§ MR. ROSS
said, that he should have been ready to vote with Ministers if the substance of the Bill had been in any reasonable degree answerable to its objects. Every measure of coercion must produce serious inconvenience to some parties, and the great ground for this measure failed, inasmuch as it was admitted on all hands that crime in Ireland had recently undergone a material diminution. The noble Earl (the Earl of Lincoln), in the course of his speech the other night, had made one important admission, viz., that all offences committed by men associated for the purpose of crime, had their origin in agrarian discontents. It had been allowed on all hands, though there might be differences of opinion as to the causes of the evils of Ireland, that there was no direct connexion between the atrocities complained of, and politics or religion. If Ireland had electoral, representative, or municipal rights equal to those of England; if her ecclesiastical arrangements were governed by principles of common equity or common sense; still he was of opinion that, owing to the 383 misrule of former times, and the disastrous condition of the country, statesmen would have to grapple with difficulties just as great as at present. It was to the causes of this unfortunate state of affairs that the House was bound to turn its attention with the utmost assiduity. He should be ashamed of filling a seat in that House, and of looking his countrymen in the face, if he did not struggle to obtain justice for the land of his birth and of his affections. The causes of the evils of Ireland had, in his opinion, been imperfectly stated and understood. Some attributed those evils to poverty; but only give him an abundance of potatoes and salt, and a mere roof to keep out the rain, and and an Irishman was as happy as a Member of Parliament. Others held that the curse of Ireland was absenteeism; but the truth was, that many of the estates of absentees—for instance, those of the London companies—were the best managed in the island. The peasantry had always been a wretched, down-trodden people; and their present melancholy condition was the inheritance of ages. The House had not yet forgotten the existence of 40s. freeholders, and the multiplication of them on estates with a view to elections. When they were abolished, a reaction commenced, and the owners of properties began the process which had been called extermination. He traced the misfortunes of Ireland in an especial degree to the want of employment; the presence of manufacturing industry in the north of Ireland was the cause of tranquillity unknown in other parts of the country. Looking, then, at the remedies that ought to be adopted, he would first speak of the measure introduced by the noble Lord yesterday. He did not think the alteration of the law as regarded tenant rights would prove a panacea for all the evils that existed through Ireland. There were other measures which, if adopted, would contribute much to the physical comfort and moral improvement of the population. The question respecting waste lands was one of the highest importance. He believed that a wise system might be devised which would provide for the wants of a large portion of the pauper population, now almost destitute, give means to persons residing in the neighbourhood of wastes, of locating their tenants upon them, and in time raise up a race of yeomen who would be a blessing and ornament to the country. The railways now in course of construction would no doubt prove of great benefit to 384 the labouring population of the vicinities; and the benefit might be greater if Government would lend the aid of the public credit in cases where difficulty was found in raising the required amount of capital. A new naval station might be created in some of the western harbours or at Cork; for he considered that Ireland had a right to benefit by the public expenditure in this branch of the service. The introduction of manufactures more widely than at present, and the encouragement of manufacturing industry, would be a most important instrument for promoting general prosperity. For these purposes, and with a view to these objects, peace was indispensable. If these measures failed to produce the expected effect among the pauper population, then he said there was nothing for it but trying the strong hand of power, putting down outrage, and repressing violence by all the means that Parliament could devise, if it should even be necessary to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act. The people of Ireland had not confidence in the law of the land nor in its administration; and they had unhappily come to the conclusion that there was no way of righting themselves but by their own devices. He hoped they had now seen an end of arbitrary legislation for Ireland. The heads of Administration, as well as the leaders of Opposition, and that new party which had renounced allegiance to the right hon. Baronet, were all united in sentiments on this point. He hoped that they would see no more party warfare on that field, and that the only object kept in view by the Legislature would be the good of Ireland. The right hon. Baronet deserved the cordial thanks and gratitude of that country for what he had done. He knew the feelings of the constituency which he represented; and they believed that the right hon. Baronet would have done more, had he not been surrounded with difficulties. Whoever might carry on the work of amelioration, he congratulated the future Minister that he would enter upon his task under favourable auspices. He hoped they would have no more shifts and temporary expedients; as Ireland had suffered under systematic mismanagement, he trusted to see an attempt made by systematic good government to place her on a parallel footing with this country.
§ MR. M. MILNES
thought an English Member would best discharge his duty by stating as shortly as possible the grounds for the course he felt called upon to take 385 on this Bill. It was not one of the least disagreeable consequences of the present political conjunction, that every Member was thrown, in matters of this kind, entirely on his own judgment to make his own choice. They had no longer leaders on whom they could confidently rely, nor was this liberty impared by anything that had taken place in previous discussions on this question. This Bill came before them under very peculiar circumstances. It came down to that House, backed by a nearly unanimous vote of the Lords, and was presented to them as likely to produce a strong moral effect, if passed by that House in a manner at all resembling that which had characterized its reception by the other branch of the Legislature. It was to the moral effect rather than to the active enforcement of the Bill, that their attention was directed by Her Majesty's Government. He held that they would be perfectly justified in refusing to pass the Bill now, when all hope of moral effect from it had vanished. If Government had now possessed the same influence in that House as they had some time ago enjoyed—if they could have carried this Bill into full and immediate operation at the moment when these outrages were occurring in Ireland, he did not deny that a considerable and beneficial effect might have been produced—an effect similar to that produced by the Whig Coercion Bill, which he believed to have been beneficial in its immediate effects, and not the less so because it was never acted upon. The right hon. Baronet, in recommending this Bill to their notice, said, it was now clear that they must legislate for Ireland and Irish interests, not with English views or for English approbation, but in a mode to give general contentment to persons whose judgment would be trusted in that country. If there was any meaning in this declaration, how were they to carry the Bill into effect against the constant and determined opposition of Irish Members? Could it be supposed that the representatives of that country were unaware of the intent and meaning of the outrages that afflicted it? Could they suppose for a moment, if this Bill would really diminish the number of those outrages, for which, of course, the Irish Members felt just as much horror as the English, that they would not have readily co-operated with the Government, as English counties situated in the same way would have done? But they were now called upon to pass this measure in 386 despite of the feeling of the Irish Members, and to pass an ultra-constitutional law in direct violation of the feelings of the representatives of the Irish people. They were called upon to do this, not by a Government able to accompany this Bill with great measures of social amelioration for Ireland—not by one strong enough to carry those measures in spite of opposing interests, but by a Government which he could only regard, to make use of a term he had employed before, as a Government ad interim. He admitted that if Ministers did retire from office on this unhappy question, they would take with them the conviction that this was not the policy on which they had generally acted towards Ireland. It was rather a fatal exception than the continuation of any rule; and he thought it would have been perfectly fair if Government had come down to the House and said that they thought the circumstances under which they proposed it were changed—that the outrages had diminished in number—that the continuous and resolute opposition offered by the Irish Members to the Bill would considerably impair its value; and, therefore, that a slightly greater relaxation of the principles they had formerly held would have made very little difference as regarded their character. In the estimation of every reasonable man, that would have been a just abandonment of an injudicious measure. He could not but consider the retirement of Ministers, to which he looked forward, under present circumstances, as a fortunate event. They had been carrying out measures of the same tendency with those of the Government displaced in 1841; it belonged to the Members of that Government to pass those measures, and to claim the full reward of their accomplishment. If the right hon. Baronet and his Friends were to have the glory of passing those measures into law, it was at least not unjust that the Government which they chose to displace on the principle they had since adopted, should now have a fair chance of regaining the places they then lost. Holding these opinions, he could not entertain any doubt as to the vote he should give. A gratifying circumstance attending the changes that might be anticipated was this, that if the Bill were lost, it would be lost by the act of that party who were generally considered the most strict and severe in their administration of Ireland. The Coercion Bill would be prevented from becoming law by the co-opera- 387 tion of those identical Members who, under other circumstances, might have been most ready to promote it. From whatever motives the Bill was rejected, the Gentlemen who rejected it would preclude themselves from taking, on any future occasion, any measure of greater severity against Ireland than the necessity of the case might imperatively demand. They sympathized with him in the hope that it was not by such means as these that Ireland would in future be governed; and that the happy day would come when the Irish questions which had long agitated that House would cease to exist, and there would be no difference in the character of their legislation for Ireland and for Yorkshire. Then would the nations be bound together as a happy and united people, determined by their manifestations of good will to consolidate the Union so strongly that the repealers could never hope to dissolve it, and thankful to Him who had placed them there, under the sway of our beneficent Sovereign, to deliberate for the advantage of a united people.
§ MR. POULETT SCROPE
said: I wish to detain the House the shortest possible time; and to this end I shall condense what I have to say into the briefest, simplest, and plainest form. Her Majesty's Government say that the purpose of this measure is to put down criminal outrages and to protect life in Ireland. Now, Sir, these are objects which we on this side have as much at heart as any Member of the Government, and we will go any lengths really to effect them, But in order to put a stop to the system of outrage prevalent in Ireland, surely it is necessary to understand and to direct your remedies to its cause; to attack the root of the disease, not its symptoms merely. The noble Lord (Lord Lincoln) said the other night, "The whole body corporate of society is diseased—every relation of life is diseased." True, most true; but what is the disease? The outrages are not the disease; they are the symptoms only. What, then, is the disease itself, and what its causes? No one, I imagine, supposes these crimes to be committed out of a mere wanton spirit of evil. No one now attributes them to political agitation, or sectarian and religious animosities. Their real cause and character no one can now plead ignorance of, after the proofs that have been laid on the Table of the House by the evidence taken by successive Committees and Commissions. I have myself proved it to you long since. I 388 will tell you once more, and I defy any man acquainted with the evidence to contradict me. The disease that affects the Irish peasantry, and causes them to commit or to sanction those shocking outrages which swell your constabulary reports—that disease which you say affects the whole body politic, and disorganizes society—is a deadly struggle among the people for life and the means of living—a frightful competition for the necessaries of life, for the means of existence. It is a war for dear life that rages more or less secretly and silently, but not the less fearfully, among the mass of the people in almost every corner of the land. The noble Lord, I own, startled me the other night by saying that only a small proportion of those crimes are of an agrarian character. Of course there may be different meanings attached to that word by different persons. But, at all events, the noble Lord's chief authority, the Devon Commissioners, calls them agrarian, and attributes them chiefly, if not entirely, to disputes about land; and this can be seen by a reference to the Report itself. The noble Lord next relied upon the evidence of Colonel Miller, the inspector-general of the constabulary, and Mr. Cahill. Colonel Miller, it is true, says that five-sixths of the criminal offences in Ireland are classified by the sub-inspectors of constabulary, from the reports sent by the constables, as other than agrarian. But the whole question turns on the meaning of this word, or what you choose to term agrarian. Now, I have taken, for the purpose of testing them, the Returns presented this morning of the criminal outrages perpetrated during the last five months, in the five counties which are declared to be the chief scenes of this system of outrage; and I have divided them into these seven classes, according to the causes assigned on the face of the Report to them, viz., agrarian, by which I mean quarrels about the occupation of land, rent, ejectments, severity of bailiffs, and conacre land. All these I think, beyond dispute, must be considered agrarian. The next class I have taken are quarrels for work at wages, such as the employment of strangers, or the turning off of labourers. The next class is offences connected with the price or scarcity of food, such as have not been unfrequent of late during the apprehension of famine. There remain some offences connected with the giving evidence or prosecution of parties implicated in the agrarian crimes themselves; robbery of 389 arms, offences to which no cause is assigned by the police; and, lastly, other offences of a miscellaneous character, not referable to the other heads. The result is, that of the whole 895 offences reported, 500 are of an agrarian character, 156 relate to employment and food, 31 to prosecutions, 70 are unknown, and 148 only, out of near 900, are referred to causes which appear to have no direct connexion with land or the means of living, or the support of that system of intimidation which is established by the peasantry to maintain themselves in their present livelihood. Three-fourths of the whole number of offences are directly referred, by the constabulary themselves, to quarrels for land, food, or work. But what does Colonel Miller himself say? I refer the House to his evidence; and I will now only read, to save time, from the summary of the evidence in the index:—Agrarian system of terror prevalent throughout all Ireland; incoming tenants generally the victims, 11. Object of agrarian outrages to regulate the letting of land; but modified by sectarian prejudices in Protestant or Roman Catholic districts; apparent from the form of threatening notices adopted by Catholic and Protestants under similar circumstances—copies of threatening notices given, 11, 12. A tenant of the name of Barry 'brutally' murdered, on the estate of the late Earl of Donoughmore, in county Tipperary, in consequence of having succeeded an ejected tenant, 11. The Shepherds murdered in the King's county for taking land from which a widow was ejected, 12. Daniel Brien, in the King's county, emboldened by the murder of the Shepherds to hold forcible possession of his farm, after being allowed his crops and 117l. as compensation by landlord, for surrendering peaceable possession, 11, 12. Circumstances connected with the letting of land fixed on the mind of the rural population, and their hostility to the occupying tenant revived after a lapse of years by the disturbance of a district, 12. Rent of conacre prescribed by threatening notice recently—10l. for old pasture land, 8l. for manured, and 6l. for rough stubble, 12. A steward threatened, and the horse on which he rode shot, in county Roscommon, to intimidate the landlord, and induce him to let potato ground; apprehensions entertained of similar offences, 13. Murders perpetrated to intimidate landlords, and to embolden refractory tenants; the assassinations of the Shepherds an instance of the system, 12. Object of agrarian outrages, in grazing districts, to break up land for conacre, 12, 13.The noble Lord's next authority was Mr. Cahill, the Crown prosecutor, and a solicitor and land agent of Tipperary. If I were to select any witness of all who were brought before Lord Devon's Commission to prove by his evidence the very reverse of the noble Lord's proposition, I don't know that I could make a better selection than that of Mr. Cahill. I turn to his evi- 390 dence, and I will only read a few passages:—Of what class are the offences which are more general in the county?—Heretofore riots at fairs were the most general. Those have been almost entirely got rid of; but waylaying persons and beating them has not been so completely got rid of; and at the present time they are rather more general than they have been—violent attacks upon the person from malice, arising from different causes, but generally from some dispute in reference to land.Have those offences generally appeared to be the act of one individual, or have there been many persons concerned in them?—There have been generally from four to six persons concerned in those waylayings; sometimes fewer and sometimes more.Do you mean that the waylaying offences are generally connected with the occupation of land?—Yes; the malice causing them has been connected with disputes relating to land in general.Do the parties who commit those outrages appear to be actuated by the desire of payment, or any other motive?—No; my impression is that those things in general are not done for payment. Money is given in some cases; but generally these outrages are committed from a kind of feeling that the parties creating annoyance upon the subject of land should be put down; and it is very easy to get loose persons to commit outrages upon parties meddling with land, in a way to affect the interests of the occupiers. Sometimes it is done by parties who expect the persons for whom they do it will do a similar act for them, in case the necessity should arise.Are those parties themselves landowners?—They are occupiers of small portions of land, varying from one to ten acres—generally under ten acres.Have you observed, when agrarian outrages are committed, that the country people about have been cognizant of them?—I am perfectly convinced that there is no agrarian outrage committed, but that the inhabitants about know all the circumstances and the parties concerned.Have you found much difficulty in collecting evidence?—It is almost utterly impossible to get at the evidence. I have been engaged, by direction of the Crown, to investigate the circumstances leading to three or four murders committed in Tipperary. The murder of Mr. Cooper and Mr. Wayland; the murder of Mr. James Scully; the murder of Murphy, a farmer, at Foxford, near Bansha; the murder of Mr. O'Keefe, at Thurles; and the murder of Mr. Daniel Byrne, near Templetuohy; and of course I had peculiar means in that way of seeing the difficulty of procuring any evidence. In Mr. Cooper's case the evidence was procured, and two men executed. In Murphy's case it was also ultimately procured, and one man executed; but in the case of the murder of Mr. O'Keefe, though every exertion was used, I could not have it; and in case of the murder of Byrne there was evidence, but the man was acquitted; but immense difficulty is found in endeavouring to get at evidence.Is it your impression in regard to those cases that there were many persons witnessed the murders, or were cognizant of the fact?—There were not many persons witnessing it in any of those cases. My belief is that Mr. O'Keefe's murder was perpetrated by a single man. There were 391 three persons engaged in the attack upon Byrne when he was shot. Mr. Scully's murder is completely involved in mystery: he was found murdered in a field; but my belief is, that he was murdered by two persons. Murphy's case was one of a very aggravated nature. They came to the house which his family were in, he was out of it; they left a portion of the party guarding his wife, and the rest remained outside until he came towards the house, and they then murdered him. In that there were six or eight persons engaged. With regard to Byrne's murder, I am sure several of the country people could have given us evidence which they would not give; but I am able to state generally that there is an utter indisposition to give any evidence whatever of any offence connected with the occupation of land.To what do you attribute that indisposition; is it to terror or any other cause?—In some degree to terror; but there is an actual indisposition on the part of the people to give evidence. They believe that their own interests are bound up in the cause of the parties committing these murders, and any party giving evidence against them is looked upon as an enemy to the general class to which he belongs.Do you conceive that undue protection is given to the parties engaged in these outrages?—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.'Is it the result of your observation that there are some properties in Tipperary remarkable for outrage?—Those two properties have been for some years back perfectly notorious for them, and several murders have been committed upon them.Does your knowledge also enable you to state that there properties remarkably free from them?—I am not able to say that the freedom from outrage or the increase of outrage has been upon particular properties; but in particular districts it is so.In the case of the two properties you have alluded to, were there resident agents?—No, not on Mr. Bowen's; and on the other there was a middleman—it belonged to a gentleman from the county of Clare. Some disputes arose, the particulars of which I am not acquainted with; but there had been a good deal of litigation and outrage upon Mr. Bowen's property. There was also a middleman; he received the rent from the occupiers up to a particular day—this I know from being present at the trial, in which it was stated Mr. Bowen was the head landlord—the middle landlord, whose name I do not recollect, received the rent up to a particular gale day; he did not pay Mr. Bowen. The lands were evicted for non-payment of rent; and Mr. Bowen, when he came in, did not wish to have so many tenants, and though they had paid the rent to the middleman they lost their interest, and were turned out by Bowen's agent. They took forcible possession; there were several prosecutions and several outrages upon it, and it has continued in a disturbed state. I have always considered that that was the origin of the disturbances in the north riding. Dis- 392 turbances have taken place, bad characters are collected in the locality, and any man who has a grievance to complain of uses these men as instruments in avenging it.I think the noble Lord was guilty of a suppression of the truth, and garbled Mr. Cahill's evidence, when he read words from his evidence to the effect that these crimes were the result of individual malice, and left out the words that follow, namely, "malice connected with disputes about land." Mr. Cahill refers these outrages almost wholly (generally, he says) to disputes about land. But the truth is, a considerable number are caused by disputes about conacre and employment, as well as the direct tenure of land. These together form the sole means of living of the Irish peasantry. The occupation of a farm, of conacre, or of a situation of labourer, are essential to existence in Ireland; and they are defended as men defend their lives, by force, by violence, by intimidation, by any means, however illegal. And so it will be, in spite of your Coercion Acts, until you afford them some security for life by peaceful and honest industry—until you guarantee by law their right and title to existence, and provide them with means of its continuance. Thus only can you disarm the assassin of his plea of extreme necessity. Thus only can you gain the respect of the peasantry to the law, and prevent their any longer countenancing and sanctioning the worst crimes. Do you deny that the peasantry of Ireland are fighting for existence in maintaining this system of outrage? Why, are there not, on the evidence of your own Commissioners' Reports, two millions of persons and upwards in a state of unrelieved destitution—that is, starving, or on the verge of starvation. It is to avoid this fate, or a worse, that the farmers and labourers commit or sanction these crimes. Your object, you say, is to protect life. Oh, we will join you heartily in this, if you set about it the right way. But remember life is destroyed in Ireland in other ways than by the bullet of the assassin. Life is taken in Ireland through the slow agonies of want, and disease engendered by want, when human beings are deprived (however legally) of their only means of living, and no resource afforded them in its place. When a landlord clears his estate, by driving from their homes hundreds of poor tenants who have no other possible resource of refuge, does he not as effectually destroy their lives (at least of many of them) as if he shot them at 393 once? It would be mercy to do so in comparison. Do you deny that the lives of the peasantry are unprotected by law—that they are obliged to protect themselves by these criminal outrages? I ask you, if, since these very discussions began, if we have not had proofs, multiplied proofs, of the mode in which the landlords of Ireland are decimating the people of Ireland? Ay, in the midst of fever and famine, in the month of Februrary, was not a whole village razed by Mr. Gerrard—400 souls turned out upon the highway—not allowed even to rest in the roadside ditches? Was not another village razed by the Marquess of Waterford? Another, I believe, by the relatives of Mr. Clark, of Nenagh, who was murdered — another threatened by Mr. Pierce Carrick, who was murdered for the intention? All these, and numerous other facts of the kind, are going on at this moment. Even in this morning's paper I see a fresh announcement of a clearance of 180 individuals. As leases drop in, landlords consider themselves justified in consolidating their estates, and ejecting the numerous families of tenantry who have occupied under the old leases. Now, I ask, what becomes of these ejected wretches, whose houses are pulled down, who are driven forth from the land where they were born and bred, hunted even out of the roadside ditches when they take shelter there, as was literally the case in the Gerrard clearance? Where are they to go? How are they to live? They are trespassers every where, even on the high road. No one wants them—no one employs or shelters them. If they squat on another landlord's estate, they are driven out again as nuisances—pests — as people, in one word, who have no right to exist. True, they have none in law; but I much doubt whether, in the sight of God, their right to existence, and the means of existence, be not as strong and holy as that of any peer or prince of the realm. I ask, what becomes of them? Why, we know, on the best authority, they wander to the towns and try to live by beggary; but they do not live long. Dr. Doyle, whose evidence no will dispute, tells you their fate.Disease," he says, "and want, soon carry off the greater number of them. They die in a little time. He knew thirty families come into the town in which he lived from some such ejectment; in one twelvemonth twenty out of the thirty families, i. e. two-thirds of them, had died.Is not an ejectment, then, of this kind, tantamount to a sentence of death on a 394 small farmer or cottier, whose only chance of living and maintaining his family is the occupation of a bit of land? And can you wonder at his retaliating on him whom he feels to be his oppressor? Or can you wonder that the thousands who know themselves to be exposed to this fate every day, combine to save themselves from it by a system of intimidation and outrage? I do not wish, however, to cast blame on the landlords. They think they have a right to act as the law permits them—to do as they will with their own. Many of them, even of those who clear their estates and pull down whole villages (like the Marquess of Waterford), are said to be men of humane feelings, but acting under a mistaken view of what is right, or in ignorance of the consequence of their acts. I do not wish to blame them. I blame the law which gives them the power of life and death over the peasantry of Ireland. In England we do not carry the rights of property so far. Here a landlord cannot clear his estate without being responsible, he and his neighbours likewise, for their fate. Some maintenance, some residence, must by law be provided for them if evicted; and therefore it is we never hear of agrarian crimes in England. But is it for the interests of the landlords themselves that they should possess and exercise this terrific power unchecked? Are they really benefited by it? Why, in the first place, they have brought Ireland to such a state that their own lives are in danger. But even as respects the value of their property, I maintain that it seriously suffers from the present state of things. They use this power to their own injury, as well as that of the peasantry, and to the destruction of the peace of the country. Let me, in proof of this point, beg the attention of the House to the statement of facts respecting two estates in Ireland, in which, under similar circumstances, two different lines of conduct were pursued by their proprietors. The one is an estate in the county of Kildare, the other in Galway. Both when they came into the hands of their proprietors, about ten years since, were considered to be in a ruinous condition, overpeopled with a pauper tenantry, unable to pay rent at all. The owner of the Kildare estate, being a man of humanity and good sense, said to himself, "If I drive off all these people (as the law permits me to do), I shall cause their destruction. It would be a sentence of death on them, and, perhaps, to avoid or to avenge it, they 395 may kill me, or kill one another, or the two or three tenants I may leave here. Let me see if I cannot so arrange the estate that it shall support the people on it, and pay me a better rent, instead of starving them as it does now, while they pay me no rent." He set about this judiciously; much in the manner of Lord George Hill at Gweedore. He put an end to the run-dale and joint tenancies—he consolidated several small holdings into larger farms—and he located the dispossessed tenants upon bog and mountain patches, of which he gave them long leases at a nominal rent, to encourage them to reclaim and improve. What was the result? Why, that in the first place, he greatly improved his estate and increased its value; secondly, he improved the condition of all his tenantry. Without exception the larger farmers are now flourishing, the smaller cottiers are comfortable, peaceable, and happy, earning their bread by their own industry. Now for the other estate in Galway. That was treated by its owner in the opposite fashion. He had recently purchased it. He might suppose, perhaps, that this circumstance destroyed the force of the claim to forbearance and mercy which his tenants might have upon one who had inherited the estate on which they and their forefathers had lived. Be this as it may be, he set to work to improve his estate in the Gerrard fashion—a very usual one—namely, by clearing it of its supposed excess of population. He employed that power with which the law arms every Irish landlord unconditionally, and which has been so facilitated by recent legislation. He ejected some 200 tenants, evicted a population of about 1,000 souls. He divided his estate into a few large farms, keeping one for himself, as a sort of amateur farmer. By acting in this manner he caused a large amount of misery and suffering. What became of that thousand souls, turned adrift in Galway, the most miserable perhaps of all the counties of Ireland, it is difficult to say. Few of them probably survive to this time. They met the usual fate of ejected tenants. At all events, my informant assures me, the horrible distress and misery that was caused by these evictions is indescribable. Some outrages followed of course. But the law had had its course. The landlord had cleared his land. Now, let the House listen to this. That same estate possessed upwards of 30,000 acres of waste land, and among it many thousands of bog, far supe- 396 rior to Chat Moss, some very much better than the waste of the other estate on which hundreds of tenants are now supporting themselves in comfort, and paying rent into the bargain. Had the owner of the Galway estate chosen to act—had he possessed the humanity and wisdom to act as Dr. Grattan did, he might have located all the tenantry he ejected on these wastes in comfort and ease—ay, and ten times their number—and they might now be living in happiness and plenty, instead of dying by inches, as they no doubt did. But at least it will be said, he improved his estate by the mode of treatment he adopted. Quite the contrary. His speculation turned out a bad one after all. His pet farm was a losing concern. The estate altogether is not at all improved, but has rather lessened in value. Had the course taken by Dr. Grattan been pursued in that instance, its value might have been doubled easily by this time. Now here are two facts, and two hundred similar ones might be produced. What is the conclusion to be drawn from them? Is it that lame and impotent lesson which the right hon. Baronet drew from the consideration of Lord George Hill's successful improvement of a similar estate—that landlords should be advised to act as Dr. Grattan and Lord George Hill have acted, instead of acting as the owner of the Galway estate did. No. The inference I draw, and I hope the House will draw it too, is, that landlords must be prohibited from acting in the latter way, and compelled to make that use of their property which is best for themselves, best for the peace and safety of the country. In one word, that landlords should not be permitted to clear their estates, but be required by law to provide the people who live upon them with the means of existence in some other way if they remove them. Only by compulsory means can you secure that to be done, which is best for all parties, and is, indeed, alone just, right, and wise. The voluntary system—the leaving absolute power in the landlords — produces the result I have shown you on an estate in Galway, and which you have seen in the Gerrard case, the Waterford case, the Nenagh clearance, and so many others. Landlords must be coerced to do justice to the people of Ireland, by affording them the means of living upon the soil of Ireland by industry. For this there is such ample room and scope, that the best authorities, Dr. Kane, Mr. Blacker, and others equally well informed, say 397 that Ireland might, if her resources of land and labour were judiciously brought together, support five times her present population—forty millions instead of eight—and that in comfort instead of misery; in contentment instead of despair; in peace and happiness in place of disturbance and suffering. If you do this, you will want no Coercion Bill for the peasantry. This is the scheme for protecting life and preventing assassination that I propose to you—a far more effective Protection of Life Bill than yours would be in law to this effect. And it is because I see no certainty of your intending to introduce any such efficient measure, that I refuse my assent to your coercion scheme.
§ VISCOUNT BERNARD
complained of the assertions which had been made in the course of the present and preceding debates against the landlords of Ireland—assertions which he was prepared to contend and prove were wholly at variance with, and made in ignorance of, the facts. It had been the great misfortune of Ireland, that in former days and under circumstances over which the present possessors of property in that country had no control, the lands had been greatly subdivided; but he believed that, taking the landlords of Ireland as a body, they had the same kindly feelings — the same anxious desire to benefit those whom Providence had committed to their care—to alleviate their necessities, and to minister to their wants, as those of any other part of the realm. In justice to the landlords of the county in which he resided—a county which comprised one-twelfth of the whole population of Ireland, he must be permitted to call attention to the words addressed to himself and the other grand jurors of that county by an authority which could not be questioned. Mr. Justice Burton, after congratulating them upon the peaceable state of their county, said—He could not conceive how it could be in that condition, except from the knowledge that it was inhabited by gentlemen of rank and distinction, who knew how to do their duty, and were able as they were willing to keep their districts as they ought to be.He believed that the same thing might be said of the gentry of other parts of Ireland. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope) seemed to forget that even if all his arguments were well-founded, they were not arguments against this Bill. The remedy he suggested was a general one against a system; whereas this Bill was 398 intended as a remedy for a state of things which existed in certain localities only. He supported this Bill, because he believed, in his conscience, that it was necessary for Ireland. On this point he might be content to rest the case on the statement of the Earl of St. Germans in moving the Bill in the other House, supported as that statement had been by the Marquess of Lansdowne and other noble Lords, who acquiesced generally in opinion with hon. Members who occupied the side of the House upon which the hon. Member for Stroud sat. He put it calmly to the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck), and to those who thought with him, to consider what possible connection there could be between the Corn Bill and the measure now under consideration. Under what circumstances had the late Government been broken up? The immediate cause of their downfal was not the Corn Bill of the noble Lord opposite, but their truckling policy with regard to Ireland; they fell because they truckled to the hon. and learned Member for Cork, and abandoned Protestant principles. What, then, could justify the Protectionist Members in taking a step, merely as a political move, which must have the effect of transferring the Government to the avowed enemies of the Protestant Church? That was, however, the policy of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. Before leaving this subject, he would refer to a memorial presented by the magistrates of the West Riding of the county of Cork to the Earl De Grey, praying for protection, and declaring that the feature which distinguished the Irish atrocities from the English was the mystery with which they were always enveloped, and that they were the result of an organized system of Ribbonism. The noble Lord road an extract from the Memorial as follows:—We feel ourselves warranted in representing to your Excellency that during the summer and autumn, the number who joined the standard of the Repeal Association was very great, and that from time to time since the most alarming demonstrations have been made, and the terror of the loyal and peaceable inhabitants has been so great, that on the occasion of these signal fires, which lately blazed on every hill, they fled from their houses, and remained in the fields with their families during the whole night. If protection be not afforded, those who have the means of leaving the country must and will seek protection elsewhere. We shall rely on your prompt attention to this representation, which nothing but a paramount sense of our responsibility as magistrates, a strong feeling of the imminent danger to which the lives and properties of the loyal and peaceable 399 inhabitants are exposed, and the firm conviction of a deep-laid and organized conspiracy in the country, would have induced us to make.In a second application the same magistrates said—We feel convinced that unless such a regular force be supplied, the loyal will not, and can hardly be expected to remain unarmed in the midst of dangers to themselves and families.The hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Ross) alluded to the Norman Barons having prevented in Edward the Third's time the Irish people having equal laws. What was the real state of the case? It was the Roman Catholic priesthood who were to blame. In A. D. 1280, it was said—Ireland was therefore left once more at the mercy of its prelates: they might now by a vote have almost atoned for the original baseness of their predecessors, and arrested the bloody progress of centuries of desolation. But the canon law was the only code which they desired to establish generally; and the law of England was even then too favourable to liberty, not to be viewed with alarm by men who aimed at despotic power. On the one hand, they wished for a continuance of the inequality between the races, because, in fact, it was only the gradations of servitude, and kept the ascendancy of the Church upon a higher pedestal. On the other hand, they could not tolerate a measure which, by diffusing through all classes a spirit of spontaneous attachment to the State, might diminish their own political importance. There was to be no loyalty of which they were not the mediators; and while overt acts of rebellion were occasionally restrained, a spirit was kept alive which would render their constant interference indispensable. It cannot be ascertained from any authentic record whether the counsel were met; one thing only is certain, that the bishops defeated the good intentions of the King.It had been said that similar outrages to those of Ireland were committed in England; but there was this important difference, that in England they were isolated cases, and not the result of an organized, deep-laid, and extensive conspiracy; for he was convinced that Ribbonism was at the bottom of the outrages in Ireland. He would first vindicate the law, and then he trusted that remedial measures would be brought forward for Ireland—though he would not advocate political concessions, which were always followed by fresh demands, and for which, as was the grant to Maynooth, hon. Gentlemen would opposite would not thank the Government. Political measures must ever be fruitless, unless accompanied by some well-digested means for giving employment to the labouring classes. He admitted that the Government had done much towards this good object in the present Session; but still more remained to be done before the 400 desired end could be attained. Were it proved to the House that such outrages as were perpetrated in Ireland prevailed in Yorkshire, it would not be possible for the House to refuse at once to suspend the ordinary law, and make a special enactment to meet the emergency. In such a case, was it conceivable that any party intrigues would be practised, for the purpose of upsetting the Ministry? He doubted not that the Members of the Repeal Association were actuated by the same devoted loyalty as himself; but, supposing two coequal and independent Legislatures existing, one in England, the other in Ireland, held together only by the single link of the Crown, it was not difficult to foresee that, ere long, that connection would be severed. Could two equal Legislatures exist? How long would it be before the House of Lords would be done away with, and the single House triumph over the Crown? How could they secure in an independent Parliament the succession of the Crown? It was true that there might be the most devoted loyalty to the Sovereign now on the throne; but how could they avoid the recurrence of such a question as the regency, and how could they say that an Irish Parliament might not impose the same condition as to a Catholic succession, as was now imposed with respect to a Protestant? How could they secure the country against the inroads of a foreign enemy with the ulterior view of subjugating England? It was alleged on the opposite side, however, that this measure ought not to be passed, because political privileges were withheld from Ireland; and hon. Members who said this talked as if they alone spoke the sentiments of the people of Ireland; but they were not the sentiments of the wealth, the property, and the intelligence of Ireland. [Mr. O'CONNELL: Who does then?] The corrupt state of the representation prevented the property of Ireland from being represented in that House. Did the hon. Member for Cork recollect the evidence given as to the state of intimidation which prevented the electors from recording their votes in that county? Then it was complained that there was not an equal municipal franchise; yet it must be recollected that the Roman Catholics had corporate power; and how had they used it? He would ask only whether it was used properly when the corporate magistrates went in their robes to visit a person imprisoned for a political offence? Attacks had also been made on the ap- 401 pointments made by the present Government, particularly on those of the Judges. In reply to these attacks, he (Lord Bernard) would read a passage from the speech of the Mayor of Cork, on opening the Imperial Hotel in that city:—Their chairman, in speaking of the Judges of assize (Baron Lefroy and Judge Jackson), alluded to them in most complimentary terms; but they were only deserved, for since their arrival in the city they had dispensed justice as judges should do. One of the gentlemen was a stranger, the other Mr. Justice Jackson, was their fellow-citizen, and in his capacity of judge, or his station as a gentleman, was an honour to the city which could claim him as her own. He (the mayor) had the honour of knowing him for the first time in the position he then occupied, and from that position he had the means of observing and witnessing that gentleman's care and attention, his industry in noting down apparently the most unimportant facts, his ability and discrimination in detecting what many would not perceive.In contrasting the conduct of the present Government with that of the Whigs, he would not detain the House long; but it could not be forgotten, that just as the Whigs were about to quit office, an amiable Judge (Lord Plunkett) was removed, that Lord Campbell might enjoy a few days' office in that country. On the subject of the Church in Ireland, so often attacked in that House, the hon. and learned Member for Cork had stated in evidence before the House of Lords in 1829, that if the Roman Catholic claims were granted, no further attack would be made on the Protestant Church in Ireland. That evidence, it had been said at the time by Mr. Spring Rice (now Lord Monteagle), had contributed more than anything else to remove the objections in the public mind to the passing of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill. Notwithstanding this, the Church of Ireland was nightly attacked, and loaded with abuse, though its clergy were the most devoted in the world; not, like those of another church, meddling in politics and agitation, but employing themselves constantly in visiting the sick and needy, both Protestant and Catholic, and relieving their temporal wants. While admitting that poverty prevailed very extensively throughout Ireland, he must contend that it was not by any means the main source of her evils. The remedy for those evils was to be largely found in developing the resources of the country. In the course of the present debate, a great deal had been said, and justly said, on the evil arising from so many absentees from Ireland. This was an evil which, as he had before 402 shown in that House, might be traced through the history of Ireland for the last 600 years; and though attempts had been made to meet it by taxation and by confiscation of property, they had all failed of the desired object. It had been said that where property was well managed in the absence of the proprietors, there was no great harm in absenteeism. This was a serious mistake. The evil of absenteeism lay in the loss of the moral effect of a resident proprietary. And he trusted that proprietors would think of this, and be induced to return and perform the duty which their country required of them. In conclusion, he urged upon the Government, as they valued the peace of Ireland, and as they valued the affections of the people, to adopt some means to develop the unexplored resources of that country.Quo res cunque cadent, unum et commune periclumUna salus ambobus erit.
§ MR. REDINGTON
remarked that there was nothing which the noble Lord who had just sat down had not alluded to in the course of his speech; but he should not be tempted to follow him through the various topics he had introduced. He should merely notice the minor portion of the noble Lord's speech which referred to the question before the House. The noble Lord had told the House of the danger and alarm which prevailed in Ireland, and had said that a great riband conspiracy—a sworn conspiracy he (Mr. Redington) believed that the noble Lord called it—was at the bottom of that danger and alarm. But was this a Bill calculated to meet any danger of that kind? He (Mr. Redington) believed that it was not. The noble Lord had attacked those formerly connected with the Irish Government for party predilections; but had not Lord Roden brought forward a party Motion for the purpose of fixing a stigma on the then Government. It was the great misfortune of Ireland that every measure connected with it was discussed in a party spirit. How had it been, for instance, with respect to Irish crime? Had it not been brought forward, in general, less with a view of eradicating it, than of casting a stigma on the party who happened to rule the destinies of Ireland? He wondered that Members connected with England and Scotland, who had long held seats in that House, did not say to themselves—Why is something not done to inquire into the source of this evil? He was sure that they 403 would look in vain to find in the speeches of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, or the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, for the source of the evil—for the cause of crime in Ireland. They were not even consistent with themselves as to the grounds upon which the present measure was brought forward. In the opening speech of the right hon. Baronet, agrarian outrages were stated as the cause of the measure being brought forward. After the lapse of some time, however, and a new Irish official having appeared in the House, a new idea was imparted, and it was found that it was not agrarian crime, but that there was a social disease in Ireland, which required a remedy; and a long list of offences was brought forward to justify this view of the case. The noble Lord, however, had failed to show that those offences were of such a kind as to require this extraordinary Bill. In the present state of Ireland he called on the House to beware how they passed this Bill. He understood the noble Lord (Lord Lincoln) had said that the Landlord and Tenant Commission had obtained certain returns with a certain view. Now, whatever the views of the individual Members of that Commission, there could not be a more unjust imputation than to say that they were biassed in any way, and did not make their report from the evidence fairly brought before them. He had not time to examine accurately the returns furnished only when this Bill was to be read a second time; but he warned the Government how they passed a measure of this kind on pretexts of crime so flimsy as were in many cases set forth in those returns. In the first place, he observed that if a number of persons were engaged in perpetrating any offence, each was given as a separate outrage. In a place called Kilincurry, the returns proved that one offence was so subdivided. When the representatives of Ireland had to defend their country from the charge of an enormous amount of crime, they were at least entitled to ask for fair and accurate returns of those crimes. Now, what were those crimes? Two thousand were said to be committed in five months. Of these 810 were threatening notices. Now, everybody acquainted with Ireland must be aware on what grounds charges of sending threatening notices were often got up. He remembered one which he had himself received. He got a letter from a man, 404 who said that he was appointed to shoot him (Mr. Redington), but that he did not wish to do it, and he would not if he received 30s. Of course he took no notice of the letter; but some time after he happened to see Colonel M'Gregor, and showed it to him. He was at once told to take no notice, as they knew the handwriting well, and the man was in the habit of writing such letters. He went to the house it was dated from, and found it was an empty house. Again, many of the offences were described as "quarrelling at a hurling match"—a very common case in Ireland. In another case the assault was committed "because the parties were of the same occupation" (that of feather monger); in others, they arose from "jealousy;" sometimes because gentlemen would not marry ladies, and sometimes because ladies would not marry gentlemen. One case of assault was because a widow of four husbands would not marry a fifth. In another case, an offence was described in the return as "an injury to property." On inquiry, this turned out to be an attack on a house of ill-fame, to the establishment of which, or the harbouring of persons of bad character, a great objection was felt by the population in provincial towns in Ireland. Another offence was described as committed under "momentary excitement." And one case of "injury to property," given in these returns arose out of a refusal of a man in Galway to illuminate his House on account of the liberation of Mr. S. O'Brien. He now came to the point—what was the real state of crime in Ireland? With all deference to the noble Lord (Lord Lincoln), he must give it as his opinion that the far greater number of attacks were connected with the possession of land, and with the removal from it. He had been often asked, "How came it that landlords and tenants in Ireland did not go on with the same good will towards others which they almost invariably exhibited in England?" The whole tenure of landed property in Ireland rested on a different basis from that on which it was held in England; and it was difficult for an Englishman to account for the existence of feelings having their origin in the occurrences of a former period. Yet those considerations did undoubtedly help to produce the present state of things. He thought that the whole tendency of English legislation towards Ireland for centuries, and up to a very late period, should be borne in mind 405 before they were asked to pass such a measure as this. The case of Ireland rather called for measures such as those which had been introduced on the previous evening by the noble Earl opposite. He was clearly of opinion, too, that a strenuous administration of the existing law would have not only prevented the necessity of such a Bill as this, but also have prevented the idea of its necessity from arising in the minds of Ministers. He (Mr. Redington) did not wish to rouse angry recollections; but the fact could not be effaced from the minds of the people, that in many parts of Ireland, such as Ulster and Cavan, the original proprietors of the land were all despoiled of it, and it was handed over to strangers under Plantation Acts. A manager of an estate in the north stated before the Commissioners that they never would be able to do anything in Ulster if they did not regard the tenant right. It must there be acted upon; and why was there not a similar state of things in other parts of Ireland, which would be attended with the same results? Why had not such been the case in the colonies planted on the forfeited Desmond property in the south in the time of Elizabeth? It was stated by an old author who wrote in the time of James I., that those to whom the land was granted were for the most part poor and improvident people, who, to get an extreme rent, sub-let and divided their land into small portions. Some curious evidence might be found on this point in the appendices to the report of the Commissioners, to which he would direct the attention of hon. Gentlemen. The laws which had been directed to the subject of tenure of land both by the Irish and English Parliaments, had been productive of much mischief. Parliament then owed something to Ireland; but he did not mean to say that anything could be done with regard to a state of things which had grown out of circumstances existing in a period long anterior to the present. They should do so by giving inducement to the tenants to improve their land; and he was aware that if the Legislature took some step in that direction, much might be expected from the landlords at home. He knew that it was unpopular to say that much could not be done by legislation; but he did not think that much influence could be exerted by the legislation of that House on causes existing for so long a period. It would not do now to turn round and say 406 that you would make leases compulsory; but much might be done by preventing these extreme expulsions. With regard to the present measure, he thought a strong administration of the present law would have much better deserved the attention of Her Majesty's Ministers, than bringing in this Bill. One of the chief class of disturbances in Roscommon within the last two years was that bodies of 300 or 400 persons turned out, not by night, but by open day, to turn up the land in pasture or meadow. Now if there had been a proper number of military in the district, this would not have occurred. As for firing at persons, this generally arose in consequence of ejectments from land, which excited a strong feeling of sympathy, and which often led to this offence. He did not think, however, that this was a cause for a Coercion Bill, or that that would put down such a description of crime, for it had never done so hitherto. The views he had expressed as to the possibility of maintaining peace and good order in Ireland by a prompt and vigorous administration of the law, were confirmed by evidence given a number of years ago by Mr. Barrington, the Crown Solicitor for Munster, a most competent witness, who also spoke in pointed terms of the rancour that remained after a measure of coercion. It was indeed a question whether such a measure did not still further weaken the confidence of the Irish peasant in the law. Ministers could not expect that this Coercion Bill would do more than others had done. Why, then, was it pressed? Had the Government reason to complain in reference to convictions? Had they to complain of indisposition on the part of juries to do their duty? On none of these grounds was the Bill justified. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would adopt a different course, and, without reference to one political party or another, would keep Ireland solely in view when he proposed to make that country the subject of legislation.
The EARL of LINCOLN
regretted to find that some misapprehension existed as to what he had said of a return laid before the Commission of which the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House was a Member. One of the last things he should have contemplated was to use expressions in that House which he thought likely to imply that any feeling of partiality existed either on the part of the hon. Gentleman himself or of his Colleagues, who 407 had bestowed so much time and labour on the faithful discharge of their duties. What he (the Earl of Lincoln) stated, was, that knowing how often, in particular circumstances, returns made to that House were looked at with distrust, it being supposed that they were procured to serve some purpose, he was glad to have an opportunity of quoting a return made eighteen months ago to the Commission of which the hon. Gentleman was a Member. He thought it might be looked upon as an impartial document; but he begged to repeat that he imputed no partiality to the hon. Gentleman or his Colleagues; neither did he allege that they had any preconceived opinion on the subject.
§ MR. SHAW
wished shortly to state the reason for the vote which he intended to give, the more so as if the House did not divide that night, it would be out of his power to be there during the ensuing week. Under all the circumstances, he felt constrained to vote for the second reading of the Bill. Seeing the disorganized social condition of some parts of Ireland, he was unwilling to incur the responsibility of refusing to an existing Executive Government the trial of a measure which, upon their responsibility, they asked for, as necessary for the preservation of the public peace, and to afford protection to life and property in those districts of Ireland where they were notoriously insecure. Were the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell) in Government—and he (Mr. Shaw) presumed the noble Lord very soon would be—then he would meet in the same spirit a similar demand, if preferred by the noble Lord. Indeed, if rumour had not much misrepresented the intentions of the noble Lord, and the party with which he acted, when they attempted to form a Government in December last, they would have been prepared to propose a Bill more stringent than the present. There was an interest, moreover, independently of particular Governments or parties, with which he deeply sympathized, he meant the peaceable subjects of Her Majesty residing in the disturbed districts in Ireland. He and his Irish Friends in that House had amongst their constituents friends and acquaintances who must care comparatively little for their political differences, and astounded as they might be, in common with the rest of the community, at the recent conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers, yet those persons must practically feel, that from day to day, and hour to hour, their lives, their families, 408 and their properties, were exposed to imminent danger. They might be naturally discouraged and disheartened if they found that their representatives would not allow even the second reading of the only measure in fact proposed for their relief—the only semblance of protection beyond the existing law that was offered them. For these reasons he (Mr. Shaw) must give his vote in favour of the second reading of the Bill. He was free, however, to state his opinion as well with reference to the Bill itself, as to the conduct of the Government respecting it. First, then, he did not feel satisfied in his own mind that the Bill would be really efficacious—nothing but a strong necessity could justify an excess of constitutional power; and if upon a case of necessity the Legislature did confer such power, then the extra-constitutional law should be, at all events, effectual for its purpose. Without entering into details, he considered that the present Bill was wanting in one very essential requisite, and one which he believed had been provided in all the former so-called Coercion Bills, namely, a tribunal for the trial of offences in the proclaimed districts, exempt from the intimidation to which the ordinary juries were subject in these parts of the country. Still the Bill was better than nothing; next, as regarded the manner in which the Bill had been conducted by the Government, upon that point he must say, that if the Bill should be lost, the Government might in a great degree attribute it to their own remissness. It was on the 22nd January they had announced in the Speech from the Throne, that such a measure was necessary for the protection of life in Ireland; and it was then the 12th of June, when they were discussing the second reading. Part of the delay might have been out of the control of the Government; but he was persuaded that it had been encouraged by the hesitating and unfirm manner with which the Bill had been dealt with by the Government, even in the House of Lords, where it was virtually unopposed. It was a totally different Bill from what it was when first introduced there. It had been changed and diluted, and another Bill actually substituted for the first. The Government should have known their own mind, and either should not, in the first instance, have sought for larger powers than they thought necessary, or, in the end, not to have taken less than they thought necessary for the protection of life in Ireland. The Government had rendered 409 themselves justly obnoxious to the taunts of his noble Friend (Lord G. Bentinck), that for the Corn Bill, they had long sittings and short holidays, while for that Bill, the sittings were short and the holidays long. In fine, the House and the country must have seen that the Government evinced a very different spirit in the two cases—much less of earnestness, determination, and despatch in providing protection for life and property in Ireland, than they did in removing protection from native industry in every portion of the United Kingdom. He was convinced of this, that if the Government had been in real earnest about that measure, and introduced it into that House the day after they proclaimed its necessity in the Queen's Speech, that it would, months ago, have been the law of the land. In answer to the appeal made to him and his Irish Friends by his noble Friend the Member for Lynn (Lord George Bentinck)—whether they believed the Government was sincere in its intention to carry, or expected to carry, the present Bill?—he must take this distinction—that while he would not impute to the Government any intention positively fixed in their own minds not to carry the measure, yet he was convinced that neither they, nor any reasonable person, could then expect that the measure, let what would be the fate of the second reading, was likely to pass into a law during the present Session of Parliament. He was anxious that the vote he intended to give should not be misinterpreted. It would be wholly independent of party considerations. It was impossible that he could support the Bill from any confidence in the Government who promoted it. He was not influenced by an apprehension which he understood swayed some persons on that side of the House, lest if the Government were defeated, the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) and his party should come into office. He confessed that on that score he had no apprehensions. He need scarcely say, that after sixteen years of public life in active opposition to Whig politics, he could have no predilections for, or attachments to them; but, nevertheless, he was of opinion that if Whig measures were to be carried, and Whig principles acted upon, then it was better, more just, more honest, more constitutional, and safer for all interests concerned, that they should be carried by Whig men. The present Government were powerless to carry any measure that could properly be called their own—supported by those who had been 410 their party, or based upon the principles which they themselves had formerly professed; but let them only propose a measure of an opposite tendency, and they were at once borne forward by a torrent of support from their natural opponents—and with an impetuosity that the Government could neither restrain nor regulate. He was persuaded, too, that if ever the scattered elements of that once great party that sat on his side of the House were again to be collected and made available for any useful party purpose, it must be in opposition. That alone, likewise, could put an end to the reproaches, the heartburnings, the ill-will that night after night were exhibited amongst themselves, and which, however natural and to be expected under present circumstances, still must be painful and distressing to them all. He (Mr. Shaw) therefore, would hail with satisfaction, upon every public and party ground, the advent of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) and the Whigs to office. He (Mr. Shaw) was sorry that Ireland was to be again made the battlefield of their party conflicts. But, if it must be so, it was well that the fate of the present measure did not depend, as he had already stated that he believed it did not, upon the result of that division. Again, it was, perhaps, but retributive justice; as, probably, the greatest failure of the Government had been in their Irish policy. They predicted it would be their difficulty, and they took care to make it so. He excluded from that censure the noble Lord (Lord Lincoln) who had recently been appointed Chief Secretary, for he had had no fair trial, and commenced his career there under every disadvantage. He (Mr. Shaw) had been glad that the concession of appointing a Cabinet Minister to that office had at length been made. He believed the noble Lord would have been well disposed to take a high and independent line in conducting the affairs of that country. He would except, also, the grants of public money, and other means taken during that Session for the employment of the labouring poor and the alleviation of distress, while he must ever think that boon had been greatly marred by the exaggerated statements that had been put forth of famine and sickness. Not then to revert to the former, he might, in passing, say, that as to the latter, the anticipated sickness and fever, he believed that no living man could recollect a more generally healthy season in Ireland; and he must again deprecate the unfair use that had been made 411 of these exaggerated statements. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) would come in, as regarded Ireland, with great advantage at that time; for undoubtedly the most unpopular Government with all parties in Ireland that he recollected, or had heard of, was at present. Let the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) take warning by them, if he would accept a hint from a political opponent. The Irish people of every class liked to be treated with heart, and feeling, and confidence. He did not doubt but that the present Government might have desired, in the abstract, to be just; but they had reversed the sound maxim, "to be just and fear not;" for from first to last, they had shown themselves afraid to be just. He believed their object had been to please and conciliate their political opponents; but whether from want of experience, or of local knowledge, or from what other cause he knew not, they were unable to achieve that by any substantive acts of a conciliatory kind; and the Government seemed to think, that according to the old Anglo-Irish policy of divide et impera—"set party against party"—they might take a short way of pleasing their opponents, by vexing their friends. They succeeded, however, in the one without accomplishing the other. Their reasoning appeared somewhat like that of a servant, a friend of his was hiring, and he asked the man if he was a Protestant?—"No, Sir, I can't say that. I am not a Protestant, but I am a very bad Roman Catholic." He thought that the next best thing. And so the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who had for the last five years been the sole and arbitrary governor of Ireland, appeared to reason, that if he could not succeed in satisfying his opponents, the next best thing would be to dissatisfy his supporters. The fact was, from the highest to the lowest it was the same—the English people know less of Ireland, of her wants, her feelings, and the character of her people, than they did of the most distant countries and their inhabitants on the face of the earth. If the House would pardon him, he would mention an anecdote that occurred recently in his own family; and he would only do so, because it so fully illustrated what he meant. When his family were returning to Ireland after the close of last Session—a housemaid had lived with them in London, who had arranged to go with them to Ireland; but she came one morning, and said she could not go—that she must leave them: she 412 was asked why? She said her mother would not hear of it: she was sorry to go against her daughter's wishes; liked the family she was with, and would gladly let her go with them to any other part of the world; but that if she went to Ireland, it would be as much as her (the mother's) life was worth; so the woman, to save her mother's life, as she thought, had to give up her place, and stay in England. Now, with every possible deference to, or at least being ready to admit, the general intelligence and sagacity of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, he did verily believe that, as regarded the peculiar character of the Irish people—their local exigencies—and still more, the feelings and relations of the political parties in that country to each other, the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) was as ignorant of, and had his mind as full of, his imagination as much haunted with, Irish ogres and hobgoblins, as the old woman to whom he alluded; and yet the right hon. Baronet had been the despotic manager of the Irish Government since 1841. He hoped the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) would be wiser and better informed in that respect. Let him not suppose that the old vulgar prejudice remained, that men differing in politics, or their religious persuasions, would prefer to see strangers in the offices of the Government, rather than their own countrymen, because their political party or their religious belief were not the same as theirs. He sincerely trusted the noble Lord would fall into no such error, but that he would place Irishmen of competency and high character, who knew Ireland, in the highest departments of the Irish Government; and he (Mr. Shaw), as a political opponent, would tell the noble Lord that he could find men amongst his own supporters in Ireland fully qualified for the purpose. He (Mr. Shaw) did not ask or expect the noble Lord to select men from amongst his (Mr. Shaw's) political friends. He did, however, trust that the noble Lord would do them the justice to believe that they were more reasonable, temperate, and just, and desired to cultivate kindlier sentiments towards their countrymen of all persuasions, than English prejudices were generally willing to allow. English Members on both sides of the House would pardon him for accusing them of all, more or less, having strongly-rooted and injurious prejudices to overcome on that subject; and perhaps considering the peculiar and anomalous 413 circumstances of Ireland, Irishmen should not be surprised or offended at it. Still he should regard it as a happy omen for Ireland to see those prejudices removed. The noble Lord the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Lord Morpeth), whose personal courtesy and kindness, and whose zeal (exercised, of course, in accordance with his own political views), but still whose sincere zeal for the cause of Ireland recommended him to the good will of all parties in that country, would probably tell the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) that he (Lord Morpeth) had not found the party who were politically opposed to him in Ireland, quite as black as he had previously seen them painted; and perhaps that party had gained experience, and learned a lesson since, which had made them even wiser than they were. At all events, he (Mr. Shaw) did not hesitate to undertake for himself, and those friends with whom it was his pleasure to act, in connection with Ireland, that the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) should find them fair, candid, and generous opponents. He (Mr. Shaw) had to apologize to the House for having digressed at greater length than he had intended, into the general question of Irish policy. He would not detain them longer. His vote, for the reasons he had stated, would be for the second reading of the Bill, at the same time that he considered the Bill had great defects. He condemned the conduct the Government had pursued in respect of it; and let what would be the result of the ensuing division, he could not expect that the Bill would pass. Above all, he was solicitous that his vote should not be taken as a vote of confidence in the Government. On the contrary, if they were defeated—as he believed they would be—and that they left office in consequence, while he should be sorry that a measure for the protection of life and property in Ireland was the occasion, still he should feel that it was a merited retribution for grievous and unprecedented political and party misconduct — that the Ministry, fall when they might, would fall unregretted, unpitied, unhonoured—politically he meant—for his greatest grief was, that personally he had for many of the individuals composing it, the utmost esteem and respect; but speaking politically, and wholly irrespective of the particular merits of the Corn Law question—he was bold to affirm, that if the present Administration was then overthrown by the voices of the representatives of the people, 414 not only the United Kingdom, but the whole world, would regard it as a righteous verdict—a just national judgment against public men for a great public delinquency.
MR. DILLON BROWNE
thought the right hon. Gentleman's premises did not justify his conclusion; he had not offered a single argument in favour of the Coercion Bill, and yet he voted for it. He (Mr. D. Browne) was glad he did not succeed in getting rid of this measure by counting out the House in a former part of the debate: it had now taken a turn likely to be more satisfactory to the people of Ireland. The protectionist party had given an assurance that they would not support a coercive policy towards Ireland, unless a stronger case was established than that made out by the right hon. Baronet. That case had been much weakened by the late speech of the noble Secretary for Ireland. The Government had shifted its ground; if the particular grounds no longer existed, the Bill could not be the particular remedy; why was there not a new measure? In the statement of the noble Lord (the Secretary for Ireland) there could be found nothing whatever which would justify the House in passing a measure of so unconstitutional a character. The cases of outrage which were mentioned were those of the very commonest occurrence in Ireland, such for instance as abductions and forced marriages. Why, a much stronger case could be made out for a Coercion Bill for England; in his opinion, this measure had been forced upon the Government; it had not the real approbation of any Member of the Government. The present Administration had already done much, and had promised still more for Ireland; and it would be the height of folly to persevere in such a course as that which they had now, and he believed not from conviction, adopted. If the noble Lord the Member for the city of London came into office, he might rest assured that his party would never gain the confidence of the Irish people if they did not do away with the system of tithes; the people would never consent willingly to pay for the support of a Church which returned them no spiritual aid; and if a proposition to abolish that system were brought forward, there would be sixty hon. Members as ready to second the noble Lord then, as they now joined with him to drive the present Government from office for the purpose of averting the calamity of a Coercion Bill.
§ SIR R. PEEL
said: Sir, the question which we shall have to decide, when a vote 415 is come to upon this occasion, is, not whether we shall go into Committee upon the Bill which Her Majesty's Government have felt it their duty to propose for the suppression of outrage and the protection of life in Ireland; the question will not be, whether we shall consider the Bill in Committee, for the purpose of removing from its details any thing which the House may consider objectionable, for mitigating unnecessary severity, or diminishing the pressure of unconstitutional enactments; the question which the House will have to decide will be, whether they will reject altogether this proposal, whether they will refuse the consideration of any modification, whether they will imply that the present condition of Ireland can be dealt with by the existing law—and imply also an opinion that no additional precautions are necessary for the purpose of giving that protection which we think requisite to give to life in Ireland. As I deprecate a decision in favour of the rejection of this measure, I feel it necessary to vindicate the course which Her Majesty's Government have taken; to assign the reasons why they proposed this measure, why they still think it necessary for the purpose for which they originally introduced it, and still feel it their duty to urge it on the House. I shall, as far as I can, limit my consideration of the question to that point. I shall introduce, with reference to hon. Gentlemen opposite, no allusion to those political and party considerations which have been adverted to in the course of this debate. I admit this—acknowledging, as I do acknowledge, the disinterested and cordial support which Her Majesty's Government received from hon. Gentlemen opposite, throughout the progress of those commercial measures which have at length been ratified by this House—that a temporary concurrence with the object of promoting the success of those measures imposes no obligation whatever upon them, either to place confidence in Her Majesty's Government, or, still less, to consent to measures of an unconstitutional character, which they may think unnecessary to the effectual administration of affairs in Ireland. I shall give them the credit of presuming, after all they have said with respect to the mischief of making Ireland an arena for determining party purposes, that this will be the consideration by which they will be influenced, that they will consider whether or no this proposal be justified by the circumstances of Ireland; whether or no it be in itself an 416 advisable or objectionable measure; and that their course will not be influenced by a reference to extrinsic and party considerations. Sir, Her Majesty's Government felt it to be their duty to propose other measures more severe than those which the existing laws authorize; because they found that in certain districts, in certain counties in Ireland, there prevails, and has long prevailed, a defiance of the authority of the law; that in four or five counties in Ireland there have been for several successive years outrages so grievous, and danger to life and property so alarming, that those who lived in those counties, prepared to give their allegiance to their Sovereign, have not received that which they have a right to expect in return—protection from the law and institutions of their country. Her Majesty's Government have found, not only that life is in danger, not only that the free liberty of action is controlled by a grievous tyranny, but they found that law has been paralysed, that evidence cannot be procured, that repeated murders are committed, and that no trace can be discovered of the murderers; and, under these circumstances, fearing the contagion of these offences, fearing that they might spread into other counties, seeing that the existing law was insufficient to give protection, they felt it their duty, but with painful reluctance, after great delay, and after numerous complaints of their apathy and indifference, to appeal to Parliament for additional powers for the maintenance of the public peace. And I confess, in the course even of this debate, I have found in the speeches and statements of those who are the most strenuous opposers of the policy of the Government, nothing very consolatory as regards the state of Ireland. I have found no denial of those facts on which Her Majesty's Government grounded the introduction of the Bill. I will ask the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Ross), who resumed the debate, did he deny the allegations of Her Majesty's Government? [Mr. ROSS: Yes.] Yes! Why, the hon. Gentleman said this—so abominable was the system of outrage in many parts of Ireland, that in case the Landlord and Tenant Bill, which we were about to introduce, failed in its operation, and that the outrages continued during the next winter to the same extent to which they have prevailed last winter and the winter preceding, that then the hon. Gentleman in the course of next Session should be prepared to support a Bill enabling the Lord Lieutenant 417 to proclaim districts in Ireland, within these districts to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, and to take an unlimited and uncontrolled power of committing to prison, and retaining in confinement all persons offending in the manner described. Did not the hon. Gentleman say, that when you once departed from the form of the Constitution, the wider the departure the better? I understood the hon. Gentleman to say also, that to propose inefficient measures, yet departing from the Constitution was most unwise; and that he would prefer so extreme a measure as the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act—creating an undefined terror not only among all disturbers of the public peace, but also among those not charged with crime—to the measure of Her Majesty's Government. Then see what do these admissions amount to? That if the result of the Landlord and Tenant Bill, about to be submitted to us, is not sufficient, during a trial of some months, and that this same extent of outrage prevails next winter that prevailed before, the hon. Gentleman is then prepared to give the Executive Government power to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act! I put this question to the hon. Gentleman—does he mean to deny that the state of Ireland is such as to require a measure of this kind? Does he mean to deny that the state of Ireland is such as to require some such extreme measure as that which we now propose to enact? But what was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Recorder of Dublin? Why, I confess that I heard but one argument fall from the right hon. Gentleman, and that was the housemaid argument. He said that this housemaid came to him, and, greatly to his regret and disappointment, informed him that she could not accompany him over to Ireland. So that it appears that the right hon. Gentleman was unable to prevail upon the lady to accept of his offer, inasmuch as she had an aged mother, who became so alarmed at the idea of her daughter going to Ireland, from the frightful accounts she had heard of that country, that she would not permit her to proceed thither. ["No!"] Well, really, I must ask the right hon. Gentleman himself, at this stage of the discussion, to explain what he did say respecting this housemaid.
§ MR. SHAW
I am sorry to interrupt the merriment of my right hon. Friend. I stated that, from the highest to the lowest in England, great ignorance prevailed as to the condition of Ireland, and the charac- 418 ter of the Irish people; and I illustrated that by the anecdote to which he is alluding, and the practice of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Deportment (Sir James Graham). I must also remind my right hon. Friend that I was referring to a part of Ireland as peaceable and safe as any in the United Kingdom.
§ SIR R. PEEL
Sir, one of my reasons for asking for this explanation was, that considering the judicial gravity of the right hon. Gentleman, together with the statement he had in the first instance made, I must confess I did not consider the observation of the right hon. Gentleman satisfactory, and I therefore thought it best to give him an opportunity of explaining himself. I now say, with perfect sincerity, that nothing could be further from my mind than to cast any reflection whatever on the conduct or motives of the right hon. and learned Gentleman—ne sit ancillætibi amor pudori! I must, however, remind the right hon. Gentleman that the mother of this girl had no doubt heard that the learned Recorder of Dublin in his place in this House, had pressed the Government very earnestly to bring on this Curfew Bill. The lady must have heard that one of the first questions put to the Government upon this subject by the right hon. Gentleman was to this effect:—"Why in the present state of Ireland, when murders are committed almost daily, do you lose an hour in bringing forward your Bill?"—though she might also have heard that the Government did not attach so much importance to the statements of the master of this housemaid, as the right hon. Gentleman. I mention these particulars with the view of showing that my right hon. Friend himself is more responsible for propagating these extreme representations of these murders than the Government. What says my right hon. Friend again? Why he says that if the Government on the first day of the Session had introduced this Bill into the House, and had proceeded without delay to pass it, so urgent did he deem the necessity for it then, that he was confident it would have passed without opposition. He, however, now thinks this measure unsatisfactory and inefficient in its provisions, although he admits he was fully prepared to support it, if it had been proposed at an early period of the Session. Now upon what grounds do we introduce the Bill? Why, upon no other than the urgent necessity which we feel exists of 419 providing for security of life and property in Ireland. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope) says this system of combination and murder in Ireland is the natural and almost necessary substitute for a Poor Relief Bill. The hon. Gentleman says that there is no chance of obtaining tranquillity in Ireland until you pass a law giving the Irish peasantry a right to live upon the land. Now I differ from the hon. Gentleman. I think it would be an unwise provision to introduce such a Bill; and I do not believe it would have the tendency to promote those objects which the hon. Member has in view. In my opinion it would but lead to the confiscation of property, and would not afford any effectual remedy for destitution. But, says the hon. Member, until you pass a law of that nature, the Irish peasant will not have any right to live in Ireland, and the only means to which he can resort for the purpose of relieving his distress and saving himself from starvation is by this combination against the landlords. Now, what a melancholy state of things is this! What a picture of society the hon. Gentleman presents to our view. The hon. Member then read the evidence of a gentleman of the name of Cahill, who was appointed by the late Sir Michael O'Loughlin to the situation of Crown prosecutor for Tipperary. Now I find that evidence confirmed by the evidence of the same gentleman given before the Devon Commission, of which the hon. Gentleman who recently spoke (Mr. Redington) formed a valuable Member. And what is the account which Mr. Cahill gives? He is asked by the Commissioners how he was able to collect evidence? His answer was—I find it almost impossible to get at the evidence. I have been engaged by the direction of the Crown in the investigation of three or four murders which were committed in Tipperary, and I have found it almost impossible to obtain the necessary evidence." He is asked, "Is it your opinion that many persons were witnesses or cognizant of these murders?" His answer is, "I do; but I attribute their indisposition to give information in some degree to fear, but, generally speaking, to the peculiar interest that is mixed up in these murders, and the feeling that is entertained against any person giving such evidence, such individual being looked upon as an enemy to the people." In answer to another question he says that "the peasantry will receive a man that is known to have been guilty of such a crime, and will harbour him." A person of this character is sure of being received wherever he goes, and he has the character of what they call a good boy.Now that is the state of Tipperary, as described by a gentleman who is admitted by hon. Gentlemen opposite to be a very 420 good authority. The murderer, it appears, is harboured in Tipperary—there is an indisposition to give evidence against him—the functions of the law are paralysed, and the family of the murdered man have not even the small atonement of witnessing the conviction of the assassin. That, I say, is a most lamentable state of society. But do the Government think that this measure of extraordinary severity is any remedy for this evil? Do they think that is the only remedy? Far from it. It is with the utmost reluctance we have proposed this measure as a temporary precaution. But with the strongest impressions upon our minds that it is only calculated to mitigate the pressure of an immediate evil, we are also fully convinced that it cannot constitute the foundation of any social improvement in the country. The Government admit as freely as you do that other measures of a different character are absolutely necessary. They believe that the executive administration of Ireland ought to be conducted with a kind and indulgent feeling. They fully admit that the causes of these disorders, whether they be connected with the tenure of land or otherwise, should be fully inquired into, and that the foundation ought to be laid by the Administration, where possible, and by legislation, where required, for those permanent improvements which measures of temporary severity can never effect. But although Her Majesty's Ministers, while they freely admit that for any good purpose of a permanent nature, this Bill will afford a most insufficient remedy, yet they feel that if you allow crime to become triumphant, and uncontrolled tyranny to be established throughout those districts, by means of physical force, you are neglecting your immediate duty towards those parties who are exposed to danger, and preventing the consummation of their hopes, which the wiser or more benevolent legislation of this House has laid the foundation of, in the permanent improvements which have been carried out. And what is the state of things in those counties which have been particularly referred to? Have I not hoard the description of one of those counties from the eloquent lips of the hon. Gentleman opposite—namely, that such was the insecurity of life in Tipperary—such the insufficiency of the law and the difficulty of obtaining a committal on the conviction of the offender for crime, that he advised the Government to take the step of requiring the grand jury panel of the county to be served upon the petty jury 421 upon fines of 500l. or 600l.; that the magistrates and the county should be called upon to meet this case of dire necessity; so that he recommends that the grand jury who establishes the inquisition into the probable guilt of the accused should afterwards in heavy penalties be compelled to serve upon the petty juries, so as to insure convictions, which terror prevents you attaining now. I ask English gentlemen to say what they think of a state of society which renders it necessary for those who visually have discharged the functions of grand jurors, to discharge now those which, up to the present time, have devolved upon a totally different class of society. Did I not hear the right hon. Gentleman only two years since say it was his advice that witnesses should be induced to give evidence by the assurance that afterwards they and their families would be removed in security to another country than the scene of their birth; that all their domestic relations should be interrupted; and, in order to preserve their lives, that a guaran-the should be given them for their permanent provision in some of our colonial possessions? And he said, unless you have done that, you can have no hopes of getting evidence, and no chance of having a conviction afterwards. Now, that was the advice given by the right hon. Gentleman two years since, in respect to the state of one of their counties: and what did the hon. Baronet say who had moved the Amendment? "That this Bill be read a second time this day six months." The hon. Member for Drogheda said but a fortnight since, that so atrocious were the outrages that were committed—so little respect had the offenders there for either age or sex, that he believed the national character of the people was altered. Now, these are the admissions which we have received from the Gentlemen who come from Ireland, and who must be cognizant of all the circumstances of that country, and are able to judge whether the existing law gives adequate protection to the inhabitants. Sir, I think that their evidence was at least material as to the statistical statements we have heard. We have therefore thought it our duty to propose a measure similar to that which was proposed by those who it appears are now to offer us every opposition. It may be objectionable to have a law which is now designated by the title of the Curfew Bill. You may be able now to point out the inconveniences of it where 422 peasants are obliged to work at a distance from their homes, and whose return to their homes would be interfered with, except at the risk of apprehension, as being discovered out of doors within the forbidden period; but let me remind you that your sense of these evils was not so great in respect to that measure that was passed by another Administration — let me remind you that you then willingly consented to the same provision that is so much objected to in the present Bill, namely, that of giving power to the Lord Lieutenant of proclaiming a district, and thereby confining the parties within it to remain inside their houses between sunset and sunrise. That was the law of the land under the late Government; and you had it during the whole period you were in the Administration. It was enacted for five years, from 1835, and it was continued in full force until 1841. During that period no attempt was ever made to repeal it, except once, and that attempt was only supported by three persons independent of the mover. Amongst the sternest of the opponents to such repeal, then, was the hon. Member for Drogheda himself. There was, certainly, this distinction between the two measures—under the present Bill the offender will be subject to transportation; but the party who offended under the former measure was liable to fine and imprisonment. The corpus delicti was, however, the same in both. The Lord Lieutenant had the same power of proclaiming districts. [Mr. O'CONNELL: No!] Why, he had this power upon the presentment of the grand jury. [Mr. O'CONNELL: That presentment was, however, traversable.] I apprehend not, in that case. A civil presentment I know is traversable; and I speak with great deference to the hon. Gentleman's high legal attainments and information, when I say that it is my impression the presentment under the former Act was not traversable by law. There is no analogy whatever between the grand jury presentments under the ancient prescriptive practice, and under a statute of a peculiar nature. But will the right hon. Member consent to amend the Bill in this way?—will he permit it to pass if the grand jury be made a necessary preliminary in the proposed measure? No! I apprehend that he will not consent to do any such thing—he will not consent to go into Committee for that purpose. I am now only showing why Government have felt it necessary to resort to some extra- 423 ordinary measure. On the whole, then, the Government have thought the best course they could take was to resort to that measure, which, in substance, had received the previous sanction of the Legislature, and which the Legislature, for a period of five years, had refused to repeal—a measure which had produced the most beneficial effect, without ever having been once called into action. Now, we certainly anticipate the same consequences from the passing of the present Bill, and that the existence of the dormant powers of the law may operate now as they operated before; and, considering that there was the additional provision in it of subjecting the particular district to pecuniary penalties for the crimes that may be committed in it, we hope that even though no proclamation be issued under this Bill, still the same results may follow the passing of this measure as followed the enactment of the law of 1835, and that peace will be restored, without subjecting the inhabitants to the inconvenience which such a proclamation must necessarily impose. I am now vindicating the Government for the course which they have taken in reference to this measure. I am not, however, denying to you the perfect right, notwithstanding your approval of a Bill of similar tendency, of acting upon your convictions in declaring that this measure is wholly unnecessary; and be the political consequence what it may of withholding your support to this Bill, I shall cast no reproach upon you for whatever course you may take against it. I think it is your duty to oppose this Bill, if you really believe it to be unnecessary for the purposes intended; but it is my duty to vindicate the Government, who take a different view upon the matter—who have been charged with the responsibility of protecting life and property in the kingdom, and of upholding the law—when we consider that it is inefficient to meet the evils which may arise. I could not perform that duty without the sanction of Parliament. When this Bill was introduced at an early period of the Session, my right hon. Friend near me went through a detail of the crimes that were committed in Ireland—the frequent murders—the numerous instances in which the murderers had been permitted to escape. We are now invited to abandon this Bill because it is said that great improvements have taken place in the social condition of Ireland. Had there been this improvement, there would 424 no doubt be some circumstances to warrant us to withdraw this measure. But I do believe that the extraordinary exertions which have been made by the Government to mitigate the evils arising from the want of food—the numerous Committees which have been established—the aid which has been given by every description of force, civil and military, for the purpose of ensuring a proper supply of food—the perfect success which has attended the measure which the Government resorted to by the introduction of large quantities of Indian maize—I believe, I say, that these measures, as might have been expected in a generous and kindhearted people, have produced a corresponding good. I believe that there does pervade amongst the people in the wilds of Connaught, and in Munster, where these measures were more fully carried out, a feeling of grateful acknowledgment towards Her Majesty's Government; and though circumstances have occurred to justify the expectation that there would be some diminution of crime, I should hardly feel myself justified, under the altered appearance of things in Ireland, to accept of that as a reason for abandoning this law, and permitting this winter to pass over without taking any other precaution against outrage, than that which the ordinary law of the country gives us. I deeply regret to say, however, that there is no such diminution of crime in Ireland. I will take those offences which are called offences of an insurrectionary character. I know not whether I ought to omit the returns of the minor offences; but still they are evidence of a disordered and disturbed state of society. I will therefore take the offences, of homicide, of firing at the person, of aggravated assaults, of assault endangering life, of incendiarism, of killing or maiming cattle, of robbing arms, of appearing armed, of the administration of unlawful oaths, of threatening notices, of attacking houses, of levelling fences, of malicious injuries to property, and of firing into dwellings. These are offences which, if they do prevail in any country to a great extent, if they are habitual, are strong evidence of a disordered state of society, of remote and permanent acts, of which temporary coercion is no permanent remedy; but they may arrive at a height which, if you wish to prevent the paralysation of all law, and secure the means of improvement, you have no resource but to meet them with a strong hand. What is the case in the five 425 counties which were particularly referred to when this Bill was introduced? Observe, I am replying to your argument, that there has been an improvement in the state of society—an unexpected improvement, which would perfectly justify us in abandoning this Bill. You say that, seeing the distaste of the Irish Members for it, it would be a grateful concession to their feelings. No one would rejoice more than I should to have the opportunity of making any reasonable concession to the representatives of Ireland. I feel the force of their opposition to any measure of this kind; but I submit to their deliberate reason whether or not the facts which I state would justify Her Majesty's Government in withholding this measure from Parliament? They rely upon an improvement in the condition of the country. Is there evidence of that improvement in the five months of 1846, as compared with five months of 1845? I have before me the returns of the crimes in the five months of the present year; and there should exist in them some proof and evidence of an improvement in the first five months of 1846, as compared with the year 1845; but, in my painful review of the state of the five counties, I regret to find that such is not the case. The offences which we call insurrectionary, in the five counties, stand thus:—
In Leitrim, I rejoice to say, there has been an improvement; but in Leitrim there is an overwhelming military force, which it would be impossible to spare for other places; and there have also been on the part of the magistrates and of the stipendiary magistrates the greatest exertions, which have caused this great improvement. If these crimes should continue to prevail during the whole year 1846, in the same ratio in which they have prevailed in the first five months, the total of these insurrectionary crimes committed in 1845 and 1846 respectively will stand thus:—
Total of 1845. Five months of 1846. In Tipperary 814 368 Limerick 282 248 Clare 271 189 Roscommon 659 471 Leitrim 804 164
426 So that at the end of the year 1846, assuming that these crimes should continue to the same extent for the next seven months as they have done for the first five months, instead of there being an equal amount of crime, the numbers would be swollen from 2025 to 3013 in those four counties; and in Leitrim there would be the reduction from 804 in 1845 to 414 in 1846. But let me discard such offences as levelling fences, giving threatening notices, and administering unlawful oaths, and compare only the grave offences in the first five months of 1846, with those of the first five months of 1845. The numbers, if I made comparison of the following crimes—1. Homicide; 2. Firing at the person; 3. Aggravated assault; 4. Assault endangering life; 5. Firing into dwellings:—will be found to be these:—
1845. 1846. In Tipperary 814 833 Limerick 282 600 Clare 271 450 Roscommon 659 1130 Total 2026 3013
Can I then say, that there has been any such diminution of crime as would justify the Government in abandoning this Bill? But let the House look at the returns of—aggravated assault, assault endangering life, incendiary fires, robbery of arms, appearing armed, administration of unlawful oaths, threatening letters, malicious injuries to property, firing into dwellings. From 1st January to the latest time, the end of May, 1846, the total was 2,098; and of these there were in the five counties:—
Five months of 1845. Five months of 1846. Homicide 20 28 Firing at person 40 41 Aggravated assault 85 121 Assault endangering life 41 53 Firing into dwellings 46 68
making 1,188 crimes in five counties, and for these 1,188 crimes there were in 54 cases only committals; and that is the distinction I want to draw. I wish to show that these offences are not committed throughout the whole of Ireland, and that in these five counties, with not more than one-sixth of the population, more than one-half the offences have been committed. You cannot assign any cause for these crimes which is universally applicable; you cannot say that the landlord and tenant question applies peculiarly to these five counties; there is a diseased state of society in particular districts; and it is because this criminality is not universal that 427 we ask for the opportunity of applying a topical remedy. There are 1,188 crimes in these five counties; and I think that one hon. Gentleman, in commenting upon these returns, stated that the columns did not correspond; but I believe I can show the cause of the apparent discrepancy. In the sixth page of the return, towards the middle, there are three different offences set out—a demand of arms a robbery of arms, and an aggravated assault—and these probably count as three different crimes in the summary: there is a second item of robbery of arms, which shows that there were four different cases; and in the last case of an aggravated assault, there were no less than four persons assaulted. The consequence is, that if in one column these are entered as one offence, there is a discrepancy between that and the summary. [Mr. REDINGTON: The four names are for one locality, for the same thing done at the same place. Sure there was not four outrages.] I am arguing from the returns; but I apprehend that if there are four different persons assaulted, there are four different offences, though committed at the same time. [Mr. REDINGTON: There is but one outrage.] Suppose a house were attacked and three persons murdered, surely there would be three murders. [Mr. HAWES: But only one outrage.] I do not think that you would satisfy the anxiety of the relatives by telling them, "True it is that there have been three murders, and three men murdered, but there has been only one outrage." [Mr. REDINGTON: I quoted from the abstract the number of outrages, not the number of persons.] If I am in error I am sorry for it; but I merely suggested what appeared to me to account for the discrepancy. With respect to the account of the persons murdered, which for the purposes of comparison is correct, though whether the name of murder applies to all I am not sure. [Mr. O'CONNELL: Mr. Pigot used the term homicide, because the term murder in former returns was incorrect.] I do not rely on the return as showing in every case that there was a person murdered; but in February, 1846, there were 18 cases of homicide or of murder returned, and 26 cases of attempt at murder. In March, 1846, there were 23 murders or homicides, and 14 attempts at murder. You say that we ought to bring in a law which will correct this evil by going to its root. You tell us to amend the law of landlord and tenant. I admit 428 your views to be sound and sagacious; but, in the mean time, will you permit these nightly tyrannies to go on? Who were the parties who in the month of March last were returned as murdered? A boy, a labourer, a farmer, a labourer, a poor woman, a justice of the peace, a labourer, a shoemaker, a labourer, a labourer, a farmer, a poor woman, a farmer's daughter. It is of these persons that care is to be taken; and if these individuals amongst this class of persons in the month of March last, lost their lives in Ireland, in how many of these cases of murder or homicide were the parties committed to prison? I ask you what must be the anxiety of those who live in Ireland, when this labourer, this boy, and this woman were murdered, if there these things go on with impunity? and whilst the confidence of the murderer must be increased by the impunity, I ask you what must be the apprehensions of those likely to be the victims? Admitting, then, that you take a sagacious view of the proper, permanent, and remedial measure, I ask you whether, without a prospect of the immediate benefit and operation of that measure you will dispense with this temporary precaution, and allow the present state of things to continue? Will it not impede the success of your remedial measures if you permit these crimes to be attempted, especially when you recollect the effect produced by the existence of a similar law, which was never brought into operation? On a consideration of these facts, Her Majesty's Government have thought it their duty still to press upon the consideration of this House the propriety of passing the second reading of the Bill, with a view to the further consideration of its details in Committee. I know not whether I have anything more to say with regard to the vindication of the Government. I will fatigue the House no further by a reference to statistical details. I have mentioned the admission of hon. Members connected with Ireland, and of the proposals they have made, though they would greatly regret the establishment of any distinction, even in the criminal law between Ireland and England. I give you their evidence, though I shall not have their votes, as not the least important admission of the state of the country, and hardly believe that any one acquainted with the state of Roscommon, Tipperary, Limerick, and Clare, can view it without alarm, or can deny the allegations made by the Government, that some 429 measures of this kind, or of some other, are indispensably and immediately necessary to restore confidence. I do not say that with respect to the administration of the law, but confidence in the security of life. And here, Sir, I should have been willing to dismiss all other topics; but I feel it incumbent on me not to sit down without noticing the speech which was made on the night when this subject was last under the consideration of this House by the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn. I do deeply regret, not for my own sake, but for the sake of the character of this House—I do deeply regret that during this Session there has been, for the first time, a license assumed which is, I think, injurious to the cause of legitimate debate. Sir, I may refer to the course which I have taken during my Parliamentary life for five and thirty years, for the purpose of showing that at least my example cannot have justified any one in the license now taken. Sir, I have sat in Parliament in times of great excitement, and I believe it to be possible to conduct the freest discussion in this House, and that every latitude can be given for censure either in the free discussion of public subjects, or by the condemnation of questionable acts of the Government; but if the language used by the noble Lord be Parliamentary, then I beg leave to say that the license must not be one-sided. Your sense of justice will induce you to give to all parties the same freedom of speech and of discussion: you will not refuse to extend to those who feel themselves calumniated and maligned, the same license which you have given to their assailants. And, Sir, if in commenting on those attacks, though I hope to maintain the course which has hitherto prevailed with me, and though I hope to respect the usages which public men have hitherto adhered to in the course of public and even acrimonious discussions—yet if I should forget them in commenting upon some of the observations made by the noble Lord, I trust that you will not forget the provocation I have received, and that you will not forget that I, in my place as Prime Minister of this country, am charged with the proposal and the conduct of more important measures than have ever perhaps been submitted to the Legislature of this country. You cannot forget that I have not sought to defend myself without great provocation, though I hope I shall do so in that temper which is certainly becoming in a public man whose acts are impugned. 430 I have felt that it was perfectly right that those whose confidence I have lost should question the prudence of the course I pursued. But there are bounds which ought to be observed by every one who respects the usages of Parliament. You cannot forget that I heard the noble Lord presume not only to question the prudence of our conduct, but to arraign the motives of Her Majesty's Government—you cannot forget that I heard the noble Lord state, not merely that we despaired of ultimately succeeding in carrying that measure (the Protection of Life Bill)—but he presumed to say that we were not in earnest, nor honest in our attempts to carry it. Now, I think, that to question motives in this way is un-parliamentary. The House will remember that I heard the noble Lord speaking of those with whom I am connected by official ties—of those who acting from as pure and conscientious a sense of public duty as ever influenced any representative in this House, have given me their support during the progress of my late measures—that I heard the noble Lord characterise them as "hired Janisaries and renegades"—gentlemen engaged in public service—gentlemen exercising their free right of judgment on public matters—that I heard the noble Lord characterize them as hired Janisaries and renegades. [A VOICE: Paid Janisaries.] And this, by a noble Lord who, without being questioned, had exercised the perfect which he possesses to vote according to his sense of public duty. I think the noble Lord voted last year against restrictions on factory labour, and he voted for them this year—but without being questioned as to the honesty of his motives. I think the noble Lord was prepared, although he denied the extent of the famine in Ireland—although he thought that it would not diminish but aggravate the false alarm, yet the noble Lord was prepared to support by far the most absurd and impracticable measure I ever heard of, namely, to permit the importation of foreign grain only into Ireland—that permission not to extend to England. The noble Lord, I believe, voted for the first reading of this Bill upon the ground that no man could safely go to church—that old women going to church were subjected to constant danger—that women with children in their arms were assassinated, and that there was no security for life and property; and he and his friends were determined that this license should no longer be tolerated under the name of British and constitutional li- 431 berty. Well, the noble Lord is now prepared to vote against the second reading. The noble Lord says he withholds his confidence from the Government, and he thinks he is justified on this ground; but if he claims to himself the privilege of changing his vote, I tell him that he is bound to withhold from others such expressions as "paid janisaries and renegades" for doing the same thing. Why, who are the men whose motives the noble Lord impugns? Look at them. I don't name them, because they are more particularly and eminently entitled to respect than others. I believe that every man gave his support from pure and honourable motives. But is it to be tolerated that such men as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as Lord Francis Egerton, as Mr. Wilson Patten and Mr. Escott—is it to be tolerated, that because they exercised that perfect right which every Member may exercise, that such men should be branded with the names of "paid janisaries and renegades?" I do believe that such language as this is not only calculated to impede fair discussion, but that, unless there is a restraint laid upon its exercise, however right party feeling may prevail, it is calculated to create unmitigated disgust. I now come to the personal attack which was made upon me. I am glad that I did not act upon the impulse of the moment, and reply to that attack when it was made. It referred to circumstances which have now passed nineteen years. I certainly have but an imperfect recollection of the exact details. I rejoice that I did not attempt to answer those personal imputations until I had had an opportunity of ascertaining how far they were well founded. That attack was made in presence of many Members who have entered Parliament now for the first time, and who have perhaps but an imperfect recollection of the circumstances to which the noble Lord referred; and I am particularly anxious that, however hostile they may be to me in other respects, they should not remain under the impression which the noble Lord's attack is calculated to convey. The attack to which I refer was contained in these words: the noble Lord said that—
In Tipperary 286 Clare 171 Roscommon 383 Limerick 210 Leitrim 138He was old enough to remember, and he remembered it with deep and heartfelt sorrow, that he (Sir R. Peel) chased and hunted an illustrious relative of his (Lord G. Bentinck's) to death, on the ground that, though he had changed no opinion, he was, from the station which he then held, likely to forward the question of Catholic Emancipation. He could recollect that such was the conduct of 432 the right hon. Gentleman in 1827. In 1829 he told that House that he had changed his opinions in 1825; that he had communicated his change of opinion to the Earl of Liverpool; but that, it proved, did not prevent him in 1827 getting up in the same assembly and stating that the reasons he severed himself from Mr. Canning's Cabinet was, that he could not consent to support a Government of which the chief Minister was favourable to the measure which in two years more he (Sir R. Peel) himself carried.The noble Lord said he was old enough to remember those things. No doubt he was old enough; for he was a Member of Parliament at the time, and the noble Lord heard all that passed. It is now nineteen years since that transaction occurred. It is seventeen years since the speech was made in 1829; and nineteen years since the occurrences of 1827. I must say that I respect the feelings of any man who feels indignant at the conduct of any one who "chased and hunted his relation to death." I say I respect his feelings. The noble Lord abhors those who attempt to hunt and chase a public man who acts in the performance of his public duty. And I repeat that for such feelings I have the highest respect. But how comes it that, entertaining those feelings, the first time I ever heard of them was on Monday last? The noble Lord has been a Member of Parliament since 1826. There may have been intermissions; but, since 1835 I have been honoured with the noble Lord's cordial, and, I must say, his pure and disinterested support. He called me his right hon. Friend—he permitted me to be the leader of the party to which he belonged—he saw me united to his own immediate connexions and followers; never and until Monday last, in June, 1846, did I harbour the suspicion that the noble Lord entertained such feelings in respect to me—a man who hunted and chased his relation to death. I repeat that, entertaining these feelings may be highly honourable, and I should respect the noble Lord for entertaining them. They are apart from ordinary political considerations. A lapse of time may change political circumstances, and may compel combinations in politics which are unforeseen in regard to suppport given to opponents; but if the noble Lord really believed that I hunted and chased his illustrious relative to death, I cannot understand now, without making any public or private intimation to me that he had those feelings, the noble Lord could consent to accept me as his loader, and call me his right hon. Friend. I am now going upon the as- 433 sumption that this charge against me is founded in fact. I am proceeding on the assumption that I did really ever inform Lord Liverpool in 1825, that my opinion had changed on the subject of the Catholic Relief Bill. The bearing of the noble Lord's personal imputation upon me is this—that I declined to act with Mr. Canning in 1827—that I declined to act as Secretary of State, Mr. Canning being Prime Minister; but that in 1829, when I was about to propose the revoval of the Roman Catholic disabilities, I then admitted that in 1825 my opinion on the subject was changed, and that I had made the declaration in 1825, to another, which I had not made in 1827 in the presence of Mr. Canning. Now, Sir, I ask the noble Lord the Member for Lynn whether, consistently with the principles of justice, fairness, and common honesty, he was not bound to have inquired before he made so serious an accusation against me, whether there was any foundation in truth for the charge he proposed to have advanced? Sir, what I said in 1829 upon this subject exactly corresponds with what I uttered in 1827. And, furthermore, what fell from me in the last-named year was uttered in the presence of Mr. Canning himself, whose own remarks perfectly confirm mine. I will read for the House what I said in the year 1827. I can assure you, unaffectedly, that it is more painful to me than it can possibly be to any other Member, that I should be under the necessity of interrupting so important a discussion as the present, by troubling you with matter personal to myself; but I throw myself on the consideration of the House, and I am sure that even of those who most loudly applauded the speech of the noble Lord, there is not one who will not recognize my claim to vindicate myself from so odious an aspersion as has been sought to be cast upon me. I do not ask you to rely upon my account of these transactions. I will give you the book of reference and the day and date for everything I assert. In the reported Parliamentary debates of the 1st of May, 1827, and of the 5th and 6th of May, 1829, you will find a detailed account of all that passed in this House on the occasion in question; and all those who feel an interest in this matter have at their command the means of justifying my statement by referring to those reports. I was speaking on the 1st May, 1827, Mr. Canning being then alive, sitting in his place in his place in this House, and lis- 434 tening to everything I said, and the words I used were these—In the beginning of the year 1822—(a distinction certainly unsought and unsolicited on my part)—I was appointed Secretary of State for the Home Department, with full notice, I admit, of the difficulties I might thereafter have to combat. If I retained office, it was not from personal motives, or from any desire of the distinction conferred; and in 1825, after I had been left in minorities on three different questions immediately connected with Ireland—the Catholic Question, the Elective Franchise, and the Payment of the Catholic Clergy (which I thought something very like the establishment of the Roman Catholic religion in Ireland)—I waited on my noble Friend, then at the head of the Government. I told him that, personally, it was painful for me to disconnect myself from those whom I esteemed and respected; but that, having been left in a minority in that branch of the Legislature of which I was a Member, I anxiously desired to be relieved from my situation. The reply of my noble Friend was, that my retirement would determine his own. I finally consented to remain in office, my noble Friend declaring that he deemed it of the highest importance that the Secretary of State for the Home Department should possess opinions as much as possible in accordance with those of the Prime Minister. He represented to me the difficulty he should experience in filling up the situation, and, in short, that my retirement must determine his own. I was thus induced to waive my wish for retirement, and to consent to remain until a new Parliament had pronounced an opinion upon the great question which interests and agitates Ireland. When last I addressed the House on the subject, on the resolutions of the hon. Baronet the Member for Westminster, I expected to have been again in a minority; and, had that expectation been realized, I should then have withdrawn from the service of His Majesty. Although I prefer no complaints—for I have always been treated with the most perfect good faith—yet it was no enviable situation at any time to be the single Minister in this House responsible for the administration of the affairs of Ireland—opposed by all my Colleagues, and daily seeing those very Colleagues, the Members of the Government, actively concerting measures with my political opponents. They were at perfect liberty to do so; for it was understood that every man might exert himself, either in opposition to, or in promotion of, the Roman Catholic claims. I make no complaint, I prefer no charge on this account; I can only state the fact, as the reason which made my situation extremely embarrassing. The support and assistance I received from my noble Friend (Lord Liverpool) certainly rendered my difficulties less; but if, in the place of him with whom I cordially concurred—with whom I entered into public life—and between whom and myself there never was a shadow of difference of opinion upon any subject;—if, I say, in his place, I find my right hon. Friend, with whom I had the misfortune at all times to differ upon that paramount question, it is obvious that it was impossible for me to retain the particular situation I held, of Secretary of State for the Home Department, connected as it was with the office of Prime Minister. Is there an hon. Gentleman who hears me who does not feel that if it was impossible for 435 me to retain that situation, it was as impossible for me to be guilty of the paltry subterfuge of removing to another? I am perfectly satisfied every Gentlemen will be convinced that I took the only course remaining to me; and that, after the misfortune which befell my noble Friend the Earl of Liverpool I had no alternative but to retire.This was the declaration which I then made, in the presence of Mr. Canning. Mr. Canning spoke after me, and what he said was this:—To begin with the more agreeable part of my task, the speech of my right hon. Friend, I shall confirm the greater part of that speech. I can bear testimony that throughout the whole of the discussions that have taken place since Parliament was adjourned, I have kept up with my right hon. Friend the most constant and confidential intercourse; and throughout have I found in him the same candour and sincerity, and the expression of the same just feelings, and a uniform exhibition of the same high principle, to which he has laid claim in the address which he has this night delivered. I assure the House that they much mistake the position in which I have the honour to stand, who believe that position to be one of gratified ambition, or as conveying the feeling of unalloyed satisfaction. From the beginning of these discussions I foresaw—both of us foresaw—that they must terminate in a separation; which I hope to God may be only for a time! Had the question been merely between my right hon. Friend and myself, and had it been to be decided by his retirement or by mine, I do most solemnly declare it should have been decided by the latter alternative.So, you see, Mr. Canning, in the year 1827, when I assigned my difference from him on the Catholic question as the cause of my retirement, so far from saying anything that would give the slightest colour of truth to the version of these transactions which is contended for by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, declares that in the year 1825 I did not represent to Lord Liverpool that my opinions on the Catholic question had changed; but that, on the contrary, the state of the case was this, that finding the divisions in the Cabinet intolerable, and my own position exceedingly painful, from being opposed by my Colleagues, I said it was not at all right nor desirable that such a state of things should continue, and that I was anxious to retire from office. I repeated this offer in 1829. But what passed in 1828? Did the course of conduct which the friends of Mr. Canning pursued in that year, indicate a conviction on their part that I had "hunted him down, and chased him to death?" In January, 1828, the Duke of Wellington was called to power. After the explanations which had been made in 1827, and at a period but shortly subse- 436 quent o the death of Mr. Canning himself, proposals to join in forming a Cabinet were made to the friends of Mr. Canning—friends quite as faithful and devoted as the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. Did they refuse to unite with the Government? Did they bring the charge against me of having acted unfairly or dishonestly towards their Friend? Did they accuse me with having hunted and chased him to death? Not one of them. Amongst Mr. Canning's most intimate friends were the late Mr. Huskisson, Lord Dudley, Mr. Grant, and the present Lord Melbourne. Not one of them made any objection on account of any preceding transaction. They one and all consented to serve with me in the Government and Cabinet. Is it likely that, if such an impression respecting me prevailed in their minds as would appear now, for the first time, to rankle in the heart of the noble Lord, they would, in five months after the death of Mr. Canning, join with me in the Cabinet, and admit me as the leader of the House of Commons? Is it likely that that man who is the personation of a gallant and chivalrous spirit—the embodiment of every generous and manly emotion—the Marquess of Anglesea—is it, I ask, likely, that he, the intimate friend of Mr. Canning, would have consented to go to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant while I was Secretary, if he had participated in the sentiments of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, that I had acted unfairly towards Mr. Canning, and had actually chased and hunted him to death? But with that I have no concern. I merely refer to the conduct of those eminent persons for the purpose of showing that they, at least, did not share in the feeling of the noble Lord. But I will not be content with inferences or conjectures; I will meet the assertion of the noble Lord in the plainest and most direct manner; and this I do not hesitate to say, that the charge of the noble Lord — that in 1829 I avowed a change of opinion in 1825, which change of opinion I concealed in 1827—I say, I hesitate not to declare that that charge is utterly and entirely destitute of foundation. Sir, when I undertook to propose those measures which have recently received the sanction of the House, I foresaw not merely the disruption of many ties, the existence of which I regarded with pride, but the manifestations of bitter hostility, to which I knew I should be subjected in the execution of my public duty. I have explained 437 the motives which led me to think that the public interest demanded that there should be a final adjustment of the Corn Law question—I had to choose between organising a decided and interminable opposition to any change, and undertaking (in case the noble Lord the Member for London should be unable to do so), to lay the foundation of a measure of final adjustment. I foresaw the consequences to which that act of mine would lead. I saw that it would probably lead to the extinction of political power, and necessarily to the heavier penalty of the loss of confidence of those who were wont to confide in me, and the abatement and extinction of private friendships. It is for you to decide whether or no the reasons and considerations which prevailed with me in inducing me to adopt the course I undertook were adequate and sufficient. It is possible I may have been erroneous in my views. It might perhaps have been possible to have continued opposition. It might have been right to have committed the Lords and Commons, notwithstanding what had occurred, to that course of policy. Notwithstanding the absolute necessity for some relaxation of duties on the lower species of grain, it might perhaps have been possible to have continued for a time higher duties on particular species of corn: but my opinion was, that regard being had to the change of public opinion upon this great question, any attempt to tamper in slight particulars with the Corn Laws, while the great principle remained untouched, would be nugatory and irrational; and I at the same time saw that a refusal to consider the question at all could not fail to draw down great odium and contumely on those for whom I felt a deep interest. I may have been mistaken in these views; and the mistake, if it be one, may and ought, perhaps, to involve the forfeiture of political confidence; but that I have been influenced in this course by any impure or dishonourable motive, or any desire to rob others of the cerdit which is their due; that I desired to interfere with the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) whom I should have been glad to see in office; that I was influenced by any desire to court popularity, or to gain distinction or advantage of any kind—I declare that the imputation to me of motives so base, would be as foul a calumny as a vindictive spirit ever directed against a public man.—Debate adjourned.
§ House adjourned at a quarter to One o'clock.