§ The Duke of Devonshire
rose to submit his promised motion on the State of Ireland, and spoke nearly as follows:—My lords; it was not my intention to occupy the time of your lordships until an opportunity should present itself on the discussion of the subject which, was expected before this to have been brought under the consideration of this House. But fearing that the delay which has occurred in another place might prevent that discussion from coming on in due time, and feeling, that it would be a great misfortune if this session of parliament were suffered to terminate its proceedings without allotting one night at least to the consideration of the State of Ireland—of the wrongs of its people—of the acts and conduct of its government; I have, therefore, my lords, however ill qualified to discuss a subject so important and so comprehensive, yet, trusting to the indulgence of this House, and to the active support of the noble friends by whom I am surrounded, stept forward to call your attention to the state of Ireland, to the sufferings, and just complaints of the people. My lords, I am the more desirous to do so, because it is easy to foresee that we shall be again called upon to continue that rigorous and coercive system under which Ireland is suffering—under which she has suffered so deeply and so long. My lords, I am most anxious to suggest to the House the means that strike my mind, as best calculated to lead the way to the mitigation of those evils which have damped the energies, and retarded the progress of improvement in a country rich in natural advantages, and richer still in the character of its inhabitants.
My lords, the distracted state of Ireland at this moment, the distress and discontent which prevail there, shew that there is something essentially wrong in the nature of its government. Where a people are suffered to to live under the fair protection of just and equal laws—where industry is encouraged and rewarded, and the necessaries and comforts of life are enjoyed, it is scarcely possible to suppose that the 1034 people would wantonly put to hazard the security of themselves and their families for the purpose of actively engaging in a conspiracy against the authority of the government and the laws—a course of conduct which would, sooner or later, lead to shame and punishment. My lords, in a country where the laws are not respected by the people, and the people are not protected by the laws, it follows that the system of government is defective—that the laws have not been sufficient to eradicate evils which have been fostered by ancient prejudices and a long course of bad administration. It is, therefore, in such a state of things, the duty of the legislature to adjust a new and improved system, to the end that the people maybe righted and the government strengthened. My lords, we are all acquainted with the melancholy truth—not only that the state of Ireland is alarming, but that it is most difficult to devise a speedy and effectual remedy. But surely, my lords, it cannot be too strongly impressed on the minds of your lordships, seeing that laws are actually in progress to suspend the most dear and valuable rights of the people of Ireland, that those rights ought not to be interfered with, without at least an attempt being made by the House, to ascertain the causes of the present discontents, to remove prevailing abuses, and to place in their stead a wise, a liberal and a permanent system of government.
My lords, in tracing the present evils of Ireland, it cannot be denied that the state of the laws which affect and degrade the Catholic population is one great and prevailing cause of discontent. My lords, whilst all relaxation of those laws is sternly refused—a course equally opposed to the principles of sound policy and of public justice—it is in vain to hope that any human power can establish the real and permanent tranquillity of Ireland. My lords, it is high time for the House to take into its consideration the state of the Catholic question. Until you set that question at rest, by conceding to the people their rights, it is impossible for you to abandon that system of exclusion, of partiality, and of injustice which has so long prevailed—it is impossible to mitigate the evils that have sprung from that system—or to conciliate the majority of the people, who differ in religious opinions from the Established church. It would be very foolish to say, that the adjustment of the Catholic question would 1035 be alone sufficient to remedy the misfortunes of Ireland. No, my lords, the miseries which afflict her have been too long cherished, have sprung from too many sources, to be removed by a single measure; but, whilst that measure is left undecided, whilst so much cause of discontent and jealousy remains, it cannot fail to excite irritation, to foster disunion and to interrupt the progress of every beneficial or conciliatory measure that may hereafter be adopted.
My lords, the state of the Irish government—its policy—its practice demand a complete and thorough examination. In a country discontented and divided as Ireland is, no hope of amendment can be cherished—no safety for the people, no respect for the government can be established—unless equal laws are enacted, and an equal and impartial distribution of justice is observed towards all classes of his majesty's subjects. My lords, there is but too much reason to fear that the narrow and illiberal policy of those who have, unfortunately for Ireland, borne sway in that country so long, has greatly diminished, in the eyes of the people, that respect for the laws, and that confidence in the pure and impartial administration, which it is so desirable to inculcate in the breasts of the people. My lords, a very different system is now carried on, with reference to the government, from that which policy, justice, experience, would sanction—a system of indecision and of trimming—a system which can inspire no confidence, and achieve no good object. My lords, the reasonable but ardent hopes that were entertained by the people of Ireland have been destroyed. Their claims—far from being satisfied—have scarcely received the benefit of a common discussion; subjects, deeply affecting the peace and safety of that country have been passed over; hare been trifled with—and those who have acted thus have defended this unjust, improper, and unconstitutional course, by declaring that their object was, not to give a triumph to either party. The natural consequence of such conduct has been to spread the progress of discontent. The truth, my lords, is, that the power and government of Ireland are entirely in the hands of a small number of men, known by the name of Orangemen. They are strongly opposed to the people in feeling and in interest. Conscious that they have no claim on the confidence of their countrymen, whom they have uniformly in- 1036 suited and oppressed, they act on the principle of fear and hatred; on the cither hand, the people, looking on those men as the authors of all their sufferings, naturally entertain jealousy and suspicion towards them. Such is the melancholy state of things in Ireland, and so must it continue, as long as one party is put in authority over another.
My lords, can any one doubt that it is the first duty of the legislature to remedy, if possible, a state so shocking and alarming, as that which Ireland now presents? But it is not by half measures—it is not by divided councils—it is not by the doctrine, that a triumph must not be given to either party—that that remedy can be applied. One law for the Protestant, another for the Catholic—one for coercion, another for relaxation. Such a state of administration—such a system of policy upon subjects of the most vital interest—can inspire no confidence, and lead to no good results. My lords, the course which it is your duty to pursue is plain. You must either adapt the system of your government to popular feelings and interests, or, on the other hand, you must invest the Orange party with the strongest power, and put down by force, the claims and hopes of the people.
My lords, there is another cause of discontent in Ireland to which I must alluded I mean the Tithe system. In the course of the last session, a pledge was given by a noble earl at the head of his majesty's government, that the subject of tithes should be taken into consideration; and certainly ministers have so far redeemed that pledge, as to introduce a measure which is now in progress in another place. It would therefore be improper for me to say anything with respect to that measure. I shall content myself with expressing a hope that it may not turn out to be absolutely nugatory; that it may have a good effect on the public feeling; that it may give comfort and tranquillity to the people, safety to the government, and security to the Established Church.
My lords, in conclusion, if I may be allowed to hazard an opinion with respect to the measures that are necessary and desirable, I should urge the concession of the Catholic claims—a liberal and satisfactory arrangement with respect to tithes—an abridgment of the power of that exclusively Protestant party who have so long and so shamefully ruled Ireland—and a just and impartial administration of the 1037 laws. If it should be said, that with respect to some of these measures, ministers are disposed to adopt them, then, my lords, it is our duty to see that the measures of ministers are really efficient—that they are not such as can only prove more clearly the evils complained of—but measures of importance calculated to ameliorate the condition of the people. My lords, the appointment of the noble marquis at present at the head of the government of Ireland to that important station, was heard of with great satisfaction, and inspired his countrymen with considerable hope; but I cannot help expressing my disappointment that the opinions of that noble person on the state of Ireland have not been communicated to the House. It is impossible that he must not have formed an opinion on the events which have taken place in that country for the last year. I should be curious to ascertain if the noble marquis adheres to the opinions formerly delivered by him in this House. If he does adhere to them, then I should like to ascertain how it has happened that those views have not been acted upon. My lords, feeling strongly that inquiry into the state of Ireland is called for by policy and necessity—that it cannot fail to produce a most salutary effect, if the people can be made to believe, that there is a fixed purpose on the part of the legislature to inquire into the grounds of the evils which oppress them, that, whilst the government have been obliged to have recourse to the extremity of power, the parliament have shown a disposition to introduce and carry into effect measures calculated to heal the wounds which oppression had made, calculated to promote the interests, to increase the happiness, to enlarge and secure the liberties of the people. I beg to propose the following resolutions:—
- 1. "That this House has learnt with the deepest regret, from the information laid before it during the present session, by command of his majesty, that a general spirit of violence, manifesting itself in outrages of the most alarming nature, has for some time prevailed in many parts of Ireland, and that, in the opinions of his majesty's government, extraordinary powers are required for the protection of the persons and property of his majesty's subjects in that kingdom.
- 2. "That this House will be ready to concur in any measures which may be found indispensable for the prompt and
1038 effectual suppression of these, disorders; but experience has proved, that coercion and force, however necessary to avert a pressing and immediate danger, have not been sufficient to eradicate evils, whose magnitude and frequent recurrence induce a belief that there must exist sortie material defect in the state and administration of the laws, and the system of the government; to the examination of which, with a view to the adoption of more permanent and effectual remedies it is the duty of this House to apply itself without further delay."
§ Earl Bathurst
denied that there was any evidence to substantiate the charges against his majesty's government which the noble duke s speech contained. That the parliament had, since the period of the Union, been employed solely in passing coercive measures, it was sufficient to refer to the Statute book, to see the unfounded nature of that charge. The agriculture of Ireland was undoubtedly an object, of the first importance; and, in 1806, the free importation of corn was allowed into this country from Ireland, at the same time that the free importation from foreign countries and from our own colonies was forbidden, and the monopoly of the grain market was thus given to Ireland. And at a subsequent period, when the prices were raised at which corn might be imported into this country from foreign countries and from our colonies, it was suffered to remain in the same state as to Ireland. However much political economists differed as to the propriety of the measure, they all agreed that it was the most important boon which could be conceded; and, if their lordships referred to the quantities imported, they would see that, in the last year, it was quadrupled, as compared with the year before the Union. Let their lordships also look to the different measures that had been introduced for the improvement of the administration of justice in that country; which was the first object to which the noble duke had called their attention; but from the manner in which he had commented on it, their lordships might be led to suppose that no one measure had been adopted relative to it. The noble earl here instanced the present improved mode of selecting the sheriffs, which was now similar to the practice in this country; the corrected mode of levying fines where recognizances were forfeited; the improvement of receiving evidence by grand 1039 juries, and not, as before, finding their bills on the depositions taken before the magistrates; and lastly, the Police bill, which had recently been passed, and of the good effects of which they had the testimony of the noble marquis at the head of his majesty's government in Ireland. There was also the introduction of petty sessions into that country—a measure of the greatest practical utility, and conducive in a great degree to the ends of justice. It had been the practice of a man who had a complaint to make, to go before some magistrate who he imagined, from similarity of political sentiment or other causes, might be favourable to him; but now, each magistrate was checked by his fellows, and by their acting under the control of public opinion. The control also which was placed on local taxation by the grand jury presentments bill, would be a great advantage to the country. The importance of this measure would be apparent to the House, when they recollected, that at the time when the whole revenue of Ireland was only four millions there was little less than one million collected under the authority of grand jury presentments, of which no account was rendered to the public. Another measure by which Ireland had been benefitted was, the advance of money for public works, to be repaid by instalments, and the sums granted for extending and improving the fisheries. The noble lord (Clare) who seconded the petition presented by a noble duke (the duke of Leinster) relative to Mr. Owen's plan, had thought proper to complain, that government had done nothing towards providing for the poor of Ireland; but, if their lordships would compare the sum voted this year for that purpose (30,000l.), and look to the sum which was voted by the Irish parliament (only 300l.), that comparison was sufficient to relieve the Imperial parliament from the charge of neglecting that country. If the subject of the noble duke's petition should be thought necessary to be considered, there was every disposition in his majesty's government to take it into the fullest consideration. Not that he meant to give any opinion on Mr. Owen's plan, but merely to express the desire of his majesty's government to concur in any rational plan for the improvement of the condition of the people of Ireland. The consolidation of the two exchequers was another measure of great benefit to Ireland. By 1040 that measure she was relieved from the payment of the two-seventeenths of the annual charge, as stipulated by the act of Union; and the present amount that she paid was, in fact, only two-twenty-sevenths instead of two-seventeenths. By this measure the taxation of that country had also been greatly relieved. Last year the window-light duties had been considerably lessened; and this year still further reductions of taxation were to take place; and Ireland was about to be relieved from all assessed taxes, at the same time that this country remained burdened with a great proportion of those taxes. Was it, then, fair to represent the parliament as being only employed in devising measures of coercion? It was very true, that as the coercive measures were always confined to a limited period, it was frequently necessary to renew them: but the measures for the benefit of Ireland were at once rendered permanent, and were acting at that moment silently and beneficially for her advantage. The noble duke had complained, that there was no conciliation in the councils of his majesty's government; but, did not the measures he had already enumerated deserve the name of conciliation? They were not intended, nor did they operate to benefit one class of people to the injury of another. They embraced the whole community in their influence, and extended relief upon a scale the most universal. As to the question called Catholic Emancipation, it was too large a subject to be discussed in conjunction with others. He was sure, therefore, that he need not apologise to their lordships for declining to enter into it on the present occasion. With respect to the motion now before their lordships, it differed little from that which was made by a noble marquis last year. The noble marquis had then recommended that the duties on the distillation of spirits should be lowered, and it had been done. The noble marquis had recommended that the country should be relieved in its taxation; and it had been done. He had complained of the evils arising from the number of absentees, and had represented the necessity of adopting some measure calculated to encourage the residence of the gentry of Ireland. The removal of the assessed taxes was an encouragement of that nature. Another benefit was, the commutation of tithes, now under consideration; and whatever could be done for the general good of Ireland would 1041 continue to find, as it had found in these instances, an honest attention on the part of his majesty's government. For the reasons he had stated, he could not agree to the proposition of the noble duke; but, being unwilling to meet it with a direct negative, he would content himself with moving the previous question.
§ The Earl of Clare
said, that his noble friend seemed to think he had complained that government had done nothing for Ireland. Now, his observation was, that enough had not been done in the way of amelioration, and that the extent of the wretchedness was not known in this country.
§ Viscount Clifden
said, he was aware that, according to the arrangement made at the time of the Union, Ireland was to pay about seven millions and a half towards the general expenses of the empire. But the wretchedness to which that country was reduced rendered the payment impossible. Government, however, would have a Union, and they must take the consequences. One of the great grievances of Ireland was, the number of her absentees, which number the Union had increased; but the evils which a long system of misgovernment had imposed upon that unhappy country, were as numerous as the stars of heaven. He Strongly condemned the tithe-system in Ireland; which, he said, had been the main cause of all the burning and bloodshed which had occurred. Even in England the tithes occasioned great discontent, but in Ireland they produced misery unparalleled. It was said, that tithes were of divine origin. It might be so; but this he knew, that they were the cause of envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness. The very mode of their collection was oppressive in the extreme. The proctor did not go till the crop was taken off die grounds; and then, if the farmer did not agree to his valuation, and submit to his demand, he was taken into the Bishop's Court, where the vicar-general was not only a churchman, but was judge and jury in his own cause. Their lordships as a body, knew no more of the state of Ireland and her sufferings, than they did of the state of Japan. He did not pretend to decide the precise point where obedience terminated, and resistance might begin; bat this he knew, that it would be difficult to conceive a case of greater oppression than that of empowering a person to decide in his 1042 own cause, however respectable, his character or pure his intentions might be. The noble earl had taken credit for a bill to mitigate the pressure of the tithe system; but it was a question whether the bill would ever come up to that House; and he could tell the reverend bench, that they would receive no more, tithe from Ireland. In Ulster, the population was not in the same state of wretchedness and violence as in the other three provinces; because the penal restrictions which had brought ruin and desolation on the other parts had never been enforced there. This was a sufficient comment upon the tendency of those laws. The noble lord then took a review of the different branches of trade which had fallen away through discouragement, and noticed the expression of a gentleman then high in office, with respect to the woollen trade; namely, that every pound of wool manufactured in Ireland was so much loss to England. In, consequence of this policy, the woollen trade had been driven out of Ireland, and then came an idle and indigent population, and an inveterate spirit of hatred—the natural result of such ill-judged proceedings. Such was not the policy of Russia, nor of Frederic of Prussia, a cut-throat and a robber as he was; the one attempted to introduce manufactures into the wastes of Poland, and the other into the sands of Magdeburgh. He believed that there was none of that commercial jealousy now, but the impression was still left, and until it was removed from the minds of the people by the liberality of the government, it was vain to expect that the union of the countries could be complete. They should repeal the last letter of that absurd and vicious penal code, under which so many calamities had grown up, and lighten the burthens of the, Church Establishment. The Irish established church was a church without a flock, and though they might provide otherwise for the support of the clergy, the payment of tithe was out of the question. He wished for nothing more anxiously than to see the two islands united, in the true sense of the word. When that was happily accomplished, England would become the great country she had been; but until was, Ireland would continue to be a millstone round her neck, and a source of weakness instead of, strength. The noble lord concluded by expressing his determination to support the motion.
The Earl of Darnley
said, he had been anxious, from the beginning of the session, to draw the attention of the House to the important subject now before it, and should, therefore take that early period of the debate for submitting his sentiments to their lordships' consideration: He felt that the time was now come, when the government should put its shoulder boldly to the wheel, and without fear of consequences, reverse the system which had been so long and injuriously acted upon in the sister country. If a decisive step of this sort were not speedily adopted, that island, which might have been made the best bulwark of the empire, must inevitably fall to destruction. Although many laws had passed within the last twenty years for the amelioration of the sister country, they had proved of little use. Even recently, after having confided in the hopes which were held out by his majesty's ministers that the situation of Ireland would engage their closest attention, although they certainly had introduced some acts which appeared to be of a beneficial tendency, he was now obliged to come to the conclusion, that nothing had actually been done for the unfortunate country in question. It was indeed true, that, in the other House of Parliament, many wearisome nights had been spent upon a late investigation relative to Ireland; but, instead of its producing any benefit to that country, the result had been—the triumph of an intolerant party and the elevation of an obscure stationer in Dublin to the head of the Orange faction. He must also admit that the subject of the Commutation of Tithe had engaged the attention of the other House of Parliament; but he doubted whether their lordships would ever see the consummation of the measure. The bills which his majesty's government had brought in, with the view of relieving; Ireland from the oppression of tithe, gave, In reality, no satisfaction to those most conversant with the state of that island. On the contrary, it was believed, that those bills would not only enable the Church to exact as much as it did now, but even a greater amount of revenue. The policy of England, ever since its connection with Ireland, was, he regretted to say, directly the reverse of all other countries similarly circumstanced. The principle upon which it proceeded was, that of dividing the people against themselves, and of maintaining a difference 1044 between the English and the Irish part of the inhabitants, which was the bane of both. The consequence was, that many of the Irish still detested the name of England, whose oppressions they had felt, but in the benefit of whose laws and constitution they had never participated. Upon this ground alone he might rest his support of the inquiry which his noble friend had demanded. But there was another question, which, although this was not the proper time to enter into its discussion, he could not avoid some allusion to—he meant Catholic Emancipation. That question had been argued over and over again, until its adversaries were felt without any thing to oppose to it but vague insinuations; and although hitherto rejected on such grounds, he would ask, whether it would be possible much longer to withhold their rights from six millions of his majesty's subjects? Last year a branch of the subject had come before their lordships; namely, the restoration of six of the oldest peers in the realm to their seats in that House, some of whom enjoyed the highest hereditary dignities, but whose ancestors had been deprived of their birthright in moments of public delusion. Their petition had been rejected. But, though those six noble persons might be thus treated without danger to the state, did their lordships think that six millions of Irish Catholics would bear with the same impunity their present degradation? Were they prepared to allow the grievances of that great body to remain unredressed, and to encounter the dangers of such a population, should a state of war again arise, and an invasion of that part of the empire be contemplated by the enemy? He did not mean to say that Catholic Emancipation was the panacea for all the evils which afflicted Ireland; for in his opinion, nothing short of a complete revision and change of the whole system would answer any good purpose. On the subject of the present government of Ireland, he wished to say little. He had, from early life, the highest regard for the abilities of the noble marquis who was now at the head of that government; but he confessed that he had heard with astonishment and regret, his acceptance of office under the present administration, composed of a cabinet decorated with all the hues of the rainbow, except that the orange colour predominated; a cabinet inconsistent in all their principles of governing Ireland, and 1045 consistent only in their fixed determination to retain their places.—After Catholic Emancipation, came the question of Tithes; and upon that subject, he was sorry to say that the milk-and-water measure now in progress elsewere, was likely to be futile. What was there in the situation of the Irish peasant which was to render him satisfied with his condition? Compare it with that of the English peasant. The latter had, in general, the means of labour, and some comfort and security in his cottage; but the poor Irish peasant was left without adequate employment. He was the victim, of every species of petty exaction. The little spot of ground allotted to him was exorbitantly valued—the last farthing was wrung from him, minus what was necessary for bare animal existence. The great evil was the want of employment for the people; which, coupled with the exorbitant charge imposed on them for their potatoe-gardens, left them in a state of utter destitution. The government, perhaps, could not do much directly, in supplying the people with employment, but still some relief might be given in that way, by the making of canals, the construction of public works, and the establishment of manufactures. Much, of course, rested with individuals; and it particularly behoved the Irish landed proprietors to encourage industrious habits among the poorer classes. In this respect, his noble friend who had introduced the present motion had set a noble example to the other proprietors of Irish estates. He (earl D.) had endeavoured, at an humble distance, to tread in the steps of the noble duke; and he could say, from experience, that giving employment to the people of Ireland was, the best means of insuring the tranquillity of the country. But, as long as the present system of government was pursued—a system which gave the word of promise to the ear, but broke it to the hopes, of the people of Ireland, no real permanent advantage to the country could be expected. He was afraid it was useless to anticipate any change of measures on the part of his majesty's ministers, unless parliament compelled them to adopt a new course. He did not, therefore, ask too much, when he intreated the House to step forward, and save Ireland, if possible, before it was too late. England, great as she was, would not be able, in the existing state of Europe, to govern that country much longer with the sword; 1046 and he trusted, that this consideration would induce their lordships to adopt the present motion.
The Earl of Gosford
said, that a more important motion than the present never came before their lordships. The measures which had been hitherto adopted to tranquilize Ireland, had entirely failed of their object, and that country was at the present moment on the very verge of rebellion. He therefore trusted, that the House would not separate, without taking some steps for the protection of the peaceable and well-affected part of the community. Hitherto, the whole system pursued in Ireland had been one of mal-administration: and until it was reformed, there could be no hope that the situation of the sister country would improve.
The Earl of Caledon
said, that, in his opinion, all the expectations which had been formed from the present government of Ireland had hitherto been totally disappointed.
§ Lord Maryborough
said, that the present was a question which touched so intimately on a country with which he had been long and extensively connected, that he should not consider-that he had discharged his duty to the administration of which he formed a part, to his noble relation at the head of the Irish government, or to himself, if he did not avail himself of the earliest opportunity of stating his sentiments to the House, and of giving his decided negative to the motion. It was impossible to conceive a motion of more importance at the present moment, than that which the noble duke had felt it his duty to submit to the consideration of the House. No man was more sensible than he was, of the sincerity of the wishes which the noble duke had expressed for the welfare of Ireland, or knew better than he did the benefits which he had conferred on his numerous tenantry. He was ready to acknowledge the dignity and propriety with which the noble duke had brought forward the motion; but he must confess, that there was, at the same time, something in the manner in which the noble duke had stated his views on the subject to the House, which did injustice, not only to the present administration and to the present parliament, but to every administration which had governed Ireland, and to every parliament which had sat from the period of the Union to the present day. Before their lordships came to a division upon this question, they ought 1047 to, and they undoubtedly would, take the whole case and all its circumstance into their consideration: they ought to inquire how much the parliament and the government had done for Ireland. The noble duke had represented the case of Ireland, as if nothing had been resorted to for its government since the Union but coercion, he had completely kept out of sight all the boons which had been conferred on that country by the united parliament. But, after what had been stated by his noble friend, it was impossible for any noble lord to doubt that great attention had been paid by the successive parliaments and administrations, to the state of Ireland; that her interests had been consulted, and her welfare promoted. It was impossible to deny, that if the parliament had not gone quite so far as some noble lords professed to wish, yet it had gone a great way towards ameliorating the condition of the people of Ireland. But, thought the speech of his noble friend contained, in his opinion, a complete vindication, not only of the present but of the former governments of Ireland, yet he was anxious to add a few words to that statement, because it was highly necessary that their lordships should be in possession of all the facts of the case, before they came to a decision, which in substance, if not in form, tended to pass a vote of censure upon every administration and every parliament since the Union [hear! Hear!] One of the grievances complained of by the noble lords opposite was, the want of Education among the lower classes in Ireland. But why had not the noble duke stated to their lordships what efforts had been made by parliament to overcome that evil? In the first place, commissions had been appointed to inquire into every charitable, every royal, and every other foundation for the education of the poor in Ireland. The commissioners had faithfully and diligently exercised the trust reposed in them. They had found, that many abuses did exist, to which they had immediately applied remedies; and he was happy to say, that there did not at the present moment exist a single evil pointed out in the reports of these commissioners. He spoke now in the presence of noble lords who were as well acquainted with the reports of those commissioners, and with the results which had followed from their labours, as he could pretend to be; and he now called upon them to contradict him, if that which 1048 he stated was not correct [hear hear!] In the 14th report the commissioners went so far as to recommend, that a seminary should be established for the education of schoolmasters to be sent into different parts of the country to instruct the poor; and that these schoolmasters should not be educated upon any exclusive system of religion. That report had been taken, into the serious consideration of government, and a seminary for the education of schoolmasters was established. And lest it should be supposed that government had the slightest wish to trench upon the consciences of the Roman Catholic, that seminary had been placed under the control of a board existing in Dublin, composed of Roman Catholics as well as Protestants, and from that seminary schoolmasters had been sent to various parts of Ireland. Even in the course of the present session no less a sum than 9,000l. had been voted for the maintenance of schools in Ireland.
Why had the noble duke omitted to state to their lordships, that under the superintendance of the united parliament which had been represented as paying no regard to the interests of Ireland, no less than six harbours had been made in Ireland, viz. Dunleary now called Kingstown, a most magnificent work, and calculated to make Dublin an excellent harbour; Howth, Araglass, Donoughadee, and two others. In these works above one million of money had been expended [hear, hear!]. After what had fallen from the noble duke, and the complaints of want of attention to the welfare of Ireland, their lordships would hear with surprise that within the last year a sum of 250,000l. had been voted for public works in Ireland, 500,000l. had been advanced for new roads, 100,000l. for the employment of the poor, 500,000l. for the support of commercial credit, and 200,000l. for occasional exigencies. All these things had been done for the improvement and the benefit of Ireland; and, if their lordships were to give credit to the statements of the noble lord opposite, done by a parliament not feeling any paternal regard for that country. But he had by no means stated all that had been done for Ireland. Their lordships knew that 500,000l. was granted for improving the internal navigation of Ireland, that 150,000l. had been expended upon the grand canal, and 198,000l. upon the royal canal. Did these grants, he begged to ask their lordships justify the assertion 1049 which had been so often made there and elsewhere, that since the Union Ireland had never enjoyed the blessing of a paternal government? But the united parliament had not stopped even here. To the Roman Catholic Seminary no less a sum than 201,075l. had been granted; and, as it was considered an important point by parliament to encourage the residence of the clergy upon their livings, so as to produce a constant intercourse between the clergyman and his parishioners, no less than 614,000l. had been voted, in aid of the Board of First Fruits, for the building of churches and glebe houses, and that board had been by these means enabled by gifts to build 202 churches, by loans 312 churches, by loans and gifts 457 glebe houses, and by loans and gifts to improve 153 glebes. He felt it due to the Board of First Fruits to say, that every shilling of the funds entrusted to their care had been expended with the strictest regard to economy, and with the most impartial and judicious attention to the interests of the country.
In making these statements, he begged not to be understood as claiming for the present administration, or for the present parliament, exclusively, the praise of having directed their attention to promote the welfare of Ireland. He sincerely believed that all the parliaments, and all the administrations, since the Union, had been actuated by the same feeling towards that country. He was ready to admit, that the noble lords opposite to him were entitled to their share of that praise when they were in power. They, however, only gave two boons to Ireland. The one, and a great boon he allowed it to be, was, the Insurrection Act ["no, no!" from the Opposition benches!]. All that he could say was, that, only a few weeks ago, the learned gentleman who was attorney-general for Ireland when the noble lords opposite were in office, had told him that he had drawn the bill. It was a measure winch certainly ought not to be resorted to except in the last necessity. But it must never be forgotten, that it was the duty of government to protect loyal subjects; a conviction which was no doubt impressed on the government of that day; and, in his opinion, they had done right. That was their first boon. The second boon was, opening the ports, and enabling Ireland to send corn to this country. For that, also, they deserved the gratitude of that country. 1050 One of the most striking features of the conduct of his majesty's present government was, that they not only had brought in measures themselves which they thought serviceable to Ireland, but had adopted the hints of others. For instance, they had adopted sir John Newport's bill to regulate courts of Justice. That was a great boon to Ireland. It proved that parliament were alive to the interests of Ireland, and that government not only did what they could to promote those interests, but did not disdain to avail themselves of the efforts of others. Then, there was the commission to in quire into the collection of the revenue in Ireland, from which such able and excellent reports had proceeded. Was it nothing to institute such a committee? Was it nothing for ministers, to follow them through all their reports, and to cut down the abuses to which they pointed out, to a degree that must prove a permanent advantage to the country. At the same time, it ought not to be forgotten, that ministers, by acting as they had done upon these reports, had diminished the patronage of the Crown in Ireland to a very great extent. But they felt that that was not for a moment to be put in competition with the, interests of the country.
Under these circumstances, if the House were to agree to the noble duke's motion, they would in substance, pass a vote of censure upon every administration that had existed since the Union. There was one other subject to which he had not yet adverted, and that was, Catholic Emancipation. He confessed, that at one time, he very much doubted the expediency or the wisdom of acceding to that measure; but, upon a more full consideration of the subject, he had changed his opinion, and he now sincerely wished to see it passed. But he was, at the same time, fully convinced that the measure was at the present moment impracticable. Although he was favourable to the measure, he was equally convinced, that it was not one which ought to be pressed at any time, and under any time, and under any circumstances. Were not the noble lords opposite to him convinced, that the success of that measure must depend upon circumstances which did not exist at, this moment? Did not the noble lords opposite, when they were in administration, think the time unfavourable to Catholic Emancipation? Their own acts proved that 1051 they did. They did not then propose what they now consider to be absolutely indispensable; namely, unqualified emancipation. Had the noble lords opposite proposed a solitary measure for the benefit of Ireland? If they had, government would instantly have attended to it. The subject of Tithes in Ireland was one which every administration had looked at without much good effect. Two bills, one for the commutation, the other for the composition of tithes, were now in progress in the other House. This was a subject of great difficulty. He confessed his astonishment, however, at what had fallen from a noble lord opposite who had addressed the bench of bishops on the subject. He (lord M.) was of opinion, that tithes were a description of property which ought to be as much respected as any other. The noble lord ought also to recollect, that half the tithes of Ireland were in the hands of lay impropriators. One measure could not be adopted towards the church, and another towards the laity. It was also a fact of which the noble lord was perhaps not aware, that the lay impropriators invariably exacted from the people more than the clergy did. Of this, however, he (lord M.) was convinced, that if the proposed bill should not prove satisfactory, the subject was one which his noble relation, as long as he held the situation which he at present occupied, would never lose sight of. But, was it common justice to cast a slur on the government of Ireland, before the measures which they had brought forward were fairly tried? Did not the despatches on their lordships' table state, that his noble relative entertained the greatest hopes from the measures on trial; from the improvement in the magistracy; from the change in the county-courts; and, above all, from the arrangement in the distillery laws, by which it was expected that an end would be put to the infernal evils resulting from illicit distillation? His noble relative had said in those despatches, that when the various measures which he enumerated were at work, he hoped he should, get at the root of the evil, and be enabled to afford protection to loyal and peaceable subjects. But, it was impossible that the effect of any laws, however good, could be immediately manifest. For all, these reasons, he should certainly feel it his duty to support the previous question.
asked, whether this then, 1052 was really the case on which the noble lords opposite meant to rest their justification for rejecting the motion of the noble duke before, him—that motion which had been supported so ably and so powerfully by many noble lords connected with the kingdom of Ireland? Was it possible, on such grounds, for the noble lords opposite to require their lordships' to reject that proposition? Why, the noble lord who had spoken second in this debate, and the noble lord who had just sat down, had, throughout the whole of their arguments, rested on grounds completely inconsistent with those which bad been laid down last session by the noble earl at the head of the Treasury. The whole of their argument came to this—that, because great boons had been granted to Ireland, it was quite unnecessary for their lordships to investigate the causes of the recurrence of those disturbances and disorders which now agitated that country. Did they mean to deny the existence of those disturbances. They could not deny it; for the noble earl opposite bad admitted the fact last session, and had also stated the causes of those disturbances. The question lay within a very narrow compass, although it was connected with many serious and interesting considerations. It was simply this—whether it was preferable to have a parliamentary pledge, or the pledge of the government, that the causes of those disturbances should be inquired into? He must say, that the whole tenour of the speech of the noble lord who had just sat down, was little complimentary to the people of that country with which he had been so long connected. The noble lord did not deny that they were in a state almost amounting to rebellion; but he observed, that they had been in the habit of receiving great boons from this country, for a long period of time; and then the noble lord had left the House to imagine "what an ungrateful people those Irish must be." There appeared to be a state of discontent and dissatisfaction all through Ireland, notwithstanding the many boons which had been so much vaunted. The noble lord had spoken of the boon of education—he had enumerated the harbours, the roads, and the various public works, which were forming; and the conclusion was, what ungrateful persons these Irish must be, not to conduct themselves better, after such large sums money had been voted for their employ- 1053 ment—after so many important boons had been granted to them.
The noble lord had also thought fit to allude to the former conduct of several noble lords in that House. But it was not what measure this noble lord had supported, or what enactments that noble lord had caused to be passed, which could decide the question of the present state of Ireland. The noble lords opposite had, for many years, been in the habit of haranguing that House on the necessity of destroying the immense power of France. They had been constantly describing the French government as the most horrible tyranny that ever deserved the execration of mankind. And yet, if Napoleon Buonaparte were arraigned, might he not say—"Is there a part of Europe I have not improved? Look at the roads I have constructed—behold the palaces I have built—mark the sums of money I have laid out—and, above all, contemplate the improvement I have effected amongst those who are living under my dominion!" [Hear, hear!] The noble lord had left the last point untouched. He had said nothing about the improvement of the people of Ireland. And truly, it would have been very strange if he had! He had made an ostentatious display of the generosity and benevolence of government and of parliament; but he had been silent as to the good effect which had been produced on the state of the people of Ireland. He had pointed out the grievance and its cause; but he had not shown that any effectual mode had been adopted for removing it. The noble lord had referred to the measures taken by a former administration. This had been the practice with noble lords opposite for some years. Let what would happen, their constant observation was—"Oh! you did the same!" This was a most unparliamentary mode of proceeding; and, at this distance of time, he disdained to answer it. He would only hint, that such a line of argument was quite stale. It was hunting on a very stale scent, to refer to that which had occurred seventeen years ago. If noble lords opposite wished to indulge in that sort of observation, they ought, occasionally, to give up the situation they now held to his (lord H.'s) friends; and then they would have new grounds to argue upon, instead of constantly re-burring to those that were wholly and entirely Worn out [a laugh]. The noble 1054 lord had said, "One of the boon you granted to Ireland was the opening "of the corn-trade." He certainly thought that that concession was in the nature of a boon—not from the administration, although sir J. Newport had great merit for the part he had taken in that transaction; but he viewed it as a boon from the people of England to the people of Ireland. It was a great boon—a boon of which he approved; although he admitted that it was inconsistent with the true principles of commerce; but he thought it was right, at that time, to sacrifice that consideration for the benefit: of the sister country. Though, in a commercial point of view, and with reference to the principles of political economy, the proceeding might not be correct, still he approved of that boon, under the peculiar circumstances of the country. The noble lord, using a forced figure of rhetoric, said, "Another of your boons was the Insurrection Bill. I know that such am such measures were under consideration I know officially, that such and such plans were suggested by the government in England and in Ireland." The noble lord was, however, mistaken; and he would find that he was, if he inquired of his noble friends near him. The truth was, that bill had been previously prepared: it was true, that fie (lord H.) had accidentally read it: it was also true that he, for one, should have protested against the measure, and he intended so to have done; but circumstances occasioned him to act in a manner of which he had ever since repented. He had, on that occasion, given almost the only vote he ever regretted. It was wrung from him by circumstances; and he was unable to state the reasons why, in his opinion, the measure should not pass. But the noble lord said, that a thing pared was the same as a boon given "You gave Ireland," he observed, "nothing else save what I have stated; but you tried to do something for the Catholics." Certainly, the measure of emancipation had a much greater right to be carried than the Insurrection Act; and he and his noble friends gave a pretty strong proof of their sincerity with respect to that matter; for they had resigned—a course of proceeding which he believed was entirely out of the noble lord s contemplation [a laugh]. The noble lord said, "You must consider it quite imbarpracticable to relieve the Caihblics—no- 1055 thing of that sort can be done." Nay, he said more, "I, on principle, defend Catholic Emancipation," observed the noble lord, "but this is not the time for if I have been for a long period friendly to it, but this is not a principle which a man should, at all times, bring forward, I came over to the side of Catholic Emancipation, because I thought the; time was approaching when it ought to be carried; but, the period having arrived, I am willing to hold a place in a cabinet, in which that subject must not be mentioned—which will not make it a cabinet measure—which will not support it with all the weight of government, although I know it is impossible it can be carried, until it is made a cabinet measure!" [Hear.] The noble secretary of state, who spoke second in the debate, had exclaimed—"What! do you mean to be guilty of the horrible injustice of excluding a man from office on account of his opinions?" And this he said in the very face of the laws which excluded five or six millions of people, one-fourth of the whole community, from holding great offices, and from sitting in parliament [Hear]. Now, with respect to the boon of education, what had been done? He would ask, what reference had those points to the subject? How did they bear on the question immediately before the House? It was said that much had been effected with regard to the education of the poorer classes: and he was sorry he did not see a noble and learned lord (Redesdale) in his place, who was one of the great advocates for it, from whom, perhaps, they might have received some useful information.
The noble lord then proceeded to observe, that the motion before the House did not state that parliament had done nothing, or that no efforts had been made to assist the people of Ireland, or that the legislature had shrunk from its bounden duty. It only declared, that the scenes which were new passing in Ireland, proved that there was something exceedingly wrong in the state of that country, and it called on parliament to institute a solemn inquiry into the case. Would noble lords say that there was nothing wrong in the state of Ireland? They could not. And when they admitted the fact, could any man assert, that an inquiry should not be set on foot, to put an end, if possible, to the evil? The question then was, "Is it proper to have 1056 a pledge of parliamentary inquiry?" and, "is this the proper time for inquiry?" No person could vote for the amendment, except on one of three principles. Either he must think that there is no necessity for an inquiry into the state of Ireland at all; or he must suppose that he can leave the inquiry safely to the executive government; or he must be of opinion, that though it is proper to inquire into the subject, this is not the fit time for such inquiry. As to leaving the inquiry to the executive government, he might be allowed to observe, that many noble lords, and one in particular, who stated his motives for so leaving it, pursued that coarse last year. At that time, he (lord H.) refused to confide the inquiry to government on account of the manner in which that government was composed; but he must say, looking to their conduct, and to the language, they had held since, he was now more adverse than he was their to placing any such confidence in ministers. When, on a former occasion, a noble friend near him had introduced a resolution similar to the present, the noble earl at the head of the Treasury had said, "God forbid I should consider these coercive bills, necessary as they are in consequence of the present state of Ireland, as the means that are solely to be depended on for tranquillizing that country." He well recollected the metaphorical expression of the noble earl on that occasion. "No," said he, "we must probe this business to the bottom. The causes of this state of things do not lie on the surface. The evils of Ireland lie deep in the frame of society. These are merely temporary measures. God forbid they should be anything more! It is, however, necessary, that we should possess the means of putting down disturbances; and that we should devise some remedy for these evils, the roots of which he so deep." Who would not think, when the noble earl had procured the Insurrection Act, that he would immediately have set about digging and delving, to find out that precious jewel which was to cure all the evils which afflicted Ireland? But he did no such thing. He confined himself to the surface; he plucked his rue and dandelion; and. then he said, "Smell to this wonder working flower, it is a certain cure for all the evils of: which Ireland complains." The noble lord who spoke last had told them, that a bill, which would be most beneficial to Ireland, would 1057 shortly be laid before their lordships. For his own part, he did not believe it would be quite so beneficial as the noble lord supposed. He, as an older member of that House, would tell the noble lord, that the bill to which he had alluded, especially if it were good for any thing, was not likely to go to the people of Ireland as an act of parliament this session. He had observed uniformly, that, in proportion as the number of individuals who wished to obtain any object through the medium of parliament was great, additional difficulties were thrown in the way of their success. The practice reminded him of a story in ancient fable. It was very commonly said,—"Stop, this is a most important subject—we must weave a parliamentary web, which can be undone at pleasure." And, when the suitors imagined they were on the point of enjoying the object which they had so long and so strenuously pursued, committees and reports were interposed as barriers to their success. Then at the end of theses on, came the noble and learned Penelope, who presided over the House, and with the assistance of his or her handmaidens, unravelled the web, which it had taken the whole session to weave [a laugh].
The noble lord then proceeded to observe, that he believed the views of the government of Ireland, so far as the noble personage at the head of that government was, concerned, were statesmanlike and wise. He believed there was a sincere desire in that quarter to carry into effect the measures which had been referred to. He, however, was convinced by experience, that hitherto the noble personage of whom he spoke, had found it impossible to act as he wished. He knew, the painful situation in which that individual was placed; and perhaps some persons would blame him for having subjected himself to, the inconvenience which he now experienced. An illustrious duke (Wellington) who stood in the same degree of relationship to that noble personage as the noble lord who spoke last did, had used an expression which precisely met the situation of the noble marquis now at the head of the Irish government. Soon after the Spanish papers were laid on the table, he (lord H.) met a noble friend, whom he had not seen for some years. Though a man of considerable acuteness, he was not much in the habit diplomatic diplomatic papers, and 1058 he said, "You, in the course of your parliamentary duty, find it necessary famine papers of this sort—pray what is the meaning of the phrase I find,—a false position? I suppose it is a metaphor taken from the art in which the noble writer is so eminent. It is some sort of situation in a campaign." I (observed lord H.) answered, that it was a sort of jargon bandied about between diplomatists and ministers, but that I really did not understand what it meant. "O," said my friend, "if it is so commonly used, you must attach some meaning to it." "Yes," I observed, "it is understood to be a post, in which a man depends more on his enemies than his friends." "God bless me!" rejoined my friend, "that is precisely his brother's case; there is a sort of fraternal sympathy between them." [a laugh.] Such was really the situation of the marquis of Wellesiey. He had placed himself in a situation in which he was surrounded by enemies and from which he could not extricate, himself. If this were so, was it not an additional reason for parliament to take the inquiry into its own hands? The noble lord opposite admitted that the evils were deeply implanted in the state of society in Ireland; and yet, instead of instituting; an efficient inquiry, they were constantly called upon to renew laws which were contrary to the spirit of the constitution, and abhorrent to the nature of any man who justly prized the value of freedom. The resolution now before the House embraced these points—first, that great disturbances had taken place in Ireland, the inference from which was, that there was something in the state of that country which called for inquiry; and then the proposition, that coercive measures, without any mixture of conciliation, could produce no benefit. Certainly, when men were described as receiving extraordinary boons, and nevertheless refusing to act moderately and peaceably, it might safely be predicated, that the causes of their discontent lay deep indeed. The true cure for the evil had been well describe by the noble lord who spoke third in the debate, when he conjured the House to rule Ireland by kindness, and not by severity. It was not by extending the petty sessions, it was not by severity buildings, it was not by expending large sums of money on the building of churches, which their religion prevented them from which attending, that a people could be taught 1059 to love and respect their government. It was not by measures of such a nature that long, painful, and disgusting series of injury, obloquy, and oppression, could be obliterated from the minds of a high-spirited, warm-hearted, and noble minded people. It was only by approaching them in the true spirit of peace and conciliation, that they could be governed; and he would say, that no government since, the Union (and he included the government of 1806) had approached them in that spirit. He would not, as a member of that House, condescend to explain the circumstances which prevented the government of 1806 from fully acting on that principle, of which, however, they never lost sight. He would merely say, that, including the government of 1806, no government, since the Union, had had both the power and the will to do just on to the people of Ireland—to treat them with that degree of kindness and old English good-humour with which the government of this country always treated the people of this country, and which should constantly characterise the measures of the British parliament. A noble and learned lord (Redesdale) whom he did not see in his place, although he differed in opinion from the humble individual who now addressed their lordships, yet never stated his sentiments on this subject without giving such information on the general state of Ireland, as convinced all his hearers of the necessity of some alteration. That noble and learned lord had described the evil in Ireland to be this, "That there was one law for the rich, and another for the poor, and both were equally ill executed." Could any noble lord, after such a statement, sit down and say, "Let us leave that country as it is? When the noble lord at the head of the Treasury declared, that the evil should be probed to the bottom, did he suppose his pledge would be redeemed, if the tithe and the distillery bill were passed? It was not, however, for the House to look to the professed views of the noble lord, as stated last year, nor to mark the inconsistencies by which his Conduct had been distinguished. No: it was the duty of their lordships, as statesmen, to consider what was the situation of Ireland, of Great Britian, of the world at large, at this time. The introduction of first principles into a debate was very often tiresome, and where unnecessary might be dangerous. But, it was proper 1060 to have some opportunity of looking to that system which, for twenty years, had prevailed with respect to Ireland. During that period they had had full power over the people of that country. What were the rights of the people of Ireland, or what were the privileges they were entitled to claim, he would not examine. He would only observe, that government was established for the good of the public. The government belonged to the public, not the public to the government. A poet had said, but his lordship thought erroneously,What'er is best administered is best.This was a maxim of which he did not approve; but whether it were well-founded or no, it did not apply to Ireland. Where a government excluded a large portion of the inhabitants from their fair share of the power, no minister could rest his justification upon an assertion that the machine worked well. Let any main judge of the government of Ireland by its fruits. Could it be said, "The people are contented; why, then, would you disturb them with vain theories and abstract principles?" When the administration of justice was contrary to all principle it was absurd to talk of the absentee land lords, and to ascribe to them the evils' which existed in Ireland. Their origin might be traced to that state of things which was the confirmation of the maxim that there could be no happiness for the body of the people, no security of their rights, no enjoyment of any condition of society, unless where the people were admitted to that fair share of political power to which all men were entitled. It was very true, he could not trace what direct connexion there was between the exclusion of the Catholics and the enormous endowments of the church in Ireland; but these two phænomena presented such an anomaly, as never had before existed in the history of mankind, and never had any people been plunged into such abject calamity as the people of Ireland.
He thought he might at least say, that he had made out what the lawyers would call a prima facie case, to show the necessity of inquiry. He supposed that one would now take up that stele maxim of divine right, which, though it had been repudiated by the common sense of the people, seemed, however, to find its way into cabinets. When the tithe come before their lordships he should sate his opinion, upon it with perfect 1061 frankness, and with as much fairness to all the parties concerned as he could command. Much had been heard of the consequences of foreign interference with Ireland. No man, he believed, on that or on the other side of the House could doubt that power placed in the hands of the Bourbon government would not be at the least as dangerous to Ireland as that which prevailed during the plenitude of Napoleon's authority. He did not mean to say that the power of the Bourbons was equal to that possessed by Napoleon; but their enmity to the Protestant government of this country was far more deeply rooted. He did not speak on this subject without authority; and he repeated, that the Bourbon government, reigning, as they affected to reign, by divine right, supported by an army of the faith, and aided by the machinations of missionaries and Jesuits, was far more dangerous to the security of this country and of Ireland than, all that Napoleon could ever have effected. Perhaps the noble earl opposite would say, that this was a reason against the measures which he (lord H.) was advocating. But, he would say, that if Ireland could not be governed by mildness, and by engaging the affections of the people, he was sure it never could, and he hoped it never might be governed, by any other means. For these reasons he recommended their lordships, in the most earnest manner to institute the inquiry. And, still more necessary did it become, seeing that their lordships would ere long be called upon to enact that hideous statute—he could not call it a law, for it was a suspension of all law—which surpassed in cruelty all that had ever been devised, and which, as an Englishman, he could not think, of without disgust.
He would say one word to the noble lord who spoke last. That noble lord had talked of the favours which had been conferred by the government on Ireland. While he denied the propriety, he cautioned the House against the adoption of any such language. It had been used to the Americans; it had always been found dangerous, and it was improper; because it assumed, that what a government did for the people of a country could be a boon and a kindness. He knew of none which could be bestowed by a legislature upon a people. It was the duty of a legislature to consider and adopt whatever measures could tend to the welfare, the tranquillity, the liberty, and the enjoy- 1062 ment of the subject. It was, to use the language of contumely and insult when persons of one religion should tell those of another, that while they discharged only their duty they were extending to them a favour and a boon.
The Earl of Limerick
said, that although an opinion was elsewhere entertained, that the disorders in Ireland were caused by religious differences, he was convinced of the fallacy of that opinion. He would not pay so bad a compliment to the upper classes of Irish Catholics as to suppose that they countenanced such outrages. He was equally ready to acquit the priesthood; and he behaved that the promoters, as well as the actors, in the disorders, were altogether confined to the lower, orders of the people, He had had interviews with two captain Rocks; for their lordships must know that there were as many captain Rocks as there were bands of rioters, and these persons had told him what their object was. These men avowed to him, with perfect tranquillity, that their first wish was, to drive away, the heretics, and to take their property. This was the aim they, had in view, and until they had accomplished it, they assured him they would never be quiet. He was no advocate for severe laws; but when a whole province was given up to fire and sword, when the ordinary administration of the laws was not sufficient for the security of the peaceful inhabitants, he could not feel any reluctance in adopting strong measures. He had assisted, on a former occasion, in carrying into execution the measure to which he alluded. He had done so because he thought it necessary. It was enforced under the inspection of persons of high judicial authority, and no sentence had been passed which was not merited, nor upon any, one whose guilt had not been clearly proved. If the assertion was true, that, in Ireland there was one law for the rich and, another for the poor, he protested he, was ignorant of it. Without meaning to flatter the noble lords opposite he, must confess that they had made every exertion in their power for the restoration of tranquillity. He had been originally all advocate for the catholic institution at Maynooth; but recent experience had convinced him, that it was productive of much harm, and he now thought, that Catholics, by being educated, abroad would return not only better Catholics but better subjects. After some remarks 1063 upon the woollen manufactures of Ireland, land, the encouragement of which would, he thought, do more towards the restoration of tranquillity than any other measure, his lordship, speaking of the lord-lieutenant, expressed his high opinion of his intelligence and ability; but he thought that the simpler the government of Ireland could be made the better. Courts were no where schools of morality; and. no where were they less so than in Ireland. He would not have the court of Ireland remain a school for Tyro-statesmen, to learn their trade in, but an institution for the just administration of the laws. He should not vote for the resolutions; but would rely that, as the ministers had already done much, they would do still more towards the amelioration of Ireland.
, said, that their lordships had heard great credit taken for remedying evils in Ireland, the existence of which, until the remedial measures were brought forward, had always been denied. The ministers, too, had given up taxes in Ireland. And why? Because they could no longer collect them. He wished those who, exposed inquiry; would read the Insurrection Act—an act which seemed more suited to a slave island and a slave population, than to the inhabitants of a free country. His majesty's ministers reminded him of a certain clergyman, not the most exemplary in his practice, who had had, this is the cursedest parish that God ever put breath into. I have been preaching to them for five and twenty year, and they are as bad as they were before." His majesty's ministers, in like manner, with their parish of six million of souls, had been holding forth to them on the necessity of tranquillity; yet, strange to say, this parish, more irritated by acts than tranquillized by words, was as turbulent as ever it had been. Ireland was certainly a country sui generis. With a church as highly endowed as any in Christendom, it was nevertheless as wretched as any country in the world. Those who had any thing to do with its government should hide their heads for shame, at the mention of such a disgrace to the civilized world.
The Marquis of Lansdown
said, that after all they had heard last year in that House and so other places; after the declaration of the noble earl opposite, that if there could not be found a remedy immediately, for what was then called, and 1064 now more emphatically might be called, the melancholy state of Ireland, still no time should be lost in probing it to the bottom—he had come down with great anxiety, to hear whether it was the result of deliberate reflection en the part of his majesty's ministers, that Ireland should continue in its present state; or whether they expected, from the measures in progress in the other House, relief for Ire* land, from a state of peril more alarming than any that had been witnessed since the rebellion of 1798. The noble Secretary of State had that night done him the honour to ascribe to him the merit of suggesting certain measures that had been carried to a certain extent; and the noble I master of the Mint, who was; afraid he should be too much intoxicated with this commendation, and actuated by a laud able desire to gather up every crumb of praise for a ministry that had done so little and demanded so much, had observed, that though none of these measures were then before parliament they had all an existence in his mind, and would, after six years of silence and power, have been immediately brought forward [a laugh]. He should not quarrel with the noble baron as to the originality of his ideas, but whether such a mea sure originated with his friend sir J Newport (whom, whenever Ireland, was mentioned, he was proud to, call his friend), or with whom else soever he should observe, that what he complained of was, not that beneficial measures were not suggested, but that there was not that vigorous and determined tone was the government, which was necessary to carry measures opposed by prejudice, by local interests, and by the inveterate habits of the country—obstacles, only to be over come by an unbending course, and unity of purpose in the servants of the Crown. With respect to the act for the free importation of corn, so far from being I considered as an act of favour, it ought on lock to be viewed as an act of bare justice; for to what could be more unjust, than that England should expect Ireland to consume the various articles of her manufacture, while she was not obliged to receives on equal terms the natural produce of that country, on the sale and consumption of which a large portion of her inhabitants depended for subsistence?—On the subject of the state of the roads, and the Grand Jury Presentments be could only say, that a great benefit, would be 1065 likely, to arise from the bill which had been lately introduced. Did the noble lords believe that these things were in such a state of purity as to exempt Ireland from the evils which they had formerly inflicted on her? If the noble Secretary of State believed so, his belief must be founded on ignorance of the reports which had been furnished by his own engineers, and which he himself had laid before the House. Indeed, it was impossible that he could hold such an opinion, if he had read the Reports of those persons who had been employed by the marquis Wellesley; for they stated, that the system of robbery in Ireland was now carried to a greater extent than ever. There was another subject on which ministers had also claimed much credit, and with equal reason; namely, the expenditure of a large sum of money in granting out leases of lands to public bodies, for the purposes of cultivation and appropriation to the interest and benefit of public schools. But, it could not be said that this expenditure had been carried on with a spirit of impartiality. The Catholic deserved assistance as much as the Protestant, and required it more; and yet he had not been so assisted; no grants had been made to schools which were under the direction of Catholic Priests. This might be met by saying, that it was against the policy of the government to encourage the increase of catholic scholars; but there was no principle on which the Catholics should remain uneducated; for, if education did not change their opinion as to their religion, it would, at least, make them better subjects. The noble baron had alluded to reports on this subject. It had been suggested, that public schools should be kept by the parochial clergy, and the noble baron had stated it as his opinion, that two and a half per cent should be deducted from the general income of the clergy for that purpose. This proposition had not been attended to, delays had been suffered to intervene, and time had elapsed without any measures being taken. But, how different was the conduct of government when any particular proposition of their own was to be carried. When any of their officers recommended strong measures, their recommendation was immediately carried into effect, statements were laid before the House, bills were hurried through, parliament was called on to suspend the Constitution— 1066 and that call was immediately to be obeyed. He was sorry that these measures, which were so evidently for the benefit of the people, were not treated somewhat in the same manner. He regretted that no vigour, no despatch, no powerful assistance, was afforded to carry them into effect.—The noble marquis apologized for the time he had occupied on this subject, and he confessed that, much as he valued the utility of good public roads; much as he valued the benefit of public education; and much as he hated and condemned those atrocious laws whose existence now tended so strongly to demoralize the people, still he could not say that the adoption of measures for the two first, and the repeal of the last would of themselves be sufficient to root out the evils under which Ireland suffered. It had been stated, that without any effort by the parliament and government, a remedy might be found for the calamities under which Ireland laboured; but this statement came from persons who looked to the effect, and not to the cause. They said, if the landlords were more considerate, if the peasantry were more industrious, and if the gentry would reside more upon their estates, all would be well. But he would ask, were not all these the legitimate consequences of the mismanagement of the country? Were they peculiar to Ireland Did they come in the pure air that blew over it, or did they Spring out of its fertile soil? No. They might all be traced to natural causes. If the whole history of the country could be effaced, it would not require the acute discernment of a Montesquieu, nor the profound genius of a Bacon, to discover, upon looking only at the physiognomy of the country, that bad management, for the last country had reduced it to a condition which excited the compassion of this, and something like the contempt of every other, country of Europe. To no common remedy, then, must we look for the extinction of evils of so great magnitude. Alluding to the administration of justice in Ireland, the noble marquis said, that although he would be the last man to impute any thing like partiality to the judges or the great law officers, yet it must be admitted that from the conduct of the subordinate branches of the legal administration, an opinion prevailed in Ireland, that the law was of friendly to the people, and that they could not look to it for protection. 1067 This notion existed, perhaps, to a greater, degree than, the truth warranted. Noble lords were not aware to what extent the system of exclusion tended to exasperate the people. Its operation was to exclude six-sevenths of the people of Ireland from that to which the Statute-book said they were, entitled. The number of offices to which Catholics, were eligible was 2,540. What proportion did their lordships suppose was held by Catholics—106. Until the power which wrought tins effect was destroyed, it was in vain to look for loyalty and attachment. Tranquillity might be obtained; but nothing more he did not mean to blame the lord-lieutenant. The blame belonged to subordinate agents, whom no lord-lieutenant could control; and least of all a lord-lieutenant not supported by the government at home. One of the most curious results which had come out upon a recent, inquiry was, that upon some unimportant occasion Catholics were permuted to serve upon a grand jury; but upon a grand in which: their rights, and the voting of public money vas concerned. From 1798 to the present time, if there was one principle more than another which prevailed among the lower orders in Ireland, it was that they considered oaths taken for private purposes more binding than those administered in courts of justice. But, on a recent occasion, before a tribunal in trusted with the highest inquisitorial functions, a person of a certain importance, and, as he must suppose, well educated, had despised the authority of that tribunal, and had preferred, at all risks, to retain the oath he had taken for the purposes of a faction, to paying the obedience due to the authority by which he was questioned. He knew nothing more unfortunate for a country than the erroneous opinion which prevailed on this subject; and he could not but regret, that the principle of giving no party a triumph, was suffered to be turned to purposes, most injurious to the interests of the country There was one triumph which ought always to be given—it was that of the laws; and the government which could not secure this, was unfit to govern any country, least of all to restore tranquillity to such a country as Ireland.—Here he should have concluded, but for the mention which had been made of the measure for the commutation of tithes, a measure to which he looked up for the greatest relief to Ireland. The proposed 1068 avoiding of all the evils of collection, would be so great a benefit, that not a peasant would look at it but with the greatest satisfaction. He could not, however, believe that lord Wellesley could have sent, over a bill, the effect of which might be to increase the burthens already weighing upon the landholders of Ireland. When; he stated, that the average price of the tithes was taken at 73s. for the quarter of corn, a price higher than it, had been for years, he thought the bill must have undergone alterations since it left Ireland. As to all the partial improvements which had been spoken of by, noble lords, he would ask them whether, in the present temper of the people of that country, those improvements had been of the slightest practical good. In conclusion, he declared that he would support the motion in the hope of producing some good effect.
The Earl of Liverpool
said, it was impossible for him to avoid stating, in a few words, the grounds on which he should object to the motion of the noble duke; particularly as he had been so pointedly alluded to in the course pf the debate. The motion was not a motion for inquiry merely. It commenced by expressing a regret, in which every one must agree, at, the strong measures which were rendered necessary for the safety of Ireland; but it also expressed the noble duke's sentiments as to what the government of Ireland had been. He would admit, that every noble lord who thought there had been a systematic defect in the government of that country, would be fully warranted in voting for the motion of the noble duke. But he should deny the position of the noble duke. He would admit that evils existed. He did not deny the expediency of seeking for some remedy; but he denied the cause to which those evils were attributed, and he could not accede to all the measures proposed for their relief. It had been truly said that the whole of the late reign had been one succession of acts of beneficence. That much had been, done for Ireland, and that she was now reaping the benefit of it, no man in his senses could deny. It had been said, that all which had been done was a mere act of justice. He acknowledged that whatever benefits a government conferred on a country, could only be termed acts pf justice; but he would say that with respect to many pf those; acts that that, had been done for Ireland, which would 1069 not have been for England. He was therefore justified in saying, that since the Union they had been in the constant habit of legislating for the benefit of Ireland. Allusion had been made to the pledge that was given last year by his majesty's government; but, could any man be so absurd as to suppose that the measures which he had then spoken of could operate instantaneously as by magic? Certainly, time was essential to their full and perfect operation. The attention of the government: but been anxiously directed, however, to every practicable correction of those evils, and the measures which had either been carried into effect, or were now in progress, embraced four great points—a new system of police, a reform of the magistracy, and of the general administration of justice, the commutation of tithes, and a new system for the distilleries. All these objects had been in a great degree matured by the government. The police system had been carried into effect in several counties in Ireland, and was in progress in others. The reform of the magistracy had commenced, and was in course of progress; and the other two measures had been submitted to the consideration of parliament. The system for the composition of tithes had been characterised as imperfect; but it was necessary to establish the principle before the details could be perfected. The question of tithes involved difficulties in the details, which could only be reconciled by the union of all parties in the principles of justice. A portion of the clergy might be opposed to the principle of the measure, but he believed that the great body of the parochial clergy were disposed to second the efforts of the government. The pledge of the government had been fulfilled in the introduction of the measures to which he had alluded. With respect to the participation of the Roman Catholics of Ireland in those rights and privilege's to which they were by law entitled, the fullest and most distinct instructions had been given by the government of this country to the authorities in Ireland, that they should be equally and impartially admitted to those rights and privileges. He believed that the offices to which they were legally admissible, were fairly distributed among the Catholics of Ireland. In several of the revenue boards, Roman Catholics were admitted; and in one of them a Roman Catholic gentleman was deputy chairman of the board. He mentioned 1070 this fact to show that the government not act upon any principle of exclusion. There might, indeed, be an apparent inequality in the distribution of offices among Catholics and Protestants, but when it was considered, that forty-nine, fiftieths of the property of Ireland were in the hands of Protestants, and when the inferior education of the Catholics was taken into consideration, that which at first appeared to be an inequality, would be found to be no inequality at all Catholics and Protestants were admitted for the most part, indifferently, to the privilege of sitting on grand juries; and the duties of the magistracy were discharged by Catholics and Protestants on the same bench. He believed, most conscientiously, that the Catholics of Ireland were impartially admitted to all the benefits which they were legally capable of enjoying. The noble marquis had not himself thrown out a single suggestion with a view to Improving the state of Ireland, except perhaps one observation as to the expediency of lowering the duties on law proceedings With respect to the administration of justice, no instance of the intentional perversion of justice had been brought forward; still less any instance, of such perversion in which the government could be charged with concurring. He denied that there was any combination in Ireland against the government or the institutions of the country. Amidst all the disturbances which had taken place in Limerick last year, he had good authority for saying, that if the king had appeared in Limerick at that time, he would have been received with as much enthusiasm as he had been in Dublin. It was not a combination against the government, but against property in general, whether in the hands of Protestants or Catholics and he believed, that the exasperation of the people of Ireland against Catholic proprietors was, in many instances, even greater than against Protestant proprietors. In Connaught, the disturbances had arisen from the unwillingness of the people, to pay dues to their own priests, and, in many other parts of Ireland, the feeling was as strong against their own priests as against the Protestant clergy. Some of the calamities of Ireland were, undoubtedly attributable to the great extent to which absenteeship was carried—an evil which it must be admitted had been in creased—Union. But while he was ready to admit that this, and perhaps some other 1071 inconveniences had arisen from the Union, he was satisfied that Ireland had, upon the whole, derived great benefit from that measure. The great object, in which all parties ought to unite, should be, to infuse into Ireland English notions and English feelings, to approximate a better feeling between the higher and the lower orders; for he must repeat, that the evil arose from a disunion between the rich and the poor, and not from a disunion between the governor, and the governed. That disunion had, indeed, produced greater evils than the most tyrannical government could have inflicted—evils which could only be mitigated by promoting a better feeling between the two classes of society. The generality of the noble duke's motion defeated itself with regard to any practical purpose, and the whole debate had, in fact, resolved itself into a discussion of the question of the few remaining restrictions on the Roman Catholics of Ireland. The principle upon which the present lord-lieutenant had acted, in the government of Ireland, had been ludicrously termed a trimming principle; but he (lord L.) maintained that to be the only just principle of government, which held the balance between the Catholic and the Protestant, and which admitted both to an equal participation in those privileges to which they were legally entitled.
The Bishop of Kildare
defended the parochial incumbents of Ireland from some aspersions which had been cast on them, and maintained that they had uniformly discharged their duty in the promotion of parochial schools within their different districts.
The Earl of Carnarvon
strongly urged the necessity of entering upon an immediate inquiry into the state of Ireland. He had been surprised to hear the noble earl opposite talk of the boons which the government had granted to the Irish nation. Now, if the distresses of Ireland had arisen from causes unconnected with the government of that country, any measure of amelioration might not improperly be called a boos; but, when the evils complained of were the result of misgovernment alone, it was barely an act of justice to remedy them. He was convinced, that if the motion were not carried, no inquiry would take place on the part of government. The state of Ireland seemed to be too appalling for the contemplation of ministers. They shrank from the inquiry, and wished to let all the 1072 horrors which were connected with the subject remain, if possible, undisclosed. By agreeing to the motion of his noble friend, the House would, he was persuaded, do more good than could be effected by all the measures which had been promised by ministers.
§ The House divided, for the original motion; Contents 43; Proxies 16–59. Not-contents, 66; Proxies 39–105. Majority against the motion, 46.
|List of the Minority.|