§ The Duke of Wellington
said, that in rising to move the second reading of the Irish Arms Bill, he felt sure that the House was aware that a law similar to that which be now proposed to their Lordships to enact by this bill had been the law of Ireland for half a century. The law he alluded to was enacted in Ireland so far back as 1786, and the same measure, in a more extended form, was enacted by the united Parliament in 1807, and further amended and enacted in 1810. This law was continued by various acts to the 4th and 5th of her present Majesty, which act would expire at the end of the present Session. It, therefore, became necessary to adopt this bill. There were some important alterations in this act, to which he would address a few words. The other alterations which had been made referred to the mode of carrying the act into effect, and which would be more directly referred to in committee, and he felt sure that when they were explained they would not be objected to. The principal alteration which had been made in the bill was the insertion of a clause, by which it was enacted that licenses for bearing arms must be obtained that the arms registered must be marked, and that persons should be named by the Lord-lieutenant who should fix the mark on the arms so licensed to be kept. He regarded this as a valuable amendment in the law, for there could be no doubt that the 691 marking arms should be a check on incendiary offenders who went about plundering arms. The marking arms would have the effect of preventing the carrying arms away in Ireland. If a House was plundered of arms, and they were carried away, on being searched for and found, it would most likely lead to the apprehension and conviction of the persons who were guilty of this offence, which, he regretted to say, was one common in Ireland, and very injurious to the public peace. This was the principal alteration in the measure. He was not aware of any other material alteration to which it was necessary for him to call attention. The object of the measure was to re-enact those laws which referred to the registration of arms; but the law likewise extended to the restriction of the importation of gunpowder and ammunition, and also restricted the manufacture of gunpowder and ammunition in that part of the United Kingdom. The bill contained a clause to enable justices at petty sessions to try offences under this act, and the decisions of the justices at these sessions was liable to revision. He should now move the second reading of this bill, and he should also move that it be committed on Thursday.
§ Lord Camoys
felt that he need offer no apology for coming forward at that early stage of the debate to address the House, for as he entertained a strong opinion on the subject of this bill, he thought that he should be departing from his duty, if from any fastidious feeling he refrained from expressing his opinions, and from saying non-content to the second reading of this bill. He might be charged with great presumption in putting forward his opinion against those of noble Lords opposite; but he entertained such a strong objection to this bill, that he should not hesitate in declaring his opposition to it. He could not forget that the past policy of the noble Lords opposite to Ireland had been coercion, and they had consequently kept up perpetual irritation and excitement in Ireland, and therefore he had no confidence in the political opinions or sagacity of noble Lords as regarded the Government of Ireland. The noble Lords opposite, with the exception of a very few years, had possessed the Government of Ireland since the union, and for upwards of forty years, with the exception of the year 1829, when there was a short lucid inter- 692 val, they pursued the same career in that country. If he referred to the proceedings of the Government of the noble Viscount, who was in power during the interval he had alluded to, it would be found that such had been the effect of the prudence and moderation and justice of those at the head of affairs, that an immediate and striking effect was produced in the general tranquillity, and peace, and freedom from outrage that appeared, and from this circumstance Government was enabled to remove a very large portion of the army from Ireland; this showed the beneficial effects that had resulted from a change in the system of the Government. For his own part, he saw no reason in the present state of Ireland, which could justify the passing an Arms Bill for Ireland. He had heard nothing in the reasons urged by the noble Duke, nor had he seen anything in the opinions expressed by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, when he defended this measure, which he thought could justify it, and the noble Lord himself only quoted the opinions of Colonel Macgregor and Colonel Millar, the heads of the constabulary force in Ireland in justification of it. As for the marking clause, which had been adverted to by the noble Duke although it might in some instances prove beneficial, it would in other cases be attended with great inconvenience. Robberies of arms were offences of very frequent occurrence in Ireland; and by this bill they gave public information—information which it was in the power of any one to obtain—as to the persons who possessed arms, the places in which they were deposited, and the description of those arms. Information was thus given to all persons who wished to steal arms of the places where any description of arms might be obtained. If an attempt at robbery was unsuccessful, and the arms were left upon the premises, the fact of their being marked afforded no evidence against the parties perpetrating the crime. Was there then any necessity for the adoption of this bill. He conceived that the Legislature should not pass such a bill as this unless it was absolutely necessary. In the debate which arose on passing a bill of this kind in 1807 he found some opinions similar to those which he entertained expressed on the subject. He found a protest, in which was the following striking language:—1st. Because the reasons which have been urged in debate do not appear to be sufficiently 693 strong to compel me to agree to the passing this bill, which can be justified only on the plea of necessity, and which, being contrary to the principles of a free constitution, ought (if unfortunately necessary) to be enforced for the shortest time possible; and yet, in the present case, it has been pertinaciously refused to limit its duration to one year; and, on the contrary, it has been declared in debate, that it would have been better if it had been made to continue for a still longer period of years. 2d. Not applicable. 3d. Because it appears to me that the best way to conciliate the people of Ireland to a union with this country is by convincing them that in all our acts towards them, we are as tender of their liberties as we are of our own, and that we will on no account suffer that to be done to them, which we will not as readily, and on the same grounds, submit to ourselves.This protest was signed "Ponsonby," and by other noble Lords.
He might be told that noble Lords on his side of the House proposed a similar bill to this, and therefore he should not oppose this measure. He did not deny that they had proposed similar bills, but he denied that this was a ground for abstaining from opposing it, because there might not be the same necessity for it now as there was formerly. He denied that there had been any factious opposition to this measure in the House of Commons. [The Duke of Wellington: I never said a word of the kind.] He did not say that the noble Duke had, but other persons had made this charge. In his opinion hon. Members would not have deserved the name of Irishmen, if they had not opposed this Arms Bill to the utmost, and they had effected this good by their opposition, that they had succeeded in materially lessening the evils of the bill by the course they are taken. This was not a time when any bill of this kind, calculated to excite great irritation, should be passed. He found another protest in the journals of the House, of the date of 1819, which was directed against an Arms Bill for England, and although it was a measure which was limited in its operation to particular districts, it excited great opposition, and produced the following striking protest:—Because the right of having arms for their defence, suitable to their condition and degree, is secured to British subjects by the ancient laws of these realms, is declared to be so by the Bill of Rights, and is, in the words of Mr. Justice Blackstone, 'a public allowance of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are 694 found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.2. Because this law is, in its very nature, peculiarly liable to abuse. Interest, credulity, malevolence, revenge, party violence, and indiscreet zeal, may, equally with a sense of duty, contribute to call it into action; and the powers given for its execution, of breaking either by day or night into any house or place where information may have been received that arms are kept for illegal purposes, must unavoidably expose the persons and property of his Majesty's subjects, to injury and violence, which cannot be sufficiently guarded against by the provisions made in the bill for that purpose. This is not a mere apprehension. Experience proves that such effects may be expected from it. In Ireland, it is well known, nothing more contributed to irritate the people, and to provoke acts of private resentment and revenge, than the abuses which took place, and particularly the insults which were offered to women, in the exercise of a similar power.That protest was signed by Earl Grey and ten other peers. If the difference between the mode of governing England and Ireland were to be kept up, it could excite no astonishment that the people of that country demanded the repeal of the union. The debate which referred to the proposition for the repeal of the union was occasionally referred to, but he did not recollect to have heard the address which was made in that debate by the noble Lord (Lord Monteagle), as an amendment to the motion, at all alluded to. He found in that address the following paragraph:—In expressing to your Majesty our resolution to maintain the legislative union inviolate, we humbly beg leave to assure your Majesty, that we shall persevere in applying our best attention to the removal of all just causes of complaint, and to the promotion of all well-considered measures of improvement.Now the whole of the Conservative party and a large portion of the Liberal party supported that address. He would ask whether that address had been acted up to? It was perfectly notorious that it had not. It was therefore not all surprising to him that such a demand had grown for the repeal of the union. He was opposed to repeal himself on conviction and reflection. He had heard it said that repeal and separation was necessarily the same thing. This he denied; and this denial had repeatedly been asserted by the Repealers themselves. But he had a stronger ground to rely upon than their own assertions—namely, that their interests were opposed to separation. Repeal, how- 695 ever, might lead to separation, not in one or two years, but in the course of ten or twenty years, or more; and if it could lead to separation, a prudent person should abstain from supporting it. This was one ground which operated with him; but he had another reason. At one time he was ready to confess that his mind was rather strongly inclined in favour of repeal; but the Government of the noble Viscount (Viscount Melbourne) since then had taken away the chief ground for repeal—namely, the hopelessness of justice for Ireland under a government in this country. If, then, he thought that the power of the noble Lords opposite would be permanent, and there was no hope of the redress of the evils of Ireland from that quarter, he confessed he should have very great doubts in refraining from joining those seeking to obtain repeal. He had spoken of unredressed grievances, and he might be asked what they were. He would say at once, and without hesitation, the state of the Church in Ireland. He admitted that the Church was a delicate matter for him to touch upon, but as he considered that to be his duty, he should not hesitate. The church in Ireland had been designated by all kinds of severe names: it had been called the monster evil of the country; it was said to have been the frequent cause of much of the misery which afflicted Ireland; and it had also repeatedly been pointed out as the badge of slavery and the badge of conquest in Ireland. Whenever the people of Ireland had asked for the redress of any grievances, the Church was always put forward as the ground for refusing to listen to their demands. It had repeatedly been said—Do not enlarge the political franchise of the people, because you will give increased power to the Catholic population as against the Protestant Church. If the prayer was for corporation reform, the objection had been constantly raised—Do not grant it, for if you do, you will add to the power of the Catholic priesthood. This had been the constant and reiterated ground of objection which had been raised to every concession in Ireland. It was said that the property of Ireland was Protestant: he admitted that it was; but this was not an argument for the Protestant Church. The establishment of a Church, as he had always understood, was for the salvation of souls; and he thought that such an argument was dangerous, for it 696 designated the church as a human institution, and it implied that it was to be talked of as nothing else. It was also said that if the Established Church was not in conformity with the property, at least, it should be of the religion of the majority. It was then argued that England and Ireland, forming a United Kingdom, that the Protestants ought to have an Established Church for both countries. He denied this on the authority of what had been done in Scotland, where this country had not acted in the same manner. If the proceeding were right in Scotland, it was wrong in Ireland; if it were right in Ireland, it was wrong in Scotland. But then the question arose whether they were the majority. He had heard that one-half of the population of England and Wales did not belong to the Established Church. He might refer to facts which apparently proved this. He found that about four millions of signatures were attached to the petitions which were presented to the other House against the educational clauses of the Factories Bill, and he thought that he might safely infer that not any of the persons who had signed those petitions were members of the Established Church, and he might also infer that few women or children signed these petitions. If these data were correct, it would appear that one-half of the people of England and Wales did not belong to the Established Church. Now put the case thus: there were seven millions of members of the Established Church in England and Wales, and in Ireland about half a million more. In Ireland again there were six millions and a half of Catholics, and a million of Catholics in England, so that in the two countries the number of members of the two Churches was nearly equal. He did not mean to abide this argument; but if the argument as to the majority of each country was to be abided by, the one Church was as much entitled to an establishment as the other. He begged also to add, that he did not concur in the proposition for paying the Catholic clergy; but he was prepared to maintain that where national property was taken, it ought to be appropriated for the benefit of all classes. Having said thus much, although, as he had already stated, he was opposed to the repeal of the union, he could not say that he was adverse to the agitation which was now going on in Ireland. He knew per- 697 fectly well that the grievances of Ireland would never be redressed except by agitation, and he said that the people of Ireland did not deserve liberty unless they continued a course of agitation until their grievances were redressed, and everything connected with Protestant ascendancy was removed from that country. He begged to state, in conclusion, that he had been actuated by no other feeling, in bringing forward his views on this subject, than a desire to benefit the entire community.
The Earl of Winchilsea
had listened with considerable attention, and with no less surprise, to the speech of the noble Lord who had just sat down, and sincerely did he wish that, before the passing of the bill of 1829, that noble Lord, as the representative of the Church to which he belonged, or some other Member of that House as such representative, had declared the object for which the bill, in the opinion of the members of that Church, was to be granted, namely, the destruction of the Protestant Church in Ireland; for it was upon a most sacred pledge and promise, by oaths which all thought to be inviolate, that the concessions made by that measure were granted. In adopting the course which he had taken on that subject, he had felt that he was tearing asunder, not only those feelings which had bound him to the government of the day in their public capacity, but that he was severing himself from men whose private friendship he had enjoyed. He had entertained strong views on the subject of that measure, and he had not hesitated to declare his conviction that its adoption would lead to consequences which he had predicted—consequences, every one of which had fallen out as he had predicted them. The noble Lord had told the House that the great grievance of Ireland was the Established Church of that country. In 1829 they had been told by persons who had been examined before their Lordships' House, upon their oaths, that if the concessions sought were granted, the Church would be rendered secure, and that no power could ever be exerted in any way to diminish, far less to destroy, its influence. Let them now grant the prayer of the noble Lord; and the time would not be far distant when the Established Church would cease to exist in any part of the dominions of her Majesty. It was not as a political engine only that he con- 698 sidered the maintenance of the Established Church to be of importance; but he considered it to be of importance with a view to the maintenance of those principles established at the time of the Reformation, which the great body of the people of the united empire considered as the ground-work of that religion, on which all our national greatness was founded. He declared that if he had ever used any terms of disrespect, or such as gave pain to any member of the Church of Rome, he entertained the sincerest regret for it; he was disposed to give, and did give, every toleration to that Church, but he could not conscientiously concede principles which were subversive of civil and religious freedom. It had been proved that Protestantism had secured to this country such liberty as no other country enjoyed. He had warned the House against the measure of 1829; and he had then told them that that concession granted, the Catholics would never be contented until they had seen every Protestant institution subverted. He was glad that the noble Lord had spoken out. He had always made a distinction between Roman Catholics and Papists; and he believed that the Popish party in Ireland would do everything for the destruction of Protestant institutions. With regard to the bill now on the Table of their Lordships' House, he appealed to the noble Lord whether, looking at the existing state of things in Ireland, he believed that it was not by one-half more appalling than that which had induced Lord Grey to propose the Arms Bill of 1833? They saw bodies of men—the whole mass of the Roman Catholic population of Ireland, and nearly the whole hierarchy of that country—united with the avowed object of the destruction of the Church, and that was the object which the noble Lord himself admitted he had in view. He called upon their Lordships then to support the Government on this bill, and on every other measure which could tend to restore peace and tranquillity to that distracted and unhappily, he would say, long misgoverned country—Ireland.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
said, that although he concurred in some parts of the observations of the noble Lord who had spoken second in this debate, he could by no means arrive at the conclusion to which the noble Lord had come, upon the subject of the vote which he should give on this 699 occasion. He must say for himself that he felt anxious to give an opinion on this measure, for he thought from the nature of the bill itself, but much more when considered in connection with recent events in Ireland, it ought not to pass that House without the most serious attention on the part of their Lordships. It was a bill, as had been said by the noble Duke, which had been frequently proposed by various Governments, and had been acceded to by Parliament, being alleged to be a necessary means for carrying on the Government and preserving the peace and tranquillity of Ireland; and although he must state that from such information as he had been able to obtain, he by no means found that those persons who had been most zealous in preserving the peace, and who were engaged in the local administration of justice, were at all confident as to the effects to be produced by an Arms bill—though, on the contrary, he found many who entertained doubts as to what those effects would be—and although doubts existed in his own mind as to its having that degree of efficacy, which would be necessary to recommend such an assumption of power; yet when he considered that the Government had been before entrusted with the powers now sought to be conferred upon them, and when he looked at the present state of Ireland, he could not bring himself to withdraw from the Government any one power calculated in their opinion to maintain peace and order in that country, which they came to that House to ask for. He said that to withdraw from the Government any power which they might ask for would be unwise; but he said so irrespective of another point to which he would allude—of the amendments and alterations of the old law which had been made in this measure. He might be permitted to doubt, whether, on the whole, considering the extreme irritation of the Irish public on this subject, it was worth while for the Government to ask that any additional powers should be conferred on them by this bill—a course calculated to create that sort of feeling which they had good evidence from what had passed elsewhere had been excited. At the same time he was ready to admit that he was convinced that in making this addition to this bill, noble Lords opposite had been actuated by no other motive than that of endeavouring to make this bill efficacious for its object. He had no doubt they had asked for these additional powers as being 700 calculated to make the bill effective, but at the same time there remained to be set against this measure the additional feelings of irritation which some of the alterations in the law were calculated to produce. He was glad to see that some of the alterations of the most obnoxious nature which had been introduced, when it was originally proposed to Parliament, had been withdrawn; and whatever might be thought of the occasional warmth with which this bill had been opposed, and although great allowances were to be made for the natural sensibility of the Irish upon questions involving their national honour, he could not avoid saying with respect to the general character of that opposition, if opposition it could be called, that it had been of the most useful description—of a nature entirely free from anything like the taint of party. There had never been a bill the divisions on which exhibited a greater variety of sentiment among those who usually wished to think and act together, but, governed by the importance of the occasion, in many of the questions which had arisen upon this bill, support and opposition had been alike given to or withdrawn from her Majesty's Government, without reference to party distinction, there being the greatest desire exhibited to make this bill as efficacious on the one hand, and as free from objection on the other, as it could be made by the most assiduous attention. The result was most salutary, for it had brought the bill into their Lordships House in a shape in which, whatever doubts might be entertained with regard to the balance of inconvenience on the one hand or advantage on the other, yet justified him in refraining from offering any opposition to it. The bill had been altered to a degree almost beyond precedent, and however long, tedious, and inconvenient the discussions upon it had proved, still they had in the result proved most salutary, and no fewer than forty-three amendments had been admitted into the bill, of which seventeen only, he believed, could be said to be of a verbal nature. But some of the amendments were of great importance. They found that in the discussion of the bill, not only had the description of arms to which it related been more clearly defined and explained, but the authority under which a search for arms could be made had been explicitly marked, and where before a most irritating, and, because irritating, a most dangerous power was given to the officers of the Government of entering houses for 701 the purpose of searching for arms at night, which had been more dreaded as being liable to abuse than any other power which could be confided to them, a clause had now been introduced, so framed that the search could only be made under the authority of two justices, and in the actual presence of one justice of the peace. This was a very great, and he thought a very valuable alteration. He could not think, at the same time, that this bill, though demanded by the Government, was more particularly called for by the circumstances of the country at the present moment, and he founded this observation upon that which was notorious to all their Lordships, namely, that the class of offences which it was the particular object of this bill to check and control, had actually fallen off in point of numbers. The noble Duke himself (the Duke of Wellington) in an argument on the state of Ireland, which he had addressed to the House on a former evening, had told their Lordships that there was a great diminution of actual crime as compared with those seditious movements which the noble Duke had then—and he confessed, he thought justly condemned. And the noble Duke on that occasion had made statements which afforded a remarkable view of the tranquillity which existed in Ireland, as connected with that sort of outrage which it was the object of this bill to meet. He now held the statements of the noble Duke in his hand, and the result of them was that, on comparing the amount of offences of June, 1843, with those of June, 1842, there was an immense diminution, amounting to not less than one-half. And what was most remarkable was, that the particular character of offence, namely, the offence of demanding arms, had actually fallen off one-half from one year to the other; the number of charges for demanding arms in the month of June, 1842, being twenty; and that in the month of June, 1843, being ten only. But he was ready still to admit that it would not be convenient that her Majesty's Government should be deprived of any power which they had been hitherto enabled to exercise, and for which they deemed it necessary or expedient to ask; and he must say that, even if it were not absolutely necessary that those powers should be given, if the withdrawal of them in the present conjunction of affairs might be attended with any sense of increased insecurity he for one should not be disposed to consider it his duty to call on the House to refuse those powers 702 to the Government. Upon the grounds that he had now stated, therefore, he did not feel himself called on to offer any opposition to this bill. But it was impossible, when they looked at what this bill was, and at the time at which it was introduced and came before that House, immediately before the conclusion of a long and laborious and protracted Session, they could not help, at the same time, considering what the bill was not. It stood before the House in bold relief, marked as being the only great measure connected with the pacification of Ireland which had been introduced by her Majesty's Government. He must, therefore, say, that the House was bound to consider what it was not. It was not, and could not, be a new link between the Government and the people; it could not be the means of dissipating popular clamour and popular prejudice,—it could not disable any demagogue from maintaining or extending the influence which he now possessed; it could not be the means of softening, allaying, or destroying any political or religious animosities, it touched none of the sources of evil or motives for disturbance. He, therefore, could not allow this bill to pass its present stage without earnestly entreating their Lordships, and entreating her Majesty's Government to consider how much remained behind this bill that was wanting to procure anything like the restoration, or the creation, if they might so call it, of a tranquil, and peaceful, and safe state of things in that part of the United Kingdom. Many were the suggestions which had been offered on this subject. They had naturally been alluded to on various occasions in the course of former debates, though not, unfortunately, as the result of the deliberations of her Majesty's Government; but the time must now be near, when her Majesty's Ministers must look to measures which went beyond the actual surface of society—which struck at the root of the evil—when they must look to the foundation of the mischief instead of to the immediate proposition of measures calculated to allay momentary difficulties. The bill now before the House, even if it was necessary, was not a remedial bill in the large sense of that word. If they succedeed in extinguishing some of the sparks which were emitted from the volcano, did not the volcano itself still remain? If they pumped the water out of the hold of a ship, did that leave the ship safe and secure, and fitted to struggle with the waves, and to meet 703 the opposing tides? It was the duty of the Government to look for an amendment of the law which should go to the framework of society in Ireland, if they fulfilled the office of a Government. He did not feel himself called on to take on himself any of the functions or responsibilities of the Government on this question; but wishing to conceal nothing of his views, considering that there was no occasion to conceal those views, because he had already, on previous occasions, expressed the same deliberate opinion, he did most confidently state, that one of the remedies for the actual state of Ireland must be found in a provision for the Roman Catholic Church. He spoke confidently on this subject, with a confidence not inspired by any opinions of his own, not inspired by any speculations or observations of his own on this subject: but he spoke of it with a confidence founded on the fact, and it was a fact which was susceptible of proof, that of all the great men who from time to time had expressed an opinion on this subject—some of them willingly and as an act of justice—some of them unwillingly and reluctantly—but yielding to the force of expediency and to the force of the times, had been brought to concur in the expediency of adopting what had been called Catholic Emancipation; he would venture to take on himself to say, that there was not one of them, without a single exception, who had taken a part in advocating that important change who had not carried with him the conviction of the necessity, either precedently to that change, or as an accompaniment of it, or as immediately following it, of a provision for the Roman Catholic clergy. Why, Mr. Pitt was of that opinion, and his was a name, he should have thought, which should possess some authority in that House, and which should carry some authority with it among the numerous classes of this country. He would state only what could be shown to be the opinion of Mr. Pitt, and he knew that this opinion was expressed in public communications by him. It was a bold thing to prophecy what would be found in any quarter to which he had no access, but without knowing where the confidential correspondence of Mr. Pitt with Lord Cornwallis, that excellent, great, and good Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, was, he would venture to say, that if at any time that correspondence should be brought to light, it would be found that Mr. Pitt had insisted on that as a result to which he was inclined, and 704 thought it necessary to give way. Mr. Canning, Lord Castlereagh, Mr. Grattan he might enumerate all the great men of late years—he might enumerate all who had taken a leading and commanding part in the discussion of this question, had entertained the same views; all seemed to have come down from those places whereon they stood in arrayed or other questions against each other, and forced by the cogency of circumstances to take up one and the same position, and to unite in declaring their conviction that this provision must be made, and ought to have been made at a much earlier time. That opinion had been given long ago; had the experience of the last ten or twenty years convinced their Lordships that these great men were mistaken in the view which they took. Had it not, on the contrary, proved to them that such a step would tend to secure the permanent continuance of that union which it was the interest of all to maintain. He had the strongest confidence on this subject, not only from those who had advocated these opinions, but from those who had opposed them. He found the same opinion repeatedly expressed in Parliament, as well as in print; but once and once only had it been brought to the test of a vote in Parliament—of the House of Commons. It was now something like seventeen years ago; it was in 1825, when a noble relation of his, with whom he was not politically connected, he meant Lord Francis Leveson, had made a motion in the House of Commons to this effect. He did not make that motion, however, without great consultation and many communications with others—with all persons who were interested in the great question of Catholic emancipation, with which the motion was connected. They one and all concurred in the propriety of making the motion; it was made, and, unlike that for Catholic emancipation, which had to win its way to the public conviction through a long series of debates, and through minority after minority, until at last the minority became a majority, on the first occasion of that proposition being made, a majority of forty-eight was obtained. That proposition was most ably supported, and was most feebly opposed. He said so from no disrespect to the talents and station of the persons who thought themselves bound to oppose that proposition. It was, however, opposed by Sir R. Peel and by Mr. Goulburn, both of them Members of the Government; but did they state any objection in principle to it? 705 Not at all. He would read the words Sir R. Peel had used upon that occasion. The right hon. Baronet said distinctly "that he would not have objected to the principle of the vote if the House had agreed to remove the Roman Catholic disabilities." Mr. Leslie Forster, one of the most determined opponents of the Catholic claims, had taken the same ground, and the whole of those arguments showed that they did not resist the expediency or principle of the motion under certain circumstances, but opposed it at that moment because it was considered a facility towards obtaining other political concession sought for by the Roman Catholics. All who deeply reflected on the subject, could not but come to the conclusion that some settlement of the important question was essential to the satisfaction and peace of Ireland. He was not pointing out in what way the provision ought to be given, that was the duty of others; but he would say in what way it ought not to be given, it ought on no account to be supplied by an apportionment of the existing resources of the Established Church in Ireland, since nothing but inconvenience, irritation, and complaint could ensue from an attempt to divide the same provision between the two churches. He believed that this would be attended with the fate of all forced petitions—that neither party would be satisfied, and that it would remain an endless source of contest and bitterness. He was not here, however, to say that the Protestant Church in Ireland required no reform and regulation, but that reform and regulation ought to depend upon its own merits, and be consistent with its own objects, and ought not to be mixed up with the separate question of an establishment—he meant a provision for the Roman Catholic clergy. He agreed with much that had fallen from his noble Friend who spoke second in the debate. He thought the argument which was so frequently brought forward in favour of the maintenance of the Irish Church, namely, that the bulk of the land belonged to Protestants was altogether preposterous. If, indeed, it were a question what system of instruction should be established by law for improving the method of training and breeding of cattle, or how the draining of the soil could be made most efficacious, it might be a good reason for maintaining any particular system, that it coincided with the general opinions of the landowners; but on this question, which was not the cultivation of acres, but the religious 706 culture of a whole people—the civilization and morality of a whole country,—if it was to be effectual at all they could not expect that the establishment founded on the belief of less than 1,000,000 inhabitants, and confined to them, should be capable of administering—because it was that of the landowners, and conveying the comforts of Christianity, the lights of Christian doctrine, to those who would not receive them through such a channel, and promoting effectually the civilization and happiness of the whole community. He therefore, thought they would be compelled to provide, in some shape or other, for that great public service, as he believed they were in a position to do, while they maintained the Protestant establishment in Ireland, and without allowing it to be considered in any respect a bar to a provision for the Roman Catholic priesthood. With all respect for the decisions of preceding Parliaments he must say that they had fallen into a great error in the only step taken towards a provision for the Roman Catholic clergy—he alluded to the College of Maynooth. He thought, that the establishment of Maynooth, unaccompanied by any other provision, and any other method of teaching, far from tending to amalgamate the different classes of the community, tended to separate them. Instead of effecting what was the obvious policy of the Government—establishing as large a system of education as possible; they had made it as narrow a system of education as possible; and, instead of teaching what it was their object to teach—doubtless the orthodox Catholic theology, and every thing liberal in science besides, as far as it was practicable—they had made it as purely a theological seminary as possible. With the limited means allowed to it they had also made the priesthood a priesthood of the peasantry, practising many virtues undoubtedly, administering many consolations, highly respected by those with whom they were immediately connected—but at the same time, while human nature remained what it was, partaking in all the passions, all the feelings, all the infirmities, and all the prejudices of the particular population with which they were associated. He thought a different establishment should have been encouraged as connected with Maynooth for the education of the priesthood of Ireland, equally respecting that independence which they were justified in claiming, and which must be respected 707 in any arrangement which ought to be made for the permanent, real, complete pacification and tranquillity of Ireland. He had touched more particularly on this point, because he felt it was perhaps of the greatest importance connected with the permanent improvement of that country. There were other topics which he might particularize, of considerable importance. Above all, Parliament should be induced to abstain from that narrow principle of legislation for Ireland, overlooking the great considerations of peace and tranquillity, and having regard to more paltry, more insignificant, and mere financial considerations; sobriety would be profitable to the Government even were it to rob the Exchequer. No later than last year Parliament imposed additional duties upon all law proceedings and conveyances in Ireland. No measure could have been more injudicious than that, which would have the effect of checking the ordinary transmission of land from one person to another, and clogging the natural distribution of wealth. No man would suspect him of wishing to encourage any transference of property not accomplished by due forms of law; but he was persuaded that it would be a great advantage to Ireland if small sales out of large properties were facilitated and encouraged. The old and injurious class of middlemen had been got rid of, and by no further interference than affording facilities to sales of land, it would not be difficult, by degrees, ot raise up a middle class between the large proprietors and the lower order of peasantry. The heavy tax recently imposed upon conveyances in Ireland had a directly contrary tendency, and it was, therefore, to be deemed impolitic. There were many other topics connected with the improvement of Ireland, into which he would not permit himself to go; but it was impossible that the House should not see that it was impossible to allow things to remain as they are. It was impossible for any Government to continue to say to persons placed in the present situation of the people in Ireland exposed to the influence of human passions—"Remain quiet and we shall be obliged to you; you are in an anomalous position; be content to remain in it a little longer." These palliatives might do for a while; but the time was rapidly coming, he thought it had already arrived, when no such palliatives would be sufficient, and when they must, with all the fortitude and deliberation which the magnitude of the subject required, look 708 the real difficulties of Ireland in the face, and endeavour to find a practical remedy for her grievances. He did not call for any sudden measure. He neither wished nor expected any sudden stroke of policy which was at once to reform and tranquillize that country, it would be madness to expect such a coup de main. But he said no time should be lost in considering questions connected with Ireland, and when they were ripe they ought to be proposed and laid before Parliament, with all the authority, determination, and sanction which the Government could give them. Unless that were so, such a bill as that they were now called on to read a second time might, he sincerely hoped, produce temporary alleviation and a diminution of disturbance; but at the same time it would be accompanied with irritation in that very quarter which it was most desirable to conciliate; he meant that porsion of the population of Ireland which was untouched by anything like seditious agitation at present, but still was open to all the influences he had described. They must also remember that all the measures which were brought forward, however justifiable in the motives of those by whom they were originated—however well intended in themselves—were brought forwardSuppositos cineri doloso"—connected with many passions, with many prejudices, with many resentments of the past, which could not fail to damage their usefulness, impede their progress, and prevent them having that full scope of success which he hoped. From whatever quarter and from whatever government they might come, he trusted that any measure in favour of Ireland would be met in a proper spirit. The present had appeared to him a proper opportunity for stating his views upon this great and vital question, and, subject to the doubts he had mentioned, admitting that it was the duty of Ministers to maintain right and to protect property, not more for the sake of the richest than the poorest, and wishing all possible good to the industrious class abounding in Ireland, he had come to the decision of giving his vote for the second reading of the bill before the House. At the same time, he reserved to himself the right of watching its operation, and reconsidering the bill if it appeared to be disadvantageous; but he could not sit down without again exhorting the Government to look the causes of disturbance in the face with a 709 view to the application, not of a temporary and imperfect, but of a complete and lasting remedy.
.—My noble Friend who had just taken his seat has so entirely expressed the opinions and the feelings which I entertain on this most important question, both as regards the present penal measure—for I agree with him it is anything but a remedial one—and as regards the other, if possible more necessary, if not so urgent remedial measures, that I ought to apologize to your Lordships for rising after the admirable and statesmanlike, and conciliatory and eloquent address, which he has delivered upon the present occasion. Nor, my Lords, should I have risen after my noble Friend for the superfluous purpose of expressing my opinion in favour of this bill on the grounds on which he has rested his approval—nor should I have thought it necessary to rise after him for the equally superfluous purpose of repeating my opinion upon the subject of a provision for the Catholic clergy to which he has adverted, and which he remembers that I have but recently discussed in this place—not for the first time, having frequently broached the topic before—had it not been for something which was said by a noble friend of mine (Lord Camoys); had not he taken a course of argument which the delicacies, if I may so speak, of party etiquette, rather than his own judgment, and his own feeling, prevented my noble Friend who last spoke from adverting to almost at all. But, my Lords, I must really beg leave to say, that I heard with unfeigned astonishment the speech of my noble Friend—with an astonishment equal to that impressed on the mind of my noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Winchelsea), but unaccompanied with that mitigating feeling which it brought to my noble Friend's mind—of self gratulation at the fulfilment of his former prophecies; I, on the contrary, had to labour under the astonishment commingled with bitter disappointment. For, differing from my noble Friend opposite toto cælo on the subject of the Catholic claims, I was one of those who held cheap in those days the predictions of my noble Friend opposite and of the other adversaries of the Catholics—I was one of those who held most cheap of all their prophecy that no sooner should the Catholic claims be granted than some such speeches as we have heard to-night 710 would not fail to resound through the walls of Parliament. His prophecy, I grieve to say, has been fulfilled—my prediction has to-night been signally frustrated. But the chief thing in my noble Friend's speech which I have to complain of is the total forgetfulness of all history—of the history of the Catholic question itself—which pervaded my noble Friend's speech, and formed the substratum of it. "When did the noble Lord opposite," said my noble Friend, "ever show anything in their policy towards Ireland other than a disposition by their measures to offend, to irritate, and to annoy?" To annoy whom?—to offend what portion of out fellow-subjects?—to irritate what part of the Queen's subjects has the policy of my noble Friends opposite been unremittingly directed? The Roman Catholic part of the empire? Were they irritated and annoyed by the policy of the noble Duke opposite in 1829 to carry their emancipation? by means of which policy it is that we enjoy the advantage of having heard the speech of my noble Friend himself standing at this Table in this House of Parliament? Here was one act of forgetfulness, one loss of recollection, but not the only one, though the first, the most eminent, and the most remarkable. For it seems according to my noble Friend, there never was anything but coercion from the other side of the House, and no coercion from this. My Lords, I deny that. I myself, being a Minister of the Crown for four of those years over which the panegyric of my noble Friend, extended, upon which panegyric,—namely that we were incapable of coercive measures towards Ireland, was grounded, the argument of my noble Friend, that you might safely trust us with Arms Bills, but not the noble Lords opposite, I myself must plead guilty to having, in 1833 and 1834, enacted, and continued, and carried into execution, one of the most stringent coercion bills that I believe ever existed in this country towards Ireland. That bill, too, was suffered to expire, but it was continued in a modified form by the noble Viscount in 1835; it was only in 1840 that the Venue Bill was allowed to expire; that very Venue Bill, which I was told the other night was to all intents and purposes a coercive measure, was continued till 1840. But says, my noble Friend, the times were then different—there is no occasion now for such measures—every- 711 thing now is perfectly quiet—there are no great public meetings—no seditious harangues—no levying of money for the purpose of forming a fund, the avowed and professed object of which is to tear the empire in pieces by severing the two countries as far as their legislative union is concerned. Why, there was no such fund in 1838 and 1839, there was no levying of contributions from the poor peasantry, there was not even a rent to pay the individual agitator then dreamt of; a tribute there might have been, but no rent; at that time no one got up at public meetings and boasted of the hundred of thousands assembled, and the discipline with which they marched from their habitations to their places of muster—no harangues boasting of the men being under such discipline, that the Queen's troops themselves were not more under the word of command of their sergeants and corporals than these repeal mobs were under the control of their repeal wardens. Finally and above all, there was no such thing then as I have read of within the last three hours—of seven different publications proceeding from the same authority of the repeal committee and speeches by priests at meetings; one of whom, called inspector of the repeal wardens—the sergeant and corporals of these parties—every one of these publications, and all the addresses of the priests and the lay agitators being directed specifically and by name to the Queen's troops, telling the people among other things—telling them not to be afraid of the soldiery, for that under a red coat there might beat a green heart, telling them also not to mind the threats of the Queen's Ministers in Parliament, that they would use the troops to put down agitation, for that the soldiers are citizens, and have an affectionate feeling towards them, and telling them, finally, that half the army is composed of Irishmen; on that boast founding a false and infamous inference, that that army will not do its duty when commanded to put down agitation. These things, my Lords, did not happen in 1838 or 1839, and yet we in those years continued the measures of coercion, and also this Arms Bill, which the noble Lord opposes by his speech, though he does not follow that speech up by the only motion that could give effect to it—a motion to read the bill a second time this day three months. I hope, however, that a motion to read it this day 712 fortnight would be sufficient. [The Lord Chancellor—Ay, or ten days.]—I wish I could say this day week, though I can hardly venture to hope that. My noble Friend, (Lord Camoys) is however, it appears, a Repealer and an agitator of a peculiar kind, says he, "I am not a Repealer at present, but if you do not do so and so, I will be for repeal; and then—" What then? Will the empire be severed? No. He thinks that the legislative union may be at an end, and that there may be two Parliaments sitting in the two countries at the same time, and yet that the countries would not be severed. My Lords, I will not stop to answer such a proposition as that. If, on calm consideration, my noble Friend abides by it, he is, I may venture to say, the only man in either House of Parliament who would venture to put forward such an argument. The price which my noble Friend tells us we are to pay for his abstinence from the repeal agitation, is the total abolition and extinction of the Established Church in Ireland. In this he differs most widely from my noble Friend, the noble Marquess who has just sat down, and from almost all your Lordships; and he is under a marvellous oblivion of the history of the past—he is under a strong forgetfulness of circumstances that have taken place in his own time, and still more of what took place in this very House, the very place where he has delivered his speech to-night—he has exhibited a most extraordinary oblivion of his own personal history—a total erasure from the tablets of his memory of what he pronounced two years ago, standing in the very place from which only a little hour ago he addressed your Lordships for the purpose of enabling us to give an estimate of the value attached to the securities inserted in a paragraph of the oath taken by Roman Catholic Members of Parliament. My noble Friend at the time I refer to, standing on this very spot, addressing not your Lordships, but a higher tribunal—my noble Friend, I say, who now cries out for the extinction of the Church in Ireland, after denouncing other pestilent heresies, thus swore:—I do swear to defend to the utmost of my power, the settlement of property in this realm as established by the law.Therefore, of course, he must be against the doctrine of fixity of tenure;And I disclaim, disavow, and abjure any 713 intention to subvert the Church Establishment as settled by law within these realms.So that two years ago he had no such intention as he has expressed to-night; but my noble Friend goes on,And I do solemnly swear that I never will exercise any privilege to which I am or may be entitled.Including, of course, the privileges of a Peer of Parliament, which is the highest of all—To disturb or weaken the Protestant religion, or the Protestant Government in the United Kingdom.Now, if any priest of my noble Friend has told him that a nice distinction can be taken judicially between the Protestant religion and Government and the Protestant Church established in Ireland, I say to my noble Friend, that he cannot avail himself of any such distinction; for he goes on,And I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do make this declaration, and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the words of this oath, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatever, so help me God.My Lords, I have lived long in the world. I have seen many examples of the effects of the wilful courses of designing men, and of the influence they have gained in prosecuting their wicked designs on less powerful minds, of less steady characters, of minds less capable of self-defence. I have seen both here and abroad the effects on weak and on youthful minds, the effects of the operations of the Catholic priesthood for the accomplishment of their sinful and sordid objects, and I have seen in this country the consequences of political seduction by similar means and for similar objects. But, knowing, as I do the honourable nature of my noble Friend, his pure motives and the candour of his diposition, I do profess and declare, that I never yet saw so melancholy and striking an exhibition in my whole life of the effects of such insidious arts on such minds as has this night been exhibited by the marvellous declaration of my noble Friend. It is only a lesson, my Lords, to you, and I am sure it ought to be to the Government, of the absolute and overwhelming necessity of looking to the education of the Irish people in spiritual things; of looking to their condition under the control of a priesthood 714 so educated as that which now instructs them and misleads them, and now alternately agitates and seduces them—men, ignorant of the most salutary branches of human knowledge—destitute of that true enlightenment in which both sound principles and good feelings find their best root, and from which they draw their purest and most wholesome support—it affords us this lesson, my Lords, and at the same time, gives me a most new, a most powerful and irresistable, and at the same time, I must confess, a most unexpected confirmation of all those opinions on this most vitally important subject which I have never ceased to entertain since I came into the Government in the year 1830. My Lords, my noble Friend, the noble Marquess, has so shown to you the uselessness of Maynooth, that you cannot stop in dealing with that institution. Either you must abolish it altogether, and restore the priesthood of Ireland to their former education on the continent—an education which had some liberalizing effects, and produced priests much more fit to be intrusted with the consciences of men than are those who are educated at Maynooth—either you must do this, or you must enlarge that institution; extend to the education of the priests all the salutary branches of human knowledge which are now excluded from them; plant its roots far and wide in the literature of the human race; draw forth the letters and the improvement of the age, all that wholesome sap which, rising through the trunk, will not merely produce leaf and blossom—will not merely give the appearance of an educational establishment—but will yield sound, solid, precious fruit of charitable opinions, of liberal views, and of that wholesome and rational religion, which is the best prop of pure morality.
§ Lord Camoys
begged to say one word in explanation, after the attack which had been made upon him by the noble and learned Lord. If he had understood the oath taken by him in the manner in which the noble and learned Lord had explained it, he certainly could not have spoken tonight as he had done. He thought the the noble and learned Lord would see that he had given a wrong interpretation to that oath. If the noble and learned Lord was correct, then there must be some Members of their Lordships' House who were not upon equal terms with others 715 There was on the part of some a diminution of constitutional power. When the question of the oath was before the House of Commons, it was Mr. Wilmot Horton who proposed that on all questions affecting the Church, the Catholic Members should neither vote nor speak. That was objected to by Sir Robert Peel himself, because it was not the intention of the Legislature to limit the Catholic Members in any manner in their legislative capacity, but they were to be put upon exactly the same footing as to voting and speaking as the Protestant Members. And when, afterwards, Sir Charles Wetherall stated, that the Catholics could not be supposed to take this oath in their legislative capacity, Sir Robert Peel acknowledged that that was the real state of the case—and that he never meant to bind them in their legislative capacity. Therefore, he (Lord Camoys) had an undoubted right, as well as any of their Lordships, to express his opinions upon any subjects before the House, without reference to that oath, He had mentioned this in his own defence. after the attack which the noble and learned Lord had made upon him.
The Earl of Shrewsbury
My Lords, before I proceed to address your Lordships on the question immediately before the House, I must enter my protest against the construction put upon the oath imposed upon Catholic Members of this House, by the noble and learned Lord near me, great as his authority is, and which construction seems to be in unison with the opinions of noble Lords opposite. [Cries of "No, no" from the Ministerial side of the House.] I had certainly so understood it from the cheers which attended the noble and learned Lord's speech; but I am glad to find it otherwise. I am quite willing to admit, that the animus imponentis ought to govern-the interpretation of this oath; but till both Houses of Parliament shall concur in a resolution, setting forth some distinct construction of it, different from that in which it is commonly understood, in which it certainly was accepted by the Catholics, and which I believe to be the only constitutional interpretation of it, I maintain that we have a right to that interpretation, namely, that Catholic Members of either House have precisely the same right to discuss and to decide upon all questions which may come before them as any other Members, even though those 716 questions trench upon the Ecclesiastical Establishment of the country, and may involve an alteration of the law in her regard. At least, my Lords, I, for one, would not condescend to sit in this House upon any other terms; for I would not subject myself to be taunted upon every occasion, by one noble Lord or another, with a violation of my oath. Why, my Lords, there is hardly any question that can come before us in which, in the opinion of one noble Lord or another, the interests of the Establishment may not be presumed to be involved. Even a common Turnpike Act might suffice for the purpose, when it is questioned, for example, whether or no double tolls should be taken upon a Sunday. In fine, there would be no end to it. But in this particular case, I maintain it to be the noble Lords opposite who are the enemies of the Establishment rather than ourselves. For I am thoroughly and intimately convinced that any curtailment of the Irish Church under existing circumstances, must necessarily be beneficial to the Establishment in general, for as long as she is so decidedly the Church of the minority as she is now, so long will she be liable to the same species of attack, of assault, indeed, I may call it, which is now made upon her, and which, if not checked by timely reform, must assuredly end in her total destruction. For my own part, I had much sooner see the Established Church in possession of all her legitimate rights, than have her broken up to be scrambled for under the voluntary system. I will say but one word more upon this matter, but I do feel it to be humiliating to think that the descendants of the few Peers who remained stedfast to the ancient faith—to that faith which was professed in this country when this House was first formed, when all our institutions were framed, and when the liberties of the country were achieved, that they alone are to be told that they do not enjoy the same privileges as the rest of your Lordships, above all, the privilege of free discussion, without which this House would be a mere mockery. I will now proceed to deliver the observations I had intended to lay before your Lordships, beginning by acknowledging that after the able manner in which the question has been discussed by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) it would appear useless if not presumptuous in me to address the House upon the present occa- 717 sion, neither should I have risen at all did I not deem it imperative on those who hold the opinions which I do, to urge them upon the Government, relative to what is now passing in Ireland, and with which this bill is more or less connected. My Lords, the more we deplore the agitation and excitement which now so lamentably prevails, the more anxious should we be to discover the causes, and to apply the remedy. Those causes, my Lords, as it appears to me, at least, are too obvious to require much consideration—still 2,000,000 of pauper vagrants upon her soil during the greater portion of the year—the same fruitful sources of misery and crime in undiminished activity—the general, as well as particular interests of her people altogether neglected—no attempt whatever made either to better their condition, or to win their affections to the Government, but on the contrary rather, seeing that their feelings are outraged by neglect and rebuke—a whole nation condemned to manifest injustice on many points, and yet the Government declaring that concession has already been carried to its utmost limits. Such, my Lords, are the causes of all the turmoil which assails you—it is neither the demagogue nor the agitator, but the Government and the Parliament, that are the real instigators of the movement. Not one single measure of grace has ever been offered to Ireland—neither Catholic Emancipation, nor the extinction of Tithes, nor Parliamentary nor Municipal Reform, even such as they exist in that country, not one of them but have been rather extorted from your prudence, than conceded by your justice; and yet, my Lords, you are astonished at the ingratitude of the people for past favours, and at their clamour for new ones. My Lords, I do not stand here as the advocate of agitation, still less as the apologist of the manner in which that agitation is carried on—very far from it indeed—but, in considering the abstract principle, while I admit that a strong and paramount necessity can alone justify it, still I do think that they who are nearest to the evils which it is sought to remedy by these means, may be the best able to judge of that necessity, and consequently have a right to their own views as to the justice and expediency of their present course; and I very much question indeed, my Lords, whether we ourselves, as I have already in- 718 timated, have not been mainly instrumental in producing this state of things—for have not we, in fact, taught them the science of agitation by so long turning a deaf ear to their complaints? Have not we too long shown them, that clamour and intimidation are their best, if not their only resource? My Lords, it is not in a spirit of disloyalty that they seek for repeal, but because their connexion with England has not hitherto brought them any sufficient relief for their grievances; it is because even a reformed Parliament has hitherto failed to do justice to Ireland, that her people are now become the willing believers in the doctrine, that universal suffrage, or, in other words, a wild democracy, is alone suited to their condition: it is because the Government to which they are now subject, neither gives them relief nor sympathy, that they would hail with delight even the tyranny of a dictator as a better chance of redress: it is because their legitimate representatives are either unwilling or unable to right them, that the ignorant despotism of the multitude, or the tumultuous freedom of a plebeian state, whichever it should be called, would be considered by many as a happy substitute for a more orderly form of government, even for that which has been so long the boast of England, but which, if not properly used, would seem to be little better than another. My Lords, Ireland is now, I believe, the only Catholic country in the world, Poland, perhaps, excepted, and the exception is not a very enviable one, which is not governed as such; but it is not only not governed as such, but it is governed in a directly opposite sense. In respect to Ireland, your whole policy is Protestant. In making these observations, I trust your Lordships will believe, that I do not mean them offensively either to this House or yet to the Government, but they are the result of the most mature deliberation that I am capable of giving to the question: in respect to Ireland, then (and after what has happened, I now feel that I am treading on dangerous ground in approaching this part of the subject), it does appear to me, as it always has appeared, that your whole policy is Protestant; it is riot so elsewhere, for in your colonies your policy is very different—but here, this policy guides you in every view you take of Ireland, it shews itself in every part of your administra- 719 tion. You have between 7,000,000 and 8,000,000 of Catholics in that country, but you have not one single Catholic in any post of honour. In Ireland you refuse anything like an adequate provision for the education of the poor, and of the priesthood of the poor, because that poor and that priesthood are Catholic, and yet, my Lords, you are astonished at the occasional ignorance and barbarism of the people, and this Arms Bill is to be your remedy. You refuse even the slightest aid towards the erection of places of divine worship for the people, because that people are Catholic—and remember, my Lords, the sums you have voted, for that self-same purpose, to the rich Church of the majority in England, and the sums that you have appropriated from the still richer Church of the minority in Ireland, so that. as it is computed, no less than 400 new churches have arisen in that country during the last thirty or forty years for a mere handful of her people, while for churches for the immense majority, poor and afflicted as they are, you have neither voted nor appropriated anything; and, though they are so much needed, that in some cases the whole population are compelled to worship in the open air, while the officiating priest alone is sheltered under the cover of a shed, a spectacle, my Lords, not to be seen in any other province of Christendom; and, in very many places, not half the congregation are able to enter the chapel for want of space, but are equally compelled to worship in the open air as best they may, exposed to all the inclemencies of the weather, and altogether out of hearing of any instructions that may be given by the clergy; and then again, my Lords, you are astonished at the occasional ignorance and barbarism of the people, and this Arms Bill is to be your only remedy; while, on the other hand, Protestantism is so favoured, that, in very many cases, you have a church and a pastor absorbing all the revenues that were intended for the people, but with hardly, perhaps without, a single worshipper from among the people. And what, my Lords, is the result of this Protestant policy over a Catholic country?—for after all, religion is not to be estimated by property, as I understand it at least, but by souls—what, I ask, is the result? Why! that you have the most discontented, the most troublesome, the most dangerous, the most miserable population 720 in Europe to contend with, in what ought to be the happiest and the most flourishing portion of the empire,—you have a whole people, throwing themselves, in despair of better treatment from you, into the wildest scheme that ever entered into the mind of man for the amelioration of any country; though, after all, it may serve them a good turn, and obtain for them another instalment of justice, and though in the interval it do but increase the evils it is intended to remedy. Such, my Lords, is the result of governing Ireland by sectarian feelings, with a view only to Protestant interests. You have the example of Holland and Belgium before your eyes; you know that under the late sovereign of Prussia, the Rhenish provinces would gladly have availed themselves of any opportunity of throwing off their allegiance; but you know also that, under the conciliatory policy of the present Sovereign, the case is widely different—a sovereign who even subscribes largely out of his privy purse for the restoration and embellishment of Catholic Churches. Yes! my Lords, the government of Ireland is now at least an anomaly in the history of modern Europe; it neither reflects honour upon the feelings, nor credit upon the sagacity of the country. How different is it elsewhere! in France, in Holland, throughout Switzerland, throughout Germany, wherever you have a mixed religious population, there also have you a perfect equality of rights, each has an equal claim upon the consideration of Government; but here, in this free country, you have laid it down as a maxim, established it as a fixed policy, that there shall be but one State religion, and that, without any reference whatever to the religion of the people, just as much as if the people formed no part of the State—though here, my Lords, I am not altogether correct, for in Scotland, you have admitted Presbyterianism to the rights of a State religion, though the great bulk of her landed proprietors are Episcopalian; nay more, you have even suffered her people to carry those rights with them across the water, and to enjoy, in some measure at least, the privileges of a State religion in the very heart of Ireland; while the religion of the original Irish is so neglected and despised, that you are ashamed even to enter upon the same terms of courtesy and alliance as every other Protestant state without exception, with the most ancient 721 sovereignty in Christendom, and though your interests so intimately require it, merely because he who represents that sovereignty is, at the same time, the spiritual head of their Church. My Lords, the people of Ireland are too well instructed in their grievances not to have a clear perception of them; amongst others, they know full well, the claims they have upon the property set apart in former times for their benefit, and it is because you have too long neglected to make that property do its duty to them, that you are putting all property into jeopardy, and bringing about a general insecurity in all claims upon the land. My Lords, till you discard this narrow policy of governing Ireland on sectarian views, you never can do justice to the people, nor gain their affections to the Government: it is all very well to disclaim any such notions, but what will that disclaimer avail till we see a directly opposite policy from that pursued at present, in active operation? My Lords, this Arms Bill, useful and even necessary as it may seem for certain objects—though, if Ireland were governed as it should be, why should it be more necessary there than either in England, Scotland, or Wales? Even for Wales you ask not for an Arms Bill, because you have adopted the wiser policy of sending down a commission to inquire into her grievances, with an understanding that they are to be redressed; but if, because you will not pursue the same course in Ireland, you must needs have an Arms Bill there, however useful it may be for certain objects (though even that seems very doubtful)—at all events it will neither tranquillize the country, nor relieve her grievances; no, nor yet the bringing down of a dry, abstract Message from the Crown to say that Repeal shall never be! but bring down a message from the Crown to say that Repeal shall never be, because the Government are determined to exert all their energies to improve the condition of the people, and to relieve their grievances in a full spirit of justice and conciliation; and you would neither require an Arms Bill on the one hand, but you would regain all the ground that you have lost upon the other: neither, my Lords—notwithstanding what has fallen during this debate, and in others which have preceded it on the same subject,—neither do I altogether despair of this, for the noble and gallant Duke, who, upon a former 722 occasion so manfully combated and overcame all the obstacles which then interposed, as they now interpose, between Ireland and her internal peace, and indeed the internal peace of the whole country, is again a Member of the administration. Let him once more despise the prejudices of those who would oppose it, and stand forward to remove those just grounds of irritation and complaint which now so fearfully and so extensively prevail. Then, indeed, will every honest man rally round the Government, to vindicate the dominion of the law, to maintain the rights of property, and to secure the integrity of the empire. Under the late administration, Ireland was comparatively tranquil, and would have been perfectly so, had they been allowed to carry out their views to their completion; but, as that was not permitted, most unhappily not permitted, I did hope, so just and necessary did it seem, that they who succeeded them would of themselves have undertaken what they would not allow their opponents to accomplish. But in this expectation I was completely deceived, and the bitter fruits of their misgovernment are coming to maturity even sooner than one could have anticipated; for it is already paralizing all our energies by placing us, as has been well expressed in another place, in a sort of political checkmate; it is risking the peace of the whole country, and with it the stability of all our institutions, by an obstinate adherence to a system of government which is become altogether impracticable—a system, of which past experience ought long since to have taught us both the injustice and the folly—which produces nothing but interminable dissension at home, and abroad makes us the pity of our friends and the derision of our enemies. England, my Lords, is not herself in so very satisfactory a condition as that you can afford to allow Ireland to remain in her present awful state of disaffection and excitement. You complain justly of the violence of the repealers, but let it be remembered that, in some instances at least, that violence has been even exceeded by those who are opposed to them—at all events, deprecate that violence as we may, there it is—and there it is as the natural, if not necessary consequence of your own misgovernment and it is as such, and as such only that you can deal with it: to quell it by coercion is impossible, concession and con- 723 ciliation are your only resource. Let me then conjure your Lordships not to pass this bill unaccompanied by others of a very different complexion; they who are disposed to judge of the present from the past, irrespectively of the change of circumstances and of feeling, are sure to be mistaken—for that change too clearly indicates that Ireland can no longer be either neglected or misgoverned.
The Earl of Wicklow
deeply regretted that Parliament was called upon to pass such a bill as the present, but it must be borne in mind that the circumstances of the country were such as that men of all parties in Parliament and out of it agreed in thinking it necessary. If the Government had satisfied themselves with a mere renewal of the former measure, not one word of opposition would have been uttered. The opposition had arisen from some new clauses, which were considered peculiarly stringent; but those clauses were absolutely necessary to make the bill operative. Without them, it had been found, the law was ineffectual. The noble Baron had read a protest of Earl Grey against an Arms Bill in 1819, but Earl Grey had himself subsequently introduced a much more stringent measure than that which he protested against in 1819. He believed that the noble Lord (Lord Camoys) was the only Member of either House who had come down to Parliament to declare that the Established Church ought to be suppressed; for although he (the Earl of Wicklow) was aware of the violent and exciting language that had been held by those who had seats in the other House, yet those individuals had not availed themselves of those privileges to use that language, and they had not uttered it in their places in Parliament, as the noble Lord had thought proper to do. He (the Earl of Wicklow) must express the extreme gratification with which he had listened to the speech of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Lansdowne)—a speech which had done that noble Marquess high honour; for, instead of making this great question a matter of party quarrel, he had come down to the House, and had stated his opinions upon the general subject openly, manfully, and fairly. With regard to the subjects alluded to in the latter part of that speech, he (the Earl of Wicklow) admitted that measures such as the noble Marquess had spoken of were necessary for Ireland, and he had firm 724 confidence in his own mind that her Majesty's Government would not fail to consider well what those measures should be. But upon this last occasion he felt anxious to impress upon them as strongly as he was able, if they meant to tranquilize the country, and lay the foundation of peace happiness, it was absolutely and indispensably necessary that they should turn their attention to a liberal and handsome provision for the Roman Catholic Church. He believed that was the only Protestant country in Europe in which there was no connexion whatever between the Roman Catholic clergy and the State. But there was such a connexion abroad; and by way of example, he might mention the tranquillity which that connexion produced in the dominions of the illustrious person then sitting near him [the King of Hanover, who occupied a seat next to the Duke of Wellington]. He could not conceive why this country should be an exception to the rule. He knew it might be said that the Catholic clergy would not accept a provision; but that was the very reason why such a course ought to be adopted. He must, however, at the same time, declare that he would rather see no provision at all made, than one which was not ample. Most happy and willing should he be to have his own property taxed, fully and entirely, for such a purpose; and if the Government should deem such a course expedient, he should not only not object, but he should hail with delight a proposition that the property of the country should be taxed for that object. He had been accused of condemning the Catholic clergy; but he had been altogether misunderstood. His object upon the occasion alluded to had been, as it was on the present occasion, to offer to the Government his strong recommendation that provision should be made for the Roman Catholic clergy, and if he had then spoken of that body as a degraded class, his intention had not been to apply that term to them as arising from any fault of their own, but he had meant to convey that they were degraded by their being obliged to collect from the voluntary contributions of a poor and wretched peasantry, that aid which they ought fully and entirely to receive from the state. The noble Marquess had referred to the subject of Maynooth College, and upon that subject he (the Earl of Wicklow) must say that it would be better that no institution of the kind should 725 have been founded than that it should remain upon the footing it was at present. It was a miserable specimen of the parsimony of this country. To abolish it now was out of the question: but he would rather see almost any course tried than see that institution remain in its present degraded state. Every encouragement should be given for the introduction into that university, as well as into the priesthood of the country, of men of a better order in society, the sons of the gentry, as was the case in the Protestant Church. It was only by a proceeding of that kind that they could succeed in raising the character of the priesthood. He would ask their Lordships, if they had some considerable time ago established a better class of men among the priesthood, whether they would have had a hierarchy acting as the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church were now doing, after having signed, in 1829, the paper which he would now read to their Lordships? The noble Earl read the document, signed in 1829 by every Roman Catholic prelate, which, after describing the state of the country at that period, declared that no longer should the Roman Catholic Chapels be devoted to political and party purposes, and that the clergy should confine themselves to their clerical duties instead of interfering with politics. Now, could it be believed that, of this whole body of prelates (and there were but few of them deceased), none, save one honourable exception—the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, could be found to remind his brethren of their signatures to that paper in 1829? He did hope that the Government would listen to the advice thrown out by the noble Marquess, and would employ the interval between the prorogation of Parliament and its next meeting in giving a full and deliberate consideration to this great subject; for he was convinced that never would peace and tranquillity be restored to the country until this step were adopted. Although he regretted the necessity for this bill, he found that it had the support of men of all parties, not even the noble Baron having ventured to propose its rejection, and he should vote with the general body of the House in its favour.
§ Lord Beaumont
said, that he would have been well contented to have remained silent on the present occasion, and left the discussion of the bill to those noble Lords, who from their connection with Ireland 726 are naturally the best authorities on the subject, but after the extraordinary course this debate had taken, and the strange doctrines he had heard avowed by certain noble Lords, he (Lord Beaumont) dared not remain silent, lest his silence might be construed into an acquiescence in those sentiments and opinions, the expression of which had been so severely but so justly castigated by his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham). He (Lord Beaumont) must own that he addressed the House under feelings of bitter regret, for the debate of that evening had given him deeper pain than he had ever experienced during any former discussion in that House. He found himself not only separated as "wide as the poles asunder" in sentiment and opinion from his noble Friend (Lord Camoys), but also he regretted that he was obliged to add (differing from his noble relative Lord Shrewsbury) who, although not going so far as the noble Baron, had still in some degree appeared to justify the lawless agitation going on in Ireland. "My Lords (continued the noble Baron earnestly), I will not now enter at length into the delicate discussion which has been raised regarding the oath taken by Catholic Members of Parliament. Suffice it for me to say that I read it in the literal sense, and can conceive no doubt as to its intended meaning, and that I should therefore feel myself deeply dishonoured and eternally disgraced, if reading it as I do, and understanding its purport, which appears to me written in language as clear as words can express, I should venture to give a vote contrary to the interests of the Established Church. My Lords, I care not if I am the object of vituperation the most coarse from one whom I contemn as the dust beneath my feet; I care not for public abuse, and I stand unmoved by personal attacks, from whomsoever they may come, but so long as that oath is administered to me as a Peer of this realm, so long will I refuse my assent to any measure, by whatever party proposed, for injuring in the slightest degree the Established Church. While I say this for myself, I am far from casting any reflection on my noble relative (Lord Shrewsbury), who expressed a different opinion, but at the same time qualified that opinion by saying that a measure might be imagined, which while it diminished the revenues of the Church and apparently impaired its in- 727 fluence, would eventually consolidate its power and therefore really promote its influence in a permanent sense. If he entertains that idea of the question alluded to, and should view a curtailment of the Church in Ireland in that light, I will not investigate whether a vote in that case would or would not be strictly comformtable to his oath, but of this I am fully persuaded that however he might err in judgment, he would on no consideration act contrary to the dictates of his conscience. I charge no one with an intentional or deliberate violation of his oath; but my interpretation of the oath is such as I have stated it to be, and I leave it to those who would act differently than I should feel myself bound to do under such an obligation, to reconcile their conduct with their oaths. But my Lords, what alarms me on the present occasion, what astounds me more than anything else in the present debate, and convinces me more than ever that it is necessary for the Government to take some more active steps to put down this agitation, which like a deadly poison, is envenoming and corrupting the social system of the empire, is that to-night I have heard here in this House—sentiments expressed directly tending to fan the flames of rebellion, opinions uttered calculated to encourage the monstrous acts of men who are leading multitudes of their fellow-men on, to an abyss of havoc and confusion,—words actually cheering on our misguided countrymen to the brink of that ruin which must, sooner or later, open beneath their feet, and engulph them and their country, in one common destruction, if their present excited condition continues. What, my Lords, already is the case? Is no harm already done?—has no evil already followed this lawless agitation? It may be said, and perhaps truly, that it has not as yet, nor is likely soon, to assume the more palpable shape of open rebellion; but, even if permitted to remain a little longer in what is called its peaceful state; is nothing to follow as its natural and inevitable effect. The winter, my Lords, is coming on, and then those men, who, instead of garnering up, by their labour in the autumn a store for the winter, have wasted the harvest-time in attending repeal meetings, will find themselves deprived in multitudes of employment, and without that little balance in hand, which in former years they amassed by their labour in our fields. They who 728 have been ever poor, will then become utterly destitute; the sums which the male adults have hitherto carried across the channel when the corn was got in, will no longer come in to eke out the scanty means of their numerous families. Rent will be no longer paid, general distress must prevail to a greater extent than hitherto, and, my Lords, men starving will do much. It is when things have arrived at this state, as inevitably they must do, that I dread the effects of the present agitation, for if, even now, designing men can exercise so baneful an influence, and seduce the people from their proper avocations, it cannot be doubted, but what they will have greater weight with a distressed peasantry, and that a starving population will be moved to a yet more pernicious course by the same malignant agency. He, (the noble Lord continued) therefore, gave the Government the Arms Bill not only readily but with regret, that it was not accompanied with other measures calculated to repress at once, this mischievous agitation. And, he must acknowledge, that in so readily giving to Government this, the only measure of precaution they asked for, he was actuated by another motive, namely, a wish to increase the responsibility of Ministers, and take away from them all excuse as to future inefficiency in the means placed at their disposal by Parliament. If the House refused this measure of precaution the Government might say, when agitation had grown into rebellion, that you had crippled their powers of resistance and thus transferred a moiety of responsibility and subsequent blame from their shoulders to the two Houses of Parliament. He could not, however even now exculpate her Majesty's Ministers from all blame in the present position of affairs; for they had let go by, the opportunity afforded them, on their accession to power, of taking a comprehensive view of the wants of Ireland, and submitting to Parliament some extensive and wisely conceived plan of policy which might have been cooly considered and deliberetely adopted for her relief. The state of Ireland was, at that time, calm, and the Government, all powerful, and then was the fitting period to have probed the evils existing in her social system, and pursued some scheme which might have tended to their remedy; instead of this wise course, they had waited till violence precipitated the consideration of those questions which 729 in the hour of peace, they had refused to entertain, and whatever measures were now proposed, those measures must appear as concessions to clamour and unlawful intimidation. He (Lord Beaumont) fain would see the word concession, altogether expunged from the statesman's vocabulary, for it implied an involuntary, not to say cowardly, yielding up to apprehension and threats, that which in their free convictions they considered advisable to withhold. Again, when the Repeal meetings first assumed a formidable character, and the Irish Government dismissed, and rightly dismissed, those magistrates who attended such meetings, the Government, instead of halting half-way in their measures, should have proceeded against those who were far more deeply involved in the system of agitation than the superseded magistrates, and who had called together, and been the most conspicuous ringleaders at these lawless assemblies—the consequence of the half-measures pursued by Government had been, that while irritation had had been created and disaffection increased, agitation and insolence had been rather encouraged than put down. A few words as to the remedial measures which had been suggested. Several noble Lords appeared to be of opinion, that the payment of the Roman Catholic priesthood by the state, would give the state an influence over the people through the instrumentality of the priesthood. In this opinion he thought there was an error; and he would proceed to show why he believed the measure, if adopted, would not lead to the result expected. The Irish Roman Catholic clergyman was, in his present condition, essentially part and parcel of the people; he was the same and identified with them in tastes, in habits, and in feelings, having sprung from and constantly mingled with them. From the cabin, where he had passed his childhood, he went to study at Maynooth, and there he met others who, like himself, had been selected from the humbler classes of the people to fill the vacancies in the priesthood. There was no difference in the tastes, ideas, and prejudices, of his new associates from those he had left upon going to college; he acquired no new impressions, and returned from Maynooth the same as when he had gone to it. He was not only of the people but dependent on them; for if a priest showed any leaning towards the aristocracy he 730 would soon lose the affections of the people, probably be superseded in his office of parish priest, or certainly be counteracted by the appointment of coadjutors. In the existing relations, therefore, between the priests and the people, the former were all-powerful with the latter, and falling into the hands of a clever able and unprincipled agitator, they were all-powerful only for evil. If, as has been suggested, the priests were paid by the State, there was little doubt but persons of a higher station of life, men of a different sort of education and dissimilar habits, would seek the ministry and enter into orders; but then this class would not be the people's men, would not associate with them to the same extent, and the people would begin to look on them not only as their spiritual but their social superiors, with whom they had no common interest and front whom they were to a certain degree separated. Their present influence in public and political matters would cease and they would be no longer able to restrain or lead the people except in matters purely spiritual. It was, therefore, a mistake to suppose that the Government would be able, through the agency of the priests, to have the people with it, if the priests were to be paid by the State, for their very independence would destroy their influence. Whatever were their inclinations, the priests in that case would be kept aloof from politics, for the leading agitator himself would then say, and perhaps correctly, that it was more becoming in the clergy to remain within the sphere of their spiritual duties and not interfere with worldly affairs. The great evil which checks all improvement in Ireland is, the want of sufficient occupation for its increasing population, and the pauper-character of the tenantry consequent upon the endless subdivision of holdings. If an estate were divided into small takes, some even as low as three acres, it would be impossible either to do justice to the land, or for the tenant to maintain himself on the produce of his occupation. If, on the contrary, the holdings are of a proper size, and the rent fairly fixed according to the value of the land, men of some substance would alone be able to settle down on them, and price of labour would adjust itself according to the demand as it does under similar circumstances in England. But if you attempt to bring this about now, you must commence by clearing the 731 estate, and what then is to become of the numerous ejected small occupiers? To eject them without providing for them elsewhere, or in some other manner would be to inflict a great injury and create a new evil as great as the one you endeavoured to remove. There were but two ways to meet the circumstance, two remedies which might partially relieve the distresses of Ireland—the one was to create employment on a large scale by the introduction of manufactures, and the other to prosecute an extensive system of emigration. The former was riot in the power of Government, because it could not create a market for manufactures, nor could it establish them on a sufficiently large scale without an enormous outlay; but Government had the means to forward if not carry out the latter proposition. It might adopt some uniform plan, and lay before the country such minute and correct information as to the lands to be colonized, that the emigrant would know with certainty his prospects and be able to calculate his necessary expences. But as emigration was at present carried on, neither certain information could be gained by those who are anxious to go out, nor reliance placed on the promises of the numerous companies who have obtained grants, but deceit had been practised to such an extent, the system of advertizing so outrageously abused, and the colonists, in many instances so cruelly abandoned, that the people had a notion that they were only going from bad to worse, and were, therefore, content rather—To bear the ills they have, Than fly to others that they know not of.The noble Lord, after some further observations on the present character of the emigration companies, continued by saying, that he saw no possibility of improvement in Ireland till either increased occupation was found at home, or an advantageous outlet provided for the surplus population. It was in a gradual amelioration of the domestic existence of the Irish peasantry that he placed more reliance than in any scheme to pay the Roman Catholic priesthood: although with regard to the latter proposition, he would promise, whenever such a measure was brought forward not founded on the robbery of the Established Church—a Church he had sworn to maintain—that it should have his best consideration if not his support. He was 732 unwilling to detain their Lordships, by dwelling at present on either the good or the difficulties which might attend the proposition, but he was inclined to look more favourably on some measure of that sort since he had heard it advocated by his noble Friend, the noble Marquess near him (the Marquess of Lansdowne), and highly approved of by his noble Friend, the noble Earl opposite, (the Earl of Wicklow). After a few other observations the noble Lord concluded by assuring their Lordships that he would not have trespassed at such length on their time, had it not been for the sentiments which he regretted to have heard fall from two noble Lords who sat on his side of the House, for as to the bill itself he thought it of little comparative importance, and one which the Government had a perfect title to ask for. He therefore gave it his cordial support.
said, that the noble Baron who had just sat down was against all concession, and was for nothing but coercion. But he would appeal to the noble and gallant Duke, the author of Catholic emancipation, and inquire whether he voluntarily and spontaneously brought forward that great measure, and whether it were not forced upon him and upon the Government of that day by coercion, within the meaning of that term, as understood by the noble Baron who had just addressed their Lordships. The noble Baron seemed to regret the privilege he held of sitting in their Lordships' House, and ready to do all in his power to depress the religion he professed. He would object to the terms which had been used against, and the imputations which had been cast upon his noble Friend who had spoken second in the debate. In the first place it had been said, that he had forgotten, such was the state of his memory, to mention the act of 1829, or which was passed about that period. He excepted that measure, in express terms, as he also did the year 1829, which he had denominated a lucid interval. He also spoke of Catholic emancipation, for which he was grateful, and in which he evidently rejoiced. Another Peer had charged his noble Friend with being guilty of perjury, in having—
Any Peer, presuming to speak in his place in Parliament, and to allege that one Peer had charged another with perjury, was guilty of conduct indecorous and disorderly. The noble Lord 733 had not been charged with perjury, but merely with forgetting the words of his oath. There was a distinction between the oath taken by a Member of Parliament, and that whereby an individual swore to speak the truth.
resumed: So his noble and learned Friend took a distinction between the technical legal oath, for violating which an indictment could be laid, and a conviction had, and the breaking of a solemn oath, in taking which, as solemn an appeal had been made to the Almighty as in taking the other. The noble Baron (Lord Camoys) had been charged with breaking the latter oath. [Lord Brougham: With having forgotten it: with a departure from the terms of the oath.] Was not that the same as breaking the oath? He must say that he conceived the charge to be most indelicate. The noble Baron who last addressed their Lordships had put a construction upon that oath, which was binding upon his conscience; and he would do well to abstain, and from his high and honourable character he was sure the noble Lord would obstain from voting on any question relating to the Protestant Church. But he would remind their Lordships that another construction was put upon that oath. He had lately read the pamphlet of Mr. Lynch on that subject, and in mentioning him he introduced to their Lordships a most competent authority. That gentleman had published a pamphlet, in which he insisted, that in giving to that oath its just construction, it did not apply to Members of Parliament in their legislative capacity, but that it was binding upon them only to obey the law. Such was the interpretation contended for in the other House of Parliament. He was not aware that it had been canvassed in their Lordships' House, but it had been canvassed in the House of Commons, and for the construction there put upon the oath Roman Catholic Members strenuously contended. George 3rd, and he would speak with reverence of that venerable monarch, and particularly in presence of his illustrious son (the King of Hanover),' who was now enjoying for a period the pleasures and festivities of this country as a subject of Queen Victoria—George 3rd was in a mistake on that subject. That venerable monarch imagined that the coronation oath was binding upon his con-science in his legislative capacity, and for 734 that reason he would sooner have resigned his Crown than have given the royal assent to Catholic emancipation. The oath was represented to him as binding on him only as chief magistrate, in administering the law, as Parliament and the legislative authority had rendered it. It was binding upon the king in his administrative, and not in his legislative capacity. Such was the opinion given to the monarch on the subject by Lord Kenyon—a man who could not certainly be charged with at all times advocating liberal views. The same opinion had also been given by his noble and learned Friend who now occupied the Woolsack. Viewing the coronation oath as the illustrious Sovereign he had just named did, he never would have given his assent to an act of Parliament in any degree diminishing the rights of the Protestant clergy, or extending the privileges of the Roman Catholic priesthood. Mr. Lynch had contended—and to the satisfaction of some of the most intelligent, honorable and learned men—that the oath which is required to be administered to Catholic Members in either House of Parliament was to be taken in precisely the same sense. That oath was compulsory on them to obey the law, but left them at liberty to vote as they chose on any act of Parliament before being passed into a law. If the oath was binding on the sovereign, in his legislative capacity, how could he have given his assent to the Irish Temporalities Act, by which two archibishoprics and eight bishoprics had been extinguished? With regard to the bi then before the House, he entirely concurred in the views expressed by his noble Friend, the Marquess of Landsdowne. He only regretted that the measure should not be followed by others of a conciliatory character, when conciliation was so imperatively required. It was only be concession and conciliation in his opinion, that the peace of Ireland could be permanently secured.
said, that Mr. Lynch had certainly raised the question of the interpretation of the Catholic oath in the pamphlet to which his noble and learned Friend had referred; but he took the plain literal sense of the works. His difficulty was to understand what the oath did mean if that interpretation was not to be taken. He did not object to his noble Friend, or any other Catholic Peer, taking part in any question relating to the Es- 735 tablished Church, and if he or any other Catholic Peer bonâ fide believed that in agreeing to any measure, or even in propounding any measure, he was not pulling down, but strengthening the Established Church, he was quite ready to admit his noble Friend's right so to act. You might pull down a beam in order to strengthen the House—to save the whole from dry rot for instance; but it was, to say the least, a very clumsy way—he would not say a very Irish way, because that might offend his noble Friend—of strengthening the House, to pull it down altogether. He would not enter into a discussion of the Coronation oath. It was true that the revered monarch of whom mention had been made, from over-tenderness of conscience,—which was highly creditable to him,—had considered that it applied to him in his legislative instead of his executive capacity. But, to return to the question of the Catholic oath, his opinion clearly and most distinctly was—he would not quibble about it—the terms of the oath made the deponent swear that there was no mental reservation in what he said; that there must be a bonâ fide belief in the individual, and that he must have the intention in concurring in any measure he might take part in, to do no harm to the Established Church. With respect to his noble Friend (Lord Camoys), he had only said that he had forgotten the oath, because his noble Friend said, that he had the wish and the bonâ fide intention to see the Protestant Establishment extinguished. His noble Friend had undoubtedly a right to entertain those opinions if he chose, but he had not a right to give them effect.
§ Lord Camoys
had never stated that he should not be satisfied until he had seen the extinction of the Church. He merely said, that Ireland could not be content until her grievances were redressed.
The Marquess of Headfort
objected to the bill, and contended that it was unjust to legislate for Ireland by coercion and penal laws. The bill before their Lordships had the character of a coercive measure, and the knowledge of its being passed into a law would cause the greatest dissatisfaction among the people of Ireland. They could not now govern Ireland by penal laws. Conciliation—where conciliation was requisite—the enactment of just and equal laws, when such were unanimously and clamorously called for— 736 were the only means by which they could expect to satisfy and tranquillize Ireland. By pursuing such a policy, they would no longer hear anything about Repeal of the Union—that last and desperate remedy, which misgovernment made the Irish people at present anxious to obtain. As for himself he need hardly tell their Lordships that he was opposed to that desperate measure. He conceived that if it were ever obtained it would be ruinous, not only to his own country, but destructive to the empire of which it formed a part. But Ireland had many and great grievances of which to complain. In looking into the ecclesiastical establishment of that country could there be any doubt that the vast resources of the Church were far too much for its purposes and its wants. The population embraced by the Protestant Establishment did not amount to more than 700,000, and the revenue of that establishment amounted to 500,000l. Were the resources of the Church limited to its real wants and necessities, there would remain at the least a surplus of about 250,000l., and why not devote this large surplus to some great national purposes. He would be the last to propose any material diminution in the resources of the establishment, if he thought that such would be likely seriously to affect its efficiency and respectability. Some of the surplus resources at present possessed by it might be beneficially applied—the paying the Catholic priesthood—a course from which he anticipated, not only a benefit to accrue to the priests themselves, but also to the whole Catholic population of the country. He trusted that it would not be long before some such measure would be adopted by Parliament. Among the other pressing grievances of which Ireland had to complain was the limited character of the constituency. She demanded a larger constituency—a great extension of the elective franchise. She was also but meagrely represented in the councils of the country, and should have a much larger share in parliamentary representation. Much had already been said about the relations subsisting between landlords and tenants. If the landlords of Ireland oppressed their tenantry by exacting exorbitant rents from them, and taking other measures which hurried them into insolvency, they must expect to be sufferers. But one of the greatest evils which at this 737 moment oppressed Ireland was, undoubtedly, the want of employment for her people. Absenteeism was, to some extent, answerable for this, as was also the embarrassments into which many of the landlords were thrown, and which prevented them from giving that employment to the labouring classes which it would otherwise be in their power to do. To remove these evils, there appeared to him to be two remedies, either of which might be advantageously pursued; first, for the Government to assist, either by the construction of railroads, or the adoption of great national works, such as the reclaiming of waste lands: and secondly, the organization of a thorough and efficient system of emigration. He had thus endeavoured to set forth the reasons why he opposed the measure then before their Lordships, and should oppose any measure based as it was upon coercion. He charged the Government with not having brought forward any efficient measure of good government for Ireland in the present alarming crisis of affairs. He would make use of an expression which, from repeated use, might now be regarded as stale, and hackneyed, but which was nevertheless one of great importance, especially at the present moment, namely, "Do justice to Ireland," and in doing so, he would advise them, as they valued order and tranquillity, to do it speedily and impartially. They could redress the grievances of the Catholics, without inflicting injury upon the Protestants. In benefitting the one, they were sure to benefit the other; while they could not inflict injury upon the Catholic, without also entailing injury upon the Protestant. But so long as they chose to abide by coercion, agitation would ever continue, and keep on its baneful and destructive course. But let Government come forward and finish the work of emancipation, which was so nobly commenced in the year 1829, and he could assure them that they would then have no need of maintaining a large military force in Ireland, but that they would possess the hearts of the entire Irish people, then united for the first time in one great common cause, the object of which was the preservation of the laws of the country, and by such a course alone could the tranquillity of Ireland be maintained.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
In consequence of an incidental remark which 738 had fallen from his noble Friend, who spoke second in the debate, a great deal had been said as to the nature of the oath obligatory upon Members of Parliament. He was sincerely sorry that the slightest doubt should be entertained as to the proper construction to be put upon that oath. He well recollected at the time when Catholic Emancipation was carried, that it was understood that Catholic Members were to exercise their judgments as unfettered as other Members of Parliament. If he felt inclined to adduce any authority to their Lordships on the subject, he would quote from one of the speeches of Sir Charles Wetherell, and a more competent judge could certainly not be named. If any serious doubts were entertained on the matter, it would be only fit and becoming for the safety and dignity, both of the nation and the Parliament, that such doubt should be instantly removed. It was certainly due to the Upper House, and especially to the Roman Catholic Members of that House, that these doubts should be dispelled as speedily as possible. Having said so much upon that point, he meant to say but very little upon the bill then upon the Table. He supported the measure for reasons already laid before the House by a noble Lord (Lord Lansdowne), and also for another reason, which was, that it accorded with the wishes of the gentry and magistrates of Ireland. He had, however, but little faith in the efficacy of the bill. He did not believe it would be of more practical importance than other measures of a similar kind had been. It contained some features which rendered it more objectionable than others which had preceded it. The branding clause did not appear to hint so very objectionable. He did not see why a gun should not be marked and delivered over, when required, to an officer for inspection, as well as that a permission from Government should be purchased to shoot a partridge. He thought that an arms bill might be devised which would be efficient and useful. The tendency of the present bill was to make those on whom it was to operate conceal their arms, and it would be difficult to describe to their Lordships the ingenuity and cunning with which they managed to conceal their arms in that country. The best and safest Arms Bill would be one which should present a temptation to the people to come of their own accord and have 739 their arms registered, by giving them the assurance that, when registered, they would be allowed to retain them for their own security.
The Marquess of Londonderry
thought Her Majesty's Government ought not, especially in the present state of Ireland, to abandon those means of obtaining tranquility in that country which had been employed by former Governments; and he believed their Lordships would record their opinions in favour of this bill. In all the discussions which had taken place on Irish affairs great differences of opinion had prevailed; and he believed that if the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord were adopted, a lenthened discussion would be raised in another place, which, considering the opposition which had been offered to the Arms Bill in that House, would probably be carried on for several weeks. The noble Marquess opposite had complained that Government had not proposed other measures relating to Ireland; but if the noble Marquis reflected on the number of nights which had been occupied in another place in the discussion on the Arms Bill, he might infer that had other measures with reference to Ireland been introduced they might have encountered similar opposition. A noble Friend of his (the Earl of Roden), whom he highly honoured, and who was well acquainted with the general state of Ireland, had the other night given utterance to some very strong opinions; but he must say that his noble Friend on that occasion seemed to be relying on partial information, and his knowledge was apparently confined to a particular district in the province of Ulster. He resided in a district of that province; add he had received from his own neighbourhood, and from other portions of the province, statements of a widely different character from those made by the noble Lord. He had received a communication from one of the best informed men in the county of Down, which contradicted the statement that universal terror and alarm prevailed among the Protestant population of Ireland. The letter was from a gentleman residing in the neighbourhood of Belfast, who stated that there was no foundation for the statement that great alarm existed in that district, and that the only intelligence he possessed respecting the districts in which agitation prevailed was gained from the public papers. The writer also stated that a great Protestant 740 meeting had been appointed to take place on the 7th of September; and he understood notice had been given that a counter-meeting would be held on the same day; that he feared a religious strife would be excited between the Protestants and Roman Catholics; and that he believed, if no notice had been taken of O'Connell or of his proceedings, the agitation would speedily have subsided. It seemed that a great meeting was to be held on the 7th of September, in order to organise the Protestants of the district. He deprecated such a course, for he believed no advantage would be derived from meetings of this nature, which only tended to excite political and religious party feeling. He had read with great pleasure the eulogium which had been pronounced by a right hon. Baronet in another place on the conduct of the Irish Protestants; and he trusted the Protestant inhabitants of Ireland would still continue to pursue the course they had heretofore adopted. He believed the Protestants would, as one man, act upon the recommendation of the right hon. Gentleman to whom he had referred, and that they would not attempt to organize meetings which might only show their numerical inferiority to the Roman Catholics. He believed the danger of the present crisis was every day diminishing, for O'Connell had, as was sometimes said, come to a fix; he could neither move forward nor go back, and the meetings which he had some time been holding were on the decline. He felt confident that the Government would continue to have forces in Ireland which might act in case of need, though God forbid that such necessity should arise. He believed the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington) would adopt measures for reinforcing the troops in Ireland, so that there might always be means at hand of keeping that country in subjection. He trusted that during the recess no noble Lords—nor indeed any other individuals—would endeavour to get up in Ireland, and especially in the northern districts, any counter-meetings to those which were now in progress; and he believed if they abstained from such proceedings and confided in the executive Government, they would next session find that the country would be restored to a state of tranquility. He had thought it his duty, as he had received communications on this subject from many persons residing in his own neighbourhood, to 741 state to the House the general opinion of the Protestants of Ulster. [The Earl of Roden—No, no.] He had before differed from his noble Friend. He had differed from him as to the propriety of holding meetings of the character to which he had referred, because he considered it desirable to avoid every step which might create disunion in the ranks of the Protestants. He was convinced that, if an attempt were made in the province of Ulster to get up this sort of—he would not say "flare-up" but—meeting, it would only lead to a great meeting of the Catholics. If the noble Duke had not an army to back the Protestants, in case an attempt should be made to subvert their altars, to destroy the church, and to deprive them of their property, he (the Marquess of Londonderry) was convinced that these assemblages of undisciplined multitudes would afford them no protection. They must be defended by England; and, if necessary, by English armies. He was convinced, that the Protestants of Ireland would rally round the gentry of that country, without having recourse to such meetings as those to which he had directed their Lordships' attention. He would venture to say—and he might say the same with respect to all the gentry of Ulster—that there was not a man upon his estate who would not stand by him; but he did not wish to take them at his heels to the great Ulster meeting. He thought they might rely upon the determination of the Protestants, backed by the military, to defend the Church and the throne of these realms.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time.