§ LORD WORSLEY
said, that the measure was one to which he should feel it his duty to offer his strenuous opposition. He did not think that it was consistent with wisdom, justice, or sound policy to continue to govern Ireland on a system of 483 coercion, which had already been frequently tried, and had as frequently failed. Not only would the Bill now proposed be totally inoperative for good, but it would be positively productive of mischief, inasmuch as it would imperil the rights and liberties of innocent men, and make the Irish population, who already were by no means too favourably disposed towards that House, view its proceedings with deeper aversion and greater distrust than ever. There were many provisions in this Bill which were unconstitutional in their principle, and could not prove otherwise than highly oppressive in their operation. Amongst these, one of the most exceptionable was that which exposed a man, and possibly quite an innocent man, to the loss of liberty for the constructive offence of being found out of his house after sunset. A policeman was, in the first instance, to be the judge of what constituted "suspicious circumstances;" and the innocent man who was taken into custody by him would be imprisoned all night on the mere suspicion of being suspicious, and he would have no chance of liberation until next day, when brought before a magistrate. If it happened that he was taken up on a Saturday night, he must remain in custody all Saturday night and all Sunday; and it might perhaps be a late hour on Monday before a magistrate could be procured to investigate his case. The measure was altogether a Bill of pains and penalties, and totally unsuited for the present condition of Ireland. The hon. and learned Member the Recorder of Dublin said it would be ineffectual. It had been denounced as ineffectual also by the hon. Member for Dundalk, who had been nominated by the Government as a Member of the Devon Commission, and than whom there was no man who knew Ireland more intimately, or was a better authority on questions which concerned the Irish people, and influenced their condition. It had also been denounced by the hon. Member for Drogheda, and was indignantly protested against with one accord by the majority of the Irish Members. The hon. Members connected with Ireland who supported it were exclusively those who at all times had been in favour of coercion for that country, and whose policy it had been uniformly to resist every just and liberal measure proposed for the Irish people by every political party, but more especially by that party of which the noble Lord the Member for London was the head. It was his misfortune to differ on the Corn Law question 484 from the Friends with whom he usually acted; but if there was one circumstance more than another which had prevented his abandoning the noble Lord's Government, it was approval of the policy adopted by his noble Friend towards Ireland; and although he had voted with hon. Members opposite against the repeal of the Corn Laws, he could not make common cause with them in supporting the present measure. He gave Her Majesty's Government every credit for the measures they had taken with a view to mitigate, and if possible to prevent, the evils complained of connected with the question of occupation of land; but he told them that no measures introduced to meet temporary distress would be of avail in creating good order, contentment, and a better state of things in Ireland. They had not held out the slightest prospect of their adopting a more liberal or a more enlightened policy towards Ireland for the future. Steeped in misery and destitution, a large proportion of the Irish population despaired of getting justice from that House, and identified their hope of happiness, comfort, and prosperity with the restoration of a domestic legislation. This was a state of things greatly to be deplored. Confidence in the Government, and a feeling of secure reliance that grievances would be redressed, and justice fairly administered—these were the sentiments which ought to be encouraged in the minds of the Irish people; and until such feelings were nurtured, it would be vain to hope for a better state of things. What reason was there for supposing that the present Government possessed the affections of the Irish people, or ought to possess influence in Ireland? None whatever. Efforts were continually being made to render the Emancipation Act a dead letter, by excluding men from place, power, and emolument, because of their religion. Were not those who now introduced this Bill, and advocated it, the same who resisted municipal reform and the correction of Church abuses, and who proposed a Registration Bill, to cripple and curtail rather than enlarge the franchise? Were they not the men who dismissed the magistrates in whom the people confided, merely because they expressed their opinions on a political question? He differed from those magistrates, and regretted very much they should think that a Repeal of the Union would be of any advantage to them; but the Government had not declared the meetings they attended to be illegal. They allowed those meetings 485 to go on, and at length began to dismiss the magistrates who declared themselves in favour of repeal. When those meetings had gone on increasing in every district, they did at last issue a proclamation, but at so late a period that if it had not been for the influence of the hon. and learned Member for Cork they would have had confusion, and perhaps bloodshed, in consequence of the tardy endeavours of the Government to put an end to those meetings. As he had before stated, the Government had now been in power for five years, and the people had, perhaps, great expectations excited by a late Secretary for Ireland, Lord St. Germans, then Lord Eliot, who had in that House voted on two or three occasions with the noble Lord the Member for London and his Friends on Irish questions. At the election for Cornwall the noble Lord said the same liberal feelings that had previously actuated him should continue to guide him when in office; but what had they seen? They had seen that he did not attempt the reforms they expected from him. It was true he did one act of justice, and proposed the grant to Maynooth; but it could not be forgotten by the Irish people that some Members of the party at the head of the Government did their utmost to prevent its passing. In fact, there was now on the books a notice from one of that very party to propose the repeal of that Act. What else did they do? They did what he was glad they had done. They had passed an Act for the establishing of colleges in Ireland. They issued a Commission to Inquire into the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland, and he hoped that good effects would reduce from it; but he felt that very exaggerated statements had been spread abroad in consequence of that Commission. He hoped, he repeated, that good would come from it; but he asked were those measures alone sufficient to induce the people of Ireland to endeavour to assist the Government in carrying out the laws of the land? The Government had not, in his opinion, sufficiently tried what could be done by the vigorous exercise of the law, but seemed at once to fall back upon the old policy of bringing forward a Coercion Bill. Now, would they venture to bring forward a Bill of that kind in England? It was said that crimes were committed in Ireland at night; but he was very much afraid, if they relied upon this Bill only, that when vengeance was intended it would not prevent that vengeance 486 being taken in the day time. But had they no disturbances in England at night? They might say, in comparison, it was a trivial case—but there were the riots in Wales. They might say that it was confined to the destruction of turnpike gates; but he believed it was not confined to turnpike gates. He believed, when the people found they had the power, and could assemble large bodies of the people, and elude the police, that they turned their thoughts to any other matter which they considered a grievance. This Bill he considered to be most harassing and harsh, and those who knew Ireland well felt it would be ineffectual. He thought they would disgust the people of Ireland with this measure, instead of getting them to carry out in its full integrity the law of the land. If that were the case—should they find if they were obliged to put this Bill into operation that it failed, what were they doing? They were throwing back Ireland in her prosperity—it had been more prosperous of late years—it was growing in prosperity; but if this Bill came into operation it would affect that prosperity. If they failed in that measure, and if, in consequence of that failure, they had greater difficulties as a Government to contend with in Ireland, it would be their own fault. If, however, they should give up the Government to others who did not approve of this measure, who might succeed in tranquillizing Ireland by milder means, what a lesson they would teach! He believed that by different measures, by milder and more temperate measures—but yet showing a determination to maintain the laws of the conntry, they would be more likely to establish peace in Ireland, and to wear away, by degrees, the evils that prevailed, than they could do by bringing forward such measures as the present. He would, as upon the first reading, oppose the Bill. It was said that they should vote for the first reading of the Bill, because if they did not vote for the first reading they would be showing a want of deference to etiquette; but the Irish people did not understand that. He had objected to the Bill then on principle; he objected to it now on principle; he believed it to be unnecessary, and he should give the strongest opposition to this Bill in all its stages.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
said, the noble Lord had charged the Government with many things, but he had not charged them with anything more preposterous than with being answerable for the notice given by the hon. 487 Member for East Kent (Mr. Plumptre) for the repeal of the Act for the endowment of Maynooth. Having given his confidence to the Government on the introduction of this measure, he should not suffer any collateral matters to disturb the vote which he intended to give on the present stage. At the same time he must say—and he said it more in sorrow than in anger—that he could not justify the Government for having suffered the Session to reach such a protracted period without having earlier sought a decision of the House upon a question so vitally important. He should not taunt them with having failed to make a House upon one occasion; but having by some calamity or casualty failed to secure an early attendance for the discussion of the question, he held that they ought not to have given precedence to any other measure until they had secured the assent of the House to this. He gave to his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government the same confidence with respect to this measure which he had yielded to his noble Friend now on the opposition side, in the case of a similar measure when introduced by the Government of which he was a leading Member. In every case he held that the Government was responsible for the peace of the Empire; and if they told him that a particular measure was necessary for preserving the public tranquillity, on them must rest the guilt—if guilt there were—in its enactment. He would not take upon himself the responsibility of saying that this measure was not necessary for the protection of life and property in Ireland; and having voted in favour of its introduction and the first reading, he saw nothing to induce him to alter the votes he had so given. He did not repose a blind confidence in the Government; he was sure they would acquit him of any such charge; but this being a measure of high police, he should support it as he would a measure of police applying to Kent or Cumberland. He believed the Government would have done better if they had not permitted the Bill to be altered and mutilated as it had been in the other House; but if they made up their minds, after five months' consideration, that although altered and mutilated the Bill was still essential for the good Government of Ireland, he promised them his support, but no longer than the Bill should remain as it now was.
§ COLONEL VERNER
remarked, that as he believed some measures were urgently required to protect life and property in 488 Ireland, he would give the present Bill his support. At the same time he could not but express his deep regret that it should have been delayed for so long a time, as he was convinced that no measure had as yet been brought forward which was of so much importance to Ireland. He felt it his duty to vote in favour of the measure before the House; and having said so, he felt it also his duty to defend his conduct and character against a charge of inconsistency which had been brought against him by the right hon. the Secretary of State for the Home Department. It became his duty to state in 1845, in a letter to the Government, that there was a probability of distress prevailing in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman charged him with having made the statement he did as regarded his own neighbourhood; but so far from it having any reference whatever to his own locality, the place was not within twenty-five Irish miles of his residence; it was situated in a county in which he never set his foot, and with which he had no connexion.
§ MR. HORSMAN
had come to the decision to vote against the measure, because he felt, on a review of all the circumstances under which it was proposed, he could not vote for the continuance of a system which had been productive of so much evil. He could not vote against this Bill on the ground of insufficiency of evidence as regarded the fearful extent of crime in Ireland, nor on the ground that the Government had not forwarded it more hurriedly. He opposed it on principle. Two measures of great consequence had been brought forward by the Government. The one was a great, large, aud bountiful measure—a measure calculated to cheer the hearts of the nation by the blessings it was about to confer on them. The other was a harsh measure—a measure of severity, imposing pains and penalties on a whole people, whose crimes were, after all, the offspring of misgovernment. He was willing to take the view that was not disparaging to the Minister. He believed he had addressed himself to the one task because his heart was with it; but that he required a spur to urge him to the other, because experience had made it as repugnant to his reason as to his feelings. The hon. Member for the University of Oxford had spoken of this as a mere police measure. If they were to look upon it in that light—if they were to look upon it as a mere isolated measure, brought forward by the Government of the day for a temporary purpose—they might 489 be disposed to trust it in their hands; but it was because he looked upon it as part of that old, impolitic, and sanguinary system which had wrought such calamity in times past to Ireland, that he could not allow that system one single day to be perpetuated. He could not, for a single moment, support such a measure, seeing, as he did, the utter failure of all measures of the same nature which passed before it. It was a system which Her Majesty's Government were not answerable for more than any other Government who preceded it. His reasons for opposing this measure were not founded on his own experience alone. He was supported by the authority of Lord Holland, who opposed the passing of the Insurrection Act when it was before the House of Lords, on the ground that measures of such a character were calculated to impede the working of measures introduced for the purpose of removing existing evils, and to destroy the unity of feeling between this country and Ireland. That occurred in 1825, and he did not see how such a measure was less objectionable now. Every enactment of the kind was a bad precedent. Was there anything in the results which arose from putting the system into practice, which could encourage them now in passing this measure? There were seventeen Coercion Bills already passed for Ireland which failed, and now they were called upon to pass the eighteenth. It was admitted by the noble Lord (the Earl of Lincoln), who introduced this Bill, by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, and by several other Members, that the social state of Ireland was totally disorganized. He however thought that this was too harsh an expedient. He admitted that the crimes complained of were almost indigenous to the country; but he would tell them that they were the result of misgovernment, and that, instead of trying to suppress the symptoms, they should remove the causes. They had from Lord Devon's Commission a Report, stating that the Irish people were undergoing sufferings unknown to any other people. The law gave them not a shadow of the right to subsistence. Mr. Burke said that you forced from the people the obedience of subjects, and you never gave them the rights of citizens. The hon. Member for Waterford told the House the other night that during the last five years not less than 150,000 had been turned out of their dwellings. In consequence of such a state of things the desire was engendered to 490 commit crime, and it was impossible to say a word in justification or palliation of the cause of the crimes. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman on Friday was exactly the same as that which he made when, in 1814, he introduced the Irish Insurrection Act. That Bill was of a similar nature to the present, and it was introduced by the right hon. Baronet as the organ of the Government; and if the speech the right hon. Gentleman then made was compared with that which he delivered the other night, it would be found to be completely alike, with the exception of the names of parties and of the places where the outrages were committed. It was impossible for any one who looked at the two cases not to admit that the one was the counterpart of the other. The right hon. Gentleman then said, as he now repeated, that murders were committed in the open day, and juries refused to convict; and he added, on both occasions, that those crimes did not arise from any political or religious causes, but in consequence of disputes arising out of the tenure of land. It was impossible for him to say how many Bills of Coercion the right hon. Baronet had introduced since that time; but had he introduced a single measure as to the tenure of land? He now again recommended this measure, which every individual considered objectionable in opinion, and which no one regarded other than as a temporary remedy for a permanent evil. He gave full credit to the right hon. Gentleman for his sincere desire to promote the welfare of Ireland, and also for the measures which had been introduced by the Government; but he regretted that they had not been introduced at an earlier period of the Session: he also gave the right hon. Gentleman full credit for the measure which he had introduced last year. He believed that it was the right hon. Gentleman's wish, as well as his policy, to legislate for Ireland in a liberal spirit; but he trusted on that occasion the House would show that Parliament was not prepared to give unconstitutional powers, and to show above all, to the landlords that they must depend, not on the support of English troops, but on the confidence of their countrymen. He regretted that the right hon. Baronet did not at once apply a proper remedy. Seeing no good likely to arise from a temporary remedy for a permanent disease, he felt called upon to give his opposition to this Bill; and he did so because he could not reconcile his mind to impose restrictions which the Irish people would 491 consider as falling unjustly on them, nor was he willing to give unconstitutional powers to a Government, until every constitutional means had been exhausted.
§ MR. COLQUHOUN
said, that if he found himself disposed to vote for the second reading of the Bill, it would not be on the grounds stated by the hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Sir R. H. Inglis); neither could he adopt the reason laid down by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck), who said that he could not place unconstitutional powers in the hands of a Government in which he had no confidence; for if the noble Lord the Member for London had brought forward the same proofs in support of a measure as those that had been adduced by his right hon. Friend in his statement, he, although he had no confidence in the noble Lord, could not refuse Government such powers when they were asked for on its responsibility. His noble Friend said that there had been a diminution of crime within the last few months, therefore the case for the Government failed; but he thought the case of the Government, as stated to that House, was impregnable, and the proofs incontestable. Magistrates of different politics and religion, and of various counties, had petitioned in favour of the Bill, stating that crime was triumphant, and that there were no means of procuring evidence to convict its perpetrators; and if any one attempted to vindicate the law, or assert the rights of property, in some of the districts of Ireland, he incurred the most serious danger of his life. When the noble Member for London talked of remedial measures, as the hon. Member for Cockermouth had also done that evening, he would ask, were they to tell the people of Ireland that, although in some districts their lives were not worth a month's purchase, they must wait for a better state of things—until some arrangement was made on the subject of the Irish Church—until some measure with regard to the franchise was introduced, or, perhaps, until some addition to the number of Irish Members was made? He thought, however, that the House would be of opinion that they had quite Irish Members enough. They were a large and able body of Members; but he really did think there were enough of them. It was ridiculous to discuss such subjects when the question was whether they would let the farmers and landlords continue to suffer in a way which was a reflection upon the condition of the country. He agreed with his 492 noble Friend in thinking that the measure should have been pressed by the Government, so that it might have passed in the shortest possible time after the commencement of the Session; and he also agreed with his noble Friend that there had been a most extraordinary and culpable delay in its progress. If the Government had done its duty, and had passed the Bill through the other House, if possible, in the shortest possible time, as Lord Grey's Government did in 1833, and called upon that House to pass this Bill for the protection of life before other Bills, it would speedily have been carried. The anxiety of hon. Members who were supporters of the Corn Bill, would have induced them to hasten its progress; and this Coercion Bill would have been the law of the land if the Government had shown the proper anxiety to pass it. The great fault of the Bill was the want of a proper tribunal for the trial of these offences. You might get evidence from the constabulary against parties; but it was a most difficult thing to get juries to convict. There were only two clauses in the Bill before the House of any value in repressing crime, and those were what was called the Curfew Clause, and the Transportation for Seven Years Clause, both of which were opposed by the noble Lord the Member for London. On this point he heard, with some alarm, an observation of the right hon. Baronet a few nights ago, when he called upon the House to vote for the second reading, and said that these clauses might be materially altered in the Committee. The right hon. Baronet, therefore, left it uncertain whether he would consent to strike those two clauses out of the Bill. He was afraid that the right hon. Baronet would come down, as he did the other night, and say that he was glad of an opportunity of gratifying Gentlemen opposite from Ireland, forgetting the forty Irish Members who sat behind him. He therefore was afraid that the two clauses which gave energy to the Bill would be suppressed, and the Bill would then not be worth the paper on which it was printed. He therefore asked the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, who had yet to speak in the debate, whether he would pledge the Government to the Bill as it stood, and, above all, to those two clauses which gave efficiency to it? If the right hon. Baronet would not give an answer in the affirmative, and as he (Mr. Colquhoun) had no confidence in the Government, and as he believed they would give way on this matter, 493 he would not vote for the second reading. He had shrunk from the first reading, in consequence of his fear of the conduct of the Government, and he should now decline voting unless he received an explicit and satisfactory declaration from the right hon. Baronet. His noble Friend the Member for Bandon said, why oppose a Government in whom you have some confidence, and pursue a course which might throw them out of office, and give the Government of Ireland to Gentlemen opposite, in whom he had no confidence? So far as coercion went, the Whig Government went beyond the present, for the measure which they introduced in 1833 was one of the sharpest which ever came before the House. He did not suppose that the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) would deny that when he had the short possession of power at the end of last year, that he felt that such was the pressure of the case, and such the state of Ireland, that the noble Lord whom he selected to hold office as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland stated that he would not go to Ireland unless his hands were strengthened by a Coercion Bill, and to this the noble Lord acceded. He therefore did not suppose that the Government of Gentlemen opposite would do otherwise than the right hon. Gentleman; and that if Ireland remained as it was they would refuse to pass a rigorous Coercion Bill. The noble Lord the Member for the West Riding (Lord Morpeth), who had as much knowledge of Irish affairs as any Member of that House, had admitted the necessity of the measure introduced by the Government; and he would beg the hon. Member for Weymouth, who condemned all Coercion Bills, to remember that. It appeared that at a meeting in Chesham Place (the residence of Lord J. Russell), the hon. and learned Member for Cork, the hon. Members for Finsbury, the hon. Member for Sheffield, the hon. Member for Montrose, and other hon. Members of similar opinions, were present, which implied that if the noble Lord was going to govern such a party his principles must be very stray—if he was going to drive such a team, he knew he must throw down a great many slices of the Constitution to them. The question, however, was, were they in a better position by supporting the present Prime Minister than they would be by supporting the noble Lord? He believed the hon. Member for Montrose did not wish to see the noble Lord in power. He thought so; and the noble Lord would, 494 indeed, find that he had a most restive, kicking, and curvetting team to manage if he took the reins. The hon. Member for Montrose, the hon. Members for Finsbury, and others, would bear down again, as in former days, on the noble Lord when he made one of his Conservative speeches; for he was by nature and habit a constitutional Whig, and ought to be on that (the Ministerial) side of the House; and the right hon. Baronet ought to be in the noble Lord's place. He wished he could by the forms of the House make such a Motion. Why did the hon. Member for Montrose, the hon. Member for Coventry, and hon. Gentlemen of similar opinions, wish to keep the right hon. Baronet in office? Because in reality they sat behind the driving seat; and whatever they whispered the right hon. Baronet adopted. He was quite alarmed when they got up and flattered the Prime Minister by telling him that he was far in advance of his party, and so forth. [Mr. B. ESCOTT: Hear.] He was not surprised at that cheer, for the hon. Member for Winchester ought to be on the other (the Opposition) side of the House; and he had no doubt after the next election the hon. Member would be. He was going to say, that when any hon. Gentleman of Radical opinions got up, and complimented the right hon. Baronet—told him that he was the man to save the country, and so forth—and then propounded some extreme views, he trembled, for he knew the right hon. Baronet would most probably adopt them. Irish colleges were suggested, and the idea was soon adopted. The endowment of Maynooth was next hinted at, and the right hon. Baronet soon after proposed it. At the close of last Session an hon. Gentleman brought forward a Motion on the subject of education, upon which occasion the hon. Member and the right hon. Baronet complimented each other; and he had no doubt that if the repeal of the Corn Law had not been proposed this Session, the right hon. Baronet would have come down with some scheme of national education similar to that which he scouted when proposed by the noble Lord the Member for London. He took up the opinions of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, licked them into shape, hinted towards the close of the Session the policy which he was going to adopt, and sat down amid the blank looks of his friends and the cheers of his opponents. In the next Session he brought forward a measure more extensive than 495 he had hinted at, to the astonishment of all his friends. That was the programme which they had had for years past, and should have for years to come. In future it would be more distinct, and the acting would be stronger, if the right hon. Baronet remained in office. And upon what ground did he adopt such a course? [Mr. B. ESCOTT: On the confidence of the country.] They would try that at the next general election. He had no fear of the issue, either in the towns or counties of England; and that was the reason why he wished to get the noble Lord the Member for London in power, and not because he had any confidence in him. The hon. Member concluded by saying, that if the Government would give him the assurance he required, he would vote for the second reading of the Bill; and if they refused to do so, he would not vote at all.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
His hon Friend required a pledge; he would condescend to ask none; nor would he give credit to any pledge made by the Government. He had neither voted for nor against the Bill on a former occasion; but the speech of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, whom he was proud to call his friend, had induced him to alter his course. Never was there anything so wretchedly inefficient as the reply of the right hon. Baronet, whom he was not proud to call his right hon. Friend. The Lord deliver him from such friends! He was, therefore, prepared now to take the straightforward, manly course, of voting against the measure. He had no Irish property; but he knew Ireland well, and had never received harsh or unkind treatment from any of its people. He had never found it necessary to travel there with an escort; and he felt convinced that they had only to do their duty towards Ireland, and they might rely on being met with good feeling and good will, provided they were not restrained by their priesthood. Now what was this measure? Was it intended for the benefit of Ireland? If he could think so, he would be most ready to support it. But it was a most inefficient measure, and one which he could not support, emanating as it did from a weak Government, as incapable as they were unwilling to bring in any measure to promote the interests of Ireland. It was an old saying that a dog might bark and yet not bite; so it was by the right hon. Baronet, who had shrank from proposing any measure against the wishes of the hon. and learned Member for Cork. 496 Why, else, did they allow the Irish Attorney General and the Irish Judges to be insulted? If life was in danger in Ireland, why did they not act with promptitude? It was rather too late to talk of protecting the life of a man after they had hanged him. He did not believe the Government to be sincere in bringing forward this measure; and he, therefore, felt it his duty to oppose it. He did not know whether it had been presented, or not, but he understood that a petition had been prepared against the measure, signed by 259,000 persons. He had no confidence in the right hon. Baronet; neither had he any confidence in the noble Lord the Member for the city of London: but of the two he preferred the noble Lord. A man caught twice in a trap had only himself to blame if he never got out of it. Having, therefore, no confidence in the present Government, and feeling assured that the sooner they got rid of the black sheep the better it would be for the rest of the flock, he would most cordially join his noble Friend, whom, as he said before, he was proud to call his friend, in rejecting this detestable measure.
LORD J. RUSSELL
I should conceive that I had a comparatively easy duty to perform, if I could at all reconcile my mind to the maxims for our Parliamentary conduct which have been laid down by my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford. My hon. Friend is of opinion that if a measure is introduced on the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government for the protection of life and property—that being the assumption on the face of the Bill—it does not much matter what we are able to prove—that it does not much concern us what are the provisions of the Bill—that they may be irritating rather than consoling, and ineffective for any good purpose—but that still it is our duty, as a deliberate House of Parliament, to give our assent to that Bill. Sir, to such doctrines I can by no means assent. I can understand, indeed, that on Motion for leave to bring in a Bill, or on the first reading of a Bill brought down to us from the House of Lords, that so much is due to the authority of Her Majesty's Government or the other House of Parliament, that it may be right in this House to consent to the introduction of such a Bill, and to wait until a still further stage for its examination. But that we should altogether agree to such a Bill in all its stages—that we should impose upon the people an act 497 of restriction without previous examination—that we who are to pass the laws of this country, are not to consider what these laws are—that we are not to consider the grounds on which they are based, and how far they are to be effective for their object; that, Sir, is a proposition which seems to me so totally contrary to all my notions of Parliamentary duties, that it is impossible for me to adopt any such principle. Sir, in commencing an examination of this Bill, I am tempted to take the course which a Minister of the Crown usually takes in proposing a measure of this nature. The Minister of the Crown, in proposing a measure to this House, frequently commences by desiring our clerk to refer to Her Majesty's Speech, and to read from that Speech some paragraph directing our attention to particular measures affecting the welfare of the country. In the present case, or at least on the present occasion, I think they could hardly take such a course, because I think that that very Queen's Speech affords an argument against further proceeding with the present Bill. In that Speech Her Majesty called our attention toThe very frequent instances in which the crime of deliberate assassination has been of late committed in Ireland,And declared it to be our dutyTo consider whether any measures can be devised calculated to give increased protection to life, and to bring to justice the perpetrators of so dreadful a crime.Now I do say that the delay of five months after such an announcement does involve this view, that the Ministers of the Crown, attaching, as I give them credit for doing, the greatest value to human life, and wishing for the security of life in Ireland, as in every other part of the United Kingdom, had not any very great confidence in the measure which they have brought forward, whether it be in respect to the grounds on which it is founded, or the provisions which it contains. Sir, it is, I know, said that the course of public business has prevented the earlier consideration of this measure; but it appears to me that had they attached so much importance to it, there were two courses open to them to have taken, and either of which would, I think, be more consistent with Parliamentary practice, and with the dignity both of Her Majesty's Government and of this House, than that which they have taken. The one course would have been this—that seeing that they considered life 498 insecure in Ireland, seeing that at the same time they considered there was an insufficiency of food in the country, they had thought it right to introduce a temporary measure for the purpose of admitting the importation of food, and likewise that they had introduced a temporary measure for the protection of life, leaving the great question of the Corn Laws to be considered after these temporary measures should pass under the consideration of the House. But, supposing that they considered that it was necessary to combine a temporary with a permanent measure for the repeal of the Corn Laws, and that it was better to take the subject together, why then I think they must perceive that that measure must lead to protracted debates—that it must lead to vehement and continued opposition in its progress through Parliament; and that being so, then, I say, that their better course would have been not to advise Her Majesty to make any allusion to this subject in Her Speech from the Throne, but to have reserved themselves until the measure of the Corn and the Custom Laws should pass this House for going into the state of Ireland, and to have then considered whether it were still incumbent upon them to introduce a measure for the continuation of coercive enactments. By either of these courses, Her Majesty's Government would have avoided that which I must regard as the most serious inconvenience of our being now called upon to consider this measure under one or other of these imputations—either on the one hand of unnecessarily inflicting on Ireland a measure of unconstitutional restriction; or, on the other, of having delayed too long the consideration of a measure which Her Majesty's Ministers thought to be of such great importance that they advised Her Majesty to call our serious attention to it so long ago as the 22nd day of January last. Now, Sir, with regard to the measure, I am bound to consider the grounds on which it is proposed—the amount of crime, which is said to be the foundation of it. I am bound to consider in what manner Her Majesty's Ministers have treated that amount of crime. I am bound to consider whether the present measure affords that remedy which is likely to give increased protection to life, and an efficient check to crime; and, lastly, whether other measures of a different character might not be introduced more likely to reach the causes of the alleged insecurity. But, Sir, the noble Lord who holds 499 the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland, and who introduced this Bill, I own, gave me considerable embarrassment by the way in which he introduced it. We had had, at an early period of the Session, statements of dreadful murders, of murders committed in the open day, of persons going to church, of persons being in the performance of other duties, such as paying visits to their friends, cut off by the arm of the assassin; and I had conceived these were the facts to which Her Majesty's Speech alluded, and to which our attention was directed. The noble Lord seemed to me to dwell in detail upon a series of out rages which are not different in character, and I could not make out from his statement were different in amount, from the outrages in any year since I have been acquainted with the affairs of Ireland. There used to be a custom of Members of the Government receiving every week a statement of these outrages; and for six or seven years, I can vouch for it, the accounts received were marked with those peculiar characters which the noble Lord said marked crime in Ireland at present, and to which the noble Lord called our attention. He called our attention to the crime of sending a threatening notice to a man to compel him to marry a certain woman; that certain persons must be turned off, for instance, a milk-maid, because the farm servants did not receive milk in sufficient quantity. These are the noble Lord's outrages. They belong, undoubtedly, to a state of lawlessness and combination against the established authorities of the country; but they hardly form a sufficient ground for the measure now before the House. The noble Lord put it to me whether, having considered the measures of 1835 appropriate to the then state of things, I could consistently oppose the measure now before us. Sir, I will answer at once to that appeal. In my opinion, when this House is asked to go beyond the Constitution to look for remedies which are not in the ordinary state of the law, although that is far from being a conclusive reason against such a law, yet that every case must be tried upon its own merits. We must consider the circumstances of the period in which we are called upon to legislate; and it is no reason for carrying out any act of this nature that other Parliaments have given votes in favour of measures of a similar character. But, Sir, as the noble Lord has spoken of this, I beg leave to trouble the House with what has been my 500 conduct upon the subject of measures of this kind. Soon after I first entered Parliament, in the years 1817 and 1819, stringent measures—the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and what was called the Six Acts—were introduced as remedies for the disturbances in the manufacturing districts of England. I followed others, belonging to the political party to which I belonged, in opposing those measures. Many years afterwards, when I was in office, there were disturbances of a very similar character, according with political doctrines of an alarming tendency. But it appeared to me that it was better not to attempt any alteration in the constitutional law of this country. I came down to this House, and I asked for increased powers. I asked for an increase to the military, and I asked for power to increase the constabulary force. The right hon. Gentleman, now the First Lord of the Treasury, agreed with me in those proposals. I obtained his support. Those measures, together with prosecutions under the ordinary law, were resorted to, and the country was restored to a state of tranquillity. After the right hon. Gentleman opposite came into office, disturbances of a similar nature occurred in the manufacturing districts, perhaps still more alarming. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursued exactly the course I had taken. He sent down an increased military force; he ordered prosecutions before the ordinary tribunals; and the country was restored to a state of tranquillity, without any resort, as in 1817 and 1819, to the Legislature, for the purpose of obtaining extraordinary powers. I was glad to see the right hon. Gentleman pursue that course. He pursued it with great firmness, at the same time with great conciliation, and his efforts were completely successful. Now, Sir, with regard to outrages in Ireland, which, as the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland has put them, are by no means of an unusual or peculiarly artrocious character, it did so happen that in 1832, being in office, I had to consider the introduction of a severe law of coercion for Ireland. I did not agree with all the measures of that Government. With some of those I so disagreed that I determined at one time to resign my office. I was only induced to remain when I found my late lamented Friend, Lord Spencer, had come to the same conclusion as myself, that preventive measures were not sufficient, and that dis- 501 agreement would lead to the breaking up of the Government. Upon this we agreed, that it would always be open to us to consider of further measures of conciliation, and to introduce further remedies for the evils of Ireland. At the same time I agreed—I do not hesitate to say so—to a measure more harsh and more oppressive than the measure now before the House. I thought the extreme insecurity that prevailed to life and property in Ireland, the prevalence of almost a civil war on the subject of tithe, and the murders and assassinations which had taken place in consequence, were a justification of that measure. In 1834 that measure expired. In 1835 a mitigated measure was introduced, which met with the support, I believe, of nearly every party in this House. There was scarcely any opposition to the passing of the measure of 1835. But as I had occasion to state, when speaking to the House on the first reading of this Bill, when we introduced the measure of 1835, Lord Althorp at the same time introduced measures of conciliation. He had introduced measures for the abolition of church cess, for the improvement of juries; and he declared the corporations of Ireland should be assimilated in their reforms to the corporations of England and Scotland. In 1835 it was the declared intentions of the Ministers, who had then lately taken office, to govern Ireland upon principles more congenial to the feelings and affections of the great body of the people than had hitherto been the case. Full confidence was reposed in those Ministers—full confidence that the Bill which was then passed was entrusted to hands that would not abuse its powers. I may say that confidence was justified, for I believe that Bill was never put into operation. I cannot find from my noble Friend Lord Normanby, whom I have consulted upon the subject, that he ever put it in force. I asked him if it was not the case that persons expected he might use the power which it gave him. He said, so far from that, he believed the fact of the power being in his hands was entirely forgotten, and that the existence of the Bill was scarcely remembered by the great body of the people. The fact is, certainly, that from 1835 to 1840 the Bill was not put into operation; and in 1840, having to choose whether we would renew that Bill or not, we deliberately determined not to renew it, and we allowed it to expire; therefore, Sir, if my authority is worth 502 anything as having voted for such a Bill in 1835, it is an historical fact equally conclusive in 1846 that in 1840 I did not propose the renewal of such a Bill. It was said, indeed, of that Bill, as I have heard it frequently said, that the terror of having such a Bill, and of the power being in the hands of Government, would operate to the prevention of crime. Now, Sir, in this respect, again I say, if there is any such influence to be exerted by a Bill of this nature, that advantage has been lost by delay. I can well understand a Bill suddenly introduced and carried at once inspiring a species of terror among malefactors; but when the Bill has been for five or six months under deliberation—when it has passed through a strong course of opposition, and it really does not seem to be insisted upon as a measure of importance — I say, that any such virtue which you can attribute to it, as a sharp remedy for disorder, is in great part lost by such delay. Now, Sir, as to the state of crime which this Bill is intended to repress. I think, in comparing crimes against the person, it is well to take the crimes in the whole of Ireland, in order, first, to see whether those crimes have generally increased. I have the returns here, containing the various numbers of offences; and with regard to some of those offences, I will compare the returns which are before Parliament in reference to former years and to the last year. The number of homicides in 1832, before the introduction of what was called "the Coercion Act," was 242; in 1837, 230; in 1840, 125; in 1842 (two years after an Act similar to the present Act had expired), 106; in 1845, 139; being a decrease of more than 100 from 1832, and an increase of 33 from the year 1842. With regard to the offence of firing at the person—in 1832 there were 328; in 1837, 91; in 1842, 74; in 1845, 138. With regard to the crime of attacking houses—there were in 1832, 723; in 1837, 606; in 1840, 229; in 1842, 337; in 1845, 483. With regard to conspiracy to murder—there were in 1842 only 4, and in 1845, 8. Of assaults with intent to murder, there were in 1842 3, and 1845 only 2. I think, Sir, it is plain from these, and from similar accounts with regard to offences affecting the person—because I do not take the number of threatening notices, injuries to cattle, and various offences of the kind, to be the subject of the Bill before the House, but of homicides, attempts to murder, 503 and firing into dwellings—there has been obviously no very great increase in Ireland between 1842 and 1845. Then said the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and the argument has been repeated in this debate, although outrages and offences have not increased generally throughout Ireland—and, indeed, the First Minister of the Crown spoke with satisfaction of the general state of Ireland—yet with regard to the five counties named, crimes against the person have very greatly increased. But, Sir, an admission fell from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the First Minister of the Crown, upon this subject, which appears to me nearly conclusive as to the Bill of which he is the promoter. He stated the number of offences in Tipperary, Limerick, Clare, and Roscommon to have been 2,026 in 1845, and 3,013 in 1846; but that with regard to Leitrim the total number was 804 in 1845, and that in the five months of 1846 the whole number was 164. Is it that the criminals have become less audacious in that county? Let me observe that he goes on and makes a statement what the numbers would be for the year with regard to Tipperary, Limerick, Clare, and Roscommon; but with regard to the county of Leitrim he makes no such statement. Why, Sir, the numbers would be, instead of 804, only 396 for the whole year. What is the cause of this decrease? The right hon. Gentleman used these words:—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 improvement.I say here is an answer to the right hon. Gentleman's whole case. Are we so ill supplied with a military force that we would not at once accede to a proposition similar to that which I made in 1836 to the House, to grant an increase of military force to the four remaining counties? Is it not better to have an increase of military force? Is it not better to excite the vigilance of stipendiary magistrates and of the constabulary force, than to shut up the people in their own houses in these counties? Have you not yourselves shown that with regard to the county of Leitrim the ordinary powers of the law are sufficient? and do you ask me to grant extraordinary powers when your own case is, that you have yourselves exerted the 504 powers of the ordinary law, and in your hands they have been found sufficient? I say then, Sir, with regard to the ordinary law, let there be no want of exertion. If necessary, let those counties which require it be regularly patrolled. If the constabulary are not sufficient, have mounted patrols, as you had formerly in the neighbourhood of London, and take care that during the night the houses of the peasantry are not attacked or entered without the means of pursuing the offenders. Take every means of that kind. Employ the great and effective police force which you have in Ireland. Let no part of it be ineffective. Send more stipendiary magistrates there if it be necessary. Imitate your own example in England, and when you have found it with regard to one county in Ireland sufficient, do not ask for extraordinary powers. Then, Sir, the law as it at present exists gives very effective powers. I alluded, in speaking of this Act on its first introduction, to the powers given by the Whiteboy Act. I stated—and I beg pardon from the House for in any way repeating the argument, but it is necessary, in order to state the provisions of that Act—if you are obliged to have recourse to severe laws you should endeavour, as far as possible, to separate the guilty from the innocent—that the law by which you order every person to remain at home at night, by which you give to the constabulary the power of seizing every man against whom they said there were suspicious circumstances, when he was out at six o'clock on a winter's evening, or at ten at night in the summer, for the purpose of visiting a sick relation, or returning from a fair, or attending a funeral, was of itself a most harsh law; and that you ought to endeavour so to point your law, that it should be aimed only at the guilty. I stated that although you might not be able to convict persons at once of the crime of murder, yet that you might find certain indications of crime by which you might mark out the guilty, and which would hardly happen to be found together with innocence. Now, Sir, the Act which was formerly called the Black Act in England, and the Whiteboy Act in Ireland, does take those indications. The Whiteboy Act, as amended in 1775, punishes any person who—shall unlawfully compel, or by force or threats attempt to compel, any of Her Majesty's subjects to quit his habitation, farm, possession, or lawful employment, shall be guilty of felony, and suffer death.505 That has since been mitigated by the Act of 1st William IV.; but the offender is still liable to transportation. By fourth section it is enacted that any person who shall, before sunset or after sunrise—maliciously injure the habitation or goods of any person, or shall forcibly take away any gun or sword, or other offensive weapon, or money, or cause the same to be delivered by threats or menace, shall suffer death as a felon.This penalty has been repealed; but by the 1st Clause of this Act it is enacted, that—being arrested with any fire-arms, firelock' pistol, or any offensive weapon, or having his face or body disguised in any manner whatsoever, or wearing any particular badge, dress, or uniform not usually assumed by Her Majesty's subjects on their lawful occasions, shall use, assemble, or appear, by day or by night, to the terror of Her Majesty's subjects, guilty of a misdemeanour.Now I say, these are punishments which come within the scope of the existing law; and if you employ your police and magistrates, you can hardly fail to find any persons who shall be out at night for the purpose of attacking houses or committing murder; and with these indications alone you are able to punish them in the one case with fine or imprisonment; and if they shall actually attack any house, it is in your power to sentence them to transportation. But, Sir, I have inquired into the operation of this law. I have inquired from many persons who have been familiar with its operation; and I have asked them in what manner it is that the law, when it is in existence, when it has been proclaimed by the Lord Lieutenant, has been put in force in any county in Ireland. I was told that the manner usually was this—that the constables took up a great many persons whom they found out at night; that those persons were afterwards tried by the magistrates, and their excuse of a lawful occasion was generally not believed: these witnesses being members of their own family, were held insufficient to prove their innocence. If they were persons of good character, they were not considered guilty, and were dismissed; but if, on the contrary, they were thought to be those who were usually guilty of offences, and usually concerned in these outrages, then the sentence of imprisonment was pronounced against them. According to the present Bill, a man may be sentenced to transportation for such an offence; but to whom do you give the discretion of the law? In the cases I have mentioned there 506 is a certain offence, such as the wearing of a badge, the being armed, upon which the constable can rely. In this case, the offence is nothing but the exercise of a lawful right, which every subject of Her Majesty has, of traversing upon the high road at any time, by day or by night. Such is the offence. And then the persons who are the judges of it, be they magistrates, or, as in this instance, the judge and the jury, are to say what are suspicious circumstances; and if no lawful occasion is proved, the person is to be sentenced to transportation. I say, if by any exertion of the ordinary law you can refrain from using such an immense power as this, it is the duty of Parliament to refuse its consent to this Bill. But there are other considerations connected with this Bill, which I think very much demand the attention of this House. Whenever Bills of this kind have been brought before the House, it has been thought right to consider what are the grievances of Ireland, and to consider also in what manner those grievances might be the cause of many of the offences in Ireland. The noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in proposing this Bill, stated to the House that a great proportion of those offences were not agrarian, and not connected with land; but no one can have attended to the testimony that has been given before repeated Committees, and also to that before Lord Devon's late Commission, without seeing that the greater part of the outrages of this kind in Ireland are originally connected with the possession of land, and arise from the poverty and distress of the people in their competition for the possession of land. I might give instance after instance, from the best authorities upon Irish subjects, as to this fact. I will not give many, but I cannot refrain from reading two or three. In evidence before Lord Devon's Commission, at question 7,641, Mr. Barrington (for twenty-five years Crown Solicitor of the Munster Circuit) says—That there being no manufactures in the country, the actual existence of the peasantry depends upon their having land; there are twenty persons to offer for every farm. The whole disturbances of the country depend upon the desire to keep it.7,640—That it does not make a particle of difference whether the person put in is a Catholic or a Protestant; he is equally the object of their fury, and they would murder him equally.Major Warburton (for twenty-two years on 507 the establishment of the Irish constabulary) says—That there is great deal of misery in every shape among the poorer classes, whether they have land or not; that a poor man, turned out of his land without the means of maintaining his family, will endeavour to get it by crime if he cannot by other means; and that such a state of things must necessarily involve people in crime, when they are reduced to destitution by being turned out of their lands without having any means of subsistence.Colonel Shaw Kennedy (late Inspector General of the Irish constabulary) states—That the great groundwork of all Whiteboy offences is connected with land; that the increase of crime is attributable more to social than political causes. Political agitation and religious differences appear only to increase crime by affecting the social condition of the people. Whatever affects the tenancy of land will instantly affect crime.Mr. Barrington says—The general cause of outrages at all times in Ireland is anxiety to possess land; such has been the case since 1761. Whilst I have been Crown Solicitor (for twenty-five years) I could trace almost every outrage to some dispute about land.Mr. Tierney (Crown Solicitor of the Irish North-western Circuit for twelve years), says—That the prevailing cause of outrages is the letting and possession of land, and the dispossessing of the former tenants and occupiers.Mr. Hickman (for upwards of twenty years the Crown Solicitor of the Connaught Circuit), says—That in Roscommon, Leitrim, and Sligo, the outrages arise from the taking of land.Captain B. Warburton (stipendiary magistrate for fifteen years) states—That the murders and outrages that have lately happened in Galway have arisen from disputes about land, and that the principal and primary object of all associations among the peasantry is the taking and keeping of land.Mr. Tabiteau (a resident magistrate) states—That something about land is the cause of all murders in Ireland, and that ejectment is synonymous with reducing the cottier tenant to destitution and misery.Mr. Kemmis (Crown Solicitor for the Leinster Circuit, comprising Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny, and Tipperary) says—That on the Leinster Circuit outrages are mostly agrarian, committed neither on account of religion nor of politics.This, Sir, differs from the account given by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland; and it is evidence which I think this House can hardly neglect or deny. However ignorant many of us may be of the state of Ireland, we have here the best 508 evidence that can be procured, the evidence of persons best acquainted with that country—of magistrates for many years, of farmers, of those who have been employed by the Crown—and all tell you that the possession of land is that which makes the difference between existing and starving amongst the peasantry, and that therefore ejections out of their holdings are the cause of violence and crime in Ireland. In fact it is no other than the cause which the great master of human nature describes, when he makes a tempter suggest it as a reason to violate the law:—Famine is in thy cheeks,Need and oppression starveth in thine eyes,Upon thy back hangs ragged misery.The world is not thy friend nor the world's law;The world affords no law to make thee rich:Then be not poor, but break it.Such is the incentive which is given to the poor Irish peasant to break the law, which he considers deprives him of the means not of being rich, but of the means of obtaining a subsistence. On this ground I say, then, if you were right to introduce any measure to repress crime beyond the ordinary powers of the law, it would have been right at the same time to introduce other measures by which the means of subsistence might be increased, and by which the land, upon which alone the Irish peasant subsists, might be brought more within his reach, and other mode of occupation allowed to him more than he now possesses. I know, indeed, the noble Lord (the Earl of Lincoln) has introduced within the last two or three days measures upon a very complicated subject—the law of landlord and tenant; but I think those measures should have been introduced at the same time with the measure now before the House. How is it possible for this House, upon such a subject, to be able to tell, from the noble Lord's enunciation of them, whether upon such a delicate subject such measures are sufficient? Other Gentlemen have proposed other schemes. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope) thinks that the Poor Law in Ireland ought to be extended so as to include outdoor relief. He thinks it should furnish some relief to the people of Ireland from the extreme pressure of poverty. I confess I do not expect that such a law would relieve the miseries of Ireland. I am very much afraid that it would fix it in the place where it now exists, and that instead of a remedy it would tend to perpetuate it. That scheme, however, deserves consideration; and to any well-considered measure 509 of this kind, the House would be ready to pay every attention. There is another source of benefit, namely, the cultivation of the waste lands. On that subject I do not see the difficulties which beset the propositions with regard to the Poor Laws. It seems to me some great scheme with regard to the cultivation, preparation, and tillage of the waste lands would somewhat abate the severe competition for land, and diminish the causes of crime. I have already stated, that in giving my assent to the first reading of this Bill, I went through many of the objections I had to it. I stated that especially with regard to the clause which enables the Lord Lieutenant to shut up all persons within certain districts from sunset to sunrise, I should offer to it my most strenuous opposition, and that I should propose its omission. Upon considering the Bill, and going over its various clauses, I find that if that clause is taken out, there is nothing of value in the Bill. If it should, in fact, be so mutilated or destroyed, the Government would not think it worth their while to persevere in passing such an enactment. There were clauses in the Bill, as introduced in the other House of Parliament, whereby certain districts were made liable to fines and rates if outrages prevailed in those districts. There are provisions of a similar kind in the Whiteboy Act. Such provisions may deserve consideration; I think they should be considered, though not introduced into this Bill, where at present they do not exist, but into some other Bill, and then taken into due consideration. But if any clauses are so introduced, I think they should be very different, indeed, from those introduced into a Bill that was before the other House of Parliament. If you introduce the collection of small sums of money, and make all the poor occupiers in a district liable to rates for the purpose of enforcing compensation for those outrages, you will be likely to raise such a resistance as was raised to the collection of small sums for tithes; your enactment will not answer its purpose, and it is far better to have some general enactment than thus to compel the poorer occupiers, by means of military and police, to pay their 2d., 3d., or 4½d., on account of those outrages. Therefore, seeing that there is no essential part of the Bill to which I can give my consent, I think it is far better to offer my resistance to it on this stage than to reserve my objections to it for the next. Some persons say, most unreasonably I conceive, "If you have 510 such objections to it, why did not you object to the first reading?" If I had taken that objection to the first reading, and said that I should be compelled to vote against the Bill, it would have been said that it was a most violent opposition not even to allow a Bill to come into the House that had been adopted by the Government for the protection of life and property, and agreed to by the other House of Parliament, including many political friends of my own. I could not, therefore, offer opposition to the first reading; but at the same time I took care to signify objections which, as I then stated, went to the very foundation of the Bill, and thus prepared the Government for my refusal of support. After the Bill had been read a first time, on the very day of its being placed among the Orders of the Day, I stated at once that to the second reading I should give my opposition. I oppose it, then, on the ground that there does not appear to me, in the general state of crime in Ireland, sufficient grounds for passing a measure of extraordinary severity. Her Majesty's Government have themselves shown that, by exerting the ordinary powers of the law, the increase of crimes may be met and checked; that with respect to the provisions of this Bill, while they are harsh on the people in general, they do not point out the criminals, and thus involve the innocent in punishment; that it has not been accompanied, above all, with such measures of relief, of remedy, and conciliation, affecting the great mass of the people of Ireland, who are in distress, as ought to accompany any measure tending to increased rigour of the law. But, Sir, other grounds have been taken. It has been said by a noble Lord on a former night, and by an hon. Gentleman to-night, that they, having no confidence in the Government, cannot give their support to a Bill of an unconstitutional nature. Undoubtedly, that is a fair Parliamentary ground for opposing a Bill of this kind; but I confess that if I had thought this Bill calculated to meet the exigency of the case; if I had thought a necessity existed for this Bill, and that it was wisely devised for its purpose, I have no such want of confidence in the Government as would have led me to withhold a vote for it. With regard to the few districts in which crime has greatly increased, Her Majesty's Government have held out to us no expectation that this measure will be accompanied or followed by other measures. That 511 ground alone is sufficient why I should refuse my assent to this measure. That I have no political confidence in the Government is no novelty, because for several years I have been obliged to form my own independent opinions, without binding myself to any measures of theirs upon their sole authority. And, Sir, let me say, I am fully justified in that course by the measures which the Government have introduced. Those measures, both with respect to England and Ireland, are a testimony, not a testimony in words, but a practical testimony, that in former years, as far as their opinions go, they were mistaken, and we were right. Their case, in fact, so far as concerns the measures they have introduced during the present year, is that the existing state of the Corn Laws produces increased crime and increased mortality. It follows that the course they themselves pursued for some years was so far mistaken as to have produced that disastrous consequence. Now, I am imputing no wrong motives to them; I am not saying they were perfectly persuaded in former years that their course was a right one, nor that they are not persuaded in the present year that their altered course is for the benefit of the country; but I use this argument to show that I am not bound at least by their authority, and that where I have differed from them, where I have had the misfortune to ask them to propose other measures, which they have refused to introduce, they have afterwards, by their conduct, allowed that those who on this side of the House urged those measures, took the wiser view of the interests of the country. And I know not why, supposing them to carry this Bill, and our opposition to be unsuccessful, they may not, on some future occasion, tell us that the arguments in its favour did not preponderate — that, in fact, we were right in our opposition to it—and that measures of relief, of remedy, of conciliation, not measures of coercion, were those which were required by the state of Ireland. Now, I have said I impute no wrong motives to their conduct; and although I may be thought rash, and have been thought rash, in the measures which I have introduced, and the declarations I have made, yet I trust I have been usually cautious in this respect; and that when in some altercation of debate, where motives might be wrongfully imputed to me, I did not impute motives to those to whom I was opposed inconsistent 512 with a regard for their country. I feel in my own case, and the case of those who have acted with me, I have often heard motives imputed which I knew to be as wide as from here to Japan away from the actual motives which influenced myself and those with whom I acted; and therefore I should be unwilling to impute dishonourable motives to those who have now the government of the country. I think, if I must say what I have missed in the discussions that have taken place of late years in this House, compared with the discussions of former years, it is that while we were exposed for many years to every imputation against us—not, I must say, from the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown, because he dealt as fairly as any public man in those imputations of motives, and when he did make an unjustifiable accusation, I remember he was always ready speedily to retract it—but we were exposed to imputations both from his Colleagues and those who supported him in former years. With an altered course of policy there has not, I regret to observe, been a due alteration of the spirit which animated them. Sir, when we attempted, amidst the heats of a religious agitation, seeing the numbers of people in this country who were living and bringing up their children in miserable ignorance—when we attempted a scheme of improved education, we were slandered. A state of alienation existed between the people of this country and of Ireland; when we attempted to knit in bonds of affection the people of those two countries, and to show that we thought reliance ought to be placed upon Roman Catholic Irishmen as well as upon Protestants, we were slandered. When we attempted, on the ground that there was a greatly increased population in this country, to relax those protective laws that prevented the introduction of food into this country, we were slandered. Upon all these subjects Her Majesty's present Ministers have changed their course. The measures that we proposed with respect to education it is their boast that they have carried further. The principles that we professed to adopt towards Ireland they have adopted; and they have attempted, in the last and the present Session, to act upon these principles. With regard to the admission of food from foreign countries, they have gone far beyond what we proposed. Well, Sir, giving them every credit for the honourable motives upon which they have acted, thinking that their course is an im- 513 proved and a wiser course—now, when the great measure upon which we mainly supported them has quitted this House, I will more confidently say so—I did wish some expression of regret that honourable men, doing that which they thought was their duty to the country and to the people of these realms, should have so long been the object of slander and calumny, when they who embarked in those slanders and calumnies now admit we were in the right. Why, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Secretary for the Home Department—and I allude the more readily to him because he has not yet spoken in this debate—accused us, when we were going out, of being like pirates who set fire to the ship; and it now appears that, having got possession of the ship, they have lived upon the stores which we left. They have guided themselves by the charts which we have deposited in the cabin; they have steered by the compass which we placed on the deck. And having so done, I think it would have been hardly too much if they had on some occasion or other, on some night or other out of years of debate, expressed some regret that we had been made the subject of so much reproach for the course we thought ourselves bound to take—if they had considered that it was no light matter to be charged before the country, and with a very considerable impression resulting, as promoting measures that tended to set up a Popish Government in this country, instead of our ancient Constitution — as promoting measures that tended to rob and destroy the agricultural interest. For my own part, I have felt deeply, I will not deny, both the buoyancy and the success of those measures; and seeing measures founded on the same principles succeed in this House, and I trust succeed in Parliament, I think it would have been no more than justice to confess that we were not justly liable to those invectives for pursuing a course which, in effect, was only seeing what was required a little earlier than Her Majesty's Ministers. Why, the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Colquhoun), in alluding to me to-night, spoke of measures—I forget what his phrase was, not dangerous innovation, but some equivalent of that sort, which, he said, I was very apt to promote. Now I will tell that hon. Gentleman I think he is totally mistaken with respect to the character of the measures which tend to preserve all the 514 institutions of this country. I am of opinion, following the great light of Mr. Burke, that the safest and best course is to reform and to preserve. I believe that a denial of all reform does not lead to preservation; it only leads to a more heedless, a more rash, a more precipitate innovation. Why, the hon. Gentleman, perhaps, thought it very unwise and very rash in me to propose that the great boroughs of this country—Manchester, Leeds, and Birmingham—should have Members to serve in Parliament. But was that a rash innovation? Would it not have been been better to have admitted the great manufacturing districts of this country to representation in this House, when they had increased to such strength and importance as they had reached in 1830, without the necessity of measures of that kind being carried with Bristol exposed to plunder, and Nottingham Castle in flames? Would it not have been more conservative, to use a phrase which has been a favourite of late years, to have reformed in good time? And will it not, let me ask, be more conservative, instead of carrying further this Bill, to fix your sober and honest attention on the grievances of Ireland? There are grievances of all kinds, more or less conspicuous at different times; but those which I conceive at present to hold the most prominent place are the social grievances of Ireland. Would it not be worthy of you to consider whether, by some such plan as I have mentioned—by increasing the quantity of land accessible to cultivation in Ireland, and encouraging the tillage of the wastes—by securing at the same time the lives and properties of those who reside on the land—is it not worth while to consider whether you may not prevent in some future year a dreadful outbreak, when indeed you will hastily resort to measures of remedy and conciliation; but which measures will lose half their practical effect and almost all their moral effect? If this is the case, then, it is not always the most conservative course to resort only to measures of coercion, and to put by and delay measures of reform. Depend upon it that maxim of Burke is a sound one; and you cannot attend to it too closely, if you desire to preserve the institutions of the country. I wish as much as any man—no man more so—to preserve these institutions; but I know there are times when men look into the faults, and spy narrowly into the defects, of all those institutions; and I should wish betimes to clear them of 515 those defects, and to show that this Legislature is worthy to be trusted and honoured, and that we need no volunteer associations to point out to us what is the path of our duty. Depend on it your authority will be greater, reverence will be greater, and love will be increased. The noble Lord the Member for Lynn cannot vote for this measure, because he wants confidence in Her Majesty's Government. I understand there are Gentlemen—I have heard it, and seen it circulated in newspapers—whose confidence in the Government is so extreme that, although they disapprove this measure, although they think it will be ineffective—that its object is unnecessary and its provisions harsh—will yet refrain from opposing it on account of that overweening confidence which they have in the commercial policy adopted by Her Majesty's Ministers. Now let me put it to such Gentlemen, if such there be, how our case stands with respect to Ireland. There is a numerous body in Ireland—numerous even among her representatives—which says that no legislation of a United Parliament can devise fit remedies for Irish grievances, and that it is in a domestic Parliament alone that fit and wise legislation can be looked for. There are others, I fear, who, if I read rightly their sentiments, as expressed in a newspaper called the Nation, which has great circulation in Ireland, who go beyond that question of the legislative Union—who would wish, not merely to have such a Parliament as that which it was the boast of Grattan to found, and which legislated under the sceptre of the same Sovereign as the Parliament of Great Britain; but who defend the resort to every species of violence—who look to disturbance as the means, and regard separation from England as the end. You are legislating in the faith, you are legislating under the eye, of those parties if you pass this Bill; and you can say each of you who votes for it, or each of you who does not oppose it, that he considers it ought to be allowed to pass because it is for the benefit of Ireland, and that life cannot be secure in Ireland without it—that, in short, the case is completely made out for such provisions as these, and none others are required—why, at least, you are acquitted in your own consciences, and you can say to Ireland—"We have endeavoured to represent you, and we have legislated for you as if we had sat for Ireland, and we are considering our interests alone." But if you say 516 anything less than this—if you say we have no confidence in this measure, which we consider a bad and unconstitutional measure, but notwithstanding we allowed it to pass because there were other measures more especially relating to England, and for the benefit of England, which were going along with it, or had but a short time preceded it—look what an argument you give to the Repealers and those who are looking still further. They will say, "You miserable peasants, shut up from sunset to sunrise, obliged to keep within your miserable hovels; if you are found looking for a stray cow, or visiting an acquaintance who lives in a cottage a few yards from you, you are liable to transportation; but it is not for the security of the lives of the people among whom you live, but it is because English measures were passing through Parliament at the same time; and it is for the sake of those measures that these restrictions are inflicted upon you. Now, tell us, aye or no, is the Parliament of England and Scotland a fit Legislature for Ireland? Will you not seek for a domestic Legislature—will you not use your utmost efforts to obtain Repeal?" Why, what answer would there be to such an appeal but a unanimous shout, a unanimous effort of the people, and a declaration, "We have not justice, we are determined to obtain justice, and it is now proved to us it is not to be had of the Parliament of England." I say, let the House beware of supplying such an argument as that. If you wish to maintain the Union—if you wish to improve the Union, to make the Union a source of happiness, a source of increased rights, a source of blessing to Ireland as well as England, a source of increased strength to the United Empire, beware lest you in any way weaken the link which connects the two countries. Do not set so far apart the governor and the governed. Do not let the people of Ireland believe that you have no sympathy with their afflictions—no care for their wrongs; that you are intent only upon other measures in which they have no interest. I say, if you are persuaded that this measure is right, pass its second reading, and pass it through Committee; but if you are not so persuaded give no sanction to it; let it at once be rejected; because the loss of confidence which would follow from any belief that such was your conduct and such was your maxim—any such loss of confidence would not be temporary, it would not be 517 repaired in a year, or five years, or ten years, but it would be an irrevocable loss.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, if the noble Lord has keenly felt the unjust attacks of those who supplanted him in power, he has at least the consolation of receiving a noble revenge; and each time his pupils rise before the red box to whose authority they have succeeded, the noble Lord must, I am sure, feel that though he has not yet recognized on their part that spontaneous gratitude which his generous sympathies might alike claim and yield, yet he must be conscious that he is receiving from right hon. Gentlemen and from noble Lords ample compensation for the injustice which the nation now universally acknowledges that he has received at their hands. Sir, the noble Lord has treated this subject with an eloquence habitual to him whenever he touches upon the subject of Ireland, the case now before us. I for one do regret, and I do not refrain from expressing my regret, that the fate of a Ministry is supposed to depend, after all that has occurred this Session, upon an Irish question. This, however, I feel, not only that it was not owing to any of the Gentlemen who sit upon these benches that the circumstances which now engage us have occurred, but that we have shown ourselves upon the earliest occasion, and on the first opportunity, ready to discuss the question now before us; and I think I may say that whatever may have been the policy of the Government with respect to other questions, and however enraged and outraged may have been the feelings of many on this side of the House as to the general policy pursued by Her Majesty's Ministers, I feel I am justified in stating, that from the very first, and on the earliest opportunity, we evinced a desire not to treat in a party fashion the measure now before us. Sir, it is impossible for us to forget at the end of June the circumstances under which this measure is brought forward. This measure is an unconstitutional measure, as is now universally acknowledged; and this measure is an unconstitutional measure with respect to the country which, of all others, requires to be treated with consideration and delicacy. Then I may ask the House whether the manner in which the subject was brought under consideration in another place; whether the manner in which this measure was there brought forward, origin- 518 nally professing to be permanent, and immediately announced as temporary; whether the manner in which this temporary measure has been finally brought under our notice—recommended to us for that temporary character and for the exigencies of the circumstances which called for it, then studiously concealed from our notice till its existence was almost forgotten—entitle this measure to our confidence without a scrutiny; and whether these circumstances would not be at any time calculated to occasion suspicion? For my own part, I should be under any circumstances loath to join in passing a Coercion Bill for Ireland. If I saw such a Bill recommended by a majority of the Members for Ireland, on whatever side of the House they may sit, I should certainly come to its consideration with feelings very different to those with which I entertain this measure; which all the Irish Members opposite oppose as tyrannical; and which most of the Members for Ireland behind me denounce as futile. But, Sir, I cannot forget that this is not the first Coercion Bill which Ireland has been supposed to require, which we have passed, and which have been so ineffectual that there have been repeated appeals to us for novel powers. Although I am far from saying that peculiar circumstances in that country may not occur to require the exercise of extraordinary powers by the Legislature of the United Kingdom, still I think it cannot be denied that the time has arrived when it will be impossible to consider a Coercion Bill for Ireland apart from the general circumstances that disturb society in that country. If this be true, and if this position be, as I believe it is generally, if not universally recognized; if it be true as regards Ireland, as it is true as regards England, that we have been for years discussing questions of municipal authority and of political right, whilst the condition of the people has been neglected; if in Ireland, as in England, this sovereign subject has been postponed throughout our public discussions, I for one, am not prepared, under any circumstances, to support a Coercion Bill which shall stand isolated, and be taken into consideration without reference to the social state of Ireland generally; I ask the House, whether the general grounds which would have at an earlier date justified the opposition to this Bill, have not been further increased by the conduct of the Government in its prosecution? I will not trouble the House for a moment 519 with the memoranda which are at hand; but let me recall to the recollection of the House some remarkable facts. This Bill was recommended to Parliament on the 22nd of January; it was ordered to be printed on the 16th of March; it was read a first time on the 1st of May; and it was proposed to be read a second time on the 2nd of June. If this be the way they deal with a measure which has been described by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland as temporary, how would they attempt to pass measures which they intend to be eternal? Now, Sir, while the excuse of Government was the absolute necessity of passing their economical measures, I find that on May 5, the House adjourned at nine o'clock; on the 7th, at eleven; on the 21st, at half-past seven; on the 26th, at half-past seven; on the 28th, at a quarter to eight. These were not Government nights, but they were nights in which Government business is sometimes taken. But on five Government nights the House adjourned at an early hour. All this was before the first reading. When the House met again on Monday, April 20, there was no House. After the first reading of the Coercion Bill, on May 22, we had the Factories Bill, and not the economical measures. On the 25th, we had a Committee of Supply. On the 29th we had the Budget and Supply; and on June 5, the Poor Removal Law. Well, then, not admitting, which I cannot do, that the economical measures of the Government, however great and important they may be, are so important and so urgent as a measure for the protection of life, and which they described as temporary in its operation, I have shown that the House did not sit on ten days, and that it rose early on five days, in which measures might have been brought in for the protection of the life of Her Majesty's subjects. This is the last memorandum with which I shall trouble the House. On the 20th of April, that celebrated day on which there was no House, I find this among the Orders of the Day:—"Adjourned debate on the First Reading of the Protection of Life (Ireland) Bill, before the other Orders—Sir James Graham." The House was not made on that day, forty Members not being present when the Speaker took the Chair. On the 22nd April the House was occupied with the Friendly Societies Bill. On the 29th of May we had the financial statement; and on the 5th of June the Poor Removal Bill had precedence. It will be 520 admitted, I think, by every impartial person, that however wrong we may be in our impressions or suspicions, we have a primâ facie case for coming to the conclusion that there has not been an earnest, even if there has been a serious intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government in forwarding this Bill. Indeed, the papers just laid before the House, in this age of statistics might be called the statistics of shuffling. No reason has been adduced by Her Majesty's Ministers—no circumstances have existed during this Session which can account for this delay—which can account for the fact that in the month of June we are asked a second time only to read this Bill. Now, Sir, I do not intend to enter into the merits of the Bill itself. But though I have heard many eloquent and able speeches to prove that the state of Ireland is bad, that five counties are greatly disturbed—though Her Majesty's Ministers, and especially the Secretary for Ireland, have made elaborate calculations of the outrages committed, which may be all true; yet, Sir, one is reminded that to the majority of those outrages the Bill does not apply. At the same time, while the state of Ireland is dwelt upon, Her Majesty's Ministers hold out the hope that the state of society in Ireland is at this moment in a situation of great amelioratin. According to the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown, there is a deep feeling of gratitude in Ireland for the introduction of Indian meal into that country. I think the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland told us that this feeling pervaded the wilds of Connaught and the wilds of Munster, and that the distribution of Indian meal was not only attended with present beneficial results, but that it would have an important bearing on its social condition in future. The noble Lord hoped the Irish people would look back hereafter with gratitude to the feeling entertained towards them by a paternal Government. It is satisfactory to find that there are circumstances of so ameliorating and kindly a description at work; but in the very same newspaper which contained the noble Lord's speech—I speak of a great organ, the only one which is generally favourable to the measures of Her Majesty's Ministers, though I believe it is not personally favourable to Her Majesty's Ministers themselves—I mean The Times, on the very day in which the speech of the noble Lord appears on 521 the advantages of Indian meal in the wilds of Minister, I find this account of a mutiny in Limerick gaol:—The war against Indian meal has extended from the workhouse to the gaol of Limerick, and its introduction as an article of food had well nigh led to serious consequences. In pursuance of a resolution of the board of superintendence, sanctioned by the Court of Queen's Bench, the breakfast dietary of the prisoners has been changed from oatmeal to Indian meal stirabout. It was served out for the first time on Wednesday, when every prisoner, male and female, refused to use it. The number at present confined is 107, and, displeased at not having the former dietary to which they were accustomed, all refused to do the usual prison work, notwithstanding the remonstrance of the governor, Mr. Woodburne, and the Roman Catholic chaplain, the Rev. Mr. Bourke, whose advice they scoffed at. Shouting, yelling and whistling were heard in all the yards. On Thursday morning the prisoners evinced the same obstinate defiance, and would not work. The prisoners swore vengeance against those who introduced the new dietary, and said they would die to a man, sooner than use it.I need not trouble the House with all the details, but it is stated "that a terrific uproar prevailed." This, I believe, is by no means a solitary case; and when the Coercion Bill is opposed, and we are told, as an argument by which we ought to accept it, that though the Government are going to rule five counties by coercion, they are going to do what will create a deep feeling of gratitude in the wilds of Munster, it is, I think, necessary we should inquire whether there is any better foundation for this report than for the famine in Ireland. Sir, the First Minister told us there was great inconsistency on the part of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, inasmuch as he voted for the first reading of this Bill, and opposed its second reading. Now the reason which the noble Lord gave for this change in his vote—that he had no confidence in Her Majesty's Government—must be sufficient, one would think, to stop all argument, and to put an end to all discussion on this head. But I am not willing that this particular instance of conduct on the part of the noble Lord and those who vote with him should be misunderstood, or that we should be supposed to be influenced merely by that feeling of want of confidence in Her Majesty's Government which is practically avowed by many of us. I say that never has an individual acted towards a Government with more fairness, or given them more exact notice of the course he intended to pursue, with respect to this measure, than the noble Lord. It is three months 522 ago since the First Minister applied to the noble Lord, through the Secretary of the Treasury, to know what he intended to do with regard to this measure. I need not refer more particularly to this subject, because a minute was drawn up by the noble Lord which has been read to the House in order that there should be no misconception on the subject. I say that that minute has been observed not only to the letter, but in the spirit. I cannot therefore admit that any argument against the consistency of the noble Lord can be maintained by this allegation of his conduct with respect to this Bill. It is unnecessary to dwell upon it, because the facts are open, are known, are precisely laid down; and no impartial person can read that document, whatever they may think of the policy of the noble Lord, and deny that the noble Lord has fulfilled his engagement, not only in a just but a generous and complete spirit. Sir, I am not disposed to admit that that other allegation brought against the consistency of the noble Lord by the right hon. Gentleman in respect to his vote on the Factories Bill was better founded. Two years ago, Her Majesty's Government, of which the noble Lord was not only a constant, but, as it has been admitted, a firm and disinterested supporter, brought forward a Bill to restrict and regulate labour in factories; and the noble Lord not only supported the Government, but his vote proved that he was favourable to the restriction of labour in factories. There was an Amendment made to the Bill to restrict labour in factories further, and the noble Lord voted for the original Motion of restriction; but that did not preclude the noble Lord or any hon. Gentleman, when two years had elapsed, when it was found that the restriction of labour did not produce the injurious effects that were contemplated, from not taking the same course, following the same career; and when an hon. Gentleman opposite, most conversant with the subject, himself a master manufacturer, brought forward a measure to still further restrict labour in factories, was there anything inconsistent in the noble Lord voting for that measure? And, yet this is called by Her Majesty's Government, "inconsistency." This is the public conduct which is adduced as a parallel to the conduct pursued by Her Majesty's Government, upon a great public question, this Session. The right hon. Gentleman says—"I have changed my opinion: I 523 have changed my policy. But are you the person to blame me? Are you the person to have no confidence in me—you, who changed your opinion on the Coercion Bill, who voted for the first reading, and mean to oppose the second reading—you who voted against the restriction of labour two years ago, and with infamous inconsistency, not a year ago voted for a still further restriction?" It is an hallucination on the part of Her Majesty's Ministers to suppose that they can justify their conduct in the measures they have brought forward this year by allegations of such inconsistency in individuals, even if such allegations were justified. The noble Lord, even if he had changed his opinions on the Coercion Bill, and even if he had changed his opinion on the Factories Bill, has violated no confidence — he has betrayed no trust; and it cannot be said of the noble Lord that he got into Parliament by pretending to have different opinions on the Factories Bill than those he holds now. It cannot be said of the noble Lord that he with practised duplicity supplanted a candidate on the hustings by promising to vote for the very measure he knew he was coming to Parliament to oppose. It is not that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have changed their opinions on a question of great public policy—that is open to all men—but what we say of the right hon. Gentleman is, that he got into power by professing opinions contrary to those which he now upholds; and that he turned the noble Lord opposite and his friends out of power because they were about to practise the policy which he now pursues. And we do not bring forward this merely or principally as a moral imputation against the right hon. Gentleman; we are perfectly ready that he and his Colleagues should settle the question of moral conduct with their conscience, as they have to settle, and may have to settle, many things; but what we say is this, "You are injuring us, you are injuring Gentlemen opposite, and the country, because in the course you are pursuing you are striking at the root of the Parliamentary Constitution of England." We say this, that opposition founded upon definite principles is as much part of the English Constitution as King, Lords, and Commons; that a powerful Government may be a great thing and a very advantageous thing for a nation, but that a powerful Opposition is as necessary to the good 524 government of this country, to the maintenance of our liberties, and the elucidation of great principles of policy, as a Government however strong, however eminent the talents of the individuals who form it, or however distinguished or adroit in Parliamentary debate. This is the charge we have always brought against Her Majesty's Ministers. It has nothing to do with the disappointment, however just, of a few individuals, or of any party in this House; but it is the cause of the great body of the nation, who are interested in the intelligible position of public men, and who feel that it is for the welfare of this nation that that green table should divide different opinions as well as different individuals. We are not to be met, we who make this charge, by telling us that we changed our opinions about the second reading of the Coercion Bill, or the Factories Bill. The quarrel is great, it is a national quarrel, not an individual one. It is not a miserable squabble between individual Members of Parliament, and we are not to be answered by a Secretary of State or the First Minister going to that red box and telling us, "Do not remind us of the past. It is very true that we entered this Parliament merely as private Members, and that our representations and your confidence made us Ministers of State. It is very true that we have acted exactly contrary as we promised. But all this is forgotten."Sed tu oblitus esAt Dî meminerint, meminit fides fides.And I tell the right hon. Gentleman and his friends, though they may have forgotten all this, the violated principles of political morality have not forgotten it: it is remembered by the outraged faith of England. Now, I will give an instance from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the other night of the system—no not the system, but the conspiracy—carrying on against the Parliament of England—against the frank and honourable manner of governing England by decided principles of policy. I take the words of the right hon. Gentleman upon a most important and interesting subject, and if he can satisfactorily explain, then I shall not only be satisfied, but surprised. I am speaking of the right hon. Gentleman's conduct at the commencement of this year, when he was vindicating it with the highflying tone which late at night he knows how to assume. He said—"I had to choose between organizing a decided and interminable opposition to all change 525 with respect to the Corn Laws, and undertaking—if the noble Lord felt himself unable to undertake it—the foundation of final legislation on the subject." Now, nothing could be more constitutional, nothing more Parliamentary, than this position of the right hon. Gentleman in his speech of Friday night. He was either to stick to his principles, or, if he thought they were wrong, he was to give the noble Lord permission to carry his own principles into action; and if the noble Lord had not the power to do that, then the right hon. Gentleman, in a most constitutional manner, said, "I had a right to change my opinions if I thought necessary; and, if the State required it then, I was prepared to carry those principles into effect." Now I want to know, if this be an exact description of the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman; if he felt it was his duty utterly to oppose all change, or to give permission, according to the genius of our Constitution, to the noble Lord to carry those principles into action, how was it that the right hon. Gentleman, a week before he gave this opportunity to the noble Lord, attempted to induce his own Cabinet to carry those principles into effect? I want this answered. I asked the question before, and the right hon. Gentleman called it "bandying personalities." But, a few weeks after, he who never forgets the necessity of a Parliamentary explanation in the long run, informed us that he was going to explain the whole circumstances. I listened with profound attention. It happened, by chance, that I sat nearly opposite the right hon. Gentleman. I am certain that no words which fell from his lips escaped my ears; and this I know, that he spoke on the subject for nearly an hour, and his statements were infinitely interesting. Twice he told us that he was going to explain all, and finally he dazzled the eyes and ears of the House by reading them a secret and confidential State Paper; but the slightest approximation to a specific explanation of the great fact—that the right hon. Gentleman never gave; he has never given it; and that we wait for. But why do I remind the House and the country of this mysterious and inexplicable passage in the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman now? It is, that he finished his speech on Friday night last by saying—If it is asserted that I wished to interfere in the settlement of this question by the noble Lord opposite, that is the foulest calumny which the 526 vindictive imagination of a political opponent ever dictated.The vindictive imagination of a political opponent dictate this calumny! Why, I find it in the reports of the debates in this House, I find it in the minutes of his own Parliamentary explanations; and he who described that imputation as the foulest calumny of a vindictive imagination, was describing the conduct which he had himself confessed. I have made these observations on what I will venture to call the attack the right hon. Gentleman has made on the noble Lord near me as to his political consistency. As far as his political consistency is concerned, my noble Friend is ready to pit his against that of the right hon. Gentleman. But I cannot for a moment admit that the great controversy which is going on before the House and the country, which touches the very foundation and genius of our Parliamentary Constitution, is to be degraded to a personal quarrel. That is the point which I put to the House, and which I leave to their grave and honest consideration. But then the right hon. Gentleman, determined, I suppose, to put an end to the ambitious career of my noble Friend, felt it necessary to make another attack on him. I wish to be quite exact, and I will quote the right hon. Gentleman's own words. He said—That the noble Lord had assumed, for the first time, a license in debate, a license that was injurious to the cause of legitimate debate.And the right hon. the Secretary at War also admonished the noble Lord on the previous night, and reminded us in tones of indignation, that—We had been addressed in language never before used in Parliament, and which he hoped would never be made use of again.It seems the language of the noble Lord was too strong. It was not Parliamentary. And, above all, my noble Friend's describing Gentlemen in office as janisaries, appears to have excited, as it does now, the indignation of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Sir, I observed on that occasion, notwithstanding the indignation of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that you did not think fit to interpose; and, Sir, When I remember the language that has been used in this House by men of great light and leading, by the greatest statesmen and orators that England has ever produced, I am not at all surprised that you did not interpose. And, Sir, I only regret that those who I suppose are the new generation to which 527 the right hon. Gentleman referred, appear not to have that acquaintance with the Parliamentary history of their country which it is the duty of a Member of Parliament to have. Now, I will not trouble the House with a long or even a familiar extract: I am going to read a short passage from a speech of one who may fairly be described as the greatest Parliamentary orator that ever existed in this country; and I do so out of respect to the noble Lord the Member for London, who is an admirer, and, in some degree, the successor of that distinguished man. Sir, when I heard the language of my noble Friend, who spoke without any previous communication with me—[a laugh]—I mean, of course, as to any particular expressions he used. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to have found some mare's nest. I hope they will find it amusing. But I think they will find that they have no cause to laugh.—Sir, there is on record a speech of Mr. Fox—the greatest he ever made—from which I would quote a very short passage. I think it may not be unprofitable for me to read it to the House, for these are mealy-mouthed times, and it is well for us to know, how in the great days of Parliamentary struggle—in the days when there were giants—Ministers and the opponents of Ministers expressed themselves in Parliament. It is from a speech of Mr. Fox that I am about to quote. It seems that Mr. Pitt had spoken in the debate, but his speech is not reported. In a note, however, it is stated that he had reproached Ministers with basely clinging to their offices. What answer did Mr. Fox give to the charge? He said—And once for all, let no man complain of strong language. Things have now arrived at such a crisis as renders it impossible to speak without warmth. Delicacy and reserve are criminal where the interests of England are at hazard.This, Sir, was the language used by Mr. Fox, then leader of the House of Commons, and virtually Prime Minister. He went on to add—The various points in dispute are such as strike to the heart, and it were unmanly and pusillanimous to wrap up in smooth and deceitful colours objects which, in their nature and consequences, are calculated to fill us with a mixture of indignation and horror.[Mr. S. WORTLEY: Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman, the Judge Advocate, it seems, is not satisfied. I am reading the whole of the passage, because I did not wish to give what might appear to be a garbled extract. The passage I more par- 528 ticularly refer to is this: Mr. Fox continued—But for God's sake strangle us not in the very moment when we look for success and triumph by an infamous string of bedchamber janisaries.And the rest of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was couched in language almost equally strong. I remember a similar passage in a speech of another great statesman, Mr. Grenville, in which he spoke of his being "opposed by persons in office, who were sent, like janisaries, to strangle or despatch his Bills." Why, Sir, I want to know what language my noble Friend used was worse than this? I will not read another passage which I have, because I have given the key which I have no doubt many Gentlemen will follow up. But one short passage I may give from a speech of Mr. Fox. He said, speaking of his opponents—The whole compass of language did not afford words sufficiently strong to mark the contempt he entertained for their conduct — their impudent avowal of political profligacy, as if that species of treachery were less infamous than any other. It was not only a degradation of a station which ought to be occupied only by the highest and most exemplary honour, but they forfeited by it all claim to the character of gentlemen, and were reduced to a level with the meanest and basest of the species.And yet the Secretary at War gets up and tells us that we use language that was never used in Parliament before, and which he hopes will never be used again. Is it come to this, that we are to be lectured by the Secretary at War? I recommend him to get the speeches of Mr. Fox, and to study them day and night; his nervous and masculine eloquence will not suffer by the perusal. I now approach a subject, to which I cannot allude without unaffected pain. [Laughter.] Sir, there may be some who will treat with derision the memory of a great man; but, I confess, whatever may be my feelings on the conduct of any individual, if he have been a distinguished citizen of this country, particularly if he has been an illustrious Member of this Senate, and particularly if he has left us for ever, I would not receive an allusion to his memory with the miserable sneer which I heard just now. Soon after the noble Lord, the other night, had used language which, although strictly parliamentary, because justified by the greatest authorities, appeared to have astonished the First Minister, and astounded the Secretary at War, he made other allusions which touched some secret sore. 529 The noble Lord the Member for Lynn, I say it in his presence, for I know he is superior to any petty offence on the subject—the noble Lord, if he has one characteristic stronger than another, it is his total absence of affectation and pretence. The noble Lord never comes here but he always tells us that he does so most unwillingly, and that he has been pressed against his will into the position he now occupies. He always tells us, "I am no ripe scholar, I am not a practised statesman, I am not an orator; cannot you get some one else to lead you than me? I was bred a soldier; I never aspired to more than the reputation of a high-spirited and honourable English gentleman." I must say it not in his praise; for, I think, with his great abilities and his high station, it is a deficiency in such a man; but the fact is, that he is not ambitious. Any one who knows him intimately, knows that the idea—and it is a legitimate idea—of his rising in the State is foreign to his nature, and never entered his mind. The noble Lord says it was once his happiness, and it is still his pride, to have filled the humblest situation of a political career near to a great Minister; and from that period he has not sought nor wished to occupy any office, however exalted; and even the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) has admitted, that the noble Lord was his constant but pure and disinterested supporter. The noble Lord may have expressed himself with unusual warmth and vigour. I am not sure, however, but the racy vigour of his brave honesty is not worth all that pompous plausibility, and all that solemn adroitness—all that "damnable iteration' of stale sophistry and frigid commonplace which are now held to constitute modern eloquence, the noble Lord, speaking with earnestness, and remembering his early position, the only position in public life which he ever aspired to, the humblest position which a political career can offer, near a great Minister, and one to whom he was bound by the dearest and nearest ties—the noble Lord stated that the right hon. Gentleman had hunted to death Mr. Canning—the noble Lord stated, that in the year 1829 the right hon. Gentleman had admitted, or rather announced, that in the year 1825 he had informed Lord Liverpool that what was called the Catholic question must be settled—that it was no longer possible to resist those claims—and that, if they 530 could be settled by his leaving office, he was prepared to make the sacrifice. The noble Lord, remembering the right hon. Gentleman's conduct in 1827 to Mr. Canning—remembering the effect which that conduct had on the career—probably on the life of Mr. Canning—the noble Lord taking the position laid down by the right hon. Gentleman himself, that it was base in a Minister to conceal a change of opinion, asked him how it was that when in 1825 he changed his opinion on the Catholic question, in the year 1827 he rose in that House and made an explanation with respect to the causes of his severance from Mr. Canning, which he never would forget. The right hon. Gentleman made an answer which I need not recapitulate, but which I recapitulate only from a desire not to be unfair towards the right hon. Gentleman, because it will be in fresh in the recollection of every one who listened to it. The right hon. Gentleman said that in the year 1829—not, of course, denying the communication with Lord Liverpool—when he announced that communication to the House of Commons, he announced nothing more than he had explained in 1827 in the presence of Mr. Canning himself. Now, it is a remarkable circumstance that the right hon. Gentleman did not read this speech. He read the speech which he had made in 1827, in presence of Mr. Canning; bnt the House will recollect that he never read the speech which the noble Lord alleged contained the great admission, and which was the only question before the House. The right hon. Gentleman referred to that speech, but never read it. I thought it due, however, to the right hon. Gentleman to read it, and the following is a passage from that speech, as I find it reported in Hansard:—So far as my own course in this question is concerned, it is the same with that which suggested itself to my mind in 1825, when I was His Majesty's Principal Minister for the Home Department, and found myself in a minority of this House upon this question. When I then saw the numbers arrayed against me, I felt that my position as a Minister was untenable. The moment, Sir, that I, the Minister responsible for the government of Ireland, found that I was left in a minority on the question, which was of paramount interest and importance to that country, that moment I sought to be relieved from the duties and responsibility of office. I stated to the Earl of Liverpool, who was then at the head of the Administration, that in consequence of the decision given against me in this House, it was my anxious wish to be relieved from office.Now, Sir, I am ready to admit that that perfectly bears out what the right hon. 531 Gentleman said the other night; he did not say anything, according to this report, which he did not say in 1827 in the presence of Mr. Canning; but that certainly contradicts all that many gentlemen who were connected with Mr. Canning, and who were Members of this House at the time I believe. That speech, remember, was made in 1829. Now, Sir, I make no charge against the right hon. Gentleman; but I say that the speech I have read from is a garbled, a mutilated, or, to adopt the language of this House, a corrected report of the right hon. Gentleman's speech; and that it omits, and entirely omits, that important statement which is the great question to-night. That I will proceed to prove. It so happens that in those days there were two reports of what was said in this House; for there was then not merely Hansard, the speeches in which are generally corrected by hon. Gentlemen themselves, but there was also the Mirror of Parliament, the speeches in which were taken in shorthand, verbatim by the most able shorthand writers, most of them being men of education and intelligence, and at that time the speeches were published every three days. Now, Sir, I call the attention of the House to what it appears from the Mirror of Parliament, the right hon. Gentleman really said in that famous speech of 1829:—So far as I am personally concerned, I beg to say, my own course is the same as that which suggested itself to my mind in 1825, when I was His Majesty's Principal Minister for the Home Department, and found myself in a minority upon the Catholic question in this House. I felt that, looking at the numbers arrayed against me, my position as a Minister was untenable. The moment that I found that I was in a minority on that question, I felt that it was no longer advisable that I should continue to be charged with the responsibility of Irish affairs. I stated to the Earl of Liverpool, who was then at the head of the Administration, that in consequence of the decision against me by the voices of the representatives of that country, the time was come when something respecting the Catholics ought, in my opinion, to be done, or that I should be relieved from the duties of the office I held, as it was my anxious wish to be.The words left out in the report of Hansard are these:—I stated to the Earl of Liverpool, that in consequence of the decision against me by the voices of the representatives of Ireland, something respecting the Catholics, ought, in my opinion, to be done.But this, Sir, is only the commencement of my proof. Hon. Gentlemen may understand that though you may alter your 532 own speech for Hansard, you cannot alter the answer to it. There may be two versions of a speech—the speech for the House, and the speech for posterity. An hon. Gentleman, who was then the head of a party that had also been betrayed, the head of the Protestant party in this House, and who had since been a Member of Her Majesty's Government, in answer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, as it appeared in the Mirror of Parliament, though not in Hansard, used this language:—If at that period the policy of conceding the Catholic question were clear to the right hon. Gentleman, I say that in justice to himself, in justice to his Friends, in justice to the country, in justice to Mr. Canning himself, who has always been the able, powerful, and consistent advocate of the Catholics, he ought not to have concealed it. If, as he now says, he had discovered in 1825 the necessity of passing this question, I ask why he did not say so in 1827, and give his support to Mr. Canning then, when the supposed difference between him and Mr. Canning obtained for him the support of many hon. Gentlemen who differed with him only on that, which I confess was the case with me?Sir, that was a memorable speech. It was the speech in which Sir E. Knatchbull used the phrase nusquam tuta fides. It appealed to the feelings of the House, who were carried away by the expressions of the speaker. The right hon. Gentleman was obliged to get up and notice it; but he did not notice that passage; he never denied that he had proposed to Lord Liverpool, in 1825, that something should be done respecting the Catholics, though Sir Edward Knatchbull had repeated that statement. No, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman admitted his guilt, if guilt it were; and it is only in 1846 that he vindicates himself by referring to a different speech, and quotes a report which I have proved is not a correct one. Now, Sir, I have a right to speak of that report of the speech I have read from in Hansard, as being corrected by authority, for I find a note—and every one knows how seldom one finds notes in Hansard—on the 5th of March, 1829, appended to the beginning of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, in these words, "Inserted with the permission and approbation of Mr. Secretary Peel." Now, I have been informed that the report I have quoted from the Mirror of Parliament was made by Mr. Barrow, one of the finest shorthand writers in the country, and a man of education and intelligence. But after all, it is Sir E. Knatchbull's speech that proves the truth of the matter, and would prevent any 533 imputation being substantiated against Mr. Barrow's accuracy, if there was any made. But not satisfied even with this, I thought it discreet to refer to the report of the most eminent newspaper of the time—The Times of the 6th of March 1829, and there the right hon. Gentleman was reported thus:—He stated to Lord Liverpool, then at the head of His Majesty's Government that in his opinion the time had come when something respecting the Catholics ought to be done, and that he must be relieved from the duties of his office.Therefore, Sir, it appears also by this report that, in 1825, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the time had come when something respecting the Catholics ought to be done. After this, I think it is unnecessary to offer any more evidence; I have accomplished the vindication of my noble Friend, who had not the power of speaking again in this debate. My noble Friend told me that there were no means by which he could have the power of speaking again; though I had hoped means might have been found; and therefore I felt it my duty to undertake his defence. I have not rested this case on the authority of anonymous publications, though they are anonymous publications, as the Quarterly Review, or the Edinburgh Review, which I hold in my hand, which are no mean authorities; for the articles in them are frequently written by men high in the Legislature, and cognizant of all that is done and all that is said by public men. I believe there is many a Cabinet Minister on both sides of the House at this moment that has written articles in those reviews; and there have been several contributors to them who have been Prime Ministers, as, for instance, Mr. Canning himself. Now, in the Edinburgh Review, of April, 1829, in an article on the state of parties, written, I believe, by a man who was not to be misled with respect to transactions in which he had himself taken a great part, this is the language used. In the former part of the article he gave a character of the right hon. Gentleman, which I omit, as it is not very favourable to the right hon. Gentleman, and it is therefore unnecessary to bring it forward on the present occasion:—Sir R. Peel at that time told Mr. Canning, in the House of Commons, that his unlooked-for opposition to Mr. Canning was grounded on a difference of opinion on the Catholic qaestion; yet at that very time he had in his writing-desk a letter in which two years before he had told Lord Liverpool that, in his opinion, the Catholic claims ought 534 to be granted, and proposing that he should retire from office in the mean time.It is true that is an anonymous publication; but then it is widely circulated: the passage was read in society, and it never received any contradiction. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has said that there was no misconception between him and Mr. Canning; that in 1827, when he made that explanation, Mr. Canning immediately responded in terms which did not look as if Mr. Canning thought the right hon. Baronet would hunt him to death. We are all aware of what Mr. Canning said on that occasion. He offered some Parliamentary compliments to the right hon. Gentleman; he acknowledged the candour and sincerity of the right hon. Gentleman. We must all acknowledge that such is his character. That was on the 21st of May. This is the character to which the right hon. Gentleman is always referring. Why, before forty-eight hours were over, Mr. Canning had expressed his real opinion of the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman. The opposition commenced in a manner which outraged all decency. A party of Gentlemen—I will not inquire what great house they were dining at, though I have been told—came down to this House, the right hon. Gentleman among them; the debate was the shipping interest; a late Colleague of the right hon. Gentleman rose and delivered himself of a speech which, if that Gentleman were a Parliamentary authority at all, I should quote as exceeding in virulence anything which might be to the taste even of Mr. Fox. And the third day after the right hon. Gentleman received his character for candour and sincerity, the right hon. Gentleman rose and delivered one of the most violent opposition speeches ever heard in Parliament. What did Mr. Canning say then?—I rejoice," said Mr. Canning, "I rejoice, Sir, however, that the standard of opposition is at length unfurled in this House. Such an act is, to me, worth a thousand professions of qualified neutrality. In whatever mind the feeling of opposition lurks, let it come boldly forth, and boldly will I meet it. I never have shrunk—I never will shrink—from explanation or defence, whether the charge preferred against me be conveyed in the avowed hostility of the open and manly foe, or in the not less dangerous insinuation of the disavowed opponent."Now," said the right hon. Gentleman, "I did not hunt him to death." I am not going to enter any details for the purpose of determining whether the right hon. Gentleman did hunt Mr. Canning to death. That is a poetical phrase; that is metaphorical 535 language; and it only expresses the feeling entertained by the friends and relatives of Mr. Canning. If I were to enter on such matter, I must go into secret councils—into private correspondence. I must speak of newspapers set up to hunt the noble victim—newspapers supported by men who were members of Mr. Canning's Government. I must go into details on which I will not enter. What I have met to-night is the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman to meet his reply addressed to the new generation of Members, not on the spur of the moment, with an imperfect hold of details which occurred nineteen years ago; but after he had taken one, two, three, even four days, to get up his case. He came with these extracts, which I have proved to be garbled. He came with a suppressio veri unprecedented in the debates of this House. I have brought you a version to the letter. I have brought you evidence—unintentional evidence — which confirms that version. I have placed before the House in its true light that great passage, in its history that memorable avowal. It is nineteen years ago since it occurred, and posterity has decided upon it. "But," said the right hon. Gentleman to the noble Lord, "if such has been my conduct, how can you justify your conduct in calling me your right hon. Friend?" Is it necessary to notice such a charge. I recollect when the right hon. Gentleman was at the head of that great Pharisaical confederacy called the "Conservative Opposition," the right hon. Gentleman had more than 300 hon. Friends, many of whom he did not know by name, and many whose appearance if he had to identify them he could not recollect. "But," says the right hon. Gentleman, "why elect me for your leader?" It has sometimes been my lot to notice in this House the extraordinary tone of the right hon. Gentleman, who speaks as if he were entitled to be sole Minister of England. He comes to this House and says, "I am about to make an exposition of my policy." But I must tell the right hon. Gentleman, that when a party is formed, it is not a single individual who gives it shape. I was but a very humble Member of that party; but when I joined the Conservative Opposition, I followed an eminent personage to whom I was warmly and personally attached. My noble Friend was attached both in public and in private life to Lord Stanley? Far from acknowledging the right hon. Gentleman as his leader, my noble Friend's name will be found in 536 the list of those who voted against him, and turned him out of the Government. When Lord Stanley felt it his duty to cross the House, my noble Friend followed his Friend Lord Stanley—his personal and private Friend, as well as political leader. Under such circumstances, can you be held to have become the personal follower of an individual with whom you have no official connexion, and with whom, during nineteen years, you have had no private intimacy? I may venture to say that my noble Friend has had less personal intimacy than any other Gentleman of the party with the right hon. Gentleman. Yet now the right hon. Gentleman says, "You are barred from taking such a course, because, though you were probably never under my roof, and never accepted a favour from me, you still were pleased in Parliamentary parlance to call me your right hon. Friend." Sir, I think I have answered the elaborate attack of the right hon. Gentleman on the noble Lord—his attack on my noble Friend's consistency, his attack on his Parliamentary language, his attack upon the imputation my noble Friend made upon him as to the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman to Mr. Canning. But I trust I have done more than vindicate my noble Friend. I trust I have put in its true and intelligible light that mysterious passage which has so long perplexed the politicians of Europe, and which the right hon. Gentleman on Friday night so elaborately explained for the benefit of the rising generation. I am not surprised, that, closely connected with Mr. Canning as he was, my noble Friend should have expressed himself as he did. The feeling to which he gave utterance is shared by all who have had intercourse with Mr. Canning. I never saw Mr. Canning but once, when I had no expectation of ever being a Member of this House, but I can recollect it but as yesterday when I listened to almost the last accents—I may say the dying words—of that great man. I can recall the lightning flash of that eye, and the tumult of that ethereal brow; still lingers in my ear the melody of that voice. But, Sir, when shall we see another Mr. Canning—a man who ruled this House as a man rules a high-bred steed, as Alexander ruled Bucephalus—[a laugh]—of whom it was said that the horse and the rider were equally proud. I thank that hon. Gentleman for his laugh. I know that times are changed—the pulse of the national heart does not beat as high as 537 once it did. The tone and temper of this House are not as elevated and brave as in the days of Mr. Canning; nor am I surprised, when the vulture rules where once the eagle reigned. The right hon. Gentleman once said that Ireland was his great difficulty. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, why Ireland was his great difficulty, and whether, if he had acted with frankness to Mr. Canning in reference to his communication with Lord Liverpool in 1825, Ireland would have been his great difficulty? This the right hon. Gentleman must feel at the present moment, when we are about again to divide on an Irish question—a division which may be fatal to the continuance of his power. It is Nemesis that inspires this debate, and dictates this division, and seals with the stigma of Parliamentary reprobation the catastrophe of a sinister career.
§ SIR R. PEEL
I am aware, Sir, that the forms and usages of the House preclude me from making any reply to the hon. Gentleman; but still, in a matter purely personal, I dare say the House will do that which it has almost uniformly done, wave a rigid adherence to established usage, for the purpose not of enabling me to make a reply, but rather of desiring Gentlemen, in justice, to suspend their judgment till an opportunity for reply comes. The whole of this question turns upon this single fact—did I, or did I not, in 1825, state to Lord Liverpool that my opinion on the Catholic question was changed, and that a settlement should be made? The whole, I repeat, turns upon that fact. Well, then, I publicly assert, that the report of my speech of the 5th of March, 1829, is a correct statement of the truth; that I said to Lord Liverpool, in 1825, that my position as Secretary of State for the Home Department, the only one of the Government opposing the Catholic claims, yet responsible for the administration of Ireland, and seeing my Colleagues in constant concert with my opponents, made my position, being alone in that House, so intolerable, that I asked to resign my situation in the Ministry. In the course of the night I stated that, retaining my opinions, I was anxious to tender my resignation, but was prevented by Lord Liverpool, who induced me to remain. In 1825, I opposed the Roman Catholic claims. In 1825, Lord Liverpool made the strongest speech he had perhaps made on that subject; and I beg also to refer to what I said on the same subject, as utterly inconsistent with my having 538 given my advice to Lord Liverpool to settle the Catholic question, or even with having an opinion in my heart that those claims should be settled. In 1827, I offered opposition still to the Catholic claims; and in 1828, I continued the same opposition. I found in 1828, that my position resembled that in which I was placed in 1825; and I said I could no longer continue responsible for the administration of affairs in Ireland. When the circumstances of 1829 took place, I then said, for the first time, to my noble Friend then at the head of the Government, not only that I must relinquish my position in the House of Commons, which had overruled my views, but that my opinion was, that the time had now come when the question should be decided, and that in a private capacity I should do all I could to facilitate the settlement of the question. As to the Edinburgh Review, why, there has been a lapse of seventeen or eighteen years since that article was published. But here let me say, that all the evidence on the subject which the hon. Gentleman has been quoting from, has been accessible to him ever since 1829. He had just the same opportunity as he has now of making the attack on me; but it is reserved till the period when I have taken the course which I have done on the present question. And it seems to me to be expected that after the lapse of seventeen years I am to reconcile any contradiction that may be discovered, or to answer any charge that may have been brought against me. The main question, however, is, did I in 1825, or did I not, state to Lord Liverpool that my opinion was changed? Why, Lord Liverpool was the friend of Mr. Canning; and do you think it probable that, considering the intercourse which existed between them, had such an opinion been expressed by me, Lord Liverpool would not have communicated the important fact to Mr. Canning? As to the speech to which the hon. Gentleman referred, I certainly did do what many others have done—I corrected that speech; and what object, I ask, could I have in doing so? But I spoke on the 5th of March; and on the 6th of March, the day after, I find in the Mirror of Parliament a report of that speech with which I had no concern, and in which you find the answer I made to the question put to me on the 5th. Then as to the Edinburgh Review. What public man will say that it was necessary for me to answer that statement, 539 made by an anonymous writer, or that the statement, if not contradicted, must be held as true? Is it necessary to contradict every malignant paragraph, and, because it is not contradicted, is its truth to be assumed? But this I say, that as the writer in the Review asserts there is a letter from me in existence, in which I gave my opinion to Lord Liverpool that the Catholic claims should be settled, I challenge the production of that letter. What authority has he that that letter exists? If he states that fact, I challenge the production of the letter. But I will go further, and pledge my honour, that if the letter was written, and I have a copy of it, that copy I will, in extenso, give to the House. If it exists, it will show what were the grounds for the expression used in the speech of the 5th of March, that I had waited on Lord Liverpool and stated to him what were my intentions. I have my belief that the communication between Lord Liverpool and myself was a verbal one; but if a letter exists, it shall be produced. I repeat, however, that I never, in 1825—and that is the main fact—intimated to Lord Liverpool a personal change in my opinion on the subject of the Catholic claims. I had no right to say one word on this subject, and I have refrained from entering into a full reply; but allow me to express my grateful thanks to the House for having given me the opportunity of saying thus much.
§ Debate again adjourned to Thursday.
§ House adjourned at a quarter to Two o'clock.