HC Deb 08 August 1850 vol 113 cc937-43

Order for Second Reading read. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


wished to ask a question of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department with reference to another Bill. Some time ago the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown declared that it was not his intention to proceed with the Landlord and Tenant Bill which the Government had introduced. On the faith of that statement a great number of Irish Members on the Ministerial side of the House had gone to Ireland to attend to other duties. In their absence a Bill on the same subject, containing the obnoxious clauses of the Government Bill, with all the clauses which might be considered remedial struck out, had passed the other House, and had been introduced into the Commons by the hon. Member for the University of Dublin. He thought they had a certain claim upon the good faith of the Government, that since they were not to legislate generally on the subject this Session, they would not connive at partial legislation. He wished to know what course the Government meant to pursue with respect to that Bill?


said, that the fact of Government finding themselves unable to proceed with a Bill on the general subject, would by no means justify them in resisting a salutary improvement of the law limited to a particular case. He confessed, however, that he could not have supported the Bill as it came down to them from the Lords; and, even with the alterations which had since been introduced into it—though it had thereby been rendered very different from the Bill which had come down to them from the Lords—he felt that it would be impossible to agree to it. It had been alleged, that the practice of clandestinely carrying away crops by night was a great evil, and involved a much more serious penalty than the parties would be liable to in this country. The Bill had been committed pro formâ; and the hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin, who had charge of it, had abandoned some of its most obnoxious provisions; and it was now a very different measure from the Bill which had come from the Lords. Still it was one which he thought it impossible for the House to agree to even in its amended form. Notice had been given by the hon. Member for Oxfordshire of an Amendment in Committee, applying to Ireland the law in England against parties clandestinely carrying away property under the value of 50l. If they were to legislate at all on the subject, that would be the safest mode in which they could legislate; and that would involve a very serious alteration. If the Bill went into Committee, he should support the Amendment which took away altogether any penalty for merely cutting crops on Sundays, or early in the morning, or late at night, on account of the uncertainty of proving the intent. The Amendment also did away with the punishment as a misdemeanour, and simply rendered the parties liable to be sued. That would make a material alteration in the Bill; and at that period of the Session, he doubted the propriety of dealing with Bills in that way. He rather hoped the hon. Promoter of the Bill would not press it further.


said, his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin was not in his place; and he thought he had some reason to complain if notice had not been given of this question. He believed it was the hon. Gentleman's intention to adopt the Amendment of the hon. Member for Oxfordshire, for assimilating the law to that of England. He knew not what course he would pursue after the declaration now made by the right hon. Baronet.


said, he wished to give notice of his question, but he had not had opportunity.


said, he had every reason to believe that the promoter of the Bill would adopt his Amendments.


said, he should take this opportunity of reiterating his opposition to this Bill. The first clause of the Act, now in force, gave power to the Lord Lieutenant to proclaim any district, and to increase the constabulary, which was, in effect, a standing army. He was also empowered to levy taxes to defray the cost—to prohibit the carrying of arms—to search houses for arms—and other extraordinary powers. No one could doubt that those powers, however necessary at one time, were unconstitutional. There were two modes of governing a country: one by enacting just laws, and calling on the people to preserve the peace for themselves; the other by enforcing or continuing unequal laws; and this system had prevailed in Ireland ever since it was a part of the united kingdom. A policy of coercion and extermination was in force under the Earl of Clarendon at that moment. The noble Earl had given facilities for eviction, and had called for no law to mitigate the misery which flowed from these proceedings. On these grounds he (Mr. S. Crawford) felt it his duty to protest most strongly against this Bill. It was a delusion to sup- pose that measures like this would secure the tranquillity of Ireland. Nothing but just and equal legislation would do this. While the coercive policy was continued, large standing armies must be maintained there, involving the expenditure of a large amount of taxes. On this ground, Englishmen, as well as Irishmen, ought to protest against this Bill. He moved that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."


had no fear that the provisions of the Bill would be abused by the Earl of Clarendon; but he feared that if the present Government were succeeded in office by their opponents, a Lord Lieutenant might be appointed who would be less worthy of being entrusted with them.


hoped the Government would at least make some attempt to show that this was not an unconstitutional Bill. By giving extraordinary prerogatives to the Crown, either the constitution was suspended or destroyed. It could not be denied that the powers in this Bill were most extraordinary. Hon. Members had been placed in a false position by the Bill being imperfectly described, and not sufficiently explained, on its introduction. Were such a measure proposed for either the manufacturing or agricultural districts of this country, the attempt to pass it would be absurd; it would be thrown out at once. If this measure was necessary, why was it not accompanied with remedial measures, or rather, why did not such measures precede those of a penal character? All the liberal Irish Members were opposed to this coercive policy: nevertheless the Government showed a determination to persist in it. It was true the Earl of Clarendon had exercised these extraordinary powers in a manner which could not be complained of; but the fact that his Lordship succeeded in preserving the peace of the country during a very critical period, without any such extraordinary powers, was a proof that they were unnecessary. They only served to familiarise the Irish with slavery; they were at most but a pis aller; and no case whatever had been made out for their continuance. The prerogative alone was sufficient to arm the Government with all power necessary for suppressing disturbance; and on afterwards asking indemnity from that House, there was no doubt it would be conceded. He objected to give a premium to severe measures by passing a Bill of Indemnity beforehand. Under this Bill the Lord Lieutenant might make himself a perfect tyrant, and there would be no means of reaching him, or those who acted under him. The Member did not deserve the name of a representative of a people who would not oppose a measure like this. In supporting the opposition to the measure, he wished not to prolong the labour of the Session; but he felt bound to vote against it on every stage. It was a proof that there was no disposition on the part of Government to abandon the coercive policy they had so long pursued. He would never support penal measures for Ireland, which were not fit for the meridian of this country. There was a talk of assimilating the laws of the two countries; but all that was meant was to extend to Ireland those English laws which were all but intolerable, and which must speedily be repealed. An assimilation of this nature could only produce greater oppression in Ireland.


said, that his not rising immediately after the mover and seconder of the Amendment did not proceed from any disrespect towards the opponents of the Bill; but hon. Gentlemen would remember that two discussions had already taken place on this subject, and that on the first occasion his noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury, and his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland, both stated the grounds which had led the Government to ask for the continuance of the Act for a limited time. He understood, besides, that the hon. Gentleman who now opposed the second reading of the Bill, did not wish to raise another debate on the question, but merely to enter his protest against the measure. He was not aware that he could add anything to what had already been said by his noble and right hon. Friends. The object of the Bill was not oppression, but the security of life. When first proposed, outrages of a shocking character had occurred. He rejoiced to say that the Act had been instrumental in checking such occurrences, though recent experience had shown that they had not ceased altogether. He admitted that the Bill was of an exceptional character, and he should be happy to find that its further extension was unnecessary. At the same time he fully concurred with what had already been stated on the part of the Government, that at present the Government, acting on its own responsibility, did not think it expedient to allow the Bill to expire.


said, as he had heard no good answer to the arguments that had been urged against his Bill, he should vote against the second reading. This Bill of three clauses renewed the Coercion Act of 1847, which contained 23 clauses, and which was not fit for any civilised country; but only for men in their savage and uneducated state. On that ground he opposed its application to Ireland. This Bill was proposed on the ground that the Earl of Clarendon had not abused the provisions of the Act. That might be very true, but the Earl of Clarendon had under him officials, for whose proper conduct he could not be responsible. As an instance of that he would mention that permission to carry arms had been refused to a most respectable gentleman in Dublin—he alluded to Mr. J. H. Thomas, of Ranelagh. He had that day received a letter of a similar kind from an individual who stated that he had been refused a licence to carry arms by a shopkeeper who was a magistrate, which refusal he attributed to political hostility. If this measure was to be applied to Ireland, why was it not also applied to England and Scotland on the principle that "what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander?" But in addition to what he had stated there was no guarantee that the Earl of Clarendon would remain in Ireland. There were 30,000 troops of various kinds in Ireland, and were they not enough to keep the peace without this Algerine Act? He knew nothing more likely to irritate the people of Ireland than such a measure, and he would do everything in his power to strangle it, because he looked upon it as a wanton outrage on the people of that country. He would divide the House on every stage of the Bill, and he begged to return his thanks to the hon. Member for Rochdale, for the manly stand he took upon this and on all other occasions, when the rights of his country was concerned.


wished to know whether, before the next stage of the Bill, the Government would be prepared with a return of the districts in Ireland in which the Act had been put into operation, together with the charge to the counties in Ireland and to the public, on account of additional constables required in consequence of its passing. He understood that the Irish Members had come to an arrangement to give up any further opposition to the Bill. He deprecated such a course. For himself, he was prepared to continue his opposition to the Bill in every stage. He had 26 years ago declared his opinion that peace would never be restored to Ireland whilst the Protestant Church was maintained in its present proportion, and as long as one party were possessed of the idea of superiority on account of religion. He hoped that this subject would be taken up by the Government next Session. The present state of Ireland was discreditable and disgraceful to the nation that kept it under, for they were now kept under by coercion. He should have thought that they had tried coercion long enough. He blamed the Tories for following a policy of coercion, and though he was then joined by the Gentlemen who formed the present Government, he was sorry to say that they had as yet made no attempts at conciliation. He now urged them to bring forward, for the peace of Ireland, and the character of England, such measures as would abolish the evils under which Ireland laboured.


said, that he would make inquiries respecting the return which the hon. Member alluded to.


said that, as far as he was concerned, he entered into no compromise with regard to this Bill, which he considered most obnoxious and disgraceful. But it was difficult to continue a debate where all the speaking and arguments were on one side.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 89; Noes 26: Majority 63.

List of the AYES.
Abdy, Sir T. N. Craig, Sir W. G.
Anson, hon. Col. Cubitt, W.
Arkwright, G. Dawson, hon. T. V.
Armstrong, Sir A. Denison, E.
Baines, rt. hon. M. T. Dick, Q.
Baring, rt. hn. Sir F. T. Dickson, S.
Bellew, R. M. Divett, E.
Berkeley, Adm. Dodd, G.
Bernal, R. Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.
Blackall, S. W. Duncan, G.
Booth, Sir R. G. Dundas, rt, hon. Sir D.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Ebrington, Visct.
Bowles, Adm. Elliot, hon. J. E.
Boyle, hon. Col. Ferguson, Sir R. A.
Bramston, T. W. Fitz Patrick, rt. hon. J. W.
Brotherton, J. Forster, M.
Carter, J. B. Fortescue, C.
Chatterton, Col. Fortescue, hon. J. W.
Cockburn, A. J. E. Fuller, A. E.
Copeland, Ald. Goddard, A. L.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Hamilton, G. A. Paget, Lord C.
Hatchell, J. Palmerston, Visct.
Hawes, B. Parker, J.
Headlam, T. E. Price, Sir R.
Henley, J. W. Prime, R.
Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J. Rich, H.
Howard, Lord E. Sandars, G.
Howard, Sir R. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Jones, Capt. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H. Sotheron, T. H. S.
Lascelles, hon. W. S. Stafford, A.
Lennard, T. B. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Stuart, H.
Lewis, G. C. Thornely, T.
Lockhart, A. E. Townley, R. G.
Mackinnon, W. A. Vesey, hon. T.
M'Gregor, J. Wall, C. B.
Matheson, Col. Watkins, Col. L.
Maule, rt. hon. F. Willoughby, Sir H.
Morris, D. Wilson, J.
Mostyn, hon. E. M. L. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Mullings, J. R.
Newdegate, C. N. TELLERS.
Nugent, Sir P. Hayter, W. G.
Ogle, S. C. H. Hill, Lord M.
List of the NOES.
Anstey, T. C. Roche, E. B.
Bright, J. Salwey, Col.
Devereux, J. T. Scholefield, W.
Fox, W. J. Scrope, G. P.
Greene, J. Scully, F.
Harris, R. Tenison, E. K.
Higgins, G. G. O. Tennent, R. J.
Hume, J. Thompson, Col.
Kershaw, J. Thompson, G.
M'Cullagh, W. T. Walmsley, Sir J.
Moore, G. H. Williams, W.
Mowatt, F.
O'Brien, Sir T. TELLERS.
Pechell, Sir G. B. Fox, R. M.
Reynolds, J. Crawford, W. S.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Tomorrow, at Twelve o'clock.