§ LORD J. RUSSELL
rose to bring for- 697 ward the Motion of which he had given notice, namely—For leave to bring in a Bill to empower the Lord Lieutenant, or other Chief Governor or Governors of Ireland, to apprehend and detain until the 1st day of March, 1849, such Persons as he or they shall suspect of conspiring against Her Majesty's Person and Government.The noble Lord said: I never felt so deep a concern in bringing any question before the House as that which I now feel in proposing to the House to suspend for a limited time the constitutional liberties of Ireland. I feel, however, at the same time, that the measure I am about to propose is necessary for the preservation of life and property in Ireland—that it: is necessary for the purpose of preventing bloodshed—that it is necessary to stop an incipient insurrection—and that it is eminently called for in respect to the safety of the British empire. With this conviction in my mind, therefore, I shall proceed without any further preface or apology to state to the House the grounds upon which I rest the proposition I am about to propose. It appears to me, Sir, that it is absolutely necessary I should prove three things as the grounds of my proposition. One is, that the present state of things in Ireland is fraught with evil—that it threatens danger—and that we are on the eve of an outbreak if it is not timely prevented. The second is, that there are means sufficient to produce great injury and great danger unless some measure is adopted to avoid them. And the third is, that the measure which I shall have the honour to propose, is that remedy which appears most appropriate in the present calamitous state of Ireland. With respect to the first of these propositions—the present state of Ireland—I do not propose to rest my case on any secret information, on any grounds known solely to the Government of this country or of Ireland—upon any information resting upon doubtful or uncertain evidence as regards the accomplices in the proposed rebellion—I propose to rest my case upon facts which are patent, notorious, and flagrant. This House is aware that a good number of years ago, after the passing of the Emancipation Act in 1829, there were formed various associations in Ireland succeeding one another, under the direction of the late Mr. O'Connell, for the promotion of the repeal of the legislative Union. The House is likewise aware, that while in those associations, and in the meetings—the most numerous meetings— 698 which took place on some occasions for the purpose of promoting this repeal, the most exciting language was used; while there was every appearance that that language might lead to insurrection, there was on the part of the leader of that agitation a frequent and emphatic declaration that, in his opinion, no political object was worth one single drop of blood, and that it was only by the force of demonstrations, by great numbers, by uniting all the people of Ireland in one exhibition of feeling and opinion—that their object, the repeal of the Union, was to be accomplished. I am not making any comment on these proceedings. I am not saying whether they were lawful, whether they were wise, or whether they were just. I only recall to the recollection of the House facts which are already known. Towards the end, however, of that course of agitation, and likewise towards the end of the life of Mr. O'Connell, there broke away from the old Repeal Association a now party, which took a course different both in its objects and the means by which they proposed to effect those objects. The object which Mr. O'Connell and the Repeal Association had held out to the people of Ireland was, that the Act of Union might be repealed—that a Parliament might sit in Ireland, constituted of Lords and Commons—and that, as a Parliament had sat in Ireland from 1782 to 1800, so likewise, by the repeal of the Union, another Parliament might be revived to legislate for Ireland. They also declared that they desired to attain that object only by peaceful agitation. The new confederacy, by whatever name they were called, held forth their object at first somewhat covertly and ambiguously, but more openly as they proceeded—although I think it was quite evident to any one who examined their language from the beginning, that their object was a total separation of Ireland from the dominions of the Crown. They held, on certain lax conditions, a sort of allegiance to the Sovereign of this country; but their object evidently was, that they should be totally independent, and that no counsels of the Sovereign of this country were at all to affect the course of legislation or administration in Ireland. They pointed clearly, as I think, to the separation of the two nations, and to the independence of Ireland under some other form of government; for, whatever might be thought—whatever I, for one, might think of the proposal of the repeal of the legis- 699 lative Union, as tending to a dismemberment of the empire, that was a matter of reasoning, of argument, and of proof—the separation which these persons contended for was obvious on the face of their proceedings and proposals. Likewise, as to the means by which they proposed to effect their object—those means, from the beginning, were distinguished by the application of the term "physical force," as opposed to "moral force," which designated the mode of operation by the old repealers. By the term "physical force," they intended no less than rebellion against the Crown of this kingdom. They thought by means of rebellion, if successful, to establish the separate Government at which they aimed. Whatever might be the thin disguise assumed at first as to their object, or as to the want of power of carrying it into effect, a great change has been produced by the events which have taken place within the last few months. The misfortune which fell upon Ireland of the blight in the potato crop, and the consequent want of food by millions of her people—the imperfections which naturally belong to any plan of endeavouring by artificial means to feed those who are deprived of their ordinary subsistence—afforded to those who were looking to the separation of Ireland from this country the means of furthering their objects, and of exciting the passions of the people against this country. Be it observed that, as far as I know, they never did anything to assuage that calamity. While 8,000,000l. were lavishly poured into Ireland by the vote of this House—while 400,000l. were contributed by the voluntary assistance of persons in this country and Scotland, who could not bear to see their fellow-subjects perishing—all that was contributed by these parties were seditious harangues, inflammatory appeals to the passions of the people—and endeavours to misrepresent the motives and amount of the contributions of this country. When Ireland was in some degree, and but very slowly, recovering from this great calamity—when the evils consequent upon it, although still very severe, were somewhat mitigated, there occurred an event in a neighbouring country which has been productive of encouragement to all who wish the overthrow of our institutions; to all who wish to promote rebellion; to all who believe that the Throne and authority of this empire can be overthrown by revolt—I allude to the event which occurred in France in the month of February last. We cannot forget, that 700 immediately upon that event a deputation was sent over to Paris, comprising amongst its numbers a Member of this House, with the view of asking assistance from a country which had just set the example of revolution, against the authority of this Government. The attempt was unsuccessful. The Government of that country, although sprung out of a revolution, felt that its duties towards neighbouring countries were paramount, and refused to lend its aid to their designs. Their projects, however, went on, and there was little or no disguise any further attempted as to what they really intended. We may all remember that a newspaper was set up, called the United Irishman, to whose arguments I will not call the attention of this House with any view to the author of the articles, because he is now suffering the penalty of the offence which he committed; but I call the attention of the House to the fact, because the sympathy which has been exhibited towards him by this party in Ireland shows that they identify themselves with the sentiments which were expressed by the author of those articles, and which were found in Ireland to be articles tending to the overthrow of the Government of the country, and to the deposition of the Queen from her crown and dignity. It is notorious that every kind of sympathy has been shown, and that every sort of indignation has been expressed, that a person who had avowed such sentiments should have been punished. It has been declared that he is one of the best patriots of Ireland, and that so far from deserving punishment he merited reward. Other papers were subsequently set up which followed in the same steps; and I now hold in my hand a newspaper called the Irish Felon, and so called because that individual was convicted of a felony; I wish to read a passage from the writings of one person, a contributor to that paper, who signs himself "James F. Lalor," in which I think will be found the general spirit of the sentiments which have been expressed by these Confederates. The writer says—We hold the present existing Government of this island, and all existing rights of property in our soil, to be mere usurpation and tyranny, and to he null and void, as of moral effect; and our purpose is to abolish them utterly, or lose our lives in the attempt. The right founded on conquest, and affirmed by laws made by the conquerors themselves, we regard as no other than the right of the robber on a larger scale. We owe no obedience to laws enacted by another nation 701 without our assent, nor respect to assumed rights of property which are starving and exterminating our people. The present salvation and future security of this country require that the English Government should at once be abolished, and the English garrison of landlords instantly expelled.He goes on to state the means by which this is to be done:—We advise, (he says), the people to organise and arm at once in their own defence. We mean to assist them, and to set an example by organising and arming ourselves.Now, Sir, I do think that in these extracts is contained, in a few words, a true description of the object of this conspiracy, and of the means by which that object is to be effected. It is declared at once, first, that the Imperial Government—not the English Government, but the Government which represents England, Scotland and Ireland—is to be utterly abolished. It proposes to take away from the Queen all authority over Ireland. It proposes, at the same time, to abolish at once all rights of property—save, indeed, that there is made a sort of menacing salvo with respect to those who shall break their oaths of allegiance and join in a rebellion. But with respect to the great body of those who hold property in Ireland, however acquired and however held, the threat is that they are to be deprived of it, and those rights of property are to be utterly abolished. It is proposed that the means for effecting this object should be by the people arming themselves, and being thus ready to encounter any force which the authorities may have at their disposal. Another article, written more recently, appealed in the Nation of July the 3rd, of which I will state the general purport. The article is headed "The Value of an Irish Harvest;" and it states that there is now growing on the Irish soil about 80,000,000l. worth of produce, and that it will be for the Irish League, consisting of a council of three hundred, or such other governments as may be appointed, to consider in what manner that produce shall be apportioned—what portion of it may be given as an indemnity to those who now hold rights of property in that country; what portion of it should be given to encourage industry and manufactures in Ireland; and what portion of it may be necessary for the purposes of government; but evidently intending that none of the existing rights of property shall be acknowledged; but that the whole of the produce of the Irish soil shall, by one sweeping act of confiscation, be 702 held by and be at the disposal of these masters of what the French have called the "Red Republic"—men who have no regard whatever to any of the existing rules of our social state, or to any of those purposes for which society has been founded and is kept together—but men who give to the mind and the appetite of those who are without property or character themselves a vision that the whole of that produce which has been the fruit of regular industry—which has been the fruit of the institutions of society—which has been the fruit of property guarded and of rights enforced by those institutions, shall by one desolating measure be distributed according to the will and arbitrament of the rulers of that republic. I think I need not quote further to prove this fact. Hut there is one document more to which I will refer in regard to the objects of these confederates, because those objects are set forth in it evidently for the purpose of quieting alarm. I allude to the resolutions passed at a mooting held in Dublin on the night of Saturday, July 15, 1848. It had been stated in Ireland, and by none more earnestly than by the Roman Catholic clergy, that if such a confederation as has been formed should succeed in its purposes, there would be an end to all respect for religion, and to all regard for what men have hitherto held sacred, and that the rule of brute force would be established. In order to prevent the alarm which the doctrines held by these confederates have naturally excited, there was a meeting of the officers of what are called the Dublin Clubs held on Saturday night, July 15, at which Mr. John B. Dillon, described as the president of the Curran Club, took the chair. At that meeting the following resolutions were moved by Mr. William S. O'Brien, M. P., seconded by Mr. Richard O'Gorman, president of the Oliver Bond Club, and adopted unanimously:—That the systematic efforts made by writers in the pay of the British Government to cause it to be believed that the repeal clubs of Ireland are organised for purposes of pillage and massacre, and for the overthrow of religion and social order, render it expedient that we should define the real objects of the club organisation; he it therefore resolved and declared—That the purposes and end of our organisation are the overthrow of the power of the British legislation in this island;That while we are firmly resolved to abstain, in our political capacity, from any interference in matters of a religious or sectarian character, we are not the less desirous that religion should be upheld, and the legitimate influence of its ministers maintained in its integrity.703That so far from desiring to overthrow social order, and to subject our country to universal anarchy, our first anxiety has been, and is, to secure the legislative independence of our country with the least possible injury to any class of its inhabitants; and in the accomplishment of these our designs we hope to put an end for ever to the sufferings and the disorders which have never ceased to afflict our people under the sway of Britain.The House will see in this disclaimer that they meant to associate for purposes of pillage and massacre, that they do not disguise that their object is not to obtain a repeal of the Union, but to overthrow altogether the sway of the Government which they are hound to obey; and that nothing less than the dismemberment of the empire would satisfy their wishes and aspirations. So much, then, I think, from their own confession, may he taken as to what is their object. You may believe with me or not, that in the accomplishment of that object, they would necessarily overthrow the sway of religion, and the existence of property as it is now held in Ireland; but this you must believe, that it is a traitorous conspiracy intended to overthrow the Government of the united kingdom, and to put some new national authority, republican or otherwise, in its place, which is hereafter to rule Ireland as a separate country. That I say is the least—rating their objects as you will—that is the smallest end to which you can believe them to aspire. I come now, Sir, to that which I have stated would be the second proposition which I should have to submit to the House—namely, that there are formidable means preparing intended to produce rebellion, and which are only too likely to end in rebellion, against the authorities which now exist. Sir, although there may be projects of the most injurious and of the most mischievous character, yet if those projects are entertained by a few persons only—if they are entertained by some obscure club or insignificant association, such is the free constitution of the Government of this country, which permits every kind of opinion to be expressed, it would be felt that we should be sacrificing the greater to the less if we were to interfere by means of any extraordinary law to crush an evil in itself small in amount, and not to be compared to the general advantage and good arising from the perfect liberty of opinion which every man in this country has a right to enjoy. But although I believed for a time such was the nature of these projects, and although I had hoped that such would have continued to he the case, yet I am sorry to 704 say that all the accounts that we have received from Ireland have tended to the conclusion that the organisation proposed by these confederates is formidable—that it is rapidly extending—and that in some parts of the country they and the persons associated with these confederates are already ripe for rebellion. After the law was passed by this House, somewhere about the month of April, which gave the power of bringing before a court of justice for felony persons who were conspiring to depose the Sovereign, or to levy war against the Sovereign, and by which law a great check was placed upon the designs of conspirators in Ireland, a confederation was formed in the organisation of clubs, and it was determined to send missionaries into the country with a view of persuading persons in the great towns, and even in small towns and villages, to adopt a similar organisation. For a time those efforts did not succeed. The accounts we received from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland tended to induce us to believe that that organisation would not become immediately formidable. But very soon those accounts changed their character, and both the Lord Lieutenant and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, founding themselves upon what they saw in Dublin and upon the accounts received from the country, pronounced that the confederacy of clubs was becoming organised, numerous, and formidable. It is, however, chiefly within the last month that these proceedings have assumed the character which I am about to detail to the House. In the first place, I will refer to a private letter which Lord Clarendon directed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in the beginning of this month, in respect to the then state of things. He stated that—A decision need not be immediately come to by Her Majesty's Government; but I am afraid that before the Parliament is prorogued the Government will have to determine whether they shall ask for greater powers from Parliament, or permit the organisation for an immediate civil war to remain unmolested.The accounts received through the constabulary reports, at the same time, from different parts of Ireland were of an equally formidable character. On the 3rd July the following account was received from Tipperary:—There have been five Confederate clubs formed at Carrick-on-Suir; they have about 000 members in all. No persons but members are admitted to their meetings. Their object seems to be ascertain their strength in case of insurrection.705 On the 5th of July, the following account was received from Meath:—A meeting to form a Repeal Club was held at Trim on the 21st inst. Messrs. Duffy and Dillon were present and addressed the people, urged them to provide arms, and said they expected to see the constabulary in the front rank of the Irish National Guard.On the 6th of duly, the following was received from the county Louth:—The United Irishman Club met at Dundalk on the 29th ult., about fifty persons present. The usual speeches were made. A Mr. Boston said, he would endeavour to put the Government down unless they put him down; and if he were transported there were others to take his place.The following was the account from Wexford on the 7th of July:—A meeting of the Repeal Club was held at Bree on the 2nd inst. Mr. Whitty proposed several violent resolutions, that none but men of good character be admitted—no policemen to be admitted without a warrant. A Mr. Devin produced a pattern of a cheap pike for poor persons, urged the people to arm and drill, and suggested modes of attack, &c.I should say that the method pursued by these confederates was in general to summon a meeting for some political object, to harangue that meeting in violent speeches, and immediately afterwards to form an association or club which was to meet secretly. There clearly have been in all these instances, in the first place, a meeting in which some speech was made of a violent character; but meetings then followed week after week, in which no persons were admitted but these who belonged to the Confederation: and if any person presented himself to be admitted, such as a policeman, for the purpose of giving information to the Government, or who went as a loyal man, to observe their proceedings, he was carefully excluded. The account received from Cork, on the 7th of July, is this:—There are now about 15 Confederate clubs formed, or in the course of formation, in this city, and probably about 2,000 names enrolled in them; there are few, it any, respectable persons amongst them; some of these clubs have been open to the police visiting them; at a few, admission has been refused.Another account from Cork, on the same day, states that—A meeting of Confederates took place at Skibbereen on the 2nd, to enrol a National Guard; the speakers advised arming and organisation; it was stated 140 names were enrolled.On the 8th of July, the following account was received from Wexford:—A meeting of the Enniscarthy club was held on the 3rd inst.; a man named Dwyre attended, bearing a pole, with a pike on it. The constabu- 706 lary were refused admission by a sentinel at the door, who stated that he would only admit them over his dead body; they, consequently, could obtain no information as to the proceedings of the club.On the 10th of July, the report from Cork was this—There are 15 clubs in Cork: their effective members are, it is said, 4,000. Mr. Thomas F. Meagher recently attended a meeting of the officers of the different clubs; he is about to proceed to America own a mission of importance. The police applied at the following clubs for ad mission, the first six refused it:—' Citizen,' 'Mercantile Assistants,' 'Arthur O'Connor,' 'Robert Emmett,' 'St. Patrick's,' 'Lord Edward Fitzgerald,' 'Wolfe Tone,' 'William Orr,' and 'Felon Club'—in the three last there was no business doing.Now, these names are to be remarked, as some of them are the names of persons who were conspicuous in the rebellion of 1798, and they show clearly that the intention was to imitate the example of those times. The report from Cork, on the 11th of July, runs thus:—Great exertions are made by the leaders of the clubs in Cork to complete their organisation; the members the well supplied with firearms and pikes—the latter are readily sold for 1s. 3d. each from the reign of terror which prevails, little information can be had.On the 13th of July, an account is given of a meeting held at Crossbany, in the county of Cork, on the 2nd inst., to form a Confederate club. They advised—The people to arm, and demand their rights, 'with a clean steel in the hand of every man.' Not more than 150 persons attended; informations have been sworn as to the words used.On the 14th July—The Rev. Mr. Coone, Roman Catholic clergyman, addressed his congregation at Minnane, county of Cork, and urged strongly their joining a Confederate club, which Mr. Luke J. Shea would form after mass. Mr. Shea, who is a magistrate of the county, soon after addressed the people in the chapel yard; he urged them to join the club, said he would not do so if it were not perfectly legal; that each club should consist of 309 fighting men; that the clubs all over the country should he in communication with each other, under those in Dublin. Not more than 20 persons enrolled their names.I wish, now, to state the occurrences which have taken place at Cork and Drogheda, since the beginning of the present month. At Cork, a meeting was held, which was attended by all the clubs, who marched, or, as Mr. Smith O'Brien terms it, "walked," in regular order, and who attended what he afterwards calls "a review." There was an inspection of the clubs; and the report states that—As each club passed, the president announced 707 its name, and all gave the salute. Mr. O'Brien watched cautiously to see that each man gave the salute; and whenever a party forgot to do so, he rebuked him, occasionally saying, 'Just touch your hats as you walk along.' The St. Patrick's Club, having halted in front of him for a moment, he cried out, 'Do move along, and, when you meet the other club, turn to the east, as I want to see what kind of men the patriots of Ireland are.' On one of the clubs passing, he remarked on the number of young boys in it, to which Town-councillor Mullan replied, 'We are particular to enrol none under 16 years of age, and all these will be found to come up to that.' Mr. O'Brien having disapproved of the order in which one club marched, one of the members said, 'We want a little discipline yet, Sir, but we are willing to learn.' To which Mr. O'Brien said, in an authoritative tone, 'Keep up your places, and be silent,' A woman here rushed forward and exclaimed, 'Three cheers for the King of Munster;' to which Mr. O'Brien replied, 'Not yet—not yet; no shouting—no shouting.'Now, Sir, it is to be remarked that there were afterwards meetings of the clubs at Drogheda and at Dublin, and at both those meetings Mr. Smith O'Brien adverted in his speeches to what he said had been called his review at Cork—stating that the numbers that attended the review were very considerable; that they were ready to arm themselves, and to appear when they were called for. Another event to which I wish to allude took place at Waterford. A Mr. Meagher, who is one well known for having used language frequently exciting the people to rebellion and insurrection, was arrested at Water-ford, on a charge of sedition. Several thousand persons collected together wished to rescue Mr. Meagher; but he declared that it would be wasting the blood of the Irish people to attempt such a thing. The Roman Catholic clergy, I am bound to say, used all their efforts to keep the peace, and Mr. Meagher was conveyed without resistance out of the town of Waterford. There was soon afterwards a meeting, which assembled on a mountain well known in the political history of Ireland, called Slievenamon, which was attended, some say, by 10,000, and others by 15,000 persons, to hear Mr. Meagher, Mr. Doheny, and others. When Mr. Meagher returned to Waterford from that meeting, he was waited for by several thousand persons, who wished to give him a welcome; and I have an account of what happened at Waterford, from a person with whom I have some acquaintance, whom I know perfectly well by reputation, and who is entirely trustworthy, as to the class of persons who were thus waiting to receive Mr. Meagher. This gentleman says— 708It being now ten o'clock at night, and dark, I resolved to go to the end of the bridge, where many thousands were waiting. … There were no politics spoken of, but that all the plans were making to upset the authorities, so that they may have the plunder. One fellow said, 'I am against plunder;' 'Well, and so am I,' was the answer; 'but it is not plunder; they once got it from us, and it must be our turn now.' This was the sole and serious burden of their song; and I have no hesitation in saying that, unless Government take instant stops, although they will in the end get the better of these people, before that much property and the lives of many respectable people will be sacrificed.I can answer for the character of the gentleman who wrote that letter, being a man of experience, both in civil life and in foreign war, and of as much courage and firmness as any man who is in the service of Her Majesty. The state of Waterford has been described to me by other persons, and I have seen many letters from persons who either were in the neighbourhood at the time, or who went there immediately afterwards, some of those persons being connected with the place by the ties of property and family, and well acquainted with its inhabitants and their political feelings, and what is most likely to be the disposition of the different classes of the people. The evidence of all these persons is to one and the same effect, namely, that although the persons of property and the clergy, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, are decidedly against any outbreak, yet that no influence that is used by them will have any effect whatever in deterring many thousand persons of the younger men of every class, but more especially of the farmer and peasant class, who are determined to rise in insurrection. That, Sir, is the evidence which I have received, supported, as I think it is, by all the public accounts, and entirely believed by the Lord Lieutenant, who has himself seen and conversed with some of those persons who were at Waterford. In the town of Carrick-on-Suir, also, there occurred that which, although it did not end in blood, is a most menacing warning for the future. Three persons were arrested in that town for what happened to be a bailable offence—not under the Felony Act, but arrested for seditious language and drilling, and for that offence placed in the bridewell of that town. An immense collection of persons immediately assembled from all the country round. Various reports were spread; some that a priest had been shot, some that those men had been confined, as was the case; and others that the insurrection had begun. But what has been seen and 709 witnessed was, that the peasantry of the town and neighbourhood—a few armed with muskets, and many with rude pikes and scythes—marched into the town with a most menacing aspect, and declared that the prisoners must be liberated. It was thought advisable, such being the state of things, and as the offence was bailable, it could properly be done, that the prisoners should be let out on bail; and when they appeared before the people, the town, which had been in the hands of this multitude for a considerable time, resumed its usual appearance, and again became peaceable. But it was evident that if there had been cause to retain these persons in custody—that if the offence with which they were charged had been such that they could not have been bailed—or if, for any other reason, the desires of that armed multitude could not be complied with—that blood would have been shed, and the beginning of the insurrection would have taken place. It is clear that there was not wanting the design—that there was not wanting the will—that there was not wanting the intention—to rebel; all that was wanting was the particular occasion; and that those who meant to rise, being satisfied with what was done, and their object being completed, no rising took place. But no man can doubt that if matters had been otherwise, a commencement of the insurrection would then and there have taken place. Sir, the accounts from these various places are, that now, and for some time past, the Confederate clubs have been making great progress in forming associations, which are, in fact, secret societies, into which no person is admitted who is not a member of these clubs; that the general object which is held out to them is, that they are to overturn the Government; that they are to procure arms for that purpose; and that they must wait patiently for the day and the hour to be fixed by their leaders in order to carry into effect that fatal and dreadful resolution. In the beginning of a private letter which I have received from the Lord Lieutenant to-day, he says—I have nothing satisfactory to send you today. The accounts from the country are as bad as they can he, short of open rebellion: and everybody concurs in saying that the change in the feelings of the people within the last week or ten days has been the most rapid and complete thing-over known even in Ireland. The bad spirit has now extended itself to Tipperary; and the stipendiary magistrate at Clonmel tells me there is great alarm for that town.710 It is certainly to be stated—and that leads me to the further part of that which I have to state to the House—it is certain that that which two months ago was not formidable, has become so now, and has become formidable for the purposes of insurrection. It may be, and I believe it will be, as the writer of the letter from Water-ford affirms, that, in the event of an outbreak, these persons will be put down in the end, but that much bloodshed will take place—that many lives will be sacrificed. And we should have to reproach ourselves if we did not take such measures as are necessary in order to prevent that outbreak from taking place, and prevent the leaders of that organised insurrection from taking the field for the purpose of opposing the authorities of the country. Sir, I come now to the measure which I think it my duty to propose, in order to meet this emergency. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in concert with the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, has pointed out the dangerous character of these clubs. We may think it necessary to introduce a measure to meet the organisation of these clubs; but it is to be remembered that that organisation is directed, as indeed the whole proceedings of these people; have been, by men well acquainted with the law, and who, if there is a new law passed against these clubs, would be found as supple in their endeavours to evade the provisions of that law as they have shown themselves to be in evading the provisions of the existing law. I have received to-day a further opinion of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, with respect to the mode in which the law has been hitherto evaded. With respect to the clubs, there is no doubt that they are unlawful. It is quite evident that clubs for procuring arms and raising resistance against the Crown and the law are utterly illegal; but when the law officers of the Crown came to advise the Lord Lieutenant as to the measures necessary for putting down these clubs, it was found, that although their general object is perfectly well known—known to every Member of this House, and known to all who read the newspapers of this kingdom—yet that the means of procuring evidence as to what passes in these clubs, secret as they are, are not such as to enable the Government, with any facility, to put down these clubs. I say "with any facility," because, if any measure were adopted, it would soon be found that by some fresh evasion and under some new form the law would be 711 evaded, and that the clubs would he continued in as great force and with as powerful an organisation as before. I will state likewise the difficulties with regard to the marchings of these clubs. The House have read accounts of what has happened at Waterford and elsewhere in Ireland; and they will imagine that the law against training, which is a very stringent law, would be applicable to the training and marching of these clubs to particular places; but with respect to these cases there is a great difficulty. These clubs avoid giving a military word of command; and that which is forbidden by the letter of the law is evaded, in order to obtain the object which these conspirators have in view, without placing themselves in the power of the law. But I think, after what I have stated, and after indicating that information which the House has otherwise acquired, that there can he no doubt of the existence of an association in Ireland which intends to subvert the authority of the law and of the Crown of this country, and that it means to attain its object by force of arms. If such is the case, Sir, then I know no remedy so straightforward, so direct in its object, and so immediate in its purpose, as seizing the persons of those who are at the head of this movement, without in any manner endangering the persons or putting to inconvenience the innocent, by what is commonly known as the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. Whatever measures we may frame, and whatever measures may he necessary to meet particular evils in the special shape which they may assume from time to time, the remedy which, above all things, is necessary at this time is a Bill to enable the Lord Lieutenant to secure the persons of those who are suspected of high treason. I come forward, then, to ask this House of Parliament to grant to the Executive this power. I ask it now. I feel that I might have been justified in asking it at an earlier period. But, Sir, in weighing that question which I have anxiously weighed during months past, it has seemed to me that any extraordinary law to suspend the liberty of a part of the united kingdom, which should be passed by only a small majority, and without a very general if not an almost unanimous concurrence of this House—passed amid conflicting debates, when many doubted its necessity, and opposed its expediency—that such a law, reaching Ireland only as the expresssion of that majority, and considering that in the minority there might be 712 men of undoubted integrity and love of social order, but who were not persuaded that the necessity for such a measure existed—I say that a law so passed would in my mind lose a great part of its efficacy, and would not tend, as we wish it should tend, to the complete pacification' of that country. I have therefore, waited until, in my mind, and in the minds of my Colleagues, the evidence of the necessity of this measure is so clear, so notorious, and so glaring, that I am convinced that the conviction, the almost universal conviction, of the two Houses of Parliament will be, that what I ask is absolutely necessary, and what they will grant. But, Sir, likewise I wish to say, that if it is the conviction of this House that such a measure as I propose should be passed, I trust that the House will lose no time in arming the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland with the powers which I now ask for him, and which he declares it is necessary that he should possess if he is to be enabled to stop these proceedings. When I ask this, I ask that which is not merely the interest of those who would uphold the constitution and would defend the Throne and maintain the integrity of the empire, but I ask it on be-half of those persons who would be sure to be the sufferers of an unsuccessful outbreak in Ireland. I have no doubt that if we have protracted debates on this subject—the measure passing notwithstanding, as it is sure to pass—that with the means that the Government of an empire like this have at their disposal we could put down the attempts which these wicked men are commencing of incipient insurrection. But, Sir, we should put them down with the loss of life, at the hazard of peace, at the hazard of the means of livelihood of many of Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland. We should put them down after an outbreak and convulsion, and we should not be able to prevent that outbreak from taking place. I say, then, that it is for the interest of all that such a measure should be immediately passed. If there are Gentleman, and there may be many in this House, who, while they think that this measure is necessary, are yet of opinion that other measures are also necessary, and that the whole duty of the Government has not been performed—that we have not in this Session produced and carried into effect those measures, whatever they may be, which are useful and, as they state, necessary for the well-being of Ireland—to such hon. Members I will put 713 forward only this prayer. An hon. Gentleman has given notice of his intention to bring forward the whole question of the state of Ireland upon Motion. I shall be most ready, after this Bill has passed this House, to give every facility for bringing on such a debate, to meet any such charges as the hon. Gentleman may have to bring against us, and to submit, if the House should think fit by its vote to censure us for the conduct we have pursued. But I beg this House and those hon. Members who are of that opinion to reserve until that time this expression of their views, and not to let a debate which should be confined to this one subject, whether the measure we propose is necessary or no, to extend into various matters and opinions, which cannot but lead to conflicting and protracted debates, and thereby to delay that which it is essential should be passed at once. Sir, I ask, therefore, that the House will permit me to introduce this Bill; and I ask them likewise, that if they do sanction it, they will have that sanction speedily carried into effect. No man can say what may be the consequence of the want of these powers for a short time in Ireland; and I ask those who are of opinion that the measure should be passed, and that these powers are necessary, not to render themselves responsible for the delay of that which may be the saving of life in Ireland. I believe in my conscience that this measure is calculated to prevent insurrection, to preserve internal peace, to preserve the unity of this empire, and to secure the Throne of these realms and the free institutions of this country. If there be other questions, let them be stated at some future time on some future Motion. For my part, I stand here responsible for proposing this measure, responsible for not proposing it earlier, responsible for not delaying it now. I and my Colleagues are responsible. We accept that responsibility; and, however painful to our feelings, however odious the power for which we ask, we now having accepted our responsibility I confidently ask this House to accept theirs, and to be mindful of the blessings they will preserve, and of the risks which by any other course they will incur.
§ MR. O'CONNOR
could very well understand the painful feelings with which the noble Lord said he had risen to ask for a suspension of the constitution, as far as regarded Ireland; but he thought the noble Lord must be gratified, notwithstanding 714 his feelings, at the almost unanimous expression of approbation with which his measure had been received. The noble Lord had resorted to the invariable Whig practice—coercion first, and conciliation afterwards; but he warned the noble Lord that this measure, like all his previous ones of coercion, would fail, and only hasten the rupture that was approaching. The noble Lord had first goaded the people of Ireland into resistance by refusing remedial measures, and now he proposed to take away their liberties. He was governing Ireland only by patronage. He would tell them more, that this measure would fail, as the others had done. Let them look to America, within fourteen days' sail of Ireland, where all the passions of hatred and revenge against this country were pent up—let them look at Franco, which was now a republic—let them look to Prussia, which was seeking to be a republic—let them look to Italy, which was throwing off the despotism of Austria; and then he would ask them whether they could hope to maintain their position of a restrictive monarchy in this country? The noble Lord had taunted the Irish repealers with having thrown off the minor measure of repeal of the Union, and with looking for a total separation of the two countries. Now, he had never disguised his sentiments. He was not for a repeal of the Union; he was for total separation between England and Ireland; and if the French instead of the English had gained the battle of Waterloo, and the broad lands of the Russells had been given to Catholic priests, he was sure the noble Lord would, with his dying breath, have enjoined his children to struggle for their independence. [Here Lord John Russell lifted up the copy of the oath of allegiance which was on the table, and pushed it across to the hon. Member.] What did the noble Lord want? He presumed the noble Lord wished to direct his attention to the oath of allegiance; but he thought, if the noble Lord would examine that oath, he would see that he best discharged the duty imposed by that oath by preserving to Her Majesty that portion of Her dominions which could be preserved without the horrors of a revolution. Yes, he would say—Give me the bold, the erect, and manly foe,Whom I may meet, perchance return the blow.There was not a Saxon present who would not feel the same aspirations if his country was under a foreign yoke. The whole question in Ireland was a question between 715 Catholic and Protestant; and, until justice was done between these two creeds, until the Protestants ceased to be the masters, and the Catholics serfs, there never would be peace in the country. The noble Lord had attempted to govern the country by feeding the landlords as long as he could. When he could feed them no longer he brought in the Encumbered Estates Bill, that they might have the power of selling their own estates. He asked the Irish Members to give up their slavish position of looking for patronage to the Government, to cross to the other side of the House, and as the Government was determined to coerce their country, to give them every opposition in their power. If the Irish Members would be as faithful to their country as the Protestants had been to their creed, they would give the noble Lord some trouble. He had no doubt that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth would give this measure his support, with more courtesy to the noble Lord than the noble Lord had shown to the right hon. Baronet when he opposed that very trifling measure of an Arms Bill. The right hon. Baronet differed from him in politics, and perhaps the right hon. Baronet would take that as a compliment. But he would say of the right hon. Baronet, that his firm conviction was, if he had been at the helm last year and this, there would have been no need to ask for Coercion Bills. They said it was dangerous to compliment the right hon. Baronet; but he must say that he was the only man to whom the moneyed classes and the people of this country looked as the man that could save the country. He thought the present Government party was the smallest section of the House. The Irish Members alone, if they were united, would beat the Government; the protectionists would beat them, if it were not for the juvenile staff of the right hon. Baronet. The noble Lord might rely upon the ability and courage of Lord Clarendon; but if he had assisted that nobleman in carrying out measures of agricultural improvement, much more would have been done for Ireland. The draining of swamps and the reclamation of waste lands were, however, pursuits of too vulgar a nature for a Whig Government, which would rather place its reliance upon free-trade negotiations with foreigners for the prosperity of the kingdom. He told the noble Lord not to lay the "flattering unction to his soul" that the co-operation of the two Houses of Parliament in Bills of coercion for Ireland 716 could keep a starving people in a state of tranquillity, but that the effect would be to plunge the country in all the horrors of a civil war.
§ SIR R. PEEL
Sir, by one of the compliments paid to me by the hon. Gentleman I am gratified. I am gratified by his anticipation that I should give to the measure proposed by the Government a decisive and cordial support—a support not qualified by the reminiscences of past contentions—a support not qualified by party recriminations. Sir, I look to the state of Ireland—to the formidable combination which exists in that country—and to the avowals of the persons who head that combination—I give those persons credit for veracity: and, giving them credit for veracity, I cannot doubt that there exists in Ireland at this moment a wicked conspiracy to deprive the Queen of the government of that country. Such being my impression, justified by the avowal of the confederates, I take my part with the Crown of this united kingdom against the conspirators who are arrayed against it. Sir, I won't qualify the value of my support by a long speech. I don't blame the Government for their delay in introducing this measure. I cannot but feel that Governments ought to be very for bearing before they seek to impose the greatest restrictions that can be imposed on the constitutional liberties of a large portion of Her Majesty's subjects. I dare say, that a case might be made out for placing at an earlier period the liberty of individuals at the discretion of the Crown; but I agree with the noble Lord, that when proposals of this nature are made, there ought to be a strong decisive impression on the mind of this House, and on the public mind also, that there is no justification of further delay—that the necessity has arisen which compels the measure of restraint, and which will ensure for it a general support. Sir, I believe the immediate question at issue in Ireland is not whether the Union shall be repealed, but whether or not you shall have during the recess a desolating warfare. My conviction is, should that warfare take place, that the authority of the Crown will be ultimately successful, but after great devastation of property—after great loss of life—the loss of life by many innocent persons—the loss of life by many who may have joined in rebellion from doubt as to your ultimate intentions. If I should be mistaken—if the Crown should fail in re-establishing its authority, you 717 will then find substituted for the Government under which you live, the most cruel, debasing, and sanguinary despotism that can exist in a civilised country. There is no concealment of the instruments by which this new power is to be established. Have I not seen a reference by the conspirators to the value of the crops that are now standing in Ireland? Have I not seen a distinct encouragement given to the masses, to the physical strength of the country, to combine with men superior in intelligence, not that they may furtively undermine the Royal authority—not that they may take means for ultimately repealing the Union—but that they may at once re-sort to pillage for the purpose of dividing among themselves the spoils of their success? That is the mode in which the power of these men who are conducting this combination is to be exerted. I will not, at such a moment, enter into any other questions connected with general government. I believe the danger is imminent. I believe that if there has been too much delay, that constitutes a reason for immediate action. I believe that the Government is justified in asking for this measure, I believe the measure itself—the power to apprehend on suspicion, and keep the conspirators in confinement, is necessary. I for one, am perfectly prepared to forego dilatory forms, and give at once my assent to this Bill. The conspiracy is not an agrarian one; it is not a conspiracy of rural assassins; it is the conspiracy of political traitors. The case is one in which the apprehension and detention, without trial, of the leaders is justified. It is possible other measures may be necessary. I hope, after the announcement of the noble Lord, there will be no delay on the part of the Government in asking for those other measures. If they be directed against the traitorous clubs—if they be directed against those shooting galleries of which we read as being established in the metropolis of Ireland, which select the heart of the Lord Lieutenant as the mark against which their shots are to be fired—if this be so—if Government require additional powers to maintain the authority of the Crown, I do hope there will be no no delay in demanding them. It would be unbecoming on the part of Members of this House to suggest Her Majesty's Ministers additional powers. The responsibility rests with them. I will not urge on them measures of greater coercion than those their own sense of duty demands; but this I say, 718 as nothing but necessity can justify a suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, the same necessity makes immediate action desirable; and I will consent to the suspension of all ordinary forms which would defer to another day the passing of this Bill.
With respect to the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. O'Connor), I tell him I will defend the monarchy of England against this mock King of Munster. The King of Munster! This Gentleman who says to the assembled mob, "Don't shout for the King of Munster yet!" "Not yet!" No! I, for one, am not prepared to exchange the mild supremacy of Queen Victoria for this King of Munster. As for the hon. Gentleman, I gave him some credit for being "the bold, the erect, the manly foe." In his speech he drew a contrast between himself and other agitators in Ireland. He said, "he, for one, was the advocate, not of the repeal of the Union, but of separation." The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) showed the hon. Gentleman the oath by which he had sworn to bear true allegiance to Her Majesty; upon which the hon. Gentleman said, "And am I not fulfilling that oath of allegiance when I am trying to insure for Her Majesty the devotion of Her Majesty's faithful subjects in Ireland?" Why, that is what the late Mr. O'Council always said. He wished to repeal the legislative Union, but to maintain the golden link of the Crown. He said, "I am for a separate Legislature, but for the supremacy of the Crown in Ireland." The position of the hon. Gentleman, however, is different from that occupied by Mr. O'Connell. He asserts his "boldness" and "manliness" in declaring for the separation of Ireland from England. If indeed he means that after "separation" Ireland shall still remain united with England—[Mr. O'CONNOR: No!] Then why was he scared by that oath? Who could doubt that the hon. Gentleman's declaration was in favour of "absolute separation?" On being reminded of his oath, he shifted his ground, and exclaimed, "I am endeavouring to preserve the integrity of Her Majesty's dominions." [Mr. O'CONNOR: Her English dominions.] "Her English dominions!" The oath of allegiance was taken without that reservation. The allegiance promised was allegiance on the part of Ireland as fully and completely as on the part of England; and does the hon. Gentleman mean that he took that oath with a secret reservation that he would be a faithful 719 and loyal subject in this part of the united kingdom, but that he reserved a perfect latitude for treason in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman asks whether we think it possible to maintain our ancient monarchy after what has occurred in France, in Italy, in Germany, and other European States? Sir, I say not a word with respect to the internal administration of the affairs of other countries. I have done what I could since the commencement of these disorders humbly to discourage any reflections in this House on the events that have taken place in Paris or elsewhere; but when the hon. Gentleman holds up the example of other countries as a reason why we should abandon the advantage of our form of Government, or distrust its security, I have no difficulty in utterly rejecting such doctrines. I have a right to say that, looking at what has taken place on the chief arena of revolutionary Europe—taking France, taking Paris as the example—looking at the Government that existed before February—the securities for public liberty—the state of the revenue—the condition of the labouring classes—contrasting this state of things with that which has existed since February last, I find in that contrast a lesson and a warning for the people of this country. So far does that which has passed in Europe induce me to distrust the advantage of limited monarchy, or to believe that its foundations are less secure in this happier country—to believe that there is less of affectionate devotion towards the person of the Sovereign, or less of rational conviction in favour of Royal authority—I appeal to the experience of the last six months—to those very examples of revolution and of social convulsion, and drawing from them the directly contrary conclusion. I retain an increased conviction that the monarchy of this country is secure, and that it is endeared by new considerations to the affectionate support and devotion of the people.
§ MR. OSBORNE
I assure the House that it is not my intention to follow the example of the hon. Member for Nottingham. I shall not—though no one can suppose me likely to show a preference for Her Majesty's present Ministers—I shall not, I say, join in any attack upon the present Government, which in my heart I believe to be an honest Government; and when the hon. and learned Gentleman talks of Irish Members becoming the hacks of the Treasury, I trust that the hon. Members around me will take my advice, and 720 not become the hacks of the hon. and learned Member for Nottingham. I own I never experienced more regret than when I heard the noble Lord last night throw out that it was his intention to introduce a measure for the repeal of the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland. Every Member must shrink from such a measure almost with horror; and I assure the House that the first impression the announcement made upon me was such, that I intended to be pusillanimous enough to absent myself from the division. But, upon further reflection, I considered that I should not be acting a part worthy of a Member of this House if I did not take my full share of the responsibility; if I did not boldly come down to the House and state my reasons for supporting Her Majesty's Government upon this occasion, and my views as to the present position of affairs. If the question was only for the repeal of the Union, and the proceedings in Ireland were in accordance with the constitution, I should not be prepared to support such an arbitrary measure as this; but believing that the repeal of the Union is only a pretext for murder and pillage, I do not think I am justified in withholding my vote in favour of the Bill. The noble Lord has referred to speeches which have been delivered in Ireland, and to a speech delivered at a meeting close to the property of a connexion of my own, by a man without weight in the county, exciting the people by hints: though possessed of no moral or personal weight, he contrived to lead a crowd to a mountain top, and, showing them the broad lands before them, said, almost in the language of Scripture, "All these will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me." I have boldly spoken out my sentiments upon all occasions as to the manner in which I think Ireland has been treated; but I never will be one to try to tear asunder the ties which connect Ireland with England. I think I am acting as the best friend to Ireland in coming forward and giving my support to this measure; it is a measure of mercy to these men to lock them up and keep them from mischief which will deluge their country with blood. For these reasons I will not give my support to any proposition in this House which will obstruct the bringing in of this Bill; but I cannot give my vote for its being continued until March, 1849. In the event of the measure being passed, I think it will be more proper for the House not to he prorogued, but to continue to sit from 721 month to month, so that, hand in hand with this measure, we may pass some large remedial measures for Ireland. I have been taunted out of the House upon this subject; and I pledge myself, if no other Member does so, to bring forward such measure. I propose to submit to the House my long considered convictions, that there should be some modification of the Act of Union. But I would sooner lose my life in placing myself on the side of order, than co-operate with those demagogues who only point to pillage in order that they may enrich themselves. If a precedent is required for supporting this Bill, there is the precedent furnished by Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan, when the Habeas Corpus Act was last suspended in the case of this unfortunate country (Ireland), in 1803, on the murder of Lord Kilwarden; and what was the conduct of Mr. Fox and Mr. Sheridan on that occasion They supported the Bill. Here are the words of Mr. Sheridan, and no one can suppose that Mr. Sheridan could be a friend to illiberal opinions:—Let us save the ship, not ask who is the master—let us consider not who is the Minister, but where is the enemy we have to cope with.I will not taunt the noble Lord on this occasion, or his Colleagues, with their shortcomings. I shall have future opportunities for that. The state of Ireland is most alarming. I have received a letter this morning which states that the houses in Tipperary and Clonmel are being stripped of their lead to make bullets. I think that a very important circumstance; and I, at least, will not sanction such significant hints. I am prepared to take the consequences of this expression of my opinion, and I will not oppose the introduction of this Bill.
said, although many hon. Members might think it presumptuous in him to interfere in the present discussion at that early stage of the proceeding, yet, considering the deep anxiety which he must be supposed to feel with regard to the welfare of Ireland—his close connexion with that country—the great interest which he had in the preservation of peace, prosperity, public order, and tranquillity in that part of Her Majesty's dominions, he hoped that the House would not imagine the few observations which he had to make unnecessary or uncalled for. He might truly say, in the words of the noble Lord, that 722 events had proceeded more rapidly than the legislation of that House. It was obvious that the period had now arrived when there was reason to apprehend that great calamities would befall the nation unless they were in time averted by precautionary and remedial measures. The simple question which the House must now decide was this—were they prepared to suspend the constitution for a brief period, or to expose the people of Ireland to misery and carnage? The more incapable—the more unfit—the present advisers of the Crown were to wield the powers of the Executive, the greater was the necessity to give to the people of this realm the only security that could at present be offered to them—the safeguard and protection of a military despotism. As to the intentions of the leaders of the present movement in Ireland, he apprehended that respecting these there could be no possible mistake. The noble Lord had made a statement of the designs and purposes of those avowed apostles of sedition, which displayed a state of things that admitted of no compromise. It was to be a struggle between the enemies and the supporters of law and order, and it remained to he seen which of I the two principles were to triumph; for the population of Ireland was now clearly divided into those who supported and those who had arrayed themselves against the constitution of the empire. No man cherished more dearly than he did the perfect system of constitutional government in Ireland, but there were considerations much more dear than any legal or constitutional doctrine; he valued more highly than even the most precious of those principles the life of any one of those who were called the apostles of sedition. To preserve human life, constitutional rights ought without hesitation to be suspended. Even in mercy to the open and avowed traitors, he should vote in favour of suspending constitutional rights. But was it possible to say this without at the same time inquiring in what consisted the power and influence of those who now stood forward; as leaders of the insurrection? There were 3,000,000 of the Irish people suffering the extremest misery. It was well known that their discontent and disaffection were based and did rest upon mere physical want. It, therefore, appeared to him most important that no time should be lost in making efforts to change that state of things in which 3,000,000 of per- 723 sons were left to depend upon moat precarious means of subsistence, exposed to all the evils of want of food and want of employment. It, of course, could not have escaped the attention of the House—nay, he doubted not it was full in the recollection of every one who heard him, that the present and many of the preceding Governments of this country were most lavish in their professed intentions of devising and carrying forward measures of amelioration for Ireland. Now, in the absence of any effort to realise those professions—in the absence of anything calculated to continue the confidence of the people of that country—Ireland had reached the brink of a civil war; and there were now, confessedly, no means left to prevent the destruction and confiscation of property except that temporary suspension of the constitution which the noble Lord had proposed. That there was an overwhelming necessity for such a step he was as ready to acknowledge as any Member of that House—and he believed there existed no other means to prevent the progress of sedition. They might come forward with another Coercion Bill, and seek to put that into operation; but, under present circumstances, he apprehended nothing less would be successful than the measure that had just been proposed by the noble Lord. In times like the present, it would be in vain for them to aim at restoring peace by such palliatives as they had hitherto applied—the matter of discontent and disaffection must be removed. In the words of Bacon, "you must expel the matter of sedition;" and doubtless much of the causes of sedition was to be found in the political condition of the people. Take, for example, the state of Tipperary; the area of that county was 1,000,000 of acres, the population 500,000, the annual income 2,000,000l., while the registered electors were only 431 individuals. When he made that statement, the noble Lord met it with a sneer and with well-affected surprise; and in discussing the Motion of the hon. Member for Limerick respecting the repeal of the Union, the noble Lord contended that the franchise was not an object of importance to the Irish peasant. That appeared to him not wise or expedient; the general inattention to the political rights of Irishmen appeared to him most ill-advised; he therefore differed from the noble Lord when, in 1844, he declared that, in considering the state of 724 Ireland, political rights seemed deserving of less attention than were generally supposed. The noble Lord at that time contended that the political franchise would not give bread to the hungry, or employment for the idle. But he could not find in the constitution of Ireland any such doctrine as that the people were not to enjoy the elective franchise. Mr. Pitt most truly said, that the source of prosperity for the people was to be found in free institutions; and there were many—indeed, almost all the more eminent statesmen had recorded their opinions that it would be impossible to withhold prosperity from those to whom the franchise was given. He found the noble Lord again in 1846 declaring that he did not expect the law which entitled the poor to outdoor relief would very much mitigate the misery of Ireland; and that, instead of affording a remedy, it might very possibly tend to perpetuate that misery. Those were the opinions of the noble Lord; while, on the other hand, they had the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth telling them that the grievances which had at all times been more or less conspicuous in the condition of Ireland were social grievances. But what he should say was, that both classes of grievances ought to he removed; waste lands ought to be cultivated, and means taken to secure permanent employment for the poor. He found every one who spoke on the subject of the Encumbered Estates Bill—at least those who addressed the House in its favour—contending for the necessity of speedily establishing in Ireland a respectable body of yeomanry, residing on their own estates. There were even those who asserted that, with good management, the soil of Ireland might be made to maintain 16,000,000 of human beings. He, however, was not a convert to the strong opinions entertained with respect to the utility of very small holdings; and he doubted whether the possession of them in fee-simple would work such a change as to take from that system all the evils for which it was now pre-eminently remarkable. At present the great majority of holdings were under five acres, and nothing could be worse than the condition of the Irish people. He was bound, in conclusion, frankly to declare his conviction that the treason by which the body politic had been tainted to the bone—that such widespread and such deadly disaffection as existed in Ireland could be imputed to 725 nothing except the faults of the Government.
§ MR. SHARMAN CRAWFORD
found it very difficult to convey to the House any idea how very painful it was to him to proceed to a division upon the present question. The condition of Ireland was one of the greatest possible danger, and no one more earnestly desired than he did to uphold Her Majesty's loyal subjects in that part of the united kingdom with all the force that law and government could put forth for their protection. But, looking at the measures of the Government, he found it impossible to be favourable to their plans. On the contrary, he believed their whole administration to he utterly inefficient for any useful purpose; and more especially did he consider that the present measure would he wholly unsuccessful, He wanted to see peace established in Ireland, and he feared that the proposed Bill would bring with it no peace. He admitted that times arose when the common principles of the constitution must he suspended; but what he wanted was, that such measures of suspension should not go alone—that they should be accompanied with practical plans of social improvement. He begged the House for a moment to consider what were the causes of the present agitation and discontent. They evidently were to he found in the condition of the people. Was their social state a healthy condition? Were they not depressed to the lowest point which human beings could reach? In some parts of the country the population were actually starving. Such was the state of Ireland at present, and such it had been for a length of time past. And this was going on without any attempt to provide remedial measures. The strongest promises of remedial measures were uniformly made by every Ministry, and as uniformly neglected. They were growing worse and worse every day. In the year 1800, the Habeas Corpus Act had been suspended in Ireland; it had again been suspended from 1802 till 1805; from 1807 till 1810; again in 1814; and once more, from 1822 till 1824. The Habeas Corpus Act, then, had frequently been suspended, and they even had martial law from 1803 till 1805. Arms Acts were frequently enforced; and now, in 1848, after forty-seven years of union, Ireland must be held by the sword, or by that which few Governments liked to propose—good remedial measures. If remedial measures were not adopted, the consequence would 726 be social disorganisation in Ireland, and a resistance directed against property and order, which the Government had not a sufficient body of troops to put down; for there was a great difference between meeting a rabble in a field, and taking that military occupation of the whole country which, under the circumstances he alluded to, would become necessary. In 1798 there was a force of 100,000 men in Ireland; and he would ask was Government prepared to furnish as great a force now? There could be no more dangerous policy than to adopt apparent measures of coercion unless the Government possessed the power of carrying them out. He dreaded the disorganisation of the country, and the resistance to rents and taxes which would arise, unless remedial measures were adopted, and which no coercive measures could adequately reach. The violent opinions held by individuals in Ireland had been referred to; but why were such opinions held and expressed? Because there had been that oppression of the country—that want of attention to its interests and wishes, which impelled those persons to have a desire for separation. He wanted to know why the Act already passed, commonly called the Felons' Act, could not be sufficient for the purpose, and why it had not been fully carried out? The Government had not used the powers within their hands; and why, then, should that House be called on to pass a new Coercion Act? He recollected the proceedings of 1798, when it was alleged at the time that Government had neglected all proper precautions with the view of letting things come to a crisis, He hoped that such was now not the case, though there might appear some grounds for the suspicion, when it was seen that the laws of the land already in existence were not put into execution. He believed that one of the most dangerous kinds of coercion was the arresting of persons on mere suspicion; and he recollected the bad effects of the exercise of such a power in former times. Under these circumstances, he felt it to be his indispensable duty not to let the House come to a vote on this question without recording his opinion of the inutility of the proposed measure of coercion, and of the necessity of the House applying itself to the adoption of remedial measures. He felt himself the more bound to do this because he had hitherto been prevented by various circumstances from bringing before the House the whole question of Ireland, and the remedial measures 727 he would recommend. The hon. Member concluded by moving an Amendment to the following effect:—That the present distracted state of Ireland arises from misgovernment and from the want of remedial measures, without which no coercive measures could restore either order or content to the country.
seconded the Amendment. He maintained that a domestic Legislature was absolutely necessary for the prosperity of Ireland, but he held that separation from England would be destructive of that prosperity. Ireland was as much interested as England in the maintenance of the connexion between the countries, and he therefore repudiated the doctrine of the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor). He was conscientiously in favour of a repeal of the Union, with a view of having a domestic Legislature in Ireland; but he was entirely opposed to separation. It was because he believed that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act would not have the effect of putting a stop to the proceedings against which it was directed, that he felt bound to oppose the proposition of the Government, and to support the Amendment. He had expressed his conviction that the last Coercion Act would not be attended with its desired effect; and the result had shown that what he had then ventured to state had turned out correct. It was true that quietude prevailed in the proclaimed districts; but the immediate cause of that was to be found in the special commissions, which were carried out with so much energy and effect by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. It might be true that under the operation of that Coercion Act parties might not be able to exhibit their arms, and to march about armed, openly as before; but the evil-doers still possessed their arms, though concealed, and were ready to bring them forward at a moment's notice. He had also predicted that what was called the "Gagging Act" would be inoperative in Ireland, unless it acted as a stimulus to the proceedings of which every one in that House justly complained; and, with the exception of the conviction of Mitchel, which had lost much of its influence by the transactions attending it, the Gagging Act had had no effect in stopping the march of insurrection in Ireland. In like manner he conceived that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act would fail, and only serve to stimulate discontent, bringing it quicker to a head. The proposed measure, instead of being a cure, would be a cause of irritation. 728 Had all the measures of coercion passed since the Union produced any other effect than increasing the irritation of the sore, and causing the cancer to spread more largely? He conceived that the noble Lord had not made out a case for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, even supposing that it would have the effect which the noble Lord anticipated. The noble Lord had made a statement in reference to Cork, and, if he had no stronger authority for his other statements, the noble Lord's case was a complete failure. When the noble Lord had informants in that city as well as in other parts of Ireland, why had the noble Lord quoted from a newspaper, and from one, too, which was never remarkable for stating fairly the case of the people? With respect to the occurrence at Carrick-on-Suir, he believed that at the most tranquil period in Ireland, if a clergyman enjoying the affections of the people were believed to be arrested, a similar scene might have occurred; and it would not have been thought sufficient to justify the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. As to the meeting on the mountain in Tipperary, the monster meetings of 1843 were more formidable and more numerous. The House must take fairly into consideration whether, with the complicated concerns of this country pressing on its attention, it could possibly find time to attend to the affairs and to redress the grievances, if it had the disposition to do so, of Ireland.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I wish to take this opportunity of stating the single reason for which I shall give to the proposition of Her Majesty's Ministers my earnest and unequivocal support. If I thought that the origin of this impending insurrection was to be found in the social or political grievances of which we have heard so much in the sister country, and if I thought that the measure proposed by Her Majesty's Ministers would prove any obstacle to remedial measures for those social and political evils, I, for one, should view it with jealousy and distrust. Its character is flagrant; it is invested with no hypocritical garment; it is an assault upon the constitutional liberties of the subject; and the only justification of such a proposition must he the necessity of the case, and I think that necessity exists in those circumstances to which the noble Lord at the head of the Government has amply referred. It did not indeed require the exposition of the noble Lord to impress that conviction upon 729 the House and upon the country. The noble Lord is not in the position in which Ministers in similar circumstances have sometimes found themselves. He does not come here with a green bag, filled with anonymous communications, or with statements made to an Administration under circumstances which could not be amply revealed to the senate of the country. The noble Lord, without affectation, and with a frankness and simplicity which did him honour, referred only to those circumstances with which we are all familiar—to those events which are daily and hourly occurring—as his justification for the policy he recommended; and, adopting the responsibility, from which he did not shrink, and from which he could not shrink, with respect to his proposition, the noble Lord has reminded this House of that responsibility from which, as the representatives of the people, they also cannot escape. Now, I say, that if I thought this impending insurrection was occasioned by those social and political evils with which we are all of us too familiar, I should view the proposition of Her Majesty's Ministers with great jealousy and distrust. But I am bound to express frankly my opinion—and that is the reason which will induce me to vote for the measure of Her Majesty's Government, and to give them my unvarying support in this respect—that the impending insurrection does not in any way partake of that character. It is not an agrarian movement; it is not a religious movement; it is not, in my opinion, a movement arising from any sentiment of perverted nationality. It is neither more nor less than an external—a Continental movement. It is neither more nor less than a Jacobin movement; and, looking upon Jacobinism to he a system of universal plunder and of unmitigated violence, I think it is our duty to grapple with the evil in which we recognise such features with a power greater than their violence, and with a determination to maintain every social principle and every social right equal to that audacity which has been too much encouraged by events that have fortunately not occurred in England, and not yet in Ireland. It is for this reason that I think we ought not to hesitate to intrust to the Government the great and extraordinary powers for which they ask. I protest against the social and political evils from which Ireland may suffer being in any way mixed up with the question which is now before us. I protest against its being assumed in argument that 730 those who have originated this movement have any desire to remedy those social and political grievances by any mode which the common sense and feeling of this country could recognise and approve. Nor, Sir, do I believe that this impending insurrection is or was in its origin the insurrection of the people of Ireland; and one reason why I have taken the opportunity of making these few observations is, because I wish to protest against its going forth throughout Europe that the question before us is a question between the Government of England and the people of Ireland. I do not believe that, even numerically, the traitors have the advantage. I cannot for a moment suppose—I have every reason to disbelieve—that the Roman Catholic priesthood can look with any favour upon a Jacobin movement. I believe that the great body of the peasantry of the south of Ireland at first looked with no favour upon this movement; and, although the neglect in permitting it to arrive at the pitch it has achieved, may—as must always happen in a country like Ireland, with an impressionable and suffering people—induce the multitude finally to rally round those whose big talking and bold promises are calculated to create an effect upon the masses, yet I am still of opinion that the great body of the peasantry are not heart and soul in this movement, which is so menacing. It is the movement of a party, organised, desperate, stimulated by foreign example and inspired by foreign successes—a party which, on previous occasions in the history of that country, has adopted the same course and aimed at the same result. I have, no doubt that their plots and machinations will, under any circumstances, meet with the most complete and overwhelming discomfiture; but I am anxious that that discomfiture should not be obtained at the terrible expense which has attended their previous defeats—not merely an expenditure of the treasure of this country—not an expenditure only of the lives of Englishmen, but of that rising good feeling between the two countries which it has now-taken half a century to cherish and foster, and the excitement of those passions which a discomfiture attained by such means would revive with all their former acerbity, misconception, prejudice, and bitterness. I conceive that the Minister who, by coming forward at this moment with sufficient measures, confident in the good sense of his countrymen, and supported by a unanimous Parliament, can quell this impending 731 insurrection without bloodshed, and without scenes of spoliation, of ravage, and of disorder, will deserve well of his country, and is entitled to the hearty and full countenance of the House of Commons.
§ MR. D. CALLAGHAN
could not imagine that such a measure as the present was calculated to stop the progress of that feeling which now strongly actuated the great body of the Irish people. He considered that any Irish Members who gave their support to this Bill would be committing an act of political suicide. He would never be a party to suspending the Habeas Corpus Act, or to any other measures of coercion, when he believed that the results those measures were designed to effect might be attained by another course of proceeding. He was a repealer, and was anxious to secure the legislative independence of his country. He believed that the present state of Ireland was the result of misgovernment; and that, by the application of remedial measures at a proper time, the peace and prosperity of that country might have been established. But when such remedial measures had been demanded, the answer had been, "Wait awhile;" and how long had they waited? The press in Ireland did not fairly represent the state of that country; and the noble Lord at the head of the Government had derived his information from the press, instead of resorting to those from whom he would have received a true representation of the facts—the representatives of the Irish people.
SIR D. NORREYS
The hon. Member who has just addressed the House has said, that any one of us who now gets up and supports this Bill, will commit an act of political suicide; and I believe that to be the case. I do not hesitate on that account to rise at once, and declare myself a supporter of this measure. Let the consequences to myself be what they may, I will support it; and I avow that I think the time is come when such a measure is absolutely requisite. This is no time to examine the antecedents of any hon. Member, or of the noble Lord; to consider whether the one has been a good prophet, or whether the other has fulfilled the promises with which he took office. It is to save my country from the precipice on which I see her rushing, that I support this measure. Like the hon. Member, I feel that I have a country; my blood boils like his, but it is against those who would 732 plunge her into the miseries of civil war. I think every day's delay dangerous; such has been the state of excitement, that, at the moment when we are speaking, God knows, some spark may kindle the flame that seems to be about to burst out, and blood may be flowing in our country. I admit that this is a dreadful experiment; my firm conviction is, that it will issue at once either in the explosion of this rebellion, or in putting it down. These men, seeing that their case will otherwise be desperate, will, if they think they have any chance, take steps to precipitate an outbreak, and do what they can. But I put it to hon. Gentlemen who speak so strongly of this measure as unconstitutional—and no one can lament more than myself the necessity of proposing it—whether the course they advocate might not lead to greater evils—to protracted civil war? It is to save my wretched countrymen from the miseries that will otherwise be brought upon them, that I call upon you at once to seize the heads of this conspiracy, and not allow bad men to lead the people on any longer.
MR. H. DRUMMOND
I am certainly somewhat surprised that the hon. Member for Cork should discriminate so accurately as he does between the mass of his country-men and those who are trying to mislead them, and that he should yet hesitate for a single moment to give to the Government that power which will enable them to seize the guilty while sparing the innocent. I am still more surprised that the hon. Member should have the smallest doubt that this measure will be efficacious as far as it goes. If it be not efficacious, other measures must follow: for it is right for him, and for every man, not only in this House, but in the country, to understand that civil war is no child's play. We are provoked to it; war is proclaimed against us; and there is no alternative but victory or death. It is "war to to the knife;" and these persons must be put down. I am quite willing to enter upon the consideration of Irish grievances on a future and more fitting occasion; but at the present time the point in hand is the remedy proposed for a particular state of affairs in Ireland. It has been rightly said by the eloquent Member for Buckinghamshire, that Jacobinism and the discontent which certain persons feel with respect to their social position are at the root of the evils we have now to deplore. The hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. O'Connor) has spoken 733 of a profligate press having done much to influence the public mind improperly. It is not for me to stand up in behalf of the press; but I should like to know what meaning the hon. Member for Nottingham attaches to the word "profligate" in this instance. I suppose he means to describe a person who in his connexion with the press does some unworthy act for the sake of his private advantage or gratification. Now, I should like to know whether there is a person connected with any paper in the kingdom but one, who will publish a long column of the names of blasphemous books, and recommend them to all his readers. I will not pollute my lips nor disgust the ears of hon. Members by reading the titles of these works; but I wish to know whether the paper which acts in the manner I have described is the "profligate press" referred to by the hon. Member for Nottingham? I give the hon. Member for Nottingham the choice of two alternatives—either he belives in and approves of the doctrines of the books advertised; or, knowing and believing them to be immoral, irreligious, and blasphemous works, he publishes their titles for the sake of the money he gets for so doing. I charge the hon. Member for Nottingham with having, more perhaps than any one, tended to foment Jacobinical feelings. When I spoke on a former occasion of the doctrine promulgated by M. Proudhon, Toule propriété est un vol, I was ignorant that the same doctrine had been broached by the hon. Member for Nottingham in his newspaper. Here it is:—The land is yours, and one day or other you'll have your share of it; and the sooner you arrive at a knowledge of its value, the sooner will you he prepared to assert the great principle, that the and is the people's inheritance, and that kings, princes, peers, nobles, priests, and commoners, who have stolen it from them, hold it upon the title of popular ignorance rather than upon any right, human or divine. The natural right is yours; the human usurpation is theirs.But that is not all—the hon. Member for Nottingham is not merely discontented with the tenure of property; he declares that the whole state of society must be subverted. This, then, is not, as the noble Lord has argued, a question as to the separation of Ireland—it is not a mere question of repeal; it is a question affecting the foundation of society itself. But the hon. Member for Nottingham shall speak for himself:—We frankly avow that we have no respect for society as at present constituted. Civilisation 734 means ill-requited labour, starvation, gaols, bastiles for the masses. To the millions civilisation is a huge lie, an organised hypocrisy. Perish such civilisation!Amongst the things which have stimulated and maddened the clever but too excitable people of Ireland, we may enumerate that curse, an "unruly tongue," which "setteth on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire of hell."
§ MR. HUME
said, to such papers as those which had been described, he would not hesitate for one moment to give the character of profligate, whether in Ireland, Scotland, or England—such papers were most dangerous to society, and ought to he shunned by every one. If there was any principle more dangerous than another, it was that which had gained footing in a neighbouring country, and which for years had by some individuals been fostered in that country—the attempt to interfere with the labour of the poor. To attempt to lay down the principle of making property common to the community, was to violate the laws upon which society was based. He trusted that no such doctrine would ever be supported in that House. He had, for a very long period, paid close attention to the situation of Ireland, and he found himself in a most unpleasant situation now, because, while he knew of great evils which existed with respect to that country, which he believed might he removed by wise and honest legislation, yet he was compelled unwillingly to give his support to Her Majesty's Government on the present occasion, in order to maintain peace and tranquillity. He protested against the supposition that such a Bill as this would remove any of the evils to which he alluded. He agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan), that they never would remove the social evils which existed in Ireland until they removed the causes of discontent, which were broad, deep, and long-continued. Within his own recollection, one class of the community had been held up against another—Protestant against Catholic, and Catholic against Protestant. Excitement was kept up by the belief that England was an oppressor, and that from England no good could he obtained. That doctrine was supported and held until the year 1829, when he had hoped that the era had arrived which would be marked by a change in the situation of Ireland, and the oppression which had theretofore existed would be gradually effaced. But had anything 735 of that kind taken place? Discontent at this moment was as extensive in Ireland as it had ever been, and that discontent arose from civil rights being withheld. The Irishman was not placed on the same footing as the Scotchman or the Englishman: he was not treated as a free man, and therefore it could not be expected that he would act as a free man. Let civil and religious liberty spread over Ireland as it did over England and Scotland, and then they might expect to see an approximation to tranquillity in that country. Could they expect improvement in Ireland until there was employment? Could they expect employment without peace and confidence? Could they expect peace and confidence while they were from time to time passing-Bills of the most coercive character, and measures for suspending the constitution? Any incipient disposition that might be exhibited for carrying capital to Ireland, this very Bill would tend to drive away. Who would send capital to employ the people of Ireland, when the Government told them that every peasant and every man was against this country? Those men were led by demagogues, or whatever they might please to call them—men of great talent and having great command over the people—that great command having been obtained in consequence of the people being discontented, on account of their rights being refused after having been promised from year to year, and from day to day. Session after Session those rights had been promised, and what had been done? Not one step had been taken during the last eight or nine months. They were now at the close of the Session, and their situation was worse than it was in November. He was as confident as that he existed, that this measure would not heal the evils under which Ireland suffered. It might put down the turbulent and those who were exciting their fellow-countrymen. There were many who recollected what was said in that House at the time when the Carnatic was ravaged. They were told that the Government had succeeded in restoring peace and quietness? Yes! but peace and quietness were only desolation. They might by this Bill put down turbulent persons, but as fast as they did so others would rise; and so it would ever be until they removed the causes of discontent. On the Government would be the responsibility of exercising this measure. Let them follow it up with remedial measures. He would now address his hon. Friends, 736 the Irish Members, and call upon them, after the opinions which had been expressed on the Treasury benches, that peace could not be expected while the Irish Church remained, to support the Government. Why not immediately consider the question of the Irish Church? The noble Lord at the head of the Government had admitted that that was one of the evils under which Ireland laboured. Then there was the question of the franchise. The position of Ireland, with respect to the franchise, was worse than that of France under the late monarchy. France had 200,000 representatives—electors he meant—but in Ireland at this moment they had not more than 40,000. There were 40,000 electors to 8,000,000 of inhabitants. Let the noble Lord consider the municipal institutions. Parliament ought not to separate until some steps of this sort had been taken. His hon. Friend (Mr. S. Crawford) was quite right in saying that remedial measures ought immediately to be adopted; and he hoped his hon. Friend would do all he could to carry them. They might be brought forward to-morrow. ["To-morow is Sunday."] Well, the better day the better deed. They could not better employ their Sabbath than by giving peace to Ireland. He was sorry his hon. Friend had proposed his Amendment, because there were many who agreed with him upon it, but who nevertheless would feel bound on this occasion to support the Government. He would, therefore, advise his hon. Friend to take a more fitting opportunity of proposing it, when he would be happy to support him; for no man in that House had shown a greater necessity for remedial measures in Ireland than the noble Lord at the head of the Government had in his speech of that day.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
would give Her Majesty's Government his unqualified support in respect of the measure they had proposed; and he would not have interrupted the progress of it for a moment by any remarks of his own, had he not felt the necessity of saying merely this, that he supported the measure which the Government, on their own responsibility, declared to be necessary for the preservation of peace in Ireland as a great measure of police. The hon. Member for Montrose had just told them that concession had not caused agitation in Ireland to cease; and he did trust that Her Majesty's Government would pass this Bill as an exceptional measure, and without conditions, in order 737 that those who now disturbed the peace of Ireland by continued agitation might be told that to persevere in such a course was only sowing the wind to reap the whirlwind—and that such conduct must ultimately result in their own confusion.
§ MR. GROGAN
, in the name of the loyal, industrious, and peaceable classes of the city of Dublin, returned thanks to the Government for their having at length determined to grapple with the monster agitation—the incubus which had afflicted Ireland, had paralysed trade and employment, and had brought poverty and bankruptcy on all classes. The suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was a proceeding which nothing but the most extreme case could justify. Such a case now existed. The Confederates were only an offshoot of the establishment at Conciliation Hall. That agitation had now assumed so solemn, so dangerous, and so alarming a character, that the measure which Her Majesty's Government had proposed was the only one which could prevent bloodshed and ruin. The noble Lord had alluded to the fact of a magistrate presiding at one of the meetings. He hoped that noble Lord would on Monday tell them that that gentleman was no longer on the list of magistrates for Ireland. Three magistrates from Kilkenny had come up to Dublin in order to attend one of the meetings, and he hoped that they would be no longer members of the magisterial bench in that city.
§ MR. REYNOLDS
said, that his hon. Colleague (Mr. Grogan) had called upon that House to consent to the introduction of this Bill in the name of that portion of his constituents who were peaceably disposed. He was prepared to vote against its introduction, although he was not prepared to pursue any factious course with regard to it. He was prepared to vote against the Bill in all its future stages, and he hoped they would be long and tedious. His hon. Friend the Member for Mallow (Sir D. Norreys), in expressing his determination to support the Bill, had said most valiantly, "I am prepared to commit political suicide." Now the present Parliament was not quite one year old, and therefore had five years to run; so that the hon. Gentleman could not be politically sacrificed for five years, and would incur no danger until that period had elapsed. But an appeal had been made by the hon. Member for Montrose to the Irish Members not to oppose this Bill. Why, if the hon. 738 Gentleman had not declared his determination in the early part of his speech to support the Bill, he should have been induced to believe that his hon. Friend intended to oppose it. He said the people of Ireland were plunged in the very depths of misery; that the blessings of the British constitution were withheld from them; that all the evils which accompanied poverty and destitution were afflicting them; and that after having passed two Coercion Bills which had failed, the Government were preparing a third. He found it difficult to reconcile that and his hon. Friend's vote with his Irish notions of reason. In December last was introduced into that House the Crime and Outrage Bill, which received the Royal Assent a little before Christmas; and an application was made to that House for another Bill, namely, the Felony Bill in April. So that in less than six months they had passed two Coercion Bills; and now before the expiration of three months from the passing of the last, the Government required another. He hoped he might be permitted to refer to the observations which he made on the introduction of those Bills. He thou prophesied that they would be failures, and they had been failures. To use a mercantile phrase, he believed that two worse Bills were never drawn, and he was not surprised that they had been protested for non-acceptance. After the failure of those two Bills, the Government now came forward with another, and he presumed they intended to carry the interest and principal forward for another. He now prophesied that this Bill would fail also; and he wanted to know, and he asked respectfully and earnestly, supposing they filled the gaols with political victims, even to overflowing, as they had filled the workhouses of Ireland with able bodied paupers, what were they to do afterwards? He asked that question in sober seriousness. If they intrusted this unconstitutional power to Lord Clarendon—the power of arresting all whom he might suspect of disloyalty and disaffection—of course the suspected parties would be kept in gaol until March: and what would they do with them then? Would discontent then be abated? No, it would not. He knew what this Bill would do. It would increase discontent and dissatisfaction—would multiply repealers—would convert men to the principle of repeal who were now holding aloof from it. As a sincere advocate of the repeal of the legislative Union, he must say, both on his 739 own behalf and on behalf of the repealers of Ireland, that they were desirous of effecting the repeal of the Union through constitutional means only. They had sworn the oath of allegiance: he had taken that oath without any equivocation or mental reservation; and he was determined, even at the sacrifice of his life, to maintain that oath religiously. He believed that the great body of the people of Ireland were actuated by a similar spirit, and it was therefore a calumny to insinuate anything like a charge of treasonable doctrines against them. He was not there to stand sponsor for the loyalty of all. God forbid! But he protested on the part of the people of Ireland generally against their being accused of holding treasonable doctrines. What purpose did Her Majesty's Government intend to serve by the suspension of the constitution? What were the Government afraid of? They had got in round numbers 45,000 troops in Ireland. If they included the police they had 55,000. Now, that was a military force sufficient to keep possession of a country double the size and with double the population of Ireland. Not only had they 45,000 troops, and a large body of the constabulary, but they had a great number of persons who were as loyal as any special constables, and who were quite ready to assist in preserving peace and order. Now, he wanted to know what proof they had of disorder and disorganisation in Ireland, except the speeches of those frequent agitators who were going from town to town? Commercial transactions were not interrupted; corn was being imported and exported; banking transactions went on precisely as usual; public credit was totally undisturbed; outrages were not committed. And in the midst of all this tranquillity, they were to have the constitution suspended, and the liberty of every man placed in the hands of the Executive Government. When he spoke of the Executive Government, he begged it to be understood that if this unconstitutional power was to be granted, there was no person to whom he would rather intrust it than Lord Clarendon, who had, it was true, been liberally abused, and in good round terms. If he were asked what the people of Ireland wanted, he would say simply, an equalisation between Great Britain and Ireland. He wanted an assimilation of the Irish corporations to the privileges of the English corporations; he wanted a Grand Jury Bill, to relieve the people from the peculation of their masters; he 740 wanted a Landlord and Tenant Bill, that would give the occupying farmer some protection for his labour on the one hand, and his capital on the other; he wanted a Registration Bill, that would give the people of Ireland some voice in the election of their representatives. At present, they had none. They asked also for an increase in the number of Irish representatives, thinking that whilst Great Britain had 553 Members, Ireland ought to have more than 105. Let him not be understood as compromising the great principle he contended for, that the people of Ireland had a right to domestic legislation, not interfering with the connexion that had existed between the two countries for 600 years, and which they wished might endure to the end of time, bound together by the golden link of the Crown, and the affections of the people of both countries. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, in the memorable speech he made on surrendering the seals of office, said that he made up his mind that Ireland could not be governed by coercion. He hoped the right hon. Baronet had not changed his opinion; and if he were of that opinion still, he would address the right hon. Baronet seriously in the name of his fellow-countrymen, and implore of him to turn in his mind whether he was not bound now, even at the eleventh hour, to lend his powerful assistance in carrying out the great principle he had laid down, that Ireland was to be governed by conciliation.
§ MR. MUNTZ
asked the hon. Member for Rochdale to withdraw his Amendment. It appeared to him that, by carrying that Amendment, the hon. Member would do no kindness to the Irish people, but would, on the contrary, injure the cause he wished to support. He was as anxious as the hon. Member himself that remedial measures should accompany measures of coercion, and wished he could find a sufficient excuse for himself to avoid supporting Her Majesty's Ministers. But he felt that it was impossible to avoid giving them his support on this occasion, much as he regretted their not bringing forward measures for the satisfaction of the Irish people, by the removal of their social evils and political grievances. Every coercive measure must fail in a country full of misery, which they did nothing to relieve. The hon. Member for Dublin said, that the present agitation in Ireland did not interfere with the trade of that country; but he could give the hon. Member an instance to the 741 contrary. That very day, in a visit he had paid to a house in the City, he had been shown by a friend an order countermanding an order previously despatched to Ireland for a large cargo of grain, in consequence of the confusion and disorder prevailing, which led to fears of an immediate outbreak.
§ SIR H. W. BARRON
had no doubt of the absolute necessity of some measures of this description being adopted by the House and the country, if possible with unanimity. He regretted that it had been delayed so long; for his letters from Ireland, from day to day, were of the most alarming description. He could assure the House that persons of all persuasions in that country, and he might almost say of all political opinions, were almost unanimous in condemning the Government for not adopting this measure sooner. They attributed the delay to the mildness of Lord Clarendon, and his aversion to the assumption of the powers which would be put in his hands by the adoption of the measure; but the people in all parts of the south of Ireland were suffering the greatest possible anxiety from day to day, not knowing the moment when their homes might be invaded by men driven to desperation by the exciting language addressed to them, and the hopes of success held out by the leaders of this rebellion, for he could call it nothing else, in that country. The great mass of the people were intimidated to join the disaffected, not seeing any steps taken to protect them. Tories, Whigs, Radicals, nay, Repealers themselves, were most anxious that the Government should come forward and put a stop to this excitement, and the promulgation of the dangerous doctrines put forth every day, alarming every class of the community in that country. Property was hot safe, life was not safe, nor was any class in that country free from alarm. All had expressed a wish that the leaders of the Young Ireland party should be arrested in their progress; and he believed that some; of those persons themselves, feeling that they had gone too far, and conscious that they had some property and some stake in the country, were most anxious that the measure should be passed, and that they should be put in safety. When they were shut up, as he hoped they might be soon, they would rejoice when they felt the doors of their prison shut upon them. That was his conviction, for they must know the utter hopelessness of any rising in rebellion 742 in that country. They well knew that, though they might succeed for a few days in some localities, it could only lead to their utter annihilation, after thousands of lives, and hundreds of thousands of property, had been sacrificed in the base attempt of persuading the populace to rise in rebellion against the Government. If any thing were wanted to deter the people from these attempts, it would be found in the sad example that France offered of the consequences of deluding the mass by false hopes into rebellion. Every man of property and information in Ireland would be delighted to see; this measure passed. No parties could be more convinced of the utter hopelessness of this rebellion than the leaders of it; and he knew more than this: he knew that, in private, some of them had expressed that opinion—he knew this of his own knowledge. What greater wickedness could there be than leading the people to rebellion under such circumstances? To interpose was an act of mercy to the leaders themselves, and above all to the poor people of Ireland; and he implored of that House, as an act of mercy and of kindness, on this occasion to protect the people.
§ COLONEL DUNNE
cordially agreed in principle with the hon. Member for Rochdale; but he thought that that consideration ought not to sway him on this occasion. The opinions of the present agitators of Ireland had nothing to do with remedial measures, avowing, as they did, the division of property and the spilling of blood. He could not offer any opposition to the measure that was now called for by the Government.
§ MR. SCULLY
denied that the allegations which had been made of the state of Tipperary were true in all their details. He denied that disaffection or disloyalty prevailed amongst the mass of the population of that county; for the great guides of the people who had heretofore taken the lead in all movements there, had studiously, and almost unanimously, abstained from taking part in the present one—and those guides were the great body of the Roman Catholic clergy. He stated that from his own knowledge. What had occurred in that county last year? The very man who was now accused of publishing sedition against the Crown, Mr. Doheny, had gone there trying to promote confederate opinions, but he was scouted from the county. But a Coercion Bill had since been passed, and under it Mr. Mitchel had 743 been unfairly and unjustly convicted. However treasonable might have been his conduct, Mr. Mitchel was condemned unfairly. That conviction had had a more prejudicial effect upon the people than any thing that bad occurred within the last century; and the consequence was, that Mr. Doheny, when he visited the county of Tipperary a few days ago, bad found a ready audience to his seditious harangues. They did not want Coercion Bills, and it would be in vain to pass such a law unless they also passed remedial measures.
§ The House divided on the question that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question:—Ayes 271; Noes 8: Majority 263.
§ [It will be sufficient to insert the names of those who voted against the Bill.]
|List of the NOES.|
|Callaghan, D.||Scully, F.|
|Devereux, J. T.||Sullivan, M.|
|Fox, R. M.|
|O'Connor, F.||Fagan, W.|
|Reynolds, J.||Crawford, W. S.|
§ Leave given. Bill brought in, and read a first time.
§ The Standing Orders having been suspended, the Bill passed through all its stages, without further opposition of any importance, and without any amendments, and was sent to the Lords.
§ Adjourned at a quarter before Seven.