§ The Irish Insurrection bill, and also the Irish Habeas Corpus Suspension bill, were read a first time, after which, a motion, made by the earl of Liverpool, for the Suspension of the Standing Orders, No. 26, and 105, was agreed to.
The Earl of Liverpool
rose, to move the second reading of the Irish Insurrection bill. It was, he said, with the deepest regret, that he came forward to state the existence, in any part of the United Kingdom, of a state of things which required the exercise of the powers given by this bill—powers which had never been entrusted to the government of this part of the British empire, but which had unfortunately, on more than one occasion, been found necessary in Ireland. The measure was founded on one which had been formerly adopted; and it was for their lordships to consider, whether the bills now before them, or something equivalent to them, were not necessary. The papers on the table contained the proofs of the necessity of these bills. But, were there no papers on their lordships table, he should have little difficulty in showing, from the outline of facts, so notorious as those which the state of Ireland presented, that their lordships were bound to grant to the executive go- 186 vernment the powers conveyed by this bill. It was said, that their lordships ought to go to the source of the evil, and inquire what general remedy could be applied. That, of course, was a thing most proper to be done; but at a future time. When a house was in flames, the first object was, to extinguish them; the next, to consider by what means a repetition of the conflagration was to be prevented. At present, then, their lordships were called upon to examine, whether the extraordinary provisions of the measures submitted to them were necessary for the immediate object of suppressing insurrection; and whether it would be safe to delay the application of those, or of some such measures, in order to look for a more general remedy. With respect to the state of Ireland, he had said, on a former occasion, that there was nothing political in the nature of the present disturbances. This was a fact which could not be disputed. The disorders did not arise from discontent connected with any popular question, or from a spirit of hostility to the government. They had, indeed, no political object in view. Their origin appeared to be much deeper in the frame of society. It was impossible not to see, that the insurrection was one directed solely against certain property, and the lives of the owners of such property; and that it arose, in a great measure, from private feuds and dislike to individuals. But though it began in private views and in a spirit of dissatisfaction against particular persons, the spirit had widely diffused itself, and was in danger of becoming general throughout the country. This, then, differed from ordinary insurrections, in which, although property might suffer, it was only incidentally attacked; is destruction not being the direct object of the discontented. On the contrary, n the present, the attack was directed immediately against the property and the lives of persons who were in a higher station of society than the assailants. When he stated this as a matter of general notoriety, as a description of the state of things which could not be disputed, there could be no doubt in the mind of any man, that it was the bounden duty of parliament to employ the most prompt and effectual means for suppressing the disorders. Looking at the outrages which had been committed, though those of a more aggravated character were con- 187 fined to a particular part of the country, it was obvious that their tendency was to spread to every other part. This was felt in the most remote provinces. The insurrection was not, therefore, to be considered an ebullition of local discontent, or a disorder confined to particular districts: it appeared to be part of a connected system, which had its centre somewhere, from which it moved, and whose object it was, to spread in every direction. If the evil were local, or confined within narrow limits, a partial measure might be sufficient; but their lordships were not to look merely to the spots in which it now existed in an aggravated state, but its disposition to extend itself; and when they were satisfied that such was its character, they must necessarily admit, that the application of a general measure was indispensable. There certainly was no desire entertained by the executive government, either in this country or Ireland, to possess any extraordinary powers, if the effect of the ordinary exercise of the law could be relied on. The Irish government had indeed manifested at first a wish that the measures resorted to on a former occasion should not be renewed. After the disturbances in autumn last, the first measure which government thought of, after adopting those military precautions which the state of the country required, was, to bring some of the offenders to trial. This was done, and it was hoped that the executions at Limerick would have put an end to the disturbances. That expectation had been, however, unfortunately disappointed. The executive government of Ireland came, therefore, for an extension of powers, after having tried in vain all the ordinary means—after having found that the examples which were made of some leading offenders had not produced the wished-for effect. Under these circumstances, he proposed to their lordships that they should pass the bills before them. The one first in order came recommended to them by the consideration, that it was a measure sanctioned by experience—that it had already been tried and found to answer. The object of both was, the immediate suppression of the evil. Their lordships were not now called upon to grant powers the nature of which were unknown, for they were the same which it unhappily had been necessary to apply to the evil heretofore. It had been asserted, that 188 the object which these bills had in view might be attained by an extension of the military force; but it was plain that, if the view he had taken of the nature of the evil was correct, an extension of military force would not meet it. With a military force, a large body of insurgents collected on any given point might be put down; but if there was reason to expect that the spirit was extending to other parts of the country, and that there was danger of its becoming general, then no measure could be successful, which was not in its nature preventive. It was necessary to put down the evil where it did exist, and to prevent its springing up where its seeds were sown; and a military force was not applicable to these different objects. It was not his wish that these bills should continue longer in force than the state of the country should indispensably require. But it was said, that measures of conciliation ought to accompany those of severity. It was, however, obvious, that the evil must be suppressed, before any thing could be proposed in the shape of a general remedy. When the proper time came for considering the state of Ireland, he would not shrink from the investigation, nor hesitate to give his opinion of the nature of the evil, and of the remedies which appeared to him practicable. The duty of their lordships was, however, to adopt some efficient measures in the first instance.
§ The Earl of Blesington
said, that had the noble earl accompanied his proposition to the House by an assurance that the bills were proposed on the recommendation of the present lord lieutenant of Ireland, he should not be disposed to view them with so much jealousy as he did. But when the noble earl said, the measures were recommended by the executive government, it became very doubtful in whose advice they originated; for, if the term executive government meant now the same thing as it did in the time of the duke of Richmond, their lordships would have to understand by it the secretary of state for the home-department, and the Irish secretary. With regard to the consideration of the state of Ireland at a future period, he did not anticipate much advantage from it. More than twenty years had passed since the Union, and the state of Ireland had never been properly investigated. The great causes of the evil were obvious. The imposition of heavy burdens, and the misapplication of the 189 public money in pensions and sinecures, had a most pernicious influence on the country. It was his intention soon to move for a list of the pensions granted since 1799. Tithes were also a great operating cause of discontent, and the distillery laws another. When a law giving such powers was proposed to be passed, it would be well for their lordships to consider what the state of the magistracy was. He objected to the practice of choosing for magistrates, chiefly clergymen and attornies. He hoped the lord chancellor would strictly examine the roll of magistrates, and ascertain whether they were persons capable of discharging their functions, with such additional powers as were given by these bills. Ministers were doubtless anxious to protect the lives and properties of individuals, but he expected no effectual remedy from any measures of theirs.
thought it highly proper that the bill should undergo some modification. If, passed in its present state, parliament would probably have no opportunity of reconsidering it before June or July; a time when it was known to every person, how thin an attendance there was even upon the most important question. He should therefore propose, in the committee, to limit the duration of the bill to the 15th of March, which would be six weeks, in place of six months. It should be recollected, that this bill had its origin in the Irish parliament, the conduct of which, in its mischievous mode of legislating for the country, was one of the arguments urged in support of the Union.
said, that feeling the strongest objection to the bills on constitutional grounds, he thought it his duty to explain the reasons which induced him not to oppose them at present. With respect to the noble marquis who recommended, it was said, the adoption of some strong measures, he was quite willing to attribute to his recommendation all the authority it deserved. He thought, however, that the subject for their lordships' consideration was rather the particular nature of the facts and disturbances on which these bills were grounded, than the particular measure recommended by the executive government of Ireland. It was upon the horrible and revolting nature of these facts, and upon this alone, that the measures could, in his view of them, be supported. In the dispatches upon the table, he saw nothing wanting of those 190 symptoms which threatened imminent danger, unless the evil were put a stop to by some speedy and efficacious measures. One circumstance peculiarly alarming in the present rebellion was, that none of the causes assigned for previous rebellions in Ireland could account for it. The events now passing discovered a diseased, frightfully diseased state of society in that country, arising from circumstances not susceptible, he believed, of immediate remedy. It was on these grounds he thought strong measures necessary. He was not prepared to say that those now proposed were the very best; but the insurrection bill had this claim to support—that it had been tried before, and found efficacious. He felt no hesitation in intrusting to the executive authority in Ireland the application of the measure proposed. The noble earl opposite admitted the necessity of some inquiry into the state of Ireland, and gave their lordships reason to hope that it would be entered into when the disturbances were put down. Without some such assurance, he certainly should not have so easily acquiesced in the proposed measures. He was the more inclined to come to a vote in favour of the proposed measures, when he recollected that declaration, so truly royal, which had been made in the memorable document issued in consequence of his majesty's visit to Ireland. He believed that the same spirit which dictated that letter would influence the execution of these measures; and impressed with that conviction, he gave his vote for the motion.
The Earl of Darnley
said, that if he could abstain from giving his opposition to the proposed measures, it would be from his willingness to repose confidence in the present government of Ireland; but the circumstances of the present case precluded him from suffering the opportunity to pass without declaring his dissent from the proposition. It was now several months since a spirit of Insurrection had burst forth in Ireland. The government saw it increasing, and yet proposed no measures for its suppression, until they came forward, in the extremity of rigour, with these severe and unconstitutional bills. Then parliament were told, that no time was to be lost, and that the necessity for the bills was so urgent, they must be passed without the smallest delay. With reference to the papers on the table, it appeared to him that the great mass of insubordination which had assumed the 191 shape of insurrection, was almost exclusively confined to the county of Cork. These papers might furnish ground for the application of martial law in that part of the country; but he did not see how the same rigour could be necessary elsewhere." The House would bear in mind, that, by the proposed measures, they were about to vest in the discretion of the magistracy of Ireland a tremendous power. With all due deference towards the Irish magistracy, be might speak of them as connected with topics which were notorious to the world. The state of society in Ireland was unfortunately so convulsed by petty distinctions, that it was unsafe to confide extreme power in the hands of any individuals however respectable. These bills conferred a power upon the magistracy of inflicting seven years transportation, without the intervention of a jury; and that sentence might be inflicted for being found in a public-house or out at night, between the hours of sunset and sun-rise. It was said, that these measures were called for, to satisfy the views of the noble marquis at the head of the Irish government. He saw no proof of this in the papers on the table. He was ready to confer adequate powers upon the lord lieutenant to meet the present crisis: but let them be plainly and avowedly called for. In the present excesses of a part of the Irish population, there was much more to commiserate than to punish. But his majesty's ministers said this was not the time to consider grievances. He entertained a different opinion, and felt that no time was more applicable to ascertain the cause of this great disorganization. The delay of ministers was, he repeated, highly censurable. Two months had elapsed since he forwarded to the noble lord (Sidmouth) a petition to the king from a number of Irish gentlemen who had assembled at the Thatched-house tavern, and who prayed that parliament might be immediately convened to consider the situation of Ireland. The visit of the king to Ireland had been alluded to, and he hoped it would, in its consequences, prove as auspicious as it had been stated to be in the royal Speech. The existence of great evils in the state of Ireland could not be doubted. They were attributable to a variety of causes, and their origin might be traced to the earliest date of British connexion with that unfortunate country. Instead of promoting civilization, as England had done in all her colonies, she had, in that unhappy country, adopted 192 no principle but that of severe coercion, and ages of division and bloodshed had followed. He implored the government to retrace their steps. Let the odious distinctions which separated large classes of the people in that unfortunats country be removed, and a dominion of affection be substituted for a government of the sword.
§ The Marquis Camden
expressed his hope that the present bill would pass. He was one of those who, in supporting the measure, thought it had not been too soon brought forward. He was quite persuaded that, in the present situation of Ireland, measures of this kind, however painful, were absolutely necessary. The noble marquis recited the provisions of the bill, and dwelt on the security against the abuse of power which was furnished by connecting a king's serjeant and barrister of eminence with the local magistracy in the administration of the act. He thought this provision obviated the objections which were felt against the original construction of the bill. Parliament were bound to give the utmost energy to the government of Ireland, in order to put down an extensive spirit of insurrection. He agreed that the state of that country ought to receive the consideration of the legislature, and hoped that the subject would be introduced in a calm and dispassionate manner, unmixed with irritable topics which might defeat the purposes of candid inquiry.
said, that whilst their lordships were about to pass these very severe laws against Ireland, he hoped they would not dismiss from their minds the absolute necessity, at a very early period, of taking the state of that country into their consideration. He was willing to assist them in putting out the flame; but it was their most sacred duty—a duty which could be no longer delayed without the greatest criminality—to adopt wise and healing measures with respect to that country, in order to prevent the recurrence of evils which they all deplored. He gave his vote in favour of the present measures with the greatest pain: he had read with the utmost attention the papers on their table; and, until he had read them, he did not think it was possible that the marquis Wellesley could have taken up eighteen pages, detailing acts of violence and outrage, without expressing a single, opinion on the state of the country, or the causes which had produced those 193 lamentable events. Disappointed in that quarter, he had hoped that the noble earl who introduced the present measures, would have made some satisfactory statement to the House: he had hoped to have heard from him some decided opinion on the state of Ireland, and the intentions of ministers with respect to the future government of that country; but in all these expectations, he regretted to say, he had been altogether disappointed. He would give his support to the bill, because he felt the necessity of it: but he could assure their lordships, that it was impossible for him to describe the pain he felt in being obliged to sanction a measure of such severity. For the wretchedness of the Irish people, he felt the utmost commiseration; but rebellion was not to be trifled with—it must be put down, and put down by the sword; a military force in that country was absolutely necessary, and here he begged to say, that he could not suppress his utter astonishment, on reading a paragraph in one of the papers on the table. Here the noble lord read the following paragraph from a memorial of the magistrates of the Southern district of 'the county of Cork to the marquis Wellesley.—"From Clonakilty where there is a yeomanry corps on duty, to Skibbereen where there is a subaltern and sixteen men, of a regiment of infantry, a distance of 16 miles, with a crowded population, there are about six police men. From Skibbereen to Crookhaven, a distance of twenty four miles, equally populous, there may be perhaps eight police men, an establishment wholly inadequate to the ordinary duties of civil constables, much less to the suppression of formidable insurrection. In filet, the whole district may be said to be in a defenceless state. These disturbances broke out last autumn. Every day they had become more desperate and alarming. What had ministers been doing ever since? How did it happen that they left a space of forty miles of the most disturbed part of Ireland to be defended by forty men? It was ludicrous to pass the present bills, or even bills of a more severe description—it was idle to establish military law itself; unless government sent with the law a strong military force. It would he necessary, he feared, to station a military force in that country, not for a short period, but for successive years, in order to prevent the possible recurrence of those desperate and disgraceful outrages, which it was 194 now the first duty of the legislature to put down. They were not of a transitory nature; they proceeded from causes which were still in operation; they were possessed of an elasticity which drove them forward with increased violence, when the depressing force was removed. He would again entreat of ministers to consider the situation of Ireland; the grievances under which that country labours; and the causes which produced the public disturbances. He hoped that the noble marquis at the head of the Irish government would not content himself with the mere exercise of those extraordinary and unconstitutional powers with which the present measures would arm him. He trusted that his active and comprehensive mind would be exerted to sound the depths of the grievances and miseries of his native country. If he should fail to do so, he (Lord E.) could not continue the confidence which he was at present disposed to repose in him. The present moment was not the time to go into a detail of the grievances of Ireland. A better opportunity would, he hoped, speedily present itself. The bill which was before their lordships last year he never considered as the sole remedy. If passed to-morrow, it would not, he believed, haven sensible effect on the state of Ireland. He had never considered it a cure for all her distresses; but he must ever consider that measure as the basis of other measures for her amelioration. With that conviction strongly on his mind, he had always supported the principle of that bill, and he always would support it. There were other grievances which demanded immediate redress. The situation of the country, with respect to the tithe system, called for immediate consideration. It formed a subject of inquiry too prominent to be longer overlooked. He would say, that there was no measure which the wisdom, or justice, or humanity of parliament could devise, more necessary in itself, more likely to remove the discontent of Ire, land, or one which would be hailed by the suffering population of that land with so much joy and thankfulness, as a revision of the tithe system. He was aware that the measure was one of great difficulty, but he knew also that it was one which was expected by suffering millions; he knew that it was necessary, and that it was not impossible. Feeling these sentiments strongly, he called upon ministers, as they valued a he tranquillity of the coun- 195 try, to bring forward without delay a measure of that nature; for in common with every man who knew any thing of the situation of Ireland, he was convinced that that could alone remove the discontent of Ireland. For the present, he should only repeat, the pain it gave him to be obliged to support the present measures. Once more he would implore of ministers to bring the state of Ireland under the immediate consideration of parliament, with a view to the adoption of measures of melioration and redress.
§ Lord Redesdale
declared his opinion in favour of the proposed bills, in order to put down insurrection in Ireland. A good deal had been said respecting the character of the magistracy of that country. When he was chancellor of Ireland, he had taken considerable pains to induce the most respectable persons in that country to belong to the local magistracy. Their answer almost always was, that they should not hesitate to accept the office, if they could secure the support and co-operation of the great owners of property in the country; but it was only in a few instances he could prevail upon them to act. Under such circumstances, the only thing which the government could do was, to take the magistracy as they could find them, and to frame them accordingly. The present insurrection was not mixed up with religion or politics, but was directed against the old established law of the land. The great evil of Ireland was, that she never had been made duly amenable to the laws. Sir John Davies, the Irish attorney-general in the time of James the first., had said, that all were in fault in Ireland; the high and the low, the rich and the poor; and so it had remained to the present day. He knew that too great a spirit of disobedience prevailed, and that too many were found to take advantage of its existence to promote their own peculiar ends. The first thing to be done was, to render all in Ireland obedient to the law, the high and the low, the rich and the poor. Let no man, however high, dare to evade the law with impunity: let no mad, however poor and humble, feel that he was without its equal protection; then the people of Ireland would be found as obedient as any other people were, who knew they enjoyed the equal protection of the law. He had found them, in his intercourse with them, a people most sensible of kindness and attention. He repeated, 196 that if the government could effect a full, fair, and firm administration of the laws, the most salutary consequences would result. If their lordships referred to the past history of that unfortunate country, they would find that those who were sent over from this country, had done nothing to improve the condition of the people intrusted to their charge. A farmer in the North Riding of Yorkshire had once pointed with pride to the protection afforded him by a bench of 200 magistrates. Where was the man in Ireland who could exult in the same reference? On the subject of education he must say, that the great body of the people in Ireland took too little pains with the education of their children in early youth. There were many measures of internal regulation, the adoption of which would be most advantageous to Ireland. among these were better regulations in the leasing of lands. There were often five or six intermediate tenants between the owner and occupier: in one case he had recommended to a friend the abolition of five of them, and his property had been much improved in consequence. In the manner of recovering lands some improvements might be introduced to assimilate the practice to that prevaling in England. In Ireland the Ian & lord was injured, and the tenant ruined, by the present process. As to the noble marquis at the head of the Irish government, so far from thinking him culpable for not early committing his responsibility in proposing remedial measures, he should have held him up as rash and indiscreet if he had proposed any plan in the present confused state of Ireland, and at the moment of his landing.
agreed entirely with his noble friends near him, as to the character of the proposed measures. He appreciated the feelings of the noble lord (Ellenborough) who had expressed the pain it gave him to vote for these bills; and, though he also concurred in much of what had fallen from the learned lord who had spoken last, he could not refrain from expressing his surprise, that he should have given his vote unhesitatingly for measures of this description. With more generous compassion for the people of Ireland, did the other noble lord confess the pain given by a vote wrung from him by hard necessity. He honoured that noble lord's motives, concurred in his feelings, and, if he could think with him that the proposed bill was calculated 197 to remedy the existing disorders in Ireland, he, too, would support it with his vote—a vote that he could, as an Englishman, only yield to hard and cruel necessity. Arbitrary and unconstitutional as this authority was—difficult as it would be under any circumstances to wrest his consent for its enactment—yet he confessed he had not come to the determination to vote against it, without considerable reflection, and some painful hesitation. He did not deny the existence of a spirit of insurrection and lawless violence in Ireland, and that it must be met by force. He was not only ready to acknowledge, that the papers on their table convinced him of the necessity of immediately reducing the evil, but be was also ready to acknowledge that some additional law was necessary to reduce it. He was ready also to acknowledge, that to the recommendation of the noble marquis then at the head of the Irish government he would bow, as far as was consistent with a conscientious discharge of duty. He was likewise ready to acknowledge that, without having either much political knowledge of, or much personal acquaintance with, that distinguished character, there was no man to whom he would more willingly commit extraordinary powers. It was not to swell a period or to found any argument hereafter upon it, that he bestowed this praise upon the noble marquis. Though on some points he had differed from, and on others agreed with, that noble personage in political sentiment, it was only justice to state, that he had never entertained but one opinion with regard to his talents, energy, liberality, and integrity. That opinion had not been shaken by any discussion which he had yet heard; and he trusted that it would not be shaken by any part of the noble marquis's conduct in his new administration. Nay, he was not sure that he might not have voted for the passing of these bills, if the noble earl opposite had shown their lordships a single sentence from the dispatches of the noble marquis calling for the enactment of such powerful measures. The noble earl, however, had not afforded them the slightest evidence of such being the wishes of the noble marquis. Now, in such a case, their lordships were bound to exercise a judgment founded upon the evidence submitted to their consideration; and, exercising such a judgment, he felt convinced, that the noble earl asked for a 198 remedy that was not adapted to the exigency of the case, or to the nature of the complaint. A noble lord had said, that when a house was on fire, it was the first duty of the inhabitants to extinguish the flames. So, with regard to the measures now proposed for the tranquillizing of Ireland, he should say to ministers, "It is your duty to restore that country to a state of peace and order: you are now proposing most rigid and severe measures to effect that object; be it so—but it was your duty to have provided means, if not to have prevented the existence, at least to have retarded the progress on its first appearance, of that spirit of discontent which is aiming at the destruction of the whole fabric of public security." Now, when he looked at the papers on their table, he could not help observing, that a want of military force and of physical strength had occasioned the calamities which were now devastating Ireland; and that such a want of military force—a want for which the government was to blame—was at present the principal evil under which that unfortunate country was labouring. Their lordships would find from the documents on their table, that wherever there was no military force or only an inadequate military force, the disturbances were daily increasing in number and violence, and gradually assuming the character of insurrection and rebellion. There was not, indeed, any very strong inference to be deduced from that circumstance; but, if it appeared, as it did appear, that wherever an adequate military force was stationed, there the disturbances had been put down immediately, and had subsequently disappeared altogether, it followed that as a want of military force had encouraged, so a supply of it had extinguished the flames of insurrection. It was obvious from these papers, that wherever an adequate military force was stationed, no such domiciliary visits as the bill under discussion authorized magistrates to make, were either necessary or useful; and it was almost equally clear, that the other part of the bill which gave magistrates the power of arresting suspicious individuals, where no military force was at hand to support them in making the arrest, could not prevent misled individuals from resorting to their present unjustifiable conduct. Let the house, too, recollect the situation in which the magistrates confessed themselves to be 199 placed. They stated, that their physical strength was not equal to encounter the evils by which they were at present surrounded. Now, when by this act, an individual could be condemned without either judge or jury—for to talk of the advantage of having a king's counsel to sit with the magistrates was mere hypocritical cant, inasmuch as by having a right to dispense with the "probi et legales homines" of the county they had a power which was contrary to the very existence of a constitutional judge—was their situation likely to be improved? The magistrate might indeed go with the yeomanry in quest of any person who was suspected of being in league with the insurgents; but was it likely that that person would give himself up with greater readiness to the strong arm of power, now that the severity of the punishment was increased and the chance of escaping the gripe of the law was diminished, than he would have done when the punishment was comparatively mild, and the chances of his acquittal incomparably greater? This appeared to him to be a strong objection against the competency of the measures under discussion to accomplish the end proposed; but, leaving it out of consideration for a while, he should object to them on account of the liability to abuse of the powers which they gave. He should not fatigue the House by showing that it was the duty of parliament to take it as a fundamental maxim, that all power was liable to abuse: he should content himself with proving that the power conferred by this act was peculiarly liable to it. Indeed, that was a point which it was almost impossible to deny, when the character of the persons to whom it was to be intrusted—and here he did not allude to the executive government of Ireland—was taken into consideration, as also the circumstances of the country, and the peculiar condition of its unfortunate peasantry. In the first place the very circumstances which led to the necessity of passing an Insurrection act, supposing such an act to be necessary, rendered the particular persons who were to exercise its powers more likely than they otherwise would be, to abuse their authority. What was the nature of those circumstances? It was shortly this—that there had been a contest between the magistracy and the people—a contest against the law on the part of the people, and in support of the law, on the part of the ma- 200 gistracy. From that contest the magistracy had come out unsuccessful; and it was at that very moment when they were animated by resentment (and, admitting even that it was a just resentment, still it was a goad ground for disqualifying them to act as judges), that they were to be intrusted with arbitrary and discretionary power. Upon these principles, of all the persons intrusted with power, the magistrates were the most likely to abuse it. It the positions which he had just laid down were true as regarded the magistracy of every country, he could not say that they were less true as regarded the magistracy of Ireland. The noble lord had indeed told them, that in passing the Insurrection act they were not passing a new law: that they were acquainted with its nature, and had had experience of its effects. Yes, they did know its nature—they were acquainted with its effects; and, unfortunately, there were but few of them who had not heard tales, and well-attested tales too, of the cruelties and oppressions which had been practised under it. Did any man doubt the veracity of those tales? Then let him go to the records of the tribunals of Ireland, and he would find them enrolled there in characters which admitted of no dispute. God forbid that he should revive these tales to, gall an unfortunate but high-spirited nation! Yet this he would say, that the atrocities which had been formerly perpetrated under the Insurrection act, made him recoil from it with a mixed feeling of disgust, horror, and indignation. The noble lord had, however, said, that the result of it had been, to produce good whenever it was enacted. From such language their lordships would naturally suppose, that whenever any rebellion took place in: Ireland, this law was immediately passed to repress it, and that as soon as it had produced that effect it was suffered to expire. But, were their lordships so ignorant of the history of their own times, as to believe this to be the case? No, they could not be so; they must know that this law had been first passed in 1796, and that it had remained in force till—he begged their lordships' pardon—it did not remain in force, for all law was suspended, and a government, which all writers upon government had described as of the very worst species, a democracy of tyrants, was established in its stead Ireland, from 1796 to 1804. But, whew the Insurrection act was then suffered to 201 expire, their lordships might perhaps suppose that halcyon days began to shine on that unfortunate country, and that those who were entrusted with its administration began seriously to examine into the causes of its distress, and into the best means of removing them. No such thing: three years did not elapse before the measures which had repressed the evils caused the people to break out once more into acts of retaliatory outrage. In 1807, the Insurrection act was passed again, and existed for two or three years from that period. A noble lord, who at that time was a member of the opposite government, much to his own honour, went down to the House of Commons, in which he then had a seat, to move its repeal two or three months before it expired, on the ground of its not being necessary to continue it any longer. Did the noble lord mean to say, that even then, after wading so long through a Stormy sea of cruelty and oppression, the Irish nation had at last attained the shores of peace and harmony? No: the Statute-book answered the question in the negative; for it showed that the act in question was again passed, in consequence of the evils which it had repressed breaking forth with renewed activity. Again it was suffered to expire, and again, alter a temporary cessation, the system of violence and outrage, which it had been passed to put down, forced itself upon the notice of the country. It was now proposed to apply the same remedy to it as before; but to that application he could not consent, on account of the evils which the continued repetition of it was calculated before long to create. It was calculated to produce two results, and of those results he could not tell which would be the most pernicious. In the first place, it would inure the judges and magistrates of the land to the exercise of extraordinary powers; and, in the second, by inuring them to such powers, it would teach the people to consider them as tyrants and natural enemies. Such a state of things would naturally lead to outrage on the one side, and to tyrannical conduct on the other. Besides these evil consequences, it would also lead to another. The most upright magistrate could not help feeling at times the convenience to himself; and, as he would think, to the state, of the extraordinary powers intrusted to him and; consequently, on referring to the ordinary laws of the land, 202 and to the restrictions with which they guarded the life and liberty of the subject, he would see with a more acute eye the obstacles which they sometimes afforded to the detection and conviction of criminals, and would wish, in forgetfulness of the protection which those obstacles afforded on other occasions against personal outrage and oppression, to see them entirely abrogated. But, if such an effect was likely to be produced on the mind of a good magistrate, what was likely to be the effect on the mind of a bad one? Would it not be to instigate him to involve the country in disturbance, in order that he might be armed with excessive power to accomplish, under the shadow of the law, any of his own base and sinister purposes?—It was observed by the last noble lord, that no obedience to, or respect for, the law, was to be found in Ireland—a remark which he said applied not only to the low and poor; but to all classes and ranks of society. Now, that want of obedience to the law and respect for its ordinances he (lord H.) declared to be the chief cause of all the misery which had so long been devastating Ireland. For, what was the lesson taught by the practical administration of law in that country? Why, that the laws were good, and merited attention in times of peace and tranquillity, when no laws were wanted; but that in times of difficulty and danger, when it was most necessary to execute them fairly, they might be obeyed or not, as pleased the will of those who administered them. The consequence was, that the peasantry, who frequently received injuries from that very quarter which was bound to protect them from injuries, said to the magistracy, "We, too, will take the law into our own hands; we, too, will act on a system of lawless force; we will seek redress of our grievances from you, in the same manner that you seek redress of your grievances from us: we will worship the same Moloch of violence to which you yourselves have so often sacrificed." Could any man be weak enough to suppose that conduct founded upon such principles would not reproduce corresponding violence among the magistracy? There always had been, and there always would be, individuals of that body ready to assert, that the violent measures to which they persuaded the government to resort were rendered necessary, not by the re-action which they occasioned, but by the discontent and dis- 203 affection which existed among the lower orders of their countrymen. Indeed, it was too often their interest to have their immediate neighbourhood represented to government as disturbed, if they did not absolutely render it so by indulging their own licentious and iniquitous passions; for then each of them could strut about as the tyrant of his district; then every petty Midas could swell himself into an importance to which neither his rank nor his talent gave him any claim, and could thus, from the augmentation of their magisterial powers, spread terror and dismay amongst all those who did not yield instant obedience to their high behests. He did not pretend to advocate the policy of placing Ireland under martial law; but, in contrasting one severe measure with another, he might be permitted to express his conviction, that even the proclamation of martial law would be productive of less mischief to Ireland, than the enactment of laws like the present. If a magistrate were to know, that whenever his district became agitated, an overwhelming military force would be sent into it, that would sink him into insignificance as well as the wretch whom he persecuted; and if he were to find that upon such occasions the excesses of his own partisans were punished with the same severity as those of the deluded creatures to whom they were opposed, he would redouble his diligence to prevent such an evil from falling upon him and the district with which he was connected; he would pause a little before he called for the rigour of severe and revolutionary laws (for revolutionary these laws certainly were), because the weight of them would press on his own head as heavily as upon the head of those whom he was now in the custom of insulting and oppressing. Such would be the feelings and conduct of the magistrates, in the case which he had supposed; but, very different were their feelings and conduct under the existing state of things. He did not know much of the internal administration of the affairs of Ireland; but he believed that he was not stating more than facts justified him in stating, when he said that eight or nine months had never elapsed since the Union, without a number of the magistrates calling upon government to put the Insurrection act in force. No sooner did a lord lieutenant set his foot in Ireland, than he was involved in a multitude of intrigues and 204 cabals, of which the sole object was, to obtain the execution of that harsh and unconstitutional measure. He was surrounded by a faction, which, considering the government as its property, studied his character, in order to turn the defects of it to their own advantage. If he was a timid man, they attempted to frighten him into their views: if he was a spirited man, they endeavoured to win him to their side by putting him on his mettle. Indeed, no expedient was left untried to get him into their power, and a correspondence was opened with him by this immense faction, which extended itself through every part of Ireland, of which the sole drift was, to have the provisions of the Insurrection act carried into full effect.—After detailing the mischief which such a state of society was almost certain to generate, the noble lord said, there was one other subject, on which he could not refrain from making a few remarks. The subject to which he alluded was, the necessity of accompanying these laws of coercion with some measures of redress. There should, at least, be some pledge given by the members of administration that they would apply their attention to the mitigation of those grievances which every now and then were producing such violent paroxyms of rage and indignation in the minds of the people of Ireland. Among the other defects of the measure then under discussion, it was not the least, that it would render it still more difficult than it was at present to conciliate the spirit of its inhabitants—that it would act as an additional bar to their improvement, at the same time that it would not be sufficient to effect the purpose for which it was intended. When he said that the bill was insufficient for is purpose, he did not mean to say, that n a few months Ireland might not be more tranquil than it was at present: he had no doubt that it would be so, or the length of the days and the lightness of the nights would of themselves prevent many of the outrages low complained of. What he meant to say was this—that the bill would not eradicate the causes of the disturbances. Before their lordships proceeded to pass new restrictive laws for the government of Ireland, they ought, he would not say to grant Catholic emancipation, but to give a pledge that they were prepared to take hat subject into their immediate consideration. If such a pledge were not 205 given, apparent tranquillity might be achieved by this bill for a time, but it would not be long before their lordships would find, that all the symptoms of the present disease would break out with redoubled violence. Disturbance and riot would soon swell up into rebellion; and the insurrection would assume the aspect of a political and religious warfare. In the case of their neighbours, ministers could see clearly how such a change might be effected. When the persecution of the Protestants took place in the South of France, it was said to be the persecution of the followers of Buonaparte, and totally unconnected with any religious animosities. To whom, however, were the extraordinary powers, necessary to put down the disturbances, entrusted? To Catholics, who had their feelings irritated against the Protestants by the contest in which they had been engaged with them. The noble earl opposite smiled at the remark he had just made, as if it applied only to the Catholic. He, however, was of opinion that it applied to human nature. What did these Catholics say? Why, "the man is a Protestant; he is, therefore, a friend of Buonaparte, and therefore our arbitrary power may very fairly be exercised against him." Might not similar language, under a state of things almost similar, be used by some of the Protestant magistracy in Ireland? The man is a Catholic, and therefore a friend to riot and disturbance: and therefore a proper subject for the powers with which we are intrusted." If such a spirit was to direct the proceedings of the Irish magistrates, the riots, he would repeat, would soon be converted into a religious war. It would be a war of persecution on the one hand, and of religious enthusiasm on the other. The noble earl had, however, thought proper to inform them, that the causes of these disorders were not political. "In these paroxysms of disease," said the noble earl, "I give you remedies unpleasant to the palate; but do not, on that account, suppose that I am a quack; no, I have had a regular education, and I draw my skill in physic from long study and experience. The disease under which you are suffering is of an organic nature, and requires all the exertions of the faculty to remove or eradicate." Why, this was an extraordinary discovery indeed; the physician had been feeling the pulse of the patient for many years, an had never before said one word regarding this or- 206 ganic disease under which he was said to labour. But, had the patient himself never told his medical adviser about this organic disease; or had his friends been equally silent with respect to it? Oh dear, no; quite the reverse! One of them, a noble duke (Buckingham) who had lately received an elevation to the highest rank of the peerage, had specifically brought the subject under the consideration of this great state-physician, and the latter had treated it with ineffable contempt. A noble friend of his (earl Fitzwilliam) for whom it was impossible for him to express all the respect he felt, who had not been elevated a step in the peerage, but who was universally loved and venerated, had also brought forward a similar proposition; but that, as well as the other, had been scornfully dismissed. The noble earl opposite had neglected the disorder, till it was almost beyond his power to administer a remedy; but as he at length allowed that there was "something rotten in the state of Denmark," he (lord H.) expected a pledge that something would be done to remove it. It was preposterous to say that such pledge ought not to be given. The removal of Catholic disabilities, a measure which he had the honour of proposing twenty two years ago in that House, might not indeed be right; but it was utterly impossible that any government could discharge its duty to the people of Ireland, who excluded the question from their consideration, or to the people of England, to whom they said the Irish were labouring under a chronic as well as organic disease. The question of tithes was also an important question, and was connected with a system that created universal disgust and dissatisfaction in Ireland: and why so? Because they were paid to support a religion in which those who paid them did not believe. Whenever this was mentioned in the consultation of physicians, as one of the causes of the distemper, mum was the word immediately; "You may mention that in private as much as you like; but not a word of it in the public consultation: it is too delicate a subject to have it rashly handled!" It was a subject, however, so intimately connected with the other great question to which he had alluded, that he could not help referring, with some degree of disgust and indignation, to the compact which at present existed in the cabinet to prevent Catholic emancipation from being carried. "We 207 agree," said some of its leading members, "with what is said on both sides of the House, as to the importance of granting the Catholics this boon; but if we press it on our colleagues, we shall dissolve our cabinet. It is, therefore, better for us to keep office, and forfeit the good opinion of our countrymen, than to do that which Most persons allow to be necessary, though they differ as to the details of the measure by which it is to be effected." That might do tolerably well as long as the country was in a state of tranquillity; but he was anxious to exact from ministers, in the present state of affairs, a pledge that they would take a view of the whole subject, and give the country the benefit of their opinions upon it. The evils which affected the sister-country were too complicated in their nature to be removed at once, or by one measure. Let it not be thought that the removal of the Roman Catholic disabilities would effect such an object, or that it would be a panacea for all those evils. He fully admitted that it would be a most salutary measure; but it would not alone be sufficient. The system of tithes was another evil which required a specific remedy; and on this subject he fully concurred in the remark which he was pleased to hear come from the noble lord—that the man who could effect a commutation of them in Ireland would confer a most important benefit, for which he would deserve his country's thanks. Another evil complained of in Ireland was the absence of so many of its great landed proprietors. He would admit that it was an evil; but in any country where the measures of government separated the interest of the higher and lower classes; where the lower classes were kept in that state of oppression which must create apprehension in the minds of the higher; it would happen in such a country, where-ever it was, that the great proprietors of land would remove to other countries for the enjoyment of their affluence. But besides the causes just mentioned as the sources of the evils which affected Ireland, There was another, which, strengthened by those to which he had alluded, rose paramount to them all—it was that disrespect for the law which existed in every class in that country, from the highest to, the lowest, from the duellist, who, through a mistaken notion of honour, placed himself above the law, in order to redress his real or fancied, wrongs; to the poor bog-trotting peasant, 208 who in the night drove away his neighbour's cow, to repay himself a debt, rather than resort to a process of law, or employ a bailiff. This disrespect for the law prevailed in all classes; because all classes seemed to feel that the laws were wholly unfit for them. When such a dreadful evil existed, no time whatever should be lost in its correction, by the removal of the law, or by adapting it to the people. He would not enter further on this important subject; but, before he sat down, he could not but complain that their lordships had not been well treated by ministers, in the haste with which they proposed to carry this measure through the House, not even allowing four and twenty hours for its consideration. From the best attention which he could give these measures, he felt satisfied that they were not calculated to remedy the evils to which they were to be applied. And here he could not but think it extraordinary, that, if the noble marquis at the head of the Irish government had thought such measures necessary, he had not mentioned them in his dispatches. On the whole, he thought the power would be most likely to be abused, when put into the hands of magistrates who had abused that with which they were already intrusted.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, he did not rise to follow the noble baron through all the details of the question, his object was principally to advert to the employment of the military force in Ireland. He would first, however, remind the noble baron, who had argued as if the present measure was a permanent and universal one, that it went only to enable the lord lieutenant to proclaim certain disturbed districts in which it was necessary some prompt and powerful measures should be adopted, in order to repress those lawless acts of nocturnal outrage by which life and property were violated. For the absolute necessity of putting these districts under the operation of the law, the lord lieutenant was responsible; and he did hope their lordships would agree with him in concluding that his noble relative at the head of the Irish government, alive to that responsibility, would not allow it to be put in execution, except where the necessity demanded its application. With respect to the military force in Ireland, he must observe, that the amount of force stationed there at this period, was nearly double that which was stationed there before the commencement of the late, war. 209 Indeed, there was as large a force in that country as could be well employed. It was true that the law under discussion would demand the aid of force to carry it into execution; but the outrages which the Irish government were bound to repress, were of two descriptions. There was what he might designate a rebel force openly arrayed in the field; that description was to be met by force alone. In the other case, it would have to counteract the nightly aggressions of lawless bodies, who, taking advantage of darkness, plundered the peaceable inhabitants of their arms, and committed those outrages which were so fully described in the papers before the House. To put down these lawless practices, the powers of the proposed bill were necessary; supported certainly by military aid in carrying it into execution. That force alone could not prevent these disorders was evident from the fact, that houses in the immediate vicinity of barracks, where troops were stationed, had been actually attacked and plundered. Such occurrences were not imputable to any want of vigilance on the part of the military, but to the local nature of the country, and the disposition of the population among whom they were stationed. The certain means of preventing the repetition of such outrages was, by preventing people from leaving their homes from sunset to sunrise, and by punishing them, if they were found absent. But it might be said, that the magistrates would require the aid of a military force for the performance of this duty. Certainly they could not perform it alone; but he thought that when a district was proclaimed, there would always be force enough to take up those found transgressing; and he would contend, that if we had double our present military force in Ireland, still the present law would be necessary to enable government to deal with such individuals as he had described. Where a different kind of outrage was committed by patties in open insurrection, of course a different remedy must be employed. He repeated, that the lord lieutenant having called for these measures, would be responsible for their due execution; and he had no doubt he would exercise the power they gave him with a discretion which would merit the confidence of the country.
The Duke of Buckingham
considered the proposed measures ought to be carried, not merely from the confidence he placed 210 in the discretion of the lord lieutenant, (though he freely admitted that a more fit selection of a nobleman to place at the head of the Irish executive could not have been made)—not merely from the confidence he had in the great temper and moderation of the able and excellent man at the head of the law department in that country; but he thought them necessary from the notoriety of the evils to which they were to be applied. He was quite surprised to hear from the noble lord (Holland) an objection to the power given to the magistracy under these acts, and his predilection for the use of the military. What! were there to be two constitutions, one for England and another for Ireland? Why was the constitutional principle of the preference to the civil power to be neglected in Ireland, when it was so much desired in this country? The noble lord and his friends, had, on a former occasion, complained, that government had a preference to the use of the military. But why were the magistracy of Ireland not to be intrusted with powers under this act?—because, as was said, they were prejudiced persons. But, was not the country in a state of rebellion? And, in such a state, where one portion of the people were in arms against the other, was it to be said that the civil magistrates ought to have no power because they must be prejudiced against the party in rebellion? Why, the same argument would hold good against investing the magistrate with great powers in any imaginable case of public disturbance. But a military force was preferred. He recollected, that one of the reasons which induced him to join the Opposition against ministers was, their keeping up a military force which he thought much too large for the country. He continued in the same opinion still, that that establishment was too large; but it had been since reduced, and he thought it ought not to be increased without the most urgent necessity. That necessity he did not see in the case of Ireland. The noble duke concluded by declaring his conviction that the present measures were, in principle and in detail, the best which could be adopted for putting down the disturbances in Ireland.
The Marquis of Lansdown
said, that although he did not think there was any inconsistency in the vote which he should give, yet the subject to which it referred 211 was of a nature so important, that he could not refrain from making a few remarks thereon. There were two questions before their lordships—the first, whether the bill should pass at all? and the second, of which notice had been given by his noble friend, what was to be the period of its duration? In order that he might not trouble their lordships a second-time, he would embrace both those questions in the few observations he had to make. As to the first question, he came to it not without that anxiety which every man must feel who had to vote on a measure on which might depend the welfare of his country; and, with the deepest regret at its over-ruling necessity, he felt bound to say that he must assent to the measure before their lordships. He alluded particularly to the Insurrection bill; for as to the necessity of the Habeas Corpus Suspension bill, he had not heard any grounds stated; but he supposed the grounds on which it would be moved rested equally on the responsibility of the government of Ireland. Now, he would admit that much of the detail of such a measure must rest with the executive government; and in that point of view it might be important to inquire as to the discretion with which it might be exercised. He confessed that he felt considerable disappointment, in looking at the selection (for selection it must be called) of the correspondence of the noble marquis, which had been laid before their lordships. His disappointment arose from not finding in that correspondence any mention made of the causes or the evils complained of, and of the probable-means by which they might be remedied. He was quite surprised to hear from a noble earl, that any difficulty could arise in the mind of the noble marquis on the subject of stating his opinion on those subjects for the information of the legislature. No one would expect that a statement of the kind alluded to, on the part of the noble marquis, should comprise a particular bill for the remedy; but it might be expected that the legislature should hear the opinion of that noble lord as to the causes to which he might attribute the present disturbances. There was a precedent for such a course under the administration of lord Whitworth in Ireland; for, on one occasion, that noble lord had transmitted a statement respecting the condition of that country, in which he pointed out the defects which ought to be remedied 212 in its political, legal, and military situation. That statement did great credit to the good sense and sound judgment of the noble earl, and would remain a lasting proof of his zeal and diligence in the discharge of his important trust. But, after that example, was he now to be told, that, under the circumstances now existing in Ireland, their lordships were not to expect from the head of the executive government in Ireland a statement calculated to inform them of the real situation of that country? Could any one at all acquainted with the talents and habits of the noble Marquis, doubt that there existed in the possession of his majesty's government full details given by him as to the causes of the evils upon which they were now legislating, and which, he contended, ought to have been on their lordships table? It was not, therefore, from the papers which had been laid before them that he had formed his opinion as to the state of Ireland, and the necessity for the present measure. He had formed it upon the notoriety of the case itself; from the frequency of nocturnal assemblages of armed men, from the murders, robberies, and open defiance of all law and authority; and when he recollected that such a man as Grattan—that zealous and incorruptible friend of his country, who had ever viewed her with the eye of a parent, while he watched over her interests with the foresight of a statesman—when he recollected that that great man did not think such a measure as this inapplicable, in a case certainly less urgent than the present; when he saw the wretched state in which that country now stood; that rebellion, like a torrent, was pouring over the land, and threatening the destruction of all social order, he had no alternative but to consent that the legislature should first put down the evil, and afterwards fortify the state against its recurrence. But, while he admitted that the hands of the executive ought to be strengthened by the law, he did not stand pledged to the particular remedy proposed, any further than experience led hint to judge of its effects. When such powers were to be conferred as their lordships were then about to bestow, it should be a subject of serious consideration how they could be best administered, and who were the fittest instruments for their exercise. In looking at this part of the case, he fully concurred in the view taken by his noble friend (lord Holland), that the employ- 213 ment of the military was much preferable, in carrying this law into effect, than that of the magistrates, under present circumstances. He felt fully disposed to put confidence in the government of Ireland, and to give it that power which, in his opinion, would be most effectual. At the same time, he had an objection to that part of the detail, by which its execution would, in a great degree, be intrusted to the magistracy: and that objection arose from his recollection of the operation of the act on former occasions. On this part of the subject he would not give his own opinion, but that of a very eminent judge of the Irish bench. He would read an extract from the charge of Judge Fletcher co the grand jury of a county, in the year 1814. In that charge he stated to them, that the Insurrection act consisted in a suspension of the English constitution and the trial by jury; that, by that act, any seven magistrates had the power of putting it in force, after which every roan was obliged to remain within his house, or, if found out of it after a certain hour, he was liable to transportation. The learned judge then stated, that this was a power, the exercise of which ought to be narrowly watched; for that it had, on certain occasions, been abused; and he stated as a fact that had come within his own knowledge, that a magistrate had been the means of procuring a trip across the Atlantic for one of his tenants, by which a beneficial lease had fallen into his own hands. He did not mean to say that there were not most respectable individuals in the magistracy of Ireland: but, he must say, what could not be contradicted, namely, that there were admitted into that body persons wholly unfit for the trust reposed in them. He could further add, what had come within his own knowledge, that many of the most respectable individuals had refused to accept the commission of the peace, because they would not be associated with such individuals. This he mentioned, to show, that some steps ought to he taken to purify the magistracy of Ireland. Their lordships would allow him to add, that many persons who, about ten or fifteen years ago, were, from their property or station in society, fit to be magistrates of Ireland, were no longer so. This arose from a variety of circumstances connected with the difference of prices, the alteration of the currency, and the transition from a state of war to one of the peace. Among these persona, there were many who had 214 since lost their all. Many who had been once sufficiently respectable to be put in the commission of the peace, were left in that state of ruin and poverty, that did not entitle them to be selected as the magistrates in whom such large powers were to be vested. Let not their lordships believe, that there would not arise out of the excess of such powers (setting aside the consideration of all impropriety of conduct on the part of those who were to possess them, all ebullitions of violence or anger, and looking only to the necessary consequences of such enactments)—let not their lordships suppose, that there would not be left behind, the seeds of hatred and contempt on the one side, and of suspicion and fear on the other. Those wholesome and excellent ties by which the lower and higher orders were bound together in a peaceable and constitutional country, were rudely torn asunder in those countries, where the less fortunate condition of these relations led the lower orders to consider the higher as their enemies, and sometimes, he was sorry to say, induced the higher orders to look upon the persons exposed to their arbitrary sway with that indifference and contempt with which despotic masters might be supposed to look upon their slaves. Their lordships might he assured that when such notions were once implanted, it was with difficulty that the state of confidence and good-will which was the guarantee of peace upon a broad and permanent basis could be recovered. It. was therefore that he thought much weight attached to the argument of his noble friend, for the employment of the military in preference to the magistrates, because the former power began and ended with the evil which it was called forth to overcome, and when the acts of violence had terminated, the persons were no longer in the view of those against whom they had acted. They were withdrawn, and left the affection of the lower orders to return towards those with whom their interests must be connected in all the ordinary relations of society. But far different was the case when the acts of harsh and violent power were committed by their masters or neighbours; for then the only secure and lasting ties of social order were weakened, if not broken, and difficult would be the task of repairing the lamentable consequences. He therefore thought the proposal of his noble friend (lord King), to limit the duration of these measures to six weeks, deserving 215 of support; as it was probable that, before the expiration of that time, the House could have more lights from experience, and find means that would enable them to modify that most objectionable clause, which dispensed with the trial by jury for the summary punishment of offenders. But perhaps some noble lords had been confirmed in their conviction of the necessity for passing one of these bills, by the representation made from the magistrates of the county of Limerick. After adverting to the state of the country, and the necessity of petitioning parliament, it went on to say, that the provisions of the Insurrection act were well suited to the exigencies of the time, with the modification of that part of it relating to the punishment of offenders—meaning thereby, as he understood, the propriety of introducing into it a provision for trial by jury. He was not prepared to say how far this was possible; but of this he was certain, that, while there existed among so many enlightened individuals, an opinion that the trial by jury might be restored; while that impression remained on the minds of many noble lords in that House, and of many members of the other House of parliament, who thought that this blessing might safely be conferred on the Irish people, he should undoubtedly vote for the motion which his noble friend (lord King) had said he would make in the committee; for the noble marquis, then, adverting to the speech of lord Liverpool, observed, that the noble earl should have told them what remedies could be administered for that which was admitted on all hands to be an evil that had its origin in the state of society. Upon this subject, he felt that he could not conscientiously vote for the bill in question without declaring that it was one upon which their lordships were, more than ever, bound to enter immediately after they should have passed these bills. If their continuance was to afford the shadow of a pretext, for the delay of those great topics that so imperatively pressed themselves upon their lordships' attention, he should indeed be betraying his duty, both as an English and an Irish peer, if he were to vote for the present bills. Delaying? Good God what had they been doing all this time? Had they not been fatally delaying for the last twenty years? If the advice of that great statesman who presided over the affairs of this country at the time of the Irish Union—if the views which Mr. Pitt 216 entertained, if the views which the greatest men politically opposed to him equally entertained—if the views of that great and enlightened statesman from Ireland, to whom he had already adverted—if these views, in which a noble lord, now one of his majesty's principal secretaries of state had, at different times, concurred, in the course of a life during which it had been his lot, he would not say to be blest, but to be curst with the possession of power without having the means of exerting it, in this instance, to the desired effect;—if such views had been adopted; if the nostrum of delay had not found its way into the two houses of parliament, how different might now have been the state of Ireland! How much blood might have been spared! how many quarrels averted! Ministers would not have been now asking for Insurrection acts; but they would have felt that the Union of the two countries was happily secured in the affections, in the hearts, of the Irish. But their lordships were fast advancing to that period, at which they could not any longer delay; and when, whatever might be the disposition, either in their house, or elsewhere, to shrink from such questions as he had alluded to, they would press themselves upon them. If their lordships valued the constitution—if they hoped to protect the Irish church, which was already in imminent danger; if they wished to retain the island, they would put an end to all delay, and at once to face a question of this immense importance. Without wishing at all to make the present a party question, he would say that those men were not fit to hold the reins of government who were not prepared to face it, and to declare explicitly what was the policy which they would pursue in consequence, and who were not prepared, in the next place, to act upon that policy. Whoever would so act would deserve the thanks of the country, and should have his humble support. But, if the causes of the distressing situation of Ireland should not be made the subject of thorough inquiry, whatever risk he might run, though it might be to the sacrifice of his property, he should hold it his imperious duty to oppose the continuance of those measures until such inquiry should be resorted to. He had a heartfelt concern for the necessity which compelled him to vote for these bills, which could only be removed if, after this ominous commencement of the new government of Ireland, 217 measures of a more auspicious, because of a more conciliatory nature, should be applied.
The Earl of Liverpool
observed, that the noble marquis seemed to complain that their lordships had had no specific and detailed recommendation from the marquis Wellesley laid before them, as to the measures necessary to be adopted. Now, he did not think that any such distinct recommendation from the Crown, or from the ministers of the Crown was usual in similar cases. The recommendation from the Crown was usually in general terms, that parliament should consider a question; and he did not feel that it could be required of a minister, like the marquis Wellesley, acting on his own responsibility, to recommend to parliament a specific proceeding. He was ready, however, to concede to the noble marquis opposite, that his majesty's ministers might have laid before the House a dispatch from lord Wellesley, with a long and able argument upon the existing distresses of Ireland, and the views which he took of them. One noble lord seemed to think it most extraordinary, that the marquis Wellesley, with all the powers of his gifted mind, should not have prepared some such representations for the consideration of parliament. He had as high an opinion of that noble marquis as any man; he had known him longer than most men, and was entirely aware of the energies of his mind. But he should not have retained so exalted an opinion of those energies, if the noble marquis, on his arrival in Ireland, in January, before the greater part of the outrages in question had broken out, had sent over to parliament a long dissertation on the evils admitted to exist, their nature, character, and extent; and should have so suddenly matured his judgment, as to be able to prescribe what remedies were proper to be applied to them. If their lordships would do the noble marquis justice, they must feel assured that he would probe the evil to the bottom, before he would hazard an opinion on a subject of the most extensive and complicated character, that could be brought under the notice of parliament. Every exertion that the circumstances of this country would admit of had been made to reinforce the army in Ireland. It was now, independently of the militia, very nearly as strong as it ever had been in that part of the kingdom. To oppose force to force was 218 very well, when the opposing force could be collected and brought into action but how could it avail when the disturbers were spread over a vast district, and the disturbers acted only in small and detached parties? It was not force that was required to suppress this evil, but regulation and police. If the force in Ireland were three times greater than it was, it could not operate its purpose without these bills. The noble lord objected, that these powers might be abused, but there was no power with which man was entrusted that might not be abused. The strong objection which he had made to the power being equally vested in all the magistrates, did not hold in fact: for the powers were not vested in all the magistrates, but only in those of the disturbed districts. He could not agree with the noble baron, that the king's serjeant was no protection against the abuse of those powers. The whole of the objection was grounded upon the probability that the minds of the magistrates would be prejudiced; surely then, the intervention of a power that was not prejudiced, must be a protection. As to the charge of Judge Fletcher, in 1814., which had been referred to, if that learned judge had known the facts which he stated to be true, he should have made them the subject of a criminal information. Had the names of magistrates who could so abuse their powers been reported to the lord-chancellor of Ireland, he had no doubt they would have been struck out of the commission. But it was a monstrous blunder in landlords, to send freehold tenants to Botany-Bay, in order to void a beneficial lease of lives. The only object obtained by that step would be, that if they died, there would be greater difficult in proving that the lease was voided. This was truly an Irish way of doing business! As to the term of these bills, he was quite satisfied, that if they voted them to the 15th of March only, instead of the 1st of August, one half of their good effect would be done away with. The bill under discussion was an enabling bill: and was only to be exercised to an extent commensurate with the necessity of the case. He would now say a few words on the concluding passage of the noble marquis's speech. It was, no doubt, of the utmost importance that inquiry should be entered upon, and he thought it might be taken as an earliest that the necessary measures would be taken for tranquillizing 219 the country, that the marquis Wellesley had been appointed to the government of Ireland. But the noble marquis opposite seemed to confine himself to one measure of conciliation, that for relieving the Irish Catholics; but whether his or the noble marquis's opinion on this question was right, he conceived that the evil had a much deeper root in the state of society. It was not so much in the relations between the governing and governed, as in those of a less political character among themselves. Time only could change the condition of men: to render them happy, it was necessary to ameliorate the condition of the lower orders; and he was afraid, to instil into them, if possible, different feelings from those which generally swayed them. This state of things was not an object of legislative enactments, but perhaps might be amended by time. The noble marquis had thought proper to allude to certain differences supposed to exist between the members forming his majesty's government, on the subject of what was commonly called the Catholic question; and he had talked of a compact by which several of his majesty's ministers were supposed to be bound in that respect. He begged leave to say, that no compact existed among his majesty's ministers which could obstruct the free course of any measure that was only presumed to have a beneficial tendency. But it was made matter of charge, that there should be a difference among ministers on such a subject. And from whom did he hear that charge? From those very noble lords who, when they laid before the Crown their plan of administration, in 1806, made it out from among men who were at variance amongst themselves on the self-same subject. Did he impute this as a matter of reproach to those noble lords? Far from it; for he did believe, that no administration could be so dangerous to the country, as one that was indissolubly bound to the support or to the opposition of a measure so difficult and so important. This was a subject upon which he should always speak, in his place among their lordships, the real conviction of his mind, whenever the question might be agitated. If he could believe that the measure of Catholic emancipation was one that would afford real comfort to the people of Ireland, or one, of which the benefit was likely to preponderate over the evil, he should feel neither pride nor repugnance 220 in avowing that his opinion was changed. With respect to the Habeas Corpus Suspension bill, be had the same decided opinion upon it as the noble, marquis had. Its necessity was apparent. This was not the case of a local insurrection; it was part of a. system that was set in motion by promoters who were not themselves in the field. They were as yet behind the curtain; but, in the meanwhile, they were trying to extend their efforts to every part of the kingdom.
§ The House went into the committee; in which lord King moved an amendment, the object of which was, to limit the duration of the bill from the 1st of August, as at first proposed, to the 15th of May. Upon this, the committee divided: Contents 15. Not Contents 59. The bill was then read a third time, and passed. The Irish Habeas Corpus Suspension bill went through the same stages, after lord Holland had briefly expressed his strong abjection to the passing of such a measure.