§ SIR J. GRAHAM
moved the Order of the Day for the Adjourned Debate on the first reading of the Protection of Life (Ireland) Bill.
§ MR. W. SMITH O'BRIEN
did not rise to propose the postponement of the Order of the Day, but to make an appeal to the Government with respect to that part of Ireland with which he was connected. He had taken the liberty of stating, five weeks ago, that the measures of the Government were altogether inadequate as a remedy for the state of Ireland, and the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have made a charge against him for so doing. Every day showed the importance of resorting to more energetic measures. He hoped that the delay would not take place until the people were dying by thousands, and he certainly could not conceive what further information the Government could want. The circumstance of extensive starvation did not often occur in any country, but a deficient supply of food often produced extensive disease; it appeared, however, that in Ireland instances had occurred of positive starvation. He had found this in reports of coroners' inquests in the Irish newspapers. For instance:—Death from Destitution.—Roscommon.—On Sunday morning a poor man was discovered within half a mile of this town, stretched by the ditch, and apparently some hours dead. An inquest was held by the coroner (B. Keogh, Esq.), and after the examination of the body by the surgeon, the jury found a verdict 'that the poor man died from destitution and hunger.'"—Roscommon Journal.He found a similar case in a Limerick paper, where the verdict was that the man had died of starvation:—Death from Starvation.—A man died of starvation at the public works at the Island, on Thursday. The poor men who were his fellow labourers, and not in much better condition, subscribed on the spot a penny each to relieve the immediate 704 wants of the deceased's family. The noble conduct of these poor honest fellows, who, whilst food is so very high in price, freely gave a twelfth of their hard day's earning, is worthy of imitation by those who expend hundreds on the luxuries of life.He would refer to another statement as to the state of the country:—Fearful Destitution.—The intelligence in our columns of the increasing distress of the labouring population of Limerick, Clare, and Kerry, is most fearful, and the accumulating wants of the people combine to precipitate a crisis which the kindly sympathies of every Christian bosom must be earnestly solicitous to avert. We could wish to keep this grievous spectacle of human misery and suffering in the far distance, as a visionary or passing creation of 'the mind's eye;' but the sad reality is so broad and substantial, that we cannot longer turn away from the horrors of actual and appalling destitution which now encompass us at every side. We have proof already that many wretched families in the interior of the country are starving upon one meal of bad and insufficient food in the four and twenty hours! The district relief committees have heard the warning voice, and the imploring cry of the hungry poor is painful to the ear. Voluntary private benevolence is doing much, but not more than it ought in such a deplorable calamity. Government must come to the rescue with more speed and effect, or the catastrophe will be overwhelming.He gave credit to the Government for passing the measure for the introduction of corn; but he had been utterly astonished at the last letter which had appeared, stating that provisions were at a starving price at Cork, and that the committee for the relief of the town were anxious to get a supply of Indian corn, to be sold at a low price. It appeared that they had obtained a certain quantity for a short period; but by some arbitrary proceedings, which the people of Cork did not understand, this was put a stop to. Application had therefore been made to the Government on the subject, as would be found from the following extract from a Cork paper. The Cork Reporter of Saturday says:—The relief committee have, we rejoice to say, thrown off the Castle incubus that weighed like a nightmare on their energies. To-day there are six depots selling out Indian meal, which arrived by the Nimrod on Thursday, at 8d. per 7 lbs., 10s. 8d. per cwt., just 2d. per cwt. over the rate the commissary charged for the six tons he gave the committee, for he fixed the prices not at 9s. 4d. per cwt. (1d. per lb.) as expected, but at 10s. 6d. per cwt. We pray the public to remark that that price (10s. 8d.) will cover, we understand, the cost of the Indian meal bought this very week in Liverpool, after a considerable rise had taken place in its price, and after paying the freight and charge of bringing it per steamer; while the Government, for meal ground from corn bought months since at first market price, directly imported here, charge within a mere fraction of that 10s. 8d. Was there ever anything so monstrous? Yes, there is something more monstrous still: they refused 705 to give it to a starving people, even at that exorbitant price. The committee, besides the Indian meal, are retailing whole meal to the people at 1½d. per lb., which will meet the fears of those who think that the Indian meal alone, however cooked, may not agree with the constitutions of our people. The following letter contains the Government ultimatum in respect to supplying, or rather denying, to the starving poor of our city any portion of the Indian meal stored by the authorities:—
§ "Castle, Dublin, April 9, 1846.
§ "Sir—I have to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 5th instant, inquiring, for the information of the relief committee of the city of Cork, whether it is the intention of Government to permit them the use of Indian meal from their depot at Cork, and am directed to state, in reply, that depots for the issue of Indian corn meal are now forming in the country; but it is intended to reserve issues from these depots for the more heavy pressure during the summer months, when farm labour shall have ceased, until which time it is expected that the landholders and relief committees will exert themselves to meet the existing distress.
§ "These are the views of Government. The country is sure of the provision which is now collecting for them; but all parties must co-operate to reserve it for the most trying period, when it can be simultaneously applied for the relief of the whole country.
§ "Premature issues would be wasting these resources.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
§ "J. P. KENNEDY, Secretary.
§ "Rev. Wm. O'Sullivan, R. C. C., Cork."
He had thought that the object of introducing Indian corn was to supply the exigencies of the present moment; but it appeared, according to this extraordinary communication, that it was not intended to afford assistance until famine came in all its force. He wished the Government to look at the situation of the Irish labourer. The Irish labourer did not depend on the wages that he earned for the means of maintaining himself and family. He obtained a small piece of land, for which he had in most instances to pay a high rent, and by the produce he thus obtained he was enabled to maintain his family. But if, as at present, the crop failed, he had nothing to fall back on in consequence of being unable to obtain employment unless for a very short period. In many parts of the west and south of Ireland, the population could not obtain employment. But, supposing that they were able to do so, the average rate of wages was from 6d. to 8d. a day; and any one acquainted with that part of the country knew that the price of potatoes was so high as to be, with this rate of wages, a famine price. The price of potatoes was double what it was in ordinary years. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he meant to wait until this state of things occasioned
an outbreak of the people? This must be the end of allowing things to remain as they were. It was monstrous to talk of the rights of property when the people were literally starving. There could be no doubt that a people in such a condition would rather be shot than starve. There had been a meeting of several thousand labourers in the county which he represented, to take into cousideration their condition as regarded a supply of provisions. He would not go into a detail of what passed there; it was sufficient to say that, by the aid of the Roman Catholic clergy, who on all occasions exerted themselves for the preservation of the peace, the meeting was induced to separate without any attack having been made on property. Some of the papers state that an attack was made in the county of Clare on a boat on the river Fergus, laden with flour, which was plundered. It should be recollected that in no part of Ireland had the potato disease caused so much distress as in Clare. The following was the account which he referred to:—
Plunder of a Provision Boat.—On Wednesday morning, as the smack Maria, the property of Mr. John N. Russell, of this city, was proceeding from Limerick to Clare, laden with flour and Indian meal, she was boarded near Smith's Island, in the Clare river, by about fourteen armed men from a lighter, who ordered the crew (three men and a boy) into the cabin. They held possession of the cabin over six hours, during which time they took away about one hundred sacks of prime flour and twenty of Indian meal, valued at 250l. They then departed, first ordering the crew to remain at anchor at their peril, until they returned for the remainder of the cargo. This order the crew did not obey, but started instantly for Clare, and were pursued by a boat filled with armed men. Mr. Russell's agent (Mr. Reardon) at once reported the occurrence to the magistrates and police. Warrants are issued, and about thirty sacks of flour have been recovered. Several boats that were passing at the time of this outrage were ordered to anchor, and had to remain so during the day, with the exception of the Dublin Company's boat, the Royal George, which was allowed to proceed unmolested. Mr. Richard Russell left yesterday for Ennis, to aid in recovering the property, and discovering the perpetrators of this audacious outrage. He returned last night, having discovered fifty-one bags of flour, belonging to his father, hid under the ground near Hurlers' Cross, on the road from this city to Ennis."—Limerick Examiner.
Again, he found it stated in the Limerick Reporter of Tuesday—
If the following from two respectable correspondents, descriptive of scenes that took place in Clonmel and Tipperary on yesterday, bring not the Government to a sense of their duty, we don't know what will: 'Tipperary, Monday Evening.—This town presented a picture of anrachy and confusion this day, which, it is to be apprehended, will lead to frightful consequences. A dray, laden with
flour, was seized in the centre of the town by the starving people, and, despite of the police, the greater portion carried off. The police acted with great forbearance, as in their efforts to protect they were pelted with stones and other missiles, and the chief constable, Mr. Egan, much injured. The army were immediately called out, and peace for the present restored. The destitution here is much increased by the price of fuel, ten shillings being the price of a small loaf of turf, which is retailed to the poor at one halfpenny the sod. The patience and forbearance of the starving people is wonderful under such privations, and no efforts made to procure employment for them.'
Clonmel, April 13.—At one o'clock this morning a mob consisting of four or five thousand of the unemployed and destitute poor, collected on the road about two miles from the town of Clonmel, and did not proceed to any violence until twelve o'clock, when a police officer rode into town for the military, in consequence of Mrs. Shanahan's mill (situate at Marlfield) having been attacked, and several sacks of flour carried off from it. Such was the excitement and apprehension, that all the military under the command of Major Galloway was called out, to the extent that the recruits were alone left to guard the barracks. Just at the period of the commotion, when the soldiers were proceeding under arms through the town, together with mounted artillery with their cannon, they were passed by at least two hundred and fifty carts laden with flour for exportation (the property, principally, of Messrs. Grubb and Sargent), coming from Caher, under a heavy escort of cavalry and infantry, which had been called out for the purpose early in the morning, so that the town presented all the appearance as if under siege. Before the cavalcade arrived at Marlfield the crowd had dispersed, intelligence having been conveyed to them of the armed force that was approaching.'
The circumstance which appeared most aggravating was, that the people were starving in the midst of plenty, and that every tide carried from the Irish ports corn sufficient for the maintenance of thousands of the Irish people. Was it not, then, surprising that there should not, under such circumstances, be more attacks on property? And the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government should recollect that the people of Ireland were only at the commencement of their famine; they would yet have to undergo some four or five months more of distress; and he would once more solemnly appeal to the Government and ask whether their present measures of relief were adequate to meet the case of the Irish people? He might say that, with respect to the resident gentry in Ireland, the majority of the landlords were benevolently contributing to the relief of the people; but it should be recollected that the pressure fell very heavily on them. He believed that every landlord would do everything in his power to give increased employment to labourers. With respect to the aid which would be afforded
by local subscriptions, it should be remembered that those who contributed submitted to a voluntary tax, giving what they pleased; and there might be some who would not contribute at all. He did not find that absentees were called upon to contribute, as they should be. There should be some additional assessment for the relief of the poor in a crisis like the present. He would by legislative enactment at once call for increased contributions, for local purposes, from all absentees. He had always thought that the poor had the first claim on the property on which they were located. Neither was the Poor Law, as it existed in Ireland, a system calculated to benefit the people of that country. The poor man, when he applied for work or assistance, was told he must go to the workhouse. Now, the workhouse system was not one on which they could rely in an emergency like the present, and the repugnance of the Irish people to resort to the workhouse was almost irresistible; and he trusted that this feeling would continue. Surely it was the business of the Government to enable the Irish poor, who were willing to work, to have the means of doing so. He thought that they ought to be encouraged in this desire; but what had the Government done for them? The right hon. Baronet had told the House that a sum of 400,000l. was available for the purpose of giving employment to the labourers of Ireland. Now he wished that the House would analyse the mode in which this sum was to be expended. The right hon. Baronet had brought in one Bill to encourage drainage; and had that Bill been introduced last autumn, it might have been attended with considerable benefit. He was not going to say that the Bill might not be useful in some small degree; but he was very much afraid that the right hon. Baronet would find it altogether inapplicable to meet this distressing crisis. The right hon. Baronet enumerated among his measures that which granted certain loans for the improvement of land under the Board of Public Works. He (Mr. S. O'Brien) was not aware of any instance in which this fund had been resorted to. The right hon. Baronet also alluded to some great undertakings for promoting the improvement of navigation in Ireland. He had heard of no such works being yet commenced. The right hon. Baronet had, however, informed them that a portion of the sum of 400,000l. had been laid aside for this purpose. The right hon. Baronet also stated that the County Pre-
sentiments Act would bring into circulation an expenditure of 100,000l. Now, he could inform the right hon. Baronet, that with only one or two exceptions the Grand Juries had decided that this measure was altogether inapplicable to meet the present distressing crisis. That Act would go, not to the benefit of the labouring classes, but to the people who did not require assistance. Another of these measures was the Fisheries Act. He thought that that was a very good Act, and hoped it would be successful; but, so far as he had observed during his residence in Ireland, it had not yet come into operation, nor was it likely that it would during the present pressure. There remained only another Act for him to speak of, and that was the Public Works (Ireland) Bill. It would be a very useful Act if the Government would only facilitate its operations. Public meetings had been held in many parts of Ireland to promote and expedite the operation of this Bill. The amount sanctioned to be expended by the provisions of the Bill was 50,000l., and that would just give 1s. per head to a million of people, for in the course of a few months a million of individuals would require the assistance it was intended to give. A very large number of applications had already been made to Government, not for charity, but employment under the provisions of the Bill. He confessed, that with reference to those provisions, they seemed most desirable in their nature; but he thought that it was the duty of the Government to bring to the aid of the local exertions made on this emergency the funds derived from general contributions, and from the grant of the State. The consequence of such a proceeding would be, that the people, instead of applying for public and indiscriminate charity, would be employed, and the works undertaken to give them employment would be such as would be useful in themselves. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to state to the House what he knew with respect to the applications that had been made for employment on those works, for which 50,000l. had been granted. He believed that the applications already made would warrant the expenditure of 500,000l. He could not refrain from expressing his regret that Government should think it necessary to couple the question of Ireland with the question of the Corn Laws. These laws did not affect that description of food available for the people of Ireland. He was one of those who differed from the great
majority of the hon. Members at his side of the House—he meant with respect to measures to alter the Corn Law, which he had no doubt would be of service to this country, but would for some time be injurious to Ireland. He would also say that it was a still more unfair and ungenerous proceeding in the conduct of the Government, with respect to Members who differed from them, to mix up the question of the Corn Laws with the Coercion Bill. Did the right hon. Gentleman forget the Parliamentary proceedings in 1833, when the same course was readily allowed to the Irish Members to oppose the then Coercion. Bill on the first reading, as they had now adopted? Was it fair then to taunt hon. Members with throwing impediments in the way of the people of Ireland getting relief, because they would not consent to a measure which would be the greatest infliction that country could suffer? Why, the Irish Members had no remedy. If they had not adopted this course, they would lose, and deservedly so, the confidence of their fellow countrymen. They were determined to resist this Bill, and they would do so in all its stages. This measure was passed by an English majority, and against the feeling of a majority of the Irish Members; and he felt that there was so much justice in the opposition of this Coercion Bill, that he believed that it never would pass that House. The people of Ireland were alienated, perhaps irrevocably, from this Parliament; and as regarded the Government, it was their duty to have separated the Coercion Bill from measures to meet the prevailing famine. How different would have been the conduct of an Irish Government and an Irish Parliament! An Irish Government would have summoned an Irish Parliament to meet in November last, to consider the steps necessary to meet the unforeseen calamity; instead of coupling measures of coercion and relief, they would never have dreamed of uniting them, and out of the resources of Ireland they would have made preparations to prevent famine among the people. However painful might be the task, he had felt it his duty to throw the responsibility upon Government; and in his conscience he believed that for whatever loss of life might arise from want of food, or from outbreaks the result of want, Ministers would be answerable.
§ SIR. J. GRAHAM
Sir, after the speech which the hon. Gentleman has just delivered, although I am most anxious to avoid 711 any postponement of the adjourned debate, I should be inexcusable if I did not address a few words to the House; but I will confine myself almost wholly to answering the questions put by the hon. Gentleman. I am sure, Sir, that there is no one Member in this House who will not bear witness that I have not underrated the sad calamity with which Ireland is afflicted. There is no Member in this House who has stated more broadly and more distinctly the great apprehensions to be entertained of the extent of that calamity, and of its increasing pressure, than I have. At a very early period after the House met, I enforced on the attention of the House, from the best information which we could obtain, the fact that this calamity was widely spread, and that in the course of the next spring and summer it would be greatly increased. I, therefore, cannot be accused of concealing or underrating this great calamity. We have not denied the responsibility of the Government in this emergency. We have resisted upon grounds which we thought sound the propositions made by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, which would have relieved the Government of some portion of this responsibility, and would have transferred it exclusively to the proprietors of the soil in Ireland; and with reference to the present condition of the proprietors of the soil we have declared, upon the whole, in the midst of the present emergency, that we would not be parties to any such exclusive increase of the local burdens. I am well aware that nothing but the extremity of the present emergency, and the unusual state of things now existing, will justify our measures for feeding the people under the sudden calamity of an approaching famine. Those who are conversant with the working of the Government must be aware that its machinery is not adequate to any such object. It is nothing discreditable to the present Administration to say that we were taken more or less by surprise; it was necessary to provide the machinery for our purpose; the performance of that machinery cannot, in all its parts, be altogether and at once perfect, and some allowance ought to be made to the Government for the difficulty in its working. I will now proceed to comment very briefly on what the hon. Gentleman has further added. He has said, speaking upon the authority of a news paper, but not giving any case upon his own authority, that instances of death from 712 destitution have occurred. The hon. Gentleman relies upon a single newspaper; and I may be permitted to say that no official account has been received of so fearful an event. One of the cases to which the hon. Gentleman referred was that of an individual whose strength failed him, and who lost his life when he was actually taken into employment. That employment may have been postponed too long: still that individual was employed. I admit. Sir, most fully, the feeling which prevails in Ireland of an unwillingness to enter the workhouse, and therefore we cannot wholly rely upon any argument founded upon the empty state of the workhouses: still, when it is said that distress prevails to such an extent as to endanger life, it must be remembered that throughout Ireland there are workhouses provided, and that in no one instance are they full. [Mr. O'CONNELL: Dublin.] Perhaps Dublin is an exception; but it was the counties of Clare and of Limerick to which the hon. Gentleman more particularly alluded; and I am sure that in neither of those counties are the workhouses full at the present moment. I think, Sir, that the hon. Gentleman and I are agreed upon the main principle which ought to regulate the operations of the Legislature and of the Government in their endeavours to provide the means of meeting the present emergency. The hon. Gentleman, and those who sit around him, condemn any distribution of gifts or alms: with respect, at all events, then, to the able-bodied poor, we are agreed that finding employment, and so distributing wages, is the legitimate mode of giving relief. Now, our endeavour has been to find work, for that we conceive to be the legitimate mode of affording relief, and the best relief that, we can give to the able bodied poor in the present emergency. The hon. Gentleman has referred also to a particular source of supply—the Indian corn. Sir, when they anticipated the coming events, the Government, acting on its own responsibility, departed from the ordinary—I might almost say from the legitimate—course of a Government, and ordered a large importation of Indian corn. They did not so order it for the purpose of meeting the entire wants of the Irish people, but for the purpose of checking the markets, of preventing the holding back of corn to enhance the price, and of arresting the progress of the very evil of which the hon. Gentleman complained—that, in midst of plenty, when the crops of oats had been unusually large, the 713 supply of oatmeal was so limited that the price was raised one-third. I am aware how difficult and delicate an operation it is to adjust the supply of food to the wants of the people. That is one of the objections to the present Corn Laws: they attempt this very adjustment, which no law can secure; and it is a case of no little difficulty so to regulate in particular localities the addition to the supply of food, that while we encourage such an influx as will reduce the price and add to the maintenance of the people from a public source, the people are not led to rely upon that public supply exclusively for subsistence. Sir, we never said that this foreign supply would be sufficient for the whole population of Ireland; but we believed that, under the judicious management of this supply, the markets could be so regulated as to prevent an exorbitant price for native produce. This was the rule in the case of Cork, adverted to in the answer of Mr. Pennefather to the request for a further supply of Indian corn. I am happy to say that, upon private speculation a large quantity of Indian corn, in addition to that provided by the Government, has been introduced into Ireland, and that the price is very moderate, so moderate indeed—the duty under the Order of the Treasury having been suspended—that Indian corn is cheaper in many parts of Ireland than oatmeal. The prejudice which was entertained against it is rapidly subsiding. It is found to be a healthy and agreeable food, and there is a general disposition amongst the Irish people to consume it. I trust that the effect of this disposition will far outlive the present emergency, and that the people will henceforth be induced to subsist on corn, whether grown at home or imported from abroad, in preference to potatoes, which have hitherto been so exclusively used. The hon. Gentleman has said also that there are cases of such extreme destitution, ending in the loss of life, as to justify the statement that the people of Ireland are starving in the midst of plenty. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will admit, that whatever may be the efforts of the Government, it is utterly impossible that such a state of affairs can be satisfactorily met if the Government alone is left to deal with the emergency; if the proprietors of the soil and the richer portion of the community do not come forward generously, liberally, and freely, to aid the efforts of the Executive. The hon. Gentleman asked me, "What has the Government done?" 714 It is my duty, however, to ask him—I may, without imputing blame, for there are honourable exceptions—but what, I ask, have the wealthy—what have the landlords of Ireland done? We have done our very utmost. Lord Lincoln, nearly a fortnight ago, proceeded to Ireland under the apprehension that there was not sufficient activity; and that there might exist some impediments to the operations of the Government which it would be desirable to remove, and to ensure a more immediate adoption of those measures of relief which it was necessary to afford. I am bound to say, that with reference to two of the measures already introduced, the effect has not been so successful as we had on the whole anticipated. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the Grand Juries Presentment Act. That was a measure by which we offered, on the part of the public, to advance 100,000l.; which, through the medium of contract works, might have employed a large number of people. It was a measure intrusted to the grand juries; in other terms, it may be said to have been left to the discretion of the landlords of each county; but they have refused to avail themselves of that Act of Parliament; they have very generally declared that they will not act upon it; and, therefore, our tender of 100,000l., to be immediately available, has practically been rejected. I regret this extremely. The measure was of a permissive, not compulsory, character; but the grand juries of Ireland have not thought it right to take advantage of its provisions. There was some truth also in the observations of the hon. Gentleman, with respect to the Drainage Act. I could have wished that Act had been introduced earlier, before the emergency was so pressing; if it had been introduced earlier it would, no doubt, have been more generally available; but still, I am happy to say the hon. Gentleman has not been correctly informed when he says that no applications have been made for advances under that Act. There have been some applications already for loans under that Act. The annually available sum is 60,000l.; and since the measure of the present Session, giving additional facilities for bringing it into operation, passed, already from 30,000l. to 40,000l. have been advanced. Of what may be called the substantive measures of relief tendered by Government to meet the emergency, the most important is, undoubtedly, the Public Works Act. While advances 715 are made on the part of the public, it secures payment of a moiety on unexceptionable security; and provides that the public works selected are the most proper that could be adopted to add permanently to the productive power and wealth of Ireland. I, therefore, was a decided advocate for the Public Works Act, as presenting the most legitimate means of relief, and converting, I trust, present calamity into permanent sources of future prosperity and welfare. The hon. Gentleman has truly stated that under the Act of Parliament the amount now available is limited to 50,000l. I have no hesitation in stating to the hon. Gentleman and to the House, that on our responsibility we have told the Irish Government not to consider that limit of 50,000l. as final and not to be exceeded. We have desired the Irish Government to investigate all the propositions made for new public works according to the provisions of the Act; and if 50,000l. should be considered insufficient, on our responsibility we have declared our willingness to sanction advances to a larger amount; and before the end of the Session it will be our duty to bring the entire case before Parliament. Instructions have already been sent over to Ireland to this effect; and, although the sum nominally available is only 50,000l., all tenders, all applications for advances on public works shall be entertained by the Commission, and be investigated according to the terms of the strict rule which Parliament has prescribed, save only with respect to amount of advance; and, on that head, as I have stated, at a future period of the Session we will come forward and announce the sum which, in conformity with the Act, it may be necessary to provide; and I rely with confidence on the readiness of Parliament, under the pressure of existing circumstances, to sanction any advance which may be necessary beyond the amount now specified in the Public Works Act. The hon. Gentleman stated that an Irish Parliament and an Irish Government would have acted in a different spirit from what we have displayed on this occasion. I will not lay stress on the terms "an Irish Government," because it may mean a Government separate from the Crown of England, which I hope the hon. Gentleman would disclaim; but if the hon. Gentleman meant that a British Government, acting through the medium of an Irish Parliament, would have acted more generously, I must say, I really do 716 not think that an Irish Parliament could have dealt with a case of this description in a spirit more generous, more confiding, more anxious to meet the emergency, than the British Parliament has exhibited on this occasion. Already Parliament has sanctioned, since we met, either in the shape of grant or loan, advances to the amount, as I have before stated, of above 400,000l. Under the Public Works Act the sum to be advanced is limited to 500,000l.; but I have to-night announced, that on our responsibility that limit will be removed; and I am sure—with no misplaced confidence on the feelings of the British House of Commons—I may say that neither this nor the other House of Parliament will impose any limit to any advance which shall be made conformable to the principles established in the Public Works Act, provided the public be protected against jobbing; but that advances will be made in a spirit not unworthy either of the British or Irish people. The hon. Gentleman has again referred to the necessity of establishing a system of relief to the able-bodied under the Poor Law. Now, I must say that the authorities in Ireland, with reference to the policy of such a provision, are by no means agreed. If I mistake not, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. O'Connell) differs widely from the hon. Member from Limerick on this point. I must say I agree with the hon. and learned Gendleman the Member for Cork, and differ from the hon. Member for Limerick. The hon. Gentleman, in the course of his observations, has himself, I think, virtually condemned that proposition. Vindicating the conduct of the Irish landlords, he said, they do habitually employ at least as large a number of labourers out of their private means as their fortunes will allow. But the inevitable effect of levying by forced rate a sum for the maintenance of the poor would be, that what you give as relief would have to be taken from the maintenance given to those you employ in the shape of wages. ["No, no!"] I am now talking of the resident landlords. I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that the resident landlords generally even exceeded their means in employing labourers; at all events, they went to the utmost extent of their means. Well, the inevitable effect of imposing a rate for the maintenance of the able-bodied would be greatly to diminish those means; with the diminution of those means, the laudable desire so to employ labour would cease; 717 and with respect to the employed, the inevitable result would be, you would extinguish the independent feeling of honest labourers—you would reduce them to the position of the pauper; their independence would cesse, their spirit would be lowered, and the tone of society to that extent would be degraded. On this topic I only wish to point out that even here, while this question is discussed by hon. Members sitting on the same side of the House generally agreeing with respect to Irish policy, there is the greatest difference of opinion among Irish authorities. But, Sir, the hon. Gentleman said that an Irish Government would have called an Irish Parliament together in November for the purpose of considering this question.This was the unkindest cut of all;for the hon. Gentleman knows well that we—my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government and myself—are not responsible for not having taken that precise course. We cannot be fairly charged with neglect in this respect. The hon. Gentleman says that the subject of scarcity in Ireland is unjustly connected with the Corn Laws. I won't argue that question over again. I have repeatedly stated that I think this question of Irish scarcity is indissolubly connected with the Corn Laws. It was the urgency of this very case that forced on me the reconsideration of all my former opinions on this subject—it was the urgency of this very case which convinced me that you cannot postpone, with justice to Ireland, much less to Great Britain, an immediate settlement of the Corn Laws by the abolition of those duties that impede the free importation of human food. With reference to the other measure, which the hon. Gentleman complains has been mixed up with the existing distress in Ireland—namely, the measure for the prevention of the horrible crime of assassination and lawless outrage which prevails in a small number of counties in Ireland; I do not think it would be proper that I should now longer interpose between the House and the further consideration of that important question. The hon. Gentleman has complained that we have taunted the Irish Members with having unfairly retarded the progress of the Corn Bill. Neither my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, nor any other Member of the Government, has taunted the Irish Members with the conduct which 718 they have thought it their duty to pursue. On the present occasion I have contented myself with briefly answering the questions put to me by the hon. Gentleman. After five nights' debate, I hope the discussion on the first reading of the Protection to Life in Ireland Bill will now be allowed to proceed; and after the first reading we shall make progress, I hope, without interruption, in advancing towards the final settlement of that great question which presses for immediate decision, whatever part of the British Empire, with reference to its vital interest, is considered—the Bill for abolishing the duties on the importation of foreign corn.
§ MR. E. B. ROCHE
said, that although he did not concur with the right hon. Baronet who had just sat down, as to the desirableness of proceeding with this Bill, he would not detain the House at any great length with a view of interrupting its progress. He did not believe that the Government intended doing much for the substantial relief of the people of Ireland. It was quite true that the right hon. Baronet had uttered sentiments of commiseration and feeling for the Irish people. The right hon. Baronet had also uttered a strong rebuke to the landlords of Ireland for not aiding the Government to the best of their power in relieving the wants of the people. For those sentiments, as far as they went, he thanked the right hon. Baronet; but, at the same time, he should better pleased did he hear the right hon. Baronet say, as the representative of the Executive Government of this country, that the Government did, in point of fact, intend doing something substantial towards relieving the calamities and distresses of the people, and that it was their intention to provide ample means for supplying the people of Ireland with food. He did not intend to make any allusion to the question between his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick and the right hon. Baronet, as to whether an English or an Irish Parliament would do most for the relief of the people of Ireland. He would also refrain saying anything about the vexata questio of the Poor Laws; but this he would say that the Government of this country, if they took upon themselves the government of Ireland, ought to do something more substantial than making plausible and feeling speeches—they ought to do something more substantial for supplying the people of Ireland with food. Now the right hon. Baronet had thrown himself to a certain extent (if he might use the expres- 719 sion) upon the indulgence of the House with regard to the difficulty which the Government felt in obtaining and introducing into Ireland food for the people. The right hon. Baronet had told them that there was a great want of machinery which the Government could use. His hon. Friend the Member for Limerick had alluded to the mode in which the Indian wheat had been distributed by the officer of the Government in the city of Cork. Now, without imputing to the Government any intention of aggravating the distress of the people at the present moment, he would, at the same time, tell them that the effects of the acts of the Government, with regard to the distribution of that corn, was to aggravate in a very serious degree the distress of the people in the south of Ireland. What were the facts?—and one fact was better than a thousand arguments. The distress in Cork was very great; and the Gentlemen in that city assembled and formed themselves into a relief committee, and elected a secretary. At that time there was a depôt in Cork, containing a large supply of Indian meal. An application was made to the secretary of the relief committee in Dublin, stating the distress of the people—distress which he (Mr. Roche) knew, from his own knowledge, was not exaggerated—and calling upon him to allow a distribution of the Indian meal in depôt at certain prices—in fact, at cost price. The secretary, after some deliberation, acceded to this request, and a considerable quantity of meal was distributed among the poor of Cork. So far so good. But when the quantity which they were allowed to distribute was expended, they renewed their application to the secretary in Dublin, and their first letter was unanswered. On the second application they received the letter which his hon. Friend had read to the House, and which was written by the Dublin secretary. That letter stated that, in point of fact, the Government had changed their minds with regard to the distribution of the meal, and that the people of Ireland were to be thrown upon their own resources. The consequence of this was, that an impression went abroad that not only for the present, but for a long time afterwards, the Government were not prepared to do anything for relieving the distresses of the people. Thus, they created a very great discontent among the people of Ireland, because they in the first instance raised their hopes by holding out to them, and in part realizing the expectation that food would be afforded 720 them, at reasonable prices, and afterwards they turned round and said in effect we have food here, but you shall not get more of it: that course, as he had said, created a feeling of dissatisfaction. Its effect was even worse, for the speculators in corn in Liverpool, and other places, had the opportunity of reading this letter, as well as those to whom it was addressed, and they naturally enough said to themselves, this food is to be shut up for some months still; and they therefore raised the prices of Indian meal. Those prices were raised in consequence of this letter which had been received from Dublin. The right hon. Baronet seemed to doubt that fact; but he had a painful knowledge of it, because he was in treaty for a large supply of Indian meal for his own people, and he knew that it was rated at a higher price than it was a fortnight since. It was impossible for any man to exaggerate with respect to the want of food in Ireland. In that part of the county of Cork in which he resided, which usually supplied other parts of the county with food, hundreds of people were, to his own knowledge, obliged to consume the potatoes which they intended for seed; and that consideration alone ought to be sufficient to induce the Government to bring a large supply of Indian corn into the markets. The impression which the speech of the right hon. Gentleman left on his mind was—but he hoped he misunderstood him—that the supply which the Government had in the country was trifling. With respect to his own part of the country, he had great pleasure in being able to say, in answer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, that the landlords there, always excepting the absentees, were doing what lay in their power. He was himself at that moment—he did not say it in order to obtain any credit for it—giving employment to about four hundred persons, whose wages he paid weekly; but there was the greatest possible difficulty in obtaining food. When he had performed his duty by voting against the first reading of the present measure next week, if so early, he would proceed to Liverpool, to lay in a stock of food for his own people. He advised the relief committees in Cork to put themselves in correspondence with the brokers in Liverpool, in order to obtain supplies of Indian meal for the people. At present the price of potatoes was most unreasonable, not less than 3d. a stone for ordinary qualities; and it was 4d. and 5d. a stone for the best. But even these high 721 prices were fictitious, for there was absolute difficulty in getting the article at all. Large dealers had told him that they were unable to get sufficient for their own use, much less to meet the demand. He did not believe, if the people were to use the potatoes which were required for seed, that there would be more than three or four weeks' supply in all Ireland. That was a fact which could scarcely fail to come home to them with a sort of thoughtful conviction. It was a fact which he stated with all solemnity, and as a landed proprietor whose duty and pleasure it was to be acquainted with the wants of the people. He believed that hundreds and thousands would get up to-morrow morning in Ireland without knowing where to get a supply of their daily food. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, must excuse him for saying that it was in the highest degree incumbent on them to apply themselves to overcome the practical difficulties which stood in the way of supplying the people with provisions. They ought to cause further orders to be sent to America for supplies of Indian meal. Some department of the Government, at least, ought to apply itself to the question instantly. They ought not to wait until the eleventh hour—until there were fifteen or twenty such sackings as those they had read of in the papers of that morning as having occurred at Clonmel. If they did remain idle, they might depend on it that they would speedily hear of outrages which every man would regret. Fine speeches from the Government would not now answer. There was an old proverb, that "sweet words butter no parsnips," and certainly sweet words would not fill empty bellies. It was time now, if ever it was time, to be up and doing. Let the Government act, and not talk. They had taken upon themselves to govern Ireland, and it was now time that, before God and man, they should attempt to govern it, so as to prevent the horrors of a national starvation.
§ SIR R. PEEL
The hon. Gentleman who has spoken last has, I am sorry to say, brought a melancholy confirmation of the impressions under which we have from the first acted in reference to Ireland. About a fortnight since we had occasion to defend ourselves from the charge that we had exaggerated the present scarcity in Ireland—that we had used an admitted scarcity in some parts of the country for the purpose of promoting the success of a measure permanently affecting the commercial in- 722 terests of the country. Returns were moved for the price of potatoes in different parts of Ireland, from which the inference sought to be drawn was, that the scarcity was confined to some parts of the country; and that was the charge which a fortnight since we had to defend ourselves against. But my own impression, which has since been unhappily confirmed, was, that as spring advanced very severe pressure would be felt in that country; and the hon. Gentleman, who has just returned from Ireland, now brings a striking confirmation as to that part with which he is connected. We have been charged with contenting ourselves with mere fine-spun speeches and soft words; but the hon. Gentleman, and those who think with him, might do us the justice to reflect that Government may feel extreme difficulty in adopting measures which may have a tendency to aggravate rather than relieve the distresses of that country. I agree with him that if, by the interference of the Government, we could rescue the people of Ireland from their present sufferings, no considerations of a pecuniary nature ought to prevent our adopting immediate and decisive measures for that purpose. But where interference is so unusual, so contrary to all sound principles, let us take care that our interposition, though well intended, does not ultimately add to the mischief. I assure the hon. Member that the utmost precaution is necessary—and his speech affords the strongest evidence of it—lest by our very liberality, professing to support the people, we aggravate the evil. By applying local relief under great pressure, we may be laying the foundation of more severe pressure hereafter. One of the last observations of the hon. Member was an entreaty, that for God's sake the Government should send out to America for more Indian corn; but we are bound to take care, that by so doing we do not interfere with the natural and more effectual supply by the merchants. At a time when Indian meal was unknown in this country—when by the present law it was subject to the duty on barley—and when the price of barley was falling, and the duty therefore rising, upon our own responsibility and at our own discretion, without any soft words or fine speeches, we sent orders, through a great mercantile house, for the purchase of Indian corn, undertaking to guarantee them against loss. Private persons could not have taken this course, on account of the duty; but the measure that might be justified in 723 December, might be very unwise and injudicious now. It does not at all follow, that because Indian meal can now be imported at a profit by individuals, that the further intervention of Government in the matter is expedient; and if it were known that Government was in the market as a great purchaser of Indian corn, the first effect would be greatly to enhance the price, and the next to embarrass the trade. What private merchant would buy and bring in Indian meal, if he were obliged to enter into competition with Government? I mention that to convince the hon Member that it is not from any indifference to Ireland, but from a sincere and conscientious desire to benefit her to the utmost, that we do not act as the hon. Gentleman recommends. I am sure that he would not ask me to make improper and inconvenient disclosures; but in this discussion our position is unfortunate; if we cannot give a complete answer, an inference may be drawn that we are afraid to state our case; if we are silent and reserved, we add to the difficulty; and if we make disclosures, we do mischief. The fact is, that we have sent orders abroad to purchase for Ireland not only Indian corn, but oatmeal; there is a duty of 6s. or 7s. upon it, and that duty will remain as long as the Corn Law remains; but as we receive it with one hand, and pay it with the other, it amounts to much the same thing. I have no doubt that the hon. Member is sincerely desirous to benefit his neighbours, as he gives employment to 400 peasantry: he finds the difficulty of providing them with food; and for his sake, and for their sakes, and for the sake of those who are willing to follow his honourable example, I entreat him to co-operate with us. He is going to Liverpool at the close of next week, and I hope, by helping us to pass the Corn Bill, he will return with tidings that he has been able to purchase oatmeal on payment of a duty of only 18d. instead of 7s. But what is the prospect in Ireland at present? Your potatoes have failed. The people are driven to subsist on a more generous and a more expensive food than they have been hitherto accustomed to. The pressure is no doubt very severe; but the almost inevitable tendency of it must be to give the Irish people a taste for a higher description of food. It will thus, I trust, be the means of laying a foundation for increased industry, which, though no doubt it will be felt to but a very small extent at first, must have its advantage. If you can prevent the 724 Irish labourer from placing his dependance on that watery food, the Irish potato, that will be doing a substantial good. But for the present I only wish to show the danger of the Government interfering with private speculation, if such interference can possibly be avoided. At present there are great importations of Indian corn into this country by private individuals since it was allowed to be introduced at the duty of 1s. a quarter. The hon. Gentleman complains of the Government not being more active in supplying food to meet the existing scarcity. I can only say—and I speak from the deepest conviction—that if we were to declare we were ready to support the Irish people, and if the Parliament gave us authority for doing so, we should cause more mischief by relaxing individual exertion, than if we did not interfere at all. If Parliament gave us unlimited means, and it were known we undertook the task of supplying the Irish with food, we should to a great extent lose the assistance of the Irish gentry, the Irish clergy, and the Irish farmer, all of whom would be bound to co-operate for the relief of the present distress. I firmly believe the result would be that we should insure all the horrors of famine before next autumn. In the first place, it is impossible for the Government to support 4,000,000 of people. It is quite impossible. You have not the means of doing it. But at the same time that the hon. Gentleman advises us to be more liberal, and to make a declaration of our willingness to give more extended support to the suffering poor, the hon. Gentleman adds that there are many of the absentee landlords who are not performing that duty towards the people which in his opinion the resident landlords are beginning to effect. But if the Government were to do what he requires of us, would not the absentee landlord at once say, "I thank you for relieving me from the obligation of assisting my starving countrymen?" The hon. Gentleman has described the efforts that are made by many proprietors, not only resident but absentee proprietors; for I think it unfair to draw the distinction on this occasion that he makes, because I know myself that there are many absentee proprietors who are coming forward generously to meet the existing distress. We must not, therefore, I think, draw the distinction as to those who are disposed to aid the people; but is it not possible that all those classes to whom I have alluded might 725 say in such a case, "We may be counteracting the efforts of this benevolent Government, who have all these Commissioners, and such extensive machinery to work with, by interfering at all in the matter?" And would they not, in point of fact, have a good excuse for withholding that aid which is indispensable on this occasion? Cases such as the hon. Gentleman supposes may occur. It is utterly impossible for us to adopt means for preventing cases of individual misery in the wilds of Galway, or Donegal, or Mayo. In such localities the people must look to the local proprietors, resident and non-resident. It must be instilled into their minds that it is not on the Government that the first responsibility rests, but on those who derive their fortunes from the soil. It may be very well for the hon. Gentleman to say to us, "I hold you responsible for every death that may occur in Ireland from the want of food." I tell him that is an unwise argument. It is impossible to make the Government responsible for cases of individual distress. That responsibility must rest on those who are on the spot—on the proprietors, resident and non-resident. If they are absentees, the moral obligation upon them is the stronger to transmit the necessary assistance to those who, being on the spot, can, from their local connexion and their personal knowledge of the cases coming before them, be the best enabled to distribute the relief. And therefore, not wishing to shrink from any obligation that belongs to the Government, and believing that pecuniary reasons alone should not weigh with us in declining to take any steps that we may think necessary, still I cannot consent to shift the responsibility from those on whom I believe it to rest. As to the hon. gentleman's statement that the pressure is already so severe as to oblige the people to use as food the potatoes that ought to be applied for the purpose of seed, I am disposed to concur with him in that view, for the pressure of immediate hunger will be always a temptation too strong to be resisted, no matter what the consequences may be; but does not the hon. Gentleman see in that argument a sufficient vindication for the course which the Government has taken in asking for a permanent settlement of the Corn Law question. I believe the same state of things is likely to occur next year; that we may have scarcity again to provide against, and that years may elapse before the food of the people is placed upon a secure footing; but 726 if these anticipations be well founded, what would be our condition in July next, if we had to decide whether a temporary suspension of the Corn Law should continue or not? Suppose that the season next July should be similar to the last, and that fears of a second bad season were justified. I should like to know, then, if the state of Ireland next November and December were expected to be something like that of last year, what would be the condition of this House when asked to decide whether the suspension of the Corn Law expire in August, or should continue through the next winter. We felt this difficulty when considering the course which, as Members of Her Majesty's Government, we ought to take. We felt that the pressure of hunger might induce the people to apply to the purposes of food the potatoes that were required for seed; and we were thus induced to decide that the temporary suspension of the law would not be enough, but that it was our bounden duty to submit our proposition to the Legislature. This, then, is my answer to the hon. Gentleman, who has charged us with dealing ungenerously in introducing the subject of corn in connection with the distress, for placing the Corn Law on another footing. [Mr. S. O'BRIEN: I said coercion.] Let us discuss the Corn Law and the Coercion Bill each at its proper time. Whatever differences there may be on the Corn Bill or the Coercion Bill, on the subject of Irish distress we are all agreed. Her Majesty's Government may not have taken the best measures for its relief; but I can state that we have painfully considered the subject, and that we have spared no labour, by day or by night. It may be that the measures which we have taken may not be effectual for the purpose of meeting that distress; but I can assure hon. Gentlemen that indifference to the state of the Irish people cannot be fairly laid to our charge—that it is not from any fear of incurring the expense that has deterred us from going further, and from taking all the measures he thinks we might adopt; but it is a fear of too great an intervention with the ordinary course of commerce, and of thus ultimately aggravating the evil which we meant to remove. It is this consideration alone which has prevented us from adopting those measures which the hon. Gentleman thinks might have been more decisive and effectual.
§ MR. E. B. ROCHE
had not called on the right hon. Baronet to support the people of Ireland, or to give them eleemosynary 727 relief; but what he said was, they had come forward in the capacity of food providers: they had taken the step which the right hon. Baronet now deprecated, and he wished that they should not now stop half way, but that they should give the landlords of Ireland an assurance that in Liverpool, or elsewhere, they would have a certainty of procuring a supply of food for the people.
§ SIR R. PEEL
said, that was just what the Government wanted in passing the Corn Bill—namely, to have foreign wheat admitted at 4s. duty, and oats and barley at 1s. 6d. duty.
§ MR. CALEB POWELL
wished to know from the right hon. Baronet, if such was the object of the Government, why he pressed a Coercion Bill on the attention of the House instead of the Corn Bill?
§ SIR W. SOMERVILLE
said, he was exceedingly glad to hear from the right hon. Baronet that the Government were prepared to augment the sum of money placed at the disposal of the Board of Works. In counties it was possible to proceed with the construction of roads and other public improvements; but in towns, such as that which he had the honour to represent (Drogheda), they had no means of employing the people, except by the improvement of their harbours; and he trusted, therefore, that the Government would take means to have the Report of the Harbour Commissioners laid on the Table with as little delay as possible, in order that its suggestions might be carried into effect.
§ MR. W. COLLETT
said, that he wished to draw the attention of the Government to the Railway Acts passed for Ireland in the last Session of Parliament. The Cork and Cashill Railway, the Waterford and Limerick Railway, and the Dundalk and Enniskillen Railway Bills, were among those to which he alluded; and what he wished to know was, whether money might not be advanced, by way of loan, under certain restrictions, to these works, in order that the people might be at once employed upon them? He did not allude to the Railway Bills of this Session; but with respect to the others, he thought arrangements might be made by which the works could be commenced at once. Though he could not boast of being a resident Irish landlord, he had given employment for the last nine years to 500 labourers, and within eight years had expended 90,000l. in Ireland; and the hon. Member for Cork could bear 728 him out when he alluded to the efforts which he had made to procure employment for the people. His tenants in that country were earning good wages, and were under no necessity of applying to the workhouse for relief, and he was glad of it.
I will not detain the House three minutes, nor would I take the liberty of addressing it at all on the present occasion were it not for what has fallen respecting me from the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Gentleman has stated accurately the difference of opinion existing between my hon. Friend near me (Mr. Smith O'Brien) and myself on the subject of outdoor relief. I believe that in the social state in which Ireland exists, the Poor Law is not a remedy for anything like the quantity of destitution found in the country. I can see no reason for altering the opinion which I have so often expressed on this subject from the practical working of the existing Poor Law. As it is at present administered there are only 37,000 persons to whom relief is afforded, though according to the Report of your Commissioners there are two millions three hundred and odd thousand persons in a state of destitution in Ireland. These 37,000 persons have certainly received workhouse relief; but then it has been at a cost of 90,000l. a year for the establishment alone. I only allude to that fact to show how inadequate a mode of relief the present Poor Law has proved for the existing distress of Ireland. I do think that nothing could be more ruinous to the landlords of Ireland than the introduction of a system of outdoor relief. I believe such a system would amount to actual confiscation of property; but yet, if the right hon. Baronet thinks that the distress in Ireland is so great that outdoor relief is necessary to meet the case, I would consent to sacrifice my own opinion, and to support him in passing a measure for that purpose. One word more. The right hon. Baronet has alluded to the failure of the Drainage Act in Ireland. But the right hon. Baronet should not discourage a system so necessary, but at the same time so difficult. He should recollect that the failure did not arise from the plans of the Government, but from natural causes. I will allude to but one matter further. The Government has done a great deal to meet the distress. They have shown the best disposition to relieve the people. Many will differ from you as to the plans which you have adopted. I think you have vindicated yourselves to- 729 night; but you should recollect that you have not done enough as yet, even with regard to the past. Recollect that you are only at the commencement of the distress; that the worst period is before you; that the disturbances which unfortunately have commenced may become universal; and that you have a fruitful period for exertion before yon require an energy beyond the law. In taking up the Coercion Bill you may, pro tanto, appoint a Commissioner with power to make a rate on the resident and absentee landholders throughout the kingdom, according as an estimate may be formed of the number of people to whom they give work, and labour, or wages. At the same time, let me add, that I should be sorry anything like despondency should go forth from the Government. Nothing could have a worse effect in causing outbreak than any appearance of despondency on the part of the Government. I do believe that by energy you can yet meet the difficulty; but the greatest energy is required for the purpose, and without that you can do nothing.
§ COLONEL VERNER
said, that in his part of the country, after having made every possible inquiry, he found the produce of the last harvest so fair, that there was at least an average crop for consumption. The tenantry unanimously stated that since the war they did not recollect so good a season for paying rents; and that at present there was a great quantity of grain in the country.
§ MR. W. SMITH O'BRIEN
wished to say a word or two in explanation. The right hon. Baronet opposite said, in opposing the Coercion Bill the Irish Members were responsible for delaying the progress of those measures which were intended to relieve the distressed people of Ireland. The Irish Members did not deserve that imputation. With regard to compelling the resident landlords of Ireland to assist the Government in remedial measures, he (Mr. W. S. O'Brien) begged to say, that if the right hon. Baronet proposed a general tax upon property with that object, he for one would cordially support him.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNELL
would read a statement to the House which he had just received, relating to a point not yet touched upon in the present discussion, although it bore a most important relation to it. The statement was as follows:—Sir Robert Peel is reported to have stated that the Government embarked 100,000l. in the purchase of Indian corn, to be sold in Ireland at 730 cost price. Commissary General Hewitson has declared such cost price to be 1d. per lb. This enables us to estimate the quantity imported by Government at 24,000,000 lbs. weight of meal; say six pounds for each of the 4,000,000 of persons for whom it is calculated food, other than their usual diet of potatoes, must be found this season, say for three months. The present price of Indian corn in London and Liverpool, adding cost of freight to Ireland, and expense of manufacture, is 20 per cent higher than the commissary general in Cork proposes to sell at. As far as the Government views are known, all the Indian corn is to be imported into Cork, and all to be ground there. They have engaged as yet eleven millls for grinding in and near Cork, which are capable of working about 4,000 barrels of 20 stone at most in the week. Several lots of it have been sent from Cork to Galway and other places. A small quantity was delivered to a relief committee in Cork, and most anxiously bought up by the people at the price fixed. Mr. Dan Meagher told me this day (April 4) that he had letters from Cork stating that the commissary general had declared he could not furnish any further supplies for Cork, as it was resolved to hold it over for poorer districts. As regards this declaration, if it was made, I am sorry to say that there are many most poverty-stricken districts in the county of Cork. The stock of Indian corn still in bond in England is very low, not exceeding 45,000 quarters. Many well-informed persons are beginning to fear that the mill power of the conntry will not be sufficient to meet the emergency. They argue that the mills of Ireland were nearly at full work when her labourers all lived upon potatoes, and that the increased consumption will be at the highest when the water power is at the lowest. Taking Indian corn as the standard, it would require 14,285 barrels of 20 stone each to give 4,000,000 of people one pound of meal each, say, for round numbers, 100,000 barrels a week. I send herewith a schedule of the mill power of the county of Cork, which I am sure I am under the mark in stating at one-sixth of the power of Ireland. The mill power of Cork, county and city, may be taken at 12,920 barrels per week; the distillery at 3,900. The increased consumption in Ireland will be at least six times that quantity.He would not trouble the House by reading the schedule referred to, which was merely a list of the different mills, with a statement of their weekly power in barrels. The document then proceeded:—In addition to the flour and oatmeal mills detailed, there are four powerful steam mills in Cork, capable of working 2,000 barrels at least weekly, making the total 12,920. The distillery power is at least 3,900. This power includes grinding and dressing. Indian corn requires no dressing, therefore the same power would prepare a much greater quantity of human food from it, or barley, which requires but very little, than from wheat or oats. Stopping distillation now would throw a large quantity of barley into the market for food, and considerably increase the available mill power. There is now no risk of private distillation, which can only be managed in winter.He did not pledge himself to the accuracy of the statements contained in this commu- 731 nication; but the writer was well acquainted with the misery and distress of Ireland; and he wished his views to be submitted to the consideration of Her Majesty's Government and the House. The suggestion for the stoppage of distillation appeared to him to be worthy of attention. He would add but one or two words upon the general subject. It was evidently one of extreme difficulty. Allowances must be made on both sides. Allowances must be made for the difficulty the Government were in, and he gave them the utmost credit for their anxiety to do all in their power to meet the emergency. He differed, however, from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who deprecated the present discussion. He thought discussion would be useful, for it would show to the people in many districts of Ireland that their wants and necessities were under the anxious consideration of the Government—that the House was not inattentive to them—and that, if nothing definitive had been announced, it was, as had already been stated, because any definitive statement of the measures taken to furnish relief might impede their successful operation. He was sorry, however, to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said as to giving the people of Ireland a taste for better food, by furnishing them with some for the moment. The only mode of giving them a taste for adopting the use of better food, was to give them the means of obtaining it. If they had the means of obtaining better food, it was natural to expect they would adopt the use of it; but if a great portion of their earnings were necessarily spent in clothing, rent, and other demands consequent upon the maintenance of a family, they were driven to the use of a poorer description of food. But if you gave them more means of purchasing better food, they would, following the bent of human nature, adopt the use of it. He would sit down after offering one remark upon what had been said relative to the necessity for Irish landlords to assist the Government in their efforts to relieve the distress of the people. It had been said, this was their first duty, and that they had the best means of discharging it from their local knowledge of the wants, wishes, and habits of the people of Ireland. Let the House see how powerfully this argument bore upon the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick, that Ireland should have a local Parliament.
§ MR. FITZGERALD
called attention to 732 the disturbances reported in the towns of Tipperary and Clonmel, by the people being in a state of starvation: and he asked the right hon. Baronet whether, when the want of food was absolutely known to exist, the agents of Government were not bound to send it from the ports of import into the interior. He wished to know whether those agents had attended to their instructions, for if the food had been sent, it might have prevented the people from having recourse to breaking open bakers' shops and committing other outrages to obtain it. The people of Tipperary and Clonmel were orderly, peaceable, and quiet: they were not disposed to violence; but he appealed to right hon. Gentlemen opposite whether, in the existing state of distress, the enactment of a Coercion Bill was not more likely to increase than to prevent the evils of which they complained.
§ Order of the day read.
§ MR. JOHN O'BRIEN
In rising to address the House on this adjourned debate, I have to express my regret that the prolonged but unavoidable discussion which has arisen should have interfered with the progress of those great measures of commercial legislation introduced by Her Majesty's Government, the speedy adjudication of which I hold to be not more essential to the trading and agricultural interests of the Empire, than to the mitigation of that destitution in Ireland, now no longer a matter of speculation, but of awful, imminent, and unquestionable certainty. And I have equally to regret my absence on a recent occasion, when the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government referred to the Members for Limerick and Clare, as I should have felt it my duty to have given my strongest testimony and support of the unexaggerated character of his statements. I should have done so, not alone on my own knowledge, but on the unsuspected, I may say official authority of documents I hold in my hand—one the letter of the present high sheriff of the city of Limerick, once a Member of this House—the other the address of the relief committee of the city, and bearing the signatures of the mayor, the Protestant dean of the diocese, and the late chairman of the Poor Law guardians; and, with the permission of the House, I shall read those brief but emphatic statements:—
§ "Limerick, March 23, 1846.
§ "…. From the ferment existing here just now caused by the want of food and non-employment, we know not the moment an outbreak of the people may take place, which renders an 733 immediate practical relief, in both points of view, of the most urgent necessity; indeed the army are obliged to be kept in momentary readiness; and painful and lamentable would be the consequences of its employment, to be obviated only by instant relief, a state the more to be deplored when the exemplary patience of the people hitherto must be acknowledged. A deputation has gone to Dublin to impress on the Irish Executive this state of things, of which I was to have been one, but was prevented by indisposition; any use, whether in or out of Parliament, you may deem it advisable to make of the representation I have just given of our local condition, you are quite at liberty to adopt, as in so painful and formidable a position every item of information is useful; so apprehensive, too, are the authorities here of popular disturbance and attack on the corn stores, that district and military support has been communicated to me. (Signed)
§ "WILLIAM ROCK,
§ "High Sheriff, City of Limerick.
§ "To John O'Brien, Esq., M.P."
§ "Relief Committee Rooms, Limerick.
§ "Sir—We have been requested by the Relief Committee of Limerick to apply to you in behalf of the suffering population of this city and district. You are probably aware of the sad visitation with which Providence has been pleased to afflict this country. Its staple food is now almost expended, and connected with this calamity there is greatest want of employment. Works of various kinds have been devised and commenced to meet this trying emergency. The Government has called upon all classes of the community to exert themselves to the utmost, and the Committee feel assured that you will, according to your property and ability, second their exertions. Your subscription will be received by any of the banks, or any member of the Committee.
§ "J. F. RYAN, Mayor.
§ "W. HIGGINS, Dean.
§ "WM. MURRELL.
§ "N.B.—It is necessary to observe that Government aid will be granted in proportion to the sum locally subscribed."
§ Perhaps I have been censurable in not having heretofore submitted to this House documents so strongly illustrative of the wants and necessities of the city which I represent, and which are unfortunately common throughout the south-west of Ireland. With such facts before us, can it be necessary to vindicate the wise, humane, and provident measures of relief introduced by Her Majesty's Government? And permit me here to suggest how overbearing must be the sense of duty which compels a considerable portion of the Members from Ireland to resist even in its present stage the Bill before the House, accompanied as that resistance inevitably is by the postponement of measures which the exigencies of their country so urgently require. But in so doing we act not alone on the suggestions of our own spontaneous judgment, 734 but equally in accordance with the universal sentiment of a people who will not consent to purchase an exemption from physical suffering, almost without a parallel, by a surrender of their political privileges, or by a seeming acquiescence in the penal, unconstitutional, and comparatively inoperative provisions of the Bill now before the House. Sir, I rise to oppose even the first reading of that Bill; and as a case of habitual and unpunished crime has been very clearly demonstrated by the right hon. Baronet, I feel myself called on to state the reasons which have determined my opposition to a measure professedly intended to arrest the perpetration of crime, and to achieve those objects which it must be avowed is the paramount end of all government to accomplish, namely, the security of property and the protection of life. Did I believe that the measure before the House was the best or only means to accomplish these important ends, no consideration of any temporary unpularity which may arise from its advocacy should deter me from assuming that fair share of responsibility which attaches to its support. For I hold that such a motive of resistance would be a disreputable abandonment of my duties as a Member of this House, not to be even extenuated by the knowledge that my dishonest retreat from a common responsibility could not arrest the legislative maturity of a measure which the interests of the country and its existing condition required. Let me ask what is that condition? It has been powerfully, amply, and irresistibly demonstrated by a catalogue of crime deeply degrading to the national character; and what aggravates the reflection is, that that condition is but a repetition of the past, and that those measures of penal legislation now proposed are but a repetition of those former abortive remedies, whose permanent inutility a long and painful experience has abundantly demonstrated. What is the condition of Ireland after centuries of international connexion; after half a century of Imperial legislation? Are we not in the position and threatened by the penalties of a recently subjugated people? I ask if there be any other country which, after centuries of established rule, exhibits a spectacle every way so revolting as that put forward by Her Majesty's Government as the cause and vindication of the measure now before the House? Sir, it is impossible to trace this condition of things to any other cause than to the 735 character of the policy which has ruled. I am not aware of any peculiarity in the dispositions of the people of Ireland, nor of any physical imperfections in the country to which we belong, which can adequately explain it. Would it not then be well to inquiry why it is that a connexion between countries naturally associated, should have been so disastrous to us, so little profitable to you? Would it not be right, in place of adopting temporary expedients for the punishment or suppression of crime, at once to investigate and remove the causes which have generated the tendency to it? These causes are the physical necessities of the people and the political discontent of the country, both, mutually and by natural effect, acting on and exasperating the other. It is impossible to deny that the people of Ireland regard your laws with alienation—they feel that the spirit of a past past ascendancy still survives; that the principle of your Government is anti-Catholic in its character, is anti-Irish in its tendencies; and that notwithstanding the Emancipation Act of 1829, they are still practically excluded from the patronage of the Government, from the confidence of the Crown, and labour under the double penalty of a national subjection and of a sectarian ascendancy. The Irish people find themselves represented in an Imperial Parliament by a stinted and inadequate representation; and as a Catholic people they complain of the intolerable yoke of an alien and a sinecure Church. Your magistracy is anti-Catholic; your judicial bench is equally so; and all your official appointments are of a kindred character; or if some solitary Catholic be distinguished by your favour, he purchases the distinction by a severance from his natural connexions, by an abnegation of his natural principles. He forfeits character, and you gain no strength. Again, look to the social condition of the people: it is one of unparalleled suffering and degradation, emancipating them from all disposition, and, as they not unnaturally conceive, from all obligation, to the maintenance of laws which neither give facilities for the acquisition of property, nor secure the common necessaries of life. That such a condition of things is an incentive to crime, requires but little reasoning to enforce, and is practically demonstrated by the class and description of persons on whom the penalties of the law ultimately fall. They are not the comfortable farmer, nor the extensive 736 landholder—they seldom are found among the occupiers of five acres—they are generally composed of a class destitute, ignorant, and impoverished, who owe no debt to the institutions of their country, and who have no hope in the possible amelioration of their condition. I would rescue this class from the temptations to crime by improving their social condition, by elevating their moral character, and by augmenting their material comforts—in a word, by making it their interest to obey the laws and uphold the institutions of their country. If I am asked how this is to be achieved, I refer to the various Committees which, in voluminous evidence for the last twenty years, encumber the records of your House—a pregnant proof of unavailing inquiry and of abortive legislation. Shall I refer to an unemployed population in the midst of improvable wastes, to the imperfect relations between landlord and tenant, to a defective Poor Law, which, when well constituted, affords the best security for social and political tranquillity, and compels the more opulent, by the urgent sense of self-interest, to provide for the wants and welfare of the humbler classes of the country? Shall I refer to an absentee proprietary, to a non-resident gentry, to the want of that smaller landed proprietary, so calculated to extend the bases and augment the security of social institutions? Nor in this catalogue should we omit that fertile source of agrarian outrage, the absence of all accessible or domestic tribunals to arrange the social differences of the people, whether connected with the tenure of land or the general rights of property. These are the measures preventive of crime—permanent in their character, salutary in their influence, beneficent in their operation—which I would compel or persuade the Government to adopt coincidently with those penal or remedial laws now proposed to the adoption of this House. Sir, I have said it is the duty of the Government to redress the political wrongs of the country; and admitting the doctrine that political agitation contributes to social distraction, and to agrarian outrage, I feel that an increased obligation thereby devolves upon them to tranquillize the country, by the concession of those measures which alone can satisfy the rights and necessities of Ireland. I am not unwilling to admit that political agitation predisposes the popular mind to that habitual discontent which travels beyond the justifiable limits, and tends to 737 degenerate into a struggle for private and unwarranted ends; and it is impossible in a great national movement, such as has been for the last half century in action in Ireland, strictly to observe those necessary and guarded limits in appeals to that popular feeling by whose organization and impassioned agency great political changes are sought to be accomplished. It is impossible that a people who are taught, and justly taught, to confederate against the misused power of the Government—who are taught, and justly taught, to combine against the undue privileges of a territorial oligarchy—who have been brought by the equal impolicy of the Government into suscessful collision with the temporal possessions of an alien and sinecure Church; I say it is impossible that such a people, so stimulated and so solicited, will not ultimately transgress the limits which political agitation for political ends would warrant and prescribe. A people long politically agitated eventually become socially disorganized; and the transition from the successful assertion of equal political privileges to that of equal social rights is neither distant nor unnatural; and is it wise in a Government to allow a people to continue indefinitely exposed to such a process of slow but infallible seduction? Can it be necessary for me to describe its baleful influence? We live in a state of feverish and unhealthful excitement. The pursuits of tranquil industry are tasteless and insipid; views of undefined and unattainable good possess the popular mind; and hope deferred, and disappointment, in endless succession, embitter popular feeling, and, by natural transition, array it against even the legitimate rights of the higher and more affluent classes of the country. But I am told, first suppress crime by the terrors and inflictions of the law, and then redress the social and political wrongs complained of. Then, I ask the Government, will they specify the measures which they contemplate? I for one will not be satisfied with a vague and undefined announcement of redress. Such has already accompanied your past measures of coercion—I allude to former Governments—and has eventuated in renewed distraction, and the aggravated disappointment of national hope. What are the measures you propose? Will you improve the material condition of the people of Ireland? Will you act on the suggestions of which I have given a hasty, but perhaps not an unintelligible outline? What are the political 738 ameliorations you contemplate? Will you give us domestic equality among ourselves, international equality with you? Will you practically incorporate us with your Empire, or will you legislatively disunite? Above all, will the right hon. Baronet consummate the Emancipation Act of 1822? Will he anticipate, and not wait for, that overbearing necessity to which he has once referred? Will he give legitimate development to the principles of that great legislative enactment? Will he, I ask, emancipate the people of Ireland from the prolonged ascendancy of that alien Church, at once the source of our distractions, and the badge of our humiliation? The Anglican Church in Ireland is without a parallel in the civilized world; it is the operative cause of our present condition; it divides us into antagonist parties among ourselves; it arrays us, the great majority, in collective hostility to you. It paralyses your Government in its most ordinary functions. Look to your Cabinet. Why is no Catholic a member of that body? We are represented in this House on kindred principles. We should be represented in the Cabinet, but your sectarian policy prohibits you from doing so; and the Catholic who accepts a political identity with you, ceases to be the organ of his party, and forfeits the confidence of his co-religionists. You thus exclude from your Councils the Catholic millions of Ireland, of the Colonies of this very country, and concentrate against you, against your policy and your Government, the religious sensibilities of one-third of your Empire. But we have been told of the irrevocable compact of the Union: then you give the people of Ireland the strongest incentive, and the most powerful argument for its repeal; but who in this age of progress, moral, physical, and political, will speak of irrevocable laws? Let the collective good of the community committed to his peculiar care be the irrevocable end of the statesman's policy, to be achieved by a wise accommodation of the means to the varying wants and interests of society; but do not outrage the common sense of mankind by the announcement of your irreversible laws, or of your unalterable institutions. Yet I am not insensible to the difficulties which surround the statesman, who, in advance of the intellect of his age, and of the prejudices of his party, waits the slow progress of public opinion, and postpones the advocacy of great measures, even with a view 739 to their ultimate attainment. But a prudential or procrastinating policy has its limits; and it is the duty of him who is vested with official power to abridge the national struggle, at the fitting moment to give an impulse to public opinion, and anticipate that position to which it is, perhaps, slowly but infallibly advancing. The sectarian character of your policy is not foreign to this debate: it deprives your Government of the confidence of the people of Ireland, they distrust your administration of the law; nor will we, from the influence of any pressure, however urgent, consent to augment the powers or strengthen the executive hands of an anti-national Ministry. But if you will announce an altered policy—if you will ameliorate our material condition—if you will abate our religious and political wrongs—why, in such case, we shall co-operate with you even in your present measures; we shall endeavour to render them more effective in the suppression of crime, and less invasive of the rights of the people; but if, on the other hand, you but proffer us this measure of penal restraint, we shall not partake of your responsibility; we shall embarrass your legislation by every means within the limits of the Constitution; and even should the result be the temporary impunity of crime, even at that cost shall we endeavour to compel the Government to the adoption of those measures which are essential to its permanent suppression. I specially object to some of the provisions of this Bill. Transportation is too severe a punishment for the suspicion of crime, for I hold that the factitious offence of being out at prohibited hours is but a means of coming at the suspected characters of a district: temporary imprisonment, more or less prolonged, would remove them from the temptations and facilities to crime; and when tranquillity shall be achieved, and order re-established, the suspected, perhaps the innocent man—for his guilt has not been proved—may be restored to his country, his family, and to all those social relations, not the less valuable to him because his condition is humble, and his sufferings perhaps unmerited; and from all these fair chances you exclude him by the irrevocable sentence of transportation. Again, the expenses of this Bill are to be defrayed by the occupying tenantry of the country. You legislate on the presumption that they are in sympathy with crime. I stop not to reproach you with this result of your policy. But what have the farmers and 740 the great proportion of the occupying tenantry to say to these outrages? They are often the victims, not the participators in crime. You should not thus stigmatize the occupying tenants of the counties, and perhaps generate that disaffection which you so unwisely announce. I would draw no such invidious distinctions. Let landlord as well as tenant liquidate the amount; and so far as these pecuniary penalties would avail, I would induce them to combine in removing the causes and arresting the progress of crime. I shall not longer trespass on the attention of the House: I am aware of many other objections in detail, the great social inconvenience, the undue discretion of an anti-popular magistracy; but I feel I have stated what warrants my opposition to this measure, as invasive of the social and constitutional rights of the people, as imperfectly calculated to achieve the objects contemplated, and as a penal and oppressive substitute for those measures of permanent reform and comprehensive amelioration which can alone give tranquillity to Ireland, or secure the happiness of its people.
§ [Here a considerable pause took place, during which no hon. Member rose to address the House. Strangers were ordered to withdraw, and the gallery was about to be cleared for a division, when]
§ MR. CALEB POWELL
said: Sir, the measure now under discussion has been variously denominated: one right hon. Gentleman calls it "A Bill for the Protection of Life;" another "For the Prevention of Assassination in Ireland;" others describe it, and more appropriately I think, a project for the "Coercion of the Irish People." But designate it how they may, disguise it how they will, it is in reality nothing more or less than an attempt, an abortive one, I trust, to transfer, bound neck and heels, the wretched Roman Catholic population of Ireland to the tender mercies of their ancient taskmasters, the Protestant gentry of that country. Three principal objections to the measure present themselves: first, no sufficient case has been established for it by the right hon. Gentleman; second, it will be no remedy, if the evils exist to the extent alleged; thirdly, it is not impartial legislation in respect to Her Majesty's Irish subjects. The Government argue à particulari ad universale—the most inconclusive kind of logic; and because it is alleged that five counties are partially disturbed, therefore it is just and expedient to extinguish the British Constitution in thirty-two, the whole 741 territory of Ireland. To illustrate upon what light and insufficient grounds crimes have been imputed to districts proclaimed disturbed, I will instance the barony of Poneybeg, in which I reside, in the county of Limerick: although this locality has been proclaimed under the Peace Preservation Act by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland three months ago, I have as yet been unable to procure from his subordinates a return of the grounds upon which the proclamation was founded, such a return having been ordered by the House of Commons a month ago. I must therefore rely upon my own observation as to its condition both before and since sentence was passed upon it by the Executive Government. I can assure hon. Members that I do not dwell in a fortified castle, but in a very defenceless house, with no occasion for bolt or bar, as my hon. Friend the Member for Meath can testify. But then the right hon. Gentleman said, it is perfectly unsafe to travel about through Ireland. I can affirm that social intercourse has never been interrupted in my neighbourhood. The Protestant clergyman and his family interchange their visits with mine at all hours unmolested; even the female members drive and walk about the country as fearlessly as securely. "But," continued the right hon. Gentleman, "only conceive the horrid attempt to assassinate so excellent a landlord as Sir David Roche." I am aware that the name of that hon. Gentleman has been used as a cheval de battaille for the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to charge the Irish peasantry, and is a war horse for the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, when he wishes to ride roughshod over the liberty of Ireland. Suppose Sir David Roche had not been fired at with attempt to assassinate him; and the gentleman who was in the carriage with him at the time, assured me that in his opinion there was no intention to injure him. [Sir JAMES GRAHAM: What did Sir D. Roche say?] I did not speak to him on that subject. Possibly Sir D. Roche did not see it, as it was said Sir D. Roche was reclining on the seat of the carriage. The gentleman stated there was an explosion of firearms, but nothing struck the carriage. [Sir JAMES GRAHAM: What do the people of Limerick say?] Many people stated to me it was believed to be the exploit of a police spy. If this is doubted, let hon. Gentlemen recollect the Adare conspiracy. The right hon. the Secretary at War stated that the steward 742 of a Shannon steam boat had been barbarously assailed and murdered, because he discontinued dealing with some Amazonian milkmaid indigenous to that distracted country. I interrupted the right hon. Gentleman, and corrected the mis-statement at the time. I have further learnt there was no homicide in the transaction, but merely an assault by the indignant damsels, whose resentment was provoked in consequence of their unadulterated cream being compared to the sky-blue circulated amongst the inhabitants of Grosvenor-square. [The ATTORNEY GENERAL: Chalk and water.] Equally offensive. [Sir JAMES GRAHAM: They were men, not women.] Perhaps some chivalrous youth did assist the fair; but the parties have been made amenable to justice, prosecuted, convicted, and very properly are now undergoing imprisonment in Ennis jail—the punishment of their improper conduct. Then another case was set forth of Timothy Mahony being brutally injured, intimidated, and deprived of life by those savage disturbers in Limerick. I am informed that Timothy Mahony lives in the enjoyment of good health, no stouter fellow in the whole county. [Sir JAMES GRAHAM: I did not quote that case.] It was made a ground for passing the Bill in another House, to which it is said so much deference is due, and on the authority of which, in some degree, this House is required to accept the Bill. The right hon. Secretary has referred to the case of Mr. Wilson of the county Clare, who, he said, had been obliged to go into exile after conferring extensive benefits upon his tenantry. I think, however, he pushed the matter too far when he ascribed altogether Mr. Wilson's retirement from the county of Clare to the menaces of an ungrateful population. I have the pleasure of knowing Mr. Wilson, who is a very respectable gentleman, and was very useful in his locality, where I hope to see him again, re-established on his former good terms with his tenants, secure without a Coercion Act, both in person and property. Three or four years ago Mr. Wilson told me, that from circumstances totally distinct from misunderstandings with tenants—circumstances altogether of a private nature, which I think unnecessary to intrude upon the House, but in no degree discreditable to Mr. Wilson, he had resolved to sell a portion of his estate, including his residence, and retire to the Continent. [Sir JAMES GRAHAM: Mr. Wilson is now in Dublin.] That may be 743 so; but Mr. Wilson had some time since intended to withdraw from the county of Clare, without being expelled by the turbulence of his tenantry. But supposing Mr. Wilson retired through the hostility of his tenantry, does it follow that others are in similar circumstances, who cannot continue secure at home without the intervention of coercive measures. I know proprietors in that very locality, who exercise unmolested all the legitimate rights of property, but who nevertheless may be favourable to the Coercion Bill from an inclination to the exercise of arbitrary power. The right hon. Gentleman has dwelt much upon the amount and character of crime in Ireland; but although it affords me no gratification to recite the catalogue of English criminality, it is necessary to refer to it to show that the spirit of impartiality does not pervade the proposed legislation. When crime and outrages of a grave character are committed in England, when a Prime Minister was assassinated in the lobby of the House of Commons, and the Secretary of the Minister in the centre of Westminster, did the Government recommend the extinction of English freedom? Did the Minister of the Crown propose to extinguish the vital principles of the Constitution? But it is alleged the poorer classes of Ireland require to be protected by such a measure as is proposed. Where is the evidence of it? Has any petition from them to that effect reached this House? They may require protection, but of a quite different species to that proposed. I seldom take up an English newspaper that I am not shocked by the most revolting cases of inhumanity. In the Morning Chronicle of the 6th of April, I found a murder in Liverpool; infanticide at Taunton; an attempt to murder; and a murderous attack on Mr. Harvey Combe's gamekeeper. On the same day a murderer was executed in the city of London, for assassinating his master. But then it is alleged that the Irish people sympathize with the criminal, while in England he is held in adherence. Now what was the case in the instance I have just referred to? Nothing could equal the profaneness and recklessness of the criminal's demeanour: and upon making his appearance upon the scaffold, he was applauded by the surrounding multitude. In the same paper, of April 8th, the following summary of crime appeared as an analysis of the calendar of the county in the Oxford circuit: Arson, 1, robbery from the person, 1; forgery, 11; 744 cutting and wounding, 4; bestiality and unnatural offences 4; administering poison, 2; night-poaching, 1; concealment of birth, 2; highway robbery, 1; burglary, 13; rape, 3; and including other offences, the total was 69. I do not think that the assizes for the county of Limerick furnished a more numerous catalogue. Then, on the Western Circuit, three men were convicted of consecutively ravishing an unfortunate female; in another district, a man was found guilty of drowning his pregnant paramour. There is no want of the commission of crimes accompanied with atrocious violence in England; but the Minister does not dream of proposing a Coercion Bill for this country: such a measure, if carried, must be inefficient. Seventeen similar unsuccessful Coercion Acts have been proposed within the memory of living men; and yet an eighteenth measure of a similar description is called for: not only will it be calamitous to Ireland, but most dangerous to the best interests of the Empire. I am sorry not to see the hon. Member for Pontefract in his place, as I should have liked to know what he would say to the proposal of introducing what he so complacently termed a mild measure of correctional police into his county under such circumstances as I shall describe. What would the hon. Member feel if his Protestant fellow countrymen, the inhabitants of Yorkshire, had a Roman Catholic magistracy, small in comparative numbers, but strong in anti-Protestant prejudices, invested with arbitrary power, and authorized to exercise it in accordance with all their biases? Would he esteem such a system a mere trivial restraint, to be viewed without repugnance by any friend of freedom? No! I will venture to say the hon. Member, would loudly denounce it, as an unwarrantable infringement of the rights of free-born Britons; and yet the hon. Member expresses his hopes that the Government will persevere with their coercive measures towards Ireland. So late as February, there was what might be called an open insurrection in the north of England: upwards of 2,000 labourers employed on a railway near Carlisle, rose and expelled by force the Irish workmen employed there. If, however, a row like that occurs in Ireland, it is proclaimed rebellion, and the Executive calls for a Coercion Act for Protestant magistrates to administer. While the stimulus to vengeance is increased, you may depend upon it this measure will provide no increased security. One of the greatest 745 poets of any age or clime has justly observed—There never yet was human powerThat could evade, if unforgiven,The patient search and vigil longOf him who treasures up a wrong.Before I conclude, I would take the liberty of suggesting what in my opinion will promote the desired tranquillity of Ireland. In the first place, the Irish people should have equal laws, impartially administered. The Government ought not to proscribe the constitutional expression of political opinion. Then there is ample scope for the physical amelioration of the people, by reclaiming the waste lands of Ireland; and the Legislature would be well justified in compelling those proprietors who cannot or will not bring them into cultivation, to transfer them to those who are prepared to make them available for the exigencies of the community. Or will the Legislature assent to a Repeal of the Union, and then an Irish Parliament will devise those measures which are calculated to accomplish the prosperity of the people, without infringing their political privileges? But if adverse and hostile legislation is persevered in, the Government may discover some fine morning that the Irish nation has resolved to right itself.
§ MR. WARD
thought it was disgraceful that the House so often exhibited on the discussion of great constitutional questions of this sort complete indifference. He had seen three or four occasions that night on which he could have counted out the House, if he had chosen to call the attention of the Speaker to the subject, there not being forty Members present. However, as he differed from the hon. Member who had just sat down as to the reasons why this Bill should be opposed, he would take that opportunity of stating the grounds which, notwithstanding the considerations urged, and the strong facts stated by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Home Department, in his opening speech, induced him, as an English Member, to say that he could not give his assent to the Government Bill. He would say at once that he did not adopt the idea of any imagined superiority on the part of the people of this country over the people of Ireland with respect to the matters they were now discussing. He believed, on the contrary, that it would be found that the Irish people were superior in the endurance of evils which were almost intolerable, which the English people had no idea of; which never had been sub- 746 mitted to in England; and which he thought never would have been submitted to in England. As to crimes, no doubt great crimes were committed in England, but then they were isolated acts; there was no sympathy with them on the part of the people; they were not connected with local causes; they had nothing to do with the general interests of the people; and the law had always dealt with them, as they arose, successfully, because the sympathies of the people were with the law. But in Ireland, with respect to one particular class of crimes, the sympathies of the people had always been found to side with the criminal, and against the law. He could not take upon himself to refuse credit to the evidence of all those who were best acquainted with the state of Ireland, when they stated that with respect to questions connected with the possession of land, crimes of a frightful character were continually committed at noon-day, and yet the people looked on and allowed the criminal to escape: you could not get witnesses to come forward to criminate, or juries to convict. But what was the reason of this? The sympathies of the people were with the criminal, because they were under the impression that it was rather for their interests than not that such things should be done with impunity. What he should wish, however, was to bring the discussion of these circumstances to a practical and profitable result. He thought that of all times this was the time for Parliament to pause in the course it had hitherto pursued with respect to Ireland. He would ask what produced this state of things in Ireland? If there was this perverted morality exhibited on the part of the Irish population on one particular question, to what was it to be traced? Were they to go on legislating from year to year on the principles of the coarse and barbarous policy of coercion? Were they to go back to the old policy, which, instead of regarding the river Shannon as the instrument of civilization, treated it as a barrier against the barbarous tribes beyond? Or were they to take advantage of the improved tone and feeling with which Irish subjects had been of late discussed, and try to deduce from a consideration of the evils of the past some useful course for the future? It was with the greatest pleasure that he had heard from the right hon. Secretary at War (Mr. S. Herbert), that he for one would never agree to make Ireland the 747 battle ground of party. Still, he must say, that announcement came rather late; for half the evils and difficulties with which the Government had to deal in respect to Ireland had arisen from the mischievous policy pursued upon Irish subjects by the party opposite while they occupied the Opposition benches. He did not wish to deal in useless recriminations; but he must say he could not forget the time when the Gentlemen opposite used one tone with respect to Ireland on the hustings, and another in the House of Commons. On the hustings they were always found encouraging the prejudices of the English and Scotch people against Ireland, and running down the government of his noble relative Lord Normanby, and the kindly consideration of Lord Morpeth. They all, with one or two exceptions, cried down these noblemen as tools of Mr. O'Connell, and as pandering to the Irish priesthood, though, in the House of Commons, the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury confessed that there would be no great difference between the policy of Lord Normanby and his own. But he hoped the present Opposition would prove themselves a more generous body; and for one he trusted they would never be actuated by such motives. As a proof that he would not be, he might mention that he had supported the Government last year on the Maynooth Bill against the feelings of many of his constituents, and against his own opinions in some degree; because he thought that the whole question of the Irish Church might have been settled satisfactorily with a less shock, or at least with no greater shock, to the feelings of the people of England and Scotland, than was caused by the Government measure for bestowing a miserable grant on the College of Maynooth. He would support the Government now, if it would convince him that the present Bill could cure the evils it was intended to check. With respect to agrarian crime, of which so much had been said, he would at once declare that he did not doubt its extent, nor did he wish to palliate its atrocity. He neither sympathised with the criminals, nor would he shield them from punishment. He would go as far as any man in that House in the desire to put a stop to these crimes; for he believed with the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck), that the blood of every man who was murdered rested on the head of those who delayed the remedy. But was this Bill a remedy—a Bill, so indiscriminating in its penal- 748 ties, so despotic in its principles, so sweeping in its provisions, that nothing ought to induce the House to agree to it but the absolute conviction that it would prove effectual. But that was precisely the question which they had to decide, and the noble Lord had no right to taunt Members on the Opposition side of the House, who had long been in the habit of giving that attention to the affairs of Ireland which he had himself only just begun to apply, with delaying the remedy, because they refused to agree to the remedy which he appeared to prefer. He (Mr. Ward) could not say that the Government measure was recommended to him by the noble Lord's approbation of it. He had no doubt that it would be carried, for he saw that the first announcement of the principle of coercion in Ireland, brought back to the Tory fold all those Gentlemen whom the principles of commercial freedom had estranged. But the measure would only be carried after a longer debate perhaps than the right hon. Gentlemen opposite either anticipated, or desired. It would be only carried after great changes were effected in it, in its progress through the House, and when accompanied by specific measures, and not merely vague promises of the Government, to remedy those grievances which coercion alone would aggravate, but not put down. He might be asked why he believed this? He answered, the Irish question, as it was called, seemed to him to go round perpetually in a vicious circle. It was thirteen years ago since he first had a seat in that House, and the first vote he gave was in favour of an Irish Coercion Bill. He now knew that he was wrong in that vote; but he had a foolish faith in the Ministry then in power, and fancied that the men who had just bestowed upon England a large measure of constitutional reform, would not have proposed a measure confiscating the liberties of Ireland, if there were not sound and pressing reasons for it. The fact was, that he then (as he was told in the course of the debate) knew much less of Ireland than he did of Mexico. He did not know how easy it was for Gentlemen to combine a very nice desire for liberty on this side the Channel with something very like Turkish despotism on the other; he did not know how long Ireland had been governed by Coercion Bills, one copied from the other, none of the copies, however, reaching the bold originals of which the Irish Parliament itself set the precedent; for he must tell 749 his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick, he did not think that any of the Coercion Bills passed by Saxon Parliaments legislating for Ireland was so bad as the Bill of Lord Clare in 1787, or the Bill of 1764, both of which were passed by purely Irish Parliaments. The Bill of 1764, enacted, on occasion of the first Whiteboy disturbances in Munster, that the criminal should be executed on conviction before a single magistrate. In 1787, Lord Clare, then Mr. Fitzgibbon, under Mr. Pitt's Ministry, proposed to give power to the magistrates, to rase to the ground all Roman Catholic chapels in any district where combinations had been formed, or unlawful oaths should be proved to have been administered; and it was Mr. Orde, the then Irish Secretary, who said that he never could concur in that proposal which Mr. Grattan stigmatized as an attempt to establish irreligion in Ireland by Act of Parliament. Yet the causes by these disturbances were as well known then, as now. He found in the correspondence of Burke a letter from Sir Richard D'Este, who was then Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, in which he said—That these disorders really and not colourably took their rise from complaints and grievances of a private nature. The price of labour was too cheap, victuals were too dear, and the landlords were excessively oppressive. In the perpetration of these disorders Papists and Protestants were promiscuously concerned. Their oath to each other was simply to be true one to another, and not discover what was done.That was the case in 1764. Mr. Fitzgibbon, in 1787, made that well-known speech in which he said—He knew Munster well, and it was impossible for human wretchedness to exceed that of the miserable peasantry. He knew that the unhappy tenantry were ground to powder by relentless landlords. But the Legislature could not stand by and see them take redress into their own hands.Now in 1764, and 1787, these Coercion Bills were no remedy for the disturbances that then arose, which were precisely similar to those of the present day; and in 1846, this Life Protection Bill, as you call it—this Curfew Bill, as it had been more properly called—differs not in principle from those measures which never succeeded, and would not differ in its results. Such measures had been tried repeatedly. Could any man say that coercion in Ireland had ever produced more than a temporary lull? Was it, then, fit that one third of the Empire should be deprived of its liberties by a measure, which 750 experience convinced them must be ineffectual? Was this a proper remedy for a British Parliament in 1846 to adopt? What then was to be done? Were they to say, with the right hon. Recorder of Dublin, that misery was indigenous in Ireland, and that the present distress was so little different from the distress in ordinary years, that Parliament might safely let it take its own course? If this were so, what did that prove but the rottenness of the system?—that Ireland had been governed all along on bad principles, and badly governed on them? The hon. Member for Dorsetshire said that Irishmen were lamentably deficient in common sense, and that Irish nature was not to be dealt with on the rules which were applicable to human nature in general; for that they were a reckless, improvident people, and not fit for the management of their own affairs. He had lately fallen in with the work of a practical man, Mr. Wiggins, who managed the estates of the city of London in the north of Ireland, and who had visited Ireland for thirty years as the agent of several large landowners; and he said that the Irishman only became reckless when he found his care and labour useless to him; but place him in a situation where his labour may be profitable to himself and family, and no one was more industrious, skilful, and provident—not excepting the English, who arrogate to themselves the possession of every virtue. For himself, he would say, he believed Irish nature was very much what English nature or Scotch, or Belgian, or French nature would be under the same circumstances. He believed that if they placed 4,000,000 of Englishmen in the same situation with the peasantry and small farmers of Ireland, they would not only do the same, but that they would not boar one-tenth part of the oppression which the Irish bore; and if it was said that they were brutes and savages, because in resentment for the treatment they met with, they committed gross outrages, he would reply that men were always brutes and savages, when they had been trampled on, and got the upper hand. But, what then was the condition of this people? That was, after all, the question which the House ought conscientiously and fairly to put to itself before it proceeded to deal with this Irish question in the manner proposed by the Government. It was wretched, he declared, beyond all parallel. He challenged them to produce any evidence that 751 did not bear him out. Take the blue hooks, take the works of travellers—take Kohl, take their own Commissioners—take Mr. Poster, The Times Commissioner—all concurred that the condition of the Irish peasantry was wretched in the extreme, and that their patience in supporting this wretchedness was almost beyond belief. In Ireland there was no such broad distinction as existed in England between the farmer and the labourer. Dr. Kane said, that of the whole population in Ireland, 66 per cent lived by agriculture, instead of 28 per cent, as in England, and that the great mass of farms consisted only of very few acres—out of 685,309 farms 558,043 being under fifteen acres, and 306,915 under five. When, therefore, they talked of an Irish farmer, they talked of a man who was only one degree better than a labourer in England. What rent, too, did they pay? Mr. Wiggins said—It is an undoubted fact, that, as landlords, Irish gentlemen exact more from their tenants than the same class of men in any other country.He believed it would be found that rents in Ireland were from 80 to 100 per cent higher than in England, while the land was let without fences, houses, or farm-buildings of any kind, all of which, except on the best managed farms, were provided by the tenants and not the landlords. You found everything there merging in rent, at least everything beyond a bare subsistence, that subsistence being throughout large districts lumpers and pepper water. In Mr. Foster's book upon Ireland, which had just come into his hands, he had read a statement made by a large farmer on the Marquess of Conyngham's estate to Mr. Foster. It was this:—Not a bit of bread have I eaten since I was born, nor a bit of butter. We sell all the corn and the butter to give to the landlord; yet I have the largest farm in the district—(he held seven cows' grass at 16l. rent)—and I am as well off as any man in the country.Mr. Wiggins said—The possession of land is so indispensable, that much beyond what it can possibly produce will be eagerly offered as rent.Ay, and taken in the way of rent; but not only more than the land could produce was paid in rent to the landlord, but there were, in addition, duty rents (cutting turf, pigs, poultry, &c.), and agents' fees, the last being paid by a per centage on the rental, which induced the agents to create rent wherever they could. The consequence was perpetual revolutions—relettings and 752 notices to quit by wholesale. This led to the system of joint tenancies (a contrivance to render solvent tenants responsible for insolvents), and to infinitesimal subdivisions of land—the worst possible tenure, and the worst system of cultivation. The tenant was consequently reduced to the lowest state of misery and despondency of being never able to see his way from year to year. In a great part of Ireland there were no leases and no agreements; and whenever it was found that improvements had been made, the rent was increased. But if this went on—if the tenants were forced to content themselves with the most miserable subsistence, and the state of agriculture was most wretched, and the produce of an extremely fertile country far below what it ought to be, what was it all owing to but the system which had been pursued? If these circumstances continued unaltered, he did not hesitate to express his conviction that they would see all other agitations in Ireland merge into a general agitation against rent. He would, therefore, ask the landlords of that country, who were now looking quietly at what was going on under their eyes, how they proposed to deal with it when the evil hour came? The word "landlord" was, perhaps, an improper term. The landowners were themselves the victims of the system which had been handed down to them by preceding generations. Many of them were the mere nominal owners of estates, which were so burdened by settlements, mortgages, and debts, that they could not improve the land or do justice to their tenants, even if they had the will. The land was often let on leases renewable for ever, and sublet by the first leaseholder to one or more middlemen, each of whom had his profit before it came to the small farmer or cottier; each remove from freehold ownership being a fresh source of extortion. During last century hardly any person belonging to the middle classes put his son into a profession. They lived by subletting, and subletting, and subletting again, at increased rentals; and to get that rent they tolerated that system of subdivision by the tenants, which had been carried to such an extent that there were parts in Ireland in which rent and cultivation had almost ceased to exist. But if the state of the farmer was such as he had described it, what was the state of the labourers? Worse, if worse could be. They were to be seen living throughout the greater part of Ireland in a state which 753 was fitter for brute beasts than for human creatures. They lived in huts of sod roofed with bog-sticks, and thatched with potato haulm. [Sir CHARLES COOTE: No, no!] Did the hon. Member mean to deny that this was the case? Was it not the uniform testimony of all who had visited Ireland that the hovels of the peasantry were the most miserable that could be imagined; that of day clothing they had hardly any; that they had often no bed-clothes at all—that they slept on straw or rushes? He found it stated, for instance, by Mr. Binns, that—If a poor family can procure a pennyworth of buttermilk occasionally, to be divided between six of them, they were satisfied.He found it also stated that wages were 6d. a day, and that even at these low wages there were many months of the year in which able-bodied men were totally without work, "walking about dragging sorrow after his heels," as one of them said who was examined before Lord Devon's Commission. Mr. Kohl, too, went over the whole of Ireland, and what was his impression? He said—I remember, when I saw the poor Lettes of Livonia, I used to pity them. Well, Heaven pardon my ignorance! I knew not that I should ever see a people upon whom Almighty God had imposed yet heavier privations. But, now that I have seen Ireland, it seems to me that the poorest of the Lettes, the Esthonians, and the Finlanders, lead a life of luxury compared with that of the Irish cottier.He had had a conversation lately with the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Cobden), and they all knew how keen was the eye and how just the conclusions of that Gentleman. That hon. Member had told him that one autumn he spent three months in Ireland, and that chance took him direct from Ireland to Egypt, and that, comparing the condition of the Egyptian Fellah and the Irish cottier, considering the climate, he was of opinion that the condition of the former was infinitely the better of the two. The fact was, that in Ireland no man could live without land, however small the portion that fell to his lot, or however high the rent which he paid for it; 7l., 8l., and even 12l. an acre were sometimes paid for conacre ground on which to grow potatoes. Mr. Nicholls, a man on whose evidence Government had relied in very important cases, said that—The only means by which a man can procure food for his family is by getting and retaining possession of a portion of land. For this he has struggled. For this the peasantry have combined, 754 and burst through all the restraints of law and humanity. Land to them is the first necessary of life.He found Mr. Binns also bearing testimony to the beautiful resignation of the peasantry under their privations—to their cheerfulness, their hospitality, their courtesy, their strong sense of religion, which supported them under all they endured. Mr. Binns said—A woman told me they had hard fare and many disappointments; but God prepared the back for the burden." "Their children were healthy." "God ordered it so to the poor.And these were the people whom the House were called upon to coerce—these were the people whom they were called upon to shut up from sunset to sunrise in their miserable hovels, in order to teach them to love and respect the law, which, like the stick to the Egyptian Fellah, was constantly an instrument of oppression in the hands of the landlord. Now this Bill was intended to reconcile them to the law; or, if hon. Members liked the expression better, it was intended to put an end to the struggle between the mass of the population and the law. The struggle was a very old one. The whole history of Ireland was the history of a perpetual strife between the people and the law. Let them go back to the middle of last century and look at the penal laws which were enacted. What did these penal laws do? They established two classes—Protestant landlords without any legal responsibility, and Catholic helots without any civil rights. There was nothing which the one could not inflict, and nothing which the other was not forced to endure. These laws had happily ceased to exist; but not the feelings out of which they arose. They had had the tithe war and the church cess war since the Emancipation Act, and now land was the prominent subject of contest. The bailiff had taken the place of the tithe proctor, but the conflict was essentially the same. And what did the Government propose to do? Why, once more to coerce the people. All the facts which he had stated were admitted to be true; but he was told that before a remedy could be devised for them, the authority of the law must be vindicated. The Legislature could not allow Ireland to be governed by a tyranny worse than the Westphalian Vehmgericht. A man could not dismiss his servant but he was called to account by secret and irresponsible judges. A man could not deal honestly with the labourers whom he superintended 755 except at the risk of his life. He admitted that this was a state of things which ought not to be allowed to endure. He would go as far as any man to put it down. He did not care what unpopularity might attach to the remedial measure—he was prepared to go with Government, if they could show him that they were ready to grapple not only with the criminal, but with the causes of his crime. He admitted that the present state of things was fatal to the peace of the country; that it was fatal to the interests of the peasantry themselves; and that it would be a disgrace to humanity to allow it to last one moment longer. But they came back to the question of what was the remedy. What had they done in previous years?—what had they done in the matter of tithes? First, they tried coercion and the collection of tithes by the army and the police. Well, that did not answer. In 1834 a return was obtained, showing that at the expense of 12,000l., 80l. or 90l. of arrears had been collected. Coercion had not answered there, at all events. Well, what did they do next? They altered the law; they converted the tithes into a rent charge; they transferred the liability from the tenant to the landlord; and experience had proved that this was one of the most wholesome and effectual reforms ever made in Ireland up to the present day. Then there was the church cess. As long as they insisted on collecting that, it formed a perpetual source of bickering and animosity between the established clergy and the people; but at length the late Colonial Secretary (Lord Stanley) brought in a Bill to change the law. He admitted that the church cess was "a galling blister" upon the Catholics, which no British Government ought to have imposed. They did away with it; and from that day to this they had never heard a word more about church cess war. On both of these points the Government were unable to vindicate the law as some people wished to see it vindicated; and they yielded and gave the points up, because they felt that though they were law they were not justice. They were aware that they were law-makers, and that they were bound to make the laws just. They admitted Lord Chatham's distinction between law and right. Lord Chatham truly said that these were not always the same thing—that the cobwebs of the law were sometimes spun over the question of right until they obscured plain common sense, and that it was the duty of 756 the Legislature to brush them away. They were bound to deal with the disease, and not merely with the symptoms of the disease. He wanted to probe this question to the bottom—to go to the root of it—without which they never would be able to apply a proper remedy. He believed that nothing but a sense of the grossest injustice could band a whole people together against the law—and the Irish people were banded together against the law—a large proportion of them at all events were so. He admitted that the Irish people were naturally a moral people, as compared with the people of this country—a people, of whom Mr. Nicholl had said with truth during a famine in Donegal, "the people starved but would not steal." He believed crimes against property were rare, and that attacks upon life almost all arose out of the contest about land. He was quite prepared to take strong measures against crime; but he wished the cause to be removed—and they had traced the cause to the pressure of the population on the means of subsistence. They found that in Ireland no man could live without land, and that this grievance was pressing more and more upon the population, until it led to violence and outrage. They must grapple with it, if they wished to make their interference effectual. He recollected that Mr. Nimmo, an engineer of great eminence, when advocating a better mode of regulating the relations between landlord and tenant, before a Committee of the House of Lords, was asked by one of the Peers present, "What! you a free trader, and not the advocate of free trade in land?" "If there is a free trade in land in Ireland," was the reply, "there must be a free trade in gunpowder." Why was the north of Ireland more tranquil than the south? It was because in the north the people enjoyed the protection of the tenant-right. He was no admirer of the tenant-right, which he considered as a clumsy substitute for good laws; but he believed that as matters at present stood in Ireland, it was indispensably necessary for the protection of the people, and that it was, to a great extent, the cause of the tranquillity which existed in the north. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) seemed to doubt the truth of this assertion; but he (Mr. Ward) believed that the fact was indisputable. Now, he thought the real question for Parliament to consider was, as to what should be the remedy for this state of things? Many suggestions had 757 been thrown out. A noble and learned Lord in another place had recommended as a remedy, the absolute inviolability of the rights of ownership. Now, this, to his mind, seemed absolute nonsense, when it was the abuse of the rights of ownership to which every disturbance might be traced. He (Mr. Ward) agreed with another noble Lord (Lord Fitzwilliam) who said that it was very unwise to inquire too narrowly into the question of proprietorship in Ireland, and that the best security for the landlords was to bring their rights into harmony with the interests of the people. He would force the landlords to deal with the Irish people as they would be obliged to do if they had not the power of England to fall back upon. He objected to the present Bill, because it would not do this, and because it would confound the innocent with the guilty; because it would enable a magistrate to lay hands upon any person who happened to be obnoxious, and rid the country of him, by acts which he (Mr. Ward) was sorry to say were but too well understood in Ireland. The clearance system, against which there had been an unanimous expression of feeling in that House, particularly against the wholesale instances which had recently occurred—the clearance system would find in this Bill invaluable support; and he was sure that, if that system went on, in spite of the warnings which the right hon. Gentlemen opposite (Sir J. Graham) had given to the parties who were carrying it out—if that system went on, his hon. Friend near him (Mr. W. S. O'Brien) would find—although he did not wish it—a new and powerful argument in favour of Repeal. One object of their legislation should be to render the Irish cottier or farmer secure in the occupation of the land. He (Mr. Ward) would take away the power of ejectment and distress, except in cases where the land was let upon lease; he would give facilities for breaking up encumbered estates which were barred against improvement; and he would deal largely with waste lands. He believed that there was a middle class ready to spring into existence the moment they were offered land upon reasonable terms; and he thought there was a noble field for the exertions of this middle class in the cultivation of improvable waste lands. He did not think there was any deficiency of capital in Ireland for this purpose. He was no lawyer, and could not say what course should be 758 adopted for working this plan; but the practicability of it was admitted by men who had the best knowledge of Ireland. A middle class like that to which he referred would form the best basis for an improved franchise, as well as for improved municipal institutions. He believed also that it would be the best cure for absenteeism; and although he considered that the economical evils of absenteeism were exaggerated by some of his hon. Friends, he admitted that its moral evils could hardly be exaggerated. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War had told them that the cure for those evils lay with the next generation; but Lord G. Hill's recent publication (Facts from Glendore) afforded the most signal proof that, even in the short space of seven years, the efforts of a resident landlord of moderate means, but guided by good sense, good temper, and sound judgment, might be crowned with complete success. He might be told that there were other things which Parliament must be prepared to do, if it meant to pacify Ireland. He knew it; but the worst evils were clearly social evils; and he thought that their cure could not be effected by political remedies. Increase of the franchise and Church reform, much as they might severally be wanted, would not of themselves be sufficient. It was the custom with many to lay all the evils of Ireland at the door of the Government; but it was more easy to do this than to prove the truth of the imputation. The hon. Member for Limerick attributed the social evils of Ireland, the poverty of the people, and the absence of enterprise, to the want of that capital which in England was so abundant. But Dr. Kane, whose book was often quoted in Conciliation-hall, and who deserved to be relied on for his impartiality and acquaintance with his subject, told a very different story. He said, in his admirable work on the Industrial Resources of Ireland—There is another circumstance, so popularly counted on as a most material obstacle to the development of industry in Ireland, that I cannot leave the subject without briefly adverting to it; that is, the want of capital. This has been the bugbear of Irish enterprise for many years. England has capital—Ireland has not—therefore England is rich and industrious, and Ireland is poor and idle. But where was the capital when England began to grow rich? It was the industry that made the capital, not the capital the industry. An idle or ignorant man will lose his capital, when an active and intelligent man will create a capital. We leave our fields in barrenness, our mines unsought, our powers of motion unapplied, 759 waiting for English capital. Labour is capital, intelligence is capital; combine them, and you more than double the amount of your capital. With such capital England commenced as Ireland must commence; and once that we have begun, and are in earnest, there will be no lack of money capital at our disposal. The fault is not in the country, but in ourselves. The absence of successful enterprise is owing to the fact that we do not know how to succeed: we do not want activity, we are not deficient in mental power, but we want special industrial knowledge. England, which in absolute education and in general morality is below us, notwithstanding our criminal violence, is far above us in industrial knowledge. The man who knows not how to read or write, who has never been at church, who never taught his child to reverence the name of his Creator, will be a perfect master of his trade.He (Mr. Ward) quite agreed with Dr. Kane. He repeated that, in his opinion, political change was no cure for social evils. As matter of feeling, the political questions affecting Ireland were of the utmost importance; the Church question, in particular, was one of that magnitude and urgency that it could not be much longer neglected by statesmen deserving of the name. But those questions were of secondary importance to the social questions involved in the present condition of Ireland. If it was desired to secure the rights of property in that country, a better mode could not be adopted than to secure to the great body of the people the means of existence. He knew the difficulty of legislating on such questions; but he maintained, before they again had recourse to this coarse and vulgar expedient of coercion, they were bound to remove all the existing bars to the industry of the Irish people, to throw open a larger field for the exertions of the population, and to remove those restraints on their industry and enterprise which were presented by the present state of the law with respect to landed property. If these objects were accomplished—if these things were first done—he should then be prepared to go along with the Government in any measures, however strong, to put down crime, because he conceived that he would then be doing what would be best for the interest of the Irish peasantry themselves, and that then they would see the country in a peaceful and flourishing state.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, that as none of the legal functionaries of the Government then present exhibited the least sign of an intention to address the House on the most important question of law before them, and as none of the Irish supporters of the right hon. Gentleman 760 opposite had risen to say one word in behalf of the present Bill, he, as an English Member, preferred to incur the charge of want of information, presumption, and ignorance, rather than that of recklessness and indifference by giving a silent vote. He could not quite agree with the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken, in thinking it was most desirable that measures for the prevention and stoppage of crime should be preceded by measures for the redress of those grievances from which crime was believed to originate. He thought, on the contrary, that it was the bounden duty of the Legislature to check the career of crime, before they attempted to redress the causes of it. When a Minister of the Crown, charged with the grave responsibility of office, made a statement in that House crying out "murder" and "fire," and exciting the feelings of hon. Members to a very great degree, there was some danger that many of them would find themselves carried away by the heat of the moment to give a vote of which their judgments, on cool reflection, would not approve. But for himself, he must say, he was not able in any way to connect the statement of the right hon. Gentleman with the remedy which he proposed for the evils to be removed. The right hon. Gentleman stated that in Ireland juries could not be found to convict, nor witnesses to give evidence; and yet the Bill proposed to act by the very juries which were declared to be inefficient, and its objects were to be effected by the very means which were said to be inadequate. There was no proposition for a change of venue; no alteration to meet the evils complained of. He could have better understood the introduction of a harsher measure than the present—harsh as it certainly was—as being more likely to put down crime in Ireland. He could understand the argument that the state of things in Ireland was so disorganized and desperate that the House must depart from the practice of the Constitution, in order to find a remedy; but he could not understand the object of a Bill like the present, which appeared calculated rather to irritate than to intimidate. The manner in which it had been conducted in its progress though the House was, in his opinion, very peculiar, and savoured somewhat of levity. He could hardly think the Government had any serious opinion as to the necessity for the measure, if he were to judge from the course they had taken respecting it. It had not been pressed 761 through the House of Lords with that haste that would have argued the belief of its supporters in its immediate necessity. No Standing Orders had been suspended to give it place, nor had any steps been taken which might have evinced its sudden emergency; but it came down to that House in the usual course, like any ordinary measure. The real opinions of persons were sometimes better shown by slight circumstances, than by formal statements of sentiment; and he could not help alluding to the easy way in which the fourteen years' transportation clause had been treated in its passage through the Upper House. When a noble Lord, in a very quiet manner, objected to the severity of that clause, the noble Lord who had the conduct of the Bill, in the most gentle and easy way imaginable, at once struck off seven years from the period. Was that a way in which a Cabinet Minister—a man charged with a grave responsibility in affixing the amount of punishment to be awarded to crime, should deal with so important a subject? He thought the measure most objectionable, from the manner in which it had been conducted through the House, and from its spirit and details. It was absolutely necessary that something should be done to put a stop to crime. At the same time it had been evident throughout the discussion, that great advances had been made in the spirit in which the causes of crime in Ireland had been treated in that House. The hon. Member for Cork certainly had alluded to the representation; but he (Mr. Vernon Smith) did not suppose the hon. Member, or any one else, imagined that a single murder had ever been committed in order to secure another Member for Ireland. Religion had nothing to do with this matter. Much as he felt respecting the condition of the Irish Church, he was happy to think that it was not mixed up with the question of Irish crime. Discarding any considerations of the representative system, or of a religious nature, it was evident that the House must betake themselves more assiduously than ever to inquire into the occupation of land in Ireland. People in this country were apt to say that the Irish committed terrible crimes for very slight reasons, and exclaimed against the horror of shooting a man because he took a piece of land from which another had been ejected; but it must be recollected that in Ireland land was money. It was the only means of procuring subsistence which the inhabitants possessed. All the crimes committed in 762 this country for the purpose of procuring money, and from causes connected with pecuniary considerations, in Ireland were entirely resolved into crimes connected with land. When the question of landlord and tenant had been alluded to, the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department exclaimed, "Hush! you must not mention that subject! you will only excite ill-feeling and disturbance if you do." He thought that injunction came very badly from a Member of that Government which had, as he believed, so properly issued a Commission to inquire into the relations of landlord and tenant, and on the Report of that Commission had introduced a Bill so ill devised that it had been rejected on its first stage. To that question, however, the House must come, and from it they must not shrink. When one talked of land in Ireland, it should be considered how different were the conditions by which it was held in various parts of that country. Some lands were badly managed; others were in as high a state of culture as any in England. There were three questions which bore upon landed property in general. The first was the relief of the able-bodied poor—the second was the clearance system—and the third was the tenant-right. If the first were to be established, the House should be prepared to discuss the propriety of permitting such a charge upon property, to prevent such occurrences as had recently taken place. The right hon. Baronet, in reference to the statements of the right hon. Member for Limerick respecting the clearances on the Gerrard property, declared he would be prepared to take legal steps to prevent such things. That would certainly be a great interference with the rights of property; but the House was bound to consider it, because no man could be permitted to do things at which humanity shuddered, on the plea that the land was his, and that he would do as he liked with his own. Whilst the House, however, professed a desire to put an end to the clearance system, they had made the facilities for ejection greater in that country than in England. He could not view with any admiration the establishment of the tenant-right, for if it were to be extended universally to all parts of Ireland, it would, in his opinion, amount to a confiscation of one-third, or rather one-half the property of the country. Where it already existed, as in Ulster, it might be sanctioned by law, as it was now by custom; but it would 763 be most unjust to extend this right, which was valued at 10, 15, or even 17½ years rent, to all parts of Ireland. The phrase in England did not bear an analogous meaning, and was restricted to mean the value of improvements effected by the tenant in his farm. Each of these three remedies, then, involved immense interference with the extreme rights of property, if such extreme rights deserved the name of property. Every Paper laid on the Table of that House contained some suggestion which would serve Ireland, were it only carried out. In reading the Report of the Tidal Harbour Commission, he was struck by the expression that "Cork Harbour had been the victim of half measures." He feared that the application of the phrase might be extended from Cork harbour to everything connected with Irish affairs, and that Ireland had been too often the victim of similar half measures. When the hon. Member who had last spoken alluded in terms of commendation to the conduct of Lord G. Hill, he forgot to state that the exertions of the noble Lord had not been expended on his hereditary patrimony, but that he had purchased the 23,000 acres of land which he had so wonderfully and creditably improved. In the account of his efforts, which was not less amusing than extraordinary, it appeared that he found the land divided in the most curious manner. The wretched system of rundale was in full force. Every tenant was supposed to have a bit of good, a bit of middling, and a bit of bad land in the portion he held, which was known by the name of "a cow's grass." That portion did not nearly amount to an acre; it was divided into four parts, and each of those parts was subdivided into four parts called cleats, and this system of minute division offered the greatest obstacle to any improvement. In his attempts to alter that system, Lord George Hill met with great opposition, sometimes with violence—but by energy and perseverance he overcame it all. Not only did this division exist in land, but it was extended to animals. There was an amusing account of a man who had a share in a horse along with three others. The man came and complained to the magistrate that during a certain period he had shod the fourth hoof three times, whilst his partners had not shod their respective hoof at all; and he begged that the magistrate might grant him some means of redress for his injuries. The people had painted their own condition in 764 a poetical statement, which he would read to the House:—You landlords all, I pray draw near,A comical story you soon shall hear,Of a property situate in Donegal,Held by a hundred tenants in all,And each having seven young brats to squall.Although each farm was in rundale,To divide each plot they would not failWith son or daughter, aye, or mother,With either uncle, aunt, or brother;And thus they divided with one another.Although each holding would'nt feed an ass,It went by the name of the cow's grass.For I have had two, Teague two and a half,Manus five-eights, and Margery a half,Each portion was only the breadth of a staff," &c.Such was the state of things Lord G. Hill had to contend with. He redivided the land he purchased, and though he was opposed at first, eventually he was applied to by those persons who held by the old rundale system to divide their lands also. He offered premiums for neat whitewashed cottages. In the first year no one applied for them. In the second year there were forty, and in the third year 200 competitors. Surely the conduct of this noble Lord, in improving an estate acquired by purchase, the tenants on which had no claim on him, should be imitated by those who had patrimonies and estates to attend to. It appeared to him that the condition of Ireland would and must be unhappy, as long as they were ready to pass permanent measures for her temporary calamities, and to meet her permanent evils with temporary measures. As regarded his vote that night, the conduct of Government had placed him in a most awkward position, because he was not prepared to say that something ought not to be done to put an end to crime in Ireland, and it would be a most unusual course, with that conviction on his mind, were he to vote against the first reading of this Bill, after it came down from the Lords. He would, however, reserve to himself the right of opposing any portion of it he conceived to be objectionable in its future stages and in Committee, and it was only with that explanation that he would give his vote for the first reading of the Bill.
§ MR. M. GORE
supported the Bill. As it was his intention to vote for the first reading of the measure, he was anxious to explain the reasons that induced him to do so. It was founded on the principle that there was something in the state of Ireland which did imperatively require the interference of the Government and of the Legislature. To that principle he fully 765 adhered; and it was one to which no person who took an impartial view of the circumstances of the country could for a moment object. In assenting to the first reading of a Bill such as the present, the House would approve of a measure which varied from the strict principles of constitutional government. There was, however, something in the condition of Ireland which required extraordinary measures; and they had the authority of Mr. Burke for acknowledging the influence of circumstances in determining the application of the principles which related to the social and political condition of a country. A disposition had been shown by a portion of the Irish people to shelter assassination; and hence it had been found necessary to propose the present measure. Concurring, as he did, in its objects, he gave his most decided support to the first reading of the Bill; and would, with the permission of the House, advert to a few of the points which had been raised in the course of the debate. It was their duty to maintain the supremacy and majesty of the law; to take care that it should be fairly, impartially, yet firmly, administered; to see that all parties without distinction, Protestant or Catholic, priest or layman, should be compelled to bend in submission before the authority of the law. It was their duty to see, not only that the law should be obeyed, but that it should be respected. While, then, he was, on the one hand, determined to support the principles of the measure; he was, on the other hand, prepared to express his conviction that any measures which could be brought forward to promote the social and political welfare of Ireland ought to command the acquiescence of that House. He was very much disposed to agree with the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Ward) in thinking that the evils under which that country laboured were social rather than political. As regarded surplus population, he admitted it to be a great evil; but it was a singular fact, that if they looked back to previous periods of Irish history, they would find the complaint then generally made was not that there was an excess of population, but a deficiency; and it was curious to trace the circumstances under which the surplus population of the western coast of England was transferred to Ireland for the purpose of supplying the wants of the latter. The allusion of Dean Swift to the emigration of people from Chester to Ireland, might be in the recollection of some hon. Gentleman; and Lord Bacon, 766 long before, had pointed out the transfer of the surplus population from England as a remedy for the deficiency of the population in Ireland. The Irish labourers were not, generally speaking, so well advanced as the English in industrial knowledge; and in illustration of what might be done to stimulate improvement in that respect, he might refer to a statement which he had read in reference to the employment of Irish and English labourers on certain public works. Many hundreds of Irishmen were employed at 10d. per day. They worked slowly and ineffectually; English labourers were introduced who were paid 1s. 6d. per day. The Irish struck work, and demanded that all should have 1s. 6d. a day. The English feared for their lives. The police and military were called out, and the affair might have ended in a scene of blood, adding another to the tales of horrors so industriously circulated about the savageness of the native Irish. At this moment one of the principal engineers, an Irishman, respected by the people for his abilities, and esteemed by them as a countryman, came amongst them, and, penetrating into the mass of excited labourers, arrested and gave into custody all the ringleaders. The crowd of labourers would not do him an injury. He then quietly explained to them that the Englishmen did much more work, and deserved to be paid higher; but that he would be very willing to secure 1s. 6d. per day to any man who would do as much work as the Englishmen, and more, if they could do more. He proceeded to show them, that from their rude way of managing their tools they wasted their strength, and that by simple improvements a great deal of time could be saved in their operations. The people knew and trusted him; the police and military were withdrawn; the whole body of labourers went to work; and, after the first Saturday night, they found that without combination or violence, they could earn more money by applying themselves steadily to do more work. After some weeks there were very few of the men earning less than 1s. 6d., and many 2s. 6d. per day. Nor was that a solitary instance; but that it would be wearying the House, he could refer to other accounts, all tending to prove that the Irish people would display the same industry as the English, if they had the same knowledge; properly instructed, they would make as good workmen as those of this country or any other. An eminent Belgian Minister, 767 when endeavouring to impress on the people of Belgium the importance of industrial education, pointed out the contrast between Great Britain and Ireland, and attributed the flourishing condition of England, compared with the depressed state of Ireland, to the superiority of the former country in industrial knowledge. Major Beamish, of Cork, gave the same testimony; he stated that the want of capital was not the only cause of the difficulty of farming; capital could not produce its full effect without knowledge in the application of it: with proper instruction he thought the present amount of capital might be made to produce fourfold. For this reason, they ought to promote as much as possible the formation of that middle class in Ireland, who would instruct those below them, and the want of which had been the cause of so many evils. He was not, however, so surprised at the absence of such a class, when he looked at the early history of Ireland. In the time of Henry II., when Ireland was conquered, it was long before it was brought under English laws; factions and divisions continued to exist, and the Brehon laws prevailed. Ireland had not had the same advantages as England. In the time of Charles II. great jealousy prevailed in this country of the importation of cattle from Ireland, and a Bill was passed to prevent it. The people not being allowed to export their cattle to England, thought the best course they could take was, as they could not send their sheep away, to promote the woollen manufacture at home; they did so, and in the reign of William III. a great jealousy arose in England of the increase of the woollen trade in Ireland, which the Government checked and discouraged. Though he was as anxious as any one to maintain the supremacy of the law, it was impossible to look at the history of Ireland without seeing that it had been subjected to great evils. It was to be lamented that Mr. Pitt, at the time of the Union, was prevented from carrying into effect the measures he contemplated. In introducing the measure of the Union, Mr. Pitt said—I say that Ireland is subject to great and deplorable evils which have a deep root, for they lie in the situation of the country itself; in the present character, manners, and habits of its inhabitants; in their want of intelligence, or, in other words, their ignorance; in the unavoidable separation between certain classes; in the state of property; in its religious distinctions; in the rancour which bigotry engenders and superstition rears and cherishes. The state of society is such, that laws, however wise in themselves, will be ineffectual as to their object until the manners and cus- 768 toms of the people are altered. Men are in a state of poverty, in which it is impossible they can have any comfort. The progress of civilization depends in a great measure on the distribution of wealth; the improvement of that wealth depends much on the distribution of capital. All the advantages to be derived from an increase of national wealth depend much on the temper of the inhabitants. Those advantages, together with the great advantage of mental improvement, are all retarded by the distractions and divisions of party, by the blind zeal and frenzy of religious prejudices, by old and furious family feuds.In this passage Mr. Pitt had pointed out the causes of the calamities of Ireland; those evils still existed, and till they were remedied it would be in vain by any partial legislative measures to attempt to restore permanent peace. One curious circumstance proved the great injury caused in Ireland by party conflicts. The Dublin Society, almost in its very foundation, applied itself to the culture of flax; and as early as 1739 published papers containing every detail of the processes as laid down at the present time; but up to a recent period those rules had been inoperative, owing to the unsettled and distracted state of the country. On whatever ground the battle of party might hereafter be fought, he hoped that Ireland would be sacred; that country had been too long the scene of party conflict; he hoped both sides would draw a veil over the past, and unite in whatever measures might be necessary for the permanent improvement of the country. The right hon. Secretary of State for the Home Department had on a former occasion remarked on the efficacy of public works; wherever they had been carried out they had essentially benefited Ireland. Dr. Kane stated several instances. Here was one:—Clifden, in Connemara, and vicinity, in 1815, contributed no revenue; up to 1822 scarcely a stone of oats could be got. In 1836 it was an export town, sending out 800 tons of oats, and producing to the revenue annually 7,000l. From the expenditure in Connaught, in eleven years, of 160,000l. in public works, the increase of annual revenue from the province has become equal to the entire amount. In Cork, Mr. Griffiths expended 60,000l. in seven years, and an annual increase of customs and excise of 50,000l. was derived from places benefited by those works. These should not be called grants of money, but investments of capital, with realization at enormous profit.The hon. Gentleman also read the following extract from the memorial of Mr. M'Kye, a teacher in the National School, presented to the Lord Lieutenant, describing the state of the people at Gweedore, on the north-west coast of Ireland:— 769There are about 4,000 persons; none of the married or unmarried women can afford more than one shift, and a great number cannot afford any; and more than one-half of both men and women cannot afford shoes to their feet, nor can many of them afford a second bed, but whole families of sons and daughters of mature age indiscriminately live together with their parents, and in their bare buff. They have no means of harrowing their land but with meadow rakes. Their farms are so small, that from four to ten farms can be harrowed in a day with one rake. Their beds are straw, green and dried rushes, or mountain bent; their bedclothes are either coarse sheets, or no sheets, and ragged filthy blankets. The generality of the peasantry are on the small allowance of one meal a day, and many families cannot afford more than one meal in two days, and sometimes one meal in three days; their children crying, and fainting with hunger, and their parents weeping, being full of grief, hunger, debility, and dejection, with gloomy aspect, looking at their children, likely to expire in the jaws of starvation.The hon. Gentleman also read a statement of the successful efforts made by Lord George Hill on this very property, and which had removed the state of misery alluded to in the memorial, to show what might be done if the people were properly instructed to exert themselves; and said, that though the question had so often been discussed, yet if it was treated in a firm and temperate manner, he believed it was possible to raise Ireland to the proud position she ought to occupy in the scale of nations. If they looked at the former history of Scotland, they would find accounts of distress and suffering quite as great as that of Ireland at the present time; the statements of Fletcher of Saltoun proved this. The condition of the people of England itself at earlier periods had been as bad; there was nothing peculiar in the state of Ireland that made improvement impossible. The state of things that occasioned such distress had been surmounted in England and Scotland—why should it not, then, be surmounted in Ireland? He remembered a beautiful passage of Southey, illustrating the power of kindness over the heart of the poor. That writer said—Just as the tendrils of the sea anemone open to the returning wave, so will the heart of the poor man, if kindly treated, expand beneath that kindness.He should support the principle of the Bill, which was intended to maintain the supremacy of the law; but whatever measures might be proposed for the political and social amelioration of Ireland should bave his strenuous support; and any Minister who should direct his attention to this subject, and succeed in restoring peace, 770 tranquillity, and happiness to that long afflicted country, would gain for himself a lasting reputation, and go down to posterity—Equal in fame to proudest conquerors.
§ SIR W. SOMERVILLE
said, that as he should feel it his duty to vote against the first reading of the Bill, and as he knew he should lay himself open to much misrepresentation in so doing, he begged to trespass upon the attention of the House for a short time. If he wanted a proof of the lamentable effect which legislation had hitherto had upon Ireland, he should find it in the fact that after a connexion of some centuries, and a legislative union of half a century, the House of Commons were now engaged in considering a measure the object of which was to prevent the subjects of Her Majesty from appearing out of their houses between sunset and sunrise. But however melancholy this state of things, he admitted that if crime were so prevalent in Ireland, Government were bound to apply a remedy. But first it was incumbent upon them to prove the existence of the crime; secondly, if it did exist, that they had exhausted all constitutional means of putting a stop to it; and thirdly, that the remedy they proposed would be efficacious. As regarded the prevalence of crime in certain districts of Ireland, it must unfortunately be admitted that upon this point there was but too much unanimity on all sides of the House. This he admitted unreservedly, and he could assure the House that he had not words to express the feelings of horror with which he viewed these crimes. Many of them were marked by features of atrocity so repugnant to the Irish character, that he confessed he felt more alarmed at this fact than even at the frequency of the crime itself. There were unhappily attendant circumstances connected with these crimes which proved to him that the demoralization of the people must have proceeded to a fearful extent before such deeds could have been designed and perpetrated in such a country as Ireland. He alluded to the unmanly outrages which of late years had been occasionally committed in Ireland on aged and unguarded persons, not unfrequently, too of the frailer sex; and he regarded as not the least aggravated portion of such cases, that many persons stood by and looked on as unconcerned spectators while those scandalous and unmanly outrages were perpetrated. All who knew anything 771 of the Irish would concur with him in thinking that such atrocities as these were not in consonance with the general feeling of the Irish people. [A laugh.] Gentlemen who did not know that people as well as he did, might laugh or sneer; but those who were well informed on the subject, and who had been resident amongst them, would admit they had in them a chivalrous respect and deference for the female sex, and an innate politeness of nature, for which it would be difficult to find a parallel amongst the inhabitants of other lands. This being the fact, he could not find language sufficiently emphatic to depict the feelings of horror which took possession of his mind in contemplating the gradual increase amongst his countrymen of crimes which were in themselves atrocious, and which, as regarded Ireland, were to a great extent unnatural. Having made this admission, and having furthermore conceded that it was the duty of the Government to adopt measures with a view to checking the progress of these crimes, he had now to ask what he considered a question of great moment—had the ordinary law been exhausted? He doubted it. It was his conviction that their special commission for the county of Westmeath had been signally successful, and had been attended with the happiest possible results. Gentlemen who were resident in that county had assured him that the public tranquillity and good order which had succeeded that commission had been most remarkable, and that scarcely a single agrarian outrage had been committed or attempted since. Surely Westmeath was not the most disturbed part of Ireland. Why not try a special commission for Limerick — for Tipperary — for Clare? or, if necessary, why not have a permanent commission for those counties? Anything was preferable to having resort to those extraordinary and unconstitutional measures, which, while they were totally inoperative of good, had no other effect but that of generating feelings of dislike and disgust at the law. But, even though he wanted other reasons for voting against this most obnoxious measure, the experience of the past would be in itself quite sufficient to induce him to oppose any Bill like the present. Seventeen times since the commencement of the present century had the experiment of coercion been essayed, and in every instance without any beneficial effect. The right hon. Baronet who had introduced the present measure 772 had sedulously avoided saying a single word as to the mode in which this measure, intended as a remedy for a crying evil, was to have a remedial operation by checking the progress of crime. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War had expressed an opinion to the effect that the Bill would check the nocturnal visitings of the evil disposed; but he was not sufficiently rash to express an opinion to the effect that it would stop the horrible crime of assassination. Indeed that point appeared to be given up on all hands. Those deeds of blood were almost invariably committed in the blaze of noon-day; and how preposterous was the expectation that the recurrence of deeds committed under such circumstances would be prevented by locking up in his cabin between sunset and sunrise the reckless, desperate man who was bent on perpetrating them? The noble Lord the Member for Lynn had called the attention of the House to four crimes of a deadly hue which had been recently perpetrated in Ireland; but it was worthy of remark, that every single one of them was committed in the open day. It was folly, therefore, to expect that noon-day assassination could be checked by making prisoners of the innocent and guilty alike during the night. It was his belief that the Bill would not even have the good effect of preventing the illegal meeting of the evil-disposed; for he knew too much of Ireland not to be aware that the meetings in question usually took place not by night, but on holydays and days of idleness. Nothing, therefore, could be more absurd or irrational than to suppose that this Bill would be productive of beneficial effects either in checking assassination, or in preventing illegal meetings. But if it would be productive of no good, would it do no harm? The right hon. Baronet who had introduced the measure had utterly failed to prove that it would do any good. He had utterly failed to connect his remedy with the disease; and now arose the question, whether that which would be inoperative of good might not be actually productive of evil? He (Sir William Somerville) could not resist the conviction that it would be productive of much harm. He was averse to conferring any such inordinate powers on any Lord Lieutenant as were proposed to be bestowed by this most unconstitutional measure. The noble Lord the Member for Lynn had in the course of his speech pointedly alluded to a murder committed in the county Tyrone. [Lord 773 GEORGE BENTINCK: By night.] Be it so. Would the noble Lord advocate that the county Tyrone should be put under the operation of this Bill because of that single murder? If he would not, why did he refer to the case? If, on the contrary, he would put the county Tyrone under the provisions of this galling and unconstitutional measure, was there a county in England, Wales, or Scotland, which if, the same policy were to be adopted as in Ireland, should not be submitted to the operation of a similar law? He objected to the measure, because of the inordinate and unconstitutional powers which it proposed to confer upon the Lord Lieutenant; for he could not resist the conviction that consequences the most disastrous and calamitous would follow from the exercise of those powers. How disastrous would be the consequences that would result from the watchings and visitings, the likings and dislikings, the suspicions and the antipathies, of all the officials in Ireland who would be called into active service by this Bill! Policemen, peace officers, and all agents of that description, might be set to work with as great energy and in as great numbers as the Lord Lieutenant might think fit to prescribe; and any one who knew Ireland would admit that it was impossible to exaggerate the evils of such a law. Couple with this the fact, that the man who was to be the subject of these watchings, these likings and dislikings, on the part of officials, was not accused of any crime. He was suspected of being suspicious, and he would have to prove his own innocence. Hon. Members were wont to complain that British law was not popular in Ireland; but the effect of this measure would be to render it more unpopular than ever. A rate was to be levied under this law, and, as if the police were not already sufficiently unpopular, provision was made that it should be collected through their instrumentality. The money, too, was to be rated according to the poor rate, which would have the effect of making that rate more odious than ever in the eyes of the people. If such a rate must be levied, why not make it a county rate? That might save the Poor Law from additional unpopularity; but it was his opinion, let them do what they might, they would find it impossible to collect it at all. Their agents and officers would be disgusted with the duties imposed upon them; the soldiers, too, would be harassed and annoyed by an odious description of service on which 774 they would be employed, seizing the beds and blankets of those who refused to pay the rate; and after all this dispute, it would still be found impossible to collect it. And what would be the effect of the measure on the Government itself? The Government was not now loved in Ireland. It was neither feared nor respected; but after it had attempted, and vainly attempted, to levy this odious tax, it would be in a worse position than ever—more disliked, more suspected, less trusted, less loved than ever. It would be only laughed at for its pains, and the whole population would be bound together to procure the practical defeat of those who originated a measure which, without arresting the hand of a single murderer, would prove in its operation gallingly oppressive of the innocent and well-disposed. In England and in Wales they had not adopted any such course when similar outbreaks to those now unhappily existing in Ireland had challenged the attention of the legislature. How did they deal with the Rebecca riots? Did they suspend the Constitution in Wales? In Carmarthenshire workhouses were attacked, peaceable men were obliged to leave the country, and people were armed and drilled at night. This was a state of things which might perhaps have warranted a measure of coercion; but Government adopted a wiser course. They appointed a commission of inquiry, and when that commission had succeeded in discovering the cause of these disorders, the grievances were redressed, and the riots ceased. Very different was the policy adopted towards Ireland. A commission had been appointed to inquire into what was considered by many (though he did not so regard it) as the master grievance of Ireland—the present state of the relation between landlord and tenant; but from the hour when the Commissioners reported, to the present moment, Government had neglected to bring in any remedial measures with a view to the redress of the grievance. The conduct of the Government in this respect was very singular. He did not require them to act with any indecent haste; but he certainly thought that a moment ought not to have been lost in carrying into effect the recommendation of Lord Devon's Commission. Had the Government any measure, even as yet, ready with a view to the accomplishment of that object? If so, why had it not been placed upon the Table of that House? Such a measure would be 775 most beneficial, if it went to the point not only of redressing the grievances of the Irish farmer, but of ameliorating the condition of the labouring classes. It had always appeared to him that the great grievance of Ireland was not so much the condition of the farmers, though that was bad enough, as the frightful mass of poverty and destitution which was found to exist among the labouring classes; and he could not forbear expressing a sincere hope that in any remedial measures of this kind which Government might have it in contemplation to bring forward, special attention would be directed to the condition of those classes. There was no people on earth who endured the same amount of misery as the Irish people, and endured it with so much patience. The people of Ireland were not satisfied with the institutions under which they lived. They were steeped to the lips in poverty. They attributed that poverty to defects of the laws; and as the institutions under which they lived upheld and sanctioned those laws, the institutions were consequently unpopular and mistrusted, He thought it a very lamentable thing for Ireland that that country should be ever made the battle-field of parties. Yet so, unfortunately, the fact was. All Irish questions were viewed and weighed in that House, not as regarded their own merits, but as regarded the existence of one great political party or another. This was the case with the Church question, and was also the case with the municipal question. When a message from Her Majesty came down to that House recommending that the municipal institutions of Ireland should be placed upon the same footing as those of England, the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir R. Peel) rose up and cried "No!" and his colleagues echoed the exclamation. And yet they were now coming forward to say, that that recommendation should be complied with. Look to the conduct of the Government upon the Irish registration question. When that question was first mooted, perjury was so ripe forsooth in Ireland, that the measure would not admit of a week's delay. And yet they had now waited for some years and no Irish Registration Bill was yet before the House. If hon. Members supposed that things of this kind left no impression on the public mind in Ireland, they were grievously mistaken. They produced a most powerful impression, the evidences of which were to be found in the increased agitation in that country, 776 and in the increased determination of a large body of Irish people to look for a Parliament of their own. Such a state of things could not long last without endangering the Constitution, and placing in jeopardy the best institutions, not only of Ireland, but of this country. But he trusted that happier days were in store. He was not without hope that the melancholy existence of the scarcity in Ireland might be productive of some good in testifying that the Government felt some interest in the fate of the Irish people. He would do the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government the justice to admit that he and his Colleagues had done everything in their power to mitigate the evils under which Ireland was suffering, and that they had taken up the matter in a friendly and generous spirit. But the present measure he would most strenuously oppose, for, unaccompanied as it was by any measure of relief or redress for grievances, which were admitted to be most oppressive, it could not fail to be not only useless as a remedy, but harassing and injurious in its operation. Would they consider for a moment what the course of their legislation had been during the present year? Nothing permanent had been brought forward—nothing that went to the root of the evil. They had measures to check the increase of famine, of destitution, and of crime; but could anything show more clearly the horrible situation of the country than the necessity of such remedies? They owed a debt to the people of Ireland which they never could repay, no matter how they might exert themselves. They might tax all their energies for the purpose, but still, such was the wretched state of the country, they would leave much undone. He begged pardon for trespassing so long on the attention of the House. As he had stated, he avoided all party topics, and confined himself as much as possible to the merits of the case; but, as he before said, he regarded the present measure as most useless and harassing, and he should therefore give his vote against the first reading.
§ MR. J. COLLETT
said: I hope that as one of the representatives of Ireland, I may be permitted to offer a few short remarks on the Bill now before the House. I do confess that I most unfeignedly deplore the right hon. Baronet's determination to force on a measure so very questionable in its nature, and which requires to be considered with so much care and caution, at 777 a period when, for all practical purposes, we are almost as remote from the completion of the Corn Bill as we were at the very commencement of the Session. I am as anxious as the right hon. Baronet can be to repress crime; but it is contrary to the analogy of all human experience to suppose that such a measure as that now before the House can, by possibility, effect this object. Let us, Sir, begin to legislate for the social benefit of Ireland, and then we shall in effect begin to legislate for the moral benefit and personal security of the Irish people; we shall most effectually put down crime and arrest the arm of the assassin by sounding the lengths and depths of the desolation and misery which overwhelm the peasantry of that most unhappy, because most ill-governed country. Irish destitution, Sir, is the source of Irish crime—political order will never spring out of social misery; and if, instead of removing the cause, in order that the effect may cease—if, instead of satisfying the yearnings of the Irish people for food and raiment, you give them a Coercion Bill when they ask for bread, you do but legislate in mockery of the accustomed laws of Providence, and your most unnatural and most preposterous Curfew Act will only serve to ring out the knell of your own utter disappointment and failure. If, therefore, the right hon. Baronet, instead of originating measures for doing away with the competition for land, and for giving food and employment to the industrious classes, persists in his attempt now to enforce the first reading of this measure, I am determined to support my hon. Friends around me in availing ourselves of every mode permitted by the forms of the House to impede the further progress of this most odious Bill, which is, in my opinion, neither more nor less than a proclamation to the people of Ireland, that so long as the Union continues they are not to be governed on the principles of reason, humanity, or justice. I have hitherto declined saying anything on the subject of the Repeal of the Union. I am, however, now convinced that no union can be permanent where there is no community of interests; and as measures like the one now before the House render the Act of Union nothing but a lie upon parchment, I now pledge myself to the people of Ireland that so long as I have the honour of being one of their representatives, my humble services will be at their disposal towards procuring for them that which such a Bill 778 as this has rendered necessary to the salvation of their liberties—a domestic legislature of their own.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNELL
rose to move, that the debate be adjourned. It was quite evident that the hon. Gentlemen opposite were not prepared to speak. Irish Member after Irish Member had got up on that side of the House. Several English Members had also done honour to their country by the manly opposition which they had given to this measure; but no attempt was made to answer their arguments. The Bill was bad enough in itself; but it was rendered worse by the insulting manner in which the Ministry were treating the Irish Members in regard to it. He would say, that of all the proceedings he ever heard of towards Ireland, the most outrageous, the most insulting, the most utterly unjustifiable, and the most shameful, was the conduct of her Majesty's Government on this question. The Members for Ireland were aware of the manner in which the speeches they made were treated by the English Parliament. They were commented on by the English press and by hon. Members in that House; but he would appeal to any man, whether what had occurred there that night did not afford them the most abundant justification for everything the Repealers had yet said?—whether the utter, the entire contempt shown for Irish matters, was not the fullest proof that they were right in the course which they advocated? They were taunted by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department with being a small minority in that House. Was it, he asked, just that such reproaches should come from an Englishman—from one of that country that had deprived them of anything at all approaching to a fair share of representation in that House? They were refused a fair share in the representation, and then, because they were so refused, they were insulted and their complaints set at nought. It was his intention to persevere in this adjournment; and if the treatment shown that night towards the Irish Members and towards the Irish nation were persevered in, he would continue to offer every opposition in his power before the liberties of his country were permitted to be taken away. One hon. Member below the bar had made a good speech, coming from that (the Ministerial) side of the House; but he would ask, was it decent—was it commonly decent—for a dominant country to treat 779 the few representatives of a country, so long the subject of its hostility, so as not even, with this one exception, to condescend to notice the arguments brought forward against this measure? It was quite degrading enough to the Irish representatives to be obliged to attend there at all. They believed that they were quite out of their place in that House. They felt that they were there greatly against the wishes of the people of Ireland, who had long ago given up all confidence in the British Parliament, and all hope that it would ever do them any good. Their constituents might prefer that they should remain in Conciliation Hall, and they had succeeded in getting merely the silence of the Irish people to their attending to oppose this Bill. As to the approbation of the people, they could not expect it for attending in a Parliament from which they could expect nothing but tyranny. It was, he repeated, therefore, humiliating to attend there at all; but it was doubly humiliating when they were obliged to appear as beggars—to sue for money, or to return thanks for money which was their own, which, if the full amount sought for were doubled by the House, it would still not amount to one-tenth part of what they had been robbed by this country. They had been asked what use they would make of an additional number of representatives. It would have the effect, to say nothing more, of making them perhaps a little more respectful than they were. He would address himself from that House to the people of Ireland, and he would ask them whether they did not see in the proceedings of that night a strong, a full confirmation of all that had ever yet been said of the insulting manner in which their country was treated by England? He had seen the commonest English parochial Bill bring up Her Majesty's Ministers anxious to protract the debate; and yet on a question with which the interests of Ireland were most intimately concerned—a question which involved the connection between the two countries; still, because it was an Irish question, opposed by Irish Members, Her Majesty's Government would not condescend to reply to their arguments. He called, therefore, not on that House, but on the people of Ireland, from this very circumstance, to persevere still more determinedly in seeking for the restoration of that Parliament where their rights and their demands would be sure to be attended to, and their interests treated with pro- 780 per respect. He would call on every Irish Member to imitate the conduct of the hon. Member for Athlone (Mr. J. Collett), and come, like him, to the conclusion that there was no hope for Ireland—no hope of even decent courtesy being shown towards her representatives save in an Irish Parliament. The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving that the debate be now adjourned.
§ MR. W. SMITH O'BRIEN
seconded the Amendment. He said he confessed this was one of those steps to which he would resort with very great reluctance; but still he felt that the ground taken by his hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny was perfectly just. The debate had now continued for three nights, and yet only two Members of the Government had spoken, while not a single Irish Member had yet come forward to advocate the measure. Under these circumstances, it was monstrous to think that the Government should attempt to force this Bill forward against the earnest protest of all those Members who were qualified to speak on behalf of the people of Ireland. If the Government were prepared to speak, let them speak; and if they were not prepared, he could not see why they should object to the Motion for adjournment.
§ SIR R. PEEL
said, he would leave it to the House to judge how far the accusation made by the hon. Gentleman who moved the adjournment was justified. He could recollect no instance in which there was more of respectful attention paid to the statements of Irish Gentlemen than on the present occasion. They had been as yet only four hours debating this evening; they commenced the proceedings that day with the state of Ireland, and the measures necessary on account of the famine existing in that country. In that discussion, three Cabinet Ministers, his hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and himself, had spoken. They curtailed the holidays for the express purpose of giving an opportunity to the representatives of Ireland of stating their views; every Cabinet Minister in that House was present to hear their opinions; and under these circumstances he would leave it to the House to judge whether the sentiments expressed of a want of respect for Irish Members or Irish interests was justified. They had been informed that it was the intention of several hon. Gentlemen connected with Ireland to bring the 781 entire question of the state of that country before the House, and an opportunity was afforded them of doing so. Even that evening, although the debate had lasted only four hours, three English gentlemen—his hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Mr. M. Gore), and two hon. Gentlemen opposite, the right hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. V. Smith), and the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Ward), all of whom had spoken with great ability—had taken part in this debate. But further, he would ask whether it had not been universally admitted during the course of this discussion, that although the state of Ireland was such that some remedy beyond the ordinary law was necessary, still there never had been a stronger indication of kindly feeling towards Ireland than on the present occasion. Two Cabinet Ministers — his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and his right hon. Friend the Secretary at War, had both taken part in the debate; therefore, so far as the Government was concerned, he should deny that there was any want of respect towards Irish Members. There had not been the slightest interruption given to any of their statements; not a remark was made as to whether the subjects introduced were relevant or not; though he should admit, for his own part, he had heard nothing irrelevant brought forward. There had been not only no want of personal respect, but the deepest interest had been shown for the social condition of Ireland, and a sincere desire exhibited to promote the permanent interests of the country. Under these circumstances he felt that a Motion for an adjournment, after so short a debate, at half-past eleven o'clock at night, brought forward merely on the ground of want of respect for Irish Members, was one in which he could not concur, and he would add, that he never knew of a Motion of adjournment being made on slighter grounds.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNELL
explained: With regard to the sympathy shown in that House for the distress existing in Ireland, he had already expressed his conviction of the sincerity of that feeling both on the part of Her Majesty's Government and of the House generally; but to what did that sympathy amount? It was most honourable and creditable; but still could it be denied that similar feelings would not be extended to the natives of India, of Africa, or of the wilds of America? They were not to take credit, therefore, for the 782 expression of such a feeling in order to inflict still greater misery and distress upon the country. He begged also to add that he had not alleged that English Members had not taken part in the debate. He would be very ungrateful indeed if he were to overlook the speeches that had been made by two hon. Members near him that evening, who represented English constituencies, as well as the very excellent speech which had been made on the other side by an hon. Member below the bar; but what he complained of was, that no Member of the Government had spoken—that Irish Members were obliged to get up one after another to repeat the same arguments, in order to prevent the debate from being closed before the proper time, in consequence of the silence of Her Majesty's Ministers.
said, it was not his intention to refer to the question before the House, but he rose merely to express his hope and prayer to hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House, who represented so ably the interests of Ireland, that they would reflect a little on the nature of the course which they were now pursuing, and on the effect which it would have on the country, suffering as it was from one end to the other, in consequence of the little progress yet made in the business of the Session. In making this appeal, he was sure hon. Gentlemen whom he addressed would admit that it came from a warm friend to their country. For nearly thirty years that he had had the honour of a seat in that House, there never had been an instance of an Irish question being brought forward on which he had not consulted what was called the liberal policy in his vote; and in this respect he only acted with most of the English Gentlemen representing large English constituencies on that side of the House. It was only in the hope that the best endeavours of all should be united for the interest of Ireland, that he now appealed to hon. Members to bring this debate to a close as soon as it should be consistent with their own views of the question to do so. He offered no opinion on the merits of this question. He felt very strongly with his hon. Friend the Member for Drogheda (Sir William Somerville), who had lately addressed the House. He felt that there was very little of political or religious feeling mixed up in the present outrages in Ireland, but that they arose, on the contrary, out of the misery caused by the difficulties existing with respect to the possession of land, or arising 783 from the want of employment. It was with a view that they might arrive the sooner at the remedial measures necessary for the removal of these evils, and that they might also proceed with those measures for which both England, Scotland, and Ireland were waiting with anxiety, that he now appealed to his hon. Friends to bring this discussion as soon as possible to a close. Under those circumstances it was impoosible that he could vote with the hon. Gentleman in favour of an adjournment at that hour of the night.
MR. DILLON BROWNE
said, that all other matters were of secondary importance to Irish Members in comparison with the duty they owed to Ireland. They were anxious to support the Corn Bill; but they could not, consistently with their duty to their country, support the Coercion Bill. They had made hundreds of statements founded upon facts showing the impolicy of the measure, which the right hon. Baronet and his friends had not condescended to answer, and which the people of Ireland would see had not been answered. The right hon. Baronet said the Irish Members ought to be under an obligation to him for shortening the usual period of the recess, in order to pass the Coercion Bill. [Sir R. PEEL: I never said anything of the kind.] He understood that some statement of the kind had been made; and Irish Members would be grateful for it, if they were thereby placed under an obligation. He was as much opposed to an adjournment at that hour as any hon. Member; but if the right hon. Baronet had not thrown upon Irish Members the onus of resorting to this means for gaining further time for consideration, the Motion would not have been made. In short, he did not know what other conclusion to come to than this—that the Irish Members had been treated with contempt.
§ The House divided on the Question, that the debate be now adjourned:—Ayes, 20; Noes, 77: Majority, 57.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||O'Brien, J.|
|Bridgeman, H.||Powell, C.|
|Browne, R. D.||Ricardo, J. L.|
|Christie, W. D.||Roche, E. B.|
|Collett, J.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Dundas, D.||Watson, W. H.|
|Fitzgerald, R. A.||Wyse, T.|
|Macnamara, Major||O'Brien, W. S.|
|M'Carthy, A.||O'Connell, J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acland, T. D.||James, Sir W. C.|
|Antrobus, E.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Attwood, J.||Jocelyn, Visc.|
|Austen, Col.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Jones, Capt.|
|Baring, rt. hon. W. B.||Kelly, Sir F.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Lindsay, hon. Capt.|
|Bowles, Adml.||Lyall, G.|
|Broadwood, H.||M'Neill, D.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Mahon, Visct.|
|Cardwell, E.||Masterman, J.|
|Chichester, Lord. J. L.||Meynell, Capt.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir. G.||Moffatt, G.|
|Cockburn, rt. hon. Sir G.||Neville, R.|
|Coote, Sir C. H.||Newry, Visct.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Douglas, Sir H.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Peel, J.|
|Ellice, rt. hon. E.||Sanderson, R.|
|Entwisle, W.||Seymour, Sir H. B.|
|Escott, B.||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Smythe, hon. G.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Somerton, Visct.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Stewart, J.|
|Godson, R.||Stuart, H.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Gore, M.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Trotter, J.|
|Greene, T.||Walpole, S. H.|
|Hale, R. B.||Warburton, H.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Ward, H. G.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Wellesley, Lord C.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Worcester, Marq. of|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Hildyard, T. B. T.||TELLERS.|
|Hogg, J. W.||Young, J.|
|Howard, Sir R.||Cripps, T.|
§ Original Question again put.
§ MR. C. POWELL
seconded the Motion, and said the right hon. Baronet relied upon his majority to put down the Irish Members.
The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
denied that the Irish Members had been treated with the slightest disrepect either by the House or by Her Majesty's Government. Although he had himself forborne from addressing the House upon this particular subject, he had given the most attentive consideration during the whole course of the debate to all the hon. Members who had spoken. He understood there was a desire on the part of hon. Members from Ireland to record their opinions as fully as possible on this measure, and it was as much from that circumstance as any other that he had not spoken. At all events, nothing was farther from his intention, and from the desire of the Go- 785 vernment, than to show disrespect to Irish Members.
§ MR. FITZGERALD
said, that the right hon. Baronet had certainly declared he had shortened the recess in order to proceed with the Coercion Bill; and he (Mr. Fitzgerald) felt under no obligation to him for that. As to disrespect, he had sat in the House since the commencement of the debate to-night, and he had seen hon. Members from Ireland address the House when there was not more than half-a-dozen Gentleman upon the benches opposite. This neglect was another argument in favour of the Irish people having their own Parliament; and he congratulated the hon. Member for Athlone (Mr. J. Collett) upon the manly declaration he had made in favour of Repeal.
§ SIR R. PEEL
hoped the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down would not be angry if he did not reply to his speech. The general custom of that House was to be content with giving respectful and patient attention to any hon. Member who chose to address the House on the subject under discussion; but it was something new to impose upon hon. Gentlemen the duty of making speeches. At the same time he must say, that if he had had any reason to believe that it was intended to terminate this debate to-night, he should, in the position he occupied, have felt it due to the importance of the subject, and to the country more immediately interested, not to allow the discussion to close without expressing his sentiments on the question. If there had been the least probability of a division on the first reading of the Bill to-night, he should have considered it disrespectful to allow the debate to close without addressing the House. He, therefore, did protest most strongly against the imputation that the Irish Members had been treated with disrespect by Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Gentleman opposite had moved the adjournment of the House—a Motion which, if agreed to, would interfere with public business, by retarding the progress of the measures upon the Paper. If that hon. Gentleman was aware of the duties which, during the Session, devolved upon the Ministers of the Crown, he would know how impossible it was for them to contend with him, who had just arrived fresh from Ireland, on those Motions of adjournment. He (Sir R. Peel) had no doubt that hon. Gentlemen would consent, without taking the sense of the House on this Motion, to an arrangement 786 for the adjournment of the debate until Monday. He must again say that there was no disposition whatever on the part of the Ministers of the Crown to treat this subject otherwise than with the respect to which it was entitled; but he hoped hon. Members opposite would not impose upon Gentlemen unconnected with the Government the duty of making long speeches.
MR. D. BROWNE
felt much gratified at the remarks which had fallen from the right hon. Baronet. If he (Mr. D. Browne) had entertained an impression that hon. Gentlemen representing Irish interests had been disrespectfully treated by the Ministers of the Crown, that impression was now completely removed. He had thought, however, that it was intended to pass this Bill—to force it upon the people of Ireland—by the brutum fulmen of a majority, without any reply being given to the arguments urged against the measure.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
said, after the disclaimer of the right hon. Baronet, he begged to withdraw the imputation he had thrown upon the Government generally.
§ MR. E. ROCHE
also withdrew the observations he had made, under the impression that the Government were treating the Irish Members disrespectfully; and said that after the observations of the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) he would not press the Motion for adjournment.
§ Debate adjourned to Monday.
§ House adjourned.