§ SIR W. SOMERVILLE
said, he rose with considerable reluctance to move as an Amendment that the Bill be read a second time this day six months. He had been in hopes that after the time which had elapsed since the Bill had been introduced and read a first time in that House, and after the course which the late debate upon it had taken—a debate in which the opponents of the measure had been more successful in arguments than in any debate he had ever listened to; successful, because he believed it had the effect of causing many hon. Members who were previously in favour of the Bill to change their opinions; he had, he repeated, been in hopes 130 that, considering all these facts, Her Majesty's Government would have abandoned the measure. But since they had shown a degree of perseverance which was worthy a better cause, it became his duty to oppose, as far as in him lay, the further progress of the Bill. In so doing, he had the satisfaction of feeling that it would not be necessary for him, seeing that he had lately occupied so much of the attention of the House on this question, to trouble the House at any great length on the present occasion; indeed he could not but conceive that a simple reference to dates as regarded the introduction and progress of the Bill, and to the conduct of the Government with respect to it, would be quite sufficient, irrespective of the merits of the measure itself, to ensure the support of every independent Member on both sides of the House to the Amendment which he was about to submit. But having undertaken to move the rejection of the Bill, it would be unbecoming in him were he to omit an allusion to one or two points with reference to it. On a former occasion he had inquired whether the Government had exhausted all the ordinary means which the law afforded them to put down the state of crime which existed in Ireland, and he had been told in reply that it was a very delicate question as to whether the Government would be justified in issuing a special commission for the trial and punishment of offenders wherever crime arose. He had been further told, that it depended very much upon the state of the evidence which might be ready to be produced against offenders in custody. All this he admitted; but he wished to ask this question of the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland (the Earl of Lincoln). A special commission had recently been sent into the county of Westmeath. Before that commission issued, an inquiry was made by parties sent down for that purpose, to ascertain the evidence which was ready to be brought forward against the prisoners in gaol. He begged to ask whether the same course had been taken with respect to Limerick, to Clare, and to the other counties sought to be affected by this Bill. If the Government had done so, their excuse for not sending down special commissioners to those counties must be, that the evidence had failed; if they had not taken that course, then he maintained that they had not exhausted all the resources which the ordinary laws afforded them. With regard to the great point of the inapplicability 131 of the measure to the existence of a state of crime, a more complete failure of argument than had been exhibited on the part of the Government and of the advocates of the measure, it had never been his fortune to listen to. The measure, it had been proved over and over again, would be of no use whatever for the object it proposed to have in view. It was well known now what led to the state of things which existed in Ireland—the cause was known three quarters of a century ago; and yet nothing had been done to remove it. The same state of things existed in 1772 as existed now. This was shown by the preamble of an Irish Act of Parliament passed in that year, which stated that—Whereas it frequently happens that persons calling themselves Whiteboys have notoriously wantonly, and illegally assembled, to injure His Majesty's loyal and dutiful subjects, and have taken and carried away their horses and arms, compelled them to surrender up and leave the occupation of their farms, tenements, and places of abode, and with threats and violence administered unlawful oaths, and have sent threatening letters, and so on.Was not this the same thing over and over again? This Act was a stringent one; did it have its effect? After three quarters of a century, they were again trusting to the same thing, devising a remedy for the same disorder, and applying the same quackery to the disease, which had entered into the very body politic. Did they really think it would be more efficacious in arresting crime than the Act the preamble of which he had just read, and of which the present Coercion Bill was neither more nor less than a continuation? No; experience was against them; they must go to the root of the evil; the whole body politic of Ireland was diseased; it was "full of wounds and bruises, and putrefying sores;" the people of the country disliked and disrelished the law of the land as it existed: till they could change that feeling, and prove to the people that the law existed not for their coercion, but protection—till they could make them love it, instead of hate it—so long would they combine against it. It should be remembered that, since the Union, the absence of a coercive law had been the exception, not the rule; and till they could win the affections of the people to the side of law and order, so long would their nostrum fail, so long would they be compelled to resort to unconstitutional measures, which ended in nothing but exasperating the people. He (Sir W. Somerville) wished that he 132 had sufficient weight and standing in the House to be able to impress those truths on the mind of the Government. They had, however, been propounded and brought forward before by some of the wisest and best men that either Ireland, or this country ever saw; but even Mr. Grattan had failed in his endeavours to give effect to them. He would read one extract from a speech by Curran, in which he said—Penal laws have always more exasperated the people when the infliction of the penalty has gone beyond the crime.They were now, in the same spirit, inflicting transportation for seven years for being out of doors after sunset. He contended that the longer these laws were brought into operation—the longer a proper remedy for the social evils of Ireland was delayed, the more would all endeavours to improve the character of the population fail in their object. He begged hon. Members, in discussing this question, not to be led away by their feelings. He knew they were all apt to be so. The noble Lord the Member for the West Hiding of Yorkshire (Lord Morpeth) had on a former evening, with the ability which the noble Lord always evinced, alluded to the dreadful murder of the late Lord Norbury, and had depicted in forcible and eloquent terms the shock which his feelings had received when the intelligence of that fatal catastrophe reached him; but would the Bill now before the House, if it had then been the law of the land, have had the effect of arresting the arm of the assassin of Lord Norbury? No, it would not have been of the slightest use. At present the bulk of the population of Ireland believed themselves to be out of the pale of the law; and was it surprising, then, that they should frame a code of laws of their own? The same thing had been done nearer home. For example, in Scotland crime had been committed, sanctioned, and winked at by the great body of the people, when they thought that the laws were against them, and that individuals were employed to introduce a system which was obnoxious to the population of that country. Witness, for instance, the murder of Archbishop Sharpe, when the crowd allowed the assassin to recede without a single arm being raised to arrest his progress. So in Ireland, when the feeling prevailed that the laws in force were not intended for the protection of the great body of the people. They must be shown that they were cared 133 for; that it was felt that there were other people in the land besides landed proprietors and magistrates, the high and wealthy; and that the people had in the law at least a protector. He knew it might be asked of him, what grievances the Irish people had to complain of. He answered, that there was not an institution in that country which did not require amendment and reform. The municipal institutions, the elective franchise, and, above all, the poor law, called for and demanded attention and amendment. The rich were not sufficiently taxed; the poor must have a greater share of the wealth of that country. What that share ought to be, was not a question at present to be entered upon. The people were, as Mr. Burke said, fretted with a feverish existence, and were indisposed to addict themselves to agriculture, commerce, and other industrial pursuits; they looked to the Legislature for relief, and from the Legislature they received such a measure as this. It might be said, and he acknowledged it with gratitude, that there was a surcease of crime in Ireland; and it might be said by some that it was owing to the debates which had taken place in that House, and to the fact that the Bill had passed the House of Lords, and been read a first time in the House of Commons. He should be surprised if any Member from Ireland made such a remark. The people who committed these crimes had little knowledge of what passed in the House, and cared less. They were wound up to a pitch of exasperation from the state of misery in which they were immersed, and they regarded all that passed in Parliament, of which they knew very little, with perfect indifference. He could not close the few remarks which he had felt it his duty to make without calling the attention of the House to the time at which this Bill had been introduced, and the career it had run through the two Houses of Parliament. He hoped to receive the support of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck), and of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Disraeli), totally irrespective of the merits of the Bill, but solely on account of the manner in which Ministers had introduced and had conducted it. On the 22nd of January, Her Majesty recommended to Parliament to consider whether any meesures could be devised calculated to give increased protection to life. That was on the 22nd of January; and he begged the attention of the House to 134 this, because he hoped for the support of the noble Lord on account of the manner the Government had conducted the measure. Her Majesty having thus alluded to the subject on the 16th of February, nearly one month afterwards, when, as he begged his noble Friend to remark, there was no business of importance before the House of Lords, a Bill for the Protection of Life in Ireland was presented. On the 20th February, the Order of the Day for the second reading of that Bill, which stood for Monday, was read and discharged. There was an end of that measure. A new Bill was then presented and read a second time on the 23rd February, more than a month after Her Majesty had called the attention of Parliament to the subject, and ordered to be committed. The Committee again put off their deliberation, and yet again; but still all this time assassination, according to the representations of Government, prevailed to an awful extent in Ireland, and there was security neither for life nor property in that unhappy land. It was not until March the 13th, that the Bill was read a third time in the other House; and it was not until the 30th of March that (after an interval of about a fortnight from the time it was first brought in) its first reading was proposed to the House of Commons. And now—on the 8th day of the month of June—five months after the opening of Parliament, they were assembled to discuss the propriety of giving the second reading to a measure which, at the commencement of the Session, Her Majesty's Ministers described as one of paramount and immediate necessity. The conduct of Government in permitting such delay in the enactment of such a measure was utterly without excuse, and proved more eloquently than could a thousand arguments, that the measure was in itself wholly uncalled for. Now, he would put an hypothesis totally irrespective of the merits of this Bill. Supposing that it was in Yorkshire, in Dorset, or in Durham, that crime existed to such an appalling extent as to render the introduction of such a Bill necessary, would the English representatives—the men to whose charge the rights and liberties of the English people were committed—permit that the Bill should be hung up periodically, every now and then, and that for five months the Government should play fast and loose with it, just as the Government pleased. He begged leave to ask the noble Lord the Member for Lynn whether he would allow such delay, such vacillation, such shameful 135 procrastination, in the case of an English Bill? And if not, on what principle would he tolerate it in the case of an Irish Bill? He begged leave to remind the noble Lord of the words which he had used in that House on the 22nd of March last. On that occasion the noble Lord had declared that if Her Majesty's Ministers, by forcing on this Bill with great haste, gave practical proof that it was absolutely and indispensably necessary for the preservation of life and property in Ireland, both of which were in danger in that country, he and his party would be prepared to aid the Government in carrying out the Bill, the object of which was stated to be the prevention of assassination. But, the noble Lord added, that if striking proof were not given of the sincerity of the Government's conviction that the Bill was absolutely and indispensably necessary, he was not prepared to say that he or his party would support a measure which, in itself, was certainly harsh and unconstitutional. Such was the language used by the noble Lord in the month of March; and he asked the noble Lord whether the delay which the Government had permitted to take place in the passing of this Bill had not proved irresistibly that no cogent, no adequate occasion existed for the measure, and that, being a severe, a penal, and an unconstitutional Bill, it ought not to be opposed? If it were necessary, not one day, not one moment, should have been lost in passing it. True, he made a Motion long since with a view to have the Bill postponed; but he then considered it totally unnecessary, and he held the same opinion now. He then, as now, was impressed with the conviction that it was not only totally unnecessary, but that it would be totally ineffective to repress the evils of Ireland; and this being his feeling, he could with perfect consistency propose that other measures should take precedence of it; but after the delay which Government had permitted, proving that no actual occasion existed for the measure, he should like to know on what grounds hon. Members would now support it, who heretofore justified their advocacy of it solely and exclusively on the plea of its necessity. Quite irrespectively of the merits of the Bill itself, he hesitated not to say that the Government had by their conduct disentitled themselves to the support of the independent Members of that House. He did not mean that this observation should have exclusive reference to their conduct in permitting delay. The course they had pursued with regard to the Bill was in all 136 respects most extraordinary, most exceptionable. In a measure of this description Government had no right to ask in the first instance for larger powers than they were prepared to take. It was a most unconstitutional proceeding. They should have applied for the minimum of power, and have been content with it. But first of all this Bill was to be a permanent measure. A noble personage in another place started up and said, "Don't make it permanent; let it last only for three years;" and thereupon Government consented that its existence should be limited to three years. Then, again, the punishment originally contemplated under the Bill was transportation for fourteen years; but another noble Lord rose up and said, "make it seven years," whereupon the Government immediately concurred. Fourteen years or seven, it was all the same to them. And were the lives, liberties, and civil rights of the people of Ireland to be trifled with in this manner? He could not bring himself to believe that conduct such as this, characterized as it was by deliberate procrastination and an utter want of knowledge on the part of the Government of their own will, and of the powers necessary for the suppression of the evils felt in Ireland—he could not, he re-repeated, bring himself to believe that conduct so extraordinary, so reprehensible, would meet with the sanction of that House—nay, he confidently predicted that the result of the division would show that the House was resolved to stigmatize it with their strong reprobation. He called on all who prized liberty, and valued the constitutional rights of the subject, to support his Amendment; and, above all, he called upon the noble Lord the Member for Lynn to be true to his own words, and to carry out his engagement by withholding his advocacy from a measure which the Government had, by their delays, proved to be unnecesssary, and into which they had introduced such changes as showed that they did not know their own will, nor clearly understand what measure of power they required. The present was the first Motion connected with Irish affairs which the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Ireland had made; and as he had a great respect for his noble Friend, and felt grateful to him for the anxiety he had exhibited since the brief period of his accession to office to do his duty towards Ireland, he felt deep regret in finding himself compelled by duty to oppose his Motion; but really the Bill now under discussion was, in all 137 respects, so objectionable, and the conduct of the Government in reference to it so reprehensible, that he had no option but to give to the measure the most determined resistance. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
seconded the Amendment. He observed, that though he had not said much as to this question, he had felt much, and he was convinced of the impolicy and inutility of this measure. He felt that in pressing this measure they were not advocating one which would prove advantageous in any respect to the interest of Ireland, nor instrumental in any degree towards the removal of the evils which prevailed in that country, and which they all so deeply deplored. It might, perhaps, be charged against him (Mr. Bernal) and those with whom he usually acted, that on former occasions, when the preservation of the public peace in Ireland, and the suppression of crime and outrage in that ill-governed country, were objects greatly desired, they supported severe measures resembling in some respects the present. He admitted the charge. It was true that in past years he had supported measures brought forward in the hope of restoring tranquillity and good order in Ireland; but he was sorry to say that the good results accruing from the operation of these measures were but temporary and evanescent, and he was not convinced by practical experience of the salutary effect of introducing such enactments. In the year 1846 they were called upon to sanction a measure inflicting the penalty of transportation on persons for being absent from their homes after sunset; but he asked hon. Gentlemen opposite whether they were prepared to say this harsh and severe measure was the chief the only remedy they purposed applying for the welfare of the unfortunate millions who were starving in Ireland? [Colonel WOOD: No, no!] The hon. and gallant Member cried "No, no!" but would he favour the House so far as to explain what were the remedial measures he was prepared to advocate? What other measures than this Bill of pains and penalties was he prepared to support? Hon. Gentlemen opposite mistook the malady of Ireland. They dealt with it with a strong and surgical hand, frequently applying the lancet and the probe; but they neglected the true remedy—palliatives. For years nothing could be more deplorable than the 138 condition of the Irish people. In Ulster there might be comparative prosperity; but in three-fourths of Ireland misery, destitution, and wretchedness met the eye in every direction. How could tranquillity, good order, and decorum prevail amidst such a state of things?
[At this stage of the debate, there being apparently about twenty-five Members present, Mr. DILLON BROWNE moved that the House be counted; but the requisite number having been found to constitute a House, the debate was resumed.]
resumed by observing that the attendance on that occasion was a proof of the apathy with which questions relating to Ireland were regarded; and if any additional proof were needed of the non-necessity of this measure, it would be found in the fact that, at eight o'clock in the evening, there were barely forty Members of the House present, when this Bill was expected to be read a second time. He feared the measure had been discussed ad nauseam; and throughout the discussion he had not heard a single argument, or a single additional fact, to convince him of the necessity for passing any such measure at present. It was an old argument against the measure, but one which had never been controverted, that the Bill sought to prevent assassinations and murders in the open daylight, by punishing those who were absent from their houses in the night. What, then, was the ground for such a measure? Much had been said about its moral effect. He should like to know where that was to be found? If a man was determined wickedly to injure another—to take his life or to maim him in person—he would do it by open daylight as well as by night. By far the greater portion of the atrocities committed against the person in Ireland, had been committed in open daylight and in the presence of witnesses. The case of Lord Norbury, and many other instances of assassination or attempted murder, might be cited. And, strange to say, taking the world at large, the same rule prevailed. Looking to a neighbouring country, we found that most of the attempts on the life of the King of the French had been made in open daylight; and if we searched the world over, we should find that some of the most desperate crimes had been committed in broad day, without the veil of darkness to conceal the perpetrators from discovery. That argument against the measure had never been rebutted. But could it be imagined that 139 the complaint which had prevailed for years in Ireland, had arisen from anything else than a general feeling of want and destitution on the part of the people? He would ask the right hon. Gentlemen opposite what had been their main argument for introducing the Bill for the repeal of the Corn Laws? Was it not the plea of the destitution and famine prevailing in Ireland? And was there a Gentleman present who was not prepared to corroborate that argument—that the people of Ireland had been for centuries in a state of the lowest degradation and poverty? From the humane attempts that had been made by Government, and which in several parts of Ireland had been very worthily seconded by local exertions, the distress had been in a great measure mitigated, and the feelings of exasperation allayed; and, in many parts of the country harmony and comfort had followed in the train of these blessings. But he must ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were no doubt sincere in their support of this measure, why, if the measure were really wanted, had the Bill been so long and so unaccountably delayed? Why, in the month of June, was this measure still awaiting its second reading? In Her Majesty's Speech it had been alluded to in marked terms; yet, in the second week in June it had advanced no further than it might have done in the second week of the Session. If this or any similar measure were required to maintain the public tranquillity in Ireland, was it credible that Parliament should be now only discussing the second reading? If Ireland had been in such an alarming state in December, why had no legislative remedy been administered till June? He, for one, had thought they should never hear of this Bill again after the recess; and great was his surprise at finding it again introduced to the House. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had, from a mistaken notion about a point of honour, thought it necessary to show some support and consideration to a Bill sent down from the other House, and had consequently pressed the first reading; but he had never thought it would be reintroduced, and several Gentlemen in the House had entertained the same view, and were now deceived. There might be gentlemen in Ireland who were anxious to protect themselves in the enjoyment of their property, and who approved of this measure; and there might be Gentlemen in 140 this country, who, listening to the statements that had been paraded respecting Irish atrocities, would be ready to support such a Bill in any shape; but he ventured to say that if England were polled through, there would be a very small minority in favour of this measure. The people of this country had too much sense to believe, after the accounts of destitution and want of the common necessaries of life which the Irish people had been encountering for years, that a Bill which proposed to send a man to Van Diemen's Land for being absent from his house after sunset, was the proper remedy for such a state of things. The framers of this Bill had not displayed even the most ordinary consideration for the situation of the people of Ireland. How were the customary occupations of farmers and farm labourers in that country to be carried on, so as to allow the men to return to their houses in time to avoid the absurd penalties enforced by this Bill? [House again counted, and again continued.] He gave Government credit for the precautions they had taken for keeping down the price of provisions in Ireland, and for showing that there was a desire on the part of the Legislature to relieve the prevailing destitution. The steps thus taken were highly creditable to Government, and had tended to create a moral feeling in their favour. It was much to be regretted that other circumstances of recent occurrence there had had an opposite tendency, had weighed very heavily upon the energies of the people, and had tended to alienate those in both countries who had given Ministers credit for sympathy with the Irish people. He was told that the juries in Ireland were not selected impartially with regard to religious creed; and a feeling was consequently prevalent that those who came before them had not a fair chance for protection and for an impartial hearing. These things, if true, demanded the earnest attention of the Government, and formed an additional argument why they should be cautious in passing any such legislative measure as the one now-proposed. There could be no doubt that the distress was at the bottom of all the evils of Ireland; for where distress prevailed, and where men's minds were, in consequence, pained, and rendered morbidly sensitive, they were prepared to adopt the suggestions of any ill-designing parties who might be stalking about the country, exciting them to insurrection, and to acts of atrocity and violence. Year after year 141 the Legislature had been told that the small holdings of land among the peasants and smaller farmers was the cause of one-half the evils that oppress Ireland. This had been reiterated and impressed upon Government in a variety of forms; and yet nothing whatever had been done towards applying a remedy to this state of things. After so many experiments had been tried, and had led to failure instead of success, it was surely too late now, in 1846, to think of healing the wrongs of Ireland by such a measure as this. He begged to ask right hon. Gentlemen opposite if it were true that certain noble persons in another place, who had expressed an opinion favourable to this measure when it was before their Lordships' House, had since expressed an opposite opinion? [Sir R. PEEL could not take upon himself to affirm that.] It was, he believed, a fact, that some noble Lords connected with Ireland had changed their opinions. Was that an argument in support of this Bill, or was it not, rather, a strong argument against proceeding with it further? At all events, it was evident that the number of supporters of this measure had diminished. If these noble persons had been induced to support this measure on certain grounds on which it was recommended to their consideration, it was fair to presume that they had seen equally good grounds for abandoning their support of it. This measure had been delayed from February till June, though it was declared to be a measure that was necessary for the salvation of Ireland, for the preservation of the peace and tranquillity of that unhappy country, and for the repression of atrocities, crime, and attempts at assassination; and they were now, in the month of June, discussing whether it should be read a second time or not. Was such a thing ever known in the legislation of this country? It was more like a romance, and more fitting for the climate of Mexico, or some of those countries which were but just trying their hands at legislation. But it was scarcely to be believed that the Parliament of Great Britain, after sitting in consideration upon so many important measures, and advancing them as their importance demanded, should now, on a sultry evening on the 8th of June, be discussing whether this Bill should be read a second time—a Bill which had been alluded to and recommended in Her Majesty's Speech at the opening of the Session. It was not creditable to the Legislature as a body—he said 142 nothing about either one party or the other—that such should be the case. The state of the House at that moment—[there were not more than forty Members present]—convinced him that this was a subject very little in unison with the feelings of this great nation, of this mighty Parliament—seeing that, at half-past eight in the evening, there was barely a House to consider this measure, or to listen to the arguments by which it would, no doubt, be supported.
[No one rising to address the House, a division was called for, but none took place.]
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
would appeal to the hon. the Secretary for Ireland, to the right hon. the Home Secretary, and to the other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial bench, not to allow this important question to be put and decided in a House of barely forty Members. Notwithstanding the long pause that had taken place after the last speaker sat down, the Members of the Government had sat still in their places, whether from incapacity to meet the arguments that had been advanced, from contempt of the Irish people, or from both, it was impossible to say. He was very much inclined to think it was from incapacity, because it had been said of that noble Lord who now filled the office of Secretary for Ireland, that, with the very best intentions, of any real knowledge of the condition or wants of Ireland he was as innocent as the child that was unborn. And he understood that that noble Lord had been obliged to run and ask questions of the noble Lord who had been Secretary for Ireland, the Earl St. Germans. [Lord LINCOLN: I never asked any questions at all.] He hoped, then, the noble Lord would ask some questions; for he believed there was not a more ignorant Member in the House, on the subject of Ireland, with the best intentions, possibly, than the noble Lord, the late unsuccessful candidate for Nottinghamshire. An anecdote had been told him that that noble Lord had found out that it was necessary to reside six years in Ireland before any one was at all qualified to give an opinion on Irish affairs. The noble Lord had now been six months in Ireland; so that it might have been supposed he had come down, ready primed, to give some answer to the Amendment that had been moved, and the arguments by which it had been enforced. Passing by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, he would call on the right hon. Baronet the First Minister of the Crown, not to suffer this Bill to end in 143 this way. If he did not choose to come forward himself, let him put forward some of his pawns to open the contest for him. It was not treating the House, or the country, and especially Ireland, with proper respect, to suffer an important question of this nature to go to the House when it was in such a state.
The EARL of LINCOLN
said, that he could assure the House, and the hon. Gentleman who had just made an attack upon him which he could not think was quite justified by the circumstances that appeared to have led to it, that however ignorant he (the Earl of Lincoln) might be upon Irish affairs, he had come down to the House with the fullest intention of rising immediately after the seconder of the Amendment had concluded his speech, to explain his views and those of the Government with regard to the measure. But when he found that two attempts had been made to count out the House within ten minutes—when he looked at the benches opposite, where sat the hon. Member who had charged him with offering insult to the Irish people, and saw but three or four of the representatives of Ireland, occupying their seats there—when he saw that such was the interest which the hon. representatives of Ireland themselves bestowed upon this question, he did certainly think that he should be acting a more becoming part, nay, that he should be showing more respect to the Irish Members themselves, and to a question involving the interests of the Irish people, if he, however ignorant an individual he might be, yet happening to occupy the responsible position of Irish Secretary, did endeavour to postpone, until a later period of the evening, when probably the Irish Members would have been in attendance, those observations which he should certainly not shrink from making in the presence of any of them; and he was most anxious, therefore, that those hon. Members should have been present when he had had the honour of addressing the House. Had he willingly risen at this period of the debate, nothing was more probable than that he should have been taunted, at a subsequent stage, with having risen at a time when nobody could have expected it, and with shrinking from allowing the Irish Members the opportunity of hearing and answering him, by purposely taking that occasion of explaining his views. He hoped he had exonerated himself—if not in the opinion of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. B. Osborne), at least in that of other hon. Members 144 present—from the charge of intentional disrespect to Ireland; and had shown that, on the contrary, he had acted, according to the best of his judgment, in the manner which he considered the most respectful to the House at large, and to the Irish Members in particular. He had certainly not intended that the House should be taken by surprise by a division at this hour on the question; but he had most fully anticipated, when hon. Gentlemen saw that he did not think it becoming to rise, that others who wished to take part in the debate would have done so. It was a matter of perfect indifference to him at what hour of the evening he addressed the House; he was not so vain as to expect any large attendance; he knew it was his duty to address the House in the course of the debate; and though hon. Gentlemen were not in attendance, he was perfectly ready to address the House now, as he should have done at a later period. He could assure the hon. Gentleman who had made this violent assault upon him, that he would now dismiss that part of the case entirely; he would most cheerfully avoid all irritating topics, and would make no personal or party allusions. He would endeavour to confine what he had to say entirely to the defence of the Bill now before the House, and to the justification of the provisions it contained. The hon. Member for Drogheda (Sir W. Somerville) at the conclusion of his speech, had said it was with pain he rose to move an Amendment to the first Motion which it had been his (the Earl of Lincoln's) official duty to make, in his situation of Secretary for Ireland. With no less pain did he perform his official duty, for the first time, by moving the second reading of this Bill; and while every Member of the Government participated in that pain, they felt it was a duty from which they ought not to shrink. Entering upon the question with this spirit and these feelings, he scarcely needed to assure the House that he would not willingly diverge from the question before it, nor endeavour, by any taunts of inconsistency against hon. Members, with regard to their conduct on former Bills of a like nature, to lead the House from the consideration of the subject before it. In the debate on the first reading of this Bill, the Government had been subjected to two counter charges with regard to the course they had pursued. They were told by some hon. Gentlemen opposite, that they had introduced this Bill without reason — without excuse—without 145 justification. By another party—he alluded more particularly to the hon. Gentlemen occupying the benches below the gangway (the protectionists)—they were told that this measure had been delayed too long, that they ought to have legislated on this subject earlier. At any rate, the first part of this charge was disproved by the debate that took place on the first reading; for, in spite of the assertion of the hon. Member for Drogheda with regard to the complete failure of the Government in that debate, he maintained that grounds had been laid such as had ever been held sufficient on former occasions with reference to Bills of this nature; and that a complete proof was given of the existence of a state of things in Ireland which justified an enactment of that kind. So strongly was he of that opinion, that he should have hesitated, but for the assertion of the hon. Mover of the Amendment, to introduce further proofs, thinking that it would be needlessly delaying the House. He might appeal to the whole policy of the Government, since they had taken office, as a contradiction to the assertion that this Bill had been brought forward without reason and grounds for so doing. He would call to the recollection of the House that the Act of 1835 had expired shortly before they accepted office. Did they call upon the House to renew that Act? Certainly not. For five years the government of Ireland had been conducted without recurrence to legislation of this kind. For five years—one of the longest periods in the last fifty years in which no measure of this kind had existed—had the present Ministry carried on the government of Ireland without resorting to a measure giving the Executive extra - constitutional powers. He would remind the House that the Government were charged with too great readiness to adopt such a measure, without reason and justification. What had been the course and policy of the Government as regarded measures of protection, or of coercion, as some hon. Members were pleased to call this measure? Did they not find laws of a similar kind in force? He alluded particularly to the Party Processions Act; they allowed that Act to expire. What did they do on the renewal of the Unlawful Oaths Act? They rejected one of its provisions which was most obnoxious to the Irish people, and of which they justly complained; and even if he took the Arms Act, to which the feelings of the House and the noble Lord now sitting at the bar (Viscount Clements) 146 gave a long and strenuous resistance—many of its stringent provisions were omitted, and few persons there were who would not say that the present was in some respects a mitigation of the former Act. But they were told, on the other hand, that they had delayed this measure too long. He did not think this was a charge that could well lie at their door, though there were circumstances last year which warned them that some legislation of this kind would become necessary. But of the two charges, if he were guilty of either, he would be most ready, on behalf of himself and of his Colleagues, to bear the latter. He would not lightly and prematurely bring forward such a Bill; and he did not think it a very heavy charge that they had delayed this measure as long as it was compatible with their duty, and had waited to see whether other measures would not produce the results which might now be effected by this Bill. In the last half of his speech, the hon. Member for Drogheda made a charge which somewhat surprised him, though he admitted that it was good generalship to put it as one of his leading arguments. He could not but recollect, when the hon. Baronet charged the Government with grossly neglecting this Bill, and read the dates of its different stages, that the hon. Baronet was the very individual—and he had the candour to admit it—who, upon the first reading, moved the postponement of the Bill to a future day, in order to give precedence to the Corn Bill; and the hon. Baronet was thus a participator in the offence with which he charged the Government. He thought they might have been spared these imputations, when the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government was charged in the preliminary debates before the adjourned debate on the first reading, with being unfaithful to his measure on the Corn Laws by pressing the first reading of this Bill. He admitted, owing to circumstances over which the Government had no control, that the different stages of this Bill were not rapidly taken; but his right hon. Friend had pledged himself that, except the first reading, no stage should be taken till the Corn Bill and the Tariff had passed the House of Commons. The hon. Baronet stated that this Bill was unconstitutional. It was unnecessary to state that, for he believed there was not any one in the House but knew that it was unconstitutional; and such must ever be legislation of that character; and every Ministry which had introduced 147 a measure of that kind had admitted it to be unconstitutional. He admitted also that it was only to be justified by a stern necessity, and by a state of things in which life and property could not be maintained by any enactments confined within the Constitution. Unless he proved such to be the fact, he had no right to introduce a measure of that kind. They were told that it was an infringement of the liberty of the subject. It might be so; but at the same he asked whether, if they fairly looked at it, it was not more a measure of protection than of coercion? When they talked of the infringement of the liberty of the subject, what was that liberty in some parts of Ireland? It was the liberty of murder and outrage. The noble Lord (Viscount Clements), who was well acquainted with one of the five counties, cheered him, and no one knew better the fact he was mentioning; there was no liberty for the peaceful, and he apprehended it was the peaceful that it was the duty of a Government to protect. The liberty of the peaceable, and orderly, and loyal, was now infringed; and it was to protect their liberty, to maintain the law, and to re-establish moral and social ties, that the Bill was introduced. It was for these purposes alone that the Government sought those powers; and if the House consented to pass the Bill, it would be for these purposes alone that the Government would consent to use them. Real liberty and lawlessness could not co-exist; and if they were to protect liberty, lawlessness and outrage must be suppressed. His right hon. Friend (Sir James Graham) had shown, by statistical accounts, the state of things which existed, not throughout the thirty-two counties of Ireland, but in five counties; and, though they were told they brought an indictment against Ireland, it was only five counties against which they made the charges; the rest of Ireland was exempt; and as the charges would not be applicable to any other than the five counties, so he would not justify the measure by reference to any others. The hon. Seconder of the Amendment had talked of the "philosophy of nations." If the philosophy of the nation were studied, it would be found that these evils were always local; they were an endemic in Ireland; but he feared they were also contagious. Of the five counties in question, now affected, four were exempt in the year 1833. Tipperary was then the only one of the five counties now afflicted with this grievous calamity; the other four were exempt; 148 and Leinster, which was now most orderly, was then the most disturbed, and called for the measure of 1833. [An hon. MEMBER: That Act never came into operation.] The hon. Member says that that Bill was never brought into operation; no, nor was the Bill of 1835. But was that an answer to the Motion that this Bill be read a second time? Quite the reverse. The effect was produced without acting on the Bill; and was the hon. Gentleman such an enemy of enactments that he would grudge the passing of such Bills, because there was no expectation of their being put into effect? He thought that in making that statement, the hon. Gentleman had only proved that such Bills were successful in that way which was most desirable, and held out an encouragement to pass this Bill through its remaining stages. As he had said before, so many instances were brought forward to prove the necessity of the measure, that he hesitated to trouble the House with any more on this occasion. In moving however, for the second reading of this Bill, it was necessary rather, by producing accumulative instances of crimes of a peculiar nature, than by quoting a few striking and startling occurrences, to lay the foundation for the passing of such a measure. The hon. Baronet who moved the Amendment had stated, that he conceived the Government were bound, in introducing this measure, to do three things: the first was to prove the necessity of some measure of the kind; the second, that they had already attempted, through the instrumentality of the ordinary law, to effect the object for which this Bill was intended, and had failed; and, in the third place, they were bound to prove that there was a fair prospect of the Bill being effectual for its purpose. He admitted that the hon. Baronet had made a fair representatation of the duties of any Government who introduced such a measure as this; and if they had not already proved the case sufficiently, he was perfectly ready, although he feared it would be at the risk of troubling the House, to endeavour still further to strengthen it, and to establish the fact; but before he proceeded he might be allowed to refer to a statement put forward by several hon. Members, but by none so strongly as by the hon. and learned Member for Cork, both in the speech he addressed to the House on the first reading, and, if he might say so, in the Amendment he had placed on the books with the intention of bringing it forward that evening, 149 but which he had withdrawn—namely, that these disorders were principally, if not entirely, of an agrarian character, and that the right mode of meeting them was not by legislation for the protection of life and property by Coercion Bills, but by introducing measures regulating the relative positions of landlord and tenant, and other measures of that kind. Now, he must say, that a careful examination and analysis of the criminal returns completely disproved that statement; and he thought he should be able to establish—although he did not deny that the origin at some antecedent period of this disordered state of Ireland was more or less connected with land, and although he admitted that at the present day a great many of the outrages in Ireland did arise out of disputes about land, yet—that the hon. and learned Member was not justified in his statement either that the majority or a great proportion of the crimes in the five counties he had referred to, originated in disputes about land, or assumed what was called an agrarian character. He believed he should be able to prove that not only the relations of landlord and tenant were interfered with, but also every other social and domestic relation of life, and that the hon. Baronet who moved the Amendment was indeed justified when he used that strong expression that the whole body corporate of Ireland was diseased. In order to prove that part of his case, he thought he could not bring witnesses from a more unprejudiced source than from that Commission instituted by the Government, and which about eighteen months ago presented its report — he alluded to that Commission over which the Earl of Devon had presided. He was aware that, unfortunately, the evidence and the appendices to that report were so voluminous that a great many hon. Gentlemen, whose duty it might not be specially to refer to them, might have overlooked much valuable matter in them. But he wished specially to draw the attention of the House to the report, contained in the appendix to the first volume, of Lieutenant Colonel Miller, superintendent of the police. The return was called for with the view of ascertaining, as he supposed the Commission expected to find, whether disputes about land were at the bottom of most of these outrages. This was the return of the Constabulary-office during 1844, distinguishing those offences that were of an agrarian character. In the course of that year he regretted to see the alarming number of 150 6,337 cases of outrage in Ireland. He believed at the same time that that was not greatly beyond the ordinary number. Of that number 5,336 were not of an agrarian character, leaving only 1,001 which participated in any respect in that character. But even that did not present a fair return, for included in that number of 1,001 agrarian outrages were 417 threatening notices. Now, he thought that those who were acquainted with the subject would admit that, although unfortunately a great many of those notices were of a serious and alarming character, yet they could hardly be included in the same category with other offences of an agrarian character: and in order to show a fair return they ought to have deducted these offences from the numbers he had given, both from the total of offences of an agrarian character, and also from the total of offences not agrarian; but if they went into minute particulars, he thought the case would be stronger still. Thus, of incendiary fires 404 were not of an agrarian character, and only 121 were of that character. Of assaults endangering life, 238 were not of an agrarian character, whilst only 12 were. Again, there were 465 aggravated assaults not agrarian, and only 40 of an agrarian character. For firing at the person there were 67 not of an agrarian character, and only 26 of that character. Of homicides there were 127 not agrarian, and only 18 agrarian. So far as that was of importance, he thought it clearly showed to the House that the statement made by the hon. and learned Member for Cork — and he evidently had attached considerable importance to it—was not borne out by refereuce to facts and figures. [Mr. B. OSBORNE: How are they classified?] They were classified as "agrarian" and not "agrarian," by the special direction of Lord Devon, who requested Lieutenant Colonel Miller to make a return, for the purpose of exhibiting the results; the members of the Commission, no doubt, entertaining the opinion, as he believed most persons did at that time, that the result would turn out very different from what it did. In further exemplification of this part of the case, he would refer to the returns which he had laid on the Table of the House last Friday, but which were so bulky that many hon. Gentlemen, he was afraid, had not been able yet to have read them with that care which he hoped they would give to them at a future time; and he thought, if they would inspect them, 151 they would find that what he now stated was more than borne out by those documents. But he hoped the House would not feel that he was trespassing too much on their patience if he ventured to read some extracts from those returns, as exemplifying this part of the case. They were classified, as well as the shortness of time had allowed, under different heads, and he thought they would show to the House the real social state of Ireland in the five counties to which allusion had been made. He had omitted one class of crime—the robbery of arms, which had been, under all circumstances, so common, that he would not trespass upon the House by mentioning it further. He did not understand why the hon. Gentleman cheered. [Mr. B. OSBORNE: That crime has increased since the Arms Bill.] He was not prepared to deny that that was the case. He was, however, quite prepared to assert, that he believed the measure now under consideration would be more likely to be effectual in the repression of that crime than any more stringent Arms Bill. At the same time he might be allowed to say, that perhaps some blame attached to the hon. Gentleman himself, and those who had acted with him in the passing of the Arms Bill, in regard to the course they took, depriving it, as he believed, of some of its efficiency, although not materially altering its character. [Mr. B. OSBORNE: The Home Secretary said it was a failure.] He had already stated that he was not prepared to deny that there had been an extension of the robbery of arms within the period since the passing of that Bill; and he, therefore, hoped the hon. Gentleman would admit that if his right hon. Friend had so stated in that House (he was not aware that his right hon. Friend had made any such statement), he was not stating anything at variance with it. The first class of cases which he would read from the Papers he had laid on the Table of the House last Friday, arose out of disputes between landlords and tenants, but were not of that character which regarded the holding of land, and were therefore not designated as agrarian. The hon. Gentleman might think he was making a large exception; but, in the first place, the class to which he referred was extremely small; and, secondly, he thought when he read those cases to the House the hon. Gentleman would agree with him, that there was a broad distinction between them and cases of a strictly agrarian character. 152 He would also state, that in most of the cases to which he should refer, when the time was stated, it would generally be found that the night was the time of the outrage. He would now proceed to read some of the extracts:—At half-past 9 p.m. a party of about sixteen persons, armed with sticks, and faces blackened, came to —'s residence, inquired for him, and on being informed by his wife that he was absent, they very severely beat his two sons (young men), desiring them to tell their father not to tyrannize over his tenants.
The EARL of LINCOLN
submitted that, as he had already said, it participated somewhat of an agrarian character, but that it could not strictly be so designated. If the hon Gentleman (Mr. Scrope) would refer to the returns, he would be able to substantiate completely for himself that which he asked from him (the Earl of Lincoln) as a matter of opinion; because those returns had been so classified into cases of an agrarian character, that if the hon. Gentleman differed from him in opinion, he would be able to see how far he (the Earl of Lincoln) had been led into error; but the crimes had been classified in a way which he believed to be just.On going away they searched the out-offices, and finding —'s horse, they disbelieved the story of his absence, and returning to the dwelling, they narrowly searched it until they found —, whom they severely beat, cut, and bruised, threatening worse treatment if he did not use his tenants with more kindness; and compelling—'s wife to hold the candle for them while this was going forward.—, it appears, had latterly endeavoured to get some money from two or three cottiers who had for years occupied cabins on his land, but who had always refused to pay rent.— publicly denies all knowledge of any of the assailants, but admits to the police—[he begged to call the attention of the House especially to this part of the case]—that he knows some of them, and is willing to lodge informations privately, after he shall have sold his stock, &c., preparatory to leaving the country, as he considers it unsafe to remain, and that he could not effect the sale were he to come forward publicly.That occurred in the county of Leitrim. As the hon. Gentleman expressed some doubt with regard to that class of cases, he would read no further extract from them; but he apprehended there would be no difference of opinion with regard to the others to which he was about to refer, unless it were with respect to those of forcibly compelling servants to leave their service, although he himself had no doubt upon the subject of how such crimes should be designated. The first case was on the 153 29th of January, 1845, in the county of Leitrim:—This evening a party of six persons, two of whom were armed, entered the house of M'Inertney, and beat him and his son, because of his permitting another son to remain in the service of a man named Crotty, who is bailiff to Mr. Tomkins.There was another case on the 1st of November, in the same county:—About 1 o'clock, p.m. two persons armed with sticks, entered the stable of Mr. Pierce Simpson, justice of the peace, and grievously assaulted his servant James Dignam. The object of the outrage was to compel Dignam to leave his situation, that others might procure employment. One of the offenders had been previously in Mr. Simpson's service.Another on the 20th of June:—About 7 o'clock this morning, four armed men unknown went to where several persons were employed, under A. Sodan, making a new road, and fired two shots at some of the workmen, one of which passed through P. Coolreavy's cap.And the last he would refer to in the same county was on the 26th of May:—About 1 o'clock p.m. nine persons, armed, came to where Mr. Nesbitt had men employed at work, drove them away, and fired several shots after them.He would now take a case from Tipperary of the same class. It occurred on the 9th of January:—Two strangers, one armed with a blunderbuss, the other with a bludgeon, went to the house of Denis Gleeson, who was herd and caretaker to Mr. W. Wells, of Ballycormack, King's County, burst open the door, put Gleeson on his knees, and swore him on a book to quit the place within a week, giving him at the same time two blows on the head with the bludgeon, from the effects of which he was for some time dangerously ill. Gleeson had replaced another who had been dismissed about seven years ago.
The EARL of LINCOLN
It was not stated; but he assured the right hon. Gentleman that he would suppress nothing that was material. When he first came to the Irish Office he found that in many instances the hour was not specified in the constabulary returns; but directions had been given for that to be done in future. There was another case also in Tipperary. It was on the 30th May, but the hour was not stated:—An armed party of four men entered Hensey's house, compelled his wife and a small boy to hold down their heads while they searched for Hensey's son. One of the party discharged the contents of a pistol at Mrs. Hensey, which missed her; they then threatened her with death if she did not cause her husband to leave the employment of Mrs. Bennett (to whom he was steward). On their departure they fired a shot outside the house, 154 and again loaded. One of the party threw a stone into the house on seeing a member of the family go to the door. This is the fourth attack made on Hensey to compel him to leave his situation.He had extracted several other cases, but he was most unwilling to weary the House with them. The House would, however, perceive, that throughout those he had mentioned there was no interference too slight, and no outrage too great to effect the object, however immaterial it might appear to be. But there was one case he would read to the House, as exemplifying the minuteness of these marauders. Upon so grave and serious a subject it might almost excite a laugh, but he would read the case to exemplify that minuteness. This was an assault upon a female:—An armed party of three men ordered her to quit the employment of Mr. S. Low, to whom she is dairy-woman. Mr. Low's herd who was crossing the yard at the time, was fired at by one of the party, and slightly wounded. The alleged cause is that the dairy-maid is penurious in disposing of the milk to the labourers.Another class of cases was interfering with persons discharging or employing particular servants, the sale of provisions, exercising trade, &c. In the county of Clare, on the 18th of October, in the Barony of Tulla Lower, this case occurred. There the hour was given. It was 7 o'clock at night:—About 7 o'clock at night, Heiher (who is steward in a steam-boat), when on his way home, was met by five men, and violently assaulted and his skull fractured. The cause assigned for the outrage was Heiher's ceasing to deal with a woman who supplied milk for his boat, and who stated that she would have revenge. One of the offenders arrested.The next case was in Leitrim, and although the hour was the same, it was not in the autumn; it was on the 22nd of May:—About 7 o'clock on this evening, as Geelan (gardener to Mr. Jones) was returning from market with a horse and cart, he was was met by three men, armed with sticks, who knocked him down, gave him two severe cuts on the head, and broke one of his fingers. On going off they told him not to go carting again.The next case occurred in Tipperary, and was that of Michael Kennedy:—This man was attacked at 10 p.m. by two armed men, who first flung stones into the windows, and broke nine panes of glass, after which they fired a shot into the bed-room of Kennedy's son. Kennedy is a blacksmith by trade, and was recently employed to work for Widow Costelloe, who heretofore employed a smith named M'Harnett: the widow and M'Harnett having disagreed, she employed Kennedy, and hence the assigned reason of this outrage, got up, as is generally believed, by M'Harnett.155Tipperary, Jan. 7, 1846.—The property of William Carty injured to prevent him sinking his coal pit.The returns which he had laid on the Table that evening, and which would shortly be in the hands of hon. Members, were returns of outrages committed between December 31 and May 31 in the present year. In those returns he found the following:—March 21.—Pat Kicrnan.—Aggravated assault, to compel him to purchase coal at a pit different from that he frequented.He might give more cases of this class, because acts of intimidation of this kind showed a very disorganized state of society. The next class of outrages were those to prevent the recovery of debts or the enforcement of contracts or other rights:—Roscommon, July 2.—This evening Michael Donolly was waylaid and seriously assaulted by three persons unknown, because of his having served a notice on a person from whom he had purchased a cow, which did not turn out according to engagement.Tipperary, Jan. 26.—About 8 p.m., as John Carty was returning home from the house of his employer, Mr. Thomas Gleeson, he was waylaid, fired at, and wounded, by a party of persons unknown, because of his having (as is supposed) proved his signature to certain I O U vouchers upon which decrees were obtained at last Nenagh sessions, notwithstanding the carrying away of the original processes from the process server.Roscommon, April 7.—Thomas Cox sworn to give back money he had been paid ten years before.The next class of outrages were those compelling persons to marry or not to marry, or to give portions; and although he should only read two of those cases, yet he could assure hon. Members that they were of a class more extensive than they would at first be inclined to suppose possible:—Tipperary, January 31.—On this evening an armed party of persons went to the dwellings of M. Rourke, a comfortable farmer; and, having broken a window and shot his dog, cautioned him to fulfil his promise of marrying a certain female. On being pursued by Rourke, one of the said party discharged a gun loaded with powder at him, which lacerated his face.February 20.—Richard Dwyer's house burnt, to prevent a marriage.Roscommon, January 13.—John Tighe sworn (twice in one month) to marry Mary Rogers.The next class were cases of assaults upon those who were suspected of giving information against those who violate the law.Tipperary, September 22. — About eight o'clock p.m. some person unknown fired a shot into his house, but fortunately without effect, the ball having passed over the heads of — and his daughter, and lodged in the wall. — was suspected of giving information against two persons 156 who were arrested for an outrage on — and were transported.A short note had been put into his hands that evening, which he would mention, as exemplifying this part of the case. It was from an individual in humble circumstances, and showed the apprehensions entertained by persons in the lower walks of life, if they gave information. The writer had previously sent him a letter on matters connected with his office, and now urgently requested him not to mention his name during the debate on the second reading of the Coercion Bill, as it was his intention to return to Ireland. He now approached the last class in this part of the case, the outrages to prevent persons from giving evidence:—Leitrim, March 23.—On this evening five or six men, two of whom were armed, entered Gilluly's house, and assaulted him and his son, but not dangerously. Gilluly having prosecuted a man four years previous for waylaying his son, is the assigned cause of the outrage. The party then proceeded to Kilbrian's house, and assaulted him for having a loy iron made by a smith who is obnoxious.Tipperary, July 22.—Early this morning an armed party of eight persons, some of whom are known, went to Widow Shanahan's dwelling, and, having fired shots into the house through a window, warned her to quit the place by November. Cause assigned—to intimidate Widow Shanahan and her sons from prosecuting persons in gaol charged with the murder of her husband in October, 1844.Yesterday the daily return to the Irish Office of outrages from the constabulary office in Dublin only contained five cases; but three of these were reported to be cases of gross intimidation in the social and domestic relations of life. He would not trouble the House with the details; but he had selected the preceding particular class of cases because a statement had been made that the greater amount of outrages in Ireland originated in causes of an agrarian character. That was the reason why he had read cases that appeared to be of a trivial character, when he could easily have harrowed the feelings of the House by relating outrages of a worse description. He considered that the other part of the case was established in the previous debate; but there was one case of so peculiar and striking a character, that, as it had come into his possession since the last debate, he would read it to the House:—Roscommon, Boyle, April 8.—I have to report that on the 6th instant, at about eleven o'clock p.m., three men, one of whom was armed with a pistol, assaulted the dwelling of a poor 157 man named Thomas Kenny, and having forced open the door, one of them suddenly entered, and in a menacing tone commanded Kenny to go down on his knees, but which he refused to do without knowing why or wherefore. The fellow then deliberately presented a pistol and discharged it at the unfortunate man, wounding him in three places in the right leg, but not badly, with slugs. He then threatened to fire at him again with more fatal effect, should he continue obstinate in refusing to go on his knees, and handed out the pistol to his companions to reload for that purpose. Kenny was forced to comply, when his assailant swore him to give up possession of his holding to his brother-in-law, John Roddy, and then left the house. Kenny saw the three fellows decamping together with great speed. It appears that Roddy, the former tenant, had been ejected for non-payment of rent about seven years since, and Kenny put in possession, and contiued so since. There is no clue to the knowledge of the party. Kenny cannot identify any of them, but, I believe, would if he could.Hon. Gentlemen might say that this case was one of the agrarian class, and he of course admitted that it was so. He thought, however, he had now established his case, that there was no relation of life that was not interfered with. It was impossible for public duties or private functions to be performed with impunity. Mayo was not one of the five counties, but a case occurred there which evinced the system of terror that prevailed:—I have to report, that on last night, about the hour of 8 or 9 o'clock, a party of men, about four or five in number, attacked the house of E. Walsh, and in a most inhuman manner cut off the unfortunate man's ears, and on going away fired a shot. Having voted for Mr. Moore at last election, they assigned as the cause for such brutal treatment. It appeared there was no report made to the constable at Ballyhane. Mr. Barron and I have consulted, and agree in opinion in suggesting a large reward for such an outrage in a hitherto peaceable county.[Mr. D. BROWNE: In what part of the county?] He could not make out the handwriting, which was extremely bad; but he thought it looted like Castlefor, or some such name. [Mr. D. BROWNE: I dare say it is Castlebar, the county town of Mayo.] He thanked the hon. Gentleman, who was no doubt correct. He would continue his quotation:—Castlebar, April 9.With reference to my report of yesterday, the 8th instant, relative to the outrage on Edward Walsh, I have further to report, that on visiting the scene, I found that a similar outrage had been committed on a man named Mark Burke, residing on the adjoining townland, Bollyruck, same parish and barony; also a 10l. freeholder, and tenant to Lord Sligo. Neither man was injured to the extent I anticipated, and it appears, from all I could learn, both houses were attacked on the same night, the 7th, between the hours of 12 and 2 o'clock, and it is generally supposed by the same 158 party, as the houses are only about a mile distant from each other. The party on arriving at Walsh's knocked at the front door; before it could be opened the back one was forced in, by which a dresser was thrown down and several articles broken. Walsh was laid hold of by three or four men, one of whom caught his left ear, and gave it a cut as if with a shears, but did not take off the bit. I understand it has been stitched. This is all the injury he sustained. The party entered Mark Burke's by knocking at the door. He got up and opened it, when he was immediately seized, and after some time one of the fellows cut off the upper part of his left ear. He sustained no other injury in person or property. At this house one of the party directed a candle to be lighted, but the others would not allow it. The inmates state that they did not know them. A description could not be obtained. Walsh's wife saw them after they left the house, through an opening over the door, but cannot describe them. The general opinion is that the party were strangers; if so, they must have had a guide, from the nature of the country, and situation of the houses. The fellows told Burke that his offence was for having voted for Mr. Moore. They were the only two freeholders in the neighbourhood who voted for Mr. Moore.[Mr. D BROWNE: What is the name of the noble Lord's correspondent?] The hon. Member must pardon him if he did not answer that question. He would not however, quote from any letter or report which he did not know to be trustworthy. These offences were not of an agrarian character, and the House might ask in what they had originated? He confessed he could not answer that question, but he would read a short extract from the evidence given before Lord Devon's Commission. Mr. Cahill, Crown prosecutor at the quarter sessions for Tipperary, and an extensive land agent, was asked, speaking of persons convicted of offences chiefly connected with the occupation of land, "waylaying offences"—and the answer may probably be taken to apply to other offences—Have you had an opportunity of forming a judgment whether the persons so convicted were instigated by others, or were they revenging any supposed wrongs of their own? They have generally committed these offences in consequence of the disputes of other persons, being connexions of their own, either by relationship or being their employers. I have also known instances where violent assaults have been committed by persons who absolutely did not know the persons they were employed to assault, and the person assaulted did not know them. They had never seen each other, but were pointed out by third parties; and some of the most desperate assaults I ever knew were committed in that way.—In those cases do the outrages generally appear to be the result of system, or are they perpetrated at the instigation of an individual? At the instigation of individual malice in all the cases that come within my knowledge; but it is the habit of the country, where malice of that kind arises, to revenge it in a particrlar manner.159 He now came to another important point. The hon. and learned Member for Cork had remarked to the House the other night that crime had diminished in Ireland since the introduction of the present Bill, and the hon. and learned Gentleman had attributed that fact to the exertions made by the Government to meet the distress in many parts of Ireland. Now, if it were true that crime had indeed greatly diminished during the last three or four mouths, he did not think that, looking at the circumstances of the case, that would be a ground for resisting the second reading of this Bill. The hon. Baronet had assumed the diminution of crime to be an established fact. He wished it were. There were reasons why crime ought to diminish at this season of the year. During the long days crime did usually for a time diminish. He was so satisfied the hon. Baronet was right in his assumption of the fact, that he was very nearly not investigating the subject at all. The hon. Baronet said, the moral effect produced by the first reading of this Bill had not been great. He was willing to admit that the effects in Ireland of the debates in this House, among the classes principally concerned in crimes of this description, might not be very considerable, yet they ought not to be discarded from consideration, and they might perhaps be regarded as one of the causes of the diminution of crime. The Government had endeavoured to provide employment and food for the destitute poor of Ireland; but, as this was a sudden emergency, and the remedy was a temporary one, if hon. Members assigned that as a reason, they would lay no grounds for the rejection of that Bill. But he was obliged to undeceive the House with respect to this diminution of crime. He had before him a copy of the return of the offences committed during the five months from December 31 to May 31. These returns were made in pursuance of an Order of the House of Commons of the 28th of May last, and were returns of all aggravated assaults, assaults endangering life, incendiary fires, demands or robberies of arms and appearing armed, unlawful administering of oaths, threatening letters or notices, malicious injuries to property, firings into dwellings, arising between the 31st of December last and the 31st of May, specifying the time and place, and the names, condition in life, &c., of the persons injured, and the supposed causes. They did not, however, include the cases 160 furnished in the monthly returns, under the heads, "House Attacks," "Assaults on Police," "Levelling," "Turning up Land," or "Cutting, Maiming, or Killing Cattle," nor cases of murder and homicide, a separate return of these two last classes of offences having been moved for by the right hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. Pigot), which he had to regret had been so lately received that it had not been possible that they should be printed so as to have been in the hands of Members that morning. He would proceed to compare from the summary of those returns the offences of the last five months with those of the preceding year; and he was quite sure that hon. Gentlemen, when they came to have the Papers in their hands, would agree with him, that not only in the description of crime, but also most certainly in the aggregate of crime, there had been little or no practical diminution of crime in those five counties, with the exception of Leitrim. In Leitrim, he did rejoice to say—and he congratulated the noble Lord the Member for that county (Viscount Clements) on the fact—there had been a considerable diminution of crime. But when the grounds of that diminution of crime came to be investigated, they would be considered, he was convinced, to strengthen rather than diminish the necessity for this measure. As regarded, then, a comparison of these five counties as to crime with the whole of Ireland, there were of the offences to which he referred in the last five months 2,098 committed in the whole of Ireland; in these five counties 1,188, or considerably more than half the crimes committed in the whole of Ireland. He had not had time since the arrival of these Papers yesterday even to work the sum in arithmetic, which would have enabled him to present the exact comparison between the present state of these counties as to crime with their condition in the preceding year; but he could assure the House that there had been no practical diminution. The numbers stood thus:—In Clare there had been 171 offences in the period he had mentioned. In Leitrim, 171—an amount which presented a very considerable diminution; but then it must be remembered that it was a diminution from an excessive amount. In Limerick, 210; in Roscommon, he was sorry to say, there had been a very considerable increase; the number was 383. In Tipperary, 286; making in all 1,188 offences, compared to 2,098 in the whole of Ireland. Now, these crimes were, as he had already 161 remarked, not only of a local nature, but it was remarkable that they did not exist in those parts of Ireland which on former occasions had been found to be infected with this disease. It might be desirable to state the amounts of population in some of these counties, and to compare them with the amount of crime and population of other counties. In Roscommon, in these five months, there had been 383 offences, in a population of 253,000. In Kerry, with the much larger population of 293,000, there had occurred during that time only 16 offences. Another comparison might be made with the county of Kerry. The hon. Gentleman opposite had endeavoured to raise a laugh against him, in consequence of his not having been able to read a word in one of the letters he had just quoted, as though he had been ignorant that Castlebar was in Mayo; but he believed, unless he really was ignorant of the geography of Ireland, that the county of Kerry adjoined the county of Limerick. [Mr. D. BROWNE had meant to intimate that if the noble Lord was ignorant that Castlebar was the county town of Mayo, he might be ignorant who was his correspondent.] In the county of Limerick, with a population of 281,000, the number of offences was 210, as compared with sixteen in Kerry. In Leitrim, the offences were 138, the population 155,000; whilst in the adjacent county of Fermanagh, with a population very nearly equal, namely, 156,000, the crimes were only 14. In Antrim, the population was 276,000, the number of offences only 17. In the county of Dublin, exclusive of the city, the population being 140,000, the offences were only four. Now, he thought that these were facts which went far to establish—to his own mind they most clearly proved—how purely local was the character of these offences: and that, he thought, was a fact which strengthened and corroborated the ground which had been laid for the enactment of this measure. As he had said, he quite admitted that which the hon. Baronet who moved the Amendment had laid down as the duty of the Government on proposing a measure of this nature. The hon. Baronet stated there were three things which the Government ought to prove, and the first was the necessity of legislation of some kind. Now, he did think that with the facts before the House, which had been, laid before them in the former debate, and with the proofs that he thought he had given that these offences 162 were not only not in the majority of cases, but also not in any large proportion, of an agrarian character, with the proofs that he had given that there had not been a diminution of crime in the last five months, the case of necessity for legislation required by the hon. Baronet had been clearly made ont. The hon. Baronet also stated that it would be the duty of the Government to prove that they had attempted to meet this case by putting in execution the powers of the existing law, and that they had failed in the attempt; and the hon. Baronet had asked why they had not issued special commissions, and given that mode the fair trial they were bound to have given it. The hon. Baronet had further observed that a special commission had been sent down to the county of Westmeath; and, without stating the circumstances under which that special commission had taken place, asked whether there was anything in the condition of these five counties that rendered it impossible to have treated them as we had treated Westmeath. But in Westmeath, it must be remembered, there had happened to have been within the six weeks preceding the issue of the special commission not only a great accumulation of offences, but a great accumulation of prisoners in the gaol committed for trial; and in consequence of that, the Lord Lieutenant of the county, he believed, but certainly the magistrates and gentry, had applied to the Government to issue a special commission. The Government hesitated for some time whether they should do so; and they first sent down a person to investigate as to the evidence that would be produced to substantiate the prosecutions, and whether there was any necessity to issue a special commission. The result was, that the commission was issued; but when the hon. Baronet asked why was not that course taken with respect to those five counties, if it had been thought proper with respect to Westmeath, he answered by replying that although they had to deal, in those counties, with a state of crime so great, and outrages so numerous, yet, that the instances of detection were so few, and the committals so rare, that it was evident there would be no advantage in issuing a special commission, which would end in nothing. When, therefore, the Government was taxed by the hon. Member for Drogheda, and by the hon. and learned Member for Cork, with not issuing special commissions, let him remind the House that this was a new charge, and that these were not the 163 views that had generally been entertained hitherto by hon. Gentlemen opposite. If he was not much mistaken, Lord Althorp, in bringing forward the measure of 1833, had dwelt on this, that he considered special commissions were totally inadequate in cases of this kind; and that noble Lord stated reasons which he must say were most convincing to his mind to show that to issue special commissions in a state of circumstances like the present, was neither desirable nor wise. The House would remember also that in 1835, in speaking on the Coercion Bill of that year, the hon. and learned Member for Cork, who supported it in all its provisions, stated that he did so on this special ground—that it was necessary for the Government to meet these crimes by some means; and that, deprecating as he did special commissions, he thought the Government had taken the wiser and better course in proposing that measure. The hon. and learned Gentleman had given his support to that measure with expressions which he, unwilling as he always was to quote Hansard to the House, would not recall to their recollection; but he would only say they were stronger than he should use, though he certainly thought that to issue special commissions in these cases would neither have been wise nor prudent. Before a special commission could be issued, it must be ascertained that there was evidence forthcoming to maintain the prosecutions. Now, what was the evidence of Mr. Cahill on this point? He was asked whether he had observed that when agrarian outrages had been committed the country people about had been cognizant of the perpetrators; and he answered that he was perfectly convinced that no outrage of the sort occurred but the parties about knew all the circumstances, and also the parties concerned in the outrage. Mr. Cahill also declared, that he was able to state generally that there was an utter indisposition to give any evidence whatever of any offence connected with the occupation of land; and that, though such holding back might be attributable in some degree to terror, there was besides an actual indisposition on the part of the people to give evidence; for that the people thought their own interests were bound up in the cause of the parties committing these murders, and that any party giving evidence against them was looked upon as an enemy of the general class to which he belonged. Mr. Cahill was further asked— 164Do you conceive that undue protection is given to the parties engaged in these outrages?" His answer was, "My impression is, that the occupiers of land, farmers and small tenants, will all receive a man that they know to have been guilty of a crime of that description, and that they will harbour him and protect him, and he is, in point of fact, looked upon as a better man than another, because he has put down what they call a tyrant. He is sure of being received wherever he goes, and has the character of what they call a 'good boy.'Now, this was the evidence of Mr. Cahill as to the difficulty of obtaining evidence. But, he thought the hon. Baronet the Member for Drogheda was entitled to require from him a still more distinct proof than those he had yet given, that there were insuperable difficulties in the way of issuing special commissions; and he should give that proof. He assured the House that not only were there difficulties in procuring evidence, but that, numerous as were the outrages, the committals were rare indeed. He had not been able to extract from the reports of the outrages of last year the exact proportion of committals and offences; but he was enabled to give the proportion in each of the five counties for the first five months of the present year, as regarded the offences to which he had before referred. He had already stated that in these five counties for the five months ending the 31st of May there had been 1,088 offences, and out of that number there were only 54 committals. In Tipperary there had been 286 offences and 19 committals; in Limerick, 210 offences and 12 committals; in Leitrim, 138 offences and 8 committals; in Clare, 171 offences and 7 committals; and in Roscommon the disproportion was greater than in all the other counties; for while, as he had already intimated, crime was greatly on the increase, the offences for the period referred to being 383, there had been only eight persons committed. Now he said, that if there were no other objection than this, it sufficiently proved to the hon. Member for Drogheda that the issuing of a special commission was a practical impossibility and a nullity. The Government, he maintained, had tried such means as the law authorized to meet the circumstances of the country. His right hon. Friend at the head of the Government had gone at such length into this subject on a former occasion, that he should not dwell on it now. But he would repeat, that they had fulfilled the demand made upon them by the hon. Member for Drogheda. It remained only to deal with the 165 hon. Member's last question, which he had a right to have answered, namely, would this Bill be efficacious if passed? Now, he knew that it was always difficult to speak of the future. Other things might admit of proof, but that which belonged to futurity could not be proved. It was only by reference to past experience, as to what had already taken place, that one could even argue as to what might be expected hereafter. In the first place, as regarded the efficacy of the measure, an objection had been raised on a previous occasion, and repeated by the hon. Gentleman the seconder of the Amendment, namely, that the majority of the outrages took place by day. [Mr. BERNAL: I said attempts at assassination.] He thought the hon. Member had referred to outrages generally, and had argued that, as the provisions of the Bill referred to outrages by night, the measure would have no effect. But if the hon. Member had not made the statement that the greater number of outrages took place during the day, others had; and he assured them they were greatly mistaken, for, on the contrary, the great majority took place during the night. He assured the hon. Member that even he would find himself mistaken; and that when he came to investigate the case more closely, he would find that even attempts at murder most frequently occurred at night. But, even if it were the fact that the greater number of attempts at murder took place during the day, it would not be denied that they were visually plotted at night. But even if the hon. Gentleman and others were quite correct as respected the comparison they had stated, that had reference to only one clause of the Bill, and there were other provisions to meet the day assailant as well as the night assailant. He was not, he was sorry to say, so well prepared to prove this part of the case by calculations framed from the returns on the Table as he had been some other parts; but nevertheless he would mention the proportions in two counties, which he believed were a fair sample of the other counties. As he had stated in answer to the right hon. Gentleman who put the question in the course of his speech, there were some cases in which the hour of the day or night was not mentioned; but it appeared that in Tipperary out of 260 offences contained in the list which he had presented to the House that day, between 130 and 140 were committed at night. [Mr. BERNAL: Not against life?] No; he 166 did not mean that; but he assured the hon. Gentleman that it would be found that the offences against life were in much the same proportions between night and day. He repeated, that in Tipperary, out of 260 offences, between 130 and 140 were committed at night, and only between 50 and 60 by day. In 60 or 70 cases the hour was not specified. In Leitrim, out of 359 cases, between 200 and 210 were committed by night, and between 90 and 100 by day. The number unenumerated was between 50 and 60. The hon. Member for Drogheda alluded in his speech to the case of the murder of Lord Norbury, and remarked that, so far as regarded such a case the provisions of the measure were nugatory. He, for the sake of argument, would admit that to be the case; but it proved nothing. It simply proved that the measure did not meet every case. But he maintained that it provided for a great number of cases—indeed, for the great majority of cases. But when the hon. Member dwelt on the circumstance that attempts at assassination took place generally during the day, and not during the night, he begged to remind him that he was referring to the cases of landlords and persons in the higher stations of life; and undoubtedly in many instances of that kind the attempts had been made during the day more frequently than during the night; but he believed there was no one present who would not agree with him, that however their feelings might be excited by the reports of the murder of men like Lord Norbury and others, who had been made the victims of assassination, Government was as much bound to protect the life of the poor cottager as a person of a higher class. He was sure he should receive a ready assent to that proposition. He would go further and say that they were even more bound to protect the former than the latter, for this reason, that the higher classes had more means to protect themselves than the poor and needy had, who lived by the sweat of their brow. He observed the right hon. Member for Dungarvon opposite, who was well acquainted with the county the right hon. Member once represented—he meant the county of Tipperary; and that right hon. Gentleman would bear him out in the assertion which he, an Englishman but little acquainted with Ireland, ventured to make on the authority of Irishmen—that in that county persons in easy circumstances seldom left their homes at night. [Mr. B. OSBORNE: 167 Hear.] The hon. Member expressed astonishment at this assertion. He could only say that he had been assured of the fact by persons on whom he believed he could rely; and he had mentioned the fact, knowing that hon. Gentlemen opposite would correct him if he was in error. At any rate, whether this was the case or not, as he had said before, the rich had the means of defence, which the poor had not: they therefore stood in a totally different position. He did think that if this was the system which prevailed in Ireland, hon. Members had but little reason to complain of the enactment of "the curfew clause," as they called it. He was certain of this, that however the hon. Member for Wycombe might deny the assertion he had just made, he would not at any rate deny that, practically, many of these classes avoided leaving their houses at night, when society was in such a state as now existed in the five counties to which he had referred. He repeated that they had difficulty in proving what would be the success of their measure except by reference to experience; but he did think that experience led to the hope that the enactment would produce the results which they had anticipated. For five years preceding the retirement of the Whig Government, a measure similar to the present existed. The hon. Member behind him (Mr. B. Escott) expressed great astonishment at this assertion; he was really at a loss to know why the hon. Member cheered. An Act did exist for five years previous to the retirement of Lord Melbourne from office, the leading provisions of which were similar—he did not say identical—to those of the present measure. He was ready to admit that there was a difference. [Mr. B. ESCOTT: They were but too much alike.] The hon. Member might think that there was but too much similarity; but there were others who endeavoured to prove that there was a dissimilarity, and that although they approved of and justified the one, they repudiated the other. But what was the real difference between the two Bills? The Bill before the House proposed to tax districts for the expenses of the police stationed in them with a view to prevent outrages. This was not in the Bill of 1835; but he conceived there was hardly any gentleman who would say that this provision formed so great a distinction as to render the one a harsh and the other a benignant measure. The taxation of districts was a principle which had been 168 engrafted on our laws from an ancient date, and had been put in operation in England as well as in Ireland. Every one knew that in case of riot, for instance, the district in which it occurred was bound for the damage occasioned by it. There was another provision in the present Bill which was different from that of 1835. In the present Bill it was proposed to give the Lord Lieutenant power to proclaim a district, instead of leaving it to the grand jury and gentlemen of the county; and this had been urged as a strong argument against the Bill. He confessed he had never been so much astonished as when he heard this objection; for he recollected that, during the discussion of the measure of 1833, great stress was laid on the fact that the grand juries would be placed in an invidious and improper position by such a power being placed in their hands; and he believed that a member of the Government of 1833 declared in his place in Parliament, that although he admitted military tribunals to be open to grave objections, yet he considered them preferable to grand juries as then constituted. Recollecting that argument, he confessed he was astonished to hear objections offered to throwing the responsibility of proclaiming districts upon the Lord Lieutenant, upon whom devolved the responsibility of the Irish Government in general. The hon. and learned Member for Cork stated that they had an opportunity of traversing the opinion of a grand jury, but none of traversing the opinion of a Lord Lieutenant. That might be quite true as far as that Bill was concerned; but was there not a mode of traversing, if he might so call it, any arbitrary exercise of power on the part of any Lord Lieutenant? Was not that House a sufficient check upon him? [An hon. MEMBER: It would be too late.] An hon. Member said it would be too late; but would any hon. Member assert that anybody placed in the responsible position of Lord Lieutenant would be guilty of such an arbitrary exercise of power with the future vengeance of the Parliament before his eyes? One hon. Member, indeed, went so far as to say that, for the purpose of extending their patronage, some Lord Lieutenants would be induced to put this Bill into operation. Was it likely, was it probable, was it possible that any Lord Lieutenant, in the exercise of the power committed to him, would, for such a reason, incur the just censure of that House? Another point of 169 difference was with regard to the penalty attachable to the offences. Now, he did understand from the speech of the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell), when he gave his support to the first reading of the Bill, that it was his intention to move an Amendment in Committee to this part of the measure; and he admitted that such a course would have been consistent with his own precedent of 1835. But he could not see that an objection to this clause, relative to the penal ties attachable, was sufficient ground now for the rejection of the measure altogether. [Lord J. RUSSELL had stated that he would propose the omission of the clause.] Yes; but what he understood the noble Lord to mean was, that he would move the rejection of the clause in Committee, and therefore he had a right to assume that the noble Lord then intended to allow the Bill to pass a second reading and go into Committee. These, then, were the three differences which existed between this Act and that of 1835. But, per contra, there was another difference, and one in which the Bill of 1835 was much more harsh and oppressive than that of 1846. In 1835 the power of domiciliary visits was given to the police—a power which those who opposed the Bill characterized as tyrannical in the highest degree. That was omitted in the present Bill, and in this respect, therefore, it was a lenient measure compared with the one of 1835. He could not conceive, therefore, how those who supported the Act of 1835 could be justified in denouncing the Bill before the House, as harsh and oppressive. If the noble Lord opposite objected to the principle of the Bill now, he should like to know what in the course of the debate had changed his views since the first reading of the measure, or upon what ground he decried that measure which he passed in 1835. The hon. Members for Limerick, and Rochdale had always opposed this Bill on principle, and therefore he was not surprised at their opposition now. Nor had he any right to advert to anything that had fallen from the hon. Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, as they both dealt most fairly with the Government as regarded the measure, and had all along expressed towards it their decided opposition. But they had been told that they were introducing measures of coercion for Ireland, and neglected measures of another character. Now, he thought they had a right to ask the House whether they had not endeavoured 170 to legislate in the spirit and for the advantage of the majority of the people of Ireland, regardless of what effect that legislation might have on their popularity or continuance in power? He would ask the hon. Member for Drogheda, who had taunted them in this matter, whether the Charitable Bequests Act was not one of those measures? Did they not also, in the course of last year, to the great offence of many of their supporters, introduce the measure for further endowing the College of Maynooth? Did they not introduce another Bill, conceived in the same spirit, and of which the hon. Gentleman, he was sure, approved, viz., the Colleges Bill for Ireland? And did they not give their countenance to a measure, the origin of which lay not with them, but rested with hon. Gentlemen opposite, but which they had not only supported, but extended—the system of national education in Ireland? He might add too, that it was intended still further to amend and extend that system of education this year. In addition to all these, hon. Gentlemen opposite must be aware that it was intended to introduce three Bills on the subject of landlord and tenant. It would be premature to enter upon the discussion of those measures now, but on Thursday he hoped to have an opportunity of laying them fully before the House. It was not right, therefore, to say, that they were looking mainly to measures of coercion for Ireland, and not to measures of conciliation. Then, if this had been the case as regarded legislation, had they neglected the state of the Irish people in the emergency that pressed upon so many of them at present? Even their opponents had not withheld their full meed of approbation for what they had done in this respect. But he would remind the House that they had had to adopt measures which nothing but a great emergency would have justified any Government in having resorted to. They had to do this in the teeth of taunts and opprobrium from many of their former friends. They had received insults and reproaches that out of that House would not have been cast upon them—taunts and reproaches that they had fabricated returns for party purposes, and which, though uttered by hon. Gentlemen sitting there, they would not have dared to pronounce out of the House. The grants which Government had made in aid of the people of Ireland would be productive of the best consequences. He did think that the distribution of Indian meal 171 to the poor of Ireland would be attended, not only with beneficial effects at the present moment, but would, he hoped, have an important bearing on their social condition in future. At any rate, he hoped they would in future years look back to what had been done now as a proof of the good feeling entertained towards them by a paternal Government. But there had been other measures projected by Government—not measures of legislation, for though these were not to be overlooked, there were other important duties of Government to be attended to—and among them he would mention the encouragement of great public works in Ireland. Sums had been allocated for this purpose to the extent of 120,000l., which would produce at the hands of individuals a total outlay of nearly 500,000l. And this was not merely producing employment to the people of Ireland now, but, what was of equal importance, providing a valuable return for those who engaged in these concerns, and embarked in them their capital, for the purpose of employing the population who lived near them. There were also schemes of navigation and drainage, for which it would be the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to call for a vote of the House during the present Session. The hon. Member for Cork had in the previous debate quoted the words of Chief Justice Blackburn, that there were two great objects which ought to be carried out in order to obtain the good aimed at—employment and education. But, when the hon. and learned Gentleman quoted these words, he should have recollected that the Government had adopted both these recommendations — that they had encouraged the education, and then, as far as the liberality of Parliament enabled them, they had promoted the employment of the people. He would remind the House, however, that more could be done towards giving employment by private exertions than by public means. Was it to be expected, however, that capital, which was the only means of producing employment, would flow into Roscommon and Clare in their present state? Was it likely that men who were liable to have their servants or stewards assassinated while employed in their service, would send their capital to improve those districts? No; they must by some means produce peace and tranquillity before those ends could be carried. He regretted absenteeism; but was it to be wondered at, in such 172 a state of society as these counties presented, that landlords would not willingly be resident on their estates? He had within thee last few days received applications for protection from two gentlemen living within the precincts of one of these five counties, and he had been assured by them that, unless protected, they should be obliged to abandon the district, as their lives were in daily and hourly jeopardy. If they wished to leave the landlords with no excuse for abandoning their estates, then ought they to pass the present Bill. He would say, in conclusion, that he hoped the House would pause before it consented to adopt the Motion of the hon. Member for Drogheda. He might be wrong in the view he took of the Bill, and in the opinions he entertained with reference to its future usefulness; but he did solemnly assure them that he did not speak in the spirit of party, but, as far as his humble judgment enabled him to form an opinion, in the spirit of a true and firm friend to the best interests of Ireland, when he asked hon. Members not to defeat a measure which he really believed was essential to the tranquillity of those parts of the country to which it was intended to apply. It was easy to misrepresent the motives of a Government in introducing such a measure; it was easy to taunt them with tyranny and oppression; it was easy to make eloquent speeches in denunciation of such measures, or of those who introduced them: it was easy, and at the same time too often in accordance with self-interest, to thwart Bills of this kind, brought in by a Government, as this had been (and it had been repeatedly declared to have been so) with pain and sorrow; but under the influence of a paramount sense of public duty to the country and to the Sovereign. It was easy thus to offer opposition to a measure of this nature; but he entreated the House to consider the circumstances under which it had been introduced. If the Government had proposed it as a panacea for the evils of Ireland, then hon. Gentlemen who were now prepared to oppose it, would be justified in adopting the course recommended by the hon. Baronet opposite; but when the Bill was brought in avowedly as a corrective, and only as a corrective, of the disorganized state of Ireland, as a corrective without which no measures however good, no schemes of policy however enlarged, but must inevitably fail; when they did not say that the measure was one which would change permanently the social state 173 of Ireland, but only that it was a preparatory measure—he thought when grounds such as these were stated for its introduction, he might be prepared to admit that the course of those who offered the Bill a decided opposition was patriotic and conscientious as to their motives; but he was entitled to say, that in the results of such proceedings, they were neither wise nor prudent. He, for one, was quite ready to avow his opinion, that it was impossible Ireland could be allowed to continue to alternate between this lawless despotism and these ultra-constitutional enactments. But when he made that admission he must accompany it with a declaration (which, he was sure, would not have been contravened by any speech made by a Member of the Government on the question), that the measure was one of prevention and correction; and, believing it was a Bill with those objects, he was prepared to give it his support. In this spirit, and looking on the measure as having these objects, he did venture to call on the House to prove, by its vote on this question, that they would consent, however reluctantly, to suspend the law within the districts where these crimes prevailed, in order that all law and order should be no longer set at defiance, the lives and properties of the subjects of these realms exposed to hourly danger, and the peace and happiness of the districts utterly set at nought and destroyed.
§ Mr. MORGAN J. O'CONNELL
said, that however he might differ from the conclusions and opinions of the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, his tone and temper were such that no one could find fault with; and the best proof which he (Mr. O'Connell) could give of the respect which he entertained for this tone and temper was to treat the question as nearly as possible in a similar manner. If he believed the Bill to be what it purported to be—a Bill for affording greater security to life and property in Ireland—that it was called for, and that it was better calculated to effect that purpose than the existing law, no party considerations should induce him to oppose it; but the noble Lord had altogether failed to convince him that such was the case. The statement of the noble Lord that there had been rather an increase than a diminution of crime astonished him (Mr. O'Connell), and he heard that statement with a constitutional distrust, taken, as it was, from the officials in Ireland. He would advise the noble Lord, as Secretary for Ireland, or whoever might be Secretary 174 hereafter—aud there was no knowing who might be Secretary next year—in matters of legislation above all things to distrust the constabulary returns, and, in the next place, to distrust the law advisers of the Crown in Ireland, who made up their reports from the constabulary returns. The noble Lord had spoken of the measure as a temporary measure; but when it first came from the forge of those legal cyclopeans, it was introduced to the House of Lords as a permanent measure. The noble Lord had said that it was a preparative measure. What was it preparative to? If it was to be also permanent, he must say that a permanent preparative was one of the most extraordinary things he had ever heard of. The first thing which struck him in the return was this strange classification which seemed evidently prepared in order to prove that the assertion of the hon. Member for Cork respecting the return of those outrages were incorrect. It was attempted to show that a great proportion of those crimes were not agrarian. But what was the very first which had been relied upon? A man and his sons were brutally beaten—and then were warned not to turn out any of their tenants. Why, surely that was as clearly agrarian in its character as anything well could be; as much so as the case of the dairymaid who sold her milk at too high a price, as had been stated by the noble Lord. It was now three years since a Bill had been brought in by Her Majesty's Government, of which he had for the first time that night heard one word of commendation. The noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland spoke in terms of praise of the Bill. [The Earl of LINCOLN had asserted the Bill to have been a failure.] It was admitted then that the Bill had failed; but it should not be forgotten that had it not been for the efforts of a few hon. Members, by which the harsher provisions of the Bill had been mitigated in Committee, it would have been still more ridiculous than it was at present. But how had he (Mr. O'Connell) and his friends been met at that time? Why, by long statements of outrages, by dissertations on the proneness of the Irish peasant to use fire-arms, and by the authority of Colonel Miller and Colonel M'Gregor; in fact by the whole of the old argument resting on its old foundation. He and his friends resisted that Bill: their predictions had been verified by the result; and he was justified by that result in telling the House and Her Majesty's Government that they were now pursuing a course 175 of policy which was equally baseless and unfounded. If the Arms Bill had proved useless for the prevention of crime; if it had failed to defeat the improper use of arms; and if all its cumbrous and expensive machinery had been framed to no purpose—it had nearly proved an engine of a very different character. The very first use which had been made of it was exhibited in an attempt on the part of certain magistrates of a county in the south of Ireland, which was not at all disturbed—to deprive of their arms all those who were Repealers. They were not successful in that attempt; but he warned the present and every future Government against putting such power into the hands of the Irish magistracy, particularly when it had acquired a decidedly partisan character by the unjustifiable and indefensible exclusion from its ranks of those who had committed no crime known to the law, and whose sole offence was differing in opinion on a political question from the Members of Her Majesty's Government. He warned them to beware how they entrusted strong powers to such a body as that, lest the result should be that this power would be used, not for the protection, but for the suppression of liberty and freedom of discussion. The main clause of the Bill embodies the absurdity of punishing those outrages by making a new crime. It was no untried measure; the principle had been often tested before. But in the present circumstances of Ireland its application was likely to prove more annoying than in former years. They were about to shut up the people of Ireland at night, when it was more necessary than ever that the farmer and small agriculturist should resort to fairs and markets—going early and returning late—in consequence of the increased facilities of intercourse. The effect of their curfew clause, as it was called, though it deserved some harsher name, if enforced even in Tipperary, would be to bring agriculture at once to a standstill. It was very hard, to be sure, that carriers should be assaulted at night; but it would be worse if they were to be taken up because they were out after dark, and rendered liable to transportation for seven years. The onus would rest on them of proving that they were innocent; at all events, they were subject to detention. And how did they expect the public works to be carried on—their railways, their bridges, their canals, if the workmen who lived at a distance were liable to arrest going to or returning 176 from their labour? Did they mean to pass a short-time Bill for Irish workmen too? The noble Lord mistook his cheer respecting the Bequests Act. He cheered the mention of that Act—not as one who had opposed it, but as one who had supported it, for he had not voted against the third reading of the Bill; but he could tell the noble Lord that he never witnessed anything more absurd than the conduct of Government in having allowed themselves, on some foolish point of honour, to refuse the proposition of the hon. Member for Armagh to give to the Roman Catholic bishops their proper position, and thereby marring the whole of their Bill. There seemed to be some strange fatality about the measures of Government. They had first of all introduced the Maynooth Bill, which was certainly the best act of Government; but could they forget the speeches by which that Act was introduced and recommended? Could they forget the remarks about "messages of peace," and "the little black cloud in the West?" Why, if those measures were right, they should have been granted without such little graces of oration. The character of Government could not be judged of by its measures—there seemed such a singular want of unity of purpose in all they did. One day they appointed some quiet Catholic gentleman to office, and the next they give promotion to some two or three Orangemen. Now came the State prosecutions—the Maynooth grant succeeded them; and it would seem that the Colleges Bill was to be followed by this Protection of Life Bill, as it was termed. Instead of seeing such measures as this, he hoped before the Session closed to behold a comprehensive Act brought in for the regulation of the state of landlord and tenant in Ireland—he hoped to see Her Majesty's Government introduce some measure calculated to meet the importance of the subject; and he believed that a law well framed and judiciously supported in reference to the landlord and tenant question would do more for the establishment of peace and order than all the Protection and Coercion Bills they could pass for the next century. The measure should not only secure the tenant compensation, but enable him to estimate the amount he was entitled to; and such a measure would prove beneficial not alone to the tenant, but also to the landlord. The strange state in which parties were in that House would have the effect of giving an extended ground for action to the Irish Member; 177 and he trusted that the spirit of sympathy for Ireland which had been so gratifyingly exhibited throughout the whole of that Session would not be barren in its results, but would produce lasting and glorious effects. The present period seemed favourable for the settlement of the Church question. There was no animosity against the Established Church; and it might be regretted that so favourable a period for the settlement of that question had not been laid hold of—when a time less suited for an equitable compromise had arrived. There was now an opportunity of settling that question on grounds satisfactory to England, and without insult or injury to Ireland. One thing was certain—the spirit of the age was not in favour of restrictive measures for Ireland—that spirit had already spoken by the lips of Her Majesty's Ministers—not, perhaps, in self-condemnation—but, certainly, in self-humiliation; and had obliged them to confess that the policy they had heretofore pursued in and out of office was not just or proper. The claim of Ireland to equality with England had been acknowledged. He called on the House and the government, not to make Ireland, in matters affecting civil liberty and the details of private life, an exception from the principle, that in everything was she entitled to equality with Great Britain.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
Mr. Speaker, it will be in the recollection of the House, that at a period previous to the Easter holidays, I gave notice to Her Majesty's Ministers that myself and my friends around me would be prepared to support the measure now before the House, provided the Government evinced by their conduct an earnestness to press it forward—provided they showed a real eagerness to carry it out—provided they proved the sincerity of their intentions by suffering no unnecessary delay or obstruction to interpose, which they could reasonably avoid. It will be also in the remembrance of the House that on that occasion I informed Her Majesty's Ministers that if, on the contrary, it should appear from the conduct of the Government that they were lukewarm or indifferent—that, permitting all other measures of less immediate necessity to be carried through the House in preference to this, they gave us cause to believe that in their minds no necessity existed for the Bill—no such "emergency" as they spoke of, to justify any party in this House in furnishing Government with such unconstitutional powers, I informed Her Majesty's Ministers that 178 under those circumstances we should not feel ourselves bound to continue our support. Now, Sir, when I call to mind that this Bill came down to this House on the 13th of March — that it was not read a first time until the 1st of May, and that since then nearly six weeks have elapsed before Her Majesty's Ministers attempted to take any steps to forward this measure—when I recollect that since the Easter holidays the Government has allotted no Government night for resuming the adjourned debate upon the first reading of the Bill, which stood upon the Order Book of the House, and that on one occasion they permitted no House to be made—when I recollect that since the Bill was read a first time, they have permitted four other Government nights to be occupied with different business, other than the Corn and Tariff Bills; that they suffered four nights which were not Government nights to be wasted—the House in three of those nights having risen before eight o'clock, and on the fourth before nine o'clock—I think, Sir, after these things, it must be admitted on all hands, that no great desire, no great earnestness, no great sincerity, has been shown by Her Majesty's Ministers to carry this measure into a law. On these grounds, then, I think, it is perfectly consistent with the course which previously to Easter I announced I would take—I think I am fully justified in saying, that the casus fœderis has come, when we will no longer support them. Sir, I shall not enter into the merits of the measure upon this occasion; but when the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland—who announced on the hustings of Falkirk that he was to be returned to this House in order to rescue Ministers from that defeat which he said was hanging over them should he not be returned—makes a statement such as this I am about to quote, I cannot help observing upon it. The noble Lord tells us that it is a notorious fact—in short, that it is known to every one—that crime in Ireland invariably diminishes in proportion as the days grow long. Well, Sir, if that be the case, I think it is reason enough for passing this measure, whilst the days were short, and nights long. This statement surely furnishes no grounds for postponing the second reading until the middle of the month of June. But, Sir, the very reverse of what the noble Lord tells us is the fact. So far from this being the case, I find, that looking at the returns of crime committed 179 last year, that the month of June, which it is perhaps known to the noble Lord has the longest day, is precisely the very month when the greatest number of offences of this kind occurred. I find upon looking at the constabulary returns of last year, 896 crimes of this kind occurred; 823 offences of the same description occurred in the May of the same year; and 708 in the month of July following the month which has the longest day in the year. Now, mark, in November and December of 1845, the number of offences was not 896 or 823, but 667 in the one, and 603 in the other. I find that the noble Lord is not very well informed regarding the state of crime in Ireland. When he came here to rescue the Government from defeat, he ought to have contrived to be a little more accurate and successful in providing information for the House. Indeed, the noble Lord does not appear to have given much of his attention to Ireland when he appears totally unconscious of the existence of such a town as Castlebar. But, Sir, if we look attentively to the information respecting crime in Ireland—not that which we have received to-night, but previously—if we look to that which was laid upon the Table of this House on Friday last, I must say there does not appear to be any new grounds for passing this measure which did not exist in the month of February. I find, by comparing the last five months of the present year, with the first five months of 1845, that the increase upon all kinds of crime is not more than five and a half per cent. I do not think that is so very formidable an increase as to justify the Government in pressing forward a measure of this kind, after brandishing it before the eyes of the Irish people for five months together, and that too, without any earnest intention of carrying it through Parliament. But if we look to the character of these offences, we will find, that respecting those to which the Bill is meant to apply, there has not been an increase; but, on the contrary, a positive diminution. I find that the crimes of homicide—firing at the person—conspiracy to murder — forcibly entering dwelling-houses—incendiarism—burglary — house-breaking—robbery of arms, in the first five months of 1845, amounted to 786; whilst in the five months of the present year last passed, the same crimes amount to only 554. In the crime of serving threatening notices, I find there has been a corresponding diminution. In the first five months 180 of 1845, the number of these crimes amounted to 915; in the first five months of the present year to 802. So that the very crimes which this measure is designed to put down, have fallen off 25 per cent, being 1,701 in 1845, and 1,356 in 1846. In crimes of an inferior kind something of the same sort has taken place; such as injuring property by turning up land, stealing cattle, maiming cattle, shearing sheep. I find, Sir, that whereas offences of this kind amounted, in 1845 (I mean in the five months alluded to), to 705, in 1846 they fell off to 600 in the same period of time. When the Ministers introduced this measure, the noble Lord told you it was brought forward as a temporary measure, for a temporary emergency; but, notwithstanding the emergency, the measure has been postponed from January to the middle of the month of June. Yes, Sir, at the expiration of five months, the Government call upon the House to proceed with a measure to meet an emergency which occurred five months ago. This would of itself form a good reason for my opposing the Government on the present occasion; but, Sir, there are much stronger and heavier reasons. I and the Gentlemen around me refuse to trust Her Majesty's Ministers. Yes, Sir, we will no longer trust Her Majesty's Government. We have for good reasons ceased to place any confidence in them. We are of opinion that we cannot with safety intrust them with the charge of so unconstitutional a power as the Bill contains. There would be reason enough to refuse trusting them if there were no other than the ignorance or the double dealing which they displayed as regards other measures connected with Ireland, for we have been deceived. The Minister deceived us, for he told us five months ago, that before this time there would be 4,000,000 of starving men in Ireland. Are we who have been falsely assured that there would be famine in Ireland—are we again to receive statements such as have been scouted by every man of common sense in both countries—are we again to trust in the statements of that Minister? Are we to trust the man who dared to come down to this House, and utter with confidence statements such as these? Are we to countenance such a Ministry as fit governors for this country? I will not stay to discuss this measure? Were it even necessary for the peace of Ireland, I ask whether there is any Member of this House who thinks the Government mean to carry 181 it through? When there have been such postponements, such obstructions, such delays—when five months have been suffered to elapse between the first and second reading—can any one believe for a moment that the Ministry are in earnest—that those on the Treasury bench do not know in their hearts that the Session will be over before they can drag this Bill through the House of Commons? There may be some of my Irish friends in this House who may be disposed to support this measure, because they honestly think that some measure of coercion is required, that something stronger than the ordinary law is required for certain districts. Don't let them "lay the flattering unction to their souls," that if we permit the Bill to pass the second reading, Her Majesty's Ministers will trouble themselves to carry it out into a law. Well, then, Sir, I say it is a mere waste of the time of the House—I say it is a mockery and an insult to Ireland—a mockery and insult to them to brandish measures before their eyes which Ministers never intend to carry into law. For these reasons I, for one, shall do my best to prevent this mockery being committed. We have been told that the Government were as much in earnest about carrying this measure as in carrying the Corn Law. But how different has been their conduct upon the one measure and upon the other! They devoted every day, Government and Motion days, to the discussion of the Corn Bill—to repeal that law which they had so often pledged themselves to support. They acted with the zeal of new converts—they forced on the measure—they were willing to sacrifice the holidays—they were to be worked up to Good Friday eve—in short, no toil was too great—no question so important—no delay so fatal as those which occurred on the Corn Importation Bill. But how different the case with the Coercion Bill—delay, obstruction, six months' intermission, short sittings—why, bad and unkind as the Government was, I cannot believe they are yet so far lost to a sense of propriety as to consent to a waste of so much valuable time if they really considered that the Bill was necessary. No sooner does it become a question of the Coercion Bill instead of the Corn Law, than the House is indulged with long holidays; and on Monday night, Tuesday and Thursday nights, permitted to adjourn at half-past seven. Does this look like earnestness and sincerity? Is there any man in this House, is there any man in the country, who is fool enough 182 to believe that Her Majesty's Government are in earnest with their Life and Property Protection Bill? Believing, therefore, that to be the case, I say that the sooner we kick out the Bill and Her Majesty's Ministers together the better. With these views I could delay no longer rising in my place and stating the part which I and my friends around me are prepared to take. I should certainly have preferred an Amendment which took the shape of a direct vote of want of confidence in Her Majesty's Ministers; but, if we can believe any pledges which are given by hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury bench, we may I suppose conclude, that when they find that they are no longer able to carry the Government measures, they will think it time to retire. We used, Sir, I recollect, to be told by the right hon. Baronet, that he would not consent to be a Minister on sufferance; but I think he must be blinded indeed by the flattery of those around him, if he has not learnt that he is now a Minister on sufferance, tossed from one side to the other, sometimes depending on hon. Gentlemen opposite, sometimes depending on my friends around me, supported by none but his forty paid janisaries and some seventy other renegades, one-half of whom, whilst they support him, express their shame at doing so. When, I say, this is the state of the Government, it is high time for us to speak out on this measure, and in this debate to mark our sense of their conduct by voting against them. Therefore, though the right hon. Baronet may be sustained by his forty paid janisaries, and his seventy renegades, I ask him if he has not lost the confidence of every honest man in this House, and of every honest and honourable-minded man out of this House? We are told now — we hear from the right hon. Baronet himself—that he thinks there is nothing humiliating in the course which he has pursued—that it would have been base and dishonest in him, and inconsistent with his duty to his Sovereign, if he had concealed his opinions after he had changed them; but I have lived long enough, I am sorry to say, to remember, and to remember with sorrow—with deep and heartfelt sorrow—the time when the right hon. Baronet chased and hunted an illustrious relative of mine to death; and when he stated that he could not support his Ministry, because a leading Member of it, though he had changed no opinion—yet, from his position was likely to forward the question of Catholic Emancipation; 183 that was the conduct of the right hon. Baronet in 1827; but in 1829 the right hon. Baronet told the House that he had changed his opinions on that subject in 1825, and had communicated that change of opinion to the Earl of Liverpool. That, however, did not prevent the right hon. Baronet in 1827 from getting up in his place and stating that he had severed himself from Mr. Canning's Government because he could not support a Government of which the chief Minister was then favourable to the measure, which it appeared afterwards the right hon. Baronet had approved of two years before. If, therefore, the right hon, Baronet says, it is base and dishonest and inconsistent with the duty of a Minister to his Sovereign to continue to maintain opinions after he has changed them, does not the right hon. Baronet, I ask, stand convicted, on his own verdict, of base and dishonest conduct, and conduct inconsistent with the duty of a Minister to his Sovereign? When I recollect the conduct of the right hon. Baronet in 1827, and in 1829, after his change of opinion in 1825, though he has been sitting long on the stool of repentance, I am satisfied that the country will not forgive the same crime twice in the same man. A second time has the right hon. Baronet insulted the honour of Parliament and of the country; and it is now time that atonement should be made to the betrayed constituents of the Empire. It is now time that the country should know—no, the country needs not know—but it is time that Europe should know, and that the world should know, the treachery which has been committed by those now in power, and that they do not represent the voice or the feelings of the people of England. Prosperity may be lost to the agricultural interest, our domestic interests may suffer, they may be betrayed; but let not Europe think—let not America—let not the world think—that England is committed, that England is a participator in the guilt of those who sit on the Treasury bench. Then, I say, that now the time has come when those Gentlemen, who have been glad to avail themselves of the treason of the right hon. Baronet—though I believe from all that I hear said amongst them that they abhor the traitor—having secured the success of those measures which they have consistently supported—the time, I say, has now come when they will mark their sense of the course pursued by the Government, and will show that they, no more than we, 184 approve of the conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers; and feeling that Her Maiesty's Ministers can no longer presume to insult the country—after they have been put in a minority, as I know they must be, I do think that the time has come when, by putting them in a minority, and by driving them from power, we ought to compel them to make atonement for the political treachery of which they have been guilty—for the dishonour which, by their conduct, they have brought upon Parliament—and for the dishonour which they have brought upon the country, as well as atonement for the treachery which they have shown towards the constituencies of the Empire.
§ MR. S. HERBERT
I have lately, on a previous occasion, ventured to trespass on the House at some length on the subject of the Bill which comes now, at length the second time, before us for discussion, and from which has arisen so much of acrimonious debate, so much divergence from the matter in hand, for the purpose of bringing against Her Majesty's Government charges not heard from that quarter for the first time — charges which the noble Lord considers he has a right to make — charges which are couched in language seldom heard in this House—in language which it would be for the character of this House should not be heard — in language which I will not repeat — in terms which I will not retaliate, so long as I have any self-respect or regard for my own character. As long as I have that respect for the character and the reputation of this House which becomes its Members, I will neither impute to others motives by which I scorn to be influenced myself, nor will I consent to import into this House, into the Senate of this country, terms and language and expressions which are better suited to some other arena than to one where Gentlemen are met together gravely, seriously, and deliberately to discuss measures vitally affecting the great interests of the country. The noble Lord says that we cannot be in earnest in pressing this Bill; and he founds that suspicion upon the fact, that now in June, when he has discovered that the days are long, we are only pressing the second reading of the Bill before the House. I should like to know from what quarter, with a face of decency, can be brought the charge of delaying the measure before the House—a charge brought to-night, not for the purpose of argument, but for a purpose very different. Because, night after night, 185 as sure as an argument had been met, as sure as a fact had been contradicted, the same fact, the same argument was reproduced. [Interruption.] It may be to the distaste of the hon. Member that I should speak my mind on that matter; but this I say, that, granting to you for argument, granting to you that never for one moment, in the whole tactics of your resistance to the Corn Bill, you dreamt of delay—granting that it was nothing but the exuberance of eloquence — granting all this, I say the noble Lord may at the same time recollect that, such was the length of the discussion, it was not possible for the Government to bring this Bill earlier under the notice of the House. The noble Lord says, we should have brought this Bill on before the Corn Bill; that may be the opinion of the noble Lord, but it was not the opinion of the country. The noble Lord, whose powers of incredulity are so great that he told us there never was a necessity for any interference whatever in Ireland on the subject of the food of the poor, now tells us—not on three years' experience, but on three weeks' experience—that the course he took a few days back was utterly unsound. Hon. Gentlemen may dislike to hear any defence made by men whom they think they can attack with impunity; but, Sir, I trust that so long as I have a seat in this House, nothing in my previous conduct ever will disentitle me to its attention, however humbly I may offer myself to its notice; and certainly, on an occasion like this, I cannot think the noble Lord himself, or any other Gentleman, can consider me disentitled to address it. Well, I say, the noble Lord, who says there has been no cause whatever for any interference in Ireland as regards the food of the people, has now found out, after three weeks' reflection, that there is no cause for interference to protect life and property in that country. But a short time ago, so keen was he on this head, that he could not even wait for the discussion to begin on the first reading of the Bill, but he anticipated it by producing cases horrible to him, of women attacked, of fire-arms discharged into poor men's cottages, of old ladies attacked as they came home from church in broad day. There was no stint to the noble Lord's indignation against the perpetrators of these attacks on women and defenceless persons. Where has all his indignation gone now? The noble Lord said, that the blood of murdered men must rest 186 upon the head of any man who delayed the passing of this Bill but one day; that the blood of the man who was murdered was upon the head of Her Majesty's Government, ay, and upon the head of every man who supported them, if they delayed for a single day. Upon whose head is the blood of murdered men to be now? Suddenly, upon no fresh information, upon no change of circumstances—at three weeks' notice—to turn round and say, that what we told you was a crime before God and man; that course we can now adopt, that it is for the benefit of the country! Now, because there are other reasons; not that we love Ireland less, but that we hate more the men who at present hold the reins of Government. I heard the noble Lord, with that singular logic which seems to pervade his mind, and with his tendency to make compacts which I think he calls casus fœderis, disclaim his former connexions, to enclose in his political embraces certainly not that portion of the political parties in this House which has the closest affinity with the opinions he professed to hold. [Lord G. BENTINCK: I hold them still.] I cannot pretend to have any affinity, certainly, with the present political opinions of the noble Lord. The noble Lord said the other night, that because a Gentleman (Mr. S. O'Brien), in his opinion, had qualilities which entitled him to reign in the hearts of the people of Ireland, so great was his respect for those qualities which could so attach to the hon. Gentleman the mind and love of a whole people, that he was ready to sacrifice his opinions, whatever they may be now, in order to carry out this new alliance. The noble Lord will pardon me, but I am quoting his words accurately. He said that this hon. Gentleman reigned in the hearts of the people of that portion of the Empire; and what did he propose to the hon. Member for Limerick? He said, if you will propose in this House that the Corn Law shall be suspended, though I do not believe there is any necessity for it; though if there were a necessity for it I believe it would do harm, yet—such was the logical inference which the noble Lord's mind drew from it — although the measure is wrong, I will vote for it because you are a man who reign in the hearts of the people of Ireland. Well, we have the same sort of consistency in the course the noble Lord is now taking. The noble Lord was ready to vote for a measure, although he believed it wrong, because it was supported by the hon. Gentleman; 187 he is now ready to oppose a measure, although he thinks it right, because it is opposed by the hon. Gentleman whose claims on the affections of the people of Ireland had such charms for the political predilections of the noble Lord. I will not go back to other matters to which the noble Lord has alluded. We have had sufficient discussion already on the subject of the Corn Bill. I do not think the House has much disposition to go again over that ground. The noble Lord may make his accusations of treachery; he may charge us, in consequence of our conduct, with having forfeited his confidence. I must say, if this Government is to cease to rule in this country — after the exhibitions I have seen; after the willingness I have seen in the noble Lord to sacrifice his opinions at three weeks' notice, and ally himself with political parties with whom he cannot have any political sympathy—with a party whose proceedings would tend in my belief to a dismemberment of the Empire—I say, that after these things, of all the loss with which we are threatened, the loss which I should care the least for would be that of the confidence of the noble Lord. The noble Lord says we are not in earnest in pressing this Bill. He quotes, with that unfortunate love of arithmetic which leads him to calculations in human blood now, just as it led him to grain, tallow, and timber before—a calculation to show that though three weeks back it might be worth the while of the Government to interfere, it is not worth while to interfere now, because he finds only 552 homicides in the returns. Only 552 homicides! The whole tone of his mind, in fact, is changed in consequence of some prospects he entertains from the combination of parties in this House, but totally irrespective of the opinions he himself advanced. But I answer the noble Lord, that the Government, which is responsible for the peace of Ireland, cannot consider that on account of some combination of parties, human life is not to be regarded there. They do attach some importance to that denouncement of the noble Lords, that if they do not persist with the Bill, they incur a fearful responsibility. The people of this country will judge between them and the noble Lord. They know the professions which the noble Lord and his party had made from this side of the House. They know the opinion which he expressed, and the strong terms in which he hurled defiance at that party with whom he is now leagued in compact. 188 Sir, we have introduced this measure from a paramount sense of its necessity. The noble Lord, who says that he does not see in us a conviction of its necessity, sufficient to enable him to vote for it, will allow me to inquire whether it was through any confidence in the Government that he voted for it a few weeks ago? Was not there evidence as to the necessity of the measure laid before the House? Could not the noble Lord judge of it then by that evidence; and does he not judge of it by the same evidence now? It was from reading the evidence adduced then that the noble Lord voted. Then, Sir, I want to know what has happened in the interval, that the same statements are now to be discredited? How is it that the remedies once so loudly called for, are now no longer, necessary, and the crimes so loudly decried are now no longer reprehensible. Sir, the country will judge of the course which the noble Lord has taken. Sir, I repeat that Government have brought in this Bill under a paramount sense of its necessity, and I tell the noble Lord that the Government will persevere in urging it through Parliament—urging it in spite of all his vituperation—in spite of that factious combination—I make no charge against hon. Gentlemen opposite. Those hon. Gentlemen who have opposed this measure are right, nay, are bound to continue their opposition. It is those who alter their course without any alteration in the circumstances, I denounce. Sir, if I may be allowed to allude to the rumours circulated for the last few days, I may repeat that I have heard it stated that proposals have been made to the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell) to bring to his assistance the services of a number of Gentlemen who are more anxious to divide with him than to consider the merits of the question—a proposal in reference to which the noble Lord had acted as I should have expected him to act—he treated it with that silence which I suppose it is hardly Parliamentary to designate as the silence of contempt. ["Name, name!"] Hon. Gentlemen below the gangway, who are so anxious to know the names of those who have thus preferred to make combination to unseat a Government, rather than to act upon the plan which they had enounced—rather than to continue to give that vote which by every pledge they had bound themselves to give—I can only recommend, after the division shall have taken place, to study the list, where they will find the names they are in search of. 189 I have made no charge against an individual. I was speaking of a party, and judging them by their acts. I see a party who suddenly, on the same measure, and without any change of circumstances, take a diametrically opposite course; and the noble Lord at once avows that it is done with the intention of displacing the Government. Under these circumstances why should I be called on to name? Well, Sir, to this measure, introduced as it has been with much deliberation—introduced as it has been with the support of the great body of this House—whatever may be the altered circumstances we have now to combat, whatever may be the combinations against us—I repeat, Sir, that to this measure the Government are determined to adhere. I know not what may be its fate, but this I do know, that in the attacks which the noble Lord has made on the sincerity of the Government in bringing forward this Bill, he shows that he has but little knowledge of the motives by which public men are guided; but I trust that this House will never sanction a departure from that honourable spirit in which the affairs of the country should be conducted. I for one, at least, shall deeply regret to see power placed in the hands of those who seem to be incapable of understanding that a public man may have higher than mere party objects, and that he may be ready to sacrifice even party support for the purpose of ensuring the success of measures, necessary, in his opinion, for promoting the happinesss and prosperity of the country.
The MARQUESS of GRANBY
The right hon. Gentleman had said that his noble Friend had used language in that House that was most unusual; he thought that the Government had taken a course that was also most unusual. The conduct of the Government had been such as had not before been witnessed in that House. They were sent by their constituents to deliver their opinions honestly and fairly in this House; and if the conduct of the Government had been so extraordinary, language might naturally have been uttered in respect to it which, on more mature consideration, might not have been uttered. The right hon. Gentleman said, that the noble Lord had remarked that the blood of all those who were murdered in Ireland, would fall upon the heads of the Government if they delayed this measure for a single day; but Her Majesty's Ministers had delayed it for a period of six weeks. They could not suppose that there was the 190 same necessity for it now as when they had voted for it upon the first reading. They were then assured that the Government were in earnest about it; and yet they permitted the Corn Law Bill to pass through this House instead of this more important measure. He could not believe that the same necessity now existed for it. They said that now they would not pass this Bill because they had no longer any confidence in the Government. They had but little confidence when they supported them on the first reading; and he thought that that littleness was now considerably less. That want of confidence was further increased by the conduct of the Government in respect to the Poor Law Settlement Bill. They had been told that they had entered into a compact with Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. He was not aware that the noble Lord had ever entered into any such compact. He believed that the only agreement and compact that existed between them was this—that they had no confidence whatever in Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
complained that the Secretary at War should have spoken of the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Smith O'Brien) as a person who desired the dismemberment of the Empire. The charge, if at all applicable to that hon. Member, was equally applicable to those who held his opinions as to the legislative union between the two countries; and when made in that House must be met with the shortest and promptest denial.
§ MR. S. HERBERT
said, all he had stated was that the noble Lord was entering upon an alliance with a party which sought objects which, in his opinion, would lead to the dismemberment of the Empire. This, however, was merely a matter of opinion, and on which a difference of opinion undoubtedly prevailed.
MR. STAFFORD O'BRIEN
said, he would take advantage of the question of adjournment to ask the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Herbert) for an explanation of a phrase in his speech, which, under the circumstances in which the House was now placed, would, he thought, be deemed but a reasonabie demand on his part. The right hon. Gentleman had made allusion to rumours about town that those who retained the principles which they held this time last year, but who now found themselves at variance with Her Majesty's Government, 191 had entered into a compact against the Ministers with the noble Lord who conducted the Opposition. He did not state that such a compact had been entered into; but he said a proposition had been made by the Gentlemen below the gangway, which the noble Lord had treated with something which it would be unparliamentary to term contempt. If the right hon. Secretary at War said this in the heat of debate, he could get up and offer an explanation; but if he said it decidedly, believing it, and intended to adhere to it, he would no doubt be glad, before the debate concluded, to have an opportunity of definitively and decidedly reiterating, not only that statement, but also informing the House who, amongst the party maintaining the principles of protection in that House, was the man to whom he alluded. It was not his wish to add a word of bitterness to the debate; and he trusted that neither his language nor manner proved that he had such a wish; but he felt it incumbent upon him to ask, and he thought the House would sympathize in his wish to know, what ground the right hon. Gentleman had for the charge he had made against them? He said charge, because it was preferred as a charge. He might say, and he would say also, that if they felt themselves obliged to oppose the measure of the Government, they could not hold out to the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) any reason to believe that they could sympathize with the policy which he had exhibited, or that they could forswear their own principles to follow his; although differing, as they widely did, from the noble Lord, he knew of nothing in his character, public or private, to make them ashamed of having had intercourse with him. But he must remind the House that the original casus fœderis was not with the noble Lord, but with Her Majesty's Government. His noble Friend had proposed to read to the House certain correspondence which some time since passed between him and a Member of the Government; but no Member of the Government had responded to that proposition; and the correspondence therefore remained in obscurity. With the permission of the House he would read one extract from that correspondence; and if it were the wish of the Government, or of any Member of the House, his noble Friend would make that correspondence public. If his noble Friend had written in the spirit of prophecy, he could not have rendered his letter more opportune to present circumstances. His noble Friend's letter was 192 dated 21st March, 1846, and was addressed to the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Young). His noble Friend, in that letter, said—I then frankly told you, with respect to the Anti-Murder Bill, that I believed the whole party with whom I served were but of one opinion, that it was a most unconstitutional measure, and only to be justified by some dire exigency. I believe I termed it another Curfew Act, and said that nothing but the most imminent danger could excuse it; but that if the Government were prepared to state that the emergency did exist, and were ready to have their honesty and sincerity tested by pressing the measure with all possible speed through the House, we should be disposed to give them credit for the existence of so dire an emergency, and, in spite of the statement of Lord Clanricarde in the House of Lords, we would support them. But if, on the contrary, it should appear from their conduct that in their hearts they did not believe such dire necessity did exist—if the danger to life was so little imminent that they could afford to postpone the measure on which the security of life was said to depend—a measure not intended to come into operation for three years—then the complexion of the case would be very much altered, and I conceive we should feel ourselves bound to take a different course, presuming, as we must under such circumstances, that no true or lasting ground did in fact exist for the adoption of so unconstitutional a measure.Now, the right hon. Gentleman must see from the letter he had received that the casus fœderis was not with his noble Friend, and he must also see that situated as that party (the country party) was in that House, it did not become them to let one single night pass away without demanding from the right hon. Gentleman an explanation of the grounds on which he asserted that such rumours were prevalent in town, and whether he had traced them to their source, or could apply them to any hon. Member who had a seat in that House at present?
§ MR. S. HERBERT
assured the hon. Gentleman that he believed there was no Member of the House against whom any charge of discourtesy could be made with so little justice. With respect to the letter which the hon. Gentleman had read, he did not think he was called upon then to enter upon it. The noble Lord, at the time he wrote, no doubt, took what he thought the best course; but all it amounted to was, that he told the Government, if they went on with the Corn Bill, he would vote against them. So much for that letter. With respect to the observations he made, and of which the hon. Gentleman asked for an explanation, he begged to recall the House to the exact expressions he had used. He had not asserted of his own knowledge any fact whatever, nor had he quoted any authority. He said that rumours 193 had flown about town that the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) and those who acted with him had made an offer to the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell) to support him in opposing the second reading of this Bill. Rumour had no name; but as the noble Lord appeared to dislike the imputation, he would beg leave to show him how he might easily disprove it. If any blame attached to the noble Lord or his party for taking that course, it was not for proposing to do it, but for actually doing it; and, therefore, if the division should ultimately show that a large portion of the Gentlemen in that House who voted in favour of the Bill on its first reading should vote on its second reading directly against it, he contended he should be justified in assuming that rumour to be well founded.
§ MR. E. YORKE
observed that it had been most distinctly stated that a negotiation had been declared to have been carried on. He appealed to the House whether any other construction could be put upon the words made use of by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, that some application had been made to the noble Lord; and he asked the House to judge impartially, whether, if an application had been made, that application was not made by some one? If the application had been made to the noble Lord, he trusted the noble Lord would say so, for the sake of the House and the party by whom the application was made. This would give the person an opportunity of stating upon what authority he made it. If they had a denial on the part of the noble Lord that any such statement was made, then it gave good ground for knowing that they could have no possible confidence in a Government which sought to abandon a Bill for the Protection of Life for the purpose of carrying one which abolished the Corn Laws.
LORD J. RUSSELL
said, that he would answer the hon. Gentleman who sat on his bench (Mr. Stafford O'Brien), and the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. No application or proposition had been made to him on the part of the noble Lord, or of any other hon. Member. He might, perhaps, be permitted to state that the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland seemed not to be aware of the objections which he had stated to the House on the first bringing in of this Bill; that he then stated that he had objections to some of the clauses; that he particularly 194 wished to omit the clause which obliged persons to remain in their own houses from sunset to sunrise. On further considering this Bill, he thought it would be the fairer and more direct course to oppose the second reading of the Bill, rather than so to mutilate it as to leave none of its important clauses. He stated on the 25th May, the day on which this Bill stood on the Orders of the Day, that he wished the right hon. Gentleman opposite to state whether he meant to bring it forward, or whether it was not to be brought forward in the course of the present Session; and he stated at the same time, that he thought it fairness to him to state that when he did bring it forward he should think it right to oppose the second reading. It was true that some of his intimate friends had since that time asked him what it was his intention to do with regard to the Bill, and whether they were authorized to state his intentions to any person who might apply to know what his intentions were. He did not use any contemptuous silence; he said, "I have already declared in the House of Commons my intention to oppose the second reading of the Bill; and you will declare those intentions to whatsoever person or party may ask." With regard to the noble Lord, the Member for Lynn, he had come to his conclusion on grounds which were satisfactory to him; and he (Lord J. Russell) had come to the same conclusion with regard to this Bill, on grounds which were satisfactory to himself. He trusted he should have an opportunity of stating them in the further course of the debate; but those grounds were entirely public, and they rested on this, that he thought it would be injurious to Ireland and to the protection of life to allow this Bill to pass.
§ MR. S. HERBERT
said, that after what had passed, it was due to the hon. Gentleman who had first put the question to say that the noble Lord's statement was conclusive on the subject: he was misinformed.
§ Debate adjourned till Friday.