§ On the Order of the Day being read for resuming the Adjourned Debate upon this Bill,
§ MR. M'CARTHY
said: At this stage of the debate it is not my intention to trouble the House with long statistical details to prove what is the present condition of Ireland. In endeavouring to find a remedy for a great and admitted evil, the first consideration which naturally presents itself is the origin of the evil. Member after Member has risen in this House and has declared—and the statement has not been denied—that those outrages have their origin in agrarian causes—that they flow from that unhappy connexion which exists between the owners and the occupiers of the soil. What is the remedy which the Government proposes for the disease? The alleged object of the present Bill is to prevent crime, and to detect it when committed. 1085 The first object, I fear, will not be accomplished, for it is a lamentable characteristic of those outrages that they are committed for the greater part in the noon-day. Unlike other delinquents, the perpetrators of these outrages seek not the covert of night. They are for the most part strangers to the locality where the crimes are committed, and are men of the most reckless character. The Government may succeed in locking up the peaceful inhabitants of Ireland from sunset to sunrise; but can they prevent those daring men meeting in the lonely glen or the mountain heath to concoct their schemes of blood? As to the detection of crime when committed, I think the Bill will be equally inefficacious. At present Government offers great rewards for the detection of offenders, and yet complains that it is unable to procure evidence. Is it to be imagined that the levying of the proposed rate on the inhabitants of a disturbed district will hold out a greater inducement to give evidence, than the high rewards already offered by the Government? I disapprove in toto of the levying of such a rate in Ireland, and fear that if it be persisted in, the foundations of property will be shaken to their very basis. Sir, the more I reflect upon this Bill—the more I consider its inadequacy to secure the objects which it purports to have in view—the more thoroughly persuaded I became that it has not originated with or been shaped and fashioned by either of the right hon. Baronets opposite. It wants that fitness for its object, it lacks that adaptation of means to the end, which shows the hand of the master. But I think I can trace it to its source; I believe I can point out the hands by which it has been wrought. Sir, it is the misfortune of the Irish Administration, and not merely of the present, but of almost every Administration which has preceded it, that the government of that country is not conducted by statesmen, but is a government of law officers. You send over to Ireland a chief governor. It may be some English nobleman, who had spent his life in the innocent occupations of a country gentleman; it may be some gallant soldier, distinguished for his bravery in the field; or it is perhaps some veteran diplomatist, accustomed to the intrigues of courts, and inured to all the tedious processes of protracted negotiations; but, one and all, they arrive in that country totally unacquainted with it, knowing nothing of its people, of their character, their wants, their feelings, their passions, their 1086 prejudices—of all those elements which must enter into the consideration of any man who would govern a people. To assist such a Lord Lieutenant, you send over a chief secretary, gifted with the same negative accomplishments. They arrive in Ireland, and they must endeavour to obtain information—they must take counsel. Then present themselves the law officers of the Crown—the Attorney General, the Solicitor General, and the counsel to the Castle. These are gentlemen who, having breathed for so long a time the pure air of the courts of law, must be supposed to have purged off all party heats and sectarian prejudices, and become enamoured of impartial justice. They are men deeply read in the history of Ireland, as that history is to be seen in penal statutes and the criminal code. They are perfectly conversant with the grievances of the people, and the modes of redressing them, as they are to be found in Insurrection Acts, Whiteboy Acts, Coercion Acts, and the State Trials. They are men, too, of elevated views. They have their eyes continually fixed on a lofty object—the Bench. Towards that object they advance with a steadiness and resolution not to be shaken; and, whilst gazing on that high eminence, it would be unreasonable to expect that they should take note or observation of the inferior objects which are passing around them. Such are the men, and such their accomplishments, to whom, as it were by the necessity of things, the government of Ireland is committed. In a dark chamber of Dublin Castle these worthies meet—Brontesque, Steropesque, et nudus, membra Pyracmon.There the armour of the Irish Government is to be furbished up, there is forged the rod with which Ireland is to be ruled. It is stated "the people are complaining of grievances, they are combining, confederating, assembling, and calling aloud for redress." "Give them a State prosecution," says Brontes. But some evil-disposed persons in the agricultural districts are searching for and robbing arms. "Give them an Arms Bill," says Steropes, "in order that they may know where the arms are to be found." But the landlords are exercising the extreme rights of property, they are asserting their right to do as they will with their own. In a season of great pressure and privation, they are turning thousands, houseless and despairing, upon the world. Some of the wretched tenants, stung to madness by suffering, are wreaking a horrible 1087 vengeance upon the supposed authors of their misery. "Let them have a Coercion Bill by all means," cries Pyracmon. And so it is, State prosecutions, Arms Bills, Coercion Acts, these things are all in the line of those legal gentlemen: and "try what you please, but there's nothing like leather." Out of that forge in Dublin Castle came the great State prosecution, which was to have "fulmined" over Ireland, and stricken down all agitation and all remonstrance. Out of that forge came the Arms Bill, which the Government watched over, and cherished with all the fondness of the projectors of a great invention. Of that "spent thunderbolt" I shall say nothing; its inventors admit it to have been "brutum fulmen." And now, Sir, out of the same laboratory issues forth the measure at present before us. It came from the workshop a very formidable-looking weapon. In its passage through another place, it was somewhat shorn of its terrific splendours, but it still retains all the native baseness of the metal out of which it has been wrought. And now I understand that the Pyracmon of the Irish Government has come over, "nudus membra," stripped to the work, for the purpose of watching and repairing the further mutilations which it may suffer; but, unfortunately neither he nor any of his brother Cyclopians have been as yet able to establish their anvil within the House. Sir, having traced this measure to its source I am not surprised at its character, or at its inadequacy to effect the object which it purports to have in view. Now it is said that this question of outrage in Ireland should not be mixed up with political considerations; and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War has entreated us to abstain from such topics, in a tone of deprecation which strongly reminds me of the remonstrance of Falstaff when upbraided with his delinquencies—No more of that, an thou lov'st me, Hal.Now, Sir, I admit that those outrages have not their immediate source in politics; but yet, in one sense, they may be said to have some connection with them. The exertion which might be made by a people contented with its political position is stayed, the energy which such a people might put forth for the suppression of those outrages is paralysed, by the heavy weight of political grievances. Depend upon it you cannot hope to govern Ireland, either for the benefit of that country or the advantage of 1088 the Empire, except through the affections of the great body of the people. What have you done to obtain that affection? You withheld Emancipation until that measure lost all its grace and much of its value—until it appeared to be, not a voluntary offering to justice, but a sacrifice to necessity. That was not suited to obtain for you the affection of the Irish people. When you gave a large reform to England and Scotland, you grudgingly dealt out a stinted measure to Ireland. That could not win you their affection. You reformed the municipal institutions of the Scotch and English; for five years you refused any reform to the Irish; and when at length you did consent to reform the corporations of Ireland, you still refused to place them upon an equal footing with the English or the Scotch. Surely, that could not win you Irish affection. You found in Ireland a great ecclesiastical Establishment which had once belonged to the nation, but which English power handed over to a small minority, one-eleventh of the people. You refused to touch that Establishment, to pare down its excess, or devote any part of its surplus revenues to national purposes; and there it stands to the present hour a monument of our subjection, and of your misgovernment—a monument which is pointed to by the whole civilized world, as the evidence of your injustice and misrule. That could not possibly gain you the affection of the Irish people; and then when that people complain of those grievances, and despairing of obtaining redress from you, assemble and associate for the purpose of obtaining that redress by the only means which seem to them likely to ensure it—you institute a prosecution against their leader—against the man whom they look upon as the instrument through whom they have obtained whatever of good has as yet been conceeded to them. You conduct that prosecution by means which I will not characterize; you procure a sentence, and you proceed to inflict that sentence, which the highest tribunal in the Empire declared to have been illegal and unjust. Surely that was not calculated to gain you the affection of the Irish people. But you did more. When you entered upon the government of the country, you found upon the bench of magistrates many men whom your predecessors had placed there, because of their station in the country, and their sympathies with the people; and because those men gave utterance to their sympathies, and because they joined the people in their demand 1089 for redress, you removed them from the Bench, and left the people to look for justice to tribunals where they were sure to see none but those who had ever been opposed to them in religion and politics. Such has been your policy in Ireland. The state of that country under your rule has been an alternation from the frenzy of excitement to the languor of exhaustion. You have sometimes applied a salve to the wound, but you at the same time administered an irritant to the constitution; and when your treatment has produced madness, you explain, "the disease is a malady natural to the patient." Now, Sir, when I reflect upon these matters, I cannot bring myself to believe that you do these things wittingly. And the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government occasionally lets fall sentiments in regard to Ireland, which sometimes give rise in my bosom to some passing gleam of hope. And I admit that if I were to listen to the soothing speeches of the right hon. Baronet, or if I were to permit myself to be led away by the honeyed words and engaging smiles of the Secretary for the Home Department, I might possibly be led to entertain some faint hope, that some, at least, of the grievances of Ireland would be redressed. But, unfortunately, the Government of the country sits not upon the benches opposite; and the tone which pervades another place forbids me to hope for any large or adequate measure of redress for Ireland. Sir, it sometimes happens to us to be present in another place, where, though we have ears, we must not not hear; but, upon a late occasion, I happened to have "not heard," but seen in a newspaper, sentiments attributed to an illustrious Duke who holds a high place in the Government of the country, and to a noble and learned Lord, who usually performs the part of Mentor to Her Majesty's Ministers, sentiments which, if they are to guide the conduct of Government, must put an end to all hope, in the Irish mind, of redress from your legislation. That noble and learned Lord is stated to have said, that the relation between landlord and tenant in Ireland is a great and crying evil; but then, he says, "You must not interfere with the rights of property—property which distinguishes the civilized from the savage man—you must not touch that sacred thing—you must not prevent the landlord from doing as he willeth with his own." As if, Sir, property and its rights were not all the creatures of society — as if they 1090 were not all derived from that source—as if they, as well as every other right, must not be controlled by the public weal, and prevented from destroying the fountain from which they flow. Sir, I can admit of no rights of property inconsistent with the well-being of the State. Then the noble and learned Lord comes to the Irish Church Establishment, and he says, "it is a great anomaly—the greatest anomaly in all ecclesiastical history." He says, it is a great evil; he goes further—he says, it is, in his opinion, the greatest evil under which Ireland labours. But then, he adds, the evil is so great, the anomaly is so enormous, that you cannot remove it. This is an appalling announcement to Ireland. But, then, the noble Lord has some consolation in store—he would not drive us to despair—he has prepared a measure for shortening the common forms of leases, and curtailing the verbiage of Irish mortgages. Sir, if, when grievances are palpable and patent, we are to be told that they must not be redressed, because of their greatness and extent—if our just remonstrances against admitted evils are to be encountered by the paltry contrivances becoming a Lincoln's Inn conveyancer—if the complaints of the people are continually and for ever to be met by coercive enactments—if such be the maxim of your Government, perhaps you have force and power enough to assert your authority over the land of Ireland; but over its inhabitants you never can. You may follow the example of Elizabeth, and desolate the soil—you may act upon the principles of Strafford, whose maxim was, "Thorough and thorough"—you may make a solitude, and reign amidst it, but over a people you will never rule. You know not the people with whom you are about to deal. You are as unacquainted with their character as you seem to be with their grievances and the mode of redressing them. Allow me, then, to call your attention for a moment to the estimate of that character, which has been formed by an illustrious foreigner, a great and philosophic historian of our own day, one who—Hiving wisdom with each studious year,has devoted his deep erudition, and lent the light of his surpassing talents, to illustrate the history of the nations which now form the population of these kingdoms. Monsieur Augustin Thierry, speaking of the Irish people, says—It is a sad thing, but one well worthy of remark, that blood is shed in Ireland, in our days, 1091 for the old quarrel of the conquest. Since the days of the invasion, that race of men has constantly willed that which their conquerors willed not, detested what they loved, and loved what they detested. This indomitable obstinacy, this faculty of preserving throughout ages of misery the recollection of their lost liberty, and of never despairing of a cause always beaten, always fatal to those who dared to defend it, is, perhaps, the most strange, and the grandest example which a people has ever given.Let not that testimony of a foreigner to the character of the Irish people be lost upon you. A people whom you have beaten, but not vanquished—whom you have overthrown, but never subdued. Take counsel, before you drive that people to the conviction that, from your legislation, though they may have much to fear, they can have nothing to hope. The history of your party, the whole course of your policy, has been an assertion that Ireland was unfit to participate in the privileges of Britons. You have treated it as a country unworthy of freedom; and you sought to govern its people as an inferior race. The noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen who are now absent from this debate, but who, when English questions are under discussion usually sit upon these benches, and who some years since held in their hands the government of the country, and at one period wielded a majority in this House, even greater than that which you have possessed; they, too, tampered with the liberties of Ireland, and from that hour I date their fall. You have admitted that Ireland is "your great difficulty:" by this Bill you are about to render it your impossibility. Upon that Irish rock, Administration after Administration has gone to pieces. Each in its turn has left its sting in the Irish mind—Animasque in vulnere ponunt.Believe me, if you would govern the Empire, you must do right to Ireland. I call upon you to look at our country, not as a battle-ground upon which your adverse parties are to contend for pre-eminence; but to regard her as a portion of this great Empire—a portion upon whose welfare must depend the well-being of the whole. You have tried menace—you have tried coercion from time to time—you have exhausted all the resources of force and penal legislation: have you ever tried simple justice? Even at this the eleventh hour be not afraid to retrace your steps; be not ashamed to turn from injustice to justice; do right and fear not. Sir, I have entered this House, unconnected with either of the 1092 great parties which divide it. With neither Whig nor Tory have I any ties. I belong to an ancient race, whom all your parties have in turn persecuted and proscribed. When you first entered Ireland you found them powerful, and in the exercise of authority. After a series of conflicts, continued throughout centuries, you succeeded in beating them down. And now, for the first time, after a lapse of 200 years, one of their descendants has the privilege of holding a seat in the great Council of the country. Sir, I make these remarks in order that you may understand the feelings and the sentiments which I represent, and the position in which circumstances have placed me. And now I beg to assure the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government that I have witnessed with great admiration the firmness and decision with which, upon another question, he has shaken himself loose from all party ties. I have observed that where the great commercial interests of this country were at stake, he has disregarded all those considerations which sway and control ordinary minds—he has disregarded them for the purpose of securing what appears to him to be a great national good; and he has shown a wisdom and ability in his project of redress which, in my opinion, ought to obtain for him the approbation of posterity. Now, then, I call upon the right hon. Baronet to exhibit the same firmness and the same ability in dealing with the wrongs of my country. I ask him not to follow in the traces of others; I call upon him not to tread in their footsteps, or to adopt their half measures; but let him take the same comprehensive view of Irish grievances which he has done of commercial burdens; let him be his own example; and having supplied the wants of commerce, let him turn to the social and political evils of Ireland, and there emulate himself.
MR. H. J. BAILLIE
could not understand why so much opposition had been made to the first reading of the present Bill. He considered that Government would not be justified in bringing forward any such measure, unless they were prepared to prove that they were acting from a paramount necessity. The question was, had the Government made out a case of necessity? Hon. Gentlemen opposite denied that they had done so, and several of them had gone so far as to assert that there was a greater amount of crime in England than in Ireland. But the question was not as to the amount of crime, but as to the impunity 1093 with which it is committed in Ireland and the difficulty of bringing the criminal to trial. No one had ever ventured to assert that the people of England sympathized with the assassin, or screened him from justice, or that witnesses were deterred from giving evidence for fear of their lives. Objections had been taken to the details of the measure; but these ought properly to be considered in Committee, and ought not to deter them from affirming the principle of the Bill by reading it a first time. It had been said by those who were opposed to the Bill that it ought to have been accompanied with some remedial measures. He wished that those who constantly called for remedial measures would have the kindness to state what in their opinion were the particular measures which the state of Ireland required. If they would do so, he thought it would very soon appear that considerable difference of opinion existed among hon. Gentlemen opposite on the subject. The hon. Member for Stroud and the hon. Member for Finsbury were both of opinion that a new system of Poor Laws, giving extensive out-of-door relief, ought to be the foundation of any remedial measure. But the hon. and learned Member for Cork was opposed to any such measure. Others maintained that fixity of tenure, and a heavy tax on absentee landlords, formed the panacea for Ireland; while another called on Government to bring forward a measure to remedy the defects in the law of landlord and tenant. Where such a difference of opinion existed, it was not easy to see how Government could bring forward any measure that would be likely to reconcile these discordant opinions, or that would be cordially supported by the representatives of the Irish people. If any new system of Poor Law should be introduced, he hoped it would impose a much heavier tax on absentee proprietors than that to which they were now subjected. But what he complained of was, that the hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were constantly calling out for justice to Ireland, would not give the House an opportunity of considering the measures which they thought calculated to obtain that object. But as long as the Members for Ireland continued in the course they were at present pursuing, they should not be surprised if their motives were misinterpreted by the people of England, or that a colour should be given to those charges which had been made against them, of indifference to the real welfare of 1094 Ireland, and of taking advantage of the present condition of that country, as a means of furthering political agitation.
§ COLONEL VERNER
would not attempt to follow the hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side, who addressed the House on the history of Ireland; he could not avoid entering, however briefly, on a defence of the landlords of Ireland, in order to remove those imputations which had been cast upon them. In doing so, he would confine himself to that part of Ireland with which he was more immediately connected, and with which he was best acquainted. He could say from his own personal knowledge there was not in any country a class of persons who were more interested in the happiness, the prosperity, the welfare, and the comfort of their tenantry, than were the landed proprietors of the province of Ulster. He could take upon him to say, that their principal study was, how they could best benefit their tenantry. He would appeal to those who ever travelled through the north of Ireland, if they would not admit that the general appearance of that province, the neatness of the cottages of the people, the comfort of the farmers and their children, were not so apparent as at once to indicate the kindness and indulgence of the landlords and resident gentry, or in their absence the active exertions of their agents, who manifest that care and attention which were well calculated to promote the interest of their employers and the advantages of the poorer classes. He did not, however, hesitate to admit that there were cases of hardship, of uncalled-for severity upon the part of some landlords, but such cases were generally to be found in other parts of Ireland; it was, therefore, unfair and unjust that the conduct of such persons should be visited on the whole of the landlords of Ireland. But suppose the charge did apply in its fullest extent to every landlord in Ireland—would that palliate or justify the crime of murder? It was very easy for persons to throw all the blame on the landlords; but if persons would reflect a little, they might soon discover other and stronger reasons for crime in Ireland than any misconduct on their part. There existed at that moment a numerous, widely-spread, and well-organized body in that country, and which had existed to his certain knowledge for upwards of forty years, and which it could be proved, beyond all doubt, existed many years before; a body which, while it appeared under different forms and designations, 1095 had ever the same object in view—the extermination of Protestants. ["No, no!"] He would say, "Yes!" and he could, if necessary, prove it to the House by evidence the most incontrovertible. On a former occasion the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government was represented as having stated that the crimes in Ireland had not their origin either in a religious or sectarian character; and that assertion was iterated by the hon. and learned Member for Cork; for to that hon. and learned Gentleman that declaration was too valuable to be omitted; he was of too quick discernment not to know its importance, and give to it its full weight. The hon. and learned Gentleman declared in that House, and in presence of the press of England, that however persons might assume that the disturbances in Ireland had a political or a sectarian character, that the Government had decided to the contrary. The Government might have made that declaration; but he denied its accuracy; and he would in that House, and before the press of England, give to that statement his most unqualified contradiction. If there were nothing of a religious or sectarian character in the outrages committed, why was it that in ninety-nine cases out of one hundred, the persons who were brought forward and charged with their commission, were, in almost every instance, Roman Catholics? Were not, he would ask, those crimes generally committed in the open day, and in the presence of hundreds, not one of whom would advance to arrest the hand of the assassin, nor would they come forward to give evidence on behalf of the injured party? Such being the facts of the case, how could any one take on him to say, that there was nothing of a religious or party character in the outrages of Ireland? Had the Government had recourse to strong, vigorous and decisive measures, and had they done so in the proper time, his firm belief was, that it would have prevented those calamities which involved families in the loss of friends and relatives; and which measures, if rigorously enforced, would have rendered the present Bill totally unnecessary. He could not help alluding to an observation which was made on a former night by the hon. Member for the city of Limerick, who declared, that the Irish Members were determined to embarrass the Government by every means the usages of Parliament permitted; and that they would do so even at the cost of the increase of crime, so as to 1096 effect the permanent suppression of the Bill before the House. The only construction he (Colonel Verner) could put on such language was, that the Irish Members were determined to oppose every measure which had for its object the protection of the lives and properties of the Protestants of Ireland. The hon. Member for Cork stated in that House that crime was not diminishing, and that the question was, what was the proper course which ought to be adopted to prevent its increase. He (Colonel Verner) would state what, in his opinion, was that course which ought to be adopted, in order to the prevention of crime. He would put down all agitation and agitators. He would suppress all societies, associations, and particularly those meetings, the object of which was to circulate throughout the country pernicious principles—principles which kept the people at variance—which promoted disunion and hatred. That was the course he would pursue, and that was the course which ought to be adopted; and were such a course adopted, peace and tranquillity would be the result. He would again repeat, that he did not think there was a more praiseworthy body of men on the face of the earth than the landlords of Ireland; and he was sure such was the general feeling of all whose opinion was worth anything in Ireland: such, he knew, was the opinion of several of the Judges on the bench—men who had the best opportunity of knowing the actual state of that country—who were well acquainted with it in all its relations. Really to benefit Ireland, let there be an end to that mistaken conciliation—let there be an end to uncalled-for concession. Had not every attempt at conciliation and concession been met by fresh insult, by contempt and scorn? In support of his assertion the hon. and gallant Member read an extract from the Nation, an organ of the Roman Catholic body in Ireland, which stated the alienation of the whole mass of that country to the existing institutions, a deep and strong hostility to the forms of that Government under which they lived, a feeling of hostility which was rather gaining strength than diminishing. Such the thanks, such the feeling, and such the gratitude manifested for every endeavour to conciliate Ireland. He would also advert to a petition from the Repeal Wardens of Wexford, which was presented to that House, which petition was printed with the Votes. He would like to know whether that House 1097 acknowledged the Repeal Wardens of Ireland as such? If it did, it should also acknowledge the meeting held in Conciliation Hall; it should acknowledge that Parliament sitting in Dublin; and if all these things were acknowledged, the sooner the Union was repealed the better.
§ MR. JOHN O'BRIEN
, in reference to the observations made by the hon. and gallant Member, begged to observe, that his only object was to avail himself of the privileges of the House to prevent the passing of a temporary measure, that there might be adopted some remedy which would permanently and effectually lead to the suppression of crime in Ireland.
§ MR. HAWES
could not concur with the hon. and gallant Member for Armagh, in his recommendation of what he called strong and vigorous measures to put down agitation and agitators in Ireland. The hon. and gallant Member belonged to a party that might by this time, he thought, have gathered some wisdom from past experience, for they must have seen how little good those strong and vigorous measures had ever produced. He rose principally to make a few remarks on the grounds which had been advanced in favour of the Bill. The question he had to consider was, whether he could give his consent to the first reading of the measure, or whether he ought to vote for the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Cork, admitting the existence of the outrages, but affirming that they would be aggravated rather than removed by the Bill. He could affirm positively that the measure was considered to be of a decidedly unconstitutional character by many hon. Members upon his side of the House, and one which nothing could justify but a clear and proved necessity. Had that necessity been made out by Her Majesty's Government? It was upon this point he meant to take his stand; and he meant to tell the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department that, in his opinion, he had not made out a case to justify a departure from the ordinary laws of the kingdom, and resort to a coercive power. He understood that this Bill had been founded upon what the right hon. Baronet called an increase of crime in Ireland; and in making his statements the right hon. Baronet referred to two classes of crime; one reported by the stipendary magistracy, and the other by the police force. The reports from the first body related to crimes detected; and from the latter, in many cases, to undetected 1098 cases. This rendered it very difficult to ascertain the real amount of crime committed. The right hon. Gentleman had laid upon the Table certain Returns in reference to the number of criminal offenders committed for trial in 1845; and from those returns he (Mr. Hawes) should quote, because in reference to their accuracy there could not be any dispute. Upon referring to the criminal returns which had been laid upon the Table, he found that the year 1845 presented a considerable decrease in the number of committals in Ireland, as compared with the preceding year. The decrease was, in fact, no less than 1405, and which extended to all classes of crime, as well those comprising the gravest offences as those of a lesser description. What did those Returns show? Why, as regarded Class 1, or crimes against the public peace, there had been a decrease of eleven per cent in 1845, as compared with the preceding year. In the offences against property, there had been a slight increase in 1845. The right hon. Baronet then went on to the more serious and more aggravated offences, and stated that in 1844 the offences against the person with violence, were 5,400 odd; and in 1845 they amounted to 4,000 odd. Then, as regarded the crime of murder, he stated emphatically that according to the returns there had been a decrease of 28 per cent in 1845, as compared to 1844; whilst the decrease in the crime of attempt at murder, during the same period, amounted to 53½ per cent. Upon that general view of the question, undoubtedly, no one would ever attempt to found the necessity for a Coercion Bill. But the right hon. Baronet told them that although crime in Ireland might generally have decreased, still in particular counties there had been a great increase; and it was for this reason that he asked for power to proclaim those particular counties in which this increase had taken place. Now, if the right hon. Baronet had shown an increase of crime in these districts, he would have made out a case for the passing of the Bill, as far as regarded its application to those disturbed counties. But how stood the fact? He (Mr. Hawes) had not selected any individual year, but he had taken a series of years, viz., 1841, 1842, 1843, 1844, and 1845; and he had also taken those counties only mentioned by the right hon. Baronet, viz., Clare, Limerick, Leitrim, Tipperary, and Roscommon; and what did he find were the returns of crime during those 1099 years for these counties? Tipperary was the first he would deal with, and he found that the number of committals for all offences in that county was as follows:—in 1841, 1,584; 1842, 1,282; 1843, 1,720; 1844, 1,280; 1845, 1,508. In Clare, committals for all offences in 1841, 592; 1842, 747; 1843, 757; 1844, 721; 1845, 536. In Roscommon, committals for all offences also: in 1841, 788; 1842, 765; 1843, 713; 1844, 663; 1845, 555. In the county of Limerick, for all offences, the committals were in 1841, 834; 1842, 1,079; 1843, 897; 1844, 767; 1845, 683. In Leitrim, the numbers were, for all classes of offences, in 1841, 416; 1842, 427; 1843, 484; 1844, 317; 1845, 361. At the same time the committals in all Ireland were, in 1841, 20,796; 1842, 21,186; 1843, 20,126; 1844, 19,448; 1845, 16,696; showing a clear decrease of crime, and furnishing no ground of justification for a Coercion Bill. So much for the committals for all offences in the disturbed counties and in Ireland. He then came to the crime of murder, and he would take the same series of years, and the same counties. The cases of murder, where committals had been obtained, were, in Tipperary, in 1841, 22; 1842, 10; 1843, 18; 1844, 21; 1845, 30; showing an increase in this county. In Clare, in 1841, 4; 1842, 52; 1843, 0; 1844, 3; 1845, 4. In Roscommon—they had heard a deal of the disturbance of this county — the number of committals for murder were, in 1841, 4; 1842, 8; 1843, 0; 1844, 10; 1845, 0. In the county of Limerick, in 1841, 10; 1842, 23; 1843, 3; 1844, 3; 1845, 2. And in the county of Leitrim the number of committals for this crime stood as follows:—1841, 1; 1842, 2; 1843, 11; 1844, 2; 1845, 1. So that, as regarded the particular crime of murder in the disturbed counties, there did not appear to be any justification what ever for a measure of this description. Since the period when the returns from which he had quoted had been laid upon the Table of that House other returns of a similar nature had been moved for, by the hon. Member for Liskeard, and obtained; and the latter Paper, in its first page, referred exclusively to what was called outrages reported to the police, many of which, it would be borne in mind, were never investigated, and never came before any tribunal whatever. These reports might or they might not indicate a disturbed state, or that crime was on the increase. He 1100 had, however, endeavoured to ascertain the most unfavourable account of crime, and, consequently, the most favourable one in support of this measure; and he had applied various tests to ascertain the increase of crime, and what was its nature, and especially of that class of crimes with which this Coercion Bill was to deal. The latest Government Returns gave the number of outrages reported to have been committed in Ireland in the years 1842, 1843, 1844, and 1845, against the public peace, against property, and against the person. Adding up the crimes under their several heads, he found the following to be the result—that offences against the person reported by the police, not committals, was, in 1842, 1411; 1843, 1442; 1844, 1700; 1845, 1685—offences against property, reported to the police, in 1842, 2905; 1843, 2140; 1844, 2321; 1845, 2216; showing a steady and continuous falling off of crime. He begged the House to mark the next head—namely, offences against the public peace, as reported to the police. The returns before them showed that these were, in 1842, 2187; 1843, 2352; 1844, 2282; 1845, 4161. Of course, it was natural for any one to ask, how this large increase in this particular crime was to be accounted for. His answer was, that this increase arose entirely from charges of sending threatening letters and notices, the number of which stood thus: in 1842, 1362; 1843, 1312; 1844, 1420; 1845, 2217. Thus it appeared that the increase of crime, if any had taken place, was in a class that the Coercion Bill could not by any possibility reach. He admitted it was a great crime, and the commission of which ought to be met with severe punishment; but he asked, was it sufficient to justify the enactment of the Coercion Bill? That was the only head under which he found an increase of crime; and he asked, was that a case upon which the Government could rest a necessity for a Coercion Bill? It might, however, be said, that there had been a great increase in undetected crime; and, therefore, it was necessary, with a view to detect the offenders, to pass this Bill. He had taken the trouble to ascertain the number of committals and convictions in 1844, and he found that they formed about the same proportion in that year as they had done in previous years; but he was not prepared to state whether, since 1844, intimidation had done more in the way of deterring witnesses from giving their evidence against accused 1101 parties, or juries giving verdicts in their favour; but this he could say, that in 1844 the number of committals was 19,448, and the convictions 8,042, showing a difference of 11,406 between the committals and convictions. In 1845, the committals were 16,696, and the convictions only 7,101, being an excess of committals over convictions of 9,595. There was nothing in those returns to show that the crime of intimidating juries was on the increase. What, then, he asked again, were the grounds for alarm, or the necessity for a Coercion Bill? The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last said, they ought to have recourse to strong measures. They had continually tried such measures. He hardly knew the number of Coercion Bills which had disgraced the Statute-book of the English and Irish Parliament. The hon. Member for Winchester informed him, no less than seventeen had been passed since the Union. He could not consider them as anything else than seventeen blots upon good government. They had had, he would remind the House, the experience of a Government conducting the affairs of Ireland without resorting to strong measures; and it was a Government bitterly opposed, and one which met with obstruction on almost every hand. He referred to the period when Lord Normanby was Lord Lieutenant in Ireland; and he would only refer to the evidence given before the Lords' Committee in 1839, as to the state of Ireland at the time that that noble Lord had the affairs of Ireland in his hands, to show the effects of that noble Lord's government. Captain Vignolles says—That crime had decidedly decreased in Ireland for the last five years—that he has not had many instances of combination against property before him, and has had none at all recently—and that his district is remarkably peaceable.Mr. Hickman, Crown Solicitor for the Connaught Circuit for twenty-five years, says—That it includes the whole province of Connaught, Roscommon, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, and Galway. That the whole circuit has, during the last five years, been in a more tranquil state than previously.Sir Michael O'Loughlin says—That he does not remember Ireland so tranquil as it has been for some time.Mr. Cahill, Sessional Prosecutor in Tipperary, says—The impression upon my mind, without having any written data to go upon, is, that crime has greatly decreased in Tipperary since 1836—that 1102 the county is more quiet than I ever knew it before.Mr. Ford, Sessional Solicitor, for Meath, says—He is perfectly acquainted with the state of crime there; that it has lately diminished there; which diminution is attributable to the improvements in the administration of justice which have been made within the last four years.Mr. Cahill says—That crime would probably be increased by the accession of a Government different in principle from the present.He (Mr. Hawes) thought he had shown, that apart from police and constabulary reports, that the actual amount of crime, as ascertained by the convictions, did not furnish sufficient grounds for giving their sanction to this Bill. He had also pointed out a period when Ireland was in a state of tranquillity without a Coercion Bill; and he had also shown, that since that period crime in Ireland had been diminishing. But when he heard it said that we ought to resort to strong and vigorous measures, he could not help being reminded of a speech made many years ago, in 1814, by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, a speech to which, in 1846, he begged to call his attention. The occasion of its delivery was the proposition by the right hon. Baronet of a Coercion Bill, from which he then expected the happiest results. The right hon. Gentleman anticipated thirty-two years back that by the adoption of some such measure as the present crime would be repressed, and tranquillity would be restored to Ireland. The Bill had been tried, and failed, and a long interval had passed, and still crime and outrages were committed as heretofore, the people were quite as discontented as ever, and the only relief promised was a repetition of the odious measure proposed in 1814. Upon that occasion the right hon. Baronet said—He regretted to state that in those parts of Ireland where the laws had been administered with the greatest severity, where the greatest number of convictions had taken place, the terror arising from those convictions had scarcely survived the cause, when new combinations of a more extensive and dangerous character had obtained birth; and these combinations were carried on with a degree of secrecy which defied the operations of the law as it at present existed. He was satisfied that the measure he proposed would prevent the evils then existing. The measure was upon the report of an extraordinary session of magistrates; the district was to be proclaimed, requiring all persons, from sunrise to sunset to keep within their houses; that no person should be suffered to be drinking in a public-house after nine o'clock; and, finally, if detected 1103 out of their houses after nine without being able to show good cause, they would be considered as idle and disorderly, and be liable to be transported for seven years. They were to be tried by a special sessions, and at the option of the Lord Lieutenant trial by jury was to be dispensed with.The right hon. Gentleman, in proof of the state of Ireland, quoted the horrible practice of carding, and stated that he had a memorial dated November, 1813, signed by thirty-six magistrates of the county of Westmeath, stating that daring outrages were committed in the open day—that assassinations were perpetrated at the places of worship and in the face of a large congregation, without the slightest resistance. Such was the Bill from which the right hon. Baronet anticipated the happiest results. Had they flown from it? In 1846, another measure of a similar character, to meet a like emergency, was in the act of being proposed. He knew it would be said, in defence of the present measure, that there existed undetected crime to such an extent as to make it necessary. But let it be remembered that we have now in Ireland a better police force than ever, that there was a very large military force there, and neither the progress of education nor of temperance must be forgotten. He repeated that he did not believe that the extent of undetected crime now existing in Ireland was greater than at any former period. What then were we to hope from the Bill? The Bill of 1814 was opposed by Mr. Horner, Mr. Whitbread, and the great and good Mr. Romilly, and by all the leaders of the Opposition in those days; and their example animated him (Mr. Hawes) to give his uncompromising opposition to the present measure. At that former period, the great men whom he had mentioned warned the Government that they were pursuing a bad policy, that trouble and discontent would follow, as indeed they had tracked the course of every Coercion Bill, from that time to this. There might be a time in which such a Bill would be necessary; but the case must be clear, strong, and broadly defined. The evidence to that effect, in his opinion, had neither been given in the Return laid upon the Table, or by the right hon. Baronet in his address to the House. Now he did not desire to prolong that debate. He could indeed have wished that his hon. Friends might be disposed to shorten the discussion on that stage of the Bill. Perhaps, if he were an Irish Member he should not be much disposed to listen to a suggestion of that nature from an English Member— 1104 that was a confession which he had made with perfect candour; yet he thought Irish Members had done sufficient to show their sincere devotion to their country, and would probably, by not protracting the debate, rally round them, in common opposition to an unjust and oppressive Bill, more English Members than would be induced to join them, than if they unnecessarily stopped the progress of legislation. By showing a just regard to the general interests of the Empire, they would do more to obtain support in their opposition to this Bill, than by any other course which could be adopted. He made this observation, with feelings of great respect for those Members. He took his stand with them against the Bill; and he thought they were perfectly justified in offering a determined opposition to the first reading. It was not an ordinary Bill; and when it was brought down from the House of Lords, they had full knowledge of its contents. Although the right hon. Gentleman had withdrawn the declaration which he formerly made, still he could not help attaching great weight to the statement, that the first reading of this Bill must have a powerful effect in Ireland. He would add that the opposition which this Bill had encountered, and must still encounter, would rob the Bill of all the value which it could have, even in the estimation of its supporters. If passed into a law—and he firmly believed that those who were at one time anxious that the Bill should pass, began now to see that it was a useless and unnecessary measure—all the moral effect of prestige was gone; and it could not now be said that the two Houses of Parliament, being impressed with the prevalence of crime and insubordination in Ireland, were coming to the rescue of the Minister who proposed a Coercion Bill as the only means of preserving peace. All the popular representatives of Ireland disclaimed the statements made with regard to Ireland. They told the supporters of this measure that it would be useless, and worse than useless. It was his (Mr. Hawes's) belief that the Bill was an insult to Ireland, and would confer no single benefit upon that country. He did not suppose that anything which fell from him on this subject would have the slightest weight with Her Majesty's Government; but he had hoped that, seeing the state of business in that House, and the opposition which the Bill was likely to encounter, they would have felt it consistent with their duty to abandon the measure. Before sitting down he referred 1105 to the eloquent speech which had been delivered in the early part of the evening by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. M'Carthy), and he regretted that so much genuine eloquence had not been heard in a fuller House. He entirely concurred in the concluding part of that speech, calling upon the right hon. Gentleman to look at the difficulties of Ireland—he might add, the difficulties of England—arising out of the stoppage of public business, caused by the discussion of this Bill, and asking him seriously to consider whether it would not be consistent with his public duty to cease to press the Bill upon the attention of the House of Commons, where it would encounter opposition stage by stage, clause by clause, and line by line. If he knew anything of his hon. Friends from the other side of the water, after entering into this contest they would not shrink from prosecuting it until all other business, as well as the time of the House, was absorbed in the struggle. He hoped the House would pause before it put another Coercion Bill on the Statute-book, in the absence of any proposal of a remedial nature to meet the grievances of Ireland. An hon. and gallant Member said that he had remedies to propose; and one of them was to put down all associations. There were other remedies, however, which must be weighed and examined in that House. A Poor Law for Ireland on the principle of the English Poor Law was, he considered, essential to the welfare of Ireland; and the great question of the inclosure and occupation of waste lands in Ireland might well occupy the attention of the Government. There were many minor measures recommended by Lord Devon's Commission, which had not yet been touched by the Government; their whole time and thoughts having, through some perverting influence or other, been occupied in the preparation of a Coercion Bill, instead of the preparation of remedial measures. It was no exaggeration to say, that there were eight or ten practical measures suggested by the Report of the Commission, which were all adapted to confer great benefit on Ireland; and the adoption of which, therefore, would tend to the maintenance of the public peace in that country. He believed that the people of England would not long sanction this indifference to the claims of Ireland. Let them remember what a heavy tax they were paying for upholding the present system of government. Let them look at the army, and consider what an enormous 1106 force was now kept up in Ireland. Why, it was a scandal to the Government, that in the year 1846 it should be necessary to maintain in Ireland a force of 25,000 men for the preservation of the public peace. If hon. Members understood this subject, there need no longer be a party debate; but all would unite in carrying out remedial measures. He sincerely believed that Her Majesty's Government would obtain more popularity, and would secure more of the gratitude of the people, if they could reconcile it with their duty to abandon the Bill altogether, and let the House proceed to the consideration of measures which were more calculated to confer benefit on the Empire, and especially on Ireland.
§ SIR R. PEEL
Sir, whether Her Majesty's Government would obtain greater popularity by persevering with this measure or by abandoning it, is hardly a consideration which ought to influence the conduct of those who are responsible for the maintenance of the public peace in Ireland. It may be true that more of popularity might be gained by a willing acquiescence on our part in the proposal of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down; but that popularity would be gained at a costly sacrifice, if it were obtained by the sacrifice of the duty of those who are responsible for maintaining the public peace; and if it were accompanied also by increased danger to life and property in Ireland. Sir, I said at an early period of these discussions, that I should think I was wanting in due respect both for the country to which this measure refers, and the importance of the subject, if I permitted this debate to close without offering some observations upon it; and, as I would fain hope, after the full and able discussion which this measure has undergone in this preliminary stage of its progress, that we are now approaching the close of the present debate, I am unwilling to postpone to a later period the performance of a duty which I feel to be incumbent upon me. Sir, I wish, in the first place, to explain to the House what were the motives of Her Majesty's Government in proposing that the first stage of this Bill should be interposed in the progress of another Bill of the deepest importance, in my opinion, to the welfare of this country. I assure the House that it was not from any punctilious desire of adherence to established usage, that we felt it our duty to propose the first reading of this Bill. What were the circumstances under which this 1107 Bill, or rather this subject generally, was brought under the consideration of both Houses of Parliament? In the Speech from the Throne, on the first day of the Session, the first practical measure which Her Majesty recommended to our consideration was, a measure for the purpose of giving, if possible, increased security to life in Ireland, on account of the frequency of assassination. Her Majesty did recommend to the consideration of Parliament three or four measures of great importance. The first was the state of Ireland as regarded the frequency of assassination, and the necessity, in Her Majesty's opinion, of taking some precautions to prevent the frequent recurrence of that crime. What was the answer returned by this House to that part of the Speech from the Throne? There was an assurance given on the part of the House, not that it would adopt any measures that might be proposed by the Government, but that the House was deeply impressed with the importance of the subject, and that it would take into its consideration measures which had for their object the prevention of this grievous crime. A Bill for that purpose was brought into the House of Lords. It passed through that House with very little opposition. The Irish Peers connected by political sentiments with many of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, felt convinced of the necessity of this or of some such measure, and gave their assent to this Bill. I believe there was no opposition to the principle of the Bill, at least there was none which was marked by a vote; and the Bill was sent down to the House of Commons. It has been the uniform, I believe the invariable, practice, with respect to a measure undertaken by the Government—a measure of this importance, a measure recommended to the consideration of Parliament, on the first day of the Session, from the Throne—it has, I say, been the invariable usage, on such a measure introduced by the Government being brought from the House of Lords into this House, to give to that measure a first reading. Each Member of the House of Lords has a right to lay a Bill on the Table of the House, and, as a matter of course, that Bill is read a first time. No such usage prevails here; but it has been the universal course, with respect to measures of this description, brought in by the Government, recommended from the Throne, when they have passed either branch of the Legislature, to treat them with so 1108 much of deference—to show such a willingness, not to adopt them, but to take them into consideration, as at least to permit them to pass the preliminary stage of a first reading. Now, I am not denying that hon. Gentlemen opposite have a perfect right to contest the Bill in its first stage. I am not implying that they unduly exercised any privilege which they possess, by calling the attention of the House to the general state of Ireland; I am only now considering the question whether Her Majesty's Government would have been justified, seeing what has been the universal course heretofore pursued by Parliament, in permitting this Bill to lie on the Table without the slightest notice being taken of it. Sir, I do not admit that the House of Lords would have had any right to resent our omission to read it a first time. It was from no mere punctilious deference for the House of Lords that we took this course; but of this we felt deeply convinced, that if we permitted this Bill, so recommended from the throne, and so passed by the House of Lords, to lie on this Table without notice, the representatives of Ireland might accuse us, and justly accuse us, of offering an insult to that country. The Bill is undoubtedly one by which it was proposed to suspend the ordinary liberties of the subject. Look at the character of the measure. The more you insist on its unconstitutional character, the more you establish the necessity that a Bill of this kind should not be treated with levity, nor disregarded by Her Majesty's Government. This Bill does empower the Lord Lieutenant to deprive the subject of liberties which, under all ordinary circumstances, he is entitled to enjoy; and would it have been right, considering the special application of this Bill to one part only of the Empire, would it have been right for the Government, in a matter of such immense importance, to have shown such an apparent disregard for the great principles of civil liberty as would have been implied in our thus departing, for the first time, from that which had been the uniform usage? I feel the importance of the opposition now offered by you, the representatives of Ireland, to the first reading of this Bill; but believe me, in the case of a Bill infringing, as I admit that this does, upon your liberties, and applying especially to Ireland, if we had departed from that course which in the case of every English Bill has been uniformly observed, the time would soon have arrived 1109 when you would have charged us with doing to Ireland a great injustice, and showing a culpable indifference with regard to that liberty of which we ought to be the guardians. Sir, I think I need hardly refer to the injurious surmise which I have heard thrown out, that Her Majesty's Government had become indifferent to the progress of the Corn Bill, and that they had interposed this discussion, or rather this first reading of another measure, with a view to the defeat of that Bill. I know that hon. Gentlemen have not said so for themselves, but they have said in the course of the discussion that such an impression exists on the part of the public. Sir, I shall be prepared to give whatever proof may be required of the sincerity of my convictions on the subject of the Corn Bill. It is sufficient for me now to state that the progress of the discussion, the lapse of time, and intervening events, have more strongly confirmed me in the feeling which I expressed when I proposed the permanent and final adjustment of this question. Sir, I will not deny that even during these debates my opinions on that subject have undergone a change; but it is this change, that restrictions which I at first believed to be impolitic, I now believe to be unjust, and, consequently, a sense of their injustice precludes any compromise on my part. That which I have proposed, both with respect to the amount of duty and the continuance of duty, is all that I am enabled to offer; and in answer to injurious suspicions, I think it enough to say that I shall be perfectly ready to testify by any public act the sincerity of my intentions. Therefore, Sir, I say that the first consideration which entered into the minds of the Government in proposing, pursuant to uniform custom, the first reading of this Bill, was not any lurking desire to interpose any difficulties to the progress of those commercial measures which they had proposed to this House, or to defer for a single day the final decision of the question which they embrace. I now proceed, Sir, to review the considerations which have induced Her Majesty's Government, with great pain and sincere reluctance, to propose any measure of a harsh or extraordinary character with respect to Ireland. Sir, the hon. Gentleman the Member for the city of Cork (Mr. M'Carthy), who spoke in the course of this evening, and who made a speech I think as remarkable for its ability as it was distinguished for the brevity with which observations 1110 of so striking a character were conveyed—that hon. Gentleman expressed his belief that I had no other disposition but one of kindness towards the people of Ireland, but that my good wishes were overruled by some malign influence. I do assure the hon. Member that he does me but justice in attributing to me the most sincere interest in that part of Her Majesty's dominions; but that he does me injustice in supposing that any such influence could overrule my sense of duty. If I did not believe that a positive necessity required some such measure to give protection to life in Ireland, and to prevent social disorganization and the deterioration consequent on frequent crimes being unpunished, of the national character, no consideration would have induced me, or those with whom I act, to have been party to this measure. I was much struck with one observation which fell from one of the hon. Gentleman who represent Ireland—the hon. Member for Drogheda—I think as to the grounds on which such a measure ought to have been introduced. He said, that we, who propose this measure, are bound to establish three facts: we are bound to show, first, that there prevails in Ireland, at the present time, both as to the frequency of crime, but, above all, as to the character and nature of the offences committed, a necessity for some extraordinary measure; next, that we are bound to show that all the ordinary resources of the established law have been exhausted, that we have done all we could with the instruments the Constitution places in our hands, for the preservation of life and the maintenance of order; and, thirdly, that there is a rational ground for hoping and believing that the particular measure proposed, which is at variance with the established principles of law, is likely to be effectual for the purpose to which it is to be applied. I think, Sir, that we are bound to establish—by proof as far as proof is possible, and by argument so far as reasoning can advance towards proof—those three facts to which the hon. Member for Drogheda refers. We are bound to prove that there is at the present moment, from the nature and the frequency of crimes—I speak more particularly of assassinations and crimes affecting the public peace—Ireland is in an unusual position. We are bound also to prove that we have exhausted all the ordinary means provided by the law; and we are bound also to establish by argument—for 1111 proof in such a case is impossible—that the measure proposed will conduce to the end in view. The future effect cannot be proved. All we can do is to attempt to establish in the minds of those whom we invite to consult on the subject, a strong moral conviction that it is probable that the proposed law will be effectual for the purpose intended. Now, the hon. Gentleman who spoke last contested the facts which were adduced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department for the purpose of showing that there exists now, in the increase of crime in Ireland, an extraordinary necessity for a measure of this kind. The increase of crime, and also the character of that crime, can alone justify such a measure. You must consider the character of the crime, the possibility of detecting and punishing, the effect of impunity, and the danger there is that, through impunity, crime may be contagious—you must consider these things before you come to the conclusion that a law of this kind is unjust in principle. Following the hon. Member for Lambeth, I will first take into consideration the frequency of crime in Ireland. The figures the hon. Member has quoted may be correct; but I do not think he will be able to contest the facts to which I am going to refer. I am about to contrast the year 1843 with the year 1844. In 1844 there was some increase of crime—I speak of crimes which endanger the public tranquility—but we were unwilling to apply without necessity to the House for extraordinary powers. Let us, however, take the comparison, though to compare one year with the one immediately following may sometimes be fallacious. [Mr. HAWES: To what document are you referring?] I believe that the document I refer to has been published. What I hold in my hand is a document furnished by the police in Ireland; a comparative view of the extent of crime from 1835 to 1845, and which is, as to the later years, I believe, exactly concurrent with that which is laid on the Table of the House. [Mr. HAWES: I quoted the special Report of the Constabulary in Ireland from 1842 to 1845.] Yes; and therefore including the years to which I refer. I will leave you to judge whether my selection of crimes is a fair one. The different heads are homicides, conspiracies to murder, assaults on the police, aggravated assaults, demand for or robbery of arms, administering oaths, sending threatening notices, attacking 1112 houses, firing into dwellings: offences which do not involve any serious disturbance of the public peace I shall exclude. I shall take only crimes, the frequency of which is characteristic of a diseased state of society. I begin with homicides. In 1843 the number of homicides reported at the constabulary office was 122; in 1845 they were 139. Are those numbers the same as the numbers in the return to which the hon. Gentleman referred? [Mr. HAWES: Yes.] Then the returns are the same. The number of crimes, then, in the two years 1843 and 1845 are stated as follows:—
An hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to consider the offence of issuing threatening notices as one that ought hardly to enter into a statement on the subject. [Mr. POWELL: No; but there are fabrications.] Sir, making allowance for that, the increase of that particular offence is a consideration which ought not to be left out of view. With deference to the hon. Gentleman's local experience, an increase from 940 in 1843, to 1,944, is a significant circumstance. Threatening notices themselves inflict no injury; but they are enough to disturb the tranquillity of families, and those families know this fact, that the execution of the sentence of vengeance follows too often. There may be instances in which threatening notices are fabricated. It may be possible, and I believe it is. I make every deduction on that account—I wish to be chargeable with no exaggeration. Still the increase of that offence, coupled with the increase of the other offences to which I have referred, is, I am afraid, a strong proof of a diseased state of society. Well, then, we come to attacking houses, and we find that the instances in which houses were attacked in 1843, as returned to the police, were 252; and in 1845, 480. Now, in the course of two years, we find here in such an offence as that of attacking houses, an increase from 252 to 480: that surely is a primâ facie case that the existing law is inadequate for the repression of crime. I 1113 now take that other and more heinous crime, the firing into dwelling-houses. In 1843, there were 87 cases, and in 1845, 138. I think, in the character of the offences to which I have referred, and the rapid increase in the number of those offences, I have given a sufficient answer to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who attempted to show that crime was as frequent in 1843 as in 1845. So much for the frequency; and I now come to the character of those offences, and I cannot use more emphatic language with regard to them than that which has been used by the opponents of the present measure. I shall first take the language which has been used by the hon. Member for Drogheda, in which he spoke of the character and quality of those crimes. He said, that he viewed them with horror, as indicating that the national character of Ireland was undergoing a change—that heretofore there had been on the part of Irishmen a respect for age and sex—that the helplessness of age and the character of sex had been sufficient to protect them from injury—and that the aged and the female were held in peculiar respect; but in reading these details of atrocity, he said he was afraid there was a change in the national character. Now, Sir, let us see whether age or sex constitutes a guarantee against injury or outrage; and this is a most important consideration—looking not at the frequency of crime, but at its character; and the House will bear in mind that this is not my language, but that of one of the opponents of this measure. Sir, I admit that the character of that country stood high for a chivalrous feeling of deference to the female sex, and in respect for age; but I take the account of the hon. Member for Drogheda—one of the most decided opponents of the Bill—and I ask the House whether any stronger language could be used to demonstrate what has been the effect on the national character of the frequent repetition of those crimes? I shall take the language of the hon. Member who closed the debate on the previous evening, the hon. Member for Kilkenny, for I took down his words. He says—
Offences. 1843. 1845. Homicides 122 139 Conspiring to murder 3 8 Assault on police and magistrates 48 72 Aggravated assault 444 540 Demand or robbery of arms 119 551 Administering oaths 51 223 Threatening notices 940 1,944 Attacking houses 215 483 Firing into dwellings 87 138I am overwhelmed with disgust and shame at the hideous crimes committed in some parts of Ireland."I am overwhelmed with disgust and shame at the hideous crimes!" Well, then, and are these crimes to be committed and to remain unpunished? Are we to be perfectly passive, and adopt no measures to check the frequency of atrocities which fill hon. 1114 Members connected with that country with disgust and shame? Let me take some of the offences which justify the description given, not by us, but by hon. Members who are the opponents of the Bill, as to the effect of those crimes on the national character, which we have been disposed to hold in just estimation. Now, Sir, I will take the case—although I admit that it would be most unfair to judge of the character of this or any other country from one or two isolated cases, but still such cases as those to which I shall refer are not to be entirely disregarded — I shall take a case in which a party has been persecuted for merely asserting his rights, and I shall ask you what protection is there to be given to these men? These men are in a humble position. They were three brothers, of the name of Hogan—John Hogan, Barney Hogan, and Marshal Hogan. Barney and Marshal were both fired at in the mouth of February last, and the other a few weeks ago. In the language of the official statement—The murdered man was brother to Darby and Michael Hogan, both of whom have been fired at, the one in February last, the others a few weeks ago; they have police protection by my recommendation, two men being furnished on alternate days from two neighbouring stations—a plan that I now see works badly, for the draught renders it nearly inoperative for other duties. I would, therefore advise that two men be stationed permanently at Hogan's. I have mentioned this to the police officer, and it meets his approval.Had they no protection? Was nothing done to rescue them? They had police protection. Two policemen were stationed permanently for their protection. But what became of the first of these brothers? I quote again the official statement:—It is my painful duty to state to you, for the information of his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant, that at dusk last evening a farmer named John Hogan, residing at Ballinderry, was shot dead close to his own house; three or four shots were discharged at him so close as to set his clothes on fire, and his body perforated in every part with balls. The cause assigned is, that he had taken an acre of land joining his farm, whence a neighbour had been dispossessed.The cause assigned for the murder was, that he had taken an acre of land adjoining his own farm, from which a neighbour had been dispossessed. That was the offence. I am sure the hon. Gentleman (Mr. P. Scrope), who thinks some alteration ought to be made in reference to the tenure of land, will admit that it was not to be permitted that John Hogan should be shot because he had taken land from which a neighbour was dispossessed. The hon. 1115 Gentleman will, no doubt, concur with me in holding that such offences as the offence perpetrated in the instance I have now cited, should, if possible, be prevented, whatever our permanent remedies may be for the amelioration of Ireland. If we are to exact allegiance from John Hogan, and we allow him to be riddled with balls close to his own door for taking a vacant acre of land, we are not fulfilling the conditions and obligations that society imposes. Take the case of those three persons. The three have been shot at—one in February last; one a few weeks since; and the two brothers are obliged to be protected by two policemen; while the third has had his body perforated with balls. Sir, this is an isolated and individual case, and it may not be fair to judge from it of the character of the country; but this is a perfectly different question from whether it is not the duty of the Legislature and the Executive to provide for those who have a just claim upon us for protection, and whether those who render allegiance to the Sovereign should not have the protection of the laws extended to them. The Executive Government is bound to do what in it lies to afford them protection. I next take the case of the man which justifies the lamentation of the hon. Member for Drogheda, and I say that this is a reflection on the national character—that is, when there is no longer any deference paid to either sex or age. In the case of Laurence Leahy, the magistrate writes—On the evening of the 11th inst., at 5 o'clock, an armed party of seven men entered the house of Lawrence Leahy, a respectable farmer, and rushed at him; but Leahy, who was a very tall and powerful man, knocked down four of them with his fist; but, after a struggle, he was overpowered and beat down; when on the ground, his wife threw herself over him, but [what did these men do when the wife of the unfortunate man interposed her own body—risked her life in the attempt to save him?] one of the fellows placed a gun quite close to his leg, and fired it, which dreadfully shattered the leg, and then struck him on the head with guns.Then there is the case of a man named Lynch. He had put in an ejectment process, and this is the police report:—Poor Lynch could not escape, the under-tenants to a man were leagued against him, and lived all contiguous to his house, so that his every movement was watched. About a month since sub-inspector Burke, of this station, received private information that there was a party hired to shoot Lynch the morning following.A man receiving 5l. or 6l. to commit a murder! A party of police remained for some time in Mr. Lynch's house. No 1116 attempt was made. The police could not stay there permanently; but it was perfectly plain that an attempt would be made, and it was made. The magistrate says:—I never witnessed a more distressing scene than the wailing of this poor man's wife, daughters, and sons presented; now not only deprived of their parent, but of all the property they possessed.If there are to be victims, if a man is to be murdered in presence of his wife and family, if such occurrences are frequent, it is not without ground that the hon. Gentleman dreads a deterioration of the national character. There is a reign of terror. A man of the name of Egan had a tent on the race course of Ballina. According to the official account—A party of twelve or fifteen men entered the tent, and grievously assaulted Egan and his servant, Landrigan, with stones. On the following day the matter came to the knowledge of the police, who proceeded to the tent, and found Egan pursuing his usual avocations, complaining but little of his injuries, unwilling to afford any information on the subject, and totally denying any knowledge of the assailants. At that time, and for a day or two after, Egan suppressed all reference to the case of Landrigan; and it was not until the latter was speechless and past recovery that Egan apprised the police of his condition. Landrigan died that day, and Egan became so ill that his recovery for a while was doubtful.There is, then, a reluctance to give information in criminal cases, and so a check is placed on the ordinary execution of the law. Egan had been beaten himself, and so had his servant. But not until his servant is at extremity does he send for the police. The servant dies; and Egan dies also. Here is another case which occurred on the 26th of November last:—The board of directors of the Mining Company of Ireland hereby gives notice to all whom it may concern, that the companys' works at Earl's Hill Colliery will be suspended on Saturday, the 20th of December next, or the earliest day admissible under existing contracts. The board has been reluctantly impelled to adopt this course by the outrages and threats to which the company's stewards, Martin Morris and others, have been subjected with impunity, notwithstanding large rewards offered for information which might lead to the punishment of the offenders, and by the threatening notices subsequently served on those well-disposed workmen who are desirous to work under the company, and earn support for themselves and families, but whose lives are too highly valued by the board to be risked by a continuance of the works until sufficient protection can be afforded to them.In consequence of the menaces held out, and the dangers with which it appeared the officers and workmen of the company were surrounded, the works were stopped 1117 to the great injury of the district. Well, then, let us take the number of murders in 1845, and the number of convictions. I have counted them, and I find there are 146 cases of murder, and, I think, there are not more than thirteen convictions. There is the return giving the number of murders since the 1st of February, 1842, specifying the county and barony of the county where such murders have been perpetrated. There is a separate return of attempts to murder not attended with bodily injury. This return to which I refer is of persons murdered. I shall read the designations of the persons murdered:—'Field labourer,' 'magistrate,' 'labourer,' 'poor woman,' 'farmer,' 'labourer,' 'labourer,' 'servant,' 'labourer,' 'pensioner's wife,' 'labourer,' 'labourer,' 'labourer.'Look at the classes! [Mr. POWELL: Is that all Ireland?] In all Ireland. Why, a farmer living in a slated house, or a gentleman in his mansion house, may have some protection; but what is the condition of the labourer? I think, if you can afford protection to men of that class—if you can prevent the repetition of outrages against those least able to guard against them—though you do violate some constitutional principle, yet, so great is the evil of permitting murders to be committed almost with entire impunity, that there is no restraint to which one would not rather submit than suffer the continuance of that monster grievance. I have attempted to show from the frequency of crimes endangering life, and connected with the preservation of the public peace—from the nature and quality of the crimes injurious to the character of the country—from the frequent instances of complete impunity—from the fear there is of giving evidence either before a magistrate or in court—from the danger there is that these crimes will become contagious and spread to other districts, unless some vigorous effort be made at repression, I think I have made out a strong case that there is in the frequency and the character of crime in Ireland an imperative call on the Legislature to consider—no more than this—whether precautions are not necessary? I now come to the second point: have we exhausted the means which the existing law puts at our disposal for the repression of crime? There is an immense police force. The military force, exemplary as they are in the discharge of their duty, are not the proper force to employ in this 1118 service. But there is a police force of nearly 10,000 men. I have not heard any allegation that the Government had been negligent in the direction of that force, or that it has been improperly distributed. A mere addition to the police force would not be accompanied with any great advantage. I am not aware that that instrument for the maintenance of the public peace has been applied in any manner which subjects the Government to condemnation, or requires from them any explanation. I believe that of the force placed at the command of the Government every effort has been made to make it as available as possible. But some hon. Members have said, "You have not sufficiently tried the efficacy of special commissions: wherever you have issued these special commissions, crime appears to have decreased." Now I think, with every respect for the opinion of others, that this is, after all, a very inefficacious instrument for meeting the evils with which we have now to deal. There is no use in sending down special commissions, unless we are prepared with the evidence necessary to punish for crimes that have been committed. The state of crime in Ireland is frightful; but the existence of it does by no means prove the necessity of sending down a special commission. It is not wise to hurry on the trials of offenders. It is not wise to incur the risk of defeat upon imperfect evidence, nor is it wise to exhibit the inefficacy of the law by sending down a special commission, that would be followed by no good or satisfactory result. It is not sufficient to demonstrate the frequency of crime, and to urge the necessity of having a special commission for the suppression of it, but you must also prove that we have the evidence that is necessary to support our accusations, and that we shall be able in all probability to cause the offenders to be brought to justice. Unless, then, you can prove the double fact—namely, the frequency of crime, and the probability of convictions, you do not at all demonstrate the policy of sending down special commissions. But this I must say, that in every instance where immediate examples were made, the most satisfactory efforts were produced in deterring offenders from the repetition of crime. In all cases where the Executive Government had seen the necessity of taking this course and the probability of bringing conviction home to the criminal parties, they never permitted considerations of expense or convenience to hinder them from sending down 1119 commissions for the special trials of those who had committed these grievous offences against the laws of the country and the peace of its inhabitants. They have at all times exhibited a promptitude in taking the most efficacious measures for the repression of crime, in order that the signal examples thus made might have the effect of deterring others from the commission of similar offences; and therefore I am not aware in what single instance the Government can be fairly chargeable with not having used every instrument which the constitution and the laws of the country have placed at their disposal for the purpose of bringing offenders to trial, and of deterring by signal examples others from repeating those crimes. And this was the second point of the hon. Baronet's speech, in respect to which he demanded an explanation. The third point referred to by the hon. Baronet the Member for Drogheda, is, I think, the most important one for our consideration. It is highly important for us to consider whether this particular measure which we have proposed will be efficacious. I admit that to propose a measure of this kind would not by itself be likely to prove very efficacious. I think that to pass such a measure without adopting any other remedy for the unfortunate state of Ireland, would be an evil uncompensated by any one good. I am fully aware how bad a thing it is to multiply those precedents of exceeding the ordinary powers of the law and the Constitution, and that the frequent instances of these measures being adopted in Ireland is no justification whatever for repeating it. Proof being out of the question and demonstration impossible, the question is whether it is probable that this measure will be efficacious, and that it will not turn out to be an unmitigated evil. I will now endeavour to meet this point of the hon. Member's speech. I think that I have already shown urgent reasons for attempting something of the kind to meet the present condition of Ireland. And now what do I propose? Why, I find that in the year 1835 the Government of the country had taken an exactly similar course on finding enormous evils of the same kind as now exist in Ireland. What course, then, did the Government of that period take, feeling their responsibility for the protection of life in Ireland, if it can be protected there, and the necessity of restoring peace and tranquillity there? Now you have told us that we have disregarded the opinions of the Irish representatives in proposing the present Bill. All I can say in answer to 1120 that charge is this—that the representatives of Ireland—those Gentlemen who were, no doubt, best acquainted with the local circumstances of Ireland, at a time of great political excitement in 1835, these very representatives did, without any remonstrance, consent to a measure, the principle of which was exactly the same as the present one, which is so loudly condemned by them. Well, there are some differences between the former and the present measure—these differences I am perfectly willing to admit. Yes, but let us come to the examination of those points of difference. I am stating now what is the present position of Ireland—the increase of crime in that country—the impunity of crime there—and being responsible for the preservation of the peace there, and the repression of these crimes, we feel it necessary to propose the present measure as a remedy for these evils. Now, what was the remedy which the Irish Members had, on a former period agreed to, for the suppression of these evils? There may be a little difference between this measure and the one brought forward in 1835. We propose, for instance, that the Lord Lieutenant shall be empowered, in case of atrocious crimes being committed in the country, to apply this law to certain districts, a law which imposes upon the inhabitants of such districts to remain within their houses from sunset to sunrise. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes, but you consented to allow the same law, in effect, to be passed in 1835. This is but an amendment of that Coercion Act, and it enables the Lord Lieutenant to proclaim a district—to issue a requisition to the inhabitants of such proclaimed district to remain within their houses from sunset to sunrise, and to place the onus of proving his innocence upon the offender. There was no doubt, as I have already admitted, a difference between the two measures—the great difference was that regarding the penalty. Influenced by no other considerations than a desire to render the measure as efficacious as possible, when we find you, the representatives of Ireland, in 1835—a time of great political excitement—consenting to a law, the principle of which was this curfew clause, which is now so pertinaciously condemned—we thought it but natural that a measure formed upon the basis of the former one, which you so agreed to in 1835, would be equally approved of by you in 1846. The hon. Member for Lambeth has been just reading the accounts of the progressive tranquillity of Ireland from 1121 the year 1835 to 1840; and he has been boasting of the beneficial effects which had been produced under the former Government; but are you aware that during the whole of that period you had actually in force this very measure. ["No, no!"] I should be sorry in the slightest degree to exaggerate. It might not then have been this very measure, for I have already stated that there is a difference in the penalties. I am glad that the hon. Member (Mr. Hawes) challenges me to a closer investigation. In the former measure it is stated that the grand jury shall have the power to present, to make a presentment, upon which the Lord Lieutenant shall have power to proclaim the district in question. Now, I must say, that it was in deference to your own opinions, and to make, as we considered, a great improvement in the present measure, as compared with the former, that we made an alteration in it in reference to this one point. We thought that if we had proposed that grand juries or magistrates should have the power of calling the powers of this Bill into operation it would have been objected to by the Irish Members. We thought you would have said that the Executive alone should take the responsibility of putting the Act in force. You have said that the landlords will avail themselves of the powers of this Act for the purpose of clearing their estates. Is it not better, then, to put it out of all suspicion, that those who will have to administer the law are actuated by such motives? If that is your opinion of the Irish landlords, or of many Irish landlords, which is the best course—to throw upon the Executive the entire responsibility, or to permit grand juries or magistrates to invoke the aid of the law? Which is more likely to maintain amicable relations between landlord and tenant, and to preserve unimpaired the confidence of the peasantry in the administration of the law—that the magistrates should have nothing to do with the law but to carry it out, or that the Lord Lieutenant should be asked to it on the requisition of the local body? We thought this a great and important alteration. But if you think otherwise, you will have an opportunity of altering it. If you think grand juries are the proper body to put the Act in force, you will have an opportunity of proposing it in Committee, and of making then any alterations in what may seem a hasty and ill-considered change from the Bill of 1835. But I have a strong opinion that it would 1122 be better that the responsibility of putting the Act in force, should rest with the Government rather than with the grand jury or the magistrates, who would afterwards have to carry it out. At all events, I think I have shown that there is no such departure from the law of 1835 as to lead us to expect this decided opposition. There is a material difference, I admit, in the amount of the penalty. By the law of 1835, a person found out at night might be punished as for a misdemeanour; now, he will be punishable by transportation for seven years. There is also a principle in the present Bill which is sanctioned by the ancient law of Ireland, of making the vicinage responsible for the Act. This is the law to which you object as making bad worse—as likely to arouse the feeling in that country in opposition to the law and the Government—viz., that provision which obliges persons to be within doors from sunset to sunrise—that principle affirmed by you in 1835, and which continued on the Statute-book without being repealed for five years. I do not think it likely that a change of Government induces you to object in 1846 to what you agreed to in 1835. I do not know whether the hon. Member who affirmed the progressive improvement of the country from 1835 to 1840, was aware that during the whole of that period the Lord Lieutenant had the power of enforcing that Act. Yes, throughout the whole of that period! Nor do we propose that it should come into operation without necessity. The provision has been sanctioned by the Legislature, and the Lord Lieutenant is empowered under this Bill to order that no person should be found out of his house after sunset. But, although that principle may be sanctioned, it is not necessary that it should be exercised. The best result would be, that the Act should never be wanted—that there should be found to be no necessity for its being enforced. But when the Irish Members are arguing that it will make matters worse, that it will cause increased exasperation, I remind them that the boast has been of the state of Ireland during those years in which, as I have proved, the Act of 1835 was upon the Statute-book. I believe there were only four divisions on the subject of that Bill. [Mr. S. O'BRIEN: I protested against the Bill, and endeavoured to shorten its duration.] There were only four divisions against the Bill. You permitted the Bill of 1835 to pass for five years. You permitted the Bill to remain 1123 in force for five years, without a single Motion for its repeal. [Mr. S. O'BRIEN had made a Motion, subsequent to that, for the repeal of the Bill.] And how many voted for it? [Mr. S. O'BRIEN: Two.] Two! The hon. Member for Limerick moved to shorten the duration of the Bill to four years, and had two supporters; two years after that he moved to repeal the Bill, and had two supporters. And that is the measure which is now said to be "a disgrace to the Statute-book—a blot on our legislation," and only two Members voted for its repeal! If subsequent experience had led you to think the measure unwise, I am the last person to censure you for changing your opinion. I did not believe, until I heard it from your own mouths, that you would object to the provision to which you formerly assented. It was natural that, wishing to know from you the best means of repressing crime, I should propose in 1846 the measure which you proposed in 1835, and which, when it was proposed it should be repealed in two years instead of five, only two of you voted for the shorter term. I do not say you are not justified in opposing it now. I do not question your discretion; but don't accuse us of wishing to insult you, if in 1846, relying upon your authority upon matters of local concern, we take the same measures for repressing crime that you formerly assented to. You express your fears that the Bill may be used by the landlords to promote the "clearance system." I cannot conceive a greater offence than for an Executive Government to lend itself to such a purpose. Let us rather hope that when the Bill is passed it may not be necessary to enforce it—that it may lie dormant, and have the effect of preventing the occurrences it is intended to put down. Let us hope that if you sanction it for three years, parties may be deterred from the commission of crime; and that without inflicting what I admit is the grievous penalty of forbidding parties to leave their houses after sunset, or subjecting parties to the pecuniary penalties that the law provides—let us hope that it will be silently efficacious as heretofore, and that we may be enabled to dispense with it, and I should rejoice to dispense with it, at an earlier period than we propose. That was the case from 1835 to 1840—there was a progressive diminution of crime while that law was on the Statute-book; although not called into operation, the knowledge of its existence was efficacious for the repression of crime. Now, 1124 with respect to the penalty, I cannot undertake to say that the infliction of a pecuniary penalty on a district where a murder has been committed will be effectual; this is a provision of a very different nature from that of confining persons within their dwellings; but I think it likely such a provision may have a good effect. If there be frequent murders committed in any district, it does appear to me not an unnatural or unconstitutional remedy to provide, that the family of the murdered man shall have a provision from some fund or other; and the presumption is, that the vicinage which had not guarded effectually against crime shall pay it. It may be novel in principle, but I think it likely to be efficacious in a country like Ireland. We have heard that these murders are committed by strangers brought into the country. I am afraid that these strangers are harboured, in some instances, by the ordinary residents; but if the ordinary residents are aware that the frequent commission of murder subjects them to a pecuniary penalty for the support of the police, and a provision for the family of the murdered man, I think it highly probable that the irruption of these sanguinary strangers, hired to commit murder in that district, will be discouraged by those likely to pay the penalty for such offences. It was in that hope we introduced the enactment in this Bill which subjects to pecuniary mulct the parties who may live within the proclaimed district. As I stated before, although I cannot demonstrate that the Bill will be efficacious, yet I find that on a former occasion similar enactments were efficacious; that crimes in Ireland were diminished; that the Bill was permitted to expire; that it left no such rankling feelings in the Irish mind as some now anticipate; and therefore, judging from the past, I and my Colleagues have been induced to infer that in future the same measure may be effectual for the repression of these heinous offences. Then it has been asked, "Is this the effectual remedy of those evils that unfortunately exist in Ireland?" I answer at once, it would be utterly delusive so to represent it. It partakes in no degree of the character of a perfect remedy; it were an unmitigated evil if not justified by a great necessity. No, it is no remedy for the admitted state of social disorder which unfortunately exists in Ireland. I admit that. It is said, "You have had a similar measure fourteen or fifteen times in Ireland, 1125 and it produced no good." But it never was intended as a permanent remedy for the social evils of Ireland. I don't draw the same inference you do from the frequency of its renewal. I think the very fact of its being introduced fourteen or fifteen times, and being permitted to expire, a convincing proof of two facts, first, that the Legislature was strongly inclined to deprive the Executive of these extraordinary powers at the earliest period it could; and also, that the measure did effect the immediate object in view, namely, diminishing the frequency of crime, and facilitating the conviction of offenders. No one will, as I have said, more readily admit that as a permanent measure of relief or improvement, it has no recommendation. I admit that the passing of such a law does not dispense with the necessity of maturely considering what are the real causes from which these disorders arise. If the Bill be as effectual as I hope it may be—if it be never called into operation, but yet succeed in repressing crime—I am willing to admit that the obligation of maturely considering what shall be the permanent remedies is in no degree diminished; I think it rather increased than diminished by the passing of laws of this character. I am sorry to say, I view with something more of despondency than many Gentlemen do, the possibility of any immediate application of a remedy by legislative enactments; but if angels were to dictate to you what should be your permanent legislation, I see no hope of your producing such an impression on the crime of the country as can dispense with the necessity of some immediate measure of this kind. Depend upon it, that the success of any future measures which may be adopted will be materially impeded by the frequency of crime. The first thing to be done is, to repress these crimes, to prevent the commission of them, and, if committed, to facilitate the discovery of the offenders and ensure their punishment. I wont discuss on the present occasion some of the remedies on which Gentlemen have dwelt as likely to apply a permanent remedy to Ireland. They are deserving of the utmost consideration, but they ought to be reserved for separate consideration. That which many hon. Gentlemen have announced—the application of a Poor Law to Ireland, upon the principle of the English law—involves considerations of the utmost difficulty. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilkenny (Mr. J. O'Connell) spoke on that subject with great knowledge 1126 and judgment. In the course of his long speech he suggested many reasons why you ought to pause before you adopt the principle of granting a right to relief to the unemployed poor of Ireland. I should be sorry to say anything which could prejudice this case. I admit, the evils under which Ireland is suffering at the present moment from scantiness of food and disease are such as it is impossible to meet by any degree of English liberality, and that the frequent recurrence of evils of this kind imposes upon us the obligation of maturely considering what measures would conduce to the permanent benefit of that country. But, at the same time, do not let us too hastily adopt the conclusion that a Poor Law introduced into Ireland upon the principle of the English law, namely, a right to relief on the part of the unemployed, would meet the existing evils. Though the establishment of such a right might prevent many cases of distress, though it might afford a partial remedy for some present evils, yet you must take a comprehensive view of all the social consequences of establishing such an indefeasible claim. You must consider the position in society of those who would have to bear the burden of the system—how little superior they are at present in point of enjoyment to those for whom you seek relief—and how possible it is, unless you establish the wisest precautions, that you may be holding out an incentive to idleness. While, therefore, I admit the magnitude of the present evils—while I admit that their continued existence is almost impossible, I must ask you to consider how inefficacious is the power of the Government, with every disposition to do so, to afford an effectual remedy for those evils with which we are now attempting to struggle—I mean the scarcity and disease which prevail in some parts of Ireland. After the discussion which took place upon the modified Poor Law for Ireland, and after hearing the variety of opinions entertained by those best qualified to form a correct judgment on the subject, and who were well cognizant of the wants of the people, I should pause before I could commit myself to the principle that the English Poor Law—namely, the right to relief on the part of the unemployed—should be applied to Ireland. It is impossible to contemplate the state of landed property in Ireland without being compelled to admit that, at present, it is in a most unsatisfactory condition. A great number of estates are wholly unprofitable 1127 to their nominal owners, being in the hands, not of proprietors, but of receivers; and it is impossible to contemplate the number of estates in this position, and their unfruitfulness either to the creditor or the proprietor, without being forcibly convinced of the absolute necessity of some change in the law. I entertain the strongest opinion that there is no country where the maintenance of the great principles of property is more important than in Ireland. I do not believe that you could hope to establish prosperity in any country, to afford encouragement to industry, or excite a desire to realize the fruits of labour, if you violated any of the great principles of property. At the same time, I must admit that it is impossible to read without deep apprehension the accounts of the great number of tenants evicted in Ireland; and I fear you will find it most difficult to apply any remedy for controlling the power of the landlord. You may be referred to the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Rochdale, and you may be called upon to pass that measure; but if you sanction it in the form in which it was proposed, you must not suppose that it will afford any remedy for the state of things to which I have referred. It may be possible to legislate with respect to improvements—it may be just to say to the tenant, "If you effect a great improvement, your landlord, from pique or resentment, shall not deprive you of your holding without giving you compensation." But if you adopt that principle, and pass such a law, you will not deprive the landlord of the power of evicting or ejecting a pauper tenantry who have made no improvements, and who have no means of effecting them. Such a Landlord and Tenant Bill as that proposed by the hon. Member for Rochdale may be an element of social improvement; but do not suppose that it will remedy the particular state of things to which I have called your attention. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. M'Carthy) has referred to the disposition of the forfeited estates which were granted to great absentee proprietors. His historical statements may be correct; but they only prove that for 300 years there have been in Ireland deep-seated evils, to which it is most difficult to apply any legislative remedy. The hon. Member for Cork has adverted to the forfeitures at the time of the Commonwealth. The hon. Member says this is one of the causes of the unfortunate state of things which now exists in Ireland. Be it so; 1128 but it is no justification of murder. It does not relieve us from the obligation of preventing the commission of monstrous crimes; it rather suggests to us the necessity of proceeding tenderly and cautiously, when we have to deal with evils of so long a growth. You (said the right hon. Baronet, addressing the Irish Members) may rather distrust the disposition of an Englishman towards Ireland; but, after an official residence of six years in that country, I left it with a most sincere desire for its wealth and prosperity. You will excuse me, if I speak with freedom, when I say, that I think you are apt to rely too much upon the power of the Executive Government. You are always saying that the Government ought to act; that the Legislature ought to pass new laws. Believe me, that you, the landlords of Ireland, have it in your own power to do more immediate good to your country than can be conferred by the Legislature. If you would meet together—I speak of absentees as well as of resident proprietors — and seriously consider what are the real evils of your country, and what are the obligations imposed upon you as possessors of property — if those who are armed with legal power, who eject their tenantry without considering how they are to obtain shelter and subsistence, would reflect on the consequences of such an exercise of their power, and if the exertion of this power be necessary—if they would maturely consider the duty imposed on them of providing, in some measure, against the dreadful consequences of such a course, which a very little liberality and forbearance would enable them to do—you would confer greater benefit on your country than the Government or legislation could effect. I need only remind you of the improvements effected in Ireland by Lord George Hill. Is it true, that only in the year 1838, that nobleman purchased some 18,000 or 20,000 acres of land in the wildest part of Ireland; that he said to himself, "I will perform my duty as a landlord; I will persevere against all difficulties; I will not be deterred by any opposition I may encounter from my tenants or neighbours, but I will persevere in my attempt to improve the condition of the people?" It is true that that noble Lord has succeeded in his attempt? Has he not succeeded, without the advantage of those prejudices which ancient hereditary descent might have created in his favour—for he purchased the property as a 1129 stranger—in conciliating the good-will of the people? It is true, that by perseverance, by forbearance, by deference, in the first instance, perhaps to the ignorance or prejudices of the people, by kindly feeling, and by evincing determination to effect improvements, he has effected the revolution he contemplated in the country? And has not this been done consistently with the promotion of his own interests? Has not the value of his property improved? Have not his rentals increased? I must say I think that gentleman, by the example he has set, has entitled himself to be regarded as a public benefactor to his country. I honour and respect the motives which have led him to adopt this course; and I envy him the gratifying reflections of his own conscience. [Colonel CONOLLY here made an observation to the right hon. Baronet.] My hon. and gallant Friend says that my statement is strictly correct. My own impression is, that though much may be done by good legislation, by which the foundation at least of social improvement may be laid, yet that the immediate practical improvement of Ireland will be most efficaciously promoted by a combination of the landlords, resident and absentee, to follow the example of Lord G. Hill, to improve their own property, and to increase its productiveness, while at the same time they conciliate the affections and good will of those who stand towards them in the relation of tenants. Now, the complaints with reference to the state of the land and of the people of Ireland are not now made for the first time. For the last hundred years these complaints had been reiterated. Dr. Madden, a writer who by his good sense conciliated the esteem of the Earl of Chesterfield, published a treatise in 1737, nearly 110 years ago, in which he thus spoke of the landed proprietors of Ireland:—Now, as the position of a landlord is the single circumstance which is of the greatest importance and weight, and contributes chiefly to every one's influence and power, let us begin with that as the principal engine we can employ in this useful work, and lay down as the main foundation stone of our little building this first resolution, viz:—'that, as landlords in this poor kingdom, we will do our utmost in our little spheres to remove the defects and difficulties which we find our people and country, and particularly our own estates and tenants, lie under.Again he says—And yet, to our shame we must confess, that in Ireland our tenants (I speak of the poorest and greatest part of them) have rather huts than houses, and those of our cotters are built, like 1130 birds' nests, of dirt wrought together and a few sticks and some straw, and like them are generally removed once a year, and consequently as migratory, and not so durable, as the carts and waggons of the wandering Tartars. Numbers of them have no chimney, either for want of wood, or skill to build one, but vent the smoke like those of the Hottentots; and if we had a market, as Mr. Beauplon says the Cossacks have, for wooden chimneys ready made, our poor people have not a penny to buy one. As miserable as they look on the outside, the family within are full as wretched, half starved and half clad, so that there is an absolute necessity to lodge them better and use them to warmer cottages and clothing, and a cleanlier way of feeding and living, if we would have them cultivate their lands or manufactures to any purpose.This was written above 100 years ago, but I fear it is too true a description of the habits and habitations of the people in many parts of Ireland at the present time. Of this, however, I have the strongest conviction, that if the landlords of Ireland would consider the condition of the people; if they would imitate the practice in this country with respect to the building of houses for the occupation even of the poorest labourers; if they would enter into a combination the most laudable and honourable in which they could enrol themselves; if they would procure correct information as to the state of the country; if they would resolve to follow that noble example to which I have referred, the relations between rich and poor would be ameliorated, more kindly feelings would be encouraged, and greater confidence in the law would be established, than could be effected by any measures that Government or the Legislature could adopt. While, therefore, you call on the Government to introduce measures, and upon Parliament to sanction them, I do hope you will recognize that principle for which I have been contending, that there is a moral obligation incumbent upon the possessor of property, which laws cannot supersede or control, the exercise of which is essential to the well-being and prosperity of the country. I trust that in stating the reasons which have induced the Government to introduce this Bill, I have said nothing which can by possibility excite or embitter animosities. I have not said one word blaming the representatives of Ireland for the course they have taken. All I can find fault with, therefore, is, that, professing to be anxious for discussion, they have not permitted a continuous discussion on the subject; I think they ought to have permitted us from day to day to proceed with the discussion of the Bill. I have no authority whatever to question 1131 their exercise of their right; but I must say, I think their occupying two days in the week with Irish Motions is calculated to impede rather than to facilitate free discussion. It is now, I think, five weeks since this measure was introduced; I have stated the reasons which induced the Government to interpose it before other measures were proceeded with; and I do hope, considering the long discussion, the full discussion, the able discussion which has taken place upon it, that the representatives of Ireland will now feel that they have done their duty, and will permit the sense of the House to be taken upon this preliminary stage. I wish to avoid a word which could pique them into a further continuance of the debate; I find no fault with them; I do not mean to question the exercise of their discretion; but I do hope considering that this is but a preliminary discussion, and considering what measures are pending of the utmost importance to Ireland, that they will yield to that which I believe is the prevailing opinion on all sides of the House—the prevailing sentiment of those who would most cordially concur with them in resisting the further progress of this Bill—that they will feel they have performed their duty to their country, and will at length permit the sense of the House to be taken upon this preliminary stage of the Bill.
§ MR. WYSE
said, that he fully concurred with the right hon. Baronet who had just sat down in thinking that much inconvenience had arisen from the prolongation of this debate; and he also felt very sensibly the painful position which Irish Members were placed in in that House, with reference to the motives which had compelled them to adopt the course they had pursued with reference to this measure. The right hon. Baronet had himself, in introducing his Corn Law measure, declared that he considered it of such vast importance that he did not wish that any other measure should interfere with it; and most assuredly nothing but a paramount sense of the duty they owed their country, could induce the Irish Members to do anything that could impede that measure, the more particularly as it was looked upon as one which might have the effect of alleviating the evils consequent upon the scarcity which now prevailed in Ireland. He could not agree with the right hon. Baronet in thinking that the Government stood alone from the imputation of blame in this matter, although they had thrown it wholly on his side of 1132 the House. The right hon. Baronet, undoubtedly, as the head of Her Majesty's Government, was the responsible guardian of the public peace; and it was his duty to see in what manner the public peace could be best preserved. It was also well that the attention of the Legislature should be addressed to a subject of this importance. But when the Bill came down from the other House, he could not agree with the right hon. Baronet that the House of Commons would have been guilty of violating a principle, or of disrespect towards the other branch of the Legislature, if it had been allowed to remain for some time undiscussed. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the present course was the first time that such a mode of opposition had been adopted in that House; but he (Mr. Wyse) begged to call to his recollection the proceedings of 1833, when a similar Bill was proposed. The resistance to that measure took place on the first reading; and it lasted during a period almost as long as the present. And it was reasonable it should be so. The House must make up its mind to the inconvenience of the discussion—an inconvenience not arising upon any particular Bill affecting Ireland, but upon all Bills affecting that country which did not meet the evils under which it suffered, and which were not in accordance with the sentiments of its representatives. He contended, therefore, that from the nature of the case the Irish Members were not in justice liable to the imputation which had been thrown upon them. The right hon. Baronet had referred to a speech delivered by his hon. Friend the Member for Drogheda (Sir W. Somerville), who required that the Government should prove, first, that there were sufficient grounds in the state of the country to justify coercive measures; next, that the present was the best measure; and, third, that the ordinary powers of the law had failed. It was certainly a matter of surprise to him (Mr. Wyse), that in this year of 1846, forty-five years after the Union of Ireland with this country—the most prosperous and magnificent Empire in the world—that the Sixth Article of the Act of Union had not yet been complied with. By this Article the same rights and privileges were guaranteed to the people of Ireland that were enjoyed by the people of England; their demands for justice were to be considered; the grievances under which they laboured were to be redressed. Yet the present was the seventeenth 1133 or eighteenth measure of coercion which had been given to Ireland, instead of the proper remedies for her grievances. Whilst other States in the world were looking with complacency upon the large measures of reform and improvement which England had effected not only in her own commerce and legislation, but in those of other countries, they were remarking that the grievances of her sister were unredressed. The Bill had been called on one side, "A Bill for the better Protection of Life," and on the other, a "Coercion Bill." He believed it was a little protective of life; but upon the recommendation of the right hon. Baronet himself he believed it to be more for coercion, in support of which the right hon. Gentleman had a little stretched his case. Security was the first condition of the enjoyment, not only of property, but of life and liberty; and it was in vain to talk of our Constitution or our freedom unless they guaranteed to the subject the privilege of protection. He would not take the dagger of the assassin as the sword of justice, nor the sentence of the midnight tribunal as the verdict of the law. That was not his code. But the question was whether that particular state of things existed? Had the right hon. Baronet proved to the satisfaction of the House that the reports which he had read were so accurate as to justify a call for extraordinary power? He had detailed them to the House. Now he found from the same reports that there were some parts which by no means supported the case. He found the number of homicides in 1842 was 106, and in 1845, 139; but considering the increase of population, and the distress through which the people had passed in the meantime, there did not appear in this respect that enormous excess of crime which should justify a suspension of the Constitution. Of aggravated assaults there had been a slight increase; but of assaults dangerous to life the number in 1842 was greater than in 1845. In 1842 the number was 249, but in 1845 it was 237. In the demand for arms there had doubtless been a considerable increase, for in 1842 the number was 160, whilst in 1845 it was 551; but this increase had been foretold to the right hon. Baronet during the discussions upon the Arms Bill. In resistance to the police there had been no increase—a circumstance which would indicate that there was no systematic opposition to the law, but on the contrary, a decrease, 1134 for instead of 101 cases in 1842, there were not more than 61 in 1845. In robberies there had been a diminution from 335 in 1842, to 228 in 1845. Cattle stealing had also diminished. As to the sending of threatening letters, as had been justly observed, many of them might have been forged; they might at all events have proceeded from one or two persons only; and therefore they were not to be considered indicative of a wide-spread conspiracy against life and property. All these crimes too, let the House remark, were referable to a particular state of society. If each of them were taken in their individual character, and compared with the crimes perpetrated in this country, they would be found distinguished not by greater heinousness, but by being connected with the general feeling of the population. He agreed with his hon. Friend in reprobation of those crimes, and that they indicated a general departure from the chivalry of the Irish character; but he might point to English crimes quite as derogatory to the principles of English manliness and justice. The real evil of Ireland was the connivance and the sympathy of the population at large with the commission of crime. The first concern that should suggest itself to those who had to deal with such a state of things should, therefore, be the general tone of the country; and the great consideration, how to produce that state of moral feeling and sympathy with the laws, as would make it the policy of the people to prevent the crimes which now they were advocating. Such was the case in England and in all well-ordered communities; and the question was, why did not the same feeling prevail in Ireland? After all, this was the real question. But he saw no attempt on the part either of the Government or the Legislature to consider that question. Ireland had a right to demand from both that it should be entered upon. It was not alone the Coercion Bill that the House of Commons had to deal with. Again and again had Coercion Bills been proposed, accompanied with Committee after Committee, which had made inquiry into the causes of crime in Ireland. But what had been the result? Why, that as soon as the Coercion Bill had been passed, the reports of the Committees remained inoperative and useless. It was not only from the tenure of land that predial disturbances had arisen, for the right hon. Baronet must have in his recollection the numerous 1135 cases of outrage resulting from the opposition to tithe. Mr. Grattan had told them the Irish House of Commons had said the same. Coercion Bills had then been imposed, and outrages had been diminished by them; but it was then said until the law itself was altered, and the causes of outrage removed, they could not operate upon the peace of the country. So it would be in the present case. If injustice were not done by the state of property in Ireland, and if the interests of her people were properly considered, they would not be inclined to those acts of resistance to the law—acts which were not consonant to the human mind unless provoked. There had, indeed, been a complete dislocation of property in Ireland: first by the original plantations from England; again by the change of religion; again by the invasion of Cromwell; and, more than all, by the encouragement given to a particular class by the penal laws. It was the penal code that first separated the lower classes from the higher; it was the spirit of ascendancy, which, while it favoured the rich and crushed the poor, induced the absentee proprietors to underlet their land to middlemen. Nor was this the only evil which the laws and institutions of this country produced. The commerce of Ireland for a long series of years was suppressed; the agricultural population were deprived of redress; the middlemen were obliged in many instances to surrender their holdings; and then the landlords found their estates peopled with paupers. There was no justification of which he knew for all this. The landlord had certainly no right to use his power contrary to the laws of humanity; but it was the Government of this country which had placed the landlords in that position. He said, therefore, that the Government and the Legislature of this country, instead of giving the Coercion Bill as a remedy for those evils, were bound to go further, and look to the evils which they themselves had produced. The right hon. Baronet had stated that he was willing to consider this subject; but how was it that they had not as yet seen any of these beneficial measures? How was it that after all the right hon. Baronet's experience, they were still going back again to the old principle of coercion? Was there nothing to be done for Ireland? Would they state before Europe that there was nothing to be done to improve the state of that country? Would they wish to be judged in the face of Europe by their conduct 1136 towards Ireland. It was useless to say that the landlords could remedy the evils of the country. He was quite aware that much might be done by private exertion, and that much had been done in some particular instances. But what was effected in this way were but exemptions and exceptions to the general rule, and while individuals were bound to do much, the Government were bound to do much more. He thought they should feel that they owed Ireland an atonement—that they owed her a retribution for their past neglect and injustice. When they spoke of a union between the two countries, it was necessary that there should be parity of circumstances and sympathy between them. Was there nothing that the Government, nothing that the Legislature could do to bring that unity about? What were the inducements held out to the Irish Members to consent to the Irish Poor Law? Why, that contemporaneous with the introduction of that measure every possible means should be taken for the development of the enterprise and of the industry of the country by the encouragement of public works in Ireland. Was that done? He knew something had been attempted in that way; but it was undeserving, almost, of notice. The poverty of the people was not diminished. The Irish labourer only earned 2s. 6d. a week, while the English labourer was paid 10s. a week. There was even a similar difference between separate parts of Ireland. While in one part of the country the labourer could earn only 8d. or 6d., or 4d. a day, in another portion of it he got 1s. a day and more; and this arose from the want of free communication throughout the country. The people had no resource save in the cultivation of the soil, and they were thus obliged to obtain poosession of land at any price. He denied that the present Bill could, under these circumstances, be of any use in remedying the condition of the country. Even if coercion were good, he should object to this measure, because it would fail to meet the very grounds which it was intended to reach. It would not meet the commission of crimes by strangers, nor the transmission of threatening notices by post. But still more he objected to it, because it would throw the onus of proof on the suspected party, and not on the person who suspects. What effect would this have on the minds of the peasantry, when they saw that they were no longer treated with equal justice, and that the law was no longer to be equally administered 1137 to them, at the hands of twelve unprejudiced men, in a well-regulated tribunal. He trusted the right hon. Baronet was at length convinced that they were come to a period when Bills like this would no longer be found sufficient for the state of Ireland. He did not think that the opposition which had been offered to this measure could with truth be attributed to the spirit of party, or that it arose from any feeling save an honest anxiety on the part of Irish Members to declare their strong convictions before the community on the manner in which their country had been treated. On the one hand, the Government proposed giving power and encouragement to the industry of England, while, with regard to Ireland, they were taking away all opportunity of exercising industry, or of developing the resources of the country. The Irish representatives had stated their grievances, they had suggested their remedies; but nothing was proposed to them on the other side. Every stranger who visited Ireland—no matter from what country he came—pointed her out as an exception to all the other countries of Europe, and signalized her as the most miserable, as the most neglected, and as the most wretched country in the world. It would appear as if a curse were supposed to hang over the people, and that, with all the advantages that nature could bestow, and that were necessary to place their country in juxtaposition with the greatest nations of the earth, they were to be left behind all in poverty and neglect. He knew of nothing which could raise the fame of a Minister more than a great and successful effort to elevate such a country as Ireland from the state in which she had been kept for centuries, to her legitimate position among the nations.
§ COLONEL CONOLLY
said, that he had been instructed by the constituents of Donegal to support this measure as necessary to the security of the country, and to the suppression of the most atrocious crimes that ever degraded any country. He could not suppress his surprise at the conduct of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who admitted and deplored the cause, but refused to support this measure. His course was an easy one; he had been called upon by the county which he represented to support it, and he responded joyfully to that call. The outrages in Ireland were attributed to a variety of grounds of dispute between landlords and tenants; but no magistrate could sit upon the bench without perceiving 1138 that there was a third power which interposed and irritated all those causes of discord, trivial in themselves. He could assure the House that the subject had very little liberty in Ireland; all independence of action was subdued by the control of agitation; publicans declared that they could not sell their liquor; and so all other persons in the ordinary trades of life, unless they succumbed to the dictation of agitators throughout the country had no chance of success. Under such circumstances, it became necessary for the Government to put a check upon this system of intimidation and unwarrantable interference. He would mention one case which occurred in the county of Cavan. There had been a sale of estate under an order of the Court of Chancery, and every means had been adopted to prevent the purchaser from taking possession; all the neighbouring peasantry had been threatened and intimidated from affording him any assistance; and this agitation had been excited against an honest purchaser because he had been the foreman of a jury in another part of the country. An hon. Member had derided the idea of alarm at threatening letters; but the hon. Member forgot that in Ireland those threatening letters were always followed with some outrage or annoyance. He agreed with the Mover of the Amendment, however, that this measure did not go to the root of the evil; and no measure ever would go to the root of the evil whilst they tolerated that seditious assembly in Dublin, which excited all the discord and turbulence that prevailed in Ireland. There was no subject of discord in the country which they did not take advantage of to fan into violence. After the late election for the county of Mayo, the ears of two persons had been nearly sawed off, their only crime being that they had voted according to their consciences. This was more properly called a Protection than a Coercion Bill; and he should have thought the Government highly criminal if they had not brought in some such measure for the security of the peaceable and innocent. The Bill need not be carried into execution, unless the circumstances of the country required it; and his experience of Lords Lieutenant had satisfied him that they were slow to put in force extraordinary powers of this sort, and that a mild and just discretion would regulate the administration of this measure.
§ MR. RICH
said, that all Irishmen were 1139 anxious to put down the violence that took place in their country; and, in so far, they had but one common object. They differed, however, in respect to the means of effecting that object. He was afraid the Bill before the House would, if it were passed into a law, give rise to that disgusting tyranny heretofore practised in Ireland, which, under the title of a vindication of the law, was a disgrace to the administration of justice. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had not, in his opinion, made a candid reply to the statements of the hon. Member for Lambeth. They had in this country a law which declared that a death caused in a duel was "murder;" but did society so regard it, or was the murderer in a duel shunned or abhorred? In Ireland, a man in the open day committed murder. He did that, not in obedience to the laws of honour, but in a cause which was dear to him as life, or rather it was life itself—it was murder to maintain the peasant's tenure of land. In both cases, the evil state of society was the result of laws—of bad laws—of laws not applicable to the condition of the people. He was not the palliator of the terrible crimes committed in Ireland; but he bid them examine the cause, and the inducement to them, and seek to remove both. The murders of Ireland originated in a sort of savage judicial proceeding, and thus attracted a sympathy in their favour which did not properly belong to them. The right hon. Baronet had referred to the circumstances of the murder of Mr. Lynch; but he had forgotten to state to the House the peculiar circumstances which led to the murder. Mr. Lynch had served ejectments on nineteen families, and this led to that state of exasperation which resulted in his murder. The right hon. Baronet had referred to the tranquillity which had followed on former Coercion Bills; but the tranquillity which prevailed under the late Government arose from the course of good works, and the deference to national prejudices exhibited by that Government. The right hon. Baronet had referred to the case of Lord George Hill as an illustration of the blessings diffused by an improving landlord, and he told the Irish landlords to go and do likewise. He would read the right hon. Baronet his own lesson, and tell him to follow the example of his predecessors in the government of the country, and peace and tranquillity would be insured. The Bill before the House did not touch the root of the evil; it only touched the 1140 outward symptoms of the disease. The right hon. Baronet said, "Wait until I produce other measures;" but those waitings had been too long, and no confidence was, therefore, reposed in those promises. The Bill would have been more efficient had it been preceded by kind and judicious measures. The proper course for Government to take was, to address themselves to the eradication of that destitution which almost universally prevailed. The tenure of land ought to become the subject of legislation. Land was the support of existence in Ireland; and no wonder the Irish cottier should cling with desperation to this only means of subsistence. But the landlord would insist on ejectments at the point of the bayonet. Disease and destitution arose, and murder followed. Proclamations from the Castle were then sent forth, and Government Assassination and Coercion Bills ensued. He had no wish to indulge in recrimination; he thought there were faults on both sides; but he confessed he was unable to reflect with calmness on those wholesale clearances that had taken place. It was impossible, considering the meshes in which so many interests were involved, to escape from our difficulties, unless self-sacrifices were made. Let every proper man come forward, and make sacrifices at this proper moment, and then some hope might be entertained of seeing Ireland tranquil and contented. Let them in the true spirit of charity endeavour to do all the good they could to Ireland. The predecessors of the present Government had given relief where it was most wanted—to the aged, the infirm, and the destitute. Let the present Government transfer the best parts of the English Poor Law to Ireland, and take care of those who were in want of house and refuge. By that method, and not by acts of severity, they would tranquillize the minds of the people, and remove the temptation to acts of outrage and violence. When they had given the people security for their lives against destitution and want, they might then improve the law of landlord and tenant. If they would begin at the right end, they would first coerce the coercers—coerce the ejectors, and then they might coerce the ejected. They should protect the poor in the enjoyment of those claims established by long usage, if they were not rights conferred by law, where persons had been suffered to become squatters upon land upon which they had not the means of acquiring a pecuniary title—let them protect those 1141 poor people against the oppression of their superiors. He opposed the Bill on its first reading, because it was a paramount duty to show the Irish people that there was a strong party in that House, not of Irish Members only, but also of English Members, who would maintain the rights of the Irish people as earnestly as they would assert those of the people of England.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday.