HC Deb 12 November 1852 vol 123 cc130-42

brought up the Report on the Address.


said, he had reason to complain of a statement put forth in the Speech last evening. Hon. Members complained yesterday of the ambiguity and deception which characterised some portions of that document; but he thought the Irish Members had more right to complain of the unnecessary and uncalled-for libel it contained on the people of Iroland. Her Majesty had been advised to state to the House that there existed in Ireland "an unhappy spirit of insubordination and turbulence." For his part, he was not in a position to guess at what that allusion pointed. If it was to agrarian disturbances, he would join with the Government in endeavouring to repress those disturbances which were a stain on the country, and tended to prevent the amelioration of its social condition. But he did not believe that that was the intention of the allusion. Neither did he believe that the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell) was right in supposing that reference was made to the natural excitement at the last elections in Ireland. What was the cause of that excitement? He traced the cause to a proclamation of the Government which revived the forgotten penalties of the Emancipation Act, and interfered to prevent many of the religious services of the Roman Catholic population. The result of that proclamation was seen in the Stockport riots, and in the insults offered to the Roman Catholic clergy in the public streets immediately after it was issued. Speaking of the city which he represented, and which had been pointed to as one where excitement existed during the recent election, he knew that the excitement was not greater on that occasion than at any former election. He must therefore say that the expression in Her Majesty's Speech relating to Ireland was a libel, uncalled for, and totally undeserved; and at that moment he could say with all sincerity that he did not know to what the Government alluded. With respect to the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland, he was afraid the measures contemplated by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland would not give satisfaction. He was greatly afraid it was the right hon. and learned Gentleman's intention to leave the whole matter to the landlords in Ireland. It was no doubt the interest of the landlords of Ireland to develop the resources of the country; but he (Mr. Fagan) was afraid, judging from past experience, that they were blinded to their own interest; and he was of opinion that if the Government wished to develop the natural wealth of Ireland, they could not attain that end by leaving the matter in the hands of the landlords, and without doing at the same time justice to the tenant-farmers.


said, if any libel had been meant upon Ireland in the passage in question, he should have been quite as ready to resent such an imputation as the hon: Gentleman the Member for Cork himself (Mr. Fagan). But, the truth was, there had been such a deliberate design on the part of some persons to misunderstand portions of Her Majesty's Speech, and such a determination that plain language and plain English should be ambiguous, that really he was not surprised that persons should again come down to the House to torture from passages in that document a meaning they were never intended to express. The passage of the Speech in which allusion was made to Ireland was as follows:— I trust that the general improvement, notwithstanding many obstacles, has extended to Ireland; and while I rely with confidence on your aid, should it be required, to restrain that unhappy spirit of insubordination and turbulence, which produces many and aggravates all of the evils which afflict that portion of my dominions, I recommend to you the adoption of such a liberal and generous policy towards Ireland as may encourage and assist her to rally from the depression in which she has been sunk by the sufferings of late years. How it Was possible to torture this passage into a call upon Parliament to adopt coercive measures towards Ireland, he was at a loss to conceive. The language Was plain and direct, and meant that, in the event of bad men taking advantage of the spirit of insubordination, which it must be admitted had existed in Ireland, Her Majesty's Government hoped that Parliament would lend its aid to maintain the authority of the law. If the Government had meditated any present appeal to Parliament on this head, the language would have been different. For a long series of years past it had been the complaint of Irish Members that no remedial measures had been brought forward with a view to ameliorate the social condition of the people, and especially the relationship between landlord and tenant; and thence, they contended, the necessity for Coercion Bills. Now, however, Her Majesty did not say she asked for any coercive measures with regard to Ireland. So far from that, she suggested to Parliament what he (the Attorney General for Ireland) hoped Parliament would be ready to carry out, and what Ireland needed and expected, and had a right to expect—a liberal, generous, and high-minded policy, to enable it to rise from the depression in which it had lately been sunk. With respect to the Bills which he himself intended to introduce, he would ask that before any discussion took place on those Bills, they should be read and understood. He did not know whether those measures would satisfy the hon. Member for Cork; but he hoped they would satisfy all those who were sincere in desiring the welfare and prosperity of Ireland.


said, he wished to notice a passage in the Speech which related to the difficulties or the misunderstandings that had taken place between this country and that of the United States of America, on the subject of the North American fisheries. That was a question of the greatest importance, inasmuch as it might have broken the peace and tranquillity existing between this country and the United States, and prevented the reception in this country, of the raw material of cotton so necessary for our manufactures. His view with regard to that question corresponded with that taken by Mr. Pitt immediately after the peace of 1783, when a proposal was made during the Presidency of Washington, by Mr. Adams, for placing the commercial and maritime intercourse between England and the United States on the footing of a coasting trade. That proposal fell through in consequence of the breaking-up of the Shel-burne Administration, in which Mr. Pitt was Chancellor of the Exchequer. The amazing progress of America since 1759, when we conquered Canada, rendered such a policy more than ever desirable. Ninety- three years ago, there was no British subject who possessed an acre of land north of a few small villages in Nova Scotia and Maine, nor south of a small colony in Georgia, nor east of the Alleghany Mountains. Now, all the countries from the shores of the Atlantic to the coasts of the Pacific; from Hudson's Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, were under the dominion of two great Governments, the British and the United States, the inhabitants of which speak, write, and legislate in the English language. The population during the same period had increased from less than two millions to more than thirty millions. If there was one policy more than another which the Government should pursue, it should be to maintain amicable relations between this country and the United States, by placing all the navigation of all the British dominions in North America and the United States as nearly as possible upon the footing of a coasting trade; to allow the citizens of the United States to fish without restriction in the British American Seas, on condition that the fish caught or cured, by British fishermen, should be admitted free of duty for consumption in the United States; and to admit all British colonial articles, on payment of no other duties than we should be paid on similar articles imported from the United States into the said Colonies. During the period of the late Government, when his noble Friend the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) held the seals of the Foreign Office, and also during the term that the Earl of Aberdeen was Foreign Secretary, those amicable relations had been kept up. The Earl of Aberdeen had most wisely made those concessions to the fisheries, and maintained the harmony which it was just and proper to observe. In consequence also of the adjustment of the boundary question and the settlement of the Oregon boundary, the affairs of this country and the United States wore put on such a footing as to leave no cause of disagreement between the two countries except this fishery question. Every commercial man in the country looked forward with the greatest anxiety to the satisfactory adjustment of the fishery question; and he trusted the negotiations now pending would be settled upon the principle of a free and uninterrupted course between the countries. He trusted that the citizens of the United States would have the freedom of fishing in the British North American seas, and that the British North American Colonies would have a free intercourse with the United States.


said, he begged to trespass on the attention of the House for a few moments while he adverted to the first topic referred to in the Address. He rose for the purpose of expressing his admiration of an illustrious individual whose services were known and acknowledged throughout the world. He rejoiced that it was the intention of the country to place his remains in St. Paul's Cathedral, by the side of the heroic Nelson; and no person could ever pass that building without offering a thanksgiving to God that two such men had been given to promote the glory and welfare of the country. He was sure that through the length and breadth of the land but one opinion would prevail as to the merits of that illustrious individual, and that every mark of national gratitude would be paid to his remains.


Sir, I called the attention of Her Majesty's Government yesterday to that passage in Her Majesty's Speech which alludes to the co-operation of the Government of Brazil for the suppression of the slave trade, and to the significant omission of any mention in that paragraph of a similar co-operation on the part of the Spanish Government to put: an end to the slave trade in Cuba. I am afraid that omission is but too significant, considering that we have seen lately in the newspapers an account of the landing of several cargoes of slaves on the coast of Cuba. It is undoubtedly without any excuse on the part of the Spanish Government that such an infraction of the treaty between Spain and this country should continue. I am afraid there are influeuces at Madrid, and pecuniary interests in Cuba, which tend to induce the Government of Spain to forget its treaty obligations, and to omit to perform its duty in regard to this important matter. It has exposed itself also to the imputation— whether well or ill founded it is not for me to say—that it is part of its policy, with regard to the retention of the island of Cuba, to encourage the increase of the black population, believing that in proportion as the blacks increase, the fears of the whites may increase also; and that the increase of the slave population may tend to make the white population cling more closely to the mother country for protection. I do hope that no such motive influences the Government of Spain. My object in rising is to state to Her Majesty's Government that I would wish, after this Motion is disposed of, if they see no objection, to move for a return of the number of negroes landed in Brazil and Cuba respectively, from the date in 1851 at which the last return was made up, to the latest period in 1852 to which information has been received. I am sure the Government can have no objection to grant those returns, which will show the extent to which the Spanish and Brazilian Governments have adhered to their obligations.


said, he wished to have an explanation as to what was meant in the Speech from the Throne by "the spirit of insubordination and turbulence in Ireland?" The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had explained the matter as well as he could, and he understood him to say that the phrase had reference to past insubordination and turbulence; but it was placed in the Speech in the present tense, and the Irish Members were exceedingly anxious that the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland would tell them in that plain language for which the Government were so justly celebrated, according to their own account, what meaning he attached to these words. Did it mean that the people were not ready to submit to the brutal efforts that were used in nearly every county in Ireland by the emissaries and agents of Her Majesty's Government to vote against their own consciences? That was the fact. He did not intend to enter into any lengthened discussion at present; but some other opportunity would offer on which he would call attention to the conduct of the agents of the Government in three counties with which he was connected, and particularly in the county represented by him. He hoped the noble Lord would have no objection to act as the dictionary of the Government, and tell them what was meant by those words to which he had alluded.


Sir, there are some important subjects referred to in Her Majesty's Speech, of which no notice has been taken—one with regard to the Burmese war, and another with regard to the continuance of the war with the Kafirs at the Cape of Good Hope. There is another subject on which I should wish to ask a question of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies. Some time ago the Parliament of Canada expressed a desire that the Act with regard to the Clergy Reserves of the Imperial Parliament should be repealed, and that the Parliament of Canada should have power, with the consent of the Crown, to deal with the subject. The right hon. Gentleman stated last year very fairly that that had been the decision of one Parliament in Canada, but that a general election had taken place, that the decision of the new Assembly might be different, and that they might no longer express that wish. For my own part, if the people of Canada are contented with the arrangements made by the Imperial Parliament, it would be very desirable that they should be continued; but if, on the other hand, it was the decided wish of the people of Canada, as expressed by their Parliament and by their representatives, that a different arrangement and distribution should be made of the funds raised for the Clergy Reserves, I think, provided the interests of the present holders should be secured, and no vested interests affected, it is a subject entirely for the people of Canada. I cannot conceive that either the Crown or the people of this country have the smallest interest in wishing to prevent the settlement of that question by the representatives of such an important province as Canada, with its large population, and in the united form it now is. There was a despatch sent out on the subject that seemed to go more into the merits of the question than it was necessary to do, but on which I wish to make no remark. It appears that there has been in the new Parliament of Canada a considerable discussion on the subject, which has been transmitted to me in a newspaper, and that a resolution proposed by the Ministers, expressing a wish that an Address should be presented to the Crown, praying that they might have full power with the question, has been carried, I understand, by a majority of 54 to 22. Under these circumstances, I should think that the Government can have no difficulty in introducing a measure in a short time to enable the Parliament of Canada to deal with the subject. As no notice has been taken of it in the Speech from the Throne, I beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies if the Government have come to any decision respecting it?


I can assure the noble Lord and the House that I am quite sensible, and so are Her Majesty's Government, of the importance of the subject to which he has called my attention. The noble Lord has adverted with perfect accuracy to what fell from me on this subject last Session, and the despatch sent out to Canada respecting it. The noble Lord has also adverted to the proceedings that have lately taken place in the new Parliament in Canada. I believe that on the division which took place, the numbers approached very nearly to what the noble Lord has stated; but it was only one of several divisions that took place on the subject. The resolution that has been agreed to, and the proceedings of the Canadian Parliament, have been forwarded by the Governor General, have been received, and are now under the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. Therefore, I am not at present prepared to announce definitely the intentions of the Government; but when a decision is formed it will be made known. The noble Lord having adverted to another subject of great and general interest—the Kafir war—I regret it is not in my power to communicate at this moment intelligence on that subject so decided as I would wish. It is now nearly a month since any additional reports have been received; but I am happy to say that the additional reports we received by the mail in October were certainly of a more satisfactory character than any that had been received for a long-period. We have had long experience of the protracted and tiresome nature of the war; but, judging from those reports, the war appeared to be gradually dying away and wearing itself out, and we may expect that the next mail may bring us some satisfactory information.


said, he thought that information should be afforded them from time to time which would enable that House to judge of the events that were taking place at the Cape, the House not being at present clearly informed as to what objects are contemplated in carrying on the war. One event had occurred on which he begged to congratulate the Government.—he meant the arrangement with Mr. Praetorius and the boers who acted in conjunction with him. It was very much to be lamented that that course had not been adopted some years ago, and he should like to know if they might anticipate some amicable arrangement with the other inhabitants of those territories, founded upon similar principles. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would soon be able to lay despatches on the table showing the objects of the war, and the prospects of a final termination of it.


said, he wished to refer for a moment to what had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) on the subject of the slave trade. The noble Lord had taken a warmer interest in this subject, and had been longer engaged in endeavouring to prevent that traffic, than any other man. He gave him credit for the object he had in view, and he asked the noble Lord whether the time had not come when he might, with advantage, bring the whole question before the House? We had paid some 900,000l. to Spain, and some 400,000l. or 500,000l. to Portugal, on the express condition of their suppressing the slave trade; and he thought the noble Lord might, with great propriety, take an early opportunity of stating to the House what our engagements were with those countries; what we had paid them; whether any return had been made for those payments; and what steps ought now to be taken. He wished also, before sitting down, to call the attention of the Government to a request made by an hon. Member from Ireland (Mr. Magan). The hon. Gentleman asked a simple question, and courtesy required that it should be answered. There was a doubt as to the precise meaning of certain words in the Royal Speech, used with reference to Ireland, and he thought an answer to the question should be given.


said, the question put to him by the hon. Member for Westmeath was simply whether he would give an interpretation of a paragraph of Her Majesty's Speech which referred to Ireland. Holding the opinion he did, that that paragraph was perfectly intelligible and clear, he could not add, by any explanation he could give, anything to the clearness of the passage, or to the explanations that that had been already given by his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland. If an assurance on the part of Her Majesty that the Government was prepared to deal in a liberal and generous manner with Irish affairs and interests, did not please or suit hon. Gentlemen opposite, it was not the fault of the Government.


begged to call the attention of the House to the paragraph in the Speech which referred to legal reform, and said he must complain of the expense and inconvenience of refusing probates in different parts of the country where property was transferred. He wished to know whether by the recent arrangements one pro- bate would serve for the property of testators in all parts of the country?


Sir, I wish to ask a question with reference to part of the Speech on which no information has yet been given. The paragraph in the Speech referring to the difficulties that arose during the last summer with respect to our Colonial fisheries conveys an impression as to the origin of those difficulties, and as to the course taken with regard to them, and likewise as to the result likely to ensue from the negotiations, at variance, I think, with the public impressions on the subject. Of course, the information in the hands of the Government, on the subject to which this paragraph alludes, would, if produced at once, set at rest any doubts that exist on that point. I gather from the conclusion of the second paragraph that those negotiations are not yet terminated, and in that case, of course, it would not be proper to press the Government to give any information or lay any papers on the table of the House respecting them; but it is important we should know if there be a prospect of an early settlement of the question, and at what period the Government would be enabled to lay on the table of the House the papers and correspondence respecting these negotiations.


Sir, it will be quite impossible for Her Majesty's Government, in the present state of the question, to lay any papers on the table of the House. I can only repeat what I believe is mentioned in the Speech, that the Government of the United States has agreed to enter into negotiations with us in the most friendly spirit, and in such a way as to lead to increased commercial relations between the two countries. The spirit in which the negotiations between the two Governments have taken place, has been of the most friendly character, and I think the result will prove very satisfactory; but, of course, under these circumstances the House cannot expect that the Government will lay any papers on the table on this subject.


said, he was unacquainted with the course which was generally adopted by Government in answering questions put to them by independent Members of the House; but when questions were put in terms of courtesy to Her Majesty's Ministers, he did not think they should give such off-hand answers as had been given that evening. First, they refused to answer the question of an hon. Member for an Irish county, and then an answer was reluctantly given to the remark of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Being a very plain man himself, he understood plain English according to its ordinary sense and meaning, and when Her Majesty was advised by Her Ministers to speak of "an unhappy spirit of insubordination and turbulence which produces many and aggravates all of the evils which afflict that portion of Her Majesty's dominions," he understood the Queen to mean, and he understood Her Majesty's Ministers to mean, if they meant anything, that there is now existing "an unhappy spirit of insubordination and turbulence in that part of her dominions," which seriously increases and aggravates the evils by which they are afflicted. Now, they had no explanation of that language. Were the Members sent from Ireland to that House to understand that it was not the intention of Ministers to propose any measure for the repression of an existing "unhappy spirit of insubordination and turbulence?" He rather guessed it from what had been said by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland; but the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not say it very distinctly, nor, indeed, had anything been said very distinctly by any hon. Gentleman who had spoken on the other side of the House. The only Member who spoke out on that side, was an hon. and learned Friend of his, the hon. and learned Gentleman who seconded the Address, and he did come out boldly and frankly with the declaration that he was for free trade. The hon. Gentlemen who came after him did not seem inclined to follow the lead, and they hemmed and hawed, and spoke in such a way that a new Member of the House could not, at all events, understand what they meant. After the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland had spoken, the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland stood up and expected them to believe that those words, "insubordination and turbulence," were only inserted in the Speech to make a rounded period; and that the real purport of the sentence was to inform the House that that which was not to be expected from the hon. Gentlemen opposite—namely, a course of generous and liberal measures for Ireland—was all that was in- tended by this sentence in Her Majesty's Speech. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland and the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland had both spoken; and he (Mr. Slice) now appealed to the candour of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who was specially charged, as a Member of Her Majesty's Government, with the administration of the affairs of Ireland, and he asked him first, would he get up in that House and say that the words in Her Majesty's Speech to which attention had been called did not mean, yesterday, whatever they meant that day, "an existing spirit of insubordination and turbulence in Ireland," which it was the intention of Her Majesty's Ministers to repress? If they did not mean that yesterday, what did they mean? Did hon. Gentlemen opposite intend to toll that House that the Government had advised Her Majesty to insert words of more insult in the Speech with reference to Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland? Her Majesty had visited that part of Her dominions but a short time ago, and was received in a manner in which She had never been received in this country, notwithstanding the attachment of the people of this country to Her person and family, and the loyalty they had always evinced. He asked his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department if yesterday (whatever they meant that day) those words did not mean that there was an existing spirit of insubordination and turbulence in Ireland, which it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to repress? He wished, secondly, to ask him to state distinctly—that they might know the intentions of Government before the Motion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. Villiers) was submitted to the House— whether Her Majesty's Government intend to propose any coercive measures of any kind, or any measures restrictive of the civil and religious liberties of Her Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects in Ireland?


said, that his hon. and learned Friend having pointedly referred to him, he rose to answer the question. He understood his hon. and learned Friend to ask whether by the latter words of the Address the Government meant to say that they intended to bring in any measure to repress the turbulence and insubordination there alluded to. His answer was, that the Government did not, and he hoped that answer was distinct and clear. Still, however, he must say, that turbulence and insubordination to a certain extent did unquestionably exist in Ireland. He did not wish to provoke discussion, yet everybody must be aware that one of the last things which it was necessary for the Government to do before the dissolution of the late Parliament was to renew a Bill for one year for proclaiming certain districts in Ireland, in consequence of there then being counties in Ireland exposed to what might be called turbulence and insubordination, which rendered that Act necessary. In some counties it was still necessary to continue the operation of that Act. But he, for one, should be glad to find that the generous and liberal policy alluded to in the same paragraph of the Queen's Speech, and more pointedly alluded to than the turbulence and insubordination, might have the effect of removing all necessity at no distant period for any of those measures which had peculiarly affected Ireland in consequence of the turbulence and insubordination which had prevailed there. The meaning of the paragraph in the Queen's Speech was both general and particular: general, inasmuch as the Government did not intend to do anything in respect to Ireland of any sort or kind which could be construed as contrary to a generous and liberal policy, taken in the largest sense of the word; and particular, inasmuch as it was intended in the course of the Session to bring in certain measures of a liberal and generous policy towards Ireland, and, among them, a settlement of the whole relations between landlord and tenant, including in that settlement the much-vexed question which was now anxiously discussed in Ireland— namely, compensation for unexhausted improvements. This was the policy which they intended to pursue, and he trusted that it would be responded to by the people of Ireland in the spirit in which it was offered.

Report agreed to.