HC Deb 20 February 1867 vol 185 cc690-5

, in moving for leave to introduce a Bill to renew, for a short period, the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act (Ireland), said: I think it will be more convenient to the House if I make the statement, which it is, of course, necessary to make, tomorrow in moving the second reading of the Bill. Therefore, if it meet with the approval of the House, I will content my- self with making this Motion, reserving the statement until the second reading, which will be placed first on the Orders tomorrow.


said: Sir, I rise to express my entire approbation of the course proposed to be adopted by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I think it is necessary he should have the powers he asks for, and I feel satisfied that the powers to be vested in the Executive in Ireland, will be exercised wisely and to the advantage of the country. I do not, however, wish it to be understood that, in supporting the renewal of this measure, I wish it to be thought that I consider the people of Ireland disloyal, because, on the contrary, I believe that they are truly loyal—loyal to the heart's core to the Throne and Constitution of the United Kingdom. I believe, however, that there is in Ireland a certain amount of discontent, which is natural to the people from the circumstance of their social condition, and it is my firm conviction that if they were raised in the social scale they would be not only as loyal, but as peaceable a people as could be found on the face of the globe. But, Sir, I wish to state that the chief object which I have in supporting the measure of the Act for suspending the Habeas Corpus in Ireland is, that the Government shall have the power to deal with those emissaries who are sent from America by designing and corrupt persons to raise the spirit of discontent in the country, and who, unhappily in a few cases, have had the desired effect. I hope and trust that if any of them are found committing any act contrary to the spirit or law of the country that they will be taught a lesson which they will never forget. I before said the people of Ireland are discontented, and I may add that their discontent arises, not from any disposition on their part to disobey the law, but because their social condition is inferior to that of any other people in the world There, in the 19th century, with telegraphic communication to every town which brings them information with respect to the happiness, wealth, and prosperity of every other nation in Christendom, they find that they are the poorest, the worst fed, and the worst clothed of all the nations of the earth. This reflection cannot but be the cause of much of the discontent which exists in Ireland; but I have great hope that this state of feeling will not much longer continue to exist, because there are some circumstances which augur well for the future of the country. I find that a Conservative Administration, while calling for measures of repression to support the Constitution, are at the same time bringing forward a measure of a different character calculated to alleviate the condition of the people. I hope that the Bill, which was brought in a few nights since by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland for the improvement of the land, will be carried out with a spirit of forbearance and concession on both sides of the House; and, if so, I believe it will not only confer great benefit upon the country, but will reflect the utmost credit upon the Government, I repeat that it will reflect credit upon the Government, because it shows that they have the manliness to bring forward remedial measures at a moment when a measure of repression is also necessary, and it shows that the spirit by which they are influenced is very different to that which formerly animated them. I thank the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland for having introduced the Land Bill in the interests of peace, and I beg to assure him that it will afford me satisfaction to give him my support on the present occasion.


said, he could not allow a Bill so important as this to be introduced without expressing his deep regret at the necessity for it. It would be a very bad precedent to let it be thought that a Bill of this nature, suspending the Constitutional liberties of the people of a large portion of the United Kingdom, could be allowed to be brought in as a matter of course; and he felt that nothing but the most imperative necessity would justify the Government in introducing such a measure. He regretted to say that he feared the Government would be able to make out such a case as would justify them in the course they had adopted; but he must express his feeling that it was humiliating to the House and discreditable to the country that after so many years of connection between England and Ireland it should be necessary in 1867, for the tenth time, he believed, since the Union, for the Secretary for Ireland to be compelled to ask for the suspension of the Constitutional liberties of the people. That was a condemnation of England's government of Ireland. It was no use to say that that pestilential conspiracy which was blighting that country, destroying every commercial enterprize and its material improvement, had its roots in a foreign soil; it should not be forgotten that the seed from which these roots grew came from those of the Irish race who, banished from their own homes, had gone to another country where they had obtained that permission to live and prosper which, by means of the defective state of legislation, they were unable to obtain in their native country, and that they carried with them those feelings of resentment and animosity to this country which was now becoming such a source of difficulty and danger. It should be borne in mind they would have no material to work on if there was a contented population left in Ireland. Almost all classes in Ireland were unanimous in condemning the Fenian movement, which had its root in a foreign country, but which would not have become so formidable even as it had, had it not been able to feed on a discontented population at home. One cause for the existence of that discontent was to be found in the relations existing between landlord and tenant in Ireland, which were extremely unsatisfactory, and in dealing with which he regretted to say he thought the measure which had been brought in by the Government a few evenings ago would turn out to be entirely illusory. He was, at the same time, happy to believe that considerable good would result from its introduction, inasmuch as both the great parties in the House were now committed to the opinion that the Irish land difficulty must be faced, and, if possible, solved by means of legislative enactment. Absenteeism was another of the great sources of the unhappy social condition of Ireland; and the position of the Established Church naturally produced great dissatisfaction and irritation. That was a question which must soon be settled, and the sooner the better. He believed it to be the most important of all, and to be at the root of all the evils of Ireland. There never could, there never ought to be content there until there was perfect religious equality, which could never be while there was an Established Church, and that the church of a small minority of the people. Until those questions were settled we should never have that unity between the two countries which, in a national point of view, it was so desirable should exist. He could not allow a proposition to be passed for further suspending the liberties of his country without entering a protest at the manner in which Ireland had been treated. They should take the matter into consideration in a national point of view. England, Ireland, and Scotland united could maintain the prominent position which they had ever held in Europe; but a discontented population in Ireland would prove the weak point in the armour of England. Remove all just causes of discontents and they need not fear for the future for the peace or prosperity of Ireland, which was amply endowed by nature with every element to make a great country. If they did this they might despise these mischievous and pestilent efforts which otherwise would be continued to be made to endanger the peace, and would, and were, preventing its progress and improvement. He rejoiced, a9 did not only all those in that House, but all who were entitled to respect and consideration of every class and creed in Ireland, at the prompt and easy suppression of that miserable attempt at rebellion which had taken place in the south-west of Ireland. Those engaged in it deserved to be treated more as lunatics than as criminals; but while he trusted justice might be tempered with mercy, as he had no doubt it would, to the wretched dupes of those dangerous and designing men who had invaded the country, it was to be hoped that those who had so criminally led and misled these credulous people into outrages which could only have such unhappy consequences to themselves, and inflict such ruin on their country, might be taught a lesson which would preserve us from a repetition of these attempts. He would conclude by warning them that—? however easy it might be to deal with these dangers now—until they removed every just cause of discontent in Ireland there was danger in the future and that on another time, if by any chance, which God forbid should occur, there might be a war between this country and America, that discontent in Ireland would be the danger of their common country, which, therefore, if on no higher influence than on the score of justice, would be sufficient enough to induce every patriotic citizen to endeavour promptly to remove.


thought this was an occasion to call attention to the way in which the Roman Catholic Bishops and clergy of Ireland had exerted their influence for the preservation of order. To their interference might be attributed the little damage that had occurred through means of the Fenian organization. Bishop Moriarty had stood forward in his cathedral, in the centre of the late outbreak, clothed in his ecclesiastical vestments, and acting in the spirit of Christian fearlessness had denounced the insurrection. In like manner the Rev. Father Maginn had warned his flock against joining the insurgents. When they came to the discussion of questions affecting the welfare of the Irish people, the House should recollect the time when the efforts of the Roman Catholic Bishops and clergy were exerted for the suppression of outrage in that country. To the Catholic clergy it was due that this insurrection had not spread or taken deeper root in the country.

Motion agreed to.

Bill to further continue the Act of the twenty-ninth year of the reign of Her present Majesty, chapter one, intituled "An Act to empower the Lord Lieutenant or other Chief Governor or Governors of Ireland to apprehend and detain for a limited time such persons as he or they shall suspect of conspiring against Her Majesty's person and Government, ordered to be brought in by Lord NAAS and Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL for IRELAND.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 35.]