§ The Order of the Day for resuming the Adjourned Debate being read,
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNELL
said, he was sorry, after the pacification he had just witnessed, that it had fallen to his lot to commence the war again. He had intended to have taken part in the debate which had arisen on the question of his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick; but he thought it was more convenient to delay his remarks on the topics which then arose until he regularly addressed the House. He would not dwell long on the subjects which had been touched on in that debate. They were so numerous that it was difficult to take them in their direct order. One subject which was mentioned with ominous frequency, was the extension of the Poor Law in Ireland. He had been reminded, during the progress of the re- 1023 marks of hon. Members on the Poor Law, of a saying of the hon. and learned Member for Cork, in 1830, when he first started the Repeal question. He said that "the landlords would have to choose between Repeal and the Poor Law." The landlords had scoffed at his warning, and had thereby brought on themselves, and on the country, the heavy infliction of the ever increasing and grievous poor rate. And it was evident, from what had been seen this Session, that if they did not stir themselves and apply the real remedies to the evils which had been inflicted on that country, they would shortly have forced upon them an aggravated form of those laws—nothing short of the confiscation of all property in Ireland. It was a cheap benevolence that instead of considering the opening up of the resources of Ireland, and stimulating her industry by restoring and freeing the healthy circulation of capital, would urge and press for the doubtful and perilous experiment of an extended system of poor laws, and so be rid of the annoyance of Irish distress. Why should that be recklessly essayed in impoverished Ireland, which had failed in wealthy England? The fact was, that poor laws had ever been and ever would be a failure in any and every country where they might be tried. To work well they required two requisites: first, that some means should be found of creating money; and, secondly, that angels should be found to administer them. It was idle to attempt to distribute other people's money for them better than they could themselves; and worse than idle not to see that the expense of the machinery inevitably necessary to work a measure of poor laws with any thing like efficiency, and to prevent frauds and impositions, would and must absorb a very large proportion of the rate. He was grieved to hear the hon. Member for Stroud use arguments in favour of a Poor Law in Ireland. It seemed as if he had not read, or not read right, the history of the Poor Law in this country, or the short history of the system in Ireland. He spoke of the Poor Law as if it were productive of all the wealth, prosperity, and strength of this country. It was going very far to seek a cause for them in a law which had been modified, and adapted, and as he might say, tinkered to every new system. England's prosperity should rather be traced to her having had for centuries the care and management of her own affairs, the command and means of 1024 development of her own resources; and the fullest enjoyment of political, commercial, and manufacturing liberty. These were the causes and means of her prosperity, and not her continually varying, and continually complained of Poor Laws. Even now, in England, the system was not settled. It was a fearful experiment, therefore, to try on so poor and distracted a country as Ireland a system like the Poor Law, which had never been found to answer in this country. Many persons who agreed with the hon. Member for Cork, had been hostile to him in his opposition to the Poor Law; and one by one, dozen by dozen, and hundred by hundred, they had confessed their mistake, and said he was right. There had been an almost unchristian way of speaking of the charity of the poor to each other in Ireland, and it was said to be unwise to permit it. The hon. Member for Stroud, in particular, urged the saving that might be made in this respect, under an enlarged system of legal relief. Why, how could they stop this giving? It was the easiest and cheapest for the peasant; but if it were as onerous as it was easy, the thing could not be stopped until you could root their natural and mutual compassion out of their hearts. And above all things, was it not the purest dreaming to think that you could realize in money, for the purposes of a poor rate, the potatoes given this way at the door by the cottier to the passing beggar. He denied the statement which had been made, that the able-bodied Irish peasant was idle, and that he sent out his wife and children to beg while he himself lay in bed: if the wife and children were seeking the assistance of their neighbours, their natural protector, the husband and father, was gone to work in a distant part of his own country, or had come across to this country, on the deck of a steamer, exposed to the wind and the elements, and, after travelling on foot many miles, was working laboriously to earn sufficient money to take back to pay his rent. The Poor Laws in Ireland had proved, as had been foretold, a grand mistake. The expensive machinery for their administration absorbed an enormous amount of that revenue which ought to be applied to the relief of the poor. Such was the result of the limited Poor Law which was now in force. Ireland was not in a condition to receive such a Poor Law as that suggested by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope). If relief were to be given to the able-bodied 1025 labourer, was it intended to put him upon an equality with the independent labourer, who even now struggled to earn a bare subsistence for his family and himself; if so, the ratepayers themselves would disappear from the ranks of the independent labourers, and they would be brought down to the state of those they were called upon to relieve. To make the condition of the pauper better than that of the labourer, would, of course, afford a stronger inducement to the latter to sink into the ranks of the former. To make the condition less preferable was impossible; and this, too, should be recollected when hon. Gentlemen talked of making the uncharitable man contribute by a compulsory poor rate. They might, perhaps, succeed in screwing something out of the hard-hearted, but they caused the good and religious man to be doubly taxed, first, by their rate, and next, by his own charity; for he did not consider that a compulsory payment liberated him from the great Christian obligation of almsgiving. For these reasons he should always oppose not only the extension of the present system, but its permanence. He held that the landlords of Ireland, having tried and found the failure of the Poor Laws, must, if they would save their property from ruin, advocate the Repeal of the Union, as affording the only means of renovating the resources of their country. He protested against an expression which had been used by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. It had been used before in the House, and been before denied. The noble Lord attributed to those who advocated the Repeal of the Union a desire for the dismemberment of the Empire. He emphatically denied the imputation, and gave warning that should such a charge be again brought forward it would be repelled in a manner as offensive as was the charge itself. No Member had a right to impugn the loyalty of another. With reference to that noble Lord, he would say, that he could not join in the expressions of confidence and somewhat of gratitude towards the noble Lord which had fallen from a few of the Irish Members that night. If credit was to be given to the noble Lord for the readiness with which he had acquiesced in the suggestion as to opening the ports of Ireland for a given period (if that were possible), credit must also be given to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government for his wish and endeavour to open the ports of both countries last November. If the right hon. Baronet 1026 brought forward this unhappy Coercion Bill, he also proposed permanently to give the people of Ireland cheap food: if, on the one hand, he offered them a stone, with the other he sought to give them bread. But the noble Lord would only give bread for a short and limited time, while he was pledged to give the Coercion Bill. The noble Lord did the Irish Members who advocated the repeal of the Corn Laws a great injustice in attributing to them so base a motive as to suppose that they supported a great measure which would effect a social revolution in the country, for the sake of obtaining a side-wind advantage to another great measure—the Repeal of the Union. They supported the proposition made by the Government for giving cheap food to the people, on the great principle that the poor, both of England and Ireland, must be fed. He believed he spoke the sentiments of every Member who was pledged to the Repeal of the Union, when he stated that they would not so stain their cause as to be guilty of the crime of impeding the cheapening of the food of their fellow creatures. The delay of that measure was chargeable upon those who had the power of facilitating its progress, and not upon the Repeal Members, who at present could give it no facility without assisting the Coercion Bill—which they believed would produce unmitigated evils, and be most disastrous to the country. English Members and the English press talked to them of public opinion. The very language they used showed that those hon. Members had no regard for the public opinion of Ireland; that did not enter into their consideration at all. If the two countries were to go on together, under an united Legislature—a cumbrous system—so cumbrous that it must fall to pieces of itself—if in progress of time the Legislatures were not separated by voluntary and amicable arrangement; it was quite time a due regard should be paid to the public opinion of Ireland. The Irish Members had not done a single act or spoken one word on this Coercion Bill that was not in strict accordance with public opinion in Ireland, and that had not the full sanction and approbation of their fellow countrymen. Some English Members said they had a right to remonstrate with them, because they had themselves incurred the hostility of their English constituents, for having shown themselves favourable to measures of relief to Ireland—the Maynooth grant, and other measures. Did not this support the asser- 1027 tion of the Irish Members that the people of England were not enlightened enough, that the press of England would not allow them to become enlightened enough, as to the real state of Ireland to understand its case? Did it not show that there was a perseverance in hostility to it? As to the measure before the House, in opposing it they were not merely fighting their own battle, but that of England also. They were fighting the battle of the Constitution: no more dangerous precedent could be established than a continual facility given to a Government to suspend the Constitution whenever it chose to apply for that facility. It was not felt now, because Ireland only was affected by it; but it might hereafter he a fatal precedent for England in the hands of a wicked Minister. A time would come when they would want the aid of Ireland—when they would feel its weight and importance, and wish they had conciliated her. He implored the House to consider these things in time. The Irish Members were not attempting to excuse the horrid, hideous, and execrable crimes committed in Ireland; but they called on the Government to use all the powers the existing law gave it, which it had not yet done, to the utmost; and, pari passu, to introduce measures for the benefit of the country; and then, if these crimes continued, they pledged themselves to give full support to the Government in adopting this or even a more stringent Coercion Bill. He confessed that he addressed the House with a great depression of spirits, arising from the sense of his own inability, and from the disheartening hopelessness of any remonstrances in that place against sanctioning this new measure of tyranny for Ireland. This was no question—at least he did not look upon it as such—of mere coercion for a particular emergency. The whole question of international relations and mutual dealings between the two countries must come immediately under review. He said this because they had now arrived at the seventh century of connexion between the two countries—a connexion which, however felt in this country, had never been felt in Ireland otherwise than as a degrading chain which entered into the souls of the Irish people. From the first moment of that connexion, it had worked nothing but evil, misery, and oppression, to Ireland. They had arrived, too, at the forty-sixth year of the Union, which had been accomplished without their consent, at a period when the Irish nation 1028 was prostrate from the effects of a wild, insane, and criminal rebellion. For forty-six years England had possessed the control of all legislation—it had enjoyed the fullest power of showing its superior wisdom, goodness, and statesmanship; and the end was, that in Ireland millions and millions had fallen into the most hopeless state of pauperism. In this fact there was danger to both countries. The minds of the English people were so occupied with their own matters—and properly so—that they forgot what Ireland now was. They still thought that Ireland was the same miserable mendicant province to deal with, as she was at the commencement of the century. But while England had been dreaming that such was the case, Ireland had silently, but fast, been growing up into a powerful and united nation. The people were banded together in heart and soul; one sentiment pervaded them; they had the closest knowledge of their own rights, and had an united and firm determination to redress their wrongs. Their tempers had been tried like steel in the fire of affliction; they had shown a patience and self-control, the intensity and sublimity of which ought, were there even no other symptoms visible, to have warned the observing statesman of what a mighty power was growing up. Means should be taken, while yet there was time, to conciliate to the Empire the affections of such a people. Was it safe to rush into foreign wars, while Ireland, thus powerful, was discontented and exasperated? There was no disaffection to Her Most Gracious Majesty, but the deepest and most reverential affection; but he should be mocking the House if he said otherwise than that the Irish people were utterly disinclined to England, from the treatment they had received from her. Hence it was for the interest of England—for the interest of the whole Empire—that a change of policy should take place; and that at least some attempt should be made to conciliate the Irish people. Their part in endeavouring to bring about that change the Irish Members were resolved upon doing, and were doing, to the utmost of their power; conscious that they were thus best consulting the Imperial interests. No one could attribute it to any yielding or desire on their part of making any compromise of opinion, in saying that while attached and devoted with their lives to the cause of Repeal, they were equally strong in their desire to preserve the connexion between the two countries upon 1029 fair, equitable, and just terms; but upon no other. They believed that such a connexion would best advance both countries to that full measure of prosperity which the Almighty might have in store for them. They believed that not only would their mutual interests be advanced, but that such a connexion would be the best for the universal interests of man; and further, they believed that the two countries, firmly united by a real and just connexion, would form the only permanent barrier to that despotism which threatened to overflow Europe. It did not require any great exertion of statesmanlike sagacity to understand that the combination of Austria, Russia, and Prussia, was one ominous for human liberty. It did not require the accounts of the atrocities of the Russian monster, Nicholas, the murderer of children, the flogger and torturer of the helpless nuns of Minsk, to warn us to resist the spreading of the system of government under which the wretch was at liberty to practise these and a thousand other hideous cruelties. Neither were the recitals needed of the heartless cruelties of Austria, as latest exhibited in the subornation of massacre by Metternich in Galicia; nor of the base and dangerous practices by which the Prussian King was alternately deluding, and then with most insulting mockery rejecting and spurning the supplications of his people for a constitution. None of these recent facts were needed to confirm the people of these countries in abhorrence of the principles, if principles they could be called, which the three Powers he had alluded to were endeavouring to propagate among the Governments of Europe. But those Powers would be too formidable for Western Europe if in the latter there were not a combination for mutual defence and support. England, however, could not bear her part; she could never be as strong as she might be as long as Ireland was discontented. Let her but conciliate Ireland; let both countries be bound hand in hand in amicable relationship, and they would present together a barrier which the rest of the world would not be able to overcome. With regard to this unhappy Bill, how unfortunate were they in selecting the time to bring it forward. At a time when they were flushed with their successes in war, when they were about to confer a substantial benefit on England by repealing the Corn Law—for though he admitted that it would benefit Ireland also, its 1030 advantages would be more immediately felt by England—they were going to inflict a Coercion Bill on Ireland. See what reflection they would thereby create in the Irish mind. They would remind the Irish people that the period of England's prosperity and success was signalized by inflicting oppression on Ireland; and that, on the other hand, when England was in distress and difficulty, advantages and concessions were obtained by Ireland. That was a most dangerous consideration to awaken in the minds of the Irish people; whereas their efforts should be directed to the blotting out from their minds the memory of the wrongs and injuries she suffered from this country. By holding out the olive branch they might conciliate the people of Ireland. Never was there anything easier than to conciliate them. A word, a promise, the sound of a promise, would conciliate them before: a word, a promise, or the sound of a promise, would not conciliate them now; because they learned from experience that the word was not kept, that the promise was broken, and that the sound of a promise was an empty delusion. But by some deeds—a few deeds—they would be compensated a hundred fold in gratitude from that people whom they made to hate them, and who never would fear them. It was ungrateful, for another reason, to select this moment for inflicting oppression on the people of Ireland, when so many of the Irish people, as might be seen in the list of the slain in their late glorious battles in India, fell in upholding the glory and renown of England. How many in Ireland, in reading over that list in their humble hovels, would have to deplore and mourn over the loss of a father or brother slain in achieving the glory of England. He was much struck with an article on this particular subject which appeared in the Observer, which was spoken of as being a Government organ. [The hon. Gentleman here quoted the article, which stated that the Irish soldiers, when they heard of the distress in Ireland, subscribed 840l. to relieve it, which sum they placed in the hands of Sir H. Gough, himself an Irishman; and that, having discharged this duty, they went into the battle with lighter spirits, and did not shrink from the performance of their duty to their Sovereign and country.] Yes, they went and sacrificed their lives for the glory of England, and England returned a Coercion Bill. Yes, they went to the fight with "light spirits;" but if, at the moment be- 1031 fore the battle, it was whispered to them, "Ay, go and shed your blood for England; let your bones whiten on the plains of India for England's glory; but know, at the same time, that your fathers and brothers are sent into exile by her oppression and tyranny," he believed that even if that was whispered to them, they would still be found true; but how ungrateful—how bitterly ungrateful—must it not make your conduct appear! And when the remnant of that army came back, what must be their opinion of England, and of the connexion between the two countries, when they found their hearths desolate—their relatives carried away into bondage, while they were fighting the battles of England, because, perhaps, they were found by some gang of policemen going for a clergyman to administer the last offices of religion to their wives or mothers. He knew he would be told that those were reserved cases, and that persons would be permitted to go on such errands. How little did they know of Ireland when they talked in that manner—how it was governed in detail by the Irish Administration. Of course, it could not enter into the intentions of that House, or into the breast of any Christian man, whose prejudices did not carry him away, to enact otherwise than that such errands should protect the individual sent from the operation of this Bill. But their intentions would be set at nought by the Orange subordinates who were to work it out. The police authorities, who were generally most virulently hostile to the people of Ireland, would laugh and scoff at the poor wretch when he would make that excuse. He would be in their hands, and let them remember promotion was given in Ireland in the police force according to the number of men that were brought in. He did not say that was done with the cognizance of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Robert Peel), for he thought he was incapable of allowing it if he were conscious of it; but the people of Ireland were conscious of it. No matter whether the man was innocent or not, the assertion of the policeman was taken, who thus secured his own promotion, or perhaps gratified his rancorous feeling. They might not believe him, but he said, if this Bill passed, no poor man was secure who made himself obnoxious to any individual police constable. If he did not acknowledge him as his master, he would not be safe if he were to go out on the most legitimate errand. This statement would of course be denied and 1032 controverted in that House; but he appealed to Members at his side of the House, if their experience did not strictly bear out what he stated; and the opinions of Irish Members on that subject ought to go for something. The opinion of the Irish Members ought, therefore, to be given on a subject of so much importance to their country. And these were their expectations under this Bill. It might appear that he dwelt too long on the subject of the danger which it would cause to the connexion between the two countries; but he could assure the House that the impression was so deeply rooted on his own mind, that they were leaning on the brink of a precipice—that they were not awake to the intensity of the danger which they were causing to the connexion, or at least to the international peace of the two countries, from this marked attack on the remaining liberties of the people, and which added to the already overflowing cup of bitterness, might have the most serious effects, that he felt conscientiously bound to dwell upon the subject, even at the risk of appearing tedious. He could tell them that the subject of Ireland was occupying the attention of their military men. He could tell them that their military and naval men were not quite so silent on the subject of the defence of Ireland as they were in that House. He could tell them that the chances of danger to the connexion between the two countries, and the chances of danger to England in a war from Irish discontent, were coming into their calculation. He might refer to the pamphlet of the Prince de Joinville, and to the significant silence with which the practicability of a descent on the Irish coast was regarded elsewhere. In the last number of the United Service, Journal, there was an article on the "Invasion and Defence of Great Britain," in which he found the following passages:—The south segment of Ireland, between Galway and Waterford, which would become the theatre of French invasion, abounded with excellent harbours ….within a sealine of three hundred miles (going S. and W. about). Waterford, Cork, Kin-sale, Baltimore, Long Island, Crookhaven, Bantry, Kenmare, Valencia, Tralee Bay, Shannon, Galway Bay, Greatman's Bay, Ardbear Harbour, Ballinakeil Harbour, the Killeries, Gola Island, Lough Swilly, and Lough Foyle, besides minor harbours and roads, without fortification … In 1796, Hoche escaped from Brest, and by the elements alone was baffled in his invasion of Ireland. Three years after, in spite of our blockade, the French fleet got out of Toulon, captured Malta, and effected a landing in Egypt. In 1805, a similar success attended Villeneuve.1033 So, even during the last war, when the naval power of England was so great, they were not able to prevent the French fleets from leaving their ports; but, at the present moment, the facility for a hostile armament doing so was much greater. He believed it was well known that steamers did not require so great a number of seamen as sailing vessels; and, therefore, an invasion of Ireland by a French fleet would be far more practicable now than in the time of the last war. The article went on:—For the defence of Great Britain and Ireland we could not muster 45,000 men, half of which are at present required to keep the population of the latter in subjection. Ireland, with her disaffected population—the extent and vulnerability of her maritime frontier—the total absence of interior defences—is at once our weak point; and in the event of a war would become one of the preliminary objects of France. We have at this moment of profound and universal peace a large army in that country; but double that force would be required for its defence, under such a contingency, certain as it would be to be made the theatre of a powerful French diversion. It should be constantly borne in mind that the object of the French is not to conquer, but to ruin England. When Massena was asked if Napoleon's preparations in 1804, were for the conquest of England, he replied, 'Personne n'y songea; il s'agissait settlement de la ruiner!'"Whenever they spoke of the chance of Ireland in case of war, they were met with the argument—"Oh, we are strong enough to fight the world in arms against us, and also to put down Ireland." That was not a very Christian boast. It was not a very humane boast, but still it might be the truth. British arms had achieved such wonders that it was hard for the imagination to conceive anything that they could not effect; but it should be recollected that in their best successes hitherto, they had the arm of Ireland to aid them, and they might not have that aid in another struggle. But even supposing they did crush another French invasion of Ireland, and another Irish insurrection, in what state of impoverishment would their success leave their own country! What oceans of blood would not be shed! What millions of treasure would not be wasted! What ruin to their manufactures—what desolation to commerce—what destruction to the funded interests of this country would not accrue! They should weigh these matters well, and then answer him, was it worth while to run the chance of these dangers, and to incur the guilt of the blood which would be so causelessly shed, rather than once for all trying those gentler means by 1034 which they would be sure to win the Irish people, and to make of them their most constant, their truest, and their firmest of allies? It was with these convictions that he had delayed so long on the subject of the danger which he felt would result to the connexion between the two countries from this measure. It was then the duty of the Irish representatives, entertaining such convictions, to oppose this Bill from the very first, feeling as they did from the dictates of their consciences that by so doing they consulted the best interests of both countries; and was it not hard that in doing so they should be accused by a noble Member on that (the Opposition) side of the House with creating unnecessary delay? The reproach of a Friend had always a more severe effect than the reproach of a foe; and they, therefore, felt most keenly that accusation, coming as it did from one who, when in office, had done all that the limited Parliamentary power of his party permitted to alleviate the suffering of Ireland, and to restore, by the only sure means, the confidence of the people in the Government of the country. The reproach of the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Lord Morpeth) was on this ground most severely felt by them, and the more so because they knew that it was undeserved. They felt that their opposition to this Bill, instead of being unnecessary, instead of being unwarranted, and instead of being inexcusable, was most necessary, most warranted, and was most strictly their duty. The noble Lord the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire also used an argument which he was sorry to have heard emanating from him. The noble Lord said that they were bound in justice to the Government who had brought in the measure on their own responsibility to let the Bill proceed to a future stage. Now, he could understand such an argument if addressed in support of a more friendly Government; but he confessed he could not see the logic of it, or the strength of it when applied to the Gentlemen constituting the present Government. He did not think Her Majesty's present advisers had merited any confidence from any party on account of their management of the affairs of Ireland. He thought that the fact of such a Government having the management of this Bill, was an aggravation of the Bill, and so far from thinking that the measure should be allowed any advance because of the men from whom it emanated, his conviction was, that for this very 1035 cause the measure, even if excusable under other circumstances, ought not to be supported. His argument was, that Her Majesty's Ministers did not merit the confidence of that House, or of the country, because they had grossly mismanaged the affairs of Ireland, and had shown themselves not to be friends to the true interests of the Irish people. He felt it to be his duty to enter into some detail on this part of the subject, and he would begin with the noble Lord by whom it was reported in the newspapers the Bill had been introduced. He merely spoke of a speech published in the newspapers, and whether that speech had been uttered or not, it was not his business to inquire. It was stated in the newspapers that the Earl of St. Germans, the late Secretary for Ireland, was the introducer and sponsor of this Bill; and he would object to it, if for no other reason than that it had been introduced by that noble Lord. He recollected well, before the present Administration came into power, what praises were given to that noble Lord. He was stated to be a man of moderate opinions in politics; but in Ireland they unfortunately knew too well what moderate political opinions meant. In the speech of that noble Lord, on his election for Cornwall, after his appointment as Chief Secretary fer Ireland, no spoke in these terms:—He knew that the policy of Sir Robert Peel in Ireland would be a sound and a wise one; that it would be dictated in a spirit of peace and conciliation—that he would study to promote the interests of Ireland, by developing its resources and improving the condition of the people; and that he would legislate for Ireland in a manner that would combine wisdom with moderation. The Government would pay court to no party. It would endeavour to do justice to all. It would not be the Government of a party, but of the entire Irish people; and he trusted, by the measures that would be adopted, it would not only deserve, but obtain their confidence and good will.And yet after such language they had him here introducing a Bill, the object of which was to trample on the few remaining liberties of the Irish people. Now this noble Lord, who went to Ireland with this stamp of moderation, with the title of an honourable man—this noble Lord, for whose appointment the right hon. Baronet opposite was complimented by the noble Lord the Member for the city of London, went to Ireland; and what was his first act there? An election came on there—the election of one of the hon. Members for the city of Dublin (Mr. Gregory). A gross injustice was inflicted on the citizens of Dublin by the sheriff, who was in the interest of the 1036 fag end of the old corporation, and who had appointed some wretched creature of his in one of the largest booths of the city. This creature took care to throw every possible obstacle in the way of the votes for the noble Lord the present Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire. Great complaints were made by the friends of the Liberal candidate at such conduct being permitted. An appeal was made to Lord St. Germans. They applied to his moderation—to his candour—they told him how a large proportion of the electors of Dublin were being robbed of their franchise, and deprived of the privilege of voting. But what did he do? He gave no satisfaction whatever, and when he found himself closely pushed, he threw the correspondence aside, and went to England, leaving the matter in the hands of the present Solicitor General, Mr. Brewster, whose known Orangeism left the liberal party no hope. Such was the first act of the moderate man. The moderate man went back to Ireland; and it was useless to tell him (Mr. John O'Connell) that he was not the prime mover of what afterwards occurred; for, by retaining office, he made himself responsible for it. He was a party to the appointment on the Bench, and to every possible situation, of men who though distinguished as lawyers and men of talents, were virulently and bitterly opposed to the demands, wishes, and interests of the people of Ireland. Again, this moderate man was a consenting party to the dismissal of five or six stipendiary magistrates, for no other apperent cause than that, being Whig appointments, they were men who were beginning to inspire the people with some confidence in the administration of the laws. With Lord St. Germans' sanction too, a large number of the unpaid magistracy, men of rank and station, and most unimpeachable character, were summarily dismissed from the Bench, because of not being partisans and satellites of the Government. Further he took his share of the credit to attach to the ungrammatical and unconstitutional documents and proclamations with which the Lord Chancellor and the Irish Government favoured the people in the year 1843. He was a party—this moderate man—to that which, if it were not a meditated measure, was as near to it as it could be without the massacre occurring—a massacre the escape from which was owing entirely to the exertions of the popular party in Ireland. That subject had not been as yet taken up as it should 1037 be. It was not to be passed over and forgotten. The people of Ireland were exposed to a danger unequalled, if not in cold-blooded cruelty, at least in cold-blooded heedlessness. The Government had allowed the monster meetings to go on throughout the whole of 1843 without any check, because the people gave no cause for interfering. At length, just at the very close of these meetings, the Privy Council met. They assembled on a Friday, and agreed to a proclamation against an intended meeting to be held on the Sunday after at Clontarf, and which had been advertised for weeks before. They knew that multitudes would come from all parts of Ireland, as well as from Liverpool and Manchester, and yet they took no steps before then. But even on Friday they did not issue their proclamation. They withheld it until the following day, and even then the Irish Government and this moderate man did not issue it until dusk in the evening. When this moderate man was accused of the danger to which the people had been subjected by this delay, and when the Liberal party at the Corn Exchange alone saved them from being exposed to a massacre, his reply was, that the delay was required, he thought, he said, by the spelling, but, at any rate, by the writing of the proclamation. Now, could anything be more full of mockery than such a pretext, when the lives of thousands were at stake, and where, if the meeting had assembled, a riot got up by any of the informers still employed about the Castle of Dublin would have been a sufficient pretext to order the troops to fire? Until this matter was cleared up, the guilt of blood, or of incurring the risk of shedding blood, would rest on those who were parties to the proclamation. If there were men in the Council who advised that the proclamation should be deliberately withheld until it would be too late to prevent the meeting, the noble lord ought not to have been a party to so fearful a risk. The noble Lord was also a party to the reappointment to the magistracy of Mr. Nixon of Fermanagh, who had outraged the feelings of the Catholics of Ireland by insulting their religion with a piece of low Orange ribaldry, as well as of other magistrates, whose unfitness for their position was proved by the fact that the Government had since been compelled to remove their names from the commission. The noble Lord was also a party to the appointment of the Earl of Lucan to the Lord 1038 Lieutenancy of Mayo, immediately after he had offered a gross insult to a bench of Irish magistrates. The Earl of Lucan had also refused a grant to the Sisters of Charity—a class regarded with respect and esteem by persons of all religious creeds—a site for a convent in the town of Castlebar. Such a request had not been refused in any other part of Ireland; and even Protestants, who were most determined opponents of Catholicism, had cheerfully subscribed to the support of these establishments. The Earl of Lucan was, however, immediately rewarded for his conduct by an appointment to the Lord Lieutenancy; and in this appointment the noble Lord who was then Secretary for Ireland acquiesced. That noble Lord (the Earl of Saint Germans), therefore, if not a prime mover in these manifestations of hostility to the Irish people, was at least particeps criminis. He distinguished himself again with reference to the monstrous evictions on the Gerrard property. Although that noble Lord could be eloquent in expatiating on the crimes of the Irish peasantry, he passed very lightly over the crimes of the Irish landlords. The noble Earl, when alluding to the Gerrard case, said, that though he must deplore such occurrences, the Government could not interfere. Of course, the Government could not interfere so long as the present law remained on the Statute-book; but they could interfere by introducing measures for the protection of the Irish tenantry, by giving an assurance that the landlord should not be allowed to abuse those rights of property which were vested in him by law. The conduct of the Members of the Government in that House was not such as to justify the House in giving them its support in such a measure. The right hon. Secretary for the Home Department, if he had not redeemed his former deeds, had, at any rate, expressed his regret at the language which he had formerly used towards Ireland, and with apparent sincerity had promised measures for the good of Ireland, and had said, that for the future the Irish should be legislated for with reference to Irish views and feelings; but he was contravening his expressed opinion by the support he gave to the measure. But the recollection of his conduct while on the Opposition side of the House bitterly remained in the minds of the people of Ireland. However, they were ready to grasp even at a straw; and now they called upon him and implored of him to show by effective acts that he was 1039 sincere in his repentance; and that he adhered in fact as well as words to a new line of policy. As to the First Lord of the Treasury, he had not made the same declarations. It might be from a difference of temperament; but whatever it was, the effect was unfortunate, as thereby there was nothing to turn the minds of the Irish people from a bitter review of that right hon. Gentleman's consistent hostility of conduct. When he commenced his Secretaryship in Ireland, he set about a most unjust and tyrannical prosecution of the press; and during his holding that office, the Orange system gained the greatest influence, which was attributed to him. But he (Mr. J. O'Connell) did not charge him with it, because he had not facts before him on which he could establish such a case. He believed, however, when the right hon. Baronet was Secretary for Ireland, the system was established under which almost every young Protestant gentleman in that country, immediately on his coming of age, was induced to be sworn in an Orangeman. The right hon. Baronet had shown a strong sympathy for that class on several occasions, and had talked of their superabounding in loyalty; but, at any rate, while in Ireland, he was always connected with them. He was strictly mixed up also with the unhappy Castlereagh, the bigot Sidmouth, and the bigot Eldon, and other enemies of Ireland, and gave his constant support to them. He also for a long series of years had opposed all concessions to the Catholics, and never gave way until the force of circumstances compelled him to do so; and then he said that his feelings and convictions were against it, and clogged the measure with the most offensive and obnoxious restrictions. Such conduct could not but have its effect on the minds of the people of Ireland. No one could forget his conduct while in opposition. In the year 1833, when the Whigs proposed their Coercion Bill, it was he who cheered them on—it was he who made speeches in favour of the measure, exciting passion and prejudice, raking from their obscurity tales of bygone outrage, which he detailed with admirable dramatic effect, highly wrought theatrical gesture, and a well-assumed display of intensity of feeling, all admirably calculated to produce their effect upon the feelings of the Parliament. Since that time, every measure proposed for the benefit of Ireland had received the right hon. Baronet's opposition. A miserable corporate reform bill 1040 had been mutilated by him and by his party. He was one of those who cheered on a noble Lord who had gone to another place—he meant Lord Stanley—in his gross and infamous attack on the political rights of the Irish electorate. He it was who described the Bill of that noble Lord as a measure "absolutely necessary and indispensable," and yet who was the first, when it had answered the end of annoying the then Whig Administration, to throw it overboard as wholly unnecessary, and as a Bill most easily to be dispensed with. The people of Ireland could not, then, but remember the wrongs they had received from the right hon. Baronet; and his conduct respecting that Bill revived the recollection of those wrongs with fresh and greatly increased bitterness. His countrymen knew that the right hon. Baronet, while Januslike smiling on them with unwonted liberality in that House, yet in Ireland was exercising, through his agents, coercive tyranny, despotism, and injustice, never, he believed, to be forgotten. When these, then, were the men to administer this Bill—men who were guilty themselves, in their own acts, but still more so by the license they had given their reckless and malignant subordinates in Ireland—was it too much to say that, setting aside all points of detail, the very fact of this Government being in office was a sufficient reason for spurning this most injurious measure? But let the House seriously consider well the facts connected with the measure. Where was the necessity for it—where was it proved to be required? Had the powers of the Government been fairly tested and found to be of none effect? If they had, he for one, viewing with disgust the hideous crimes which a small portion of the people of Ireland were in the habit of committing, should have felt it is his duty to offer no opposition. But he most distinctly and utterly denied that the Government had used such powers. They possessed the great power of issuing a Special Commission. They had only tried the effect of that power in the single case of Bryan Seery. In that case, if the Commission did not overshoot the mark, as some suppose, they certainly did not fall short of it. The Government got a conviction, and they executed their man; what more did they want? He would not say that in that case an innocent man had paid the atonement (though there was certainly a very strong feeling on that point in Ireland), but he mentioned it to show that, rightly or wrongly, the culprit had in 1041 this case suffered the extreme penalty of the law. The Government, no doubt, would declare that the "Special Commission" had in this case "succeeded." Why, then, did they forego that power? On account of the expense or the trouble? Those, surely, were not considerations which should be allowed to weigh against so grave and perilous a step as a suspension of the Constitution. The fact was, that in the present case they had not tried their powers; and until they had fairly tried them, and found them to fail, the Government could scarcely demand to be invested with a new and more despotic authority. But besides this power, they had the provisions of the Whiteboy Acts to put in force. It was, therefore, most unwarrantable, if not criminal, towards that country to endeavour to get these unconstitutional powers. He believed that this measure had been suggested by the undertaker party in Ireland, which had been so long the bane to that country; but he was glad to find that the better portion of that party were shaking off connexien with it, and did not longer look merely to ascendancy. Such persons as the present Irish Solicitor General were opposed to all concessions to the Irish people, and in their hearts distrusted the right hon. Baronet, while at the same time they were making a tool of him. The Government had not touched the causes of crime. They had passed them entirely over. He would ask the House what those causes were? It would be his duty to enter into an explanation of them, not in his own words, but in the words of the records of the House of Commons itself. The outrages which were alleged as the justifications of the Coercion Bill, had their origin directly in the unfortunate state of the law as between landlord and tenant. Outrage on the part of the landlord begot outrage in the tenant, until, in one word, there was nothing less than the relationship of murder between them. The hon. Member quoted, from the Appendix to Lord Devon's Report, the number of ejectments within the period of five years, amounting to nearly 35,000—an aggregate of evil and misery which must necessarily produce the very worst feelings. Chief Justice Pennefather, delivering judgment in "Delapp v. Leonard," in 1843, said—The whole code relating to landlord and tenant in this country was framed with a view to the interests of the landlord alone, and to enforce the payment of the rent by the tenants; the interest of the tenants never entered into the contemplation of the Legislature.1042 Mr. Serjeant Howley, Assistant Barrister, before Lord Devon's Commission, after detailing the several statutes relating to the occupation of land, from 11th Anne to the Civil Bill Ejectment Acts, said—These statutes are all statutes beneficial to the landlord, enlarging the remedy he had at common law, and giving him additional powers, either to obtain his rent, or, in default, to obtain possession of the land." "The civil bill ejectment system I consider more advantageous to the landlord than the tenant: it gives greater facilities and more summary power to the landlord.Mr. Blacker, a barrister under the Insurrection Act, said, before the Lords' Committee, in 1824—"The primary cause of the disorders in Ireland is, the distressed condition of the people." Mr. Serjeant Lloyd, speaking of disturbances in the county Kilkenny, said that they were produced by a combination to prevent the dispossession of old tenants and the admission of new. Major General Bourke, before the Lords' Committee, in 1825, stated as the causes of disturbance, "oppressive measures adopted towards the tenantry, and the pressure of distress." Other witnesses added as causes, the absence or non-residence of landlords, and the tenants being harassed about their votes; and all agreed there was no political object in the peasants' outrages. To turn now to the testimony of an Englishman—one of that favoured nation (as had been well said during the evening) whose opinions would be more respected than those of an Irishman, the Irishman being the only man who was held to be unable either to pronounce an opinion, or to hold an office, or to be entrusted with power in his own country—Mr. Wiggins, an Englishman, who had been a land agent for thirty years, managing most extensive estates in Ireland, and most intimately acquainted with the country, but no friend to Repealers, said, before the Commons' Committee, in 1830—The tenantry are in a low state of serfage; their condition is abject, their treatment haughty, their distance from intercourse with the lords of the soil immense; they are handed over to the tender mercies of agents, whose chief duty is the exaction by every possible means of the highest possible rent, and the mere collection is regarded by their employers as a full discharge of their duties." "Land is so essential in the dense agricultural population, that much beyond the amount of produce will be eagerly offered as rent:" "when the inevitable arrear comes on, further injustice is perpetrated; for instance, the tenant is made to bear all the burden of the poor rate by a refusal to allow any part of it till the last penny of rent is paid—a thing neither probable nor expected." "Does a landlord evince a disposition to let his lands at moderate rents? He is laughed at for 1043 his amiable weakness." "The struggle between the wish of a landlord to be popular, and yet to exact all he can, is often ludicrous enough. 'Give it to the poor man,' said a landlord to his agent, adding, when the poor man was gone, 'you need not do so, nevertheless, you know'—which was overheard by another tenant.He held in his hand an address of thanks from the tenantry of the Marquess of Ormonde to that nobleman; and though he differed from that noble Lord with respect to politics, he must admit that he was a most kind and considerate landlord. But what was the noble Lord praised for in this address? For nothing more than the performance of his strict duties. There was a volume of Irish history in that single fact. If a man was so praised for discharging nothing more than the strict duties of a landlord, did it not come home to the mind of every one that he must be an exception to the general rule, and that the general rule was in Ireland to have a man who did not regard the duties, however strictly he might exercise the rights, of a landlord? He was also in possession of heart-sickening details of exterminations in Ireland, and it would have been his duty, had he risen at any earlier period, to have gone into them; but he would state one case of extreme hardship. The hon. Member here read the details of the case of an individual tenant, who was distrained on in the county of Kilkenny. The man's name was Patrick Ring, tenant on the estate of Richard Shee, of Blackwell Lodge. This was a most atrocious case. A landlord, to get rid of a tenant, sued him for rent which was not due: this unjust claim was defeated; but the landlord, having the longer purse, was able again and again to try his luck, until at last he got a complaisant jury, who gave a verdict against the tenant. He then distrained the whole of his stock, even his seed for clover and potatoes; and to render the matter worse this was done in the spring of the year, when the tenant must have suffered from it the most severely. Notwithstanding all this, such was the energy and industry of this poor man, that he at last cleared off the tremendous arrear of law costs, with the exception of a single pound, which remained over due. The man was hunted for this pound; he had nothing in his house, and the landlord actually took measures to prevent victuals coming in, by punishing the compassionate neighbours who attempted to afford relief. At length when the suffering of the poor creature's wife and family had reached a point of terrible intensity, he 1044 broke from the house, armed with a pitchfork, and kept off the bailiffs, till he was able to get in some of his own potatoes. For this, he was prosecuted and thrown into prison by his landlord, as if for criminal robbery. But this was not a solitary case; the same determination to root out obnoxious tenants had been exemplified in very many cases which were daily and hourly occurring in Ireland. And while the Government had been preparing their unjust and iniquitous Coercion Bill, they had been allowing all these portentous evils to go on every day aggravating in Ireland. They were doing worse than this. They talked of the "moral effect" of this measure. He admitted it would have a moral effect; but it would be a moral effect of a most disastrous nature on the minds of the people of Ireland, in the permanent desperation and alienation of their hearts from this country, which would be caused by the passing of this Bill. Another most disastrous effect would be produced by it. Those wholesale evictions of tenantry would be encouraged; for they had become twice as flagrant and as rife since this Bill had been passed in the Upper House. He had it on most undoubted authority—which would probably receive confirmation from the reports made to the Government offices in Ireland—that the landlords of that class who might be called exterminators, who had been heretofore restrained to some extent, by the wild law of criminal revenge, which was almost the only restraint upon these outrageous proceedings, had now been encouraged by the prospect of the power that this Bill would give them in keeping down and coercing the people. Hence it was that these exterminations had been going on to an extent such as had never been known in Ireland. Within a few weeks the Cork Examiner had given lists of the families and individuals ejected from their holdings; and they were numerous beyond precedent. From the Gerrard property, 80 families and 457 individuals had been ejected; from Sir Francis Hopkins's, 37 families and 218 individuals; from a Mr. Tuthill's estate, 9 families and 53 individuals; and from two other properties, 95 families and 270 individuals, respectively; being a total of 1,271 human beings, who, in the course of a few weeks, had been disposed of like cattle, exterminated like vermin. There was the moral effect of the Coercion Bill; these were its first fruits; for the moment it had passed the other House, these scenes began to be 1045 enacted. Government might use what effects they could to patch up the discordant elements into which their once compact majority had been broken, in order to force the passing of this obnoxious measure; but on them would rest the responsibility for its fearful consequences, though the grief, and misery, and desperation, must fall upon poor Ireland. But he contended that this Bill would be utterly inefficient for the ends it professed to answer. This was proved by all former experience of Coercion Bills and Insurrection Acts. In support of this statement, the hon. Member read extracts from the evidence given before various Parliamentary Committees, from 1822 downwards. The only effect of the Bill would be more effectually to expose the poor peasant to the persecution of that army of spies, informers, and hunters, called the police, whom Government thus encouraged and fostered. The right hon. the Secretary of War had defended the Bill, because it had been asked for by the magistrates in some of the Irish counties; but though it was natural for men having difficult duties to perform to beg for an accession of power, that was no argument whatever why the Government should listen to their addresses, and violate the Constitution to satisfy them. The same right hon. Gentleman had accused the Irish Members of pursuing a line of conduct in opposition to this Bill, which tended to foster and encourage what had been called the "wild justice of revenge" amongst the Irish peasants. He thought that their words should be measured in such a debate as the present, and every allowance should be made for excited feelings. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman had intended to make use of any such words; they had dropped from him in an unguarded moment. Before concluding, he was bound to state shortly, but distinctly, his view of the remedies that ought to be applied to the state of Ireland. He had attacked the landlords; but he readily confessed that they were in some measure victims of a system as well as the tenants. The extreme pressure of population in Ireland upon the land alone, as the only means of subsistence, gave rise to that life-and-death bidding against each other for land on the part of the peasantry, that offered so irresistible a temptation, and almost a necessity, to the landlord to accept the most extravagant offer. Poor creatures, anxious to prolong existence by even one year more of struggle, would offer the most extrava- 1046 gant and impossible rents to get a holding. Now, were there manufactures in the country, there would be other means of employment and subsistence than on land. The subletting system, which had been so much condemned, could not be put an end to except by drawing the surplus population away from the land, and giving them those other employments which every country, in a right economical condition, ought to be able to give its population. If their commerce and manufactures had increased, as they were doing when their Parliament was taken away from them, there would not have been the numerous crimes which they had seen in connexion with land. Another remedy was a tax on absentees. It was truly monstrous, at such a time particularly, to have men draining away such enormous rents from Ireland without any return. These might be only partial remedies; but the Irish Members had a general and a comprehensive remedy in Repeal, which would give the absentees a reason and an inducement to remain at home, which would cause the money of Ireland to be spent and circulated at home, and so renovate industry and enterprize, and which would bring local knowledge and good-will to the difficult task of Irish legislation. But if that House would not hear of Repeal, they at least ought to take up the partial remedies he was suggesting. The relations between landlord and tenant must be settled on an equitable basis. He did not want them to apply to that settlement any theory or any untried plan whatever. He did not even want them to adopt the bold and successful, but somewhat arbitrary measures, by which Stein and Hardenberg had made the Prussian people peaceful and prosperous. There was a custom existing in Ireland itself—in Ireland's most prosperous province, tested by long experience—he meant the tenant right. Why not adopt that? The only objection he considered to have even the semblance of strength was, that the incoming tenant impoverished himself by the moneys he paid to the outgoer. But in nine cases out of ten, the man came from a holding for the giving up of which he had himself received a sum of money; and so was able to pay for his new tenancy. Even at the worst, however, his case was not worse than that of the tenant under the other system which prevailed in other parts of Ireland. The tenant in the south was as poor as man could be, and as wretched; but such was not the case in the northern 1047 counties where the landlords allowed and respected the tenant right. Eminent among this better class of landlords was the Marquess of Londonderry; and he had great gratification in bearing his testimony to that effect. He would just give one extract to show the kind of objection made to the tenant right:—Captain George D. Cranfield, agent to Powers-court estate, county Tyrone (p. 848, Devon Commission):—35. Is the tenant right, or sale of good will, prevalent in the district, and is it recognised by the landlord? It is prevalent, and the landlord is aware of it, and does not object to it. It is to a very great extent upon the Benburb estate.—36. What in your opinion is the effect of the custom? I think there is a manifest benefit to the tenant; and I think in some respects a benefit to the landlord, and in others a disadvantage. I think with respect to the landlord, his rent is always secured. In other places, if the tenant is threatened with an ejectment, he gathers up every thing he can and runs away. Under this system I know the tenants are most anxious, if served with an ejectment, to make a settlement at once. I think the advantage to the landlord is the security of his rent. If a tenant does go away, there are many ready to pay up the arrears. On the other hand, there is a bar to improvement; if the landlord wishes, for example, to get gentry upon his estate, how is he to do it? He must purchase his estate and make a good large farm for a respectable person to reside upon, without either breaking the custom or repurchasing his estate over again. He could not put eight or ten tenants out.Why what was this but the very thing they all in that House were anxious to prevent—viz., the clearance of estates—the throwing out numbers of poor creatures without fault of their own, that all their small holdings might be lumped together to make one large farm for an individual. In fact, the evidence was almost unanimous in favour of this right; and there was no valid objection to it which did not apply with tenfold force to the prevailing system in other parts of the country. As had been said by one of the witnesses before Lord Devon's Commission, but for the existence of the tenant right in Ulster there would be a Tipperary in the county of Down.—The hon. Member concluded by thanking the House for the patience with which they had listened to him in the discharge of what he conceived to be a solemn and imperative duty.
§ Debate adjourned to Monday.
§ House adjourned at half-past One o'clock.