sir, myself, have always been convinced that politics had nothing to do with agrarian offences; and when the former Coercion Bills of 1833 and 1834 were introduced, and the Marquess Wellesley's despatch asserted the connexion of agrarian outrage and political agitation, I declared my dissent from that doctrine, and my belief that the system of agrarian intimidation had its rise exclusively in social and physical, not at all in political grievances. Sir, Ireland has her political and 634 religious grievances, and no one feels more strongly on them than myself, or has more uniformly voted for their removal. But so far from politics, or religion, and political agitation having anything to do with agrarian outrage, I am certain that none have more earnestly and successfully laboured to check and put down agrarian outrages than the chiefs of the political and religious agitations of the last twenty years. No, Sir, the agrarian system has a different origin and object from these agitations. It arises, as has been so fully proved, if not before, yet the other night at least, by the hon. and learned Member for Cork, from the physical misery, the dread of destitution, the repugnance to quit the bit of land on which they live, of the Irish peasantry. It is to this, the worst social evils of Ireland, the real subject we have to deal with, that I wish to recall the consideration of the House from the party topics that have occupied a large part of the debate. If the dismissal of Repeal magitrates, or the want of a better franchise, Parliamentary or municipal, or Protestant ascendancy, have nothing whatever to do with agrarian crime, let us not introduce these irritating subjects into a debate which, from the serious and awful nature of its subject—the prevention of murder and the saving of human life—ought to be conducted with calmness and sobriety, impartiality, I would say solemnity? I know that an Irish debate is not easily controlled. None have been more in the habit of employing such debates for party skirmishes than the hon. Members opposite; but I do hope there will be more wisdom, more prudence, more temper shown in the remainder of the debate, and that we shall really consider, in a fit tone and spirit, how to prevent murder and assassination. This is what the House is especially required to perform; and the state of things prevailing throughout Ireland, which has been justly painted in the evidence produced by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell) shows that it is imperatively demanded. True, that though the system of intimidation is general and constant, and has been so for these eighty years past, the actual outbreak of crime is occasional only and local, shifting from one part of the country to the other—frequent and permanent in Tipperary, rare in Ulster. But this fact is perfectly consistent with the universal and chronic character of the agrarian system of combination and intimidation throughout Ireland. 635 The explanation is given you by the hon. Member himself. In Tipperary, there is a constant resistance to agrarian law on the part of the landlords, and the outrages are equally constant. In Tipperary, ejectments are the order of the day among landlords and agents—bullets and blunderbusses among the tenantry. In Ulster, on the contrary, the landlords submit quietly to the dictates of the agrarian law. It reigns there undisputed, triumphant over the law of the land, and, as a consequence, the landlord and agents are safe—the peasantry peaceful and industrious. Here you have the facts so strongly demonstrated as to defy mistake. Here you have the proof of what I have told you these twelve years past. Sir, the House could not fail to remark that the hon. Member for Cork took his proofs of the universal and chronic prevalence of outrage as connected with ejectment, and the dread of ejectment from land, not from the crimes of this year or the last, but from evidence produced in the years 1823 and 1824, 1832, and subsequent years. The Whiteboy system has been going on for these fifty years past; but increasing of late years with the increasing distress and misery of the people, with the increase of ejectments and clearances. It is in Clare one year, in Queen's County another, in Kilkenny the next, in Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan, and other counties at other times. A clearance, like that which occurred the other day in Galway, of 270 persons, razing an entire village, is enough to cause the outbreak of the agrarian spirit throughout that county; a spirit dormant at the moment, perhaps, but always existing beneath the surface, in the intimate conviction of the peasantry that it is the only check on their extermination by the exercise of the powers with which the law arms their landlords. Yes, Sir, the agrarian combination is universal over Ireland, beneath the surface of society. You do do not see it at work outwardly everywhere. Where the people are allowed by their landlords to live, where ejectments do not take place, things are apparently quiet and peaceable. No outrages, or but few, take place—though some occur every year in Ireland, as I proved the other night, from the constabulary returns. But, under this apparent quiet and submission lurks ever the determined feeling of the peasantry in favour of the system of intimidation, to which they consider they are in a great degree indebted for the forbearance of 636 their landlords, and how are we to account for this frightful anomaly. Here is a people of such warm sympathies, that they will share their last potato with one another, yet among whom murder is popular, assassination a claim on the public for support and shelter! Why, Sir, there is no problem of impossible solution to one who has probed human nature, and the motives to human actions. It is the very excess of their sympathies that leads the Irish peasantry to sanction these horrible crimes. The warmest heart is the most susceptible of being excited by passion, even to deeds of frenzy. Fancy an Irish, peasant ejected from his hovel, which has sheltered him and his family for generations. His roof-tree thrown down upon him, the very walls levelled; his land taken away; he, his wife, his children, his aged father and mother driven out in hunger and wretchedness, without shelter on the cold road, to die of fever or famine in the ditches, or to die by inches in some hovel in a town, like the wretches described by Dr. Doyle—why, the warmer this man's feelings, the more likely he is to fly to the wild justice of revenge, being debarred every other resource by your law. Let me quote to the House the very striking story told by one of the Commissioners of Poor Inquiry of 1836, which of itself tells the whole tale of the cause and motive of agrarian crime:—Two of the Commissioners had a conversation near Cashel with a man who had been turned out of his farm for getting into arrear, owing to an exorbitant rent. We said, 'The farm was still unlet.' He said, 'Of course, no one dare take it until they get my goodwill of it.' The Commissioners then asked him, 'What feeling he would entertain against any man who should take it?' His reply was, 'To be sure I should have a bad feeling to him—and why should I not? The devil a much of bread he would eat after it any way, as I would die to have his life, or that of any one like him, that would step in to take the bread out of my wife's and children's mouths.' They then asked him, 'With what feelings would the peasantry look on the family of a man who was hanged for murder under such circumstances?' His reply was, 'Why his wife and family would be regarded; and why not? I would take the bit out of my own mouth, and my wife's and children's, before I would see his poor things want it, because, did'nt he die in the cause, and lose his life for the good of the people? And I'll tell you what's more, gentlemen, that though the people may fault and abuse the Whitefeet, and boys that go round at night with the black faces, that only for them the whole country would be in a rising—the poor would have no protection at all. The landlords would hunt them out like rats from a cornstack, without any mercy, only they know the ground would be left on their hands, as any man that would take it knows his 637 fate. And sure, if in doing that any boy should suffer (i. e. be hanged), why should we not succour the poor things left behind him? Sure, was it not to protect the like of us from being turned adrift on the wide world that that came to pass?Well, then, I ask, will you direct your remedies to the real cause of these frightful evils? You ask me to vote for a Coercion Bill—a strait waistcoat for the patient whom your unjust laws have driven to the madness of despair. First, let me see if you have tried in vain milder measures, remedies adapted to cure the patient's complaint, not merely to restrain or punish his violence. Have you done so? Or can I trust you to do so now, if I arm you with this severe measure of repression? This is the question I have to consider. Sir, on the occasion of the passing of former Coercion Bills, I resisted them on the ground that they were not the right remedy. Years ago, I moved resolutions to this effect, as an amendment to the Coercion Bills of 1834 and 1835. Has the lapse of this long time shown that I was wrong? Has it shown that others were right in entrusting the Government with rigorous laws for repressing outrage, without previously insisting on their being accompanied by remedial measures? Sir, time, I think, and events have sufficiently proved that I was right then; and after that experience of twelve years I feel doubly justified now in refusing still on the same, indeed on still stronger grounds, to arm you with extraordinary powers, before you give me any reason to believe you are going to accompany your rigour with proper remedies. True, every post brings accounts of outrages in Ireland; but, side by side, in the columns of the same paper, you see reported equally horrible cases of clearance and eviction. There they stand, side by side—the cause and the effect. In one column the tyranny of landlords—the retaliation of the peasantry in the next. And what do you do? You apply a strong coercive measure to the effect, and neglect; or at least delay, producing one for the cause. Let me see your receipt for the latter, before I vote for the former. I very much fear your dose is to be aquafortis for the peasant; milk and water for the landlord. Why, Sir, what have I heard in the course of this debate to prove to me that the Government understand the nature of the disorder, or the fitting remedy? Did I not hear the right hon. the Secretary at War call this Bill—this Coercion Bill—an attempt to eradicate the evil. I took down 638 his words at the time. Good God! Sir, this a measure going to the root of the evil, and rooting it out. But he added that the Government had some Landlord and Tenant Bill in preparation. But what will it be? Some impracticable delusion like that of Lord Stanley last year, only holding the word of promise to the ear to break it to the hope. Why, the right hon. Secretary himself said, the Government measures, whatever they are, will take a generation to cure the evil, and produce their effect. Oh, Sir, that mode of cure won't do. The cure is required to be prompt, immediate, bold, decisive. No little, potty, coaxing, tinkering, wheedling measure will do. No more "vulgar expedients" of paying a little money for temporary employment to create a temporary lull. If you talk of slow and gradual cures, then it is a proof that you are ignorant of the nature, the deep-rooted, widely-spread, universal, and terrific character of the evil. You are sitting placidly in Downing-street on the apex of a volcano. Frozen snow about you—your heads in the clouds. But far beneath, at the foundation of the social superstructure of Ireland, is a mass of molten fire, boiling, swelling, and bursting for an issue—of which these terrible agrarian crimes are but the mere breaking of the bubbles in the cauldron beneath. If you delay long, be sure you will witness an awful explosion, such as will uproot society in Ireland from its base, and leave in its place an abyss of unfathomable horror. I attempted to prove to you the other night that your law neither protected the lives nor the property of the peasantry, and that the agrarian law which they have instituted for their own protection does both. Every word of the hon. Member for Cork's eloquent speech—all the evidence he adduced—proved my assertion. As to life, who doubts that but for the agrarian intimidation—but for the fear of the midnight legislators—many more landlords would act like Mr. Gerrard, and the entire peasantry of whole counties would be swept off the land on which they have multiplied too fast for the interest of the proprietor? You do not protect their lives, for you give them no resource, no certain refuge, no security against death by want. As for the property of the Irish peasant, without speaking of the buildings and improvements for which you allow no compensation on quitting—look only to the tenant right—a right which, though most prevalent 639 in Ulster, does prevail more or loss in every county of Ireland. The cultivated land of Ireland is 14,000,000 acres, upon which the tenant right, unprotected by law, is worth, perhaps, 100,000,000l.—the property of the poor tenantry of Ireland, all which is wholly unprotected by law—by that law which makes every clod of the landlord's acres a sacred inalienable property, to be defended by all your civic and military authorities. Here is an injustice to remedy. What will you do to meet this? Will you adopt some milk and water proposal which shall respect the merest iota of the landlord's claim? From the unjust legislation of past Parliaments, I fear this is all you contemplate doing; if so, take care by delaying redress you do not bring on some revolution, which, like that of France, caused in like manner by oppression of the peasantry, shall bring about a state of things in which, after a few years, every peasant is become owner of the land he tills. Look, too, to what has also occurred in Prussia, and the Russian provinces of the Baltic, where by one stroke of the pen the rulers of those countries found it necessary to give to the peasantry the fee-simple of the lands they held before at the mere will of their lords. Even in this country a similar revolution took place in early ages, though that was gradually effected by the judgments of the law courts uniformly favouring the rights of the tenant, and construing a forbearance of claim to the part of the lord into a concession of right and title on the copyhold tenant (as a perpetual waiver of his own rights and tolls). Some bold measure of this kind you must adopt; no palliation will cure the evil. But, as I told you the other day, the first and most essential remedy of all is, to give to the poor Irish a security for their existence, a resource in extreme destitution, a right to be relieved when in danger of perishing through want. This only can disarm the assassin of his present plea, the dread of starvation. You refused me that the other night; but I will over and over again pursue you with the demand. Fifteen years since, I began the agitation for an Irish Poor Law. In 1833, I printed an address to the Legislature on the subject, in which, after producing the same mass of evidence which was read the other night by the hon. and learned Member for Cork—the very same, and deducing the same conclusion from it of the general adhesion of the Irish peasantry to the agrarian system as the only 640 means in their power to protect themselves from extermination, I added these words—Yet is it still dreamed of that coercion and courts martial, more insurrection acts, and the entrusting further unconstitutional powers to Government, will put down this organized resistance of an entire people to the law by which they feel themselves oppressed, not protected? Why even if it were possible, by camping a regiment in every field, and a park of artillery in every village, to repress all demonstration of this feeling, would this be the rational, the wise, the statesmanlike, the honest, the humane, the just course to adopt? You cannot, if you would, succeed in this. You cannot enable the landlords of Ireland to exterminate their peasantry with ease and impunity. I thank God, who planted in the human heart the spirit which revolts against oppression when carried to extremity, that you cannot. The millions are too strong for you. And it only remains for you to choose whether you will let the present state of things continue yet a little longer, till some casual spark create the explosion for which all is so rife, and Ireland be lost to Britain by civil war and foreign attachment; or, warned by the fearful presages of these critical times, you will step in (I speak to the Government and Legislature of the United Kingdom) to pour oil on the troubled surface of Irish society, and, by one act of bare justice to the long trampled peasantry of Ireland, rescue them from the necessity in which they are now placed of vindicating their own wrongs and protecting their own rights—and reconcile them to the law and the Imperial Legislature, by making them feel its beneficial support. Call it not a poor law, call it an employment law, or any other name that may be more to your taste; but as the only means of saving Ireland, and putting down its agrarian warfare, some law must be passed, securing a subsistance to the Irish peasant in return for his honest industry—offering him, either land on which he may live, or work and wages, whereby he may live. He asks but this:—He asks a brother of the earthTo give him leave to toil.Less than this he cannot ask. Refuse this, and you must continue to wage an endless and perilous warfare with him—a war to the knife. He fights for his existence?Sir, I wish to put the question which is really before the House in the simplest and plainest terms. You declare these agrarian crimes to be horrible—a disgrace to humanity and to civilization—and you are desirous of doing all in your power to put an end to them. You have admitted that they arise from the dread of destitution, of being turned out of the holding or the employment which is the only means of existence of the Irish peasant—without which he perishes. I ask you, then, will you or will you not remove that which you acknowledge to be the cause of these crimes, by securing to every Irishman the means of living, by guaranteeing him against perishing from destitution, by affording 641 him by law the means of living on the land of his birth? Do not say you cannot, because himself, the peasant, knows the contrary. He will confute you in a moment. He will say, only give me leave to cultivate four or five acres of the next bog or mountain on my own account—give it me in fee—make it my own, without any expectation of increased rent the moment I make it productive, and I will be your submissive slave; or only give me employment by which I can earn my bare livelihood on the coarsest and meanest fare, you shall never have to complain of my turbulence again. Do not say there is no room for the people of Ireland on the land in Ireland. Do not say there are not the means of employing them profitably I will show you the contrary, to-morrow, in producing a measure for the reclamation of the waste lands in Ireland. But it is notorious that you have four millions of waste lands not yet touched by the spade, and fourteen millions of land not yet half drained, or half cultivated. I say there is room in Ireland for the profitable employment of many more than her present population; and such being the fact, you are not justified in giving a monopoly of that soil to a few individuals, and taking no steps for securing the means of living to the mass of her inhabitants. But without at present urging any particular measures, which I may think most expedient to meet the evil you have now to contend with, I ask what will you do? Will you really allow Ireland to be ruled by midnight legislators, and the life and property of the mass of the people protected by an agrarian system, maintained by crime, by violence, by assassination? Will you continue to force the Irish peasantry to maintain this horrible system, as their only protection against extermination? or will you give them another resource in the protection of the law? Will you, when the real state of things has been openly, nakedly laid before you, and admitted as it cannot but be, by you—will you so far abdicate the first functions of a Government? If so, on your heads be the responsibility of future mischief. I repeat, I see no difficulty in the immediate creation of confidence in the law. Only let the law offer some means of living to the peasantry of Ireland; and that would be no untried experiment, but that mode of cure which the wise statesmen of the time of Elizabeth adopted under very similar circumstances in England, and which has had 642 complete success. I say, under very similar circumstances; for it is well known that previous to that enactment England was disturbed by outrages and insecurity just as Ireland is now; and Elizabeth's predecessor, her father Henry, tried to put them down as you are doing by severity. He is said to have hanged 90,000 persons in his reign as rogues and vagabonds—all of them in vain. So far from thinking that no remedial measure would operate to restore confidence and win the respect and attachment of the present generation to the law, I believe firmly that within six months of your completing a system of poor law and public employment, such as I proposed the other night, and thus guaranteeing a means of living honestly to every Irish peasant, from that moment you will have won him from all illegal association, from all sympathy with crime; nay, more, from all participation in political agitation. Give him, it is all he asks, give him leave to toil for his poor maintenance in some shape or other, he cares not what—only save him from fever and starvation, and the dread of it for himself, his wife, and his little ones. Do this, and I stake my existence there will not be a more docile, more grateful, more peaceful, more easily governed people on the face of the earth than the Irish, if but secured in the means of existence. For these reasons, Sir, I cannot consent to the first reading of this coercive measure, which if it succeed at all, will only skim over the surface of the evil, without in any way checking its growth or future development.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
rose and said: I can assure the hon. Member who I perceive has quitted his seat (Mr. D. Browne) that I do not at all sympathize with the perpetrators of those crimes committed in England, of which he has detailed so long a catalogue to the House. But I must, notwithstanding, observe that there is this difference between crimes committed in England, and crimes committed in Ireland, that in England, when a crime is committed, the sympathy of the people does not go along with the criminal; whilst the crime against the commission of which we are now called upon to provide, is of a nature with which the people of Ireland—the population, at least, of five counties—have shown too great sympathy. It was because of the difficulty of detecting the authors of these crimes, and the difficulty of bringing them to justice, that Her Majesty, in Her Speech from the Throne, 643 told us she had observed with deep regret the very frequent instances in which the crime of deliberate assassination has been of late committed in Ireland; and called upon us to consider whether measures might not be devised calculated to give increased protection to life, and to bring to justice the perpetrators of such dreadful crimes. It is because of these things, Sir, that I am prepared to support at least the first reading of a Bill which I freely admit to be most unconstitutional in itself. It is because I see in a measure such as this, mercy not only to the landlord—to the magistrate—to the tenant—but to the whole peasantry of Ireland, that I am prepared to support it. Sir, when we are charged (I myself in particular) by the hon. Member who spoke second in the debate on Friday night (Mr. Osborne), with coming down to this House with superficial information, and statements gathered from two or three slips of newspapers, I beg leave, in answer, to refer to the Speech from the Throne; and I may refer also to the unanimity of this House in the Address in reply to that Speech, in which the Commons of England, with one accord, humbly assured Her Majesty that they, as well as Her Majesty, had observed with deep regret the frequent commission of the crime of deliberate assassination in Ireland, and promised, in obedience to that command, to see if some measure might not be devised for its prevention. In short, Sir, in that Address we promised to give our consideration to a measure of this description. I, therefore, conceive that the honour and faith of this House are pledged to give, at least, a first reading to some such Bill as the present. I do not for one consider, and I think the same sentiment is shared by those hon. Gentlemen who sit near me, that by assenting to the first reading we are in any way bound to support all the clauses and details. But when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wycombe charges us—charges me, and those that sit around me, that we should not have been so anxious to support this measure if it were not for considerations connected with the Corn Laws, I think I might appeal from the hon. Gentleman to the House generally, that we, at least, are consistent in supporting this measure; I, at least, during my entire Parliamentary career, have on all occasions given my support to such measures whenever the Government of the country, finding them necessary, has called upon me to so. Sir, I supported the measure introduced by Lord 644 Grey's Government in 1833—a measure similar in many respects to that now under the attention of the House. And whilst the measure which I then supported was stronger than the present, I take leave to say that, in my opinion, it was more effectual for the purpose it was intended to accomplish, than the present. Sir, I believe that that measure, which was introduced on the 29th of January, passed both Houses, and had received the Royal Assent before the 1st of April, so that I must say there is no ground for the assertion that the present measure has been hurried or forced on, since it was announced from the Throne on the 22nd of January, and has not yet on the 6th of April been read a first time. Sir, I shall not again shock the feelings of this House by entering into a detail of those crimes which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department detailed to this House, and to which I myself, on a former occasion, referred; but, Sir, I think when we see all the great leaders of the Whig party supporting this measure elsewhere, we cannot be justly impugned for doing as they do. My noble Friend the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Lord Morpeth) has referred to other remedial measures which he thinks should be introduced for Ireland—he referred to a measure for the extension of the municipal franchise and the extension of the Parliamentary franchise to that country; and he expressed his desire to see those franchises put on the same footing with the franchises in England. For myself, Sir, I confess I cannot see in what way the extension of political franchise of any description in Ireland would afford a remedy for the evils which this measure aims to suppress. But when my noble Friend refers to other matters, and says that he thinks the relation between Irish property and Irish poverty requires some new arrangement, I cordially concur with my noble Friend. When I see that Ireland, with a population exceeding 8,000,000—the poorest in the world, receives relief but to the amount of 250,000l. annually; whilst in England and Wales, with a population of 16,000,000, 5,000,000l. sterling is expended in the same object, I most cordially concur with my noble Friend in this, that the relation between Irish property and Irish poverty requires some new arrangement, whereby some better provision might be made for the people of Ireland. I think, Sir, it is impossible not to perceive that there is a connection between agrarian 645 outrage and the poverty of the people. There is also another point immediately connected with this subject to which I must refer. I allude, Sir, to the system of absenteeism. I cannot disguise from myself the conviction that many of the evils of Ireland arise from the system of receiving rents by absentee landlords, who spend them in other countries. I am well aware that in holding this doctrine, I am not subscribing to the creed of political economists. I am well aware that Messrs. Senior and M'Culloch hold, that it makes no difference whether the Irish landlord spends his rents in Dublin, on his Irish estates, in London, in Bath, or elsewhere. I profess, Sir, I cannot understand that theory. I believe that the first ingredient in the happiness of a people is, that the gentry should reside on their native soil, and spend their rents amongst those from whom they receive them. I cannot help expressing a wish that some arrangement may be made connected with the levying of the poor rate in Ireland, by which absentee landlords may be made to contribute in something like a fair proportion to the wants of the poor in the district in which they ought to reside. There is an arrangement in the hop-growing districts in England in respect to tithe, which might, I think, afford a very useful suggestion. There are two tithes: the one, the ordinary tithe, the other, the extraordinary tithe, which is levied only so long as the land is cultivated in hops. I think if there were two poor rates introduced into Ireland, the one applying to all occupiers of land, and the other to all those who did not spend a certain portion of the year on some portion of their estates in Ireland, it would prove useful. I think that by thus appealing to their interests it might induce the absentee landlords to reside much more in Ireland than is now unfortunately the case. Sir, I think there are other remedial measures. Some days ago the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department told the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Poulett Scrope), when he suggested some such measure, that he was treading on dangerous ground, and that the doctrines he was advocating might be written in letters of blood in Ireland; but, notwithstanding all this, I will still say, that I think measures might be introduced for improving the relations between landlords and tenants in Ireland. I do think that some guarantee might and ought to be given to the tenantry of Ireland for the improvements 646 they make upon their farms. Sir, my right hon. Friend, in bringing this measure under the notice of this House, maintained a doctrine which I think much more likely to be written in letters of blood, for he bound up the question of the Corn Laws with the present one. He said, that unless he could have prevailed on his Colleagues to accede to his free-trade measure as regards corn, he would not have introduced this Bill. Why, Sir, far from giving food to the people of Ireland, in my opinion, the free-trade measures of Her Majesty's Ministers will take away from the people of Ireland their food, by destroying the profits of their only manufacture—the manufacture of corn—and injuring their agriculture; depriving them of employment; in fact, by taking from them the very means of procuring subsistence. Sir, I cannot see how the repeal of those laws affecting corn can be in any way connected with the suppression of outrages and the protection of life in Ireland. What is this but to say that, unless we have a free trade in corn, we must be prepared to concede a free trade in agrarian outrage—a free trade in maiming and houghing cattle—a free trade in incendiarism—a free trade in the burning and sacking of houses—a free trade in midnight murder and in noonday assassination. What is this but telling the people of Ireland that assassination, murder, incendiarism, and all these shocking crimes, are of such light consideration in the eye of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that the sanction of them, or their suppression by the Minister of the Crown, hinges upon the condition of the corn market, and the difference of price in potatoes. But, Sir, what has the potato disease to do with the outrages in Ireland? Some hon. Members think a great deal. I have taken the trouble of looking into this matter. I have examined into the state of crime in at least five counties—Tipperary, Roscommon, Limerick, Leitrim, and Clare—and I find that, during the three months prior to the first appearance of the potato disease, and when, in fact, food was as cheap in Ireland as almost at any former period—when plenty abounded in all quarters of the Empire—that the amount of crime exceeded that in the three months immediately following. Now, those hon. Gentlemen who doubt this statement will have an opportunity of ascertaining the correctness of my figures, for I will not deal in general assertions. Well then, Sir, I find in the three months, May, June, and July last 647 year, that the number of crimes committed in the five counties I have mentioned amounted to no less than 1,180; whilst in the three months immediately after the potato disease, or famine, as it is called, the amount of crime committed in the same three counties was not 1,180, but 807. I should like to know, therefore, what this agrarian outrage has to do with the potato famine—and where is the justification for a Minister coming down to this House and declaring that unless we pass a free-trade measure we are not to obey Her Majesty's commands, by passing a measure for the protection of life in Ireland. Why, Sir, I think that when this language goes forth to the people of Ireland—going, too, as it does from the Treasury bench—coming as it does, above all, from the Secretary of State for the Home Department—there is, indeed, danger to be apprehended that such a doctrine may be written in letters of blood in that country. Why, Sir, if we are to hear such language as this from that Minister of the Crown charged with the peace of the country, we may just as well have Captain Rock established as Lord Lieutenant in the Castle of Dublin, a Whiteboy for Chief Secretary, and Molly Maguire herself installed at Whitehall as Secretary of State for the Home Department. I say again, Sir, it will be a mercy, not merely to the gentry, landlords, and tenantry of Ireland, that such a measure as this should pass into law, but to the peasantry of that country; and I, therefore, support the Ministers. If we look to the effects of the measure of 1833, we shall find every reason, in the success of that measure, to be sanguine of good results from this. When the Arms Bill of Lord Grey was passed, the county of Kilkenny was proclaimed: the result was, that crime, which, in the year before its introduction, amounted in that county to 1,470, fell, upon the very year of its introduction, to 331. I do assure those who may think to the contrary, that crime was then reduced considerably in amount. And I do most fully assure the hon. Member that no one can regard Ireland with greater compassion than myself. Yes; I do assure hon. Members that such is my real feeling towards that country. I have been taunted, that when I should be made Chief Secretary for Ireland, I should perhaps then learn that Tyrone was an Orange county. Sir, in answer to that taunt, I must take leave to ask what expression of mine ever made, either in this 648 House or out of it, justifies any such remark? When, or where, can it be said, that I have ever permitted myself to know any distinction between an Orangeman and a Catholic?—when, in the whole course of my Parliamentary career, have I ever given a vote or uttered a sentiment hostile or unfriendly to the Roman Catholics either of England or Ireland? I think, Sir, when I find men like Sir David Roche cannot refuse to eject the widow of a deceased tenant, whilst the corpse of her husband is yet lying unburied in the house, in order to instal, to the unhappy widow's prejudice, the unfeeling and covetous brother of the deceased in the vacant farm, without being shot at for his humanity—when I am told that the best landlords in Ireland are not safe—when I find that the best resident landlords in that country are molested—when I find that men whose names should be a guarantee for peace and security to themselves in all parts of Ireland are outraged—when I hear that men whose own conduct, as well as that of all the members of their families, has been renowned for love and attachment to the peasantry of Ireland, are not safe—when I hear that such a man as the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Grattan) cannot ride unarmed over his own estate—and when I hear it said that the same hon. Member has rejoiced that no ornamental timber, behind which an assassin might stand from whence to take his deadly aim, flourished on his domain—I do say, that, though I pity the condition of the country, that nevertheless such condition calls aloud for the interference of the Legislature. Sir, with regard to like measures in former times introduced into this House: having seen results flow from them producing peace to the country and reducing crime, I would fain hope for similar results now. In the county of Kilkenny, when the Arms Bill was introduced some years since, having seen that the good effect was immediate, and that offences against the peace of society at once diminished, I support this Bill, not deeming that we are aiding the introduction of a measure tyrannical in itself, or believing that we are supporting a proposition calculated to prove injurious to any portion of the people of Ireland; considering in our consciences that in order to secure improvement of every kind to that country—in order that the hand of industry may not be paralysed by the hand of the assassin, we think some adequate remedy must be applied; and these, Sir, 649 are the reasons why my friends around me—with me—desire to give their assent to the first reading of the Bill which is now before the House.
§ The House divided—Ayes 74: Noes 120; Majority 46.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Hindley, C.|
|Allix, J. P.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Arkwright, G.||Kelly, J.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Lennox, Lord G. H. G.|
|Baine, W.||M'Carthy, A.|
|Bennet, P.||M'Donnell, J. M.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Maher, N.|
|Beresford, Major||Maxwell, hon. J. P.|
|Blake, M. J.||Morris, D.|
|Borthwick, P.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Brotherton, J.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Browne, R. D.||O'Brien, T.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||O'Connell, J.|
|Carew, hon. R. S.||O'Conor Don|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Chapman, B.||Powell, C.|
|Christie, W. D.||Power, J.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Protheroe, E.|
|Collett, J.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T.||Ross, D. R.|
|Dick, Q.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Disraeli, B.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Duncan, G.||Somers, J. P.|
|Dundas, D.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Esmonde, Sir T.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Evans, Sir De Lacy||Tyrrell, Sir J. T.|
|Finch, G.||Wakley, T.|
|Fitzgerald, R. A.||Ward, H. G.|
|Fleetwood, Sir P. H.||Williams, W.|
|Fox, S. L.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Wyse, T.|
|Gore, hon. R.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Grattan, H.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Hall, Sir B.|
|Halsey, T. P.||TELLERS.|
|Hawes, B.||O'Brien, J.|
|Hill, Lord E.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acland, T. D.||Broadwood, H.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Bruce, Lord E.|
|Ainsworth, P.||Buckley, E.|
|Antrobus, E.||Cardwell, E.|
|Astell, W.||Carew, W. H. P.|
|Attwood, J.||Chichester, Lord J. L.|
|Austen, Col.||Cholmondeley, hon. H.|
|Baillie, Col.||Chute, W. L. W.|
|Baldwin, B.||Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Barkly, H.||Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Collett, W. R.|
|Baring, T.||Corry, rt. hon. H.|
|Baring, rt. hon. W. B.||Cowper, hon. W. F.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Davies, D. A. S.|
|Beckett, W.||Denison, J. E.|
|Benbow, J.||Dickinson, F. H.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Douglas, Sir C. E.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Douglas, Sir H.|
|Botfield, B.||Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.|
|Bowles, Admiral||Dugdale, W. S.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Duke, Sir J.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Mahon, Visct.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Martin, C. W.|
|Ellice, rt. hon. E.||Masterman, J.|
|Entwisle, W.||Meynell, Capt.|
|Escott, B.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Estcourt, T. G. B.||Morpeth, Visct.|
|Feilden, W.||Munday, E. M.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Neville, R.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Patten, J. W.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Gill, T.||Peel, J.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Polhill, F.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Reid, Col.|
|Gore, M.||Round, J.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Russell, C.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Sanderson, R.|
|Greene, T.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Grogan, E.||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Hamilton, J. H.||Sheppard, T.|
|Hamilton, W. J.||Shirley, E. J.|
|Harris, hon. Capt.||Smythe, hon. G.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Heathcote, Sir W.||Spooner, R.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Strutt, E.|
|Holmes, hn. W. A'Court||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Hope, G. W.||Taylor, J. A.|
|Horsman, E.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Hotham, Lord||Thornely, T.|
|James, Sir W. C.||Tollemache, J.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Jocelyn, Visct.||Trotter, J.|
|Jones, Capt.||Vyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Kelly, Sir F.||Warburton, H.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Wellesley, Lord C.|
|Lawson, A.||Wilde, Sir T.|
|Lockhart, W.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Lowther, Sir J. H.|
|Lygon, hon. Gen.||TELLERS.|
|Mackenzie, T.||Young, J.|
§ On the Question being again put,
§ SIR R. PEEL
said, that he saw that it was useless to persist; he therefore would consent to the adjournment. He would adjourn until to-morrow, and if it did not then come on he would then name the time to which it should be postponed.
§ SIR W. SOMERVILLE
said, that he should make one more attempt to induce the Government to give way, and postpone the farther debate on this Bill until after the third reading of the Corn Importation Bill. It was quite clear, from the tone of the debate, that his hon. Friends around him would not relinquish their right to precedence on the Motion, for the sake of this Bill. They would not only postpone this Bill until after Easter, but also the Corn Bill; and if this Bill was passed immediately after Easter, his hon. Friends had equal power, if they chose to exercise it, of preventing its coming on on any but Government nights. The discussion might, therefore, last four, five, or six nights. The discussion on the Corn Bill must also 651 be put off, if the Government persisted in passing this Bill. The consequence would be that the measure on which the hearts of the people were fixed must be put off to an indefinite period. Suppose that the vacation lasted ten days, a week would afterwards be taken up with this Bill, and it even might take another week or ten days. He, therefore, should move that the debate should be adjourned for three weeks. Government would lose nothing by this; on the contrary, they would have the opportunity of carrying their other measures.
§ SIR R. PEEL
had already stated that he should postpone the debate till next day, not in the hope, however, that he should be able to bring it on, but he then should be able to announce as to what day they should adjourn for the Easter holidays, and he would also state on what day this debate could he resumed. He trusted that the House would support him in what he proposed, in order that he might name a day after Easter on which to proceed with the debate. If the House chose to adopt the proposition of the hon. Baronet, be it so. He knew well the power of a minority in that House to protract the debate, but he was not resposible for the delay. He was willing to give every fair opportunity of discussion, but he would not give way to the proposition of the hon. Baronet.
§ SIR W. SOMERVILLE
did not think that his conduct called for the remarks of the right hon. Baronet. He denied that he had any wish to consume time in protracted debates. All that he wished was to save time. The right hon. Baronet said that to-morrow he would announce the course he meant to pursue. Now, he hoped that the right hon. Baronet would in the meantime, on reflection, adopt the course which he suggested. He would then withdraw his Amendment in conformity with the feeling of the House, and would bring it forward again to-morrow if he was not satisfied.—Amendment withdrawn.
§ Debate adjourned.
§ House in Committee of Supply.
§ House adjourned.