§ MR. S. CRAWFORD
rose to oppose the Bill, though he was concerned to vote in opposition to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government at a time when, in his judgment, he had been unjustly assailed and unnecessarily persecuted. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman, however, on the triumphant manner in which he had disposed of these most undeserved attacks. He should, indeed, go into the same lobby with several hon. Gentlemen opposite; but he had not any feeling in common with them, who had upon every occasion supported measures which he deemed oppressive to Ireland, who had always opposed any enlargement of the rights of the Irish people, and who, failing to damage the measures of the Prime Minister, had tried to damage the man. The people of England, however, would protect a man unjustly attacked alike from open assaults and from treacherous assailants, who blamed the Government for the delay they had themselves interposed. He hoped and trusted that he should give a fair and not a factious opposition to this Bill. He must say that it was not fit for the purpose for which it was intended. He would, in the first place, point out its defects; and, secondly, state what measures he thought would be useful for the suppression of crime. He would ask hon. Members to consider well the real embarrassments which must arise from such regulations as these. The peasants were to be confined in their houses for an hour after sunset to sunrise; and it would be impossible for them to carry on their business as farmers without subjecting them to the chance of transportation imposed as the punishment for this offence. The Bill prevented the parties from going to the farm offices outside their dwellings, though the care of cattle required the peasant to be out at all hours of the night, and cows and sheep required constant attention. Again, if the peasant worked out for hire, how was it possible for him to attend to his duty, which required him to be out long after and before the hours mentioned 819 in the Bill? In the shortest days they worked during twilight, and had then three or four hours to go home. It would be impossible, therefore, for them to avoid these penalties; and supposing any one entertained a malicious feeling against a man, or the magistrates or the police had a dislike to a particular individual, it would be totally impossible for him, if he was watched, to escape. At the trial the question raised would be, whether he was out on his lawful business; he would then have to apply to these very magistrates and police for a character; and the sentence passed would be proportioned to the character thus given by these irresponsible parties. Then, how was the hour to be defined? The hour of sunset and sunrise varied every day; and how was it possible to guard the peasantry from vexatious charges if there were a malicious disposition against them? Was it safe to put such a power in the hands of the police and magistrates? He asked, without meaning to cast any offensive imputation, whether, after the experience they had had in Ireland of the conduct of the magistrates, it was safe to place such a power in their hands? Looking at the state of Ireland, torn by political and religious dissensions, was it safe to give such an irresponsible power? Would they place such a power in the hands of the English magistrates against the English people? It was a repeal of the Habeas Corpus Act in the worst mode. It was a greater hardship than the curfew bell of the Conqueror; for then the people had only to put out their fires; they were not liable to transportation for going out of their houses; and the bell was sounded as a warning to them; whilst, under this Bill, there was no signal; and the peasants were left completely at the mercy of those who might have animosity against them. What would be the consequences to a poor man's family if he were transported? They would be left in utter destitution. In common fairness the families ought to be sent out with them if such a Bill passed. Again, it was in direct contravention of the legal rule that every man should be considered innocent till he was proved guilty; and yet it would be no remedy for the great and alarming evil of Ireland, the murders perpetrated in noonday, which indicated the most vicious state of society. At the same time, he was bound, in justice to the present Government, to say that the Bill was founded on precedents before established; and he gave the Government credit when 820 he said, that if they had not found precedent Acts of former times of a like character, they would never have proposed such a measure; and he must say also, that there were precedents, not only in the Acts of Tory Governments, but in Bills proposed and passed by a Government which generally acted on principles of political liberty. The Bill of 1835 was the same in principle as this; but that Bill was supported by the Liberal Members of the Irish body; and in 1837, when he moved for the repeal of that Bill, he could only assemble five Members in favour of his Motion, two of whom were English Members. Not that he wished to impugn the motives of the Government of that day, or of the Irish Members who supported them in the course they took; but it was a most unfortunate precedent, and they were to blame for that precedent being now acted upon by the present Government. It was, however, a pleasing thing to see the change that had taken place in the opinions and feelings of Members of that House, both on the one side and the other. He rejoiced to see that change; and he only recurred to former occurrences to show that they had produced many of the evils that were now complained of. It appeared that seventeen Coercion Bills had been passed at different times for the purpose of pacifying Ireland; but those Bills had been of no use; and it was now time that some other system should be tried. Now, what was the condition of Ireland? Murders were committed there to a frightful extent; and the persons who committed them were, to a certain degree, protected. The combinations for that purpose defied the efforts of all morality, as well as the efforts of those persons who had such influence over Ireland. All their exertions had been directed to prevent these agrarian disturbances, but without effect. What, then, was the cause of such a state of things? The whole community had no other means of support than land. From the confiscations that had taken place in former times a hostile proprietary had been created; and there was no controlling them so as to prevent their oppressing the people, besides the competition for land having increased that excitation to the greatest degree. If they looked to the Report of the Landlord and Tenant Commission, they would find that in some counties in Ireland—as, for example, in Roscommon—there was a mixture of large holdings, for the purpose of grazing, with small holdings, generally held 821 by tenants of those who possessed the former. It was true that the farmers gave to their tenants sites for houses; but they never felt the necessity of providing them with employment. Then, in his judgment, they could do nothing to ameliorate the condition of the people but by creating a responsibility on the part of the land proprietors and the large farmers for providing employment and subsistence for those people, and that could only be done by a well-organized Poor Law on the principle of the Act of Elizabeth. Had it not been for that Poor Law, England would have been in as bad a condition as Ireland was at this day; but the present Poor Law was in no way effective in providing employment; it gave relief to the aged and infirm; but it did not do that which a Poor Law should do — provide employment for the people. In this country, Poor Laws had existed for a large number of years; and yet they heard nothing of the confiscations of property that had been so much dreaded. The amount raised in this country for the purpose of the Poor Laws was 5,000,000l. only, whilst the property of England was not less than 100,000,000l. It did not amount to 1s. in the pound of the whole property. Why, then, was it to be dreaded in Ireland? He admitted that the Government had brought in various remedial measures for Ireland, and he gave them credit for it; but there were none of them that would act with sufficient speed to perform the objects they had in view. As for the Landlord and Tenants Bill, he would not go into that upon the present occasion; but he must object to it, because it gave no protection to the existing interests of the tenantry, and would not, in itself, tend to pacify the Irish people. He would admit that effective measures of police were necessary to accompany remedial measures for Ireland; but why not adopt the principle of the institutions of Alfred? By them the country was made the guardian of its own peace; the whole country was guarded by its own inhabitants, and had one interest in the preservation of its peace; and without such a system they never could have an effective means of establishing the law. But if he opposed this measure, he thought he was bound to show what measures were in his opinion required for the present condition of Ireland. Now, he should propose that the disturbed districts should be divided into certain divisions, and that each division should be suitable for a police station; 822 that a register should be kept of the inhabitants of every house in the division; that the inhabitants of each division should be called upon to perform the duty of special constables, according to the provisions of the 2d William IV., c. 108, and should be summoned upon an appointed day to patrol under the orders of the police; that fines upon a graduated scale should be enforced for non-compliance, and that each station should be furnished with constables' staves, &c. He would also give to the controlling magistrates and to the constabulary power to arrest and detain all suspicious persons by night or day, and to take them before a magistrate within twenty-four hours; and if an offence were committed and not discovered within thirty days, a fine should be imposed upon a district, according to the institutions of Alfred. He should also propose that in case a person was present when an offence was committed, and within a reasonable time omitted to use his best exertions to prevent an outrage being committed, such person should be guilty of a misdemeanor, and be punishable accordingly. Also that the magistracy should hold a daily court in each disturbed district By those means they would by degrees render the people the guardians of their own peace; and they would adopt a constitutional means of taxation in each district. He would then propose that agricultural schools should be established. He know that the Board of Education had to a certain extent taken in hand to establish agricultural schools, but those were only county schools, and one in each county—it was only insufficient for the wants of the people, and he would recommend that an agricultural school should be established in every parish. He thought that nothing would tend more to the improvement of Ireland than such a system. But he regretted that such a measure as this had proceeded from the Government, from whom he acknowledged the country had received so much benefit; and whilst he was under the necessity of opposing them upon this measure, he must disclaim any wish by that opposition to defeat any other objects they had in view. To the English Members he would say, let them act in respect to this measure on the principle of doing to others as they would be done by, and he would put it to them whether they would pass such a measure as this for England? He would conclude by calling upon the House not to pass this Coercion Bill, but to adopt some remedial measures for 823 Ireland, and not to give the magistrates of Ireland powers which they would refuse to entrust to the magistracy of England.
§ MR. SEYMER
said, that the noble Lord the Member for the city of London, with the skill of a tactician, having supported the first reading of this Bill, concluded that the period had now arrived when, by mustering his own party, and calculating upon the support of hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, he might succeed in placing Her Majesty's Ministers in a minority, and his own party upon their seats on the Treasury bench. He would therefore inquire what was the nature of the Bill on which this great party division was to take place? Had hon. Members opposite read the Bill? They argued as if all Ireland were to be placed by it for all time in a state of coercion. But the Bill was temporary, and its powers would expire in 1849, while its operation was local and partial, and under the control of the Lord Lieutenant. Neither did it follow because the Bill was to be enacted, that it was ever to be enforced against any county, parish, or person in Ireland. Such a Bill he was willing to concede to the present Ministry, because its government of Ireland seemed to be dictated by a just and generous spirit. That, at least, was the opinion entertained as to the Maynooth Bill, and which was so expressed by the hon. Member for Cork, and other hon. Members. He then had no fear that they would abuse the powers given to them by this Bill. He would adopt the language of the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford, and say, that as long as parts of Ireland remained in their present state, he would give the powers confered under this Bill to any Government that obtained the confidence of Her Majesty, because if they abused those powers the people of England and Scotland would not allow a week to elapse without driving that oppressive Government from office. They would naturally conclude that what was the fate of Ireland this week, might be their own the next. He found hon. Members fond of talking of "justice to Ireland;" but he asked such persons had they no sense of the denial of justice to the families of those persons who were murdered in the open day, by the murderers receiving refuge in the districts in which they committed the crime, and whose claim to the hospitality of neighbours and strangers was that they were murderers? He had heard these things said in the presence of Irish Members, and 824 not denied by them. If such were the state of Ireland, it must be plain that if Parliament did not interfere, private revenge would take the place of public justice. What, he asked, was the amount of liberty in the disturbed districts, when he found in one of these counties—Roscommon—the following cases to have occurred in the course of the present year? One man compelled to give over grazing on his master's land; another forced to pay money to a wife and not to her husband, to whom the money was due; a third forbidden to let land to strangers; a fourth prohibited from marrying a widow for whom a different person had proposed; and the fifth, a stranger, forbidden to take land. Thus they saw a servant not allowed to take care of his master's property, a man not suffered to marry the wife he chose, and a third forbidden to pay money to where it was due. Here they found all the rights of property in abeyance. But then, it was said that the state of Ireland was considerably improved of late. He doubted if it were much better; and if it were, then the improvement might be attributed to fear of the Coercion Bill. It might afford hon. Members in that House (who, he was sure, had no communication with these cowardly assassins) arguments in opposing this Bill. The outrages might be discontinued for a time; but he feared, when Parliament was no longer sitting, that these outrages would be renewed when the power would no longer exist for putting them down. Another argument that had been used against this Bill was, that there was a great deal of crime in England, and no such means of suppression were devised. He admitted that most atrocious crimes were committed in England; but then hon. Members ought to remember that most of the murders in England were committed in secret; those committed in Ireland were perpetrated in the open day. Now, a greater number of the murders committed in secret in England were prosecuted to conviction, than of the murders committed in Ireland in the open day. This fact showed that there was no analogy between crime in England and in Ireland. He admitted that there ought to be remedial measures for Ireland; but they were not agreed as to these remedial measures; and even if they were, these measures could not come into immediate operation, and never could be carried into complete effect until they had resident proprietors in Ireland. But how were they to have resident 825 proprietors? Some hon. Members proposed a tax upon absentees. ["No!"] He had certainly heard of such a tax elsewhere; but he thought he could suggest a tax as efficacious as that on absentees—it was a tax upon agitators. He thought a handsome revenue could be derived from that tax; and out of it, he thought, should be paid a premium upon those who had the courage to reside upon and improve their estates in Ireland. The hon. Member for Pomfret (Mr. M. Milnes) asked them if they would not pay some attention to the opinions of the Irish Members—a term generally applied to Members from all parts of Ireland but the north; but when he was asked to give value to their opinions, he also remembered that those Members were opposed to the Union ["No, no!"] At least the most of them were, and those that were not, he had heard were under notice to quit, unless they would mend their ways. Another argument used was, that the Whigs would govern Ireland without a Coercion Bill. That might be a very good argument for those who placed confidence in the Whigs, and who would intrust themselves to the guidance of the noble Lord the Member for London, of whom it had been said by a very good authority that "he was ready to take command of the Channel fleet;" but he for one objected to sail under the noble Lord's orders. It had been stated that the present Bill would only prevent murders by night, and that a majority of the crimes of this description were committed by day. He did not think that statement correct. The murders of magistrates, and of gentlemen of that class, were perpetrated by day, because they did not leave their houses at night; but the majority of murders were committed upon poor farmers by night. There were eighty-five cases of firing into dwellings—a crime which was mostly committed at night. Upon the subject of this Bill there was a division among hon. Members sitting upon the protection benches. He protested against its being imagined that he was a lukewarm protectionist, because he intended to support Her Majesty's Government upon this Bill. He was as strongly attached to protection as any of his hon. Friends around him; and he should have been glad if by his vote he could have placed Her Majesty's Government in a minority upon the Corn Bill. But why should he, as a protectionist, be called on to oppose Her Majesty's Government upon a question in which he believed 826 them to be entirely in the right, in order to bring into power a Government still more strongly attached to the principles of free trade—a Government that would not give them even the three years' protection clause of the Ministerial Corn Bill, and which would offer an official place to the hon. Member for Stockport? He should not object to seeing that hon. Member in the Ministry; because, if they were to have had measures, they would at least have the consolation of having them supported by good speeches. Nothing had surprised him more than the strong personal feeling evinced on the subject of this Bill by some of his hon. Friends around him. He had asked one of them how he meant to vote on this Bill. His reply was, "I mean to take the straight course, and vote against the Bill." Now, he thought his hon. Friend was not about to take a straight course, if he voted for the first reading, and was going to vote against the second. He, having voted for the first reading, meant to vote for the second reading also; and if his hon. Friend would not call his a straight course, he would call his hon. Friend's a crooked course. He had heard his hon. Friends near him say, "We count on so many honest men and true, who will vote against the Coercion Bill." He felt his face becoming hot when he was told this. Were they who supported the Bill not honest and true men? What pledge had he ever given that he would not support a Coercion Bill? He said, confidently, that in supporting this Bill he should vote with his party; for he was persuaded that more protectionists would vote with the right hon. Baronet in favour of this Bill, than with the noble Lord opposite against it. By the Ministerial party he had been told, "We are glad you are going to vote like a gentleman on this Coercion Bill." These strong personal feelings, on both sides, would lead one to suppose that there was infused into the question a little of the leaven of the odium theologicum, which raged inversely with the difference of opinion. The comments made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War (Mr. S. Herbert) had been adverted to. He had known that right hon. Gentleman for several years, and was convinced that he would never take any course that was not perfectly consistent and honourable—and every Member of the protectionist party would probably say as much for those Ministerialists with whom he was personally intimate—yet, when the 827 Ministerial party was spoken of by some of his Friends the protectionists, the right hon. Gentleman with the rest, they were called all sorts of hard names. The use of these might, indeed, be sanctioned by the example of Mr. Fox, and of other great orators in bygone days; but nobody would ever persuade him that they were necessary for the purposes of free discussion, or should be introduced into the debates of that House. The opinion he entertained on that point was aptly and tersely expressed in a few words by a Latin poet—Decipit exemplar vitiis imitabile; which, in reference to the example of Mr. Fox, he might freely translate, "Imitate his eloquence if you can, but not his violent language." He, for his own part, being of a somewhat lethargic temperament, or of what medical men called a lymphatic temperament, had no disposition to apply to hon. Gentlemen the strong language which he had heard used in that House; and should Her Majesty's present Government remain in office, he thought the party with which he was connected would be able to conduct their opposition without the use of hard words, though some hon. Gentlemen might suppose abstinence from such language altogether incompatible with party warfare. He trusted that the bitterness of party spirit would soon be assuaged. It was with great regret that he found himself differing on this question from many hon. Gentlemen with whom he had hitherto acted; but it was without the slightest hesitation as to the propriety of the course he was taking, that he expressed his intention to vote against the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Drogheda, and in favour of the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. CALEB POWELL
never heard a speech which showed more utter ignorance of the condition of Ireland and the Irish people than that which had just been delivered. The speech of the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) the other evening, was, however, one which it was much more gratifying to turn to. It was, in his opinion, one of the ablest that he had ever heard in that House. The hon. Gentleman had dissected the returns which had been laid on the Table, and on which the present measure was supported. He had shown that out of 2,000 offences, there were no less than 805 under the head of "threatening notices," and of these only three had been followed by the commission of outrage. He was, 828 therefore, justified in regarding these threatening notices not so much as waste paper, but as emanating from the scouts of the police. That was not the case with England. They had recently an instance in the case of M'Dowall, the late master of the Andover Union workhouse, who was violently assaulted while returning home, after watching the proceedings in the House of Commons; and there were many other instances of a similar character which he might bring forward that happened in this country, and which would justify him in saying that the right hon. Gentleman ought to have brought forward a Coercion Bill for his own country, instead of one for Ireland. He confessed he could not imagine a greater satire on the Irish policy of Her Majesty's Government than this measure. Under it, policemen of the most ill-conducted and evil-disposed habits, such as they had an instance of in the newspapers the other day, were to be invested with authority for violating the personal liberty of the inhabitants in every district to which the Lord Lieutenant was pleased to extend the Act. The present Government found Ireland, in 1841, in a state of perfect political and social tranquillity, because the constituted authorities had the confidence of the people; but the Government of the right hon. Baronet commenced by selecting for the highest situations in the law individuals who were the most obnoxious in the country, and who had been for years among the foremost vilifiers of the people and religion of Ireland. He was sorry not to see the hon. Member for Wiltshire (Mr. Benett) in his place, as he wished to allude to an expression that had fallen from that hon. Gentleman in the course of this debate. The hon. Gentleman expressed a wish to have the advocacy of the repeal of the Union, or, in other words, the advocacy of a repeal of an Act of Parliament, made high treason. Now he, in advocating repeal, regarded it as an inevitable event; and yet there was no Gentleman in that House more anxious than he was for a long connexion between the two countries. He believed the principles which he advocated were better calculated to maintain that connexion than those of the party opposite. He believed that connexion was highly necessary for the welfare of both countries, and he expressed that opinion whenever he advocated the repeal of the Union in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think that repeal of the Union meant a dismemberment 829 of the Empire; but he had got a fact as a reply to the hon. Gentleman's assertion, and that was, that a domestic Legislature continued in Ireland, co-existent with British connexion, for a period of 420 years. But to return to the Coercion Bill, and to the 800 and odd threatening notices with which it was supported. On his return from Ireland recently, he found a letter addressed to him at the House of Commons, which contained at the top an allusion about "coming death to the Saxon foe." Underneath was a coffin and cross bones, with the inscription, "Powell's surtout," and the words, "Here is your fate if you vote for the bloody Coercion Bill." Now, that letter was of course only a hoax; and he had no doubt but that a large proportion of the 805 threatening notices were of a similar character. During the existence of the former Government, informers were discouraged; but since the accession of Her Majesty's present Ministry they had again become numerous, and were known in the country by the name of Paddy M'Kews. It should also be recollected that the individual who had called the Irish people "aliens in blood, in language, and in religion," had been elevated to the highest judicial position among the English people, and that the press of England had been in the habit of describing eight millions of the Irish people as a filthy and felonious rabble; while their clergy, many of whom he had the pleasure of knowing, and who, for learning and piety, might rank with any class of men in Her Majesty's dominions, were described as "surpliced ruffians," and a "demon priesthood." These exhibitions of hostility to Ireland had, besides, been made use of by the right hon. Baronet in ousting his political opponeuts. He hoped the hon. Gentleman who preceded him, and who proposed to impose a tax on agitators, would include the members of the Anti-Corn-Law League in his plan; and then if the English people were found to submit to such a system, the people of Ireland could not fairly complain of it. The fact was, he believed, that social order could be maintained in Ireland by the existing laws, if fairly administered, and by a Government in whom the people had confidence; but he also believed Her Majesty's present advisers had not the least chance of regaining the confidence of the Irish people, and that they could not do anything more gratifying to the inhabitants of that country than to resign office.
§ MR. W. R. COLLETT
said, he should give his decided support to the Bill. He would be no party to any political move. The state of Ireland had not changed since the first reading of this Bill, to which he had given his support. No doubt the introduction of the measure had had the effect of producing a temporary lull, but no real change had taken place in the disposition of those lawless individuals by whom the outrages were perpetrated. He was the owner of some slate quarries in the worst part of Tipperary, where nearly a thousand persons were either directly or indirectly employed; and he knew that robberies and outrages accompanied with violence were constantly perpetrated in that district by ruffians with their faces blackened. He only wished that he were at the head of a troop of cavalry or a body of police, that he might have the opportunity of hunting them down. It was in reference to such districts as this that the Lord Lieutenant ought to be invested with the powers conferred by this Bill; and if hon. Members who opposed the Bill knew as much of Ireland as he did, they would see the necessity which existed for such an enactment. It was idle to say that the Bill was directed against the Irish people—it was directed solely against these bands of lawless marauders; and he maintained that the Government were as much justified in resorting to it, as the Governments of Rome or Naples were justified in taking measures to capture the bands of robbers by which their territories were infested. He knew that the outrages in Ireland amounted to 365 in a year; in fact, that twenty-four hours never passed without the occurrence of some robbery or assassination in the district from the silver mines and the quarries down to the Shannon, and this had gone on for the last eight years. He thought that if the police had the power to take into custody suspicious looking characters, it would have a great effect in repressing the commission of these outrages. How such criminals could meet with any sympathy amongst their fellow countrymen surpassed his comprehension; but the fact was undoubted, that these murderers and assassins were shielded from the consequences of their crimes. Why, he knew the exact price of robbery and assassination in Tipperary. He knew that 2l. 10s. was the sum paid if the individual singled out was not shot, and 6l. 10s. if the shot took effect. He had embarked a large sum in Tipperary, partly with the 831 view of benefiting himself, and partly for the purpose of benefiting that part of Ireland. As to any profit to himself that had long ceased to exist—for the last six years; but he as an Englishman should think himself highly culpable if, through his means, 500 men accustomed to handle gunpowder and pickaxes were turned suddenly upon the county without employment. If this Bill should not pass a second reading, he believed that an unheard-of amount of crime would be the result. He believed that a temporary measure would be sufficient to meet the evil; and he hoped that an extended intercourse by means of railroads would do much, in the course of a few years, to mitigate the feelings which led to these outrages. Ireland only required to be fostered and cherished, but the law must be enforced. He had been warned not to go to Ireland, although he had never used a single harsh expression to any of its inhabitants, and most conscientiously desired to promote their welfare. For many years, ever since he had the honour of representing Cashel, he had taken a great interest in Ireland, and had done his utmost to forward its interests, and it was heartbreaking to meet with such a return. He asked those who repudiated this as an unconstitutional measure, by what means they proposed to protect life and property in Ireland? Every Monday morning he received dreadful accounts of outrages and violence from Ireland; and he never sent his secretary from the quarries to Limerick for money that he was not stopped on the road. He was surprised to hear that the days of the present Ministry were at an end. He had expressed his want of confidence in them as regarded the corn question; but should any other question come before them, whether it were their national or their foreign policy, it would be his greatest pride to give them his support.
§ MR. HALSEY
said: Sir, I will not trespass long upon the patience of the House; but I wish to state the reasons which induce me to oppose this measure. I gave my vote in support of the first reading, not because I acquiesced in the principle of the Bill, but because I felt that courtesy and justice demanded that we should not refuse to take into consideration a measure recommended to our deliberation in a Speech from the Throne, and handed down to us from another House of Parliament; but I did this, feeling that it remained open to us afterwards to form our 832 opinions upon the merits and principles of the measure. I oppose this measure, first, because I do not think that it is called for by the present circumstances of Ireland. I grant that the amount of crime and outrage in that unhappy country is most horrible; but I maintain that the positive amount of crime, taken by itself, is no test of the necessity for a Coercion Bill, or else we should have to make the Bill perpetual and not temporary; but the question for our consideration is, whether the increase in the amount of crime is so rapid and so violent as to defy the resources of the common law. I will not enter into those statistics which so many hon. Members have gone through before me; but I will only say, that I have looked into those blue books and returns which have been laid before us; and I confess that I cannot there see such recent increase in the amount of crime as would, in my opinion, justify this Bill. But we are told that the common resources of the law have failed. How have they failed? We hear much about the intimidation of witnesses, and the sympathy with the criminal so generally evinced; but is this Bill calculated to afford a remedy for these evils? It is true that there is one clause relating to the intimidation of witnesses; but that is merely a penal clause, and affords no facility for the detection of the offender. And the Bill itself contains so much that is irritating to the innocent as well as the guilty, that in my opinion it will strongly tend to increase the sympathy now felt for the criminal, and will thus render more frequent the intimidation of witnesses. Besides all this, if it is necessary to ask for these unconstitutional powers, I confess that I have a strong objection to entrust them into the hands of the ordinary executives of the law: it is a direct encouragement for them not to rely on their own energy and activity, aided by the powers of the law, but to come to us in any difficulty, and to ask for extraordinary powers: it is not the way to teach them to combine moderation with firmness; but it will encourage them to carry matters with a high hand, and not to seek to conciliate the affections of peaceable subjects. I do not charge the Irish police with all this; on the contrary, I believe that they have very generally performed most difficult duties with equal temper and firmness; but I do not believe that this Bill is likely to encourage them to persevere in their present good conduct. I do not wish to enter into personalities; the 833 motives and intentions of Her Majesty's Ministers are for their own consciences: but the public conduct of public men is a fair subject for comment; and in their conduct I confess I have found strong inducement to oppose this Bill. They told us that they should make this measure dependent upon the success of their Corn Law. Now, I cannot acknowledge that there can be any connexion whatever between a temporary measure, justified only by urgent and immediate necessity, and purporting to protect life and property, and a mere commercial scheme which is to come to maturity in three years. We know that a gift delayed loses half its grace. This measure, if now carried, will have lost half its power in the repression of crime; but will have acquired a power of irritation as regards the Irish peasantry, which will not be allayed for years to come. As I said, I do not pretend to judge of the motives of Her Majesty's Ministers. I do not say that the state of Ireland does not, in their opinion, require such a measure; but I do say, if such is their real opinion, that their remissness is most culpable. In such a case, delay is not less than a crime. They may be actuated by good intentions; but good intentions not regulated by fixed principles are more likely to lead to evil than good, and certainly deserve no confidence. The events of this Session have inspired me with more than distrust of Her Majesty's Ministers; and I will not assist to place irresponsible and unconstitutional powers in the hands of those in whose stability and in whose principles I can place no confidence whatever. For these reasons I shall give to this Bill my hearty and honest opposition.
MR. V. STUART
did not rise to deny the existence of crime to a very fearful extent in Ireland. He admitted the existence of crime, and the necessity of punishing the criminals; but he would not be carried away by what was nothing more than a panic, and heedlessly vote for a measure, the effect of which would and must be to increase the evils which it was intended to put down. The policy of the present Government, as of too many other Governments, had been to bring the common law into disrepute, to teach the people to rely for aid and protection on violent remedies. The object should be to inculcate a feeling in favour of the ordinary law, where it was not to be found; and where such a feeling did operate, to leave the people to themselves. It was not to be wondered at that 834 the people of Ireland had no confidence in the law, when that law was constantly being superseded by a temporary and violent legislation, permanent only in its evil effects. Was obedience to the law a natural feeling? He thought not: there must be a conviction that it was a good law before the people to whom it applied would be in favour of it; and for that reason all law should be based in justice. There were few such laws in Ireland: Judges from the benches in Ireland told them that the law of landlord and tenant was for the good of the one, and to the injury of the other—beneficial to the landlord, and opposed to the interests of the people; and as the people felt as well as learned the truth of this, it could not be expected that they should show anything but hostility to those who governed them. The practical effect of that law was most destructive; it placed immense power in the hands of individuals; and, as the frequent ejectments of tenantry proved, that power was often turned to bad and unjustifiable purposes. A necessary sequence of extensive crime was the system of depending for the procuring of evidence upon offering large rewards; but nothing could be worse than such a system. There was in Ireland a horror universally felt of an informer; and could anything prove more strongly than the stigma which was attached to the man who assisted in carrying out the law, that the law was in itself bad? The present Bill would undoubtedly produce a temporary lull; but it would be that lull which preceded the storm; and instead of proving a remedy it would be found to be an aggravation. They had long failed in their attempts to govern Ireland; they had tried many systems; and their only chance now was—to make their laws just, and their punishments merciful. Let coercion be forgotten in this new code, and Ireland would cease to be pronounced their "greatest difficulty."
§ MR. ROEBUCK
, in accordance with all the principles which had hitherto directed his political career, should give his vote against this Bill. All modes of legislation, all Bills and Acts of this description, were mischievous: first, because they were inefficacious; and, next, because if efficacious in some measure, they were much more efficacious for evil than good. And when he looked to the state of the people of Ireland, and also to the past history of that country, his feeling became stronger as to the injustice and folly of such a measure as the present. For, was this a novel experiment in 835 the government of Ireland? Had the experiment been confined to one party, or had it been tried by all? The House knew it was not a novel experiment; that for the last eighty years all parties had been trying coercive laws; and that every such attempt had been followed by increased disturbance. In speaking to the right hon. Gentlemen opposite who brought forward the present Bill, he must say a word as to their motives. He believed their motives to be as pure as motives could be, and that their intention was, it could not be doubted, to provide means for the security of life and property in Ireland. But though he conceded to them, completely and frankly, all the benefit they could derive from the admission, he must discuss the question with them as to the propriety of the means they were about to take to attain that beneficial end. It was useless to hide from themselves that Ireland was in a fearful state for herself as well as for England. She was threatened with many calamities. The greatest that could befall her would be separation from England. However it might be thought that the miseries of Ireland had been created by the dominion of England, still he believed her sole hope to be in her connexion with this country, and that if to-morrow saw the separation, civil war and misery would run throught the land. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen said "no." He hoped they would never try the experiment. The consequences would be disastrous to themselves as well as to the poor peasant. It was, however, useless for the House to hide from itself that Ireland had for ages been misgoverned, and it was impossible to say that this Bill was not in continuance of the same bad system. The people of Ireland had been always treated as a conquered people: the consequence of this treatment was, that doubt and distrust were created in their minds as to England's laws and dominion. A large portion of the miseries now afflicting the people arose from this state of mind. What, then, ought to be the course of the Legislature? Violent diseases, it was said, required violent remedies; but he denied the illustration, physically, morally, and intellectually. He recommended, on the contrary, mildness and gentleness; and he told the House that unless the people of Ireland had confidence in their justice and their laws, all coercion would fail. He would therefore ask hon. Members seriously to consider the means best calculated to improve the state of the 836 popular mind. Let them come forward with a wise, well-considered, large, and generous policy, for you could only make them love you by being just. If hon. Members considered the effect of this Bill, he could not for a moment doubt what vote they would give. Hon. Gentlemen opposite declared that they could not support the present Bill, because they had no confidence in Her Majesty's Government; but it by no means followed that they would not themselves, should they ever come into power, propose the same measure. He perceived that one of their great leaders shook his head. He meant the hon. Member for Evesham, and doubtless the hon. Member was deeply in their counsels. But he recollected a speech made by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, upon the first reading of this Bill, when he declared that the blood of every murder which took place in Ireland, whilst that Bill was under discussion, would be upon the heads of those who opposed it. And why was it that the right hon. Gentleman did not possess the confidence of the noble Lord? Because he had done one great thing for the people—because he had freed trade from the shackles which formerly surrounded it—because he had passed a measure through that House which the people of this country desired—because, in fact, of the generous and liberal spirit which the right hon. Baronet had evinced. There was also another set of opponents to this Bill—he alluded to the Members of the Opposition, from whom he thought the House and the country deserved some explanation as to the change of their opinions. He was in that House in 1833, when, under Lord Grey's Administration and with the support of the noble Lord the Member for London, and of the right hon. Gentleman on his side of the House, a Coercion Bill was passed, the like of which never disgraced the Statute-books of this country. He heard the noble Lord express surprise that the right hon. Gentleman, in adopting his opinions, had not expressed some sort of regret for having found fault with him upon a former occasion for holding the same opinion. He remembered also that the majority of those who supported the Bill under Earl Grey's Administration did not hesitate to reproach, with almost opprobrium, all who opposed the Ministerial legislation. Now, however, the noble Lord had taken up other views, and he had not expressed the slightest regret that he had before blamed others for 837 holding the self-same opinions which he now entertained himself. But more than that. In 1833, that outrageous Bill, with its court-martial clauses, its sunset clauses, and its domiciliary visits, lasted till 1835. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: One year.] He could show how it was. That Bill passed by a large majority. It was opposed only by a large section of the Members for Ireland, and by a very minute section of English Members, of whom he was one. In 1834, the Whigs ceased to exist; but, in 1835, having ousted the right hon. Baronet, the Whigs again came in under Lord Melbourne, and on August 1, 1835, another Coercion Bill was introduced. He admitted that it was much modified and less arbitrary than the former Bill; but Coercion Bills seemed to get milder and milder—each more modified than its predecessor—the present, he hoped, would be the last that they should see. Before, however, he consented to aid in bringing in any other Government in the place of the right hon. Gentleman, he must have a distinct assurance from them that they would not bring in a similar Bill. The Bill of 1835 contained some remarkable clauses. There was the famous sunset clause, and the power of domiciliary visits. Now he regarded that as a very bad species of legislation; but when he applied to the authorities on Irish matters for their opinions—to the hon. and learned Member for Cork, for example—what did he find to be his opinion with respect to that very sunset clause? And the House must remember that that Bill of 1835 was far more stringent than the present measure. The hon. and learned Member for Cork upon that occasion said he thought—That this Bill was calculated to meet an exceeding great evil, in the suppression of disturbances which at present disfigured the whole face of society in that country. What he alluded to were the agrarian disturbances, which, although they generally originated in some acts of local oppression, spread with the force and rapidity of infection, bringing within their vortex many who would willingly keep themselves aloof if they could. The Bill introduced by the noble Lord dispensed with the old system of special commissions, than which nothing in his opinion could be more objectionable. Those Commissions inquired into cases of outrage, of the perpetration of which, unhappily, there could be no doubt. The only doubt was as to the perpetrator; and in detecting this, these tribunals were most defective. He verily believed that the special commissions retaliated by day the blood shed by night, and that in very many instances innocent parties suffered. The present Bill, if he had rightly understood it, directed the meeting of the magistrates at sessions to deal with actual cases of offences against the 838 laws, and also authorized them to keep these persons within doors who were found out at night without being able to give a good account of themselves. Whilst it gave protection where it was wanted, the Bill took from no man the right of being tried by a jury. Its only infringement upon public liberty was the power given, as he had already observed, to deal with persons who went out by night, having no lawful business to take them out; and if it should be effectual in suppressing this most baneful practice, it would have a most salutary operation, and produce the greatest benefit in Ireland. He felt convinced that the Bill would work well. He only wished its provisions had gone a little further, and that it had proceeded to touch those affiliated societies which existed in Ireland, and flourished in spite of the law, but which it was the bounden duty of the law to put down.What did the hon. Member for Meath, a member also of the Repeal Association, say upon the same occasion? The hon. Member said—It was impossible for His Majesty's Government to allow things to go on as at present in the north of Ireland, where there was not security either for life or property. [Cheers.] He would ask the Gentleman who cheered, and the hon. and gallant Officer (Colonel Percival) among them, whether they had any connection with the north of Ireland? He himself happened to have some connection with it; and when he heard the hon. and gallant Officer inquiring whether certain individuals in Monaghan had not been acquitted, he felt tempted to say, with Sir Frederick Stone, that to appeal to the north of Ireland for redress for an Orange injury was a farce.[Mr. H. GRATTAN had voted against the measure.] From the hon. Member's words he should certainly have thought that he had approved of the Bill. If the hon. Member said he opposed it, however, that was, of course, enough. But he wished to ask a question of the noble Lord the Member for London, who had lately, and only lately, discovered that these principles of legislation were injurious. It was said—and he thought it right to be perfectly frank and explicit upon the subject—he trusted the noble Lord would not take offence at the question he was about to ask; but he thought it was due to the country and to the noble Lord himself, that the question should be asked—it was said that during last winter, if the noble Lord had succeeded in forming a Government upon the resignation of the right hon. Baronet, that Lord Besborough was to have been Lord Lieutenant of Ireland upon the express understanding that he should go on with the Coercion Bill. [Lord J. RUSSELL: It is entirely false.] If the noble Lord said it was entirely false, that at once put an end to that report, and he had done the noble Lord a service by asking the question. 839 But he had not yet done. The present Bill was introduced by the Government into the House of Lords. Who had supported it in the House of Lords? Why, the most earnest supporters of the noble Lord were the supporters of the Bill. He contended, then, that he had a right to believe that they would sanction another Bill of the same sort if the Administration were changed to-morrow. He found, upon this occasion, two parties voting in conjunction against this Bill, who had never voted together before; and he must say that he looked upon such a combination with something like suspicion. The change of the noble Lord's opinion was, no doubt, an honourable change; but it came at an inopportune time, and with an inopportune effect, for with the present combination of parties, he feared that they could expect but little which would tend to the real benefit of the country. The noble Lord was not in a position to govern this country by the aid of the friends upon his own side of the House. The consequence would be the disruption of the Liberal party; the result would be the same as in 1840, 1841, and 1842—the bringing in of measures only to reject them, an attempt at governing by a minority, and losing credit, in fact, every day with the country. If the protectionists should by any extraordinary freak of fortune ever occupy the Treasury benches, the House would very soon show them what the value of their position was. If the country should receive from the noble Lord an assurance that he was willing, as a wise, generous, and comprehensive statesman, to propose great remedial measures for Ireland, sure he was that the confidence of the country in the noble Lord and his party would be greatly increased; but if this subject were to be made the vehicle of a mere party move to obtain office without deserving it, and without being able to maintain it, it would be a disgrace to all concerned, and to none so disgraceful as to those who had reaped every advantage from the liberal policy of the right hon. Baronet, who could make such a return for one of the greatest boons a Minister ever gave—a boon so great as to gain for that Minister the universal and well-deserved approbation of the country.
§ LORD J. MANNERS
said: I wish, Sir, it were in my power to dissipate one tithe of the fears and suspicions which so oppress the hon. and learned Member for Bath, or to clear up one tithe of the mysterious and contradictory circumstances of 840 the past, to which he has alluded; but I cannot, and must confine myself to answering the direct challenge he has thrown out to Gentlemen who, sitting on this side of the House, are prepared to vote against the measure now under discussion. In answer to that challenge, then, I tell him that my objection to this Bill, is an objection of principle; and, were it not for the language of the hon. and learned Member, and the insinuations that are so plentifully dealt in both within and without these walls, I should have been content to give a silent vote in accordance within my Tory principles against this Whig measure. I object, in the first place, to this measure, as being alien and abhorrent to the principle of English Toryism. Indeed, the hon. Member for Bath admitted that it was to Whigs and Whiggism that we owe Irish Coercion Bills; and if I refer to history, and ask how the great founder of that Irish Tory party which I will hope still exists; how "he who writ the Drapier's Letters;" for whose condemnation the Whig Minister of the day offered a reward of 600l.; who devoted his brilliant genius and great talents to the cause of Irish freedom and Irish nationality — if I ask how Dean Swift, and those great men who were associated with him, would have treated such a measure as this, my judgment must be given against it. Again; if I refer to those statesmen who have left the impress of their wisdom and their principles on the history and traditions of their country—to Strafford and Ormonde, Clanricarde and Tyrconnell, Bolingbroke and Wyndham, and guide myself by their examples, how can I arrive at a conclusion favourable to the spirit of this Bill? Nor, Sir, if quitting the past I approach the future, am I willing to associate Toryism with such miserable remnants of Whig legislation and Whig tyranny as this proposal is a part of; and, therefore, unless some overwhelming case of necessity can be established, without any hesitation I should vote against the second reading of this Bill. Well, then, is this necessity proved? I cannot discover it in the statistics and returns submitted to us by the Government. I will not weary the House by quoting a single figure, or alluding to a single return, but will content myself with saying that, having paid attention to that evidence, to my mind the case is not proved; but that if any hon. Gentleman, after weighing that evidence and studying the speeches of the noble Lords the Members 841 for London and Lynn, and of the hon. Member for Oxfordshire, comes to a different conclusion, why, in Heaven's name, let him vote for the Bill. But I know it may be said there are cases in which a Government is not justified in laying bare before the public eye the crimes and disaffection of a whole population, and this may be one of those cases: but then, Sir, I apprehend we invariably find in the conduct of the Government that evidence which its proofs and language do not supply. Now, have we such supplementary evidence on this occasion? I wish to argue this question in the fairest and most courteous manner with the Government; and I will therefore admit—and it is a very large admission—I will admit that, entertaining the convictions they did, it was right for them to pass the Corn Bill through the House of Commons, before they proceeded with this measure that is to protect life and property in Ireland. Well, for argument's sake, I make that admission; but of what service to the Government is that enormous concession, unless followed by another which it is absolutely impossible to grant? To justify your delay in pressing on this measure (if you are really convinced of its great importance), I must not only concede that you were right in postponing it to the Corn Bill, but also to the Tariff; and I ask any one—the hon. and learned Member who spoke last, or the keenest Leaguer in or out of the House—I ask him how he can say, or I believe, that it was necessary for the salvation of the Empire, to deprive the framework knitter of Leicestershire, the paper stainer of London, or the Spitalfields weaver of protection, before you afforded it to life and property in Ireland? Whether I look, then, at the statistics of crime in Ireland, or the practical commentary on them afforded by the conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers, I deny the existence of any overwhelming necessity. But even admitting the necessity to be proved—admitting all the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Collett) has said to be correct, I have to ask myself this question before I consent to this Bill—will its provisions meet that necessity? And, Sir, I have listened in vain during all these long debates for any arguments that should convince me they will. In the first place, I observe that many of the powers conferred by this Bill are already possessed by the Irish Government, and that stripping the Bill of this superfluous garniture, 842 what do we find as the real practical provision which is to secure life and property in Ireland? Why, that which has been called the Curfew Clause. All the crimes, therefore, which are committed in the open day will remain untouched, unprevented by this Bill, which, indeed, should be called, not "a Bill for the Protection of Life and Property in Ireland," but "a Bill for the Protection of Life and Property in Ireland during the night time;" supposing, that is, that this curfew clause will really protect them during the night: for, Sir, I own it seems to me at least doubtful whether those hardened miscreants who are not now deterred by a sense of the guilt they bring on their own souls, nor yet by the rigours and penalties of existing laws, will be deterred from their settled purpose of crime by the addition of another law to the Statute-book. It seems to me that those whom this law will retain in their houses from sunset to sunrise will be the peaceable, the orderly, the well-affected, and that thus the field will be left all the more open for those determined villains who will brave your new, as they have braved your old laws, to perpetrate their crimes, which might perhaps be prevented or discovered had you not by this law deprived of the opportunity of witnessing them the orderly and loyal. And what will be the effect of such enactment on the minds of those who, knowing themselves to be innocent, are yet subjected to this odious and harassing confinement? Surely, Sir, if this curfew clause fails to intimidate, it cannot fail to exasperate and alienate from Imperial rule those whom there is no need to alienate still more. But, indeed, most Irish Gentlemen on this side of the House whom I have heard express an opinion on this Bill, have acknowledged it to be impotent for good; and yet they ask us to vote for it, and intend to vote for it themselves, on what, were it not for the melancholy dignity of the subject, I should call the very Irish ground of "anything being better than nothing." Now, Sir, I will ask these Gentlemen, before they vote for a measure which they themselves do not like—which is most abhorrent to the people among whom they live—which is opposed by every Irish Member save one, on the opposite benches, and by a great body of those English Gentlemen with whom they ordinarily act—on such a ground, to consider carefully what that "something" is they meant to support, and what that "nothing" is of which 843 they speak so slightingly. That "something" is a Bill such as I have described this Bill to be, and that "nothing" than which a curfew clause is said to be better, is nothing more and nothing less than the laws and constitution of this imperial realm. No, Sir, I cannot consent on such a plea as that to vote for this measure. But there is another consideration which I am told weighs with many, and ought to weigh with me, in favour of this Whig measure of coercion. I am asked to support it as a proof of confidence in Government. Now, Sir, it has been my fate ever since I came into Parliament to have had serious differences with Her Majesty's Ministers; and whenever those differences have demanded it, I have never hesitated to vote against the right hon. Gentleman, whilst I have always given a hearty and zealous support to those measures which have accorded with my principles and convictions; and did I believe that this Bill was a right, and just, and wise measure, I should heartily support it: but believing it to be exactly the reverse, I cannot consent to show a late confidence in the Government by voting for a measure of which I althogether disapprove. I now come, Sir, to a very delicate subject, which I should fear to touch at all had not the eloquent peroration of the speech of the noble Lord the Member for the city of London, and a great portion of that which we have just heard from the hon. and learned Member for Bath, made it one of public interest. That hon. and learned Member stated, as he always does, his views on this delicate and grave matter, very ingeniously and very cleverly; but I own I think the aspect under which the noble Lord presented it to us, was the most consistent with fact. Rumours then are afloat that so great is the affection of certain influential Gentlemen opposite for free trade in general, and this free-trade Government in particular, that they intend to vote for this measure, although they detest it, in order to keep this Ministry in power. It was not long ago that I was obliged to call the attention of the working men of the north to the admission of their free-trade rulers that the price they would have to pay for the establishment of free trade was two additional labours of labour per diem. And now, Sir, it appears, if these rumours are well founded, that the price the Irish peasantry will pay for that unknown blessing is the deprivation of their 844 liberty, and confinement from sunset to sunrise. I hope, Sir, that if this be, and this Bill be carried by such votes, those Gentlemen who act as the guides and instructors of the Irish people, and by whose extraordinary influence that peasantry has been reconciled to a repeal of the Corn Laws, will not fail, when asked by the peasant of Connemara, or farmer of Leitrim, "Why is it that I, loyal, peaceable, well-affected, am deprived of my liberty, shut up in my miserable hovel from sunset to sunrise, debarred from innocent recreation after a day of toil?" to answer, and answer truly, "You are thus treated, not because English Liberals, as they call themselves, thought you deserved such treatment, but in order that free trade may be established, and your oats sold at rather a lower price." Well, Sir, none of these considerations can induce me to vote for this Bill, which I think, and have now assigned my reasons for thinking, unnecessary, and if necessary, inapt for its own purposes. I shall give, therefore, an unhesitating vote against the second reading, in the hope and expectation that the rejection of this Bill will not be the mere temporary rejection of an odious and tyrannical specimen of exploded Whig legislation, or cause solely the substitute of one Whig Government for another, but that it will lead to kindlier feelings and juster sentiments: to a re-establishment of those ties of sympathy and affection that, in other days, bound the two great national parties together; and thus, in the words of my hon. Friend, the Member for Pontefract, secure the real Union between England and Ireland.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
I did not rise immediately after the hon. and learned Member for Bath, thinking that some hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House would probably have been disposed to take that opportunity of replying to him; and I can sincerely say that I gave up that opportunity of addressing the House with some reluctance, when I remembered that, since the noble Lord the Member for London had spoken upon the present question, no Member of Her Majesty's Government had addressed this House in defence or vindication of the measure now under discussion. It is therefore on this account, as well as for other reasons, which cannot fail very readily to suggest themselves to the minds of hon. Members, that I now rise, under some danger, I fear, of wearying the House; but I beg to say, that I 845 have very little to add to what has been already said in support of the Bill at present under consideration; and I think I shall best discharge the duty which I have thus commenced, by proceeding with it now rather than at any subsequent period of this debate. I shall begin by observing, that I do not take up this measure as one fully defensible upon grounds of abstract or constitutional right. I have heard it said that this Bill is highly unconstitutional. I admit that it may be so considered; and I admit, likewise, that it is quite incumbent upon the responsible advisers of the Crown to make out and prove a case of clear and undeniable necessity; and I am at the same time most anxious, in establishing that necessity, to avoid as much as possible any cause of irritation, and to divest the present discussion of anything like party acrimony. The House, I am sure, will bear in mind that the Bill now before them is by no means a novel measure; but I am most unwilling to advert to the past; I am, on the contrary, more desirous of applying myself to those points which prove the necessity of the Bill that we propose to bring forward for the better government of Ireland. I hope, however, that the House will allow me to advert to one remark made by the hon. Member for Bath. I quite agree with that hon. and learned Gentleman in thinking that that doctrine is most unsound which declares that violent maladies necessarily require violent remedies; and I quite concur with him, and with all hon. Members who think we are called upon to establish an absolute necessity for the enactment of this Bill. In the course of the present discussion, much has been said of the delay in passing this measure, or rather in not urging it forward. In reference, however, to the remarks made upon this subject, I must do the hon. Member for Lambeth the justice to say that he did not exceed the fair limits of debate, and that upon the whole his manner of treating this measure was somewhat different from that of other hon. Members at the opposite side of the House. The noble Lord the Member for London took a different view of the subject. He thought that we ought to have laid before the House a temporary measure with respect to Ireland, and a temporary measure with respect to the importation of foreign corn. Now, in my opinion, and I persuade myself in the opinion of the House likewise, there is no policy more unsound than that which proceeds upon temporary measures. 846 [Lord J. RUSSELL: The Government proposed such measures in the month of November.] I will not be led away from the question properly under the consideration of the House, by interlocutory remarks, into an angry controversy on topics which have no necessary connexion with the present subject of debate. The case to which the noble Lord refers is one dissimilar—utterly unlike the measure now under discussion, and proposed under totally different circumstances. The proposition in the month of November last had reference to the abrogation of the existing Corn Law, and the substitution for it of one by which an article of the first necessity should be introduced into this country. Now, it so happens that the Government fully and signally succeeded in that which formed our primary object. The question of the Tariff was indissolubly connected with the Corn Bill from its first introduction; and if Her Majesty's Government had for a moment hesitated with respect to either, we must have signally failed. It must be remembered, that when this Bill first came from the other House, at the end of March, the hon. Baronet the Member for Drogheda proposed that it should be postponed until after the other Orders of the Day; and the noble Lord opposite gave his decided support to that proposition, thereby promoting to the uttermost of his power a delay greater than that which has taken place. I should further observe that the Government, having to deal with the abrogation of the Corn Laws, and endeavouring to obtain the consent of Parliament to that measure, had to make a decision not unusual on the part of Ministers. They had to press that which was of primary importance, and to postpone that which they considered to be of secondary importance. I have already stated that, with reference to Ireland, from the destitution which existed in many districts of that country in an article of prime necessity for life, it was of the greatest importance, both for Ireland, when the distress prevailed, and for Great Britain, where the people are called upon to contribute aid to that distress, that the first consideration of Parliament this Session should be directed to an alteration of the Corn Laws. That was my opinion at the commencement of the Session, and at this moment I have no reason whatever to take another view of the subject; but I still regard the passing of the Corn Importation Bill as the primary object. If that be admitted. I think it cannot be shown that there has 847 been any unnecessary or avoidable delay on the part of the Government in urging this measure on the careful consideration of Parliament. Thus much as to the first point of delay. I said that this question rested mainly upon evidence; that it is a question of necessity, and that it must rest upon facts. I am very unwilling to go over the ground again, or to refer to the details which have been introduced into this discussion, more than I cannot avoid. But attempts have been made to cut down the facts of this case by speeches on both sides of the House; and it is therefore absolutely necessary, with the indulgence of the House, that I should restate some of the principal facts, and establish what I believe to be incapable of refutation, that in certain parts of Ireland, even up to the present moment, crime dangerous to life and property is increasing to a fearful extent. It has been attempted to show that whatever was the case with reference to the disturbed counties, in respect to the whole of Ireland crime is not on the increase. I said on a former occasion, what I now repeat, that happily it is no part of my duty to prefer an indictment against the Irish people generally, for, comparing the crimes committed in 1845 with those committed in 1844, throughout the whole of Ireland, as to a large proportion of the Irish people, crime has not increased to such an extent as to justify the passing of this Bill, and therefore I rest this measure mainly upon the condition of the five counties I specified before, namely, Tipperary, Roscommon, Clare, Leitrim, and Limerick; and I also must add, that the tendency of crimes of this description, unless checked, is to spread rapidly, and they will spread, and have already spread, into the counties adjacent. I should wish, in the first place, to call the attention of the House to the small proportion which the population of these five counties bears to the population of the whole of Ireland. The population of the whole of Ireland is 8,500,000; whilst the population of the five counties to which I have referred is somewhere about 1,400,000, or one-sixth of the whole. I must beg you to observe also the area of these five counties as compared with the area of the whole of Ireland. The area of the whole of Ireland is 20,000,000 acres; the area of the five counties is 3,500,000. I would also wish to state, that concurring in the observations made upon the other side with reference to threatening notices, I exclude them from the comparison of crimes 848 which I am about to institute. I think the hon. Gentleman who spoke with great ability on this side of the House—I mean the Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Seymer)—made an observation as to threatening notices well worthy of attention. I do not think that in the present condition of Ireland, threatening notices are to be treated as casual offences. When crimes of a murderous character are also rife, threatening notices are to be regarded in a different light from that in which they would be in those different parts of the country where crimes of that description are of rare occurrence; and I am prepared to omit from the enumeration I am about to make all reference to threatening notices. I must also remark, in reference to what has fallen from an hon. Member on the opposite side, that the returns from which I shall quote are made according to the established mode of the constabulary returns. Now observe that the total crimes in the five disturbed counties of Ireland, in the first five months of 1846, excluding threatening notices, was 1,074; and the same return for the same five counties, for the same period in 1845, was 1,330; being an increase in crime of 25 per cent, that is, in crime of every description. Now, I will take crimes of an insurrectionary and agrarian character; and in the first five months of 1845 the number was 779; whereas, in 1846, for the same period, it was 933, showing an increase of 20 per cent. I should wish to carry this enumeration still further; and I will specify the crimes concerning which I wish to institute a comparison, and they are crimes either of a murderous or insurrectionary character. They are nine in number—homicide, violence to the person, aggravated assault, assault endangering life, demand and robbing of arms, bearing arms, unlawful oaths, attacking houses, malicious injury of property, and firing into dwellings. I will begin with the crime of homicide. In 1845, in the same five counties, the number was 20. In 1846 it was 28. In the whole of Ireland, in 1846, they were 78; and therefore these five counties bore to the whole of Ireland the proportion of 36 per cent. Of violence to the person, they are in the proportion to the whole of Ireland of 68 per cent. In the five counties the aggravated assaults are in the proportion of 48 per cent to the whole of Ireland. Of assault endangering life they are 38 per cent; of demanding and robbing of arms, 72; of appearing in 849 arms, 80; of unlawful oaths, 87; of attacking houses, 69; of malicious injury to property, 38; and of firing into dwellings, a most serious and murderous crime, 79; and taking these nine crimes in the year 1845, for the first five months in the same five counties, the aggregate of such crimes is 665; in 1846 the aggregate is 872, whilst, as I said, the total number in Ireland was, in the same five months in the year 1846, 1,446; and therefore the proportion which these counties bear to all Ireland in offences of this description in the first five months of the present year, the population of these counties being only one-sixth of the whole, was 66 per cent. Now it has been observed, and I think by the hon. Member for Newark, that this Bill, even if effectual, can only be so against crimes committed by night; and the noble Lord the Member for Durham assented to the proposition. A return was made to the other House, in which there were enumerated the crimes of homicide or attempts to murder, and in which also the precise hour when the offence was committed is given. With regard to homicide, there has been committed by day, between sunrise and sunset, between the 1st of January and 25th of May, 27 homicides; and 48 between sunset and sunrise, showing that the majority of murders is committed by night and not by day. But the attempts at murder are more remarkable still; there were only 13 between sunrise and sunset, whereas there were 45 between sunset and sunrise; showing that a large majority of the offences against which this Bill is directed has been committed by night, and not by day. I do not wish to dwell invidiously upon another part of the statements the hon. Baronet made; but it is necessary that I should advert to it. Something was said of a comparison between the homicides committed in England and in Ireland between 1841 and 1845. Now the average number of homicides in England was 110, for a population of 16,000,000; and it must be observed that in the criminal returns of England, infanticide is included under the head of homicide, and that nearly one-half of the crimes classed as homicides in England were cases of infanticide; but in Ireland the average number of homicides, excluding infanticides, was 128; that is, whilst the homicides of England were only as 1 to 150,000 of the population, during the same period the homicides in Ireland were as 1 to 64. I also beg to call the attention of the House to the comparison of convictions 850 in England upon this crime of homicide being as one in three and three-quarters, whereas in Ireland it is only as one in eight and a half. And when it is said that crime of this description is at the present moment suspended in the disturbed districts to which I have alluded, I can only say that I have this very day received an account of a most atrocious murder in the county of Clare. It is from the report of Sir Charles O'Donnell, on the 18th of June, to the Commander in Chief, giving an account, in that district, in the last month, of four murders of a most distressing and outrageous character; and I can assure the House that upon the whole, murderous attacks of this fatal description have not been suspended since I last addressed the House upon this measure. [Mr. POWELL: In what part of Clare?] I beg pardon of the House, for, on looking at the report, I find that it was in the county of Galway. [Mr. SHEIL: That is not one of the five counties.] But it is immediately on the border. I will read the account:—I have to state that on last night, about the hour of one o'clock, two men came to the house of Patrick Hill, of Bolay, demanded admittance, and asked for something to eat. Hill was in the act of getting some bread for them, when they broke in the door, and told him they wanted to speak with him outside. Hill requested they would allow him time to put on his smallclothes. They replied that they would not detain him many minutes. When they got him outside, they brought him a distance of about forty yards from his house, and there inflicted several bayonet wounds on his body; his wife (who remained in the house with a young child) heard his screams, and ran to his assistance. When she came to where her husband was, he was prostrate on the ground; one of the party knocked her down; after which the unfortunate man (Hill) received a stroke of a stone on the chest which almost immediately deprived him of life. I can furnish no further particulars at present. Deceased's wife is in a state of distraction, and no other person has come forward as yet.If the hon. Gentleman really doubts this account, I think it will be my duty to read a part of the report from Sir C. O'Donnell up to the 18th June. There is an account of one murder, I think, in Roscommon; one, I think, in Westmeath; three in Leitrim, and four in Clare, all enumerated, and the details are given in the report of the last month. This brings me to recollect the observation made by the noble Lord the Member for London with respect to the case of Leitrim; and the noble Lord and some other hon. Gentlemen observed that the success of the measures taken by the Government in respect 851 to Leitrim, demonstrated, in their opinion, that this measure was unnecessary. Now the population of the five counties is 1,400,000; of Leitrim it is less than 200,000, whilst the area of that county is only 192,000 acres; so that, with reference to the population and the area, Leitrim forms but a small proportion, and it is quite possible, with reference to such a small locality, for the Government to concentrate its force, and to use means of repression, which become impracticable when applied to a larger area. It is true, that by the measures introduced by the Government of which Lord Morpeth was the Secretary for Ireland, that the Lord Lieutenant may proclaim a district, and may add to the police; yet that power of addition is not unlimited, but under the Act of Parliament is subject to restriction. With respect also to the military, how is it possible for the Government to distribute over five counties the military force in annihilating numbers as they did over a single county, such as Leitrim? Again, I must observe that the measures taken with regard to Leitrim were adopted last summer, when it was possible by patrols during the night, and in encampments to exercise a commanding power over the population; but measures such as those adopted in Leitrim, I can assure the noble Lord, are, to the best of my judgment, entirely inapplicable to the larger area of these five counties. Even with respect to Leitrim, several murders have recently occurred there; and if the noble Lord the Member for that county were in his place, I should appeal to him with confidence whether the condition of Leitrim negatives the necessity of the measure I am now pressing on the notice of the House. Then with respect to Roscommon: I know not whether the Member for that county is present; if he be, I would appeal to him whether he is not cognizant of this fact, that in the course of the last spring a particular tenant did receive notice that he was not at liberty to plough a certain piece of land which had been transferred to him under a legal contract? A threatening notice was conveyed to him which he dared not disobey; some of the landlords offered to lend him their teams of horses to plough the land; an application was made to the Government, that the danger attending the life of the men who went with those teams of horses was such that the Government should give permission that policemen in plain clothes should perform the operation of ploughing 852 the land; the Government refused, and much blame was attached to them for that refusal. This I mention as a fact which occurred in March last, and I believe the hon. Member for Roscommon is cognizant of all the circumstances. Something has been said of the social intercourse in Ireland not being interrupted — that these statements are greatly exaggerated, or altogether fictitious. [Mr. C. POWELL: Hear.] Has the hon. Gentleman read a Paper now on the Table of the House, furnished by Colonel Macgregor to the Irish Government? I am talking now of Roscommon. I will read the account of the gentleman himself, writing to the stipendiary magistrate:—Currestona, March 13, 1846.My dear Wray—Having dined at Mr. Harry Browne's, at Leabeg, last night, and having previously received several threatening notices to be on my guard, I ordered a patrol of three men—viz., Constable Baskaville, Sub-constable Geoghagan, and Sub-constable Gorman, to be at my house about nine o'clock, to watch the neighbourhood; and as Leabeg road was one upon which it was necessary to patrol, I requested they would call at Mr. Browne's for me, and escort me home; they did call as desired, about ten o'clock, and I accompanied them back towards my home. At about a quarter of a mile from my residence, and as we were proceeding quietly along, we heard the sound of footsteps, as if a party of men were running, and in about half a minute we came up with four men, armed with long guns and a piece of a scythe, whom we challenged; they immediately stopped, and we made them prisoners, each of us taking one and their arms. While endeavouring to secure them, they attempted to rescue themselves; two succeeded by knocking me down, and made off to their party that was on before them, which, to the best of our opinion and what we could learn from the neighbours, numbered at least 200 men, and in the meantime the other two escaped; Sub-constable Gorman having followed one of them by my orders, came up with the main body, who immediately cried out, 'Come on, boys? Will you see our men taken? They are only four' (we were four). We then retreated, the whole body following, and having attempted to make an entry into the house of a man named Luke Cowen, the party cried out to surround us, and to come in our rear, in which they succeeded, and whilst I and the police were endeavouring to force an entry, there were several shots fired at us, which happily did not take effect beyond breaking the windows and furniture of the house. Having made our entry, we placed a man at each door, and one at a window with bayonets fixed. We remained quiet, and in a few moments we thought we saw the end of the house on fire, which proved to be true; and lighted sods of turf being placed in each corner of the thatch of the house, we momentarily expected to be either burnt to death or suffocated, and at the same time knowing that if we left the house we should be shot as we came out. Most fortunately the man of the house opened the door and called the neighbours, and commenced putting out his furniture. 853 After some time they, evidently very reluctantly, came to our assistance, being in dread and terror of their lives, and succeeded in tearing down the burning thatch, which eventually proved our safety. We remained in a state of defence at Cowen's house from half-past ten o'clock p.m. until eight this morning, when, having reconnoitred, we proceeded to my residence, and, having dressed myself, proceeded to the barrack at Ballintubber, and, having reinforced our party, started to Castlerea, to lay the details of this gross and unparalleled outrage in this hitherto peaceable neighbourhood before you. I cannot close this anything but exaggerated report without higly eulogizing the gallant, steady, and determined conduct of the police, who, placed in such imminent peril, displayed such coolness and bravery as contributed greatly to the preservation of our lives; and, although overpowered by a large party, succeeded in holding possession of the house (and scythe) until daybreak. I beg leave to bring under the notice of Government the excellent conduct of two men named Concannon, who, at the risk of their lives, helped to quench the fire over our heads, but for which we should have been consumed, or shot in endeavouring to make our escape, as resistance would have been useless, from the smallness of our party, and the numbers and determination of the assailants. I regret, from the darkness of the night, and the perilous situation we were placed in, we could not identify any of the parties.Here, then, is a picture of social intercourse in Ireland, of the happy conclusion of an evening spent in dining with a neighbour, and visiting a friend. I have had a careful examination made of these returns, and find that the homicides in four years, 1842, 1843, 1844, and 1845, were 513 altogether, which, deducting 67 women, leaves a total of 446 men. And is it true, as has been asserted, that the labouring classes are not the sufferers, or are they not rather the principal sufferers from the state of crime that you are called on to prevent? Out of 446 homicides, 261 are those of persons in the labouring class of life, servants, woodrangers, and herds; 91 are farmers and their sons; 13 are bailiffs and land stewards; and 10 only are in the situation of gentlemen. This state of tyranny and oppression falls therefore mainly on the peasantry. Of the attempts at murder, after deducting twenty women, there remain the cases of 436 men. Of these 94 were farmers and their sons, 87 woodrangers, &c., 45 land stewards, &c., and 39 were gentlemen. The hon. Member for Waterford has stated that this measure has been forced on the Government by party feeling in Ireland, and that it is not the result of our conviction of its necessity. I can assure the hon. Member that such, is not the case. 854 Throughout the summer and autumn of last year, Government continued to receive from the grand juries, from the deputy lieutenants, and from the magistrates of Ireland, without distinction of party, the strongest assurances that a measure of this kind was absolutely required. I admit the reluctance with which I listened to to these suggestions; I admit the unconstitutional character of this measure; and nothing but the strongest conviction of the necessity of such a measure induced me to be a party to its introduction. A great deal has been said about the grievances of Ireland, and that we should endeavour to remove by measures of an opposite character all the grievances in the first instance. The noble Lord the Member for the city of London said what I admit, generally speaking, is the case, that these crimes do not for the most part spring from religious or political differences. I admit that poverty and competition for land are the originating and primary causes of these crimes. But though that may be their origin, it is important to bear in mind what are the admissions made by hon. Members from Ireland. Hon. Members may carp at our measures; but they admit that society is disorganized in the districts in which it is proposed to apply this Bill, and that, from whatever cause, the whole framework of society is shaken and disturbed. The noble Lord having said, that the cause of the outrages was neither political nor religious, glanced at the measures necessary in his opinion for the tranquillization of Ireland. The noble Lord dealt with the question whether the relief of able-bodied men out of the poor rate was necessary; and I agree with the noble Lord that an indiscriminate relief of the able-bodied out of the poor rate is not a remedy to be recommended at this unhappy crisis. The noble Lord then considered the question of the cultivation of waste lands, and he expressed himself in favour of some measure of this kind. Now the noble Lord must be aware, that for the space of forty years this subject had been entertained by every Government in succession. I do not say that it does not afford some means of relief if judiciously adopted; but how the noble Lord thinks it a measure of present relief from the evils we are now discussing, I cannot imagine. Her Majesty's Government have introduced a measure on the law of landlord and tenant which is now on the Table of the House. We are told that a law on the subject of distraint and ejectment is required; but I do not believe 855 that such a measure, further than we have carried it, can be adopted, consistently with the rights of property. If it can, I am prepared to go that length. A reduction of the stamp duty upon leases has also been recommended; and we have now on the Table of the House a measure reducing the stamp duty in such cases to a minimum. Then it has been said that the labouring poor ought to be employed. What has been the course of the Government this Session? There are not less than 14,000 men now receiving daily wages from the Government in various parts of Ireland, employed in public works. The hon. Member for Rochdale recommends the establishment of more agricultural schools, and admits that we have taken active measures for that purpose. But the hon. Member says that thirty-two schools are not enough, and that there must be more district schools; it so happens that we have anticipated his recommendation also; and at this present time Government are doing what they can to follow out that view. The giving encouragement to landlords to drain their land was the next point raised; and what have the Government done this Session? They have already amended a clause in the Public Works Act, reducing the rate of interest; and the Secretary at War has laid on the Table a Bill authorizing the loan of 1,000,000l., in aid of draining to the landlords of Ireland, the landlord paying 3 per cent, and 2 per cent going to form a sinking fund by which the whole will be paid off in twenty-two years. With respect to public works, a measure has received the sanction of the House which removes the impediments to their execution, and the Government is prepared to recommend a grant of money to the amount of 120,000l. for public works. The education of the people has also been adverted to; and I have often called the attention of Parliament to the fact, that under the Irish Board of Education not less than 400,000 children are receiving an education which will bear a comparison with that of any other country in Europe. I have now gone through the whole of the measures recommended by the hon. Member for Waterford, and I have shown that they either have been considered by the Government, or that proper means have been taken in carrying them into effect at the instance, and under the immediate direction of, the Government. I now come to the part of the Bill levying a tax to be paid by the disturbed districts. It is admitted that 856 persons cognizant of crimes do not assist in the apprehension of offenders. To a certain extent Lord Morpeth's Act permitted districts to apply for an increase of the constabulary, and allowed the Lord Lieutenant to add to the police; and the expense of this addition being borne by the county, amounted, in fact, to a fine upon the district. But the objections made to that charge was, that it was made not on the particular district, but upon the body of the county, and that the Act distributed the burden over too large an area, instead of confining it to the locality where the offences were committed. I am sorry it is not in my power to doubt the indispensable necessity of rendering it the interest, I am afraid I must say the pecuniary interest, of persons dwelling in the disturbed districts to maintain the public peace. I regret to say, that in many parts of the; country the concealment of offenders is studious, and in the disturbed districts almost universal. In the evidence given before Lord Devon's Commission by Mr. Kennedy, I find a graphic description of the extent to which criminals of the most atrocious description are concealed, though the offenders are well known:—At what seasons are the poor rates generally collected?—In May and August; in a very bad time of the year. I think the farmers shelter those people guilty of outrages through the country, under the fear that if the intimidation was not to continue, they would be ejected and turned out. I have not a doubt that that is the fact. I have remonstrated with the people, and spoken to them about harbouring them, and making free with bad characters; and that is what they told me.Do you conceive that that was the real reason, or if it was from fear of them?—No; they are not in dread of them by any means; but they wish the system to go on, that they may be kept in their farms, and they open their doors and give them protection. If there were a hundred police after them, it would be of no use; the people will come upon the road and meet the men, and mix with them. The police will start after them; the four men will divide; they run after them; and, if they catch any one, it is the wrong man. They say, 'That is him!' or 'That is him!' and they get hold of the wrong man. That is quite common.By a fine upon the district all householders will have a direct pecuniary interest in discovering an offender, and in joining in his apprehension. The hon. Member for the county of Limerick asked me, if in the case of crimes of a most atrocious character prevalent at Sheffield, I was prepared to propose additional legislation. I have since proposed a measure of the most stringent character to meet this class of offences; and an hon. Gentleman, one of the Members 857 for Sheffield, has proposed an alteration of the law of England, with reference to the fine imposed on the vicinage. By the law of England whenever damage is done to property, accompanied by riot, the hundred is liable. The proposition was, that whenever a dwelling was destroyed, the hundred should be liable, as in cases of riot, although no open violence may have been used. I did not adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member; but there is this difference between the two countries—in England property is assailed, and life is generally spared; in Ireland property is respected, but life is sacrified with the most barbarous wantonness. I now approach another part of the subject. I refer to an appeal made by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) with reference to the conduct of myself. I have had the honour of a long acquaintance with the noble Lord, and I thought I fully appreciated his character. I knew him to be bold, and I had fancied that he was generous. I was slow to believe that in his bosom there was any dark recess where angry resentments were cherished; which lapse of time could not mitigate, and public duty could not restrain, when public interests required the sacrifice. I am still unwilling to believe that I have fallen into a mistake. But the noble Lord says I am wanting in fairness—that while I have changed my opinions, I have not done justice to him and his former Colleagues by withdrawing the language which I held when opposed to the noble Lord. I am not prepared to defend any particular expressions which I may have used in debate. It is possible my opinions, honestly entertained, might have been conveyed in more appropriate language; but that I have done injustice to the noble Lord or his Colleagues, I do not feel myself called upon to acknowledge. If I had felt that any such retractation was justly due, I should not be unwilling to make it. I am anxious to avoid saying a word that can tend to increase irritation or protract discussion; but when the noble Lord says that I, and those with whom I act, overthrew a Government whose principles and measures we subsequently adopted, he must permit me to remind him, that he overthrew the Government of Sir R. Peel in 1835, by carrying a resolution in this House in reference to the appropriation of the property of the Church of Ireland, or a certain portion of it, to secular purposes: that he, when in office for some time, proposed to act on the principles of that resolution: 858 and that at last he abandoned it, in a manner which I will not characterize, because more severe expressions were applied to that abandonment by some of those who are now followers of the noble Lord, than I should choose to employ. Then, as to free trade in corn: though those with whom I act in the Government have changed their views on this particular doctrine, yet the noble Lord and those with whom he acts were sudden converts under very suspicious circumstances. Let any Gentleman read the speech of the right hon. Member for Taunton in 1840, on Mr. Ewart's Motion as to sugar, and he will there see laid down the distinction between free labour and slave labour sugar more broadly and distinctly than it has ever since been laid down by any hon. Member. The acts of a Government must be taken in connexion with the declarations of its chief. With regard to the free importation of corn, what were the declarations of Lord Melbourne? Did he not, up to the very last year of his Administration, contend that any change whatever was especially objectionable, and that the notion of introducing free trade in corn into this country was to be regarded as insanity? I believe his expression was, that he thought it madness. It was not till Lord Melbourne's Government was on the eve of dissolution, when power had departed from it—it was not till the very last moment of its expiring existence, that the principle of free trade was enunciated by that Administration as the principle of their Government; and there is this difference between the conduct of myself and my Colleagues, and of the noble Lord and his Colleagues—we, in changing our views, have given effect to a principle which we really believe to be indispensably necessary to the welfare and happiness of this community, by the sacrifice of our personal interests and feelings, and by the sacrifice of power. The noble Lord and his Colleagues changed not less suddenly than we did; but by their change of opinions they sought, as I contend, the maintenance of their Administration, and the discomfit of their political adversaries. Under these circumstances, any retractation is quite impossible, though the particular form of expressions which I may have used in debate, may not be justifiable. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Roebuck) has adverted to the measures proposed in previous years similar in effect and tendency to that which is now before the 859 House for the protection of life in Ireland. There can be no question that the measure introduced by Lord Grey, in 1834, was infinitely more stringent than that which we are now debating. That which was doubtless an unconstitutional measure was proposed by Lord Grey from a deep conviction of its necessity. Lord Holland concurred in the Act of 1833, by which trial by court martial was substituted for trial by jury. So did Lord Althorp; so did Lord Brougham. My right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel), when he conducted the affairs of Ireland in 1835, governed without a measure of this description. The courts-martial had ceased, and nothing but the ordinary law of the land was in operation. [Lord J. RUSSELL: Had the Act expired?] The Act had expired before that time. Lord Melbourne proposed a measure less stringent than that to which I have now referred, but more stringent than the present Bill. The variations have been pointed out. The right of domiciliary visit was given in the Act of 1835. No such power is given by the Bill now before the House. The Lord Lieutenant, besides, was empowered to select a judge who should try offences under the Act. What are the provisions of the present Bill? Parties can be bailed on application to a single magistrate; and the Lord Lieutenant has power to order the liberation of a party before trial, if he see cause, even though he stands committed. But who is to be the judge? Not one selected by the Executive Government, but one of the twelve judges of assize. The case must go before the grand jury in the first instance, and must be tried by a petty jury at the assizes. It is assumed that transportation under this Bill is the penalty for offences. It is the maximum penalty, which can only be awarded by one of the twelve judges of Ireland on his responsibility. The whole machinery of this Bill, I undertake, on going into Committee, to demonstrate, is infinitely less stringent than the enactments of the measure of 1835. The offences in Ireland specially reported by the police were, in 1835, 10,225. It is said this measure will be ineffectual. Judging from experience, I demur to that statement. In 1836 crime fell to 8,067. That was the first year in which the Act of 1835 was in operation; and in 1837, the second year, crime fell to 6,775. The hon. Member for Bath has referred to what passed in 1835. He quoted from a speech of the noble Lord 860 the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Lord Morpeth), who introduced the measure, and also from a speech of the hon. and learned Member for Cork, who warmly supported it. He also read a passage in which the hon. and learned Member for Cork condemned special commissions, which the Government had been reproached for not adopting in the repression of crime. I am about to state what took place in 1837, when, upon the ground that crime had decreased, a Motion was made by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. S. Crawford), that the Act of 1835 be repealed. Crime had decreased, as I have already stated. But what was the speech made by the noble Lord the Member for Yorkshire in resisting that Motion?I must express my regret that His Majesty's Ministers cannot reconcile it with their sense of duty to assent to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman at this time. The House will recollect, that in 1833 and 1834 the state of Ireland was such that the House felt itself bound to pass two laws of a very stringent and coercive character. I will not now discuss the propriety of those measures, or inquire as to the sufficiency of the grounds on which they were submitted to Parliament. In the year 1835, my noble Friend (Lord Melbourne) thought he was justified in proposing a measure of a less severe and stringent character, and which, by extending over a larger period of time, would avoid the objection of frequent renewal. His enactment, then, was for a period of five years; and Parliament having taken all the circumstances into consideration, I think it would be exceedingly inconvenient and improper, instead of waiting for the expiration of that period, to go into the question with a view to the cancelling the arrangements which were then made. I admit that my hon. Friend did express his dissent from the measure at the time it was introduced; but I think I may add, that it passed through both Houses of Parliament, his being almost the only dissentient voice. My hon. Friend has told us that the measure has been a dead letter. I am happy to say that the Government has not been called on to act upon it. Yet, though I trust I am warranted in thinking that there is nothing in the present state of Ireland of a very menacing or dangerous character, I cannot flatter myself that things have quite attained to such an extraordinary degree of improvement, that, considering what changes might possibly occur, the House would be disposed to dispense with the powers which the Act in question has created. Seeing, then, that no practical inconvenience has resulted from the law, and that it was passed with a perfect understanding as to the period of its duration, I hope that my hon. Friend will not press his Motion while there are other important practical measures awaiting the consideration of the House.The Bill had passed without opposition except from the hon. Member for Rochdale, and the hon. Member for Limerick. Then, what was the course taken by the hon. 861 and learned Member for Cork? Having supported the Bill in 1835, he joined with the noble Lord in resisting its repeal. The hon. and learned Member said, "The object is to prevent rather than to punish." It is precisely on that ground that I recommend the present measure. The hon. and learned Gentleman said—The object of the Act in question is to prevent rather than to punish. It does not take away trial by jury; but it allows barristers of a certain standing to be called in to try the cases which may arise. I am ready to take my share of any odium that may attach to the continuance of this Act—it protects the people of Ireland against the poorer class of disturbers. I, for one, should be exceedingly sorry were His Majesty's Government to consent to its repeal.Yes; "the object of this Bill is to prevent rather than to punish." That is the very ground upon which I recommend the present measure — the same ground which Mr. O'Connell took in resisting the repeal of the measure of 1835. The hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded to observe, that the measure did not take away trial by jury—that it proposed that barristers, appointed for the purpose, should try certain offences. Instead of barristers, we propose that offences should be tried under this Act by the judges of the land. The hon. and learned Member for Cork was ready to take his share of any odium arising from the continuance of the Bill, for it protected the people of Ireland against the poorer classes of disturbers; and on that ground I support the present measure. The number of crimes had fallen in the ratio I have shown down to 1837; and in 1838 the number was 4,900; in 1840, 4,600. Then the Act expired. During the whole Administration of Lord Melbourne, until within nine months of its close, their Government had the powers of an Act more stringent in its machinery than the Bill which we are now discussing; and although the penalties were in some instances less severe, yet this is a matter of detail quite open to future discussion. In 1837 they resisted a Motion for a repeal of the Act; and Mr. O'Connell joined them, characterizing the Act as a protection of the people against the poorer disturbers. The number of outrages which had been, as I have stated, 4,600 in 1840, began to rise again in 1841—they amounted to 5,361; in 1842 the number of offences was 6,535; in 1843, 5,875; in 1844, 6,327; in 1845, 8,095. Observe, my right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel) and his Colleagues have administered 862 the affairs of Ireland during five years without a measure of this description. We have relied upon the ordinary law and the constitutional authorities. During five years of Lord Melbourne's Administration, except for a short period in 1841, they had a stringent Act for the repression of crime; crime diminished; and when the proposition was made in consequence to repeal the Act, they deliberately refused to consent to that proposition. On the ground of political necessity they were forced to adopt the measure; and they felt themselves, on the same ground, constrained to oppose its repeal. I do not wish unnecessarily to intrude on this House other authorities in immediate connection with the noble Lord opposite; but I cannot overlook declarations made in the other House of Parliament within the last two months in reference to this particular measure. The hon. Member for Bath referred to some such authorities. I cannot be mistaken as to the opinion of Lord Lansdowne. I have been reminded that in the course of this Session I myself have declared that with reference to the people of Ireland, we ought to legislate with a view to their feelings, their wishes, and even their prejudices. The hon. Member for Bath and others had referred to this sentiment with commendation; and some Gentleman said that similar expressions had been used by Mr. Fox. Now allow me to remark that the first Coercion Act was brought in by Lord Grey, the intimate friend of Mr. Fox, and not only professing his principles, but through his whole life steadily acting up to them. The second Bill of that nature was introduced by the Government of Lord Melbourne—the noble Lord the Member for the city of London being Home Secretary — Lord Holland (who was referred to as having entered a protest against some such measure at an earlier period) giving his sanction to its introduction; while the necessity, as I contend, for such a measure, was not then nearly so strong as now. The last surviving Colleague of Mr. Fox is Lord Lansdowne; and I cannot be deceived as to his sentiments on this subject. It is not regular to refer to what occurs elsewhere; but I was present and myself heard Lord Lansdowne say that the necessity of this measure was fully established—that whatever might be the character of measures of conciliation which might be introduced, social or political, it was absolutely necessary that this measure should be their 863 precursor; and he gave his unqualified support to the second reading, although the noble Lord observed that there were some minor details which might require amendment; but Lord Lansdowne did not divide the House of Lords against the third reading, and therefore, so far as he was concerned, the rational conclusion is, that this Bill in its present shape had Lord Lansdowne's sanction. Lord Melbourne had expressed the strongest opinion in a letter to the Secretary of the Repeal Association, that the measure had been too long delayed, and ought to be immediately pressed forward. And, therefore, I say that those to whom the noble Lord and his Colleagues profess to look up with the highest deference as constitutional authorities, all give their sanction to the provisions of this Bill. But the noble Lord, at the close of his address, made an appeal, in which the noble Lord the Member for Newark joined. I have all along admitted that the measure is unconstitutional, harsh in its aspect, and that nothing can justify it except necessity: that is the doctrine of the noble Lord the Member for Newark, and of the noble Lord the Member for the city of London. I cordially join with them in the expression of that feeling. I do not think that from any extrinsic circumstances—anything unconnected with the merits of the Bill—any Member would be justified in voting for its second reading unless he was prepared to admit its necessity. That this is constitutional doctrine, as propounded by the noble Lord the Member for London, cannot be denied; that it is sound and wise policy there can be no doubt. I think it would be fatal to the connection between England and Ireland if the people of the latter country were led to believe that unconstitutional measures can be supported in this House apart from the question of their imperative necessity. I advocate no such party obligations; and I fully recognise the justice and wisdom of the noble Lord's advice. But, at the same time, I cannot forget that there are in this House Gentlemen who supported the first reading of this Bill on the ground of its necessity, and said that the guilt of any blood which might be shed in consequence of its delay would rest upon the Government. I say that if those who supported the first stage of the Bill on the ground of its necessity, not with a view to any other object, convert the question into one of want of confidence in the Government on any ground 864 extrinsic from the merits of the Bill, they will give to those persons in Ireland whose lives or property are in danger from want of the measure, the strongest reason for saying that confidence can no longer be placed in a British Legislature, and the most specious pretext for seeking a severance of the connection between the two countries; and I say that the Gentlemen so acting will gratify their personal resentments at the expense of great national interests. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Colquhoun) asked me a question as to a particular clause in this Bill, and stated that, according to the answer he should receive, his vote would be decided. It would be highly indecorous on the part of a Government, when pressing the second reading of any measure, to bind themselves by saying that in a mere matter of detail they would yield no point whatever to reason and to argument when the Bill was in Committee; but as to the question referred to by the hon. Member, that is, as to the clause preventing persons being out of their dwellings, in a proclaimed district, between sunset and sunrise, and affixing to that misdemeanor, as the maximum of punishment, a sentence of transportation; I am bound to state that to the provisions of that clause it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government firmly to adhere. The measure is proposed from a deep conviction of its necessity. What motive on earth could Her Majesty's Government have for pressing the measure, except a deep and conscientious conviction of that necessity? As far as my official knowledge goes, the necessity for this measure is seriously felt in Ireland; and my anticipations will be greatly deceived, if, this measure being rejected, a necessity for it is not demonstrated in the ensuing winter. Notwithstanding many difficulties and serious outrages, we have for five years conducted the government of Ireland without asking Parliament to grant us any extraordinary powers. Charged with the maintenance of peace in that country, under the most adverse circumstances, and knowing that our power would be shaken to its foundation, we have not shrunk from the responsibility of proposing this measure. To have done so lightly, would have been inexcusable; having done it from a conviction of its necessity, to shrink would be base and ignominious. We do not shrink from it — we adhere to the opinion that it is necessary. And I deliberately state, I am satisfied the time 865 is not far distant when the Executive, however constituted, will require all the powers of this measure. Let those who doubt that necessity, resist this measure, regardless of all the consequences of that resistance; but, on the other hand, let those who are satisfied of that necessity, give it a manly and cordial support apart from all questions of confidence or want of confidence in the existing Administration. That question can be raised at any time and upon other issues; but I say, it will be most inexcusable, unjust, and dangerous, to object to the second reading of this Bill for the better preservation of life in Ireland, because an opportunity is sought to overthrow a Government by placing it in a minority. I may be wrong; but I have a deep conviction that if all those who are conscientiously satisfied that in the present circumstances of Ireland this Bill is necessary, shall support the second reading, the result of the division will not be doubtful.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
found himself, by the observations that had been made, called upon unexpectedly to take part in this discussion. He could, not, however, permit the observations made by the right hon. Gentleman to remain for a moment unanswered. He had been attacked—unjustly attacked by the right hon. Baronet. This was not the first time an unjust attack had come from the same quarter. Some years ago the same attack had been made; and he had had the opportunity of meeting and disposing of it, of refuting it. And now it was revived by the right hon. Baronet, who had at the same time thought proper to give him—what he thought he should never hear from him—a lesson on consistency! Undoubtedly consistency was a great public virtue; but then he did not think it, and this he wished to say to the right hon. Baronet, as a matter of utter indifference, whether a person might say and unsay the same thing, for never until now had they heard as if it were a matter of indifference, undertaking the defence of measures and then defending them; and never until now did they find a public man, and never before now a statesman saying in a single sentence that he disposed of all his former principles. Humble a Member of Parliament as he was, he could not find himself thus attacked for a want of consistency and not at least attempt to show that the attack was not deserved—not that he meant to say that in the twenty years which he had been in Parliament, one was 866 not to modify their opinions. But this was another case: here he was attacked as having voted one way, and turned round and voted exactly in the contrary manner; the endeavour was made to persuade the House and the country that he had suggested that which he had previously resisted. The right hon. Gentleman was his accuser. The right hon. Gentleman had said that if the House wished to see the principle laid down for the exclusion of slave-grown sugar, he would refer hon. Members to the speech delivered by him in the year 1840. He was then President of the Board of Trade; and, acting in that capacity, he had urged as a member of the Government, and as such resisted the introduction, not merely of slave-grown, but of all foreign sugars, for he did not draw the distinction between slave-grown and other sugars. His objection was to all foreign sugars; for he said that their own Colonies, after the experiment they had been subjected to in the abolition of slavery ought not to be so far injured as to raise the flood-gates (that was his expression) and let in all the sugars of the world to come in competition with them. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, who was, he must observe, a perfectly fair opponent, did him the justice to say, that when he supported the Motion of the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Mr. F. T. Baring) that though there was to be found in his arguments on the former debate much that was worthy of attention, yet that there was no inconsistency in his voting for the Motion of the hon. Member for Portsmouth. It was rather hard then, after this, to hear the insinuations that had been cast upon him. And this too, introduced on the question of a Coercion Bill for Ireland. What, he asked, had his conduct on the Sugar Bill to do with such a subject? He regretted to have to refer to a matter thus personal to himself. And yet the right hon. Gentleman said that he would be sorry to infuse any acrimony into the debate. If such was really the desire of the right hon. Gentleman, he was a most unfortunate orator; for more misrepresentation, more acrimony, and more personal bitterness, he had never heard than from the right hon. Gentleman on this occasion. It was especially unbecoming in the right hon. Gentleman, charged with the conduct of a Bill of this description; and when the interests of a nation were at stake, they might surely hope that no odious insinuations, no party taunts, and 867 no wretched acrimonious spirit, would be permitted to pervade their discussion. He was sorry that they should be driven to such a wretched expedient; for if they were to commence casting in the teeth of one another their mutual offences, there never would be an end of it. He did feel very strongly that the right hon. Gentleman and his party had acted most unfairly towards the late Government, but especially most unfairly towards Ireland, by making it the constant subject of attack when that Government was in office. The Members of the present Government, when sitting on the Opposition benches were constantly exciting the mind of Englishmen, by raising up every wretched bigoted feeling, by fomenting the old No-Popery cry, and this merely for the sake of embarrassing and thwarting the Government. Their only object was to embarrass and thwart the late Government; but in doing so they distracted and shook the Empire. Of all parts of the conduct of the former Opposition, that it was which he thought was the most reprehensible, the least excusable, and the most injurious to the country. He would now only say, that when the Gentlemen opposite got into office, he was ready to admit they had conducted affairs in a more satisfactory manner than he had expected. They had acted in such a manner that he began at length to think that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) was little better than a Whig. The measures of the right hon. Gentleman were so very like those of his own Friends, that notwithstanding his recollection of the conduct pursued in opposition, he was able to give to the right hon. Gentleman his support; and it would be found that during the five or six years the right hon. Gentleman was in office, he more frequently would be found supporting than opposing his measures. As to the question before the House, he said they ought to vote upon it on its own merits. It was no reason because Members felt grateful to the Minister for the Corn Law, that they ought to make him a present of the liberties of Ireland. To pursue such a course of conduct, would be most likely to make a Repealer of every Irishman. He did then trust that Members in giving their votes would look only to the merits of the question. His vote would be given against the Bill from the conviction, that however disturbed might be state of Ireland, that this measure could not prove, and was not calculated to prove, any mitigation for these 868 evils. One circumstance had struck his mind, when the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the moral effect to be produced by this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the measure was most unconstitutional, and was only to be justified by extraordinary circumstances; but then it was not the fault of the present Government that this Bill was not engrafted on the Constitution as a permanent measure. When he first heard of that proposal it struck him as a great affront to Ireland, and as a great affront to this Parliament. It was not until the Government had been driven from pillar to post in the House of Lords they had abandoned that proposition. The conduct of the Government then stripped the measure of the moral effect it might have had upon the condition of the country. There was only one other point in the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of the Home Department that he meant to notice. It was that those who voted for the first reading, and did not do so with the second reading, would not be justified in adopting such a course. He was surprised to hear language of that sort from one having the Parliamentary experience of the right hon. Gentleman. According to him everybody who voted for a first reading, was bound to vote for the second reading of a Bill. [Sir J. GRAHAM: If convinced of its necessity.] These were words of course. Every one knew that it was very seldom Gentlemen felt themselves at liberty to vote against the first reading of a Bill introduced by a Government, and scarcely ever against a Bill sent down from the House of Lords; and as far as this Bill was concerned, they were reminded by the Government that, in voting for the first reading, they were not merely pledged to vote for the second reading.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
explained: He had been misunderstood as to what he had said with respect to persons voting for the first reading. All he had said was this, that those who voted for the first reading, and remained, in their conscience and judgment, satisfied of the necessity for this measure, were bound to vote for the second reading, and not to give a vote on grounds extraneous of its merits.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past One o'clock.