HC Deb 10 August 1846 vol 88 cc575-97

On the Question, that the Arms (Ireland) Bill be now read a Second Time,


said, he could assure the House that it was with sincere reluctance he moved the second reading of this Bill. That reluctance, however, was not created by any doubt on his mind that the course he took, in concurrence with the rest of Her Majesty's Government, was that which would be most in accordance with the interests of Ireland, and with their duty to the House. He retained the opinion he had originally formed when the measure was first introduced, that it contained many most objectionable clauses, and for his own part he never would have been a party to its introduction; but at the same time he trusted he should be able to demonstrate to the House that it was perfectly consistent with that opinion to recommend the Bill under the circumstances in which they were now placed. He did not ask the House to lend any formal sanction to the principle or to the details of the Bill, of which he would be the last man to approve; but he asked them to continue it in order to give the House and the Government the limited period for the consideration of their future policy on this important question, and an opportunity for that deliberate and serious attention which it so fully required. If any hon. Member was disposed to blame the course taken by Government on this occasion, he begged of him to reflect on the inconveniences of the alternatives which were open to them. He might be told the measure ought to be dropped altogether—that no regulations respecting the possession of arms ought to remain one single hour on the Statute-book. Now he would not express any opinion on the present occasion as to what ought to be the policy of Government on this question after due consideration and reflection; but he was prepared to maintain, in the face of the House and of the country, that a Government would desert its duty, and would act a part utterly unworthy of the dignity of the Crown and of the country, if they were to propose such a step under the present circumstances of Ireland. In recommending the present course, he did not mean to preclude the Government or himself from adopting that which they might hereafter think expedient; but he put it to any Member of that House if it would be conducive to the peace of Ireland, if Government would be acting as a friend to Ireland, were they, for the sake of catching popularity, and to save themselves trouble, at once to propose that all legislation should cease on the subject. He was not prepared to take such a course, which he would have felt to be unworthy of him. It was an alternative which he deliberately refused to adopt. The other course open to the Government would have been to attempt to amend the Bill. What would have been the effect of that? Why to have given their sanction to what they had amended? He was not prepared to take that course: the spirit in which he asked the House to approve of this Bill was not one of approval in principle or in details. He did not ask them to adopt this as a mere continuance Bill—far from it. Her Majesty's Government had adopted a most unusual course, but were, as he conceived, quite justified under the circumstances of the case. The Bill would only be in force till the 1st of May, when he gave them not only a pledge but security of the intention of Government to bring in a measure on this subject. All they asked for was time to enable them to consider the subject. It had been suggested to him that he should not have asked the House to pass this Bill, but should have introduced the former Arms Bill, which would have been more satisfactory; but he entirely disapproved of that course. Let the House but see in what a situation such a measure would have placed the people of Ireland; such constant changes were in themselves very harassing and perplexing. But besides that, he believed the evils resulting from the present course had already happened, and he saw no reason for adopting an altered scheme, which would, in his mind, have been infinitely more objectionable. It had been said that by the registration of arms those persons who had arms were pointed out to the evil-disposed; and the fact was that great robberies of arms had taken place in consequence, so that the lawless portion of the people, instead of being armed with old rusty guns, were now possessed of bright new firelocks. The mischief of the Bill had already been done, and no harm could be done by continuing it for only nine months. As to the branding clause, he disliked it extremely. It was justly objectionable, and he agreed with those who said it was affronting. But the thing was over now. The arms were all branded. Much depended on the spirit and manner in which the Act would be carried into effect by the Executive Government; and here he was bound to bear his testimony to the conduct of the last Government, and to say that the pledge which they gave that their powers should be carefully and temperately used, had been followed by them. He owed them that testimony; and as he said so, he might assure the House that if they were pleased to confide those powers to the present Lord Lieutenant, they might have every confidence that they would be carefully and cautiously exercised. He was most anxious to avoid causing any unnecessary annoyance; and although he was not prepared to defend the provisions of the Bill, he felt assured that the course he recommended was the only honest, true, and faithful part he could adopt towards the people of Ireland; and he trusted and believed it would be so received by them. He should be sincerely sorry if the necessity for proposing such a measure were to be taken as a specimen of the feeling and a sample of the legislation that the present Government would adopt towards Ireland; but he was most conscientiously persuaded that it would be impossible to take any other course. He ventured to hope the House would not refuse to trust Her Majesty's Government with the power they asked, not as a permanent measure, but to give them time for reflection and consideration.


had long listened in that House to arguments in support of Bills introduced to their notice, but had never in his life before heard such extraordinary arguments as those of the right hon. Gentleman. His surprise was the more increased when he considered the course which he had taken against that very Bill on its first introduction, when almost every hon. Member on that (the Ministerial) side of the House opposed it most perseveringly. With respect to any plans proposed to the right hon. Gentleman, he knew nothing of them; but his plan was a very simple one—namely, to let the Bill drop altogether. The right hon. Gentleman had told them he would assign reasons for proposing the measure; but the right hon. Gentleman had not given a shadow of reason. He had, indeed, admitted that the evils foretold of it had come to pass; but no proper reason for its continuance had been given by him. Why, the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for the Home Department had twice admitted that the Bill had failed; and it was then incumbent on the present occupants of the Treasury bench to show what good results were expected to flow from its continuance. The right hon. Gentleman asked, would they not trust Her Majesty's present Ministers with the powers given by the Bill? He was not willing to intrust unconstitutional power to any man or set of men. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke of his disapproval of the principle of the Bill, but at the same time admitted the necessity for its continuance, he wanted to know how and where that necessity was shown? What petitions from Ireland were there in its favour—what Member belonging to that country advocated its re-enactment? So far from agreeing with Ministers as to the necessity of its continuance, he thought they had come to a most unwise conclusion on the subject, and he would not be a party to the error they had committed. When the Bill had been first introduced, the allegations on which it was founded were that crime had so increased in Ireland that there were no other means left of preserving the public peace, and protecting the lives and properties of Her Majesty's subjects there. The truth of those allegations were by many doubted at the time; but what was the case at present? Why, no such allegations whatever were made, and yet the Bill was to be continued, and that too a Bill which was so objectionable in its provisions that the noble Lord who was now the First Lord of the Treasury had, when it had been first introduced, moved the omission of that clause, which was known as the branding clause. Right hon. Gentlemen, however, the moment they reached the Treasury benches seemed to forget all the wise maxims which governed them when in opposition. With respect to Ireland, trials of various systems had been made from time to time, all except the right one. Coercion had been used instead of conciliation, and the depriving of the people of that country of the rights and privileges enjoyed by Englishmen and Scotchmen, instead of extending those privileges to them. Now he would turn the tables altogether, and adopt a different system. On that very measure there had been no less than fifty-one divisions, and fifteen days had been lost which might have been better employed. Let them then drop the measure altogether. Let them adopt conciliation instead of coercion, and let them tell the Irish people that one of their first acts as a Government would be to put an end to a measure of so objectionable a nature. If the people of Ireland were treated on an equality with the people of England and Scotland, they would have a tenfold return of peace and good order from them—far greater than if they persisted in the old system. He could not understand how it was that the Members of the Government, individually and separately condemning the measure, at the same time collectively approved of it. He should move as an amendment that the Bill be read a second time that day month.


said, that when this Bill was originally proposed he was no advocate of it, but he did not think it deserved the character given it by the hon. Member. It was not a coercive or tyrannical Act in the sense imputed to it by the hon. Member, for scarcely any one could be refused to register arms under it. What he had predicted in 1843, when the great opposition was made to the new provisions then added to it was, that they would be found in the working of the measure troublesome, expensive, and inefficacious; and such had turned out to be the case. The Members of the present Government had at that time opposed the introduction of the present Bill, not because they objected to any Arms Bill; but their argument was that the then existing law might have been continued, and that the addition of the branding and registration clauses was objectionable. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland had given fair reasons, showing why it was not worth while discontinuing those powers at present; because, in fact, their operation as regarded branding and registration was over. He did not think that the Secretary for Ireland ought to have altogether abandoned the Bill, and he thought it reasonable to allow Government time to consider the whole question. It might be very true that the new clauses of 1843 were vexatious and useless, but that was no reason for abolishing, without consideration, a law that had existed in Ireland for half a century for the regulation of the import and sale of arms and ammunition in that country.


confessed that he had never heard a speech which surprised and amazed him more than that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Recorder of Dublin. The Bill was, according to his representation, troublesome, vexatious, expensive—not only not productive of any good, but positively and hopelessly useless—and therefore the right hon. hon. Gentleman would support it. He believed it to be everything the right hon. Gentleman had represented it, and for that reason he would vote against it. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the measure, the Secretary for Ireland, would make it his study, as far as in him lay, to have it administered in a kindly spirit. He knew sufficient of that Member of the Cabinet to be perfectly well aware that no tyrannical measure could be consigned to his hands for administration, that he would not endeavour, as far as in him lay, to mitigate the horrors of it; but still it was a tyrannical and oppressive measure, and he could not understand on what principle the constitution of Ireland should for the next nine months be handed over to the Lord Lieutenant and Chief Secretary. It was to him a matter of the most curious conjecture what wild infatuation could have induced the Government to take such a Bill under its protection. The Chief Secretary for Ireland himself admitted that it was a failure, and denounced every provision of it; and the right hon. Gentleman who sat by his side (Mr. Sheil), when in opposition had mercilessly denounced it with that all that fiery eloquence for which he was so remarkable, describing it as a measure into whose every clause tyranny was elaborated in every possible form. Was not that hon. Gentleman going to support it now, because, forsooth, he now sat on the other side of the House? He (Mr. Escott) gave the noble Lord at the head of the Government the fullest credit for the vote he recorded against the Coercion Bill introduced by the late Government; but was it to be credited for one instant that he was now going to perpetuate for nine months more a vile and a vicious system, having no other excuse for so doing than the absurd one, that as it had been so long persevered in, it might be continued a while longer? Why should the Irish people be treated thus ignominiously? Why should the constitution of Ireland be thus violated? No good reason had been attempted to be assigned for this measure, and no man could in the absence of all good reasons give his vote in favour of such a measure, and at the same time hope to maintain his character for honesty and independence. He called on all hon. Members who had any regard for their character to vote with him against this Bill.


was most willing to give his support to Her Majesty's Government so long as he could do so consistently with honour, and without violating his principles; but he felt that if he were to support them in the present instance, he would be degrading and disgracing himself. He deeply regretted that Ministers should have brought forward such a Bill, for public men were just now at a discount, and such conduct on the part of Ministers would not tend to raise them in estimation. If so odious a Bill as this were to be received without sufficient deference to the public feeling in this country and Ireland, people would think that there was indeed truth in the assertion that men changed their principles in that House as soon as they changed the benches on which they sat.


considered the Bill a violation of the Constitution, and particularly useless, and would vote against it accordingly. He would not say that there ought not to be some restrictions as to the importation of arms and the sale of gunpowder; but the practice of registering arms, especially under the circumstances of the branding clause, he could never approve of.


with every inclination to support the Government whenever he could do so with honour and consistency, could not vote with them on the present occasion. He had divided against the Bill before, and could not do otherwise than oppose it now.


thought that in this particular instance the Government had not acted with sufficient consideration of the sentiments of the public and the Irish Members. The effect upon the character of public men, which would result from the introduction of such a measure, would be most injurious; and most unaffectedly did he regret that Government had exposed themselves to such peril; for their Irish appointments were such as to induce the Irish people to repose confidence in them.


had been an active opponent of this measure when first introduced, and any amendments in it were of his introduction; but the question he had now to ask himself was this, what was best for the people of Ireland, and he must say that it appeared to him best for their interest not to tamper with patchwork legislation. In 1843 he was of opinion that there should be no legislation on this subject; but legislation having been introduced, they should now consider what was most advisable to be done under all the circumstances. Some hon. Members had advocated the renewal of the old Bill; but that would be most distressing on the people, for under that Bill no blacksmith could carry on his trade without registering his forge. If he did so, he subjected himself to a severe penalty. He was not, therefore, for renewing the old Bill, nor for introducing a new Bill to last merely till the 1st of May. He thought it would be a most mischievous arrangement to have the present form of arms legislation, then a new form to last for a few months only, and ultimately another and a totally new one, which was to supersede all the antecedent ones, for thus the people of Ireland would be exposed to the annoyance and infliction of three separate codes within the period of three or four months. Within the course of the last six or twelve months but very few registrations of arms had taken place in Ireland, so that it was natural to suppose that the greater number of fire-arms had already been registered in Ireland, and that there would be very little trouble or annoyance on that account between this and May. Under all the circumstances of the case, he could not but think that the least vexatious and in all respects the best course towards the Irish people was, to let the present Act remain for nine months longer on the Statute-book, on the express understanding that it was not to be a permanent enactment, but that at the end of that period the entire system with respect to arms should be revised and placed on a different footing.


said, it was with great regret that he felt himself called upon to give a vote upon this question in opposition to Government. They had been told, that the conduct of the late Government seemed to have been the result of gross infatuation; but he confessed he could not account for the course taken by the present Government on this question, except on the ground of positive infatuation. No one was more desirous than he that the Government should be powerful and permanent; but this could only be hoped for through possessing the confidence of the country—a confidence which he begged to say no party in the country could say they possessed. He had voted against the Coercion Bill of the late Ministry, in the full hope that it was the last Coercion Bill he would ever see, and because he thought the time had arrived for governing Ireland upon a new principle. In this he was disappointed; and therefore he would on the present occasion give the measure proposed by Ministers the most determined opposition.


did not at all view this matter in the light in which it had been represented by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, He did not regard this measure as a symptom of infatuation on the part of Government. Considering the disturbances that had so recently agitated Ireland, and the near commencement of winter, was any Gentleman prepared to say, distinctly and decidedly, that we ought to put no limit to the introduction of arms and gunpowder into Ireland? By the late Government there was no attempt to use the powers for limiting the importation of gunpowder, &c.; and this was the reason why the law had become in a great measure useless. An attempt had been made to argue the question on constitutional grounds; but that view of the question had been given up by the hon. Members for Louth and Rochdale, and indeed he could not see, considering all the circumstances, on what constitutional ground the question could be debated. He would most decidedly give his support to the Government by voting in favour of the Bill.


deeply regretted that Her Majesty's Ministers should have been so untrue to their professions when in opposition, to have introduced such a measure as this now that they were in office. What Irish Members had suggested that such a piece of legislation was necessary? Was it the right hon. Gentleman the Mem- for Dungarvon, or was it the right hon. the Recorder for Dublin. He (Mr. B. Osborne) denied that it was expedient to retain this Act on the Statute-book for one single hour longer. The present Government had come into power avowedly with the intention of making the same laws for England and for Ireland; and with these professions on their lips, how were they justified in advocating such a measure as the present—a measure, observe, which had not been bequeathed to them by their predecessors, but which, on the contrary, their predecessors decried and admitted to be a failure. He was willing to support the Government when he could do so honourably, but he would not repose that confidence in any Government that would induce him to support them when they proposed measures which were unconstitutional and destructive of liberty. Why were they to have enactments of this description? If the people of Ireland were so determined to commit outrages upon society, was it necessary that they should have powder and arms, when, if they were so disposed, they might make sledge hammers answer just as well? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clonmel had made such a speech that if his constituents knew it, he (Mr. B. Osborne) believed, even if he were to take the Repeal pledge whole, they would not return him again their Member, and that speech too, after having opposed a similar Bill upon a previous occasion. But it was said they were to have confidence in the Government. He (Mr. B. Osborne) had confidence in the good intentions of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland; but he had not equal confidence in those with whom that right hon. Gentleman was connected; and he had never given a vote with greater pleasure than that which he should give upon that occasion for reading the Bill a second time that day six months.


thought that there were other Members of that House, sitting on the Treasury benches, whom it behoved, as much as it did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clonmel, to explain their vote, and none more so than the noble Lord who was considered, by some means or other, to be the Prime Minister of this country. This Bill was opposed, not only by the right hon. Gentleman, but by the noble Lord in 1843. On a former evening, not long ago, he had taken the liberty to ask the noble Lord on what principles he proposed to conduct his Government. That was considered a very impertinent question. He incurred the displeasure of the noble Lord for putting it, and the noble Lord talked of every thing, but did not answer the question. He had incurred the displeasure also of some friends of his, who were getting into snug berths, and who were now ready to support the noble Lord in the apostacy of which he was about to be guilty. But he thought the result showed that he was perfectly justified in putting that question. The noble Lord said he intended to conduct his Government on the principles which he had always advocated. But what were those principles? What were those principles with regard to this very measure? Why, he found that in 1843 the noble Lord, speaking upon this very Bill, said— But really if we are told that it is the intention of the Executive Government to propose such plans, and such plans alone—if we are told that this is a sample of the measures by which Ireland is to be governed, I think before long that this House should address the Crown, or take some mode or other of expressing their opinion as to the government of Ireland. That was the principle on which the noble Lord had always acted, and he supposed that now, as a sort of tribute to the memory of his predecessors, he was going to pass another Coercion Bill. He wanted to know upon what principle they had turned out the late Government, unless it were upon the principle of non-coercion. Never was a Minister turned out so much against the will of the people of this country, or so much to the discredit of the party who had succeeded him. It was no such thing as the principle of non-coercion on which they turned out the late Government. Did they suppose that the country had forgotten what occurred in November and December last, when that non-coercion Government being offered the reins of Government on the principle of free trade, refused to accept them, pretending, for it was nothing but a pretence, that one noble Lord could not agree with another noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs, while those noble Lords were now united in the same Cabinet; and did they suppose that the people of this country would be bamboozled by such idle pretences as that? The right hon. Baronet whom they had turned out, had incurred obloquy and separation from his friends, and the loss of all that had been most dear to him, for the purpose of conferring upon this country a great commercial benefit. They had thrown out the right hon. Baronet on account of his Coercion Bill; and yet their first act was themselves to propose a Coercion Bill for Ireland. He could not understand such conduct. It was something worse than infatuation, as an hon. Gentleman had described it; for they might have allowed the Bill to die a natural death, and no one would have known it. As far, however, as an individual vote of an individual Member was concerned, he would say, let those who occupied the petty places of the Government falsify their principles, let them be dragged through the mire as they would be dragged, yet he would not have it said, Saxon as he was, that a Saxon Parliament had again renewed the Coercion Bill; and he would do his best, though he might stand alone in that House from the beginning to the end, to defeat that Bill, which all those Gentlemen who now sat upon the Treasury benches had opposed, and strenuously opposed, when they were sitting upon the other side of the House.


should oppose the Bill; but he must say that it gave him the greatest concern to be obliged to oppose the Government upon this question. He was firmly persuaded, that pass what Bills they might, they could pass no Bill which would be so effectual to preserve the peace of Ireland as the power already in the hands of Government would be.


was not afraid of the charge of apostacy—a hard word used by the hon. Member for Finsbury—being laid to him, for it had been his lot to propose several Arms Bill, and never to oppose one. He believed every year that he had had the honour to fill the situation of Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, it had been his duty to bring forward Arms Bills, not varying very greatly in their provisions from the Bill now before the House, though, certainly, on these Bills in question, in their progress through the House, more stringent and coercive provisions had been engrafted. He would not follow the hon. Gentleman through his attacks on Government. He was sorry the hon. Member had thought it necessary to condemn the vote which he had given against the Coercion Bill; but he did not think it was necessary to justify a vote which he had given in common with the hon. Member itself. He had voted for the first reading of the Coercion Bill, and he felt he could not take upon himself to vote against the second reading, so as to give ground for the notion that he was prepared to dispense with the existing law which regulated and protected life and property in Ireland. And when he did give his vote against the second reading, it was not with the idea of dispensing with such protection. He would not make any vague professions, being well aware that such professions and practice were often at variance. He would, however, make no disguise of this circumstance—that he was not prepared to approve of all the provisions of the present Arms Bill. The question, however, was this, was he prepared to admit that Ireland could now do without legislative enactments restricting the sale of gunpowder and the possession of arms by the Irish people? Government had found that legislation was in progress on this subject, as an Arms Bill had been brought in by the late Government. The present Government did not attempt to deny the existence of great objection to this species of legislation; they believed it was right to reconsider the subject, to ascertain if it were not possible to introduce a better and a less objectionable system. He was not prepared to recommend dispensing with legislation on the subject altogether until next Session; and the question to decide was, whether, having a Bill before the House now, they should ask that Bill to be supported until Government could reconsider the question next Session; or whether they should introduce another piece of legislation at this late period of the Session? The question itself had been treated with great exaggeration; and he was satisfied if this Bill were passed, that neither the people of England nor the people of Ireland would think the Government were seeking to embody in Acts of Parliament principles in which they did not agree, and which, heretofore, they had opposed. It was true Government had brought forward the present Arms Bill, but it was with the intention of bringing forward another measure the next Session. Government were of opinion it was their duty, considering the power intrusted to them, under all circumstances to continue the Act, at the same time expressing their intention of entering on the consideration of the subject at the earliest opportunity in the next Session. He hoped hon. Members would not think that Government considered this piece of legislation as a model for future Acts. Government were only asking the House to continue the Bill until the opening of next Session, pledging themselves to give the whole subject a careful consi- deration during the interval, and to bring forward some measure of a more confiding and conciliatory character as soon as the recess permitted.


was not called upon to apologize for the vote he was about to give in support of Her Majesty's Government. He had not opposed legislation on the part of the late Government for the better security of life and property in Ireland; and he did not now intend to oppose legislation for a similar object, because brought forward by the present Ministry. He considered the propositions of the noble Lord on the part of the Government were but reasonable and fair, and they should have his support. Those who had supported the Coercion Bill of the late Government, and who believed that the state of Ireland required the introduction of restrictive measures, were bound in honour and honesty to give their votes in favour of the present Bill.


I rise, Sir, after the many attacks which have been made on the Government for the proposition to continue this Bill, to speak, first, as to the point of consistency on which hon. Gentlemen have dwelt so much; and next, as to the nature of the proposal which we have now made to the House. The hon. Member for Finsbury holds it to be totally inconsistent in me to vote for the continuance of any Bill of some of the clauses of which I disapprove. Now, Sir, the question which I had to consider was, whether I should propose a continuance of this Bill, moving the omission of those clauses of which I disapproved; or, whether I should propose to drop the Bill altogether? Now, if I had proposed to drop the Bill altogether—which is the opinion of the hon. Member for Montrose, and I dare say of the hon. Member for Finsbury also—I should have been acting a more inconsistent part by far than any which he has imputed to me; because when this Bill was proposed in 1843, I said I could not vote with those who proposed that there should be a Select Committee, or in support of Resolutions or Motions the effect of which would have been the rejection of that Bill. My course was to state that the Bill consisted of two parts—one was to prevent improper persons having arms, the other to prevent the introduction of gunpowder and ammunition into Ireland; and after that statement I went on to say that I found the noble Lord had truly stated that precautionary measures on this sub- ject, certainly varying in their stringency, had been continued from time to time, for a period of fifty years. Now, during ten or eleven years of that period of fifty years, I myself had held office, and I had constantly voted for Bills containing restrictions of this description. I went on to say— With regard to the first object in 1838, I being then in connection with the Government (being, in fact, Home Secretary), inquiries were made as to whether the power could not be safely abandoned, and whether for all useful purposes a mere registration of arms would not be sufficient. The result of those inquiries was to convince the Government of Ireland, and to convince me likewise, that the effect of such a measure would most probably be to increase outrage, to increase faction fights, and to throw difficulties in the way of the police, who were seeking either to repress offenders or to bring offenders to punishment. With regard to the state of Ireland in 1838, and at the present time, I see no reason why we should now refuse that power which we thought necessary in 1838. With respect to the other power, it certainly could have been better parted with in 1838 than in 1841. So that with regard to those two main objects of the Bill, I gave my support to the Bill in 1843, and voted for going into Committee. If I were to say now that I had reconsidered the subject, and that I thought no Bill was now necessary, though I might get many hon. Members to agree with me in this step, yet it would be impossible to say that I was consistent, as this proceeding would be quite inconsistent with my previous declarations. It would be quite inconsistent too with my former course. For ten years I supported Bills of this description when in office, and in 1843 I voted for a similar Bill. Then I voted for going into Committee. There were many clauses in the Bill which I thought objectionable. I thought the branding clause was especially so; and though there was no great tyranny in it, I thought that it was a vexation which ought not to be introduced into an Act of Parliament; and I moved the omission of that clause. I moved some other Amendments, in which I did not succeed; yet I did not support a Motion on the Report, the effect of which would have been to reject the Bill; nor did I vote against the third reading, or make any further opposition to it in consequence of the introduction of those clauses. If that be the case, is it not competent for me to consider which of the two is the greater evil—to continue a Bill, some of the clauses of which I think highly objectionable, or to part altogether with the power of putting any restriction on the possession of arms in Ireland? With respect to those clauses, I still entertain the opinion which I have before expressed. Perhaps those who proposed them may have changed their opinions, and may not think them efficacious now. I think them vexatious; but I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Recorder for Dublin, that a good deal of the vexation is over now—with respect, for example, to the registry of arms—with respect to the sessions to be held specially for that purpose—that is all over. The greater part of the arms have been branded, and any vexation that is likely to take place on that account, between this time and May next, must be very trifling in amount. But with respect to this subject, I would observe, that we are now on the second reading of this Bill. If Gentlemen think with regard to any of those clauses, that they ought to be expunged from the Bill, it will be in the power of the House to accede to their wishes, and to make those Amendments in Committee, leaving out those clauses which they think will operate vexatiously and injuriously. But that is not the question to-night. The question is, whether the House will agree with the hon. Member for Montrose, that this power ought to be altogether taken away, and that all persons whatever in Ireland should be at perfect liberty to have any arms they please, to introduce any quantity of gunpowder they please into the country, and to sell that gunpowder and those arms in the interior, on the coast, and in all parts of the country. I say that in the short time I have had to consider the subject, I am not prepared to say that there should be so total a change in the legislation of Ireland. I do not say that the law ought to be maintained merely because it has existed for fifty years; but I say, as I said in 1843, that the tendency of throwing out this measure would be to increase outrage, to increase faction fights, and to throw difficulties in the way of the police, who are seeking to repress offences, or to bring the offenders to punishment. In our recent discussions on the Bill for the protection of life in Ireland, very few of those who opposed it, doubted that there had been many murders, or that the crime of deliberate assassination, as pointed out in the Queen's Speech, had not been of frequent occurrence. They did not take that line; but they said that the Bill was not calculated to check those offences. But if you see that these offences have been rife so lately as December and January last, and that they may be rife in December and January next—if you give an entire license to the people to have what they choose, then I do say my belief is that you will be giving encouragement to outrage, and that there will be more offences against life, than if you allowed this Bill to continue. If that be my opinion, I cannot shrink from the duty of proposing a second reading of this Bill. I cannot shrink from the duty of asking this House, however unpopular the measure may be, still to continue some restriction on the possession of arms in Ireland. The declaration in the preamble of all these Bills is, that they are to prevent improper persons having arms. Now I wish the House to observe, whatever ridicule may have been thrown on the argument of the right hon. the Recorder of Dublin, that it is a different thing to continue a law in England, by which all may have arms, and to abrogate a law in Ireland, by which restrictions are placed on the possession of arms. I have no doubt that the throwing out of this Bill would encourage many of those malefactors in Ireland, who go about deliberately offering their assistance to commit murder for money. [Mr. DUNCOMBE: Hear.] Does the hon. Member mean to say there are no such persons? [Mr. DUNCOMBE: NO; I say that on that principle this Bill is permanent.] But I will not admit that. I say, that taking away this power altogether, and at once, will have that injurious effect. I do not believe when we come to this question next Session, that we shall be able to part at once with the whole of this measure. I should be very glad if we could come to that conclusion; but my impression is, that you should take away all the more vexatious parts of this measure, and that you should rather get rid of this legislation gradually, than give it up all at once. If you reject this Bill now, every body will know that it has been done without deliberation and without forethought, merely because it was an unpopular Bill. On the principle on which the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) advised us to act, I am not prepared to proceed. I am not prepared to say that to avoid any unpopularity that may fall on the Government, still less for the sake of avoiding the loss of power which might happen to the Government, could I refrain from asking the House to confer powers which I think ought to be conferred on the Executive. It is our bounden duty, so long as we are in the Executive, to ask for powers which we think will maintain peace and tranquillity in Ireland. The hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Escott) himself cheers that sentiment, and at one time he was not of opinion that this Arms Bill was unnecessary, for I had the happiness of voting with him in the same division on a former occasion. But be that as it may, I repeat that it is not for the sake either of maintaining office or of retaining popularity, that I would refrain from asking for those powers which I conceive to be necessary, and which are contained in this Bill. At this late period of the Session, and with the thin attendance of hon. Members, I think it is most advisable to reserve the measure as a permanent one, or one to be wholly abolished, for full consideration when there can be a more ample attendance. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Wycombe (Mr. B. Osborne) said, he believed the present Government had the confidence of the people of Ireland, and that their accession to office had given a feeling of security in Ireland. If that is the case, are we not entitled to some consideration when we risk the good opinion of the people of Ireland by bringing forward a Bill which cannot add to our popularity, and which some say will take it entirely away? For my part, I am willing to incur the risk. I hold that whoever was in the Government would be bound to incur the risk. The former Government thought the Bill which they brought forward for the protection of life necessary for the protection of life, and they did well, in my opinion, in pressing it forward. The hon. Member for Finsbury, I suppose, thinks he gives some annoyance to the Government when he passes such panegyrics upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth, late at the head of the Government. I assure him he gives no annoyance to me, because I agree in what he says, that the right hon. Baronet did make great sacrifices when he brought forward his measure for the alteration and repeal of the Corn Laws. I think praise must ever attend him upon account of the sacrifice he then made, and for the course he then took. It cannot, therefore, be at all irksome to me if the hon. Gentleman bestows his praises upon the right hon. Baronet. The hon. Gentleman is always careful to say how very deserving the late Government were, and how much he admires their conduct. It is a great pity, if he admired that Government so very much, he did not do more to preserve them in office. If the hon. Member had thought how much he should lament their fall, he might have given them his continual support. However, the matter now before the House is, whether you will give a second reading to this Bill. As I have said, I am ready to listen to anything that can be said, when we go into Committee, as to whether it should be a simple continuance Bill, or whether some of the clauses should be altered. [Mr. ESCOTT: They cannot be altered.] The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. The Bill provides that the Act shall continue in force a certain time, and it is possible to alter some of the clauses. But this I must say, I am not prepared at the end of the Session to consent to part altogether with the restrictions which this Bill places upon the sale and disposal of arms in Ireland. I shall be glad when the time comes for altering the Bill to consider any suggestions that may be made, but at present I am not prepared to do so, and I must press the second reading.


asked the noble Lord whether he would consent to strike out of the Bill those clauses which he voted against when he sat on the other side of the House? He had no wish to embarrass the Government; but he thought it desirable to know if they would reject those odious clauses against which they had voted and divided the House fifty-one times.


had come down to the House prepared to support the Government in voting for a renewal of this measure; but after the extraordinary reasons he had heard given by them within the last hour for supporting it, he really felt bound to come to the conclusion of not being a party to its passing. They had declared that they thought it a bad measure, but that as there was no time to improve it this Session, they must content themselves with proposing its renewal till next Session. Why, they had not hesitated, late as the Session was, to propose a Sugar Duties Bill; and if they were justified in doing that, he thought they ought also to have made the present measure perfect before asking the concurrence of the House to it.


said, that from the part he had taken on a former occasion, he did not apprehend that the course he was about to take on the present occasion could be matter of doubt. The question was one too important to be decided by reference to the consistency of any Government. The question was, whether the withdrawal of this Bill would be consistent with the tranquillity of Ireland? Considering the extent to which crime prevailed in Ireland, the late Government had satisfied their conscience by proposing a measure with a view to its repression; and although the House had come to an opinion that that was a measure beyond the necessities of the case, and had refused to confide in the Government of which he was a Member, he was not yet prepared to say that the state of Ireland was such as not to require the continuance of laws which had hitherto been found in a certain degree effectual for the repression of crime. The fact was, that upon the present occasion—whatever objections he might individually feel to some parts of the Bill—however he might feel that it had not been so effective for the repression of crime as he had at first anticipated—it would be the highest rashness and imprudence, with the Government announcing that they were distinctly of opinion that it was necessary for the preservation of the peace of Ireland, and for diminishing the evils which existed there—having himself been sensible of the extent to which crime prevailed in Ireland—it would not be consistent with his sense of public duty if, in those circumstances, he forebore to give his support to the measure before the House.


had been asked a question by his noble Friend (Lord Seymour) to which he was anxious to give an answer. Undoubtedly the Government were of opinion that the best course for the House to adopt now was, without entering into the particular clauses of the Bill, to continue the existing Act. When he was asked whether he would agree to alter certain clauses, that would be to go through all the details; but if the noble Lord meant two or three of the most objectionable, to any such proposition he would give a ready hearing and consent to proper Amendments.

The House divided on the Question, that the word "now" stand part of the Question:—Ayes 56; Noes 23: Majority 33.

List of the AYES.
Anson, hon. Col. Broadley, H.
Bannerman, A. Brocklehurst, J.
Baring, rt. hon. W. B. Brooke, Sir A. B.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Buller, C.
Berkeley, hon. G. F. Cowper, hon. W. F.
Bodkin, W. H. Craig, W. G.
Dundas, Adm. O'Conor Don.
Dundas, D. Palmer, G.
Ebrington, Visct. Palmerston, Visct.
Estcourt, T. G. B. Parker, J.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Pigott, rt. hon. D.
Forster, M. Rich, H.
Fox, C. R. Rumbold, C. E.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Russell, Lord J.
Gladstone, Capt. Rutherfurd, A.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Seymour, Lord
Greene, T. Shaw, rt. hon. F.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Hamilton, G. A. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Hamilton, Lord C. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Hawes, B. Spooner, R.
Heneage, E. Stewart, P. M.
Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J. Ward, H. G.
Hogg, Sir J. W. Wilshere, W.
Jervis, Sir J. Wood, rt. hon. C.
Jones, Capt. Wyse, T.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Macaulay, rt. hon. T. B. TELLERS.
Morpeth, Visct. Tufnell, H.
Nicholl, rt. hon. J. Hill, Lord M.
List of the NOES.
Baine, W. Napier, Sir C.
Bowring, Dr. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Bridgeman, H. Osborne, R.
Browne, hon. W. Pechell, Capt.
Collett, J. Protheroe, E. D.
Crawford, W. S. Sibthorp, Col.
Duncan, G. Warburton, H.
Escott, B. Wawn, J. T.
Evans, Sir De L. Williams, W.
Horsman, E. Yorke, H. R.
Martin, J. TELLERS.
Morris, D. Duncombe, T.
Muntz, G. F. Hume, J.

On the main Question being again put,


wished to know distinctly whether the noble Lord would consent to the omission of the objectionable clauses of the Bill? Several hon. Members had understood the noble Lord to say, that he would consent to their omission, and he had got several votes in consequence. If the noble Lord would get up and say that he would omit those clauses, he should receive no further trouble from him with regard to this Bill. The clauses against which the noble Lord formerly made a strong speech were those which related to the branding and registering of arms. If Government were not prepared to legislate for Ireland in the same spirit and on the same principles in which they legislated for the United Kingdom, the sooner they went out of office the better. The division which they had just had would strike the people of this country with astonishment. If Government would dissolve Parliament on this Arms Bill, they would soon see what the people thought of them. He was at a loss to know how the hon. and learned Member for Dungar- von (Mr. Sheil) could reconcile the vote which he had just given with the speech he made on the subject two years and a half ago, in which he said that it was "tyranny elaborated into every form that coercion could conceive." Was the noble Lord the Member for Totnes (Lord Seymour) satisfied with the answer of the noble Lord at the head of the Government? If the noble Lord intended to omit these clauses, let him say so at once. The noble Lord had not yet said so. The noble Lord's answer was equivocal—he said that he would take the matter into consideration. But they all knew what a Minister meant when he said that he would take the matter into his consideration. It meant that he would do so and so if he had a majority at his back.


said, the hon. Member for Finsbury asked—whether he would consent to leave out "these clauses." It was difficult to give a straightforward answer to such a question. What did the hon. Gentleman mean by "these clauses?" He had, however, no hesitation in saying, that there were certain clauses in the Bill to which he had strongly objected, and that he had no objection to their being omitted. As the original Bill was to be reprinted, he must take some days to consider the matter.


remarked that it was hon. Gentlemen opposite, and not those on that side of the House, who had carried the second reading. It would have been better if Government had allowed the Act to expire, and if they had commenced their government of Ireland with conciliation instead of coercion.


admitted that when he moved the second reading, he stated that he thought the wisest course the House could take was, not at that period of the Session to go through the whole of the clauses, but to trust to the opinion avowed by the Government, that the present was an imperfect measure, and that it would be taken up and fully considered next Session. After having heard the discussion that followed, he still retained that opinion. At the same time, as several Irish Members were desirous, not that the Government should review the whole Bill for the purpose of altering it so that it might be altogether approved of, but that some of the more prominent and objectionable parts should be struck out, he was quite ready to admit that he agreed with his noble Friend at the head of the Government in his disposition to defer to that wish, and that he should be most ready to undertake the task imposed upon him. He would consider what were the most objectionable parts of the Bill, which he thought would be found to be those clauses which related to the branding of arms and domiciliary visits. But that he should do on the distinct understanding that he did not support the rest of the Bill as a proper measure. He should reserve his opinion upon that point until next Session, when he hoped to have an opportunity of introducing a measure on the subject.

Bill read a Second Time, and ordered to be committed.