HC Deb 25 May 1860 vol 158 cc1766-73

said, he rose with reluctance to call the attention of that House, of the country, and of Europe, to the course which within the last few days the Irish Government had thought fit to take. At any time that course would have been extraordinary, but when it was contrasted with what the Government had done in England, it must be described as not only extraordinary but also as unjutifiable. Within the last few days the Government in Ireland had issued a procla- mation signed by the Chief Commissioner of Police, and purporting to be a caution against foreign enlistment. It seemed to have been put forward to prevent a few Irishmen from taking service in the army of the Pope. Let the House remember that England was not at war with the Pope, nor was she likely to be at war with him. He was not at war or likely to be at war with any one with whom England was in alliance. Why then should the Government arbitrarily interpose to prevent those Irishmen who sympathised with the Pope from taking service in his army? Let the House observe that, at the very same time when the Government were issuing that proclamation in Ireland, the Government in England were countenancing, and lie believed, actually encouraging the collection of subscriptions in aid of Garibaldi and others. These acts had been pronounced by law-years on both sides of the House to be illegal, and they were known to be contrary to the laws of nations. It was aiding men to make war upon sovereigns with whom ostensibly we were on terms of amity; and such conduct between individuals, in private life, would be considered treacherous and hypocritical, The case stood thus. The overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland were Catholics. They sympathized with the Pope, and, as the natural result, they were anxious to aid him in his distress. But the Government had no sympathy whatever with the Pope. That document was therefore circulated through the country, and the effect of it must be to produce in the public mind the impression that those Irishmen who took service in the Pope's army would be visited with severe penalties. In England, on the other hand, there was a feeling hostile to the Pope, and favourable to any persons who would assail his power, no matter what their antecedents or views might be. The consequence had been subscriptions in aid of Garibaldi and others. These subscriptions had been declared to be illegal, but the Government sympathized with the subscribers and with Garibaldi, and the result was that these subscriptions had been countenanced and encouraged. The very next day after the discussion in that House as to the subscriptions in aid of the Sicilians, when every legal Member of the House declared them to be contrary to law, there appeared in the columns of the Daily News a letter addressed to the editor of that paper, saying, "I send £50 in aid of the fund now raising to assist the gallant Garibaldi and the Sicilian patriots." That letter was signed by Sir Henry Hoare, an eminent banker, and at the end of the letter there was a note stating that the £50 had been duly forwarded to the Committee for the fund. A day or two afterwards a public meeting was held at St. Martin's Hall for the avowed purpose of raising money to assist Garibaldi. That meeting was addressed by many speakers, and, amongst others, by Mr. Washington Wilkes, who in the course of his speech uttered the following curious sentiment. He said—"By cheering on the Italians in their heroic efforts we should have the better heart to fight our own battles, whether with the Commons or that more imminent battle with the Lords." The report of his speech in The Star mentioned that this sentiment was received by the audience with loud cheers. He would call attention to this fact, that the ardent admirers of Garibaldi who wished him success in overthrowing the established Governments of Italy, seemed to look forward to the day when they would find themselves engaged in similar operations in this country, it was clear that as these subscriptions had been illegal the Government pursued one course in England and another in Ireland. They seemed to say to the people of Ireland, "If your actions coincide with our prejudices, you may violate the law with impunity; but, if you do your duty as Irishmen and Catholics, and endeavour to sustain the Pope, we will strain every point to crush the manifestation of your zeal." [Mr. BOWYER: Hear, hear!] He would affirm that this proclamation was oppressive and tyrannical, as an attempt to fetter freedom of action. It was justified neither by reason nor by precedent, and it looked very much like a triumph given to the Protestant feeling of this country at the expense of the Catholic feeling of Ireland. They read in the papers that volunteers for the service of the Pope were going to Rome from France, Austria, Spain, and the minor States of Italy. French noblemen and gentlemen subscribed money for the Pope, and he had not heard that in any of the countries he had named the Governments had issued proclamations against these persons. Irishmen believed that the Pope was attacked by conspirators who aimed at the destruction of legitimate authority all over the world. But Her Majesty's Government evidently wished success to the conspirators in Italy, and consequently were determined to crush the I expression of Irish zeal. This repression was an instance of tyranny in its most odious form. On a former occasion the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) sneered at; the possibility of a Catholic thinking that any outrage to the Pope or any assault upon his temporal power could be sacrilegious; but he would put the noble Lord in possession of the opinion of a states-man who, in the estimation of posterity, would be considered not to rank after the noble Lord. Mr. Pitt, when alluding, in a debate in that House, during the war with Napoleon, to the outrages and insults inflicted on Pius VII., that venerable Pontiff, declared, "that such conduct seems even to me, a Protestant, hardly short of the guilt of sacrilege." What would be the effect of this Proclamation on Ireland? It would, like all things of the kind, bring forth a crop of informers, transform every policeman in the country into a spy, and subject every man who wished to leave Ireland, no matter what might be his destination, to the intolerable nuisance of having his movements watched. Wherever there happened to be a bigoted magistrate or an officious constable in a hurry to be promoted, a story would be trumped up and forwarded to Dublin Castle. Then there would be the old story of State prosecutions over again; and as that venerable institution, a "packed jury," would, no doubt, be appealed to, the result would be the conviction of the accused persons. Supposing it was contrary to the law for British subjects to join the service of the Pope, why was it that the law was put in force in that case, and not also in the case of the illegal subscriptions in aid of the Sicilian insurgents, where the law was not less distinct? The Government ought either to carry out the law in this country, or withdraw the Proclamation they had issued in Ireland. That Proclamation would be deemed an insult by every Irishman not blinded by prejudice or interest, and would tend more than anything which had occurred for many years back to convince the people of Ireland that in matters of this nature they could not expect impartial justice at the hands of the British Government.


Sir, I am very sorry that the hon. Member for Tipperary should think the conduct of the Irish Government extraordinary. The conduct of that Government, whether right or wrong, has been simply this—obedience to the law. The hon. Member supposes we have issued a proclamation which he pronounces tyranical and oppressive. But, in the first place, the fact is that we have issued no proclamation at all; and, in the second place, when I state what we have done, I think it will appear that our motives and conduct were anything but tyrannical and oppressive. There is a law of the United Kingdom which renders it penal for any subject of Her Majesty, without Her Majesty's permission, to take service under a foreign Sovereign. That statute is clear and unmistakeable, and the provisions of that statute it is the duty of the Government, both in England and Ireland, to carry into effect. Knowing such was our duty, we did not desire to bring into the meshes of the law persons who might have offended against the statute in ignorance of its provisions, and who, had they known them, might have been ready and willing to obey. We, therefore, directed a notice containing the terms of that statute, in clear and unmistakeable language, to be printed and circulated, in order that it might be brought to the knowledge of those persons what the law was to which they were bound to conform. It was our plain duty, as long as Parliament kept the statute on the statute book, to enforce its provisions, and it was a course not of tyranny and oppression, but of common prudence and propriety, to circulate that notice, in order that the people of Ireland might receive due warning of the state of the law. The hon. Gentleman said also that the Government had pursued one course in England, and an entirely different course in Ireland, and that there was no equality of justice between the two parts of the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman cannot say that there has been any tendency to infringe that statute in England. If there had been, I have not the smallest doubt that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, with whom I have been in communication on this subject, would have issued in London the same notice we have issued in Ireland. It was said also by the hon. Gentleman that we have been parties to the encouragement of an illegal subscription for the purpose of getting up and supporting revolutionary interference in Italy. On the part of the Government I entirely deny that we have been parties to anything of the sort. If the hon. Gentleman possesses any evidence that we have done so let him produce it, and substantiate the accusation he brings against us. But I am not now going to renew the discussion which took place the other night about the difficulties that attend the execution of the law with regard to conspiracy. My object at the present moment is simply to state that the Irish Government, being desirous to give effect to a statute which Parliament continues, thought it also equitable and right to issue a notice calling the attention of those who would be likely otherwise to expose themselves to punishment to the terms and provisions of that statute, in order that it might be obeyed. The Government have instituted no prosecutions either in England or Ireland, for this reason I suppose in both countries, and I am certain in Ireland—because they have no grounds that would justify any such proceedings with regard to an infringement of the law. The hon. Gentleman anticipates very serious consequences from the issue of this notice. I have shown that the hon. Gentleman is mistaken with regard to the conduct of the Irish Government in the past, and I venture to say that with regard to the future he will be found not less mistaken. I believe that it is only fair to give people due warning of the law to which they are required to conform, that the publication of the notice by the Government was dictated by fairness, reason, and propriety, and that it has already been attended with the most beneficial results.


said, he had listened with much attention to the statement of his right hon. Friend, and he would put it to the House whether it was really an answer to the charge made by the hon. Member for Tipperary. The state of the case was this. Some four or five nights ago, the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made a speech in which, after admitting the opinion given by every legal Gentleman who spoke on the subject in this House, that the subscription for promoting the insurrection in Sicily was illegal, went on to compare Garibaldi to William III., and stated distinctly, pour en courager les autres, that he himself had been a subscriber to a fund for promoting such efforts in Greece, and had suffered no evil consequences from the course he then pursued. Now, what was the object and intention of that speech? Was it or was it not to encourage that subscription, and to inform the subscribers that no proceedings would be taken against them. Such was the attitude assumed by the noble Lord representing the Government in England, while at the very same moment a notice was issued in Ireland warning the people against enlisting under General Lamoriciere. Now, was it justice to encourage in the one country an act declared to be illegal, directed against a Sovereign with whom we were on terms of amity, and at the same time in the other country to mark with disapprobation acts against the letter of the law, but as they were not directed against a friendly Power, not contrary to the avowed policy on which that law was founded? The law as to foreign enlistment was clear and distinct, but it should be remembered that that Act was passed for a special purpose. According to the ancient custom which prevailed in this country, there was no prohibition against foreign enlistment. In the reign of George II., it was prohibited according to Sir James Mackintosh, in order to prevent a Jacobite army from being formed abroad. In 1819 an Act was introduced by the Government of the day to repeal the Act of George II., and to enact the present Foreign Enlistment Act with the object of putting the States of South America on the same footing as Spain. The first clause of that Act, repealing the statute of George II., met with general assent, but the other portion of it, enacting the present law, was opposed by the whole force of the Whig party, including Lord Denman, Sir James Mackintosh, Lord Brougham, and Lord John Russell himself. The then Attorney General, in introducing the Bill, stated that its object was to prevent British subjects from enlisting in the army of any State which was at war with another State in amity with ourselves. The people of Ireland would feel acutely and bitterly the different measure that was dealt to them, and to the people of England, who entertained opposite views. If there had been no steps at all taken by the Government on either side, there could have been no ground of complaint; or if warnings had been published in England as well as in Ireland, there would have been no injustice; but to adopt one course in one country, and a different one in regard to the other, must create an unfortunate feeling. The Government were bound to hold the balance justly between all parties, but he thought the course they had pursued in regard to foreign affairs for several months past, the moral support they had given to a united Italy against the recorded opinions of Italian patriots, such as Gioberti, Rosmini, and Cesare Balbo for a confederation of States was in oppo- sition to that judicious course which was to have been expected. The conduct of the Government in those matters, encouraging the demarcations between different countries to be broken through, and one State to unite itself with another without the sanction of a European Congress, had led to the union to France of Savoy and Nice. It had also led to the agitation now going on in the East respecting the Christian provinces of Turkey, and he only hoped it might not lead to a similar agitation in respect of Belgium and the Rhenish provinces. When a Government professed neutrality it was bound to carry it out fully and fairly, and not to allow one portion of the inhabitants of the country to gain a triumph over the other. He trusted that the Government would not persevere in such a course; but, under any circumstances, he felt grateful to the hon. Member who introduced this subject for affording the House an opportunity of expressing its opinions upon it.