§ Viscount Melbourne
moved the Order of the Day, for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on this Bill.
§ Lord Carberry, before going into the Committee, begged to ask the noble Lord opposite, whether it was the intention of Ministers that there should be any qualification for the office of Magistrate in Ireland, similar to what was required in England?
§ Lord Plunkett, in reply, said, the Bill now before the House had no reference whatever to the qualifications of persons holding the Commission of the Peace. It referred only to the appointment of Lord-lieutenants of counties in Ireland. Should the noble Lord require any information as 943 to those holding the Commission of the Peace, he should be happy at any other time to give him all the information in his power.
The Earl of Wicklow
said, that before going into the Committee on this Bill, he was anxious to make a few remarks as to its object. He had endeavoured to make himself well acquainted with it, and had read the Bill with much care, and had also attended to the speech of the noble Viscount in explanation of its principles. The Bill was to create Lords-lieutenant for the several counties in Ireland, on the principle that there should be some certain medium of communication between the Government of Ireland and the Magistracy of the several counties. That such a medium should exist he admitted, for without the aid of local knowledge the appointment of persons to the Commission of the Peace would be a matter of much difficulty. He admitted also, that it was most desirable the law and practice of England and Ireland should be assimilated in these respects, but in comparing the proposed measure with these objects, he did not see clearly how they were to be attained. The object was, to appoint a Lord-lieutenant to each county in Ireland, a sort of military, as well as civil officer, who was to be in communication with the Irish Government; but he thought that the custodes rotulorum of the counties were the persons through whom such communication might be very well made; if so, why not revive the duties of this office if they had lain dormant? Why was it necessary to create an officer to do those duties which might be very well performed by officers at present existing? If there were any of them non-resident, a bill could be introduced transferring the authority to others. It might be said, that these officers had not hitherto performed their duties; but if they had not done so, it did not follow that they were unable to perform them. In the state of party feeling which had so long existed in Ireland—not that which was understood here by the distinction of Whig and Tory, but that dark and malignant spirit which extended to political and social relations between man and man, which manifested itself in acts of favour or acts of hostility, and pervaded every class from high to low—that acrimonious spirit, he was aware, the noble and learned Lord (Lord Plunkett) had 944 done much to abolish, but existing as it still did, he would ask him, if he thought the time had arrived when so much political power as this Bill would confer might be permanently placed in the hands of individuals? The Catholic Relief Bill went far to remove political animosities and party prejudices; indeed, it had exceeded in that respect the most sanguine expectations; but, still he doubted if it was wise to confer the power this Bill would give on one individual in each county. Let it also be considered, that as the office of Custos Rotulorum was to be continued, the appointment of a new officer, with nearly similar powers, might tend to create a collision of authority, which it would be well in any case to avoid, but more particularly in Ireland. The Custos Rotulorum would claim his rights, and there might be persons who would say to the officer newly appointed, "I will not attend to you, while I have an ancient officer who has authority to direct me." He cautioned the Government, therefore, against a measure which would be looked upon by many as solely intended for the purpose of increasing their patronage. He thought by the appointment of custodes rotulorum, instead of Lord-lieutenants, Ministers would relieve themselves from this imputation. It would also relieve the Government from the solicitation of their own friends, for they might say— "here is an opportunity by which you may confer upon us, at least, posts of honour and influence." From such solicitations as these, Ministers would be relieved, by adopting the course he had ventured to suggest. He did, therefore, hope, that they would reconsider the subject, and reflect on what the situation of the custodes rotulorum would be, if they appointed others to the situation of Lords-lieutenant.
§ The Marquis of Londonderry, as one of the custodes rotulorum of Ireland, felt it necessary to say, that the office was one of very inconsiderable patronage; but that officer might, in his opinion, perform all the duties of the proposed Lord-lieutenants. He could not see the policy of taking away all the governors and deputy governors of counties in Ireland at one fell-swoop. He would suppose, that these officers had executed their duties with fidelity and ability many years. Would it be fair to place a Lord-lieutenant over such men's heads? The Custos Rotulo- 945 rum had hitherto had the recommendation of persons to be appointed to commissions of the peace; and how, he wanted to know, was the Bill to operate? Were the officers to act together or separate? Was there to be a sort of military as well as civil officer over each county? If the Custos Rotulorum was selected, and had the office given him, that might be fair, but it would be unfair and unjust to remove him without any imputation whatever against his character. It would be considered, that the only object of the change was, to create offices for persons more friendly to the views of Government. This was, on that ground, a highly objectionable measure, because it would place nearly the whole political power of the counties of Ireland in the hands of one class of men. It would take from the Custos Rotulorum the power he had heretofore, of recommending persons for the Commission of the Peace to the Lord Chancellor, and would thus place the whole Magistracy in the power of the Lord Chancellor, and if they should have a Radical Lord Chancellor, he would, of course, lake the recommendation of the newly-appointed Lord-lieutenant in preference to that of the former Custos Rotulorum. What he wished to ascertain was, whether the latter Officer was to retain the power which had been in courtesy allowed him, of recommending persons for the office of Magistrates? He questioned the propriety, in the present state of Ireland, of exalting one person over another, more especially when the persons to be abased had conducted themselves with propriety, and with the approbation of the country in which they resided. Their Lordships would be aware that some benefit resulted from the attachment borne to the individuals who exercised power. Unless Government united the offices, it would meet great difficulties, and its measure would be very unpopular. For these reasons, and knowing the feelings of the country, he had moved for the return of Governors in each county of Ireland, specifying those who also held the office of Custos Rotulorum. When this Return was on the Table, they would be able to ascertain who were the persons in office, and in what manner they had performed their duties. He wished this Return to be on the Table before the Bill was pressed forward; but he would not delay the Bill if the Government thought 946 it necessary. He begged to add a few words with respect to what had been said by the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government, on a previous occasion, as to the probability of doing away with the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland. The noble Earl's language appeared to imply, that such a change was contemplated by Government. If that was the case, he assured the noble Earl, no measure more disastrous or pregnant with mischief to Ireland, could well be conceived. Indeed, the mere expression of the sentiment was calculated to do much mischief. He had heard it with dismay. This unadvised change was, he knew, recommended in another place, but the small minority by which that proposition was supported, gave him an additional reason to hope that it would be scouted for ever. If it was revived, the Minister who proposed it would certainly rue the day when it should be carried into effect. It was the residence of the Lord Lieutenant and the little regal display at Dublin which still invested the metropolis of Ireland with something of a charm to the people, and added to the advantages of having such individuals as the Duke of Northumberland spending their princely wealth, and contributing to the happiness and prosperity of the capital, made the Irish still think they were an independent people. These feelings would be completely destroyed if the Lord Lieutenancy was removed. The young persons of that country who had not the means of coming to England, would be deprived of that introduction to the world which they at present attained by resorting to the Vice-regal Court at Dublin. As an Irishman, he must express his regret that such a measure was contemplated: he believed it would be an imprudent and dangerous step, and he trusted the noble Earl would give some explanation on the point, since he was satisfied, that nothing could have more tended to unsettle men's minds in that country than entertaining a project to remove the Lord Lieutenant, and abolish the Lord Lieutenancy.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that perhaps their Lordships would permit him, without attempting to reply to the extraneous topics which had been introduced by the noble Marquis, to answer those points only which related to the measure under their consideration. In the first place, he begged 947 to assure the noble Marquis that there was no desire to press this measure through the House with any undue haste. Secondly, that the argument of the noble Marquis, as well as that of the noble Earl who spoke first upon the subject, appeared to have been founded in a total mistake, so much so, that had not the noble Marquis himself said he was a Custos Rotulorum, he should have supposed he had no knowledge whatever on the subject. The noble Marquis contended, that we should assimilate the practice of the two countries by vesting the offices of Governor of the county and Custos Rotulorum in one and the same person, as was done in England, while the noble Marquis himself admitted, that the settlement of these offices should be in accordance with the habits and usages of the country. He agreed with the noble Marquis, and therefore apprized him that as the usage and practice of uniting the offices of Governor of the county and Custos Rotulorum, had never existed in Ireland, so the latter had no pretence to the privileges which custom and habit had given to the same officers in England. Thus they were entirely relieved from the difficulties which had been pressed upon them on that point. He had distinctly stated to their Lordships, on a former occasion, that he was doubtful of the wisdom of introducing the same practice with regard to the Lieutenants of counties in Ireland, as prevailed in England. He did not know how a different system had grown up in the two countries; probably it might have proceeded from some of the causes alluded to by the noble Earl. He would not take up their Lordships' time by replying to the sarcasms which the noble Marquis had indulged in. The noble Marquis accused the Government of a desire to gain a greater influence by retaining to itself the right of appointing the Lord-lieutenants of counties in Ireland, but that was not the question, which was, whether the general provisions of the Bill were wise. Every establishment newly introduced, necessarily increased for a time the influence of the Government. But this influence was only the fair and natural increase of the power which it was necessary the executive Government should possess to conduct the public business of the country, and he could assure the noble Marquis, in framing the provisions of the Bill they had no eye to an undue increase of their power or patronage.
The Marquis of Londonderry
was not aware that he had indulged in any sarcasms. But when the noble Lord declared that the circumstances to which he referred were extraneous to the subject under consideration, he thought the noble Secretary himself had indulged in sarcasm, for the observations he had made were chiefly confined to the question before the House.
rose to order. The noble Marquis had no right to speak but for the purpose of explanation; but the noble Marquis had not offered a word in explanation of what fell from him in his first address. He thought, therefore, the ordinary rules of the House should be enforced, and the noble Marquis be only allowed to speak in explanation.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, he was perfectly in order when he stated, that the charge of introducing extraneous matter was unfounded.
§ Earl Grey
observed, it was not explanation, to prove that any noble Lord was not subject to a particular observation That, he apprehended, came within the range of reply. Explanation was properly limited to those points on which a speaker had been misunderstood. The noble Marquis had not stated, that he had been misrepresented; he therefore could have no right to speak. It frequently happened, under the pretence of explanation, two, three, or more speeches were made by the same individual, on the same subject, to the inconvenience of the House, and to the delay of public business. He, therefore, thought it right to enforce the rules of the House.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, if the rules of the House prevented him from refuting the charge now, he should certainly do so in the Committee.
§ The Duke of Wellington
wished to speak only on the Bill. When this question was discussed before, he had been perfectly aware of the existence of the Custodes Rotulorum in Ireland, and that many of these officers also held the office of Governors of Counties. He was, likewise, aware that it was the practice in this country that the Custodes Rotulorum should recommend the persons to serve as Magistrates, to the Lord Chancellor. That practice had originated in courtesy, and was now invariable, although, in fact, there was no law to enforce it. He understood the proposed system in Ireland was to be 949 like that of England, and that the Lord Lieutenants were to have the privilege of recommending Magistrates in the same manner as in this country. The noble Lord, however, had explained, on a former occasion, that it was not the intention of Government to carry this into effect immediately, but let the system be acted on by degrees. Looking at the present list of the Custodes Rotulorum in Ireland, he thought they were the fittest persons to be intrusted with this power. They must necessarily, from their superior local knowledge, be the best qualified to judge of those to whom ought to be confided the Magisterial duties. They were the parties, therefore, to whom the privilege of recommendation should be given. He must particularly direct the notice of Government to one point as most essential, which was, that the persons intrusted with this power should be generally resident in Ireland. So important did he consider this, that he should like an amendment to be introduced into the first clause of the Bill, beginning, that no person exercising the power of recommending Magistrates should quit the country without the permission of the Lord Lieutenant; and when such permission was given, such party should not leave Ireland until he had appointed a deputy (subject to the approval of the Lord Lieutenant) to act for him in his absence. The objection stated by his noble friend, that the measure would place the Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum at variance with each other, seemed to him unfounded. If the Custos Rotulorum had ever been in the habit of appointing Magistrates, that would be the effect of the measure, but these officers in Ireland had no more been in the habit of recommending the Magistrates to the Lord Chancellor than any other individual there resident, which he considered to be one of the great evils of Ireland. He had seen printed forms of letters, according to which a former Lord Chancellor required that application should be made for the appointment of Magistrates. These printed forms could be filled up by anybody, and as the Custodes Rotulorum in Ireland had never been in the habit of recommending Magistrates, they would not be placed in the situations the noble Marquis supposed. But whatever changes were to be introduced, it was above all things necessary, that the person intrusted with the power of recommending Magistrates should pos- 950 sess the confidence of the Government and the country.
§ Earl Grey
thanked the noble Duke for the candid and manly manner in which he had supported a measure essential for the good government of Ireland. The noble Duke had given a complete answer to all the objections that had been raised. With regard to what fell from the noble Marquis, that he (Earl Grey) had made a declaration on some former occasion which had thrown all Ireland into alarm, and filled him with dismay, he was at a loss to imagine what the noble Marquis could mean, until he went on to slate that he fancied it was in contemplation of Government to abolish the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. What he had stated was, that whatever opinion might be entertained as to the expediency of keeping up the office of Lord Lieutenant, that would be a question to be considered on some future occasion, but that at present he had no hesitation in avowing his opinion, that it would be highly inexpedient to remove that officer. He had then particularly observed, that this measure was introduced with no such view, and must be judged on its own merits. This was his statement, which the noble Marquis, by some strange perversion of its meaning, had construed into a declaration that the Government intended to abolish the high and important office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He was not prepared to expect any opposition to the measure before the House in this stage, and bethought the course pursued by the two noble Lords opposite somewhat unusual. Although those noble Lords professed not to vote against the Bill, yet they had shown as much opposition as possible. As the objection raised to the increased patronage of the Crown, supposed to be given by the provisions of this Bill, had met so complete an answer from the noble Duke, he should no further notice it than to observe, it would be a most extraordinary limitation of the powers of the Crown if it were to be deprived of the appointment of such important officers as Lords Lieutenants of counties. He was regardless of the imputation which had been cast upon him, of selecting persons to fill these important offices from those who entertained party and particular opinions. It would be seen when the appointments took place, whether the Government had been guided by any such feelings, and until then the noble Lord opposite might 951 imagine what he pleased. He hoped, if this was a proper Bill, and these officers were to be appointed, that they would be left to the appointment of the Crown, under the responsibility of those Ministers, who were liable, on all occasions, for their advice to the Sovereign. With respect to the qualification of those persons, no doubt they should be of high character and rank, and above all, as suggested by the noble Duke, residents in the country, He had considered whether it would be possible to introduce into this Bill any limitation or provision to compel the Lord Lieutenants to reside in the country during the period of their appointment; but there was great difficulty on this point. In the first appointments, undoubtedly, residence would be an indispensable qualification, and he trusted the same qualification would be required, under whatever Government the country might be placed. He doubted whether it would be possible, by the construction of any clause, to provide for that object effectually without incurring the risk of putting into the hands of the executive Government of Ireland power greater, perhaps, than it ought to possess. The clause proposed by the noble Duke might be effectual, but it would place an extraordinary power in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, which might, at some time, be tyrannically exercised. He trusted that residence would be enforced, if not by a provision of the Bill, at least by whatever executive power might be in existence when the appointments were made.
The Earl of Wicklow
explained. The noble Earl had described him as an opponent of the measure, although he had distinctly stated it was his intention to support it. He had wished, indeed, for some explanation on particular points.
would not have troubled their Lordships but for the mistake under which the noble Marquis and noble Earl evidently laboured, as to the practices and usages to which they had alluded, and upon which they had founded their objections. The whole of the argument advanced by them had, however, been completely answered by the noble Duke opposite. The noble Marquis, considering that the motion for the further progress of the Bill was only a matter of course, had unusually indulged himself in a very extensive range of observations. The noble Marquis had insinuated that the Ministers 952 object in bringing forward this Bill was to increase the patronage of the Crown. Certainly he should have thought the known characters of his Majesty's Ministers would have exempted them from any such insinuations; and he hoped there was no other noble Lord in the House who would for one moment suppose they were actuated by such paltry motives as the noble Marquis had ascribed to them. He did not believe the noble Marquis would act on such motives, and he would be properly indignant if they were attributed to him. Noble minds should be the last to impute to others what they would themselves be ashamed of. The noble Marquis was himself the Custos Rotulorum of two counties, though he was not acquainted with the particular circumstances which had given rise to this plurality of offices, and he seemed to suppose, that a case might arise in which the Lord Chancellor of Ireland might be influenced by the thoughts of patronage. If this was what the noble Marquis meant, why did he make the charge under the colour of an insinuation? Why did he not bring it forward in direct terms, and particularize the grounds for his supposition? Nothing was more offensive than insinuations of that sort. For his part, he repelled with scorn and indignation the imputation attempted to be cast upon him, and defied any man, from the first moment of his political existence, to look upon his character and conduct and then charge him with being a Radical. If he referred to his personal experience, he should find many applications had been made to him to appoint Magistrates; and even the noble Marquis himself, as Custos Rotulorum or Governor of a county (for applications must necessarily be made under the, latter character) had applied to him twice, and he asked the noble Marquis whether he thought it just and honourable to insinuate that he had been biassed by political feelings in his decision on these applications? He thought he had a right to complain of such insinuations; because, as a Peer of Parliament, he exercised his discretion and favoured the Reform Bill, therefore he was to be considered as a Radical Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He warned the noble Marquis against indulging in such insinuations which created pain wherever they fell, and to avoid the possibility of laying himself open to similar allusions, as the noble Marquis was, per- 953 haps, not perfectly invulnerable to political feelings. He felt a diffidence in defending himself, having been but a short time in that House, but although he had not taken his seat there as one of the hereditary Nobility, yet he had a right to maintain his character.
§ The Bill went through the Committee.