The Marquis of Westmeath
rose to move for a copy of an address from the Magistrates of the county of Westmeath to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, with the answer of his Excellency thereto. The noble Marquis said, before he applied himself to the subject of his motion, he wished to notice an observation that had been made on a preceding evening by a noble Earl on the Ministerial benches, who intimated that he was actuated by a spirit of hostility to the noble Marquis at the head of the Irish Government. To that he could only say that, he was much surprised at hearing such a charge. He could perceive nothing in his public conduct to justify the observation, and, he could not understand why it was, the noble Earl said so. He had no feeling of hostility whatever towards the noble Marquis, or to any Members of his Majesty's Government, and he felt considerable pain in being placed by imperious circumstances in opposition to those friends by whom he had been assisted towards the seat which he had the honour to hold. He submitted, however, that he was bound to act as his duty and conscience required him, and he appealed to every one if a crisis might not arrive in public affairs which entitled a man to think and act for himself? He did not throw blame on others, but he claimed for himself the same liberty which he was disposed to grant to every individual. He hoped, therefore, he should hear no more of his supposed hostility to the noble Marquis at the head of the Irish Government, and he would proceed at once to the subject of his Motion, claiming the indulgence of the House while he performed a duty which, though unpleasant, he would not shrink from. It would, perhaps, be recollected by many of their Lordships, because a petition had been presented on the subject, that the county of Westmeath was a short time since in a state of the greatest disorder. In consequence of those excesses the Magistrates held a meeting to consider what measures should be adopted; and as it was previous to the Assizes, every Magistrate who intended to take out the commission of the peace was present. At that meeting it was agreed upon to address the Lord Lieutenant. Now, he did not think that he or the Magistrates were acting in opposition to his Majesty's Ministers, by bringing 1294 before the Parliament and the executive Government the unfortunate state of the county, which they could not know so well as the Magistrates of the county did. He considered that the time had arrived, in consequence of the declaration made by the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government, with respect to the disturbed state of Ireland, when the noble Earl might consider it necessary to apply to Parliament for further powers for enforcing the execution of the law in that country; and he did consider that, in proceeding upon the declaration so made by him, he was acting in conformity to the declared policy of his Majesty's Ministers by bringing the subject forward, in order that they might, under the authority of Parliament, be enabled to apply a remedy. For the furtherance of this object; he considered the best course to pursue was, in the first place, to describe the quality and the quantity of crime then or recently committed in the county, and to lay it before Parliament and the Government, rather than to recommend to the Magistrates any particular course to pursue upon their own discretion and responsibility. In referring to the documents on which he founded his Motion, he begged to allude to the following words, which were to be found in the petition and in the address, both of which state "that the descriptions of crimes committed under the systematic resistance to the law complained of, are characterized by a spirit of ferocity unexampled; that the dominion of the law is subverted; and the peace and security of society are not only endangered, but actually overturned." It might be in the recollection of their Lordships, that these very words formed a part also of the leading expressions of the Tithe Report, which was brought up by a Minister of the Crown, and he presumed, therefore, that they were not introduced without the approbation of his Majesty's Government; and, therefore, he said, that when the Magistrates of Westmeath were prepared to support this allegation by proof, they might have expected and did expect that some decided measures would have been taken by his Majesty's Government for the purpose of applying remedies, when the state of the country was admitted to be that in which the law was subverted, and the peace and security of society not only endangered, but actually overturned. As he should have occasion hereafter to refer to the answer which the Magistrates of West 1295 meath received from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, it was only necessary he should observe at present, that it was anything but of an encouraging nature; and, though indirectly perhaps, it imputed to them that they had not executed their duty in a proper and efficient manner. It was considered that, in making the statement to the Lord Lieutenant, it could only be supported by facts, the truth was, therefore, stated. Other matters might have been put forward of considerable weight, but the Magistrates contented themselves with a detail of such circumstances as appeared most important, as they more particularly bore upon the allegation contained in the petition and address—namely, that the peace and security of society were not only endangered, but actually overturned. He did not mean to fatigue their Lordships by entering into details, but he must notice one or two facts which were not mentioned in the address, nor had they been publicly noticed. But, first, he must observe, that the address and petitions stated that, between December and the end of January, the increase of crime had been from sixty-two to one hundred and fifteen outrages: thirty-three against the person, forty-eight against property, and the rest of no ordinary kind. In February there were twelve assaults on the person, connected with Ribbonism; twenty-five offences against property, chiefly attacks on houses to obtain arms; and twenty-eight illegal notices or threats against tithes. The fact by which he proved that the laws were subverted was this. A man who, by accident, went into a public-house within two miles of the county-town, for refreshment, happened merely to state his opinion that the present proceedings of the parties disturbing the country were ruining it, and he had not left the house twenty minutes when he was murdered. The murderers were known; but as no testimony could be procured against them, the two persons who were in custody were discharged. The next fact to which he would allude occurred about three weeks ago: a gentleman informed him that a clandestine manufacture of gunpowder was going on in the neighbourhood of the county of Westmeath; he, of course, gave the necessary information to the Government on the subject, having no doubt whatever of the respectability of the party who made the communication to him; but he could not prevail upon him to produce the party who could substantiate the statement, because, if he had done 1296 so, his life would have been sacrificed for venturing to give information on the subject. Such, were the nature of the facts on which the address of the Westmeath Magistrates was founded, and which rendered it unsafe for any person who was determined to see the laws duly administered, to live longer in the country. There was one other fact which he was desirous of mentioning, in which he was himself personally concerned, and which in some degree involved a violation of the privileges of their Lordships' House. He possessed the impropriate tithe of several parishes, and the person who acted as his agent for some months had his house attacked, the insurgents took away what money he had by him, and burnt his books in which the tithe account was kept. When he returned to Ireland, he heard that a notice had been stuck up throughout the parishes, forbidding any payment of tithe to him, until the Reform Bill should have passed. He endeavoured to get a copy of this notice, but unfortunately he could not succeed in doing so, as the Magistrate who had taken it down had torn it, but he communicated the substance of it to him; he then sent to the tithe-payers, in order to ascertain the state of the account between them; but he regretted to state that it was reported to him by his agent, that not a single individual would produce his last receipt, so that it was impossible he could ascertain how his affairs with them really stood. This was a striking example of what the state of society really was at this moment, when the privileges of their Lordships' House were set at nought, and a Peer of Parliament had his property held in pledge by a threat for his vote on a popular question. He thought these facts were tolerably illustrative of the present state of society in Ireland, and, therefore, he would say no more on this part of the subject. He would now refer, as far as the rules of order would allow him, to what occurred in another place, when the petition to which he had alluded, which was signed by no less than fifty-one Magistrates of the county of Westmeath was presented, as he thought he had just reason to complain of the misrepresentation which took place on that occasion. One hon. Gentleman was reported to have said, that he had forty freeholds in forty different counties, and that; therefore, he had the means of knowing that the county of Westmeath was perfectly quiet; but some one reminded 1297 him that there were only thirty-six counties in Ireland, so the argument seemed to lose its force. However, the hon. Member was reported to have further stated, that he (the Marquis of Westmeath) was unpopular, for Mr. O'Connell's sake, and that, therefore, the meeting of all the Magistrates of the county was a hole-and-corner meeting. Another hon. Gentleman said—connected as he was with the county—(how he was so connected with it, except indeed, that he married a lady who resided there previously to her marriage, he did not know)—that he was able to state, that the county was in a perfect state of tranquillity. Another Gentleman of somewhat better pretensions to have an opinion, if he had confined himself to the county he was connected with, took occasion to observe, that a gentleman of the county of Westmeath had quartered a dead cow, and given it to his labourers to eat; that he had rode from one end of the county to another, and only one man had been murdered while he was there, and that, therefore, the county was perfectly quiet—and this was the argument. The hon. Gentleman, however, added, that the gentleman who had so quartered the dead cow was a friend of his, and he should, therefore, not name him. A fourth hon. Gentleman, with the best possible pretensions from stations and property to have an opinion, however, took upon himself to arraign the statements of the entire Magistracy of the county; denied the disturbances; stated that tithes were paid, and that he wished that the police should be removed. The sentiments of the former speakers might afford grounds for mirth, but it was a frightful indication of the state of the times, to see a young Gentleman with a large stake in the country uniting in sentiment with those whose obvious purpose it was to subvert the institutions of the country. As to the trash which was put forth by designing or ill-informed persons, it was scarcely worth his while to notice it; but to find persons who might be better informed, giving countenance to the misrepresentation of such a class of creatures, did, indeed, give him great pain and alarm. He would put it to their Lordships, whether it was candid or fair for a Minister of the Crown high in office, and for whom personally, he entertained the greatest respect to turn round and say, with reference to this petition and address, and the facts stated, and the objects of the Magistrates advanced in it, 1298 that it was not his wish to govern the people of Ireland by terror? and how it happened, that a Minister of the Crown, with such a history of facts laid before him and the Government as was contained in this petition and address, could bring himself so to view the matter, he could not conceive. The expression was used in another place, of the rights of the people of Ireland; but what was the meaning of those words? Was not the noble and learned Lord Opposite, and was not he himself, a part and parcel of the people of Ireland? with this difference only, that the noble and learned Lord lived within the reach of a garrison town, and that he, and others lived in the open country. He confessed he did not like the use of such expressions as these, which he hoped were not used ad captandam. What, therefore, he would ask, was likely to be the effect produced on the public mind by the rebuke conveyed in the Lord Lieutenant's answer to the address of the Magistrates? He would take the liberty of showing to their Lordships one proof of the consequence of it, which he found in the report of a speech contained in one of the radical journals of the day, where it was stated that the Magistrates of Westmeath were thirsting for the letting of the people's blood. What must be the effect produced on the people of Ireland in their present state of excitement, when they were taught to believe that the Magistrates of the country were seeking their blood? Was such language to be tolerated? At present no notice had been taken of it; perhaps, however, there might be some account taken of it hereafter, but, in the mean time, the sentiment had gone forth to the people, and he knew the handle that would be made of it; and he said, that if the answer of the Lord Lieutenant had produced these attacks upon the Magistracy, those who advised it were answerable for the consequences. When the Magistrates were accused of apathy and indifference, he would ask those who made such a charge, as well as their Lordships to refer to a speech which was lately made by Mr. O'Connell at Clonmel, and he then would beg to know which were the parties to be charged with indifference to the public good—those who exercised the executive Government of Ireland, or the Magistrates of Westmeath? He was aware that it was not altogether regular to read from a newspaper; but really he must claim the indulgence of their Lordships for a few 1299 moments, while he drew their attention to this speech. Mr. O'Connell was reported to have said, on the occasion of a public dinner being given to him at Clonmel—Clonmel being a place celebrated for excitement and numerous recent criminal convictions, and the consequent expiation of offences on the scaffold:—'Since I came back amongst you, I have seen that the old spirit of Ireland is still in existence; the genius of her mountains proclaim aloud, and the music of her streams respond to the hallowed sound, that Ireland must be once more a nation. Yes, she shall not remain a province, or a mere part or portion of any other country. She is a noun-substantive, and can stand by herself. My friend has said to you that the history of Ireland is a sad one; but, as a nation she has no history. The struggles of faction and the foul fiend of discord delivered us to a foreign domination because we were disunited amongst ourselves. But Ireland shall have a history, for Ireland is not dead, but only sleepeth; and already has the trumpet sounded for her resuscitation, not unaccompanied by some notes from the humble voice which now addresses you, and long and loudly shall you hear the sound, that Irishmen shall not be slaves—and contented slaves I defy you to be. During my journey this day, I saw the matron quit her cabin, though almost incapacitated by age, in order to join in the shout for the humble but honest servant of old Ireland, I saw the mother point me out to her babe, and seem to say, behold the father of your country.…. You must go to your graves as freemen, for slaves you cannot, you shall not continue to be. We are 8,000,000 of people, and 8,000,000 are too many to be governed by others.… Stanley wished to give 40,000l. to the Irish parsons—what kind consideration. And, next, to make the landlords the tithe agents, and his Majesty's Attorney General proctor-general to the parsons. This, however, was opposed by twenty, seven real Representatives of the people—men who had not gone into Parliament in order to live on the public money—men who were not half Representatives of people—but men every one of whom was genuine, and whose return was insured by the struggles of a virtuous people against a vicious oligarchy. Those twenty-seven stood in the breach, and asked for a little delay.…. 314 1300 Whigs and Tories, Radicals and Reformers, who, though differing on every point of the compass—aye, and who would differ upon it, if, instead of thirty-six points, there were 36,000—agreed at once, and without hesitation, when there was a question of oppressing unfortunate Ireland. 314 Saxons, I thank you: I shall not call them scoundrels, there were many worthy men amongst them: but they were Saxons, and refused us but a little delay, and by so doing have made the repeal of the Union irresistible.…The days of ascendancy are past by, and we may look back to our struggles with feelings of pride and pleasure. Having given one lesson to England, she shall now receive another; aye Gulp it down Johnny, you must.' Such were the sentiments and opinions of the man who addressed himself to the greasy mechanics of Birmingham, and who came there and told the Members of the Political Union how well calculated Englishmen and Irishmen were to hug each other, as brothers, from morning till night. Having already read so much from this paper, he would not trouble them with any further extracts; suffice it that the speaker went on to abuse this country, and to utter sentiments that he should say, though no lawyer, were seditious, if not treasonable. He thought he might now be permitted to ask upon whom it was, that the charge of apathy and indifference rested; whether upon the Magistrates of Westmeath, or upon his Majesty's Government? He felt that he was trespassing on the patience of the House; possessing, as he did very little parliamentary experience, his only anxiety was to do justice to the cause he was now advocating in the best manner he could. He would now, with the permission of their Lordships, refer to the address which stated—'We are disposed, however, to believe, that a large portion of the population are averse to uniting with the increased and increasing disaffection, but they find themselves compelled to join in the savage regulation of a description of persons, who, although similar in character and reekless to those engaged in similar confederacies in other districts of Ireland, where such like exists, surpass, in the excess and turpitude of their atrocities, those of any species of insurgents which the modern history of Europe offers to our recollection.' And it then stated, that open rebellion would be preferable to the present 1301 state of society in Ireland, because that might be dealt with by open force. The Lord Lieutenant's answer was in these words:—It gives me deep regret to learn from your address, that unlawful confederacies prevail to so alarming an extent in the county of Westmeath, and that the restraints and punishments of the law have hitherto failed to oppose any effectual resistance to their power, to control the audacity of the guilty, or to inspire the well-disposed with the confidence so essential to their own security. This regret would be infinitely increased were I obliged to concur in many of the conclusions which your address presents to my attention, and apparently calls upon me to adopt. That the freedom enjoyed by the people of Ireland under its Government and laws may be, and has been abused, is, unfortunately, too evident; but to conclude, as you seem to do, that those laws or their administration have caused, or tended to cause, the evils of which you complain, is a position from which I must express my unequivocal dissent. As I do not understand the nature of the preventive code of law which you propose to substitute for, or add to, that system under which the United Kingdom has so long prospered, I cannot observe on that part of your address more particularly than to say, that the prevention of crime is, or ought to be, a prominent feature of our criminal code; and, as it is an object to which my exertions have been, and will be, unceasingly directed, so it is one in which I have a right to the aid of every loyal subject to the utmost extent of his ability. Without referring particularly to the county of Westmeath, I must take leave to say, that the formation of illegal societies in Ireland has been too often regarded with apathy and indifference by those whose prompt and timely co-operation, if made auxiliary to the exertions of the Government and enforcement of the law, would most probably have proved adequate to their suppression. On the other hand, I am happy to say, that recent events have proved that, when the influential classes of society, with a due regard to their interests, and a proper sense of their duty, have come forward to assist and to second my exertions, the authority of the law has been vindicated, and its powers proved to be adequate to the restoration of tranquillity and order, Permit me, therefore, now to 1302 assure you of my firm determination to exert all the powers with which I am invested to insure the due administration of justice, and to ask of you, collectively and individually, and of every friend of order and of peace, the firm, decisive, and vigorous co-operation which the importance of such an object, the condition of your county, and a due sense of public duty, concur in making it imperative on you to afford me.' Now, construing this in conjunction with the Lord Lieutenant's answer to the resolutions of the Magistrates of the county of Kilkenny, it appeared that the Lord Lieutenant expected the Magistrates of Ireland to act without the support of Government, and to put themselves at the head of their tenantry, whom they were to furnish with arms to patrol the country. He said, that it was the duty of the Government to interfere, when a general confederacy against the laws existed. He was sure he did not overstate the case when he said that, if the Magistrates and gentry of Ireland were to arm their tenantry and retainers, and patrol the country, they would be placing arms in the hands of the Ribbonmen. With respect to the farmers, they knew, as the address stated, that numbers of them disapproved of the atrocious proceedings of the conspirators; but such was the extent to which the system of terrorism was carried, that they dare not interfere. If they were to assist in patroling the country, they would render themselves obnoxigus to the ill-doers, and the consequences would be, that their cattle would be houghed, and their houses burnt over their heads. In such a case as this, then, what right had Government to be shilly-shallying? It was a farce to tell the Magistrates to act for themselves under such circumstances. It was aggravating the unfortunate situation of the gentry and well-disposed inhabitants, whose fire-sides were rendered uncomfortable every hour in the twenty-four. This was the reply which he gave to the answer which had been made to the Magistrates of Westmeath. He had hitherto, however, forgotten to mention that the Marquis of Anglesey, in the most honourable manner, disavowed any intention of wounding the feelings of the Magistrates. He hoped he had said nothing to detract from the merit of this disavowal; but, considering the unfortunate effect produced by the Lord Lieutenant's answer, he thought he was justified in having commented upon it as he had 1303 done. He knew that the noble Marquis was a man of high and honourable feelings, and incapable of entertaining guile in his own mind, or of suspecting it in others; but in what a situation was he placed? There he was, administering the Government without suspicion, with treason at his back, sedition in his face, with the quintessence of Jesuitism on his right hand, and the elements of political combustion smoking around him in every direction. He was warranted in saying that this was a state of things which must excite the apprehensions of all well-affected subjects. In at least six counties of Ireland the law was superseded; what, if chance were to add three or four more to the number? Could any man of common sense expect that matters could be suffered to remain in such a state? There was an Administration, but where was the Government? It really gave him pain to adopt this tone towards the present Ministers, though he knew not whether he should get credit for speaking sincerely. He, however, lived in Ireland, and had no residence any whereelse; and, though he had not a tenth part as much to lose as some of their Lordships, he would not be deterred from declaring his opinions as an honest man, and dragging Ministers to the bar of public opinion, for what he conceived to be the neglect of their duty. He gave them credit for the best intentions, but he condemned the policy they were pursuing. Ought not something to be conceded to the Protestant feeling in Ireland? Suppose it wise to break down what was called Protestant ascendancy in Ireland, should there not be some method observed in doing it—ought there not to be some tenderness exhibited towards that portion of the rank and property of Ireland which had, at all events, been distinguished for loyalty and attachment to the laws? Conciliation had been carried to a great extent; but the party conciliated was that of the wrongdoers, but the party oppressed would be so no longer. He had differed from many of his friends in pursuing the course which he had adopted on the present occasion; but he entertained strong opinions on this subject, and he considered it his duty to express them. He was the last man to desire that harsh measures should be adopted towards his fellow-subjects in Ireland; he desired that amelioration should go hand in hand with coercion. The Government of Ireland should proceed with measures of severity in one hand, and the 1304 olive-branch in the other. It now only remained for him to thank their Lordships for the patience with which they had listened to him, and to repeat, that, in his opinion, if Government would not adopt measures to put down the system of terror which at present prevailed in Ireland, it was the duty of Parliament to interfere. He would conclude by moving that an humble address be presented to his Majesty, for a copy of the address of the Magistrates and Governor of the county of Westmeath, presented to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and his Excellency's reply thereto.
said, if the object of the noble Marquis was merely the production of the address of the Magistrates of the county of Westmeath, and the answer of the Lord Lieutenant, he did not see what opposition there could be to the Motion. He would, therefore, not meet it with any thing like objection, though it was not a very regular proceeding; but, as the documents were public, he might have them if he pleased. Indeed, the noble Marquis had very correctly stated the nature of the papers, and, unless he meant to institute some ulterior proceedings, he had placed their contents fully and fairly before the House. So much for the Motion of the noble Marquis, and, perhaps, the House would be of opinion, that he (Lord Plunkett) might let the matter rest where it was, and leave the conduct of the noble Marquis at the head of the Irish Government, and that Government itself, on the statement of the noble Lord. But he would say a few words on the subject; and, in the first place, he begged leave to point out that the answer of the Lord Lieutenant unfolded two principles on which the policy of every country ought to be conducted. Before, however, be entered into an explanation of them, he must say, that it was not his intention to follow the noble Marquis in the wide range he had taken. He came down to hear a statement relative to the address of the Magistrates of Westmeath, and the Lord Lieutenant's answer; but he had been entertained with a long display of the noble Marquis's own powers, and the reading of a florid speech of Mr. O'Connell's, which he hoped the noble Marquis did not call upon him to justify, or the Irish Government to defend. He trusted that the noble Marquis would not hold him responsible for all the tropes and figures in Mr. O'Connell's speeches; and it would be bad, indeed, if the Government of Ireland were 1305 to be made accountable for all the flights of imagination to be found in the harangues of those persons who were candidates for popular favour in that country. The noble Marquis was offended because laughter was heard at this side of the House; but, he could truly assure him that the House did not laugh at him, but at his quotations from Mr. O'Connell's speech, which flesh and blood could not resist. But, putting this extraneous matter aside, he wished to ask their Lordships if they knew what was the object of the noble Marquis, and what course he meant eventually to pursue? It was not sufficient to say, that Ireland was not in a satisfactory state. The noble Marquis ought to have gone on to state his opinion as to what ought to be done. The noble Marquis stated, that a man was murdered, and that two men were taken up for it, but that the Magistrates had not been able to get evidence to bring home the crime to them, and were obliged to let them go. But would the noble Marquis have a law to convict men without evidence? Could they justly convict men without evidence? Certainly a law of that kind would not be the best mode to protect the innocent. The noble Marquis cried no, and it would appear, therefore, that his meaning was, that the system of intimidation which he said prevailed in Ireland should be put down. He agreed with the noble Marquis that intimidation did prevail to a great extent, and that there was too great a tendency to yield to it in every quarter. He did not mean to say that the Magistrates of Westmeath were indifferent to their duty, but he feared that, in too many places, a disposition (as the noble Marquis said in another sense) was shown to truckle to popular excitation. If such were the case, it was much to be lamented, and he could only say, if the gentlemen of a county were not true to themselves, no one could assist them. Did the noble Marquis mean to state, that there were not in the county of Westmeath the means by which this system of intimidation and violence by the rabble could be put down?
said, that, if there were not materials in the country from which tranquillity could be produced, it was vain 1306 to call upon his Majesty's Government to make measures of protection out of a state of things which could not furnish the means. But he did not agree with the noble Marquis that such was the case. Did the noble Marquis mean to say that Westmeath was different from other parts of Ireland? In the county of Clare, and the county of Limerick, there had been declarations as strong as that which now proceeded from the Magistrates of Westmeath, and representations were made of the impossibility of living in the country unless new laws were enacted, and new powers of coercion given. He spoke of facts that were notorious. It was well known that great disturbances had prevailed in those counties—that a system of resistance to the laws had been pursued—and that intimidation, and a determination to deprive persons of their property, followed up by acts of outrage and spoliation, had been persevered in to a degree that it was impossible to paint, in the counties of Clare and Limerick. The Government was called upon to take a short cut, and put down these excesses by new laws; but the Government gave the same answer as that which Lord Anglesey now gave to the Magistrates of Westmeath. And the consequence was that, without going beyond the ordinary course of law, such measures were taken as restored Clare and Limerick to that state of tranquillity in which they remained at present. These circumstances could not be disputed. Without meaning any offence to the Magistrates of Westmeath, or any imputation of their not having discharged their duty, he could not help expressing his confidence that tranquillity would be restored after a little time. At present a good deal of angry feeling prevailed. It had been said, that a state of open rebellion would be preferable to the present system in Ireland. He did not know of any thing that had a less tendency to prevent such a calamity than when a noble Lord attacked the Government without cause. He did not impute to the noble Marquis any hostility to the noble Marquis at the head of the Irish Government, but he had certainly made a very strong attack upon the Government. He had not, however, stated what were the particular causes of the disturbance and the alarm in Ireland. The only cause which he had mentioned was the prevalence of discontent on the subject of tithes. Did the noble Marquis think that he was serving the cause of public peace, or taking a course likely to promote the restoration 1307 of tranquillity, when he came there to arraign his Majesty's Government, who, as the noble Marquis must know, were at this moment anxiously employed in devising means to give satisfaction to those who had just grounds of complaint—to put down illegal resistance to the constituted authorities, and to secure the rights of the clergy? When the noble Marquis knew that a system of this kind was forming by his Majesty's Government with the assistance of Parliament, did he think that he was aiding the cause of public tranquillity when he attacked the Government at the moment when they were engaged upon that object? What Law would the noble Marquis have introduced? Did he state that the Marquis of Anglesey had, in any one instance, refused to give all the assistance in his power to have the laws carried into execution? If the noble Marquis had read the evidence given before the Committee which sat on the subject of tithes, he would find the most ample testimony to the anxiety of the Lord Lieutenant to afford protection in every instance. It was true, as the noble Marquis said, that the application of severe laws alone was not the means to which a statesman would look, to put down disturbances, and to extinguish the feeling which he described. It was true, that coercion and conciliation must go hand in hand. He trusted that, if his Majesty's Government did not find persons of the most opposite politics and principles, united to defeat them, they would, after a short time, have the satisfaction of seeing Ireland restored to tranquillity. Every good man must go along with them in entertaining that wish. But, its accomplishment would be rendered very precarious, if, in every step which they took, for the purpose of putting down disaffection, they were threatened by persons who were opposed to each other on every other point, joining and combining together for the purpose of disabling the Government from doing its duty. The person to whose speech or letter the noble Marquis had referred, abounding as it did in tropes and figures, was not lending his aid to assist his Majesty's Government. Those who were directly opposed to him had not lent their aid. But yet he could not give up the hope that, in spite of both these parties—he would not call them factions, fore did not wish to say anything offensive to anybody—who were, by their acts—although he did not suspect them of any real intention—conspiring against the 1308 tranquillity of the country, there was an honest feeling in the people of the country, and in the gentry, both Protestant and Roman Catholic—for he made no distinction between them—which would enable his Majesty's Government to do its duty, and restore public peace and order.
§ Viscount Beresford
begged to repeat what he had before stated, perhaps a little out of order, that it was impossible to preserve the peace of the county of Westmeath by the ordinary means at the disposal of the authorities. It was dangerous for any person living in an isolated part of Ireland remote from protection or succour, not only to take a part, but even to express an opinion against the system of intimidation and outrage that was carried on there. He did not believe that it was the desire of the peasantry of that country that the outrages should continue. He would mention to their Lordships a conversation which he had had with one of his own tenants. He said to him, "Do you and your sons (two stout young fellows) go to these meetings?" And the answer the man gave him was—" Will your Lordship protect us if we don't? I am in a continual state of unquietness respecting these two young slips (as he called them). I am afraid, if we do not go, we shall be murdered, or our property destroyed; and if they do go, I am afraid the law will catch hold of them." He recommended the man to go on as quietly as he could, and to avoid such meetings as much as possible. The noble and learned Lord had brought forward the tranquil state of Clare as a matter of great triumph. Did he mean that Westmeath and Kilkenny and the Queen's County were to undergo the destruction which had taken place in Clare before any measures of relief were granted? Were the inhabitants to have their fields ploughed up, and their property destroyed? To a certain extent he concurred in what had been stated, that open rebellion would be better than the present state of Ireland, for there was now a war, but the war was all at one side. The agitators and sub-agitators had got hold of those who were formerly called 40s. freeholders, that is, men who were never worth a farthing, and they kept the whole country in a state of terror. That was the state of Ireland at present, and he said that a state of open rebellion would be better for the quiet and the quiescent. He would join with all his power to assist the Government, as far as he had the means, 1309 but he wished to see some measures adopted for the protection of lives and property.
The Earl of Long ford
said, that almost all he had intended to say had been much better said by his noble friend who had last addressed the House. His noble friend had plainly showed their Lordships that the gentry of Ireland, in calling upon their tenantry to assist them in quelling disturbances, only placed themselves, and those they wished to assist them, in a situation of danger, in which neither could protect the other. Their Lordships' had just beard of a murder committed in the open day, upon a person whose only offence was that of expressing his honest opinions in a public-house. The man, it appeared, was murdered near to the house, in the presence of a great number of people, and yet it was found impossible to bring forward any one to give evidence. Here was a striking case of wanton murder, and the state of society was such as prevented the murderers being brought to justice. The consequence of giving evidence in such a case would be, that the witness would have to shut himself up in his own house, and even then, he would not be safe. It was unjust to state, that any portion of the gentry of Ireland wished for rebellion; and the forced interpretation which had been sarcastically put upon the statement of the Magistrates of Westmeath was most unjustifiable and unbecoming. To ask a body of Magistrates, in the language of the noble and learned Lord, "Do you want rebellion?" was, in his opinion, very unfit language to use, and the more unbecoming from a person in the station of the noble and learned Lord. He assured their Lordships that the resolutions of the Magistrates were nearly unanimous, as all of them had attended the meeting, with the exception of two or three, who were probably absent because they had not paid their fees. With regard to those fees, he had certainly advised the payment of them in the first instance, at the same time, assuring the Magistrates, that he should use every exertion to get them returned. There were fifty-one names to the resolutions, and he could assure their Lordships that both he and the Magistrates thought they were acting a friendly part to the Government in affording them evidence, and an opportunity of obtaining additional powers for the purpose of restoring tranquillity. It was with this object, they had given their advice, and he was sorry it was neglected. How could they, without ad- 1310 ditional powers, put a check to the licentiousness which existed? How, without such powers, were murders to be prevented, delinquents punished, or life and property secured? Much as he disliked the Ministers, and he did not for an instant conceal his aversion to them, he could not for a moment suppose, that they willingly encouraged outrages; but yet, he contended, that they were bound not only to enforce the existing law, but to call for any other which might be necessary for the suppression of crime. The noble and learned Lord had said, the county of Clare had been tranquillized without any new measures; but then he should like to know from the Adjutant-General, how many troops were found necessary for that purpose? and he should also like to know, what were the number of police stationed in the same county? Why, the fact was, that the whole county was studded with military and police, otherwise order would never have been restored. It was also said, that there was not much resistance, which was true, and for this reason, that intimidation was almost universal. He regretted the reception which the complaints of the Magistrates met with, and he condemned still more the reflections which had been cast upon them, for he could truly say of those Gentlemen, that there was not a more honourable, loyal, and, in the discharge of their duties, a more firm and temperate body of men in any country. They had shown their moderation as well as firmness, in good and bad times; and it was with indignation that he had heard of aspersions which had been cast upon them elsewhere. When they called for vigorous measures, they only required them for the maintenance of order, without the least wish, on their parts, to impose any unnecessary restriction upon the liberties or enjoyments of their fellow-subjects. What they wished was, that the proper authorities should be armed with the necessary powers; but the use of these they did not require, except upon great emergencies. It was not the use so much as the existence of such powers which they desired, knowing as they did, if the disaffected once felt that the Government were clothed with the authority, they would not further venture to violate the law. He never had been attached to any violent party, nor had he ever been friendly to any unnecessary coercion or restraint, but he wished to insure the supremacy of the law, and establish tranquillity in Ireland.
The Earl of Winchilsea
joined most heartily with the noble and learned Lord opposite in hoping that peace and tranquillity might be restored in Ireland, but he was not quite so sanguine in his expectations, that it would be, considering the course which had been pursued by the Government in Ireland. It had been asked, in what particular that Government had transgressed or neglected its duties? He thought he could mention several instances. Was not the promotion of Mr. O'Connell, a premium upon agitation? There was another act of the Irish Government still more reprehensible; he meant that most disgraceful one, the dismissal of Captain Graham from the commission of the peace, and that, too, after that respectable Magistrate had shown a laudable zeal in the suppression of disorder, and also after that gentleman had been legally acquitted of the charges which had been preferred against him. This act, also, was a direct encouragement to agitation, and he was surprised how any Government could deal so harshly and so unjustly towards a meritorious public officer, whose best efforts were directed to the preservation of peace. So strongly did he feel the injustice done to Captain Graham, that he should, if no other noble Lord more conversant with the subject interfered, move for copies of all the papers connected with this transaction. With respect to the Lord Lieutenant's answer to the address of the Magistrates of Westmeath, he was of the same opinion as had been expressed by other noble Lords, that it conveyed an indirect censure on those gentlemen, for his Excellency expressly said, that if they had performed their duty, the country would not have been in the disturbed state in which it was. It certainly would have been more becoming in the Lord Lieutenant to have pointed out in what particular manner the Magistrates had neglected their duties, rather than vaguely to have insinuated such a charge against them.
The Earl of Roden
said, the people of Ireland, and of the empire at large, were greatly indebted to the noble Marquis who had opened the debate, for having called the attention of their Lordships to the alarming state of Ireland. This was a question which deeply involved the character of the Government of Ireland, and, feeling how much they had engaged themselves with one of the parties, it was not to all surprising to observe how silent they 1312 were on the subject, particularly at this alarming crisis, at which, he regretted to say, that Ireland was in a more deplorable condition than she had been at any period since the year 1793. In that unfortunate country, no man could feel his life safe for a moment out of doors, if he ventured to express or entertain opinions different from that of the agitators, and it was most essential that the real condition of that country should be made known to their Lordships, for, if it was known to them, they would, he was convinced, soon take measures to protect the well-disposed portion of the inhabitants. The noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government had once stated, that he was ready to call upon Parliament for fresh powers for the suppression of disturbances in Ireland whenever there was a necessity. Now, he called upon the noble Earl to redeem his pledge, for the time had assuredly come when such powers were absolutely necessary. Already was the trial by Jury, he might say, suspended. Witnesses were prevented from giving evidence, and no person differing in opinion from the mob could feel his house or his life safe. What must be the condition of persons living in exposed places, or in thatched houses, or remote districts, if an outcry was raised against them, or if they attempted to attend as witnesses, or decide as Jurors? Let their Lordships only recollect what had lately taken place in Kilkenny, where a verdict was given manifestly in obedience to the cry of the agitators; and this intimidation was not, as was supposed by the noble and learned Lord, confined to one or two counties, but was universal. Of this there was the strongest evidence, not only from the opponents of Ministers, but also from their friends. As an instance of this, he would beg leave to read the Address from the Magistrates of Kilkenny, which had been forwarded and approved by a noble friend of his who was Lord Lieutenant of the county, and a very warm supporter of the Government. On the 16th of March last, the Marquis of Ormonde wrote to the Marquis of Anglesey in these terms:—Kilkenny, March 16, 1832.My Lord Marquis—As Chairman of a meeting of the Magistrates of this county, convened yesterday, for the purpose of taking the present state of the county into consideration, I have the honour to enclose to your Excellency the resolutions entered into, and in which I most fully concur. Certainly nothing but the most prompt and energetic 1313 measures can be expected to restore tranquillity. I also forward the sub-inspector's summary of outrages committed in the county during the last seven months; but your Excellency must not suppose that, frightful as that summary is, it contains anything approaching to a full amount of the outrages committed during that space of time. No doubt exists of many persons concealing with studious care the robbery of their arms, and other offences perpetrated. It has been found extremely difficult to punish adequately persons appearing with arms in their possession, such persons not being discovered in the actual commission of crime. Intimidation has been carried to such an extent as to make it scarcely possible to procure information, or to obtain by it any evidence by which offenders may be brought to justice. One of the most horrible outrages which has yet occurred took place on Tuesday last. Potts, an English engineer, employed in Mr. Wandesford's (my brother) colliery, was murdered by four men in the noon day, and in one of the most densely-peopled districts in Ireland. Twenty persons were looking on; they did not afford the slightest assistance to the unfortunate man, nor have they since given any clue for the apprehension of the offenders. I have the honour to be your Excellency's obedient and humble servant,ORMONDE, Lieutenant.The Marquis of Anglesey's answer was as follows:—Dublin, March 19, 1832.My Lord—I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Lordship's letter of the 16th, conveying resolutions signed by twenty-five magistrates of the county of Kilkenny, representing its deplorable state, together with a summary of crime committed between August 1831, and the latter end of February, 1832. I have long been but too well aware of the disturbed state of that part of the country. I have anxiously watched it, but I have clung to the hope that a vigorous course of proceeding at the Assizes would produce a salutary and powerful effect. In order that the ends of justice might not be impeded through intimidation and undue control, I threw into the county and the adjacent parts a considerable body of troops and constabulary. These arrangements had the effect of preserving tranquillity, but the circumstances attending the first criminal prosecution that took place having left no hope of an effectual assertion of the law under the existing excitement, it was wisely determined to postpone further proceedings. In this state of things it appears to me necessary that the most determined measures should, without a moment's delay, be adopted for bringing the turbulent spirits which infest the country into a state of subordination and submission to the law. I am under a firm conviction that those now existing are, if duly enforced, amply suf- 1314 ficient for the protection of the peace and for the ends of justice; and experience affords ample proof that, where the magistrates, the gentry, the farmers, and other persons possessing property, unite to protect each other, these laws will be too powerful for the wicked and the disaffected, who will shrink from the presence of men, acting with all the power of law and authority, and who, notwithstanding their combinations and illegal bonds of union, must be in hourly dread of being betrayed by their companions in guilt. To the laudable endeavour to vindicate the laws, which I venture to calculate that your Lordships, in conjunction with the magistrates, and other persons of respectability, will strenuously promote, you may be fully assured that I will give the most ready support. Previously to the receipt of your Lordship's letter, I had ordered the selection of three most active and intelligent stipendiary magistrates, and of one hundred additional policemen, to move to the county of Kilkenny, and I will take care that an ample regular force shall be in co-operation, and that some of the officers belonging to it shall be furnished with commissions of the peace. From these forces patrols may be occasionally sent out by day and by night; but, in their employment, it is imperative upon me to require that none shall move without a magistrate. When, by a spirited display of union and co-operation of all that is loyal and respectable in the county—when, by the announcement of a fixed resolve to put down turbulence and outrage, and to relieve the county from the tyranny under which it is groaning, by the base confederacy of unprincipled, sanguinary, and abandoned men, the deluded people shall see that there is a combination of all that is good against all that is bad—that the magistrates are determined rigidly to enforce the law, and that they are powerfully supported, not only by the Government, but by public opinion, there cannot be a doubt that law will resume its empire, and that tranquillity and good order will be restored. I have the honour to be, my Lord, your Lordship's faithful and humble servant,(Signed) "ANGLESEY.The Marquis of Ormonde, K. S. P., &c. &c.Their Lordships would perceive there was a considerable difference in the answer to this address and that to the Magistrates of Westmeath. Still he must condemn the conduct of Government in refusing the application; and he felt satisfied that, if nothing more was done than to depend upon the present law, the inevitable consequence would be destruction of lives and property, and then general misery and destitution. It was not fair, it was not just, to charge the gentry of Ireland with any neglect of their duty; and when the noble and learned Lord said the gentry and Magistrates of Ireland, if true to them- 1315 selves, could put down turbulence, he was only endeavouring to shift from the Ministers that responsibility and censure which properly attached to them. He stood there as the advocate of that maligned class, the magistracy of Ireland, and he would take upon himself to say, that there did not exist a more high-minded, or a more loyal, body of men, or men more attached to the Constitution, or greater lovers of true liberty, which it was the great object of their exertions to establish. He had lived amongst them, and it would be little short of baseness in him not to rise at once and repel such a charge. But, he would ask, what encouragement had the Magistrates received? what inducement had been held out to them to exert themselves? or what protection was profferred them in the discharge of the important duties which they had to perform? Let their Lordships recollect what had been the fate of Captain Graham—who went out and exerted himself in the suppression of riots, and who, in consequence of his activity, was subjected to two trials, on both of which he was acquitted. Yet, notwithstanding all this, he was dismissed from the Commission of the Peace. That respectable gentleman was put to 400l. expense, which, considering that he had a family of seven children, was a very great inconvenience. The gentleman of whom he had spoken was a Magistrate for four counties, in each of which he was much respected, and the crime for which he was dismissed was that of doing his duty as a man and a Magistrate. So strong was the feeling of indignation excited by this act, that several Magistrates went up to Dublin for the purpose of resigning their commissions, and would have done so were it not the opinion of their friends that the peace of the country would be still further endangered by their resignations. It was not, merely the Magistrates of Westmeath who thought the present law insufficient: the same opinion prevailed amongst all the thinking men in that country; and it was because the law was not found sufficient, and because the Government did not afford protection, that the loyal subjects of Ireland found it necessary to unite themselves for their own protection. It was a notorious fact, that in the county of Down, where he resided, a district of country was for two successive days, in the possession of an armed body of insurgents, amounting in number to about 2,000 persons, marching in the day time, and in open 1316 array, through the country. He had in October last communicated the fact to Government, and had received a civil answer, but there was no step taken to punish the rioters or to take away their arms. This he considered great neglect on the part of the Government, which was bound to use every exertion not only to restore peace, but also, by way of example, to punish offenders. This apathy of the Government was complained of throughout the country, and was represented in petitions presented from Cork and Dublin to their Lordships. Such opinions as these, coming as they did from the nobility and gentry of Ireland, were entitled to respect, and did not deserve to be designated, as they had been, as the cries of a faction. He was not ashamed to avow, that he had taken a part in the formation of a Conservative Society in Ireland, but it was instituted, not for the purpose of aggression, but for protection; and he was sorry to see the Protestants of Ireland reduced by the neglect of the Government to that state which left them no alternative but to unite for self-preservation. He had joined the Protestant party as a conservative body who wished to save their lives and properties. This they had done because they saw encouragement given to agitation, because they saw the Government truckling to Papists, and because they saw an unhallowed attempt to get over the Catholic party to the support of the Government. What, he would ask, would justify the attempt which had been made to get over the leader of the Catholics to the side of Government, and that by offers of place, which was nothing else than a bribe?
The Earl of Roden
continued, it could not, at all events, be denied that Government had given that Gentleman a silk gown, and by such means the learned Gentleman was rewarded for his agitation while others were dismissed for having done their duty. He again thanked the noble Marquis for having brought forward the Motion, and hoped the Government would yet take some more energetic steps to tranquillize his unfortunate country, or at least to give protection to its loyal inhabitants.
§ Earl Grey
was sure that it must be tiresome to the House to hear the same thing re-asserted and denied over and over again. But as the noble Lord who had just sat 1317 down had repeated now for the hundredth time, that the Government had offered an official situation to Mr. O'Connell, and that in doing so they tendered a bribe to the leader of the agitators, he, (Earl Grey), would repeat his denial that such was the fact. The Government had not offered a situation to that Gentleman; but he would repeat what he had before asserted in the House when the same charge was brought against the Government—that if Mr. O'Connell had followed a course more consistent than that in which he had chosen to persist, with the conduct becoming a good subject, there was no legal situation under the Government for which his talents and knowledge did not fit him. For his part he (Earl Grey) would have been glad if any forbearance on the part of the Government, or any efforts towards conciliation, could contribute to the tranquillity of Ireland; and surely no man who knew that country, and the influence which that Gentleman possessed there, would deny the advantage of bringing him (Mr. O'Connell) over to the cause of good order. In addressing himself to the subject immediately before the House, he would first remark that the Motion under consideration was brought forward by the noble Marquis, as he said, not in a hostile spirit towards the Government, but to bring the state of Ireland fairly into view. Whatever the noble Marquis's intentions were, however, his Motion would have the effect of producing feelings and impressions calculated to embarrass the Government as far as regarded Ireland. It arraigned them before their Lordships, and at the bar of public opinion, as having neglected their duty in not using all the means in their power for the protection of the loyal and peaceable inhabitants of that country, and for the preservation of the public tranquillity. This charge was founded upon the fact, or rather the assumption, that the present laws being insufficient, new laws ought to have been proposed. He, therefore begged, in the first place, to tell those noble Lords who were so vehement in their accusations of the Government, that they would, perhaps, have done more good to their country, if they had pointed out what species of laws they would recommend for the purpose of remedying the evils of the present condition of Ireland, and stated in what manner any new laws could be applied, so as to prevent the system of intimidation now prevailing, and furnish the means of procuring evidence 1318 against and ensuring the conviction of those who were guilty of crimes, for he presumed that none of their Lordships had any intention to propose that the magistrates should have the power of punishing without conviction, or of convicting without evidence or the intervention of juries. He had been much appealed to on this occasion, though he was at a loss to comprehend why a charge was brought against him of having left unredeemed the pledge which he gave at the commencement of the present Administration—namely, that wishing, as far as possible, to conciliate the people of Ireland, and wishing, too, to give them the full effect of that beneficial measure to which the noble Lord alluded, it should be his first endeavour to remove all just causes of complaint; but that if, after that endeavour, he should find it unfortunately impossible to quell the spirit of lawless violence and insubordination unhappily prevailing in many parts of that country, and to restore the public peace by means of the power already at the disposal of the Government, he should not be slow to come down to their Lordships and to ask Parliament for further means of accomplishing that object. That was the pledge he gave; and that pledge, whenever the necessity arose, he was prepared to redeem; and he trusted their Lordships would not think him called upon now to ask for further power, in consequence of resolutions made in the spirit of those quoted by noble Lords—and that their Lordships would not, on such grounds, condemn him for not having had recourse to those measures which, in his admirable answer to the magistrates of Westmeath, the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland said, were not, in his opinion, called for—the present laws of the country, if duly enforced, being sufficient to put down all disturbance. The present debate had supplied some proof of the soundness of that view; and he trusted their Lordships were fully convinced that it was not only desirable, but that it was the positive duty of the Government, using the most vigorous exertions first to try to put down the spirit of insubordination and violence by the present laws, and these means failing, then, and not till then, to have recourse to further measures—but to abstain, as long as possible, from employing extraordinary powers, inconsistent with the practice, and at variance with the spirit, of the Constitution. His noble and learned friend had mentioned Clare as an example of the 1319 efficiency of the existing laws if duly enforced. "Aye, but," said the noble Earl, (the Earl of Longford) (who from the expressions of hostility he made use of against the Government, did not appear to view the question in a very calm state of mind), "Clare was pacified; but how was that done? By means of the existing laws, I allow; but then it was done by supporting the administration of those laws with a large military force, and an additional police." What was that but an enforcement of the law? It was true that a large military force was sent into that county, and it completely answered the purpose for which it was intended, and he trusted the force at the disposal of Government was sufficient to preserve the peace of the country, whenever it might be necessary to call in the aid of the military. They had been employed, and successfully employed, in the very instance which the noble Lord quoted; but if the army in Ireland (amounting as it did to 25,000 men, with a police force of 5,000 more) were not sufficient, and if such a necessity should arise as that contemplated by the noble Marquis, he and his colleagues were prepared to propose to Parliament, however unwillingly, if it could be avoided, an addition to the regular army; for they thought the regular army was the force, of all others, which would be most effectual in putting down disturbances in Ireland. He should, therefore, prefer that to any other species of force, the object of Government being to decide equally and impartially between the two parties which divided that country—not to look to the right or to the left—to see no distinction of colours—orange or green—but to exert the powers of the law to protect the public tranquillity; in a word, to win a victory for the cause of peace and good order, not to achieve a triumph for either party. This had all along been their object, and that object would be pursued; and if any addition to the force of Ireland should become necessary, that addition should be made by an increase of the regular army; for, in that country, party feelings but too often degenerated into party violence, and could only be kept in order and subdued by the strong hand of the Government. It was well known that Clare and Limerick, were, as had been stated by his noble and learned friend, in as bad a situation when the present Administration came into office, as either Westmeath or Kilkenny could be at present, or had been at any 1320 time lately. The same complaints were then made that the Government was remiss—that there was no protection for property—that witnesses could not be procured—that men's lives were not safe; all this was stated; and, instead of those exertions which the Government had a right to expect from all classes of his Majesty's subjects, it was called upon for new laws and for a revival of the Insurrection Act. Instead of these the Government sent down special commissions, troops, and additional police, and exhorted the magistrates to do their duty, and the law had been enforced, and tranquillity restored. He would beg leave to read to their Lordships a passage from a letter which he had received after the termination of the last Assizes for those counties, from a gentleman whom even the noble Lords opposite must allow to be competent to speak on the subject; he alluded to the Crown Solicitor in those prosecutions. He said, "We have been eminently successful in Clare; we have had a conviction in almost every case." So much for the impossibility of obtaining a conviction under the existing laws. "The number of capital convictions at these Assizes is greater than at any others. The peace of Clare is perfectly restored, and Limerick and Kerry were never so quiet." He then goes on to say "that all the Insurrection Acts that were ever passed would never be half so effectual towards restoring the tranquillity of the country as the ordinary existing laws, if duly enforced." This was what he had said, when the disturbances were at the highest, when the magistrates were all crying out for the Insurrection Act. To the application of that Act he always had a great objection, because it led the people to imagine that they were not fairly dealt by, and he was confirmed in his aversion by the proofs he had mentioned, that the exertion of the Government to enforce the ordinary laws were sufficient for all good purposes. With a disposition, and a firm resolution to do the same in the other parts of the country which were in a state of disturbance, he did not think the Ministers could be blamed for adhering to the law, being, at the same time, determined that no vigour, no resolution, should he wanting on their part, for the enforcement of those powers which they now possessed, or which Parliament might hereafter confide to them. It was said, that it was unreasonable, nay more, that it was unjust and cruel, to call upon the people of a 1321 country to exert themselves for their own protection; and he believed, that one of the complaints of the magistrates of Westmeath, in their letter to the Lord Lieutenant was, that they were required, to go out and patrol the country. That was their duty, and the country had a right to expect it from them. In Kilkenny, a part of the county had been proclaimed, a military force had been sent into it, and all that was required of the magistrates was, that they should patrol the county, accompanying the military force; and this was a condition which the noble Marquis thought it hard to impose on them. He lamented, indeed, to observe, that a feeling was growing up on the part of the country gentlemen, not only of Ireland, but of England also, to rely not on the civil force of the country, or on the exercise of their own authority, but chiefly on the military, to put down civil tumults and disorders. He, certainly, did not think that the Lord Lieutenant could be said to have done anything unbecoming his station, when he exhorted the magistrates of the country to exert themselves, so as by an active enforcement of the existing laws, to put down all attempts at disturbing the public tranquillity. He fully admitted that in many parts of Ireland, in Westmeath, King's County, Kilkenny, and Tipperary, there existed a state of things which was to be most deeply lamented; but, he at the same time thought, that, if instead of making these violent attacks upon the Government, and passing these violent Resolutions, there had been shown, on the part of what was called the Protestant portion of the people, a desire to conciliate their Catholic brethren, to support the measures of the Government, and to second the authorities of the country—if they had pursued a better and more constitutional, and, he might add, a more patriotic course, the state of Ireland would not be, as it was, painful to the heart of every man who wished her prosperity. He did not know that it was necessary for him to say much more; he certainly had been unwilling to resort to extraordinary laws, while he did not see any necessity arise which was not provided for, by the execution of the existing laws, and by the application of the force in the hands of the Government, or, at any rate, such as might not be provided for by an increase of that force. Would noble Lords tell him, what species of law they would propose for the purpose of preventing the system 1322 of intimidation? How could any law have that effect in a greater degree than the present law? The only measure that could be suggested, was that of granting additional powers to the magistrates—men who were too often actuated by party spirit. Unless indeed they wished for a renewal of the Insurrection Act? He would not take upon himself to say, that circumstances of so calamitous a nature might not arise as to require some law of that kind, but it was a law which he should be sorry to see put into execution, when he considered the character of its enactments. It conferred on magistrates the power to transport persons found out of their houses between the hours of sunrise and sunset, who were not able to give a good account of themselves. Was not that a power which their Lordships should be very guarded in conferring? Let but those noble Lords who wished for that power, unite with Government in giving effect to its present measures; and he would answer for it, that without additional laws, without increased powers, and even with only the force which the Government now possessed, peace and security, and with them prosperity, would result to that country, blessed, as it was, in its many natural advantages, though unhappy in that spirit of disunion, and discontent, to which it was so much subject, and which was so much fostered. He had stated that it had been the object of the Ministers to steer a middle course, not giving a triumph to either party, but to do their duty in the preservation of the public peace. Unfortunately, in steering that course, they had been exposed to what too frequently results to those who adopt such measures, they had drawn upon themselves the enmity of both parties. He did not, he would not, attempt to conceal that the situation of Ireland was most calamitous: but he hoped noble Lords did not think that Ministers were indifferent to such a state of things, or unwilling to exert themselves to the utmost of their power to correct it, because they were unwilling to adopt the extraordinary measures recommended by the noble Marquis. He did not know what the noble Marquis meant to take by this Motion, nor what was his object in making it. He had no objection to the production of these papers, although, at the same time, he did not think the noble Marquis had shown any parliamentary grounds for granting them. He had no wish to cast any imputation upon the 1323 particular magistrates who signed the address to which the noble Lord Lieutenant's answer was given; but he must say, with respect to that answer, that he was willing to participate in any censure which might be cast upon it. There was not a single word in it of which he did not approve. He would not allude to the various statements of that address further than merely to mention the complaint made;—it was that of a man not being prosecuted, against whom the Attorney General stated there was not a sufficient case, and another instance was that of two men having been discharged, because the evidence against them also was insufficient. How could their Lordships remedy such cases as these? But the noble Lord said, we must put down intimidation, he, (Earl Grey) said there was no mode of doing that, but by a vigorous application of the laws as they now stood. He regretted extremely the spirit in which these discussions were carried on, and he really dreaded to introduce any subject to their Lordships' consideration, for as sure as it was introduced, did it create animosity and cause violent language. He might have availed himself of a parliamentary ground, to resist the Motion, but he did not wish to do so, but would content himself with saying, that he desired every information to be given to their Lordships, and he would ask them, whether, there was any ground for the charge, that Government had not used every exertion to protect the loyal and peaceable inhabitants of Ireland. He had only one more observation to make, and that related to Captain Graham, a noble Earl had threatened to bring his case before the House, he had only to say, he was ready to meet it. He was glad that the subject was to be brought before the House in a distinct shape; and when it came under discussion, noble Lords would see that the Irish Government was not so much to blame as some noble Lords thought fit to assume. In conclusion, he could not sit down without once more deprecating the warmth with which on this, as on most other occasions, questions connected with Ireland and its Government were discussed in that House.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, he regretted as much as any man the warmth which crept into the discussions on Irish subjects, and it should always be his desire to allay it; but he begged to remind their Lordships that this irritation was not the growth of the present day; in fact, it ex- 1324 isted ever since the two countries were united. It was quite clear, from papers already before their Lordships, that the state of Ireland was most melancholy, as there was no security there either for life or property. It was idle—he could tell the noble Lord at the head of the Administration, who seemed to expect a speedy termination of the agitation and revolutionary spirit which manifested itself in the counties of Kilkenny, Queen's County, King's County, and Tipperary—to hope for such a consummation. Those counties were, at that moment, from a total absence of all law and protection to the subject, in a situation which, unless the Government was prepared to send into each of them a sufficient force to quell the state of anarchy, under which no man could deny they laboured, nothing would mend or improve. The revival of the insurrection Act was called for, but was Government even sure that the Insurrection Act alone would be sufficient? In his opinion it would not be effective, for their Lordships should recollect that, by far the most atrocious and most numerous acts of violence were committed during the day time. He did not positively know if such was the case, but, at all events, it was stated in the public papers. A cry had been raised against the gentry of Ireland for calling on the Government for the enactment of such a penal Statute as the Insurrection Act. He admitted that its powers were most extensive, and that, on trifling occasions, it would be the highest impolicy, nay, worse than impolicy, to listen to an application for its revival. At the same time, their Lordships could not be astonished if gentlemen struggling under that state of things which existed in Ireland should feel that they could not rely upon their property being secured to their children, when they saw that the laws of the country could not be enforced, as no witness to acts of violence, from the effect of intimidation, could be induced to come forward. Such being the case, he repeated, their Lordships could not feel astonished if the gentry were to say that a spirit of combination reigned in the country, and, at the same time, called upon them, in energetic terms, to put down that combination, and enact measures which would enable the authorities to carry the law of the country into execution. He did not hesitate to say, that he looked upon the state of Ireland with the most gloomy and clouded anticipations. He saw, in the first place, that 1325 the Magistrates of that country had no confidence in the Government, and, on the other hand, he could not shut his eyes to the fact that the Government placed no confidence in the Magistrates. In such a state, what but anarchy—what but confusion, and what but combination, and that of the most disastrous description, could prevail? Allusions had been made, in the course of the debate in which their Lordships were then engaged, to a document signed by the noble Marquis at the head of the Government in Ireland, in which that individual expressed his sentiments on the state of that country—a document which, coming from the authority it did, could not fail to excite a gloomy and desponding impression. It was said, that the statements in that letter were, in a degree, exaggerated, and that there was no reason for the expression of such a strong opinion on the part of its noble author. He did not think so. On the contrary, he was confident that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had reason to express the sentiments which he did in that paper, and, at the same time, he was ready to give full credence to what the Noblemen and gentlemen had stated respecting the landed gentry of the country. From his (the Duke of Wellington's) residence in Ireland, he was confidently enabled to assert, that no set of men were more anxious to perform the duties which they owed to the country, and to discharge the labours incident on the Magisterial capacity, than the landed gentry of Ireland. They did their utmost to restore in the country the peace which it had lost, but the success of their exertions must eventually depend on their uniting with the Government. He would recommend to them to endeavour, in every possible way, to secure the peace of the country, and to set the example to those who were not in the same state of life with them. Above all, let them, as far as they possibly could, maintain an union between themselves and the Government. It was not, however, to them alone that he would offer his advice. He would recommend the Government to adopt every possible means, and that without delay, to conciliate the confidence of those gentlemen. He could not help feeling that those gentlemen had some reason to complain of the conduct of Government. He was one of those who thought that, if Government intended that the gentry of Ireland should give their real and effectual assistance in keeping the peace of the 1326 country, they (the Government) ought to afford them their support, countenance, and assistance, on every occasion that their conduct or measures in the preservation of peace might make them the object of party malice or unjust attack. It was, above all things, necessary, that, between the Government and the gentry, there should be no petty cavilling about trifles. If gentlemen performed their duty without incurring the charge of malicious rigour or improper motives, they ought to be protected, and ought not to be punished for any trivial mistake or error of judgment of which they might be guilty, or because they might happen to be obnoxious to any party in the country. Allusion had been made by a noble Lord to the case of Captain Graham; and, although he was not desirous of then remarking at any length upon that subject, as it was shortly to come before their Lordships in the shape of a substantive motion, he begged leave to offer a few observations respecting it. In explanation of the treatment of Government to that individual, it was said, that the Lord Lieutenant had expressly stated to him his disapproval of the yeomanry being called out. Now, how did the case stand? Had every Magistrate of Ireland who did not signify his concurrence in such disapproval, met with the treatment that Captain Graham suffered? Certainly not; and that such was the case would appear from the following circumstances:—In consequence of the expression of disapprobation on the part of the Marquis of Anglesey, to the calling out of the yeomanry, two Magistrates, Captain De Renzy and Mr. Irwin, threw up their Commissions, alleging a conviction that the maintenance of the peace was impossible, unless the Magistracy were armed with extensive powers. To those gentlemen the Lord Lieutenant addressed circular letters, desiring that they might continue in the Commission of the Peace. But what was the treatment of Captain Graham? He was put upon his trial, and a solemn inquiry was entered into in a Court of Law, the result of which was, a complete and honourable acquittal; the Grand Jury, at the same time, stating, that he was entirely innocent of all the charges brought against him, and hat there was not the slightest ground for any imputation on his character. But what did his Majesty's Ministers do? Why, notwithstanding the acquittal, they immediately directed his name to be struck off 1327 the Commission of the Peace. And, although no blame was imputable to him, except that he was obnoxious to one particular party, they, in defiance of every principle of justice and of honourable treatment, thought proper to fix a stigma on his name. He repeated, he could not divine on what principle of common fairness it was, that this gentleman, an individual of property and respectability, having for many years served his Majesty, whose only crime was a successful resistance to a very serious attempt to disturb the peace of the country, and to resist the execution of its laws, should be punished, after he had been in a solemn manner honourably acquitted by a Jury of his fellow-countrymen. The cause, was, however, very apparent. It could not be denied, that all this was done because Captain Graham, unfortunately for himself, was odious to a particular party in the country. Well, what was the natural consequence of this weak and temporizing conduct on the Part of the Government? Undoubtedly it had induced a feeling among the Magistracy of Ireland, that they incurred personal responsibility in taking strong measures for the preservation of the peace, and, of course, they slackened in the performance of their Magisterial duties. But was the case of Captain Graham the only one in which a weak spirit of temporizing was evinced? Did not the evidence taken before the Tithe Committee, in almost every page, display similar acts of weakness and lack of resolution? There was one case to which he would beg particularly to refer. It appeared, a large body of men assembled near Thomas-Town for the purpose of expressing their resistance to tithes. The Magistrates read the Riot Act, and desired them to disperse. They did disperse for a time, but afterwards returned to the ground; the result of which was, that forty-one were taken up, and imprisoned, all being guilty of a breach of the Riot Act, in not dispersing within one hour of its being read, and being ordered by the Magistrates so to do. But what course did the Irish Government pursue on that occasion? A special order of the Lord Lieutenant was sent down, and the forty-one individuals imprisoned for a breach of the law were set at liberty within one day of the imprisonment. As it was stated, in the evidence taken before the Tithe Committee, the consequence of this act was a general, and he could not but admit, a very natural, expression amongst the people at 1328 large, that the Government were not in earnest in their condemnation of the system of resistance to the payment of tithes, and among the Magistrates a feeling that, in any forcible measure which they might deem it their duty to adopt, they were not likely to have the support of Government. Nothing could, he thought, be more impolitic than was the decision of Government in the case to which he alluded, inasmuch as it combined to deprive them of the confidence of the gentry of the country; and he could tell the Government, and he could tell the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, that, no matter what law or what force they might deem it requisite to employ, until they had the assurance of the co-operation and confidence of the landed proprietary of the country, they might rely upon it that it never would be pacified. It was not law, nor troops, nor the exercise of force that was united in Ireland; it was conciliation between the Government and landed proprietary of the country. He recollected perfectly well, that a noble Lord (Lord Sidmouth), who was in office at the period of the Manchester riots, wrote down to express the thanks of the Government to the Magistrates for their conduct on that occasion. He regretted that a similar course had not been adopted on the occasion of the conflict at Newtownbarry. It would, indeed, have been worth the while of his Majesty's present Ministers to have taken a lesson from the noble Lord to whom be alluded, for they might rely upon it that it was the very best advice that could be given them. There was one observation which he desired particularly to make before he sat down. He fully agreed with the noble Earl (Earl Grey) that if any force was to be called into action for the suppression of disturbances in Ireland, the regular force, and not the yeomanry, should be employed. He gave not this opinion from any dislike to the yeomanry; on the contrary, that force appeared to him most useful and constitutional; but they were liable to be influenced, particularly in Ireland, by party spirit, which might lead them to the exercise of greater violence than might be either prudent or desirable. He would, therefore, should it be resolved to apply force, prefer voting an increase to the standing army, than consent to the employment of the yeomanry corps.
wished, although not strictly in order, to say a few words respecting the case of Captain Graham, to which 1329 the noble Duke who had last addressed their Lordships had alluded. The cause of that individual's dismissal was in consequence of his having, as was conceived, very indiscreetly called on the yeomanry to act in the unfortunate transaction at Newtownbarry. It was not necessary for him, then, to state the melancholy results of that conduct. Twenty-one lives had been sacrificed.
The Marquis of Londonderry
continued—I can assure the noble and learned Lord I have no wish to prevent his making a second speech upon the one question, but, looking to his doing so as a matter of order, I must say, that, of all the proceedings I have ever witnessed in this House, considering the extreme pertinacity with which, on several occasions, the noble and learned Lord enforces the maintenance of order—
The Marquis of Londonderry
I must say the present proceeding, on the part of the noble and learned Lord, is most disorderly. I have myself, on several occasions, suffered from a rigid adherence to the rules of the House, and shall now enforce them.
§ Earl Grey
I admit that, according to the strict regulations of your Lordships' debates, no noble Lord can twice speak on the same subject; but it is usual to admit an infringement of that rule when a noble Lord desires to give an explanation of facts arising in debate. [Here there were loud calls for Lord Plunkett.]
I have no hesitation in saying that, on the point of order, when the noble Lord (the Marquis of Londonderry) calls my noble and learned friend to order, that noble Lord is, himself, most completely out of order. My noble and learned friend distinctly stated, at the commencement of his speech, that he was out of order in again addressing the House, which apology your Lordships, at that time, tacitly received, and permitted my noble and learned friend to proceed. The only grounds which it appears the noble Marquis can offer for refusing to hear my noble and learned friend is, that, on a former occasion order was enforced in your Lordships' House, in a manner personally disagree- 1330 able to him. I am sure your Lordships will not, for such a reason, refuse to hear the explanation of the noble and learned Lord.
The Marquis of Londonderry
I beg to assure the noble and learned Lord, that, had I been aware of a fact which has been just communicated to me, namely, that he is about to depart for Ireland, I am the last person who would offer the least opposition to his making his parting speech, even though it was a little out of order. I have myself suffered so very severely on this point of order, that I thought I was justified in enforcing it in all cases, and particularly when I happened to find the noble and learned Lord the offending party.
The Earl of Glengall
said, since the proceedings of Thomas-Town had been noticed, he felt it necessary to state, that he was himself the Magistrate who directed the capture of those persons who were called Hurlers, and were forty in number. The Lord Lieutenant having referred the circumstances of their apprehension to the Attorney General, he had no alternative but to liberate them on bail, according to the advice of the Crown Lawyers. These persons assembled with drums and fifes, and came armed to the ground where a meeting was appointed to be held for the purpose of resisting the payment of tithes to two clergymen, neither of whom had received a farthing for two years. Ten days after this occurrence one of these clergymen was stoned to death within 200 yards of his own door in, open day. The other clergyman, while standing at his own door with his son, was fired at, and the latter was killed. If this was not anarchy, he knew not what deserved that name. He had been acquainted with Ireland in the worst of times, but he never knew it in so dreadful a state as it was at present. In that state it would remain so long as the Government continued to be unable or unwilling to put down the revolutionary associations which were spread over the country. A revolutionary parliament was sitting in Dublin. Jacobin clubs were established in every part of the country. It was revolution these democrats had in their heads; and, if the law was not vigorously enforced to put them down, they would succeed in their efforts to separate Ireland from this country.
§ Viscount Melbourne
was very unwilling to detain the House at that late hour, and he would only reply very briefly to one or two observations which had been made by 1331 noble Lords opposite. He concurred altogether with the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington) that it was no less the duty than the interest of the gentry and clergy in Ireland to give every assistance in their power to the Government for the security of their property, and for the preservation of the peace of the country. But in the case of the persons who were sentenced for rioting at Thomas-Town, he wished to assure the noble Duke and the House, that the Government had laid the whole of the evidence respecting the transaction in which these persons had been concerned before his Majesty's Attorney General in Ireland—a Gentleman whose knowledge of the law and fitness to advise the Government no one could question; and it was upon his advice that those persons had been guilty of no breach of the peace, that the Government had directed their liberation upon giving bail. There was, therefore, no reason for accusing the Government of an indisposition to assist the Magistrates.
§ The Duke of Wellington
had not given an opinion as to whether the Government was right or wrong in liberating those persons. All he had said was, that it was an unfortunate occurrence, inasmuch as it had given the Magistrates an impression that that they were not cordially supported by the Government.
The Earl of Wicklow
expressed his regret that the noble Lord (Lord Plunkett) had been prevented from giving an explanation respecting the case of Captain Graham. He was very anxious to know on what grounds Government would attempt to vindicate their treatment of that individual, for he (the Earl of Wicklow) had an opportunity of convincing himself that the conduct of that gentleman, in the transaction at Newtownbarry, was in strict accordance with the directions of Government.
The Marquis of Westmeath
, in reply, observed, that the noble Earl had said, he always approached the discussion of an Irish subject in this House with some degree of dread. He was not surprised at it; because it so happened that the demagogue, having for his object to disgust the English people with Irish affairs, for the purpose of effecting a separation between the two countries, had, to a certain extent, succeeded by imposing upon the Government to give way to his clamour. This he naturally knew would increase the opposition of the party on principle opposed to 1332 him in Ireland; and in thwarting their resistance, by rendering himself still more troublesome to the Government, he succeeded in disgusting the Minister. This ought to be a lesson to every Englishman of every party and degree, to have no political sentiment in common with so undisguised an enemy to the welfare of his country. The noble Earl had also asked, with respect to the disturbances in Ireland, whether the Insurrection Act would suffice to quell them? He (the Marquis of Westmeath) in reply, said it would. The noble Earl said, it was a law to ensure conviction without a Jury, and without evidence. Without a Jury—yes; but without evidence—no. Evil times required extreme remedies; but, under this law, life could not be affected, although liberty might be somewhat abridged to secure geral tranquillity. Neither did the Magistrates of Ireland covet the powers of that law. They might be confided to other hands, if the noble Earl desired it, as long as security was given to society against the disturbers of its peace. The noble Earl had read an extract of a letter from Mr. Barrington, the Crown Solicitor in Clare, stating, that there convictions had taken place in every case. How, in every case? The noble Earl had been prudent in not stating in every case of alleged crime. The Crown Solictor's letter merely meant in every case where he had had evidence to put a prisoner on his trial; therefore, this boast of the powers of the common law in Clare amounted to nothing. The noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, had asked him, as an objection to the picture he had drawn of the inefficiency of the law, whether, because he stated that a man's murderers had been discharged without trial, from the want of the means of procuring evidence, he wished a law to be passed to have those men convicted without evidence? If he had intended to make such a proposition, it would be downright nonsense. What he said was, that the law could not be carried into effect to arrest or punish crime, because a system of terror prevailed. He must insist that the letter of the Lord Lieutenant to the Magistrates of Westmeath was no answer to their address. It was impossible for them, with the force at their disposal, to put down the conspiracy which disturbed the peace of the country. The war in Clare had been a war against middlemen, but the war now carried on in Ireland was a war against property of every 1333 kind. The noble and learned Lord also asked him, whether the county of Westmeath could not afford materials for a patrole? To that he must answer, that the country was generally organized, and that calling on the tenantry would not be prudent or considerate, for that no one could say such a force would be efficient; besides, if the farmers should join in it, they would become obnoxious in their persons and property and, therefore, no considerate landlord would invite his tenants to such co-operation. He could tell the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government, and the noble Baron who cheered him (Lord Holland), when talking of patrolling, that he, and those associated with him, were as little unwilling to wet their feet on such a duty as the noble Earl or the noble Baron, but that such a reply to their complaints was no answer. He only wished their Lordships to understand, and the public to understand, that the case of the civil Magistrates, and particularly of the Magistrates of Westmeath, was unanswered by any of the arguments which had been opposed to it this night.
§ Motion agreed to.