HC Deb 21 June 1852 vol 122 cc1118-26

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clause 1 (recited Acts continued):—Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the blank be filled with the word 'thirty-first day of August one thousand eight hundred and fifty-three.'"


said, he wished to move, as an Amendment, to omit the words "And from thence until the end of the then next Session of Parliament," the effect of which omission would be to limit the operation of the measure to the 31st December next. The principle of the Bill had been already affirmed by the House on the first and second readings; and he had on the latter occasion endeavoured to demonstrate its utter inefficiency for the repression of crime, and that its practical operation would be to tax innocent persons and deprive them of the necessary means for protecting themselves and their properties. However, the House had yielded to the pressing representations of the responsible advisers of the Crown, that it was necessary for the protection of life and property in Ireland to continue for the present the extraordinary powers conferred by the Act of December, 1847, which, beyond all doubt, was a most unconstitutional and coercive measure, especially as it embodied the Whiteboy Acts, in a very oppressive form But the present was the first occasion on which the House was to take into its consideration the length of time during which these powers should he continued; and, therefore, he wished to take this, the very earliest, opportunity of urging upon Government the propriety of altering their measure so as to limit its duration until the 31st December next. In the first place, then, the House had heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer state, some weeks ago, that Parliament would reassemble for business in October next. The Parliament which had first passed the Act of 11 &c 12 Vict., c. 2, was opened on the 23rd of November, 1847, on which day the measure was recommended by a very remarkable Speech from the Throne, and the Act received the Royal assent, and became law on the 20th of December in that year. Now, if they were to assemble again in October, it followed that there would be ample time before the thirty-first of December, for considering whether the Act should be further continued or not. He conceived that Government must at once see the reasonableness of his proposal, and he trusted the House would remember that over and over again the Irish Members had protested against bringing on measures of this kind at a late period of the Session—when many of them were necessarily absent, and when the House was always impatient of entertaining any discussion, especially of Irish matters. It was upon that very ground that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had objected to the second reading of the Coercion Act of Sir Robert Peel on the 15th of June, 1846, and although that Session of Parliament continued in existence for upwards of six weeks subsequent to that day; whereas it was notorious that the present Session would determine within the next week or ten days. He thought that it did not legitimately come within the province of a provisional Administration, which the existing Government avowed they were, to propose that a measure of this kind should have so lengthened a duration as until the end of the Session of 1854. Should they be continued in office they would have the opportunity of reintroducing it; otherwise their successors could take up the matter. This view appeared to him the more forcible, because, though the Government were pledged to pass some remedial measures which they had asserted were actually prepared; they had, nevertheless, declined to introduce their Bills, or even to place them on the table of the House, for the information of its Members. A bad and vicious land system was now acknowledged on all hands to lie at the root of all agrarian outrage in Ireland. It would be a mere waste of the time of the House to argue this plain proposition, the truth of which the present Government professed to admit. They had, however, deferred to introduce their measures, though repeatedly urged to do so, during the last three months. He (Mr. Scully) had frequently pressed the question as to the real nature of those measures, and whether they would be produced before the end of the Session; but up to the present moment the Government had not vouchsafed to give him any reply, having, no doubt, their own motives for keeping the people of Ireland entirely in the dark at the coming elections— Masking their business from the common eye For sundry weighty reasons. Why had no sort of response been hitherto condescended to his very reasonable and proper request? He could only conclude that those measures, whenever they might be produced, would appear to be of a mere delusive and unsatisfactory character, and he was anxious to have some substantial guarantee that the consideration of them should come on before the 31st of December next, when the continuance of this coercive measure might be conjointly determined on. That could only be insured by now limiting this Bill until the 31st December next. It might be objected, indeed, that if this limitation were conceded, some persons would be prematurely discharged from prison on the 31st of December next; but such an objection would equally apply to any Act of Parliament of limited duration, and it could, in this instance, be easily provided against by a short clause similar to one of the Amendments of which he had given notice. According to the Bill as it then stood, the Act would continue in force until the end of the Session of 1854. ["No, no!"from the Government benches.] He had distinctly asserted the other evening, and would still maintain, that this was the only interpretation it could receive, assuming that Parliament would reassemble before the 31st of December next. The words were—"Until the 31st of December next, and from thence until the end of the then next Session of Parliament." Now, according to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, they were to assemble again in October, and they would after- wards merely adjourn over Christmas, according to usual custom, to meet again in February. It was, therefore, perfectly clear that the end of the then next Session, after the Session which would be pending on the 31st of December next, would bring them down to the end of the Session of 1854. ["Hear, hear!"] It appeared that this assertion on his part took the Government rather by surprise, although he had made it on a former occasion, when, as he was aware, both the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his Solicitor General for Ireland had both treated the Bill as limited to the end of the Session of 1853. He would recommend the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to reconsider the wording of their own Bill. Making that appeal to the Government, and to the House, he felt assured that they would not misinterpret his motives, for he was actuated solely by a desire that all their legislation for Ireland, more especially when it was of a coercive character, should meet with full consideration and mature discussion, in the presence of the representatives of Ireland.

Amendment proposed, "That the blank be filled with the words 'thirty-first day of December, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-two.'"


said, he repudiated any sympathy with the criminals who, he confessed, had disgraced many parts of Ireland. He acknowledged that there did exist in certain portions of the country an amount of crime which it was the duty of the Government to put down. He, for one, would willingly assist any Government in effecting this object; but he certainly did not believe that the policy of coercion would be of any use—it had always failed in Ireland, and always would. It was the duty of the Government to go to the root of the evil, to extirpate the causes of the agrarian outrages, and to propose some remedial measures which would do away for the future with the necessity of any such Bill as this. The Government had entirely failed to make any necessity for this Bill, or to show that its effect would be to repress crime in Ireland. It had always been stated, in the discussions on this Bill, that much depended on the temper and spirit in which laws such as this were administered. For his own part, however, he had not that confidence in Her Majesty's Government—indeed, he believed nobody but a few simple-minded farmers had—that should induce him to entrust them with powers of so unconstitutional a nature. While he disclaimed all desire to offer the Government a factious opposition in respect of this or any other Bill, he confessed he was also, in abstaining from such opposition, actuated by a desire not to delay the dissolution of the present Parliament, as he considered that every day the present Ministers remained in office was an evil, and that a new Parliament would soon send them to the other side of the House.


said, he would not follow the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down into matters which were more fit to be addressed to the House on the second reading of the Bill than on the present occasion; but the hon. Gentleman had argued that this Bill would prove inoperative—a statement than which nothing more unfounded was ever urged in that House. For he found, from a return which he held in his hand, that, within the last three years, since the Act of 1847 first came into operation, there had been a most extraordinary cessation of crime in those counties of Ireland where the measure was first put in force. The criminal returns gave the most conclusive evidence of the beneficial working of the measure in those districts. In the county of Cavan, which was proclaimed under the Act of 1847, in the first three months of that year there were 43 outrages, in the last three months of the same year there were only 20—less than one-halt. In Roscommon, in the first three months there were 493 outrages, in the last three months only 23; in Tipperary, in the first three months there were 234 outrages, and in the last three months only 84; in Limerick, in the first three months there were no less than 262 outrages, and in the last three months only 39. In Clare, and other counties, similar results had been produced by the operation of the Act; and the consequence was, that the counties where the Act was early brought into operation were now all quiet, or nearly so. At the same time, there was nothing in the Act which in the slightest degree inconvenienced any man who was willing to obey the laws and to perform the duties of a good citizen. He maintained, therefore, that when the Act had worked so well hitherto against the criminal population, and was in itself so innocuous to the well-disposed, the House would do well to proceed to renew the measure. He was certain that the honest, peaceable, and loyal people of Ireland would rejoice in the success of this Bill, and feel grateful to the Government for having brought it forward.


said, the noble Lord had not deigned to give them any answer as to why the Act should not be renewed for the term comprised in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. V. Scully), so he concluded that such neglect to notice that Amendment was to be taken as evidence of the intention of the Government not to agree to it. If, however, they renewed this Act for the period proposed in the Bill, they would thereby be prevented from taking the whole case of the condition of Ireland into consideration, as it was his earnest wish they should, when the new Parliament assembled—a course which ought to be adopted at the earliest possible period. Why, he would ask, had not the Landlord and Tenant Bill, and those other remedial measures which the Government professed their anxiety to extend to Ireland, been introduced? He must complain of the remissness of the Government in this respect; and if they did not assent to the Amendment before the Committee, the Irish Members would avail themselves of every means of which the forms of the House would allow to prevent the Bill passing.


said, he had supported the former Bill, because at that time Ireland was in such a state of disturbance as to require a measure of this nature; but the present Bill was quite unfitted for the lawless body now committing outrages in the north of Ireland. Local palliatives would not do, but the root of the evils which afflicted Ireland must be removed by constitutional treatment. Let the Government continue the Bill till the 31st of December, and no longer, and let them also bind themselves under the heaviest Parliamentary recognisances to bring the question of Landlord and Tenant before the Legislature before the end of the present year. It was invidious to introduce such a Bill at all in a dying Parliament, on account of the imputation of hustings influence, to which they were open on both sides; and he asked the Government to consent to the compromise he had suggested.


said, that the introduction of the Amendment would lead to confusion in the administration of the law. Any offence committed up to the 31st of December must go unpunished, because there would be no Session till the ensuing March, and then no person could be prosecuted' if the Act expired before that time. There were many persons in gaol at present under the Act, and he feared there would, probably be many more before Christmas, and it would be necessary to provide that they should be brought to justice or acquitted. He must complain he had been hardly dealt with by some hon. Members, who accused him of not bringing in the Bills he had promised. They must remember it would be impossible to produce new Bills towards the close of the Session with any chance of success. He had prepared a Landlord and Tenant Bill, which now lay in the Irish Office, but it would be impossible to bring it in at present. However, the Government were pledged to introduce Bills on the subject, and they would do so as soon as they had an opportunity.


said, he thought that the Government, by consenting to the Amendment, would be making a grateful concession to the opinions of those Members who, like himself, had formerly supported the Bill, but who now had doubts as to the advisability of its continuance beyond the end of the year. Would not the object of the Government be gained by allowing the Act to terminate on the 31st of December in the present year?


believed there was considerable truth in the statement that had been often made, that but little sympathy was entertained by English Members for Irish questions discussed in that House. Considering the position of this question, he felt bound to give his support to the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork. Those Coercion Bills were, Session after Session, extended to Ireland by Whig and Tory Governments. He was glad to hear the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland say he had some remedial measures in his budget, which would shortly be produced. He hoped that a course of conciliation and of remedial policy would be pursued towards that country, for, in his opinion, it was those Coercion Bills brought forward year after year, which had in a great measure occasioned that Celtic exodus of which so much had been spoken, and which was fast depopulating the country.


said, his intention had been that the Bill should be drawn so as to extend the Act to the 31st of December, and to the end of the next Session of Parliament; but he had not contemplated that it should go beyond the end of the year 1853. He would propose an Amendment to alter the effect which the Bill would, in its present state, certainly have of extending the Act to the end of 1854. He moved that they should leave out the words "the end of the next Session of Parliament," and insert the words "31st day of August, 1853." That was a compromise which he hoped would meet the wishes of all.


said, the real point of difference was really so small that he did not think it would he becoming the gravity or dignity of the Committee to divide upon it.


said, that the objection of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, that persons would remain in gaol without trial if the Act expired, would always apply, and that Coersion Bills would be perpetual if that ground was taken. He would suggest that the Act should be continued till all persons committed under it had been tried, but that no fresh arrests should be permitted.


said, he thought hon. Gentlemen opposite rather unreasonable. The compromise he had offered was fair and temperate.


said, he did not consider it a compromise. He would not agree to it.


said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not in a position to offer any compromise. Had the Bill not been very closely examined, it would have been made to extend—he would not say by a"dodge"—to the end of the Session of 1854. He desired the Bill to be limited to that time, and that time only, when it should be brought forward again for full discussion before all the Irish Members. In the course of the next Session, which they were told would be held during the present year, they would have an opportunity of further renewing the Act were it found necessary so to do.


expressed his readiness to agree to the extension of the Bill to the 31st of August next year. If they did not accept that, they would be most certainly beaten on a division.


said, he should move that the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again.


hoped the hon. Member would not persist in this Motion. It was quite impos- sible for the Government to alter their determination as to the continuance of the Act to the 31st of August.


would not be a party to inflict the Bill on Ireland to the end of August, 1853. If the Government were bonâ fide in their promises of legislative measures of a remedial character, they would not continue the operation of the Bill beyond the end of the present year.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put, "That the blank be filled with the words 'thirty-first day of August one thousand eight hundred and fifty-three.'

The Committee divided:—Ayes 104; Noes 11: Majority 93.

List of the AYES.
Adderley, C. B. Headlam, T. E.
Aglionby, H. A. Heathcote, Sir G. J.
Archdall, Capt. M. Heneage, E.
Baillie, H. J. Henley, rt. hon. J. W.
Baird, J. Herries, rt. hon. J. C.
Bankes, rt. hon. G. Hindley, C.
Barrow, W. H. Hudson, G.
Bell, J. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Bennet, P. Jones, D.
Bentinck, Lord H. Kildare, Marq. of
Beresford, rt. hon. W. Knight, F. W.
Booker, T. W. Knox, hon. W. S.
Brisco, M. Langton, W. G.
Brotherton, J. Lowther, hon. Col.
Bruce, C. L. C. Mandeville, Visct.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Manners, Lord J.
Bunbury, E. H. Matheson, Col.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Meux, Sir H.
Campbell, hon. W. Miles, W.
Carow, W. H. P. Milligan, R.
Chandos, Marq. of Milner, W. M. E.
Christopher, rt. hn. R. A Morgan, O.
Christy, S. Mundy, W.
Clinton, Lord C. P. Naas, Lord
Conolly, T. Napier, rt. hon. J.
Cotton, hon. W. H. S. Newdegate, C. N.
Davies, D. A. S. Newport, Visct.
Disraeli, rt. hon. B. O'Brien, Sir L.
Duncan, G. Packe, C. W.
Duncombe, hon. A. Pakington, rt. hon. Sir J.
Dunne, Col. Palmer, R.
Farrer, J. Palmer, R.
Fellowes, E. Plowden, W. H. C.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Ricardo, O.
Forbes, W. Romilly, Sir J.
Forester, rt. hon. Col. Salwey, Col.
Fox, S. W. L, Sibthorp, Col.
Frcestun, Col. Smith, J. A.
Frewen, C. H. Stanley, Lord
Galway, Visct. Stanton, W. H.
Gilpin, Col. Stewart, Adm.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir.J. Taylor, Col.
Granby, Marq. of Tennent, Sir J. E.
Grogan, E. Thompson, Col.
Grosvenor, Earl Thornely, T.
Hale, R. B. Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.
Halsey, T. P. Tyler, Sir G.
Hamilton, G. A. Verner, Sir W.
Hamilton, Lord C. Vesey, hon. T.
Waddington, H. S. Whiteside, J.
Walpole, rt. hon. S. H. Wood, Sir W. P.
Wellesley, Lord C. Wyvill, M.
Mackenzie, W. F. Lennox, Lord H.
List of the NOES.
Anstey, T. C. Mahon, The O'Gorman
Carter, S. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Cogan, W. H. F. O'Connell, M. J.
Devereux, J. T. Pechell, Sir G. B.
Green, J. TELLERS.
Magan, W. H. Scully, F.
Maher, N. V. Scully, V.

House resumed. Bill reported; as amended.