The Earl of Roden
observed, that he had now to bring before their Lordships a most important subject, connected with the unhappy state of Ireland, which was at present almost overwhelmed with misery and crimes—a subject involving so many important considerations, which all came crowding on his mind, that he was somewhat at a loss how to proceed, so as to make the deepest impression on their Lordships' minds, and procure their sanction to the Motion with which he intended to conclude; and it might be convenient at the commencement to state, that he proposed to take the sense of the House on that Motion. In the course of the observations which he had to address to their Lordships, he should feel it his duty to refer to various documents, and in doing so, he was aware that he might 1190 appear to their Lordships to be tedious. But he assured them, that he had selected these documents with the greatest care, from a great mass of documents, connected with this most important subject; and he believed that their Lordships, when they heard those to which he meant more particularly to call their attention, would confess that they were such as were strongly illustrative of the state of Ireland, and well worthy of the most serious consideration. For he was of opinion, that the country never was at any period in greater danger, both as to its internal condition, and as to its connexion with his part of the British Empire. It would be idle in him to detain their Lordships by entering upon any detail of the former history of Ireland, and from former events trace those by which Ireland was at present agitated, nor would he allude to the former policy adopted in regard to Ireland. What he had to state related entirely to the present time, and to the course which had been pursued by his Majesty's Ministers. He thought he should be able to show, as clearly as the light was shining in on their Lordships, that the real interests of Ireland had been grossly neglected. Formerly, it was deemed necessary to appoint men of experience, firmness, and ability, to conduct the affairs of Ireland; and he lamented that such qualities were not to be found amongst those who were now at the head of the Government. He deeply lamented that they did not possess those qualities, which were necessary for relieving the country from the dilemma in which they had themselves placed it. He lamented that they were unable to grapple with those dangers, which, if not removed, would speedily destroy all hope of peace or prosperity for Ireland. In bringing forward this question, he was not actuated by any party motives, or party spirit. His only object was, to promote the best interests of Ireland, and the empire in general, by bringing under their Lordships' consideration a subject which imperatively called for their attention. His object was, to excite the attention of the people of this country to the state of Ireland, and to rouse the Ministers, if possible, from the lethargy into which they had sunk with regard to Ireland, and to call forth sympathy with the condition of Ireland in the minds of all the peaceable and well-disposed people of the empire, whether Protestant or Ca- 1191 tholic. It was impossible for any man, unless he were blind, not to feel great anxiety, looking at what was taking place in Ireland, both for the present condition and future prospects of that country. He wished them to look to the wrongs, not only of the Protestant people of Ireland, but to the safety and security of the loyal people of every rank, description, and denomination. The daily occurrences which they saw taking place in that country—those scenes of organized movements amongst the people—that system of intimidation which existed to such a degree as to make the law a complete nonentity—the attacks unceasingly made on the houses of Protestants, for the purpose of plundering them of arms, which they kept for their own defence—all these circumstances formed a state of things which could not be contemplated without horror. This system of plunder was not only resorted to in the dead hour of the night, but even in the middle of the day, when the Protestants were attending Divine worship. Assassinations were continually taking place. Persons of the most inoffensive character, and who were the most valuable members of society, were murdered in the open day, in the presence of multitudes of individuals, who were so intimidated that they would not come forward to give evidence against the perpetrators of those crimes. All these circumstances proved that there was a disease, a foul disease, in the state of Ireland; and he greatly regretted that the Ministers who now governed that country had not taken the proper means to eradicate that disease. It was lamentable to think that an evil organization was extending every day, and that the Government had not taken any steps to meet or prevent it. He lamented that the old adage, that prevention was better than cure, did not form part of the stock of maxims of his Majesty's Ministers. If Ministers had taken steps at an early period to prevent this, and had not lent themselves to run down those who took an active part in opposing this system of organization, so much blood would not have been shed, nor would so many evils have come to pass. Such was the state of things, as his noble friends about him who, like him, resided in Ireland, could well corroborate, and would say that he had not overstated it. The resident gentry and Magistrates had done what they could to enforce the law—they 1192 had done everything, which the law admitted, to prevent the occurrence of these shameful outrages. He said this because those gentlemen had been unjustly calumniated, and they had been pointed out as deficient in doing their duty. They never were deficient—they had always been ready fearlessly to stand in the gap, and uphold tranquillity and the laws, though they had been unable to accomplish their object. They had used every exertion in their power, and had applied to the Lord Lieutenant—he was speaking generally—but they had applied to the Lord Lieutenant, stating, that it was impossible for them to preserve the peace, or stop the progress of the combination, unless some measures were taken to uphold the law. Three counties had held meetings of the Magistrates, with the Lord-lieutenants of those counties at their head, as well as other bodies, such as the Grand Juries, who were unawed by intimidation, and represented the state of their several counties to the Lord Lieutenant. He would not trouble their Lordships with all those cases—he would select only one—that one which had been before their Lordships on a former occasion, when a petition was presented by a noble Duke, not then in his place, from the Magistrates of Queen's County. He would take one case alone, as an illustration of the whole, hoc uno disco omnes. Those who lived in the county had drawn attention to its condition. In 1828 there were partial displays of Ribbonism and Whiteboyism, and the county was in a disturbed state. In 1829 the Magistrates and gentry entered into subscriptions, and subscribed 600l., to offer as rewards for apprehending the authors of these outrages. That had some effect; and, at the close of 1829, the county became more quiet and tranquil than it had previously been. In 1830 the county continued quiet for some time, till at a particular period, and all at once, the great object of the tithes attracted their attention, and declarations went forth amongst the people, that in three or four years they might get rid of tithes altogether. In propagating that doctrine, he would state fearlessly, that the Roman Catholic clergy had used a simultaneous energy. In this state of the proceedings, the Magistrates and gentry of the Queen's County called a public meeting on the 10th of June, 1831, and entered into various resolutions. They represented 1193 the state of the county, and resolved to apply to the Lord Lieutenant for permission to raise a Volunteer Armed Association, to embrace people of all denominations. A copy of these Resolutions were sent to the Secretary for Ireland, to Earl Grey, to the Marquess of Lansdown, and they were circulated all through the county. The project, however, of the Armed Association, had failed. Why? The Roman Catholic priesthood set their faces against it; no Roman Catholic could join the corps, and as it was determined not to have it an exclusive corps, it failed. The consequence was, that Whiteboy offences increased. The number of crimes committed between the 1st of June, 1831, and the month of September, 1832, was not less than 676 in one county. That was the effect of the excitement. In this case, what did the Magistrates do? They did their duty. On February 22, 1832, they held a general meeting at Maryborough, under the Lord-lieutenant of the county (Lord Vesci), and passed certain resolutions. These resolutions described the county as exposed to a general system of plunder; within the three preceding months, 133 houses having been broken into in the Queen's County, in search of arms; and from sixty-five houses, arms having been actually taken away. They described the existing law as inefficient to put down the dangerous combination which existed, and they requested the Lord-lieutenant of the county to represent the condition of the county to the Government, requesting that the immediate attention of the Legislature might be given to it, and measures taken to enforce the laws. They did not prescribe any particular measures as an effectual means of redress; they recommended, indeed, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to re-enact the Insurrection Act, which had already been found efficient to repress disorders. But his Excellency answered, that he was not disposed to recommend to the Government the renewal of the Insurrection Act, till other means of upholding the laws had been tried. In consequence of that answer, the Magistrates and Lord-lieutenant of the Queen's County felt it their duty to petition the Legislature, and the petition had been received, and was then lying on their Lordships' Table. He would not read that petition, which had been already read; he would only say, that it particularly called for such legislative measures as 1194 would restore and preserve order in the Queen's County, at the least expense to the farmers. To show further the state of this county, he would next state, that at the Lent Assizes, which were held on the 1st of March, there were 150 crimes to try. The Judge who tried them was well known for his humanity, and, if he had any fault, it was that of always leaning to the prisoner. This Judge, Baron Smith, had made an elaborate charge to the Jury, and he would show their Lordships, in the beautiful language of that Judge, what an impression those disorders had made on his mind. [The noble Lord then quoted the Judge's charge at considerable length; it enumerated the 150 crimes, of which fifty were great crimes—nine being murders or homicides, with five robberies, five burglaries, one arson, five employing threats, four abductions, and various other offences; and concluded by a caution against encouraging any kind of outrage and disorder; for, when it was checked in one line of proceeding, it was impossible to say how soon it would take some other. The Judge observed, that he saw more than an embryo of an imperium in imperio, which, if not checked, would ultimately subvert all order and peace in the county.] Nothing could show better than this charge the miserable state of society in Ireland. He knew that a Special Commission had been sent to the Queen's County, on which a noble Marquess had formerly congratulated their Lordships. He joined heartily in those congratulations, so far as they were deserved; he joined in them, so far as that Commission went to show that the Magistrates and Juries of the county were not to be deterred from doing their duty; for, out of thirty-eight persons who were tried, they found thirty-seven guilty. It was to be remembered that this was a Special Commission—that the Attorney General only selected those persons for trial whose guilt could be fully proved. He repeated, that he joined in the congratulations on the effects of that Special Commission—so far as it went to prove that the Magistrates and Juries would do their duty; but the further effects of that Special Commission were yet to be seen. The whole effects could only be ascertained after their Lordships should have passed that Tithe Bill to which the Ministers were pledged. He believed that the organization was the same—that all the materials for that or- 1195 ganization were still there—that the ammunition was there, and that all the combustibles were still piled up, ready to be kindled by that adventurous hand which had before set Ireland in a blaze. He was sorry to say, that the moral effect of the Special Commission was likely to be materially injured by the way in which the public Press of a certain class had taken up the circumstances connected with that Commission. He did not know whether his Majesty's Government had had their attention called to the subject, but it appeared to him very important that they should take some steps, when the public Press, in so formal a manner, vilified that Commission, and uttered what he considered as great libels as could possibly be pronounced. He would refer to some statements in the Comet newspaper, which he believed was very favourable to the noble Earl and his Majesty's Government. [Lord Plunkett stated, that the Comet was under prosecution by the Government.] He was very glad to hear this from the noble Lord. The paper to which he referred said, that every one laughed at the mockery of justice, and that, for shame's sake, an adjournment of the Commission took place. It added, that the Commission had done more harm than good, and left the Queen's County in a worse state than that in which it found it. He had spoken of the organization and intimidation which defeated the ends of justice. The commencement of the present system was an opposition to tithes. But, although the meetings to oppose the tithe system began from small things, they had increased from day to day; and now (and this was a charge which he brought against the Government) persons took the chair at meetings held nominally on the subject of tithes, but really for other objects, who were in the Commission of the Peace; and, although the noble and learned Lord opposite was informed that these Justices of the Peace presided at meetings at which the greatest sedition was promulgated, and a system of opposition to all the established institutions of the country enforced, yet he, who was the ruler of the Magistracy in Ireland, suffered those persons to remain in the Commission of the Peace, until it was thought necessary to put out Captain Graham, a Protestant Magistrate, because he supported the law. This was the charge which he made against his Majesty's Government, 1196 and he supposed the noble and learned Lord would be prepared to make some statement on the subject, and to explain why he had allowed Magistrates to attend at meetings which were opposed to all order and good government. As to the question of tithes, he had so much important information of another nature to communicate to their Lordships, that he was desirous to waive that subject at present, and should only say, that he was convinced the majority of the clergy in Ireland, if any way could be found for their obtaining a subsistence, without coming into collision with the people, would infinitely prefer such a plan. But it was not to be borne that the Government should allow so respectable a body of men as the Protestant clergy of Ireland to be deprived of their just rights (for they still were their rights, as no law was yet passed to take them away from them), and some of them to be obliged to emigrate to America with their families, while others were at this moment in absolute want, and knew not where to look for subsistence. He did not exaggerate this statement; be knew the individuals, and could name them if any noble Lord doubted his statement. Whether any thing else than extinction was meant by the word extinction in the reports of that House, he could not say; but he knew that the Catholic priests and the people of Ireland very well understood the meaning of extinction, and took it for granted that, tithes being extinguished, they had no right to pay them. The tithe meetings were not merely for the purpose of preventing the collection of tithes, but were made the means and instruments of introducing other subjects most dangerous to the country; some of them going the length of proscribing the use of British manufactures, and determining that, happen what might, they would have a separation of the two countries. These meetings also formed an excellent drill, for drawing together immense multitudes of the people to one part of the country for any purpose, however trivial or foolish it might be, or however capable of disgusting those who heard of it. From the immense mass of information which he had before him, he should confine himself to what was necessary to put their Lordships in possession of the state of the country, and he would observe, that he knew the writers of the documents to which he should refer, 1197 and could name them to any noble Lord who might desire that satisfaction The first piece of information to which he would refer, related to the northern parts of the county of Dublin, and the eastern parts of Meath—a part of the county which was formerly noted for its tranquillity and peaceful state—but that information might, with out impropriety, be extended to the whole county. The writer stated, that the progress of agitation was remarkable—that a tithe meeting was fixed for every Sunday in one or other parish—that the priest warned the people to attend, and members of the Political Union came from Dublin well selected, and very capable of inflaming the minds of the people, and Reporter on the part of the Government—Mr. Elliston—attended; that the assembly was addressed by the demagogues in the most violent and inflammatory style—the Aristocracy reviled, the Government abused, and the law set at defiance—that the people were told they must not pay tithes, whether lay or ecclesiastical, or deal with any one who did; that if a farmer did so, his crops would be left uncut, an if a labourer, he should be turned out of employment; that this system had continued For three months, and the effect was that, tithes were now no longer paid, cause they were no longer asked for; an that, from the circumstance of a Government Reporter attending at the meeting and no notice being taken of them, the general impression was, that the promoters of them had the Government on their side. That was the people's opinion who thought that the Government Reporter, would not attend unless the Government was favourable to them, and that encouraged them to proceed. Some of the clergy had been driven to America, an others wholly deprived of the means of subsistence. The noble Lord mentioned, on the authority of a communication which he read, the names of two clergymen—Mr. Dollen and Mr. Kearney—who had been obliged to abandon their preferments, and seek refuge in America The noble Earl next referred to the people building towers in different places, and beacons, and setting fire to them as signal as another proof of the extensive combination which existed. The noble Earl next referred to a letter from Hacket's Town, which described the people as a sembling in great multitudes at the sound of horns. The horns sounded at between 1198 eight and nine o'clock, and the people came together and built a tower; the horns sounded on the following night, and the people assembled and built other towers. A third time the horns sounded, and the people assembled, and shouted and yelled, so as to excite great alarm in the Protestants. Another system was adopted. Noble Lords might laugh; but it was a most serious and most important matter. For that system, if he did not see in it much to alarm him—if he could regard it as only one of the charms of the Romish Church—he should feel only pity and disgust. But it had a great political object in view; and that object, he believed, was to show how speedily the whole people might be united and directed to one common object. The noble Earl then quoted, from a communication which he had received from the county of Wicklow, a description of the people carrying about blazing turf, or burning straw, from house to house, which had taken place in various parts of Ireland at the same day and the same hour. That showed a secret power and influence somewhere. His Lordship also quoted communications from Dundalk and Down, to show that the carrying about the holy turf, or the blazing straw took place at the same day and hour in various parts of Ireland. That might be a farce to some of their Lordships, but he looked upon it as likely to terminate in a tragedy. The noble Lord next quoted a communication from Lord Farnham, describing the state of Cavan. There the people had been roused, and kept in agitation the whole night, by people passing through the town. He saw nothing in all this to joke about. He conceived it to be of great importance. There was a great combination of the people from one end of the country to the other. A communication from Dublin stated similar circumstances, and described the Government as lending its aid to those who were opposed to all our institutions. He came next to what he considered a point of very great importance—a point in which he was more interested than any other—he meant the state and condition of the Protestants. After alluding to the alarm and terror to which they were exposed, the noble Lord declared, that he believed the object was, to drive all the Protestants out of Ireland. That was the opinion of a correspondent the noble Lord referred to, who stated that the change was intended to get rid 1199 of the Protestants, and drive them all out of Ireland. He would read to their Lordships another letter, which brought the description of the state of things down to the present period. He had received yesterday morning, from Middleton, in the county of Cork, a letter stating that on the 21st of June about 20,000 persons, men, women, and children, headed by Roman Catholic priests, approached the town on all sides. They carried tri-colored flags, a cap of liberty, and a green flag, bearing on one side a harp, and on the other a figure of Mr. O'Connell; there were also bands of music, which played The White Cockade; two coffins borne by the crowd, and having on them the inscriptions, "Tithes, Church rate, and Cess," were lowered into graves dug for them, whilst the priests uttered a mockery of the funeral service over them. The mob then desired a Roman Catholic Magistrate, who was a corn-factor, to come out and join them, threatening that if he did not they would no longer deal with him. This appeal induced the Magistrate to abandon his duty, and he came out, and made as seditious an harangue as the mob could have desired. The consequence was, that the excited populace proceeded to the church, where they broke the monument erected in honour of the late Archbishop of Cashel, cut down trees, and committed other depredations, uttering at the same time the most horrible menaces against Protestants. Another letter from the Queen's County, dated June 5th, stated, that the Protestant Dissenters had been insulted; that their stock had been thrown into the ditches; that they were prevented from obtaining provisions; and that when any one of them rode from home, a horn was sounded, and the people immediately attacked him with stones and pikes. A letter from the county of Clare stated that in parts of that county the Protestant inhabitants could get no provisions but what were brought under the escort of troops, and many of them had been compelled to give up their respective trades. At Rathangan, in the county of Westmeath, a Protestant was, on the 4th of June, murdered in open day, with circumstances of great cruelty; and although there were fifty witnesses to the transaction, it had been found impossible to bring it home to the offender—the law having become a perfect laughing stock. He was now extremely anxious to remind their Lordships of the declaration which 1200 had been made by the noble Earl opposite, soon after his accession to office—namely, that if he found the existing law in Ireland insufficient, he would come down to Parliament and propose other measures. He now called upon that noble Earl to redeem his pledge. He told him that the present laws were insufficient, and could not be executed. To that fact they had the testimony of Magistrates and resident gentry, who could have no sinister design. He solemnly, therefore, called upon the noble Earl, not with any party view, but simply with a view to the good of the country—he called upon the noble Earl, in the name of justice, in the name of humanity, in the name of the Protestants of Ireland, to give protection to those Protestants. He called upon the noble Earl to stop that conspiracy—for conspiracy it manifestly was—the object of which was, to chase away the Protestant people of Ireland, and make them exiles in a foreign land, seeking that protection from strangers which they ought to have received at home. The conspirators moved step by step—they did not attempt to grasp the whole of their object at once. But it was evident that their principal aim was the separation of the two countries. They had already proposed the dissolution of that Union which had lasted two-and-thirty years, and from which so many advantages had resulted. Notwithstanding, however, the miserable state in which Ireland then was—notwithstanding the alarming transactions to which he had been alluding, he still thought, that if there existed a Government which would take the measures that a Government ought, under such circumstances, to take, a remedy might be found for the evil. In the first place they ought to make the law respected, as it ought to be; they might then consider of abolishing or regulating the tithes. But the first object, he repeated, was to establish the power of the law. He really began to think, that his Majesty's Ministers were the dupes of the conspiracy which existed in Ireland against the Protestants; for a spirit of Jesuitism ran through all the measures which they adopted with reference to Ireland. Whether it was the Irish Reform Bill, or the Irish Education Bill, or the Irish Procession Bill, it mattered not; for the whole aim of those three bills seemed to be, to strangle the Protestant interest and banish the Protestant people from Ireland. The noble Lord said no. 1201 What did the Irish Reform Bill do? Did it not deny to Protestants, on the plea put forth by the right hon. Chief Secretary, of a wish to get rid of party distinctions, the hereditary rights which it gave to others? Then, there was the Irish Education Bill. What was the first principle of Protestant education? That the whole Bible should be read in schools. That principle was abandoned, in order to meet the wishes of Catholics and demagogues. Lastly, there was the Processions' Bill. What was the animus of that bill? Did it not strike at the Protestants only? It was meant to put a stop to the Protestant processions in Ireland on the 12th of July. Such was candidly avowed to be its object. Yet, while this attempt was made to strike at the celebration of one of the most glorious events in our history, by which a Protestant Monarch was established on the throne of these realms, processions had been permitted in England, when formed by a National Union, of the most revolutionary character, and such as had experienced the reprobation of every well-thinking man. The Orangemen of Ireland had, on a former occasion, been described by some of the Ministers of the Crown as a miserable, bigoted and expiring faction. Were they acquainted with the body of which they thus presumed to speak? Did they know that the Orange lodges of Ireland consisted of above 300,000 loyal subjects, many of whom were individuals of the highest respectability? Was the use of such language the way to win the affections or allay the passions of such a body? For himself he was bound to speak of the Orangemen as a most valuable body, whose only objects were, to uphold the laws, and to preserve the monarchy. In the prosecution of those objects, the Protestants of Ireland had ever been foremost. But they had had the mortification of seeing the transgressor of the laws in Ireland praised by his Majesty's Ministers, because he was the great leader of the opposite party, and because they were desirous of winning him over. These were facts, and he defied any one to contradict them. This opposing those whom they ought to favour, and giving way to those whom they ought to oppose, was a wretched and destructive system. While that system was continued, so long would persecution—so long would agitation—so long would all the other evils by which Ireland was afflicted continue. He 1202 trusted, however, that the Protestants of Ireland, although they might again be tried, as they had heretofore been tried, would remain firm but temperate; always remembering the conservative principles, not giving offence to any one, but manfully defending their rights. He trusted that they would still continue united in their own defence—in the defence of the Government—and in the defence of the Protestant religion. They had ever been the nucleus of freedom in that country, and he hoped they would remain so. He would venture to say, that if their Lordships agreed to the unprotestantising and unprincipled measures proposed by his Majesty's Government, they would destroy the germ in which so many blessings had been preserved, and would establish oppression the most odious, and slavery the most hateful. He implored his Majesty's Government, therefore, to pause in their course. He implored them, to consider who it was they were pushing away from them, when they upbraided and denounced those Protestants who had supported England, and that almost single-handed, throughout the mighty struggles in which she had been engaged. He apologised for having detained their Lordship so long, but the subject was near his heart, and he felt that he owed it to his country to bring her case under the immediate consideration of Parliament. The noble Earl concluded by moving—"That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, praying that he would take into his most gracious consideration the afflicted state of his Protestant subjects in Ireland, and adopt such measures as under the distressing circumstances of the case, might appear expedient to uphold the Protestant religion, and to protect the lives and properties of all denominations of his Majesty's Irish subjects."
§ Viscount Melbourne
admitted the ability of the noble Earl's statement; but the noble Earl had wisely abstained from referring to the past history of Ireland, and had expressed himself as if this was the first time that such circumstances as the noble Earl had described had occurred in Ireland, or had been brought under their Lordships' notice. The noble Earl had talked of the disordered state of the country—of the seizures of arms—of the administering of illegal oaths—of the attacks upon houses and persons, as if they were only recent events. Why, they 1203 were all at least seventy years old. In 1765, the first Act which was rendered necessary by the disturbances in Ireland was passed; and the preamble of that Act stated many causes of those disturbances, which the noble Earl attributed to the agitation, to the demagogues, and to the Roman Catholic religion, of the present day. Long before a demagogue existed in Ireland, and at a period when the Roman Catholic religion was struck down to the earth, and the professors of it were told from the bench, that it was only by connivance that they were allowed to breathe, Ireland was the scene of events similar to those which the noble Earl had been describing as of recent occurrence. [The noble Earl here read the preamble to the Act of 1765, which recited, as the grounds of the Act, the depredations of the Whiteboys by night and by day—the carrying away of horses and arms—the administering of sundry oaths, contrary to law—the sending of threatening letters, &c.] Such language appeared like a transcript of the noble Earl's speech. They all knew, that from that period to the present, such disorders had been of frequent recurrence. In 1806, when an Administration was in office supposed to be favourable to the claims of the Catholics, there was the insurrection of the Thrashers, which had led to the first Insurrection Act. In 1821 and 1822, when an Administration was in office of a mixed character—some favourable and some unfavourable to the Catholic claims—there was another insurrection of at least equal atrocity. Horrible murders were committed in Limerick, which remained undetected, to the utter despair of the Government of the day, who were unable to send down a Commission, from the inability to procure evidence. It was clear that those disturbances were unconnected with political matters. Since that time there had been a continual succession of atrocities in that country. In 1827, the Government to which he (Lord Melbourne) belonged, had received repeated applications, in consequence of various disturbances in Tipperary and elsewhere, for an Insurrection Act. The noble Duke opposite knew well, that, in 1829 and 1830, the state of the south of Ireland demanded the most serious attention of Govrenment, by which, however, the same view was taken as that which had been taken by the present Government. He 1204 held in his hand an application to the noble Duke, from the Magistrates of Tipperary, at the period he alluded to, precisely of the same character as the representation which had been made by the noble Earl, and the answer of the noble Duke took precisely the same view of the case as that which had been taken of the present case by the present Government. The existing evils had been met by the ordinary course of the law, and more particularly they had been met by an increased vigour on the part of the police. The effect had been, to restore the disturbed counties to comparative tranquillity. The noble Viscount proceeded to read extracts from a variety of reports from Westmeath, the Queen's County, &c., agreeing that the number of outrages in these counties had greatly diminished of late, principally in consequence of the increased strength of the police. The noble Earl said, some measures ought to be adopted. What measures? An Insurrection Act? If that was what the noble Earl meant, he was sure the noble Duke (Wellington) would not agree with the noble Earl; recollecting, as he did, the arguments which, in 1829 and 1830, the noble Duke had urged against such a measure. The effect of any such measure must be temporary; while that of the existing law, if it could be rendered sufficiently operative, would be permanent. As to the allusion made by the noble Earl to the circumstance of Magistrates presiding at anti-tithe meetings, his noble and learned friend near him would speak to that point. With respect to the holy turf and straw which had lately been sent so expeditiously about the country, it was impossible for him to say what was the real cause of that proceeding. It might be the result of some superstitious notion, produced by the awe and apprehension generated by the novel circumstances of a disease, which, as had been said of it, began where other diseases ended—that was in death. He begged to observe, however, that the police had directions to pull down the turf towers. He had said before, and, in justice to his colleagues and himself, he must repeat the assertion, that there was no disposition on the part of his Majesty's Government to deal otherwise than justly and impartially towards the Protestants of Ireland. Much had been said by the noble Lord who had just spoken, upon the subject of the education of the Irish people; that topic had 1205 been, upon so many occasions, so fully and elaborately discussed, that he should not trouble the House with any observations upon a subject already so completely worn out, and one respecting which, he believed, there existed but little difference of opinion amongst impartial and intelligent men. There were, no doubt, some by whom the plan of the Ministers was regarded with sincere feelings of apprehension, and he was as ready as any man to concede much to the; conscientious scruples of those who dreaded injurious consequences from the present plan of Government education; but those who used it as an instrument for party purposes, and with the view of casting obloquy upon the present Ministers, were certainly not entitled to similar indulgence. Again, there could not be a more grievous misrepresentation than to state, that the party-celebrations which took place in Ireland, were really and truly in honour of the great and glorious events to which, it was said, they had reference. He recurred in his mind to those events with sentiments of the highest triumph; he honoured the actors in them as highly as any man living; but was it believed by noble Lords, that celebrations of the kind to which he alluded really went forward for any other purpose than that of endeavouring to revive the ascendancy which one party once enjoyed over the other, and could they doubt that the effect of them was merely to irritate the Roman Catholics? It was really very strange to hear the noble Lord charging it against the present Government, that they discouraged those party associations and proceedings. Had they not equally been discouraged and disapproved of by the Government of the noble Duke opposite? Were there not, at the present moment, to be found letters written by Sir Henry Hardinge, while Secretary for Ireland, dismissing Yeomanry officers from their command, for no other offence than that of attending Orange processions? Therefore, it could with no sort of justice be made a ground of complaint specially against the present Government, that they discouraged proceedings of that nature. Previous to the 12th of July and 5th of November, there were generally, in every year, many conferences held in the Castle at Dublin, with the view, if possible, of preventing the processions, or, at least, of rendering them less mischievous than they had heretofore 1206 proved. On one of those occasions, he remembered having met an officer of some rank in the army, who had retired on his fortune in Ireland. To him were represented the destructive consequences of persevering in such practices, and the danger to the public peace with which they were fraught. His reply to that was, "Really, those people planted and dug his potatoes, and reaped his corn; that they would not continue those services to him if he refused to head; and, be the consequences what they might, he could not so far disregard his own interest as to change his conduct in that respect." Neither in education nor in anything else, and, least of all, in the matter of the Party Processions' Bill, was there any intention of doing injury to the Protestants of Ireland, and, with that general disclaimer he should content himself, confident that the House could never be induced to consent to such a Motion as the present.
§ The Duke of Wellington
had listened with great anxiety to try if he could discover, from the statement of the noble Viscount, what were the intentions of his Majesty's Government, with respect to the future management of that part of the United Kingdom to which the Motion referred; but, instead of any such thing, he found the statement of the noble Lord embraced little more than two topics—one of these consisted of a comparison between the past and present state of Ireland; the other was an attempt to show that many of the counties, where it was alleged that disturbances had taken place, were really in a most peaceable and tranquil condition. It was perfectly true that the state of Ireland had been at many periods disturbed; but it was equally true, that between those periods of disturbance long and frequent intervals of prosperity and tranquillity had intervened. As to the former disturbances which, from time to time, had taken place in Ireland, he should say, and that without the slightest fear of contradiction, that they were trifling compared with the scenes of which that country was now unhappily the theatre. Heretofore the tranquillity of Ireland was preserved by a force of very trifling amount indeed, compared with he knew not how many thousands of police and military now employed in that country, and at an expense, of the amount of which the House could form no adequate notion. From the year 1805, when the Catholic Ques- 1207 tion first came to be agitated, to the year 1829, when it was finally settled, it was well known to noble Lords, that the utmost excitement and agitation prevailed; but then at length the Catholic Question was settled, and a real grievance removed. No doubt, the passing of that measure did not produce complete tranquillity, but, nevertheless, the country was excessively tranquil, compared with what it had been since. He begged the House to remember, that, in the year 1829, a measure was agreed to by both Houses of Parliament, which removed that which was, in the estimation of the parties themselves, a real grievance. From that period, all classes of his Majesty's subjects were placed upon a footing of perfect equality as regarded political rights. And he begged to remind the noble Lord opposite, who said that they (the late Administration) left the country in a state of disturbance—he begged to remind him of the Association Act. The noble Lord found that Act, and proclamations issued by the Lord Lieutenant to carry that Act into execution, when he took possession of office. Moreover, the Lord Lieutenant who succeeded his noble friend, had remonstrated against that Act, and had promised to get it repealed; yet, the first act of his government was, to issue a proclamation under that Act, and to carry it into execution, in order to preserve the tranquillity of Ireland, and this before he had been a month in Ireland. He should have supposed, that at that time they would have been satisfied with the Association Act; but, notwithstanding they had that Act, other disturbances broke out in Ireland. Upon an occurrence, so serious in its origin and character, and taking a direction so dangerous, one would have supposed that the noble Lord and his colleagues would have taken some step, but, from the breaking out of these disturbances to the present time, they had done nothing. On all former occasions of disturbance, there was, in reality, a public grievance; but that grievance had been removed. And what was this new disturbance? It was an insurrection against private property—the property of the Church as well as of individuals. Those persons had a right to call on the Government for protection; they had a right to ask of Government to protect them in the enjoyment of their property, and to give them a compensation when they lost 1208 it. The Government seemed to have no notion of the extent of the disturbance. His noble friend at the head of the Irish Government had seized four offenders, and he had pardoned three out of the four, in expectation that there would be no opposition to the payment of tithes thereafter. The noble Lord now finding his own policy unavailing, was pleased to charge upon him (the Duke of Wellington) the cause of these disturbances. They had been told, indeed, that his Majesty's present Ministers had an extraordinary objection to any of those measures which gave protection to the property and lives of his Majesty's subjects. If he (the Duke of Wellington) was not mistaken, he had reminded the noble Lord that the Association Act would terminate in 1831; and the noble Lord replied, that he intended to bring in a bill to renew it. The Parliament was dissolved before the noble Lord redeemed his promise; but one naturally would have thought that, seeing the attack made upon tithes, and the height to which it was growing, the noble Lord would have lost no time in taking the protection which the Association Act would have given to his Majesty's subjects, when the new Parliament assembled. But the noble Lord did no such thing. When a noble friend of his put a question to his Majesty's Government upon the subject, he was told that his Majesty's Government intended to keep the peace of Ireland without having recourse to any extraordinary measures. Now, he asserted that, from that day to this, there had been no security for property or person, and no enjoyment of peace in Ireland, and almost no civil government whatever. That, according to the best information from all parts, he believed to have been, and still to be, the state of that country. His noble friend had stated, and most truly, that this was the result of a conspiracy. He (the Duke of Wellington) said the same; and before he sat down he would prove it. This conspiracy it was which now deprived a large class of his Majesty's subjects in that country of their property; it rendered life insecure, and tended to the overthrow of all government, and would effect the overthrow of this Government, if that conspiracy were not crushed. It was upon this ground, and this only, that he felt anxious to address the House upon this occasion, desiring to warn the Government and the country of the real 1209 danger which at this moment menaced that part of the United Kingdom to which the motion of his noble friend referred. He had heard that lately an attempt had been made by a clergyman in Ireland to endeavour to avail himself of a distress to obtain part only of what was due to him. A body of troops, under the direction of a Magistrate, was on the ground to protect the sale. He had seen an account of the whole proceedings, which he believed to be accurate, and any thing more extraordinary, he must say, he had never seen or heard of. Upon the first day a mob of 20,000 men assembled, upon the second there assembled 50,000, and upon the third 100,000; and all for the purpose of intimidation to prevent the sale. Now, supposing that these numbers were ten times exaggerated, and that only 5,000 or 10,000 men attended, instead of 50,000 or 100,000, he would defy any man to show him how those bodies of men could have been so assembled but by the working of a conspiracy. Who led them there? He (the Duke of Wellington) would tell their Lordships—it was the priests. He came to the knowledge of this fact by a letter from an officer commanding a body of troops upon the occasion, and who, being anxious to keep his men from any collision with the people, was considerably in the rear with his men, where he saw what was going forward. Now, when it was known that a conspiracy existed, the object of which was, to deprive a large body of their property, and that the same means might be brought into operation against any other description of property, against a man's life, his honour, or anything else, surely they had a right to expect from the existing Government, or from any Government, some measure for its suppression. It must not be said, that the Constitution did not enable the Government to assume a power for this purpose. It was in the power of Parliament to confer such a power upon Government. And herein was the beauty of the British Constitution, which, while it protected the liberty and property of individuals by fixed laws, confided to Parliament the power of giving to the Government extraordinary means upon extraordinary emergencies. The Parliament, therefore, could impart to Government a power to defeat a conspiracy which was directed, not against the Government, but against those whom the Government were bound upon every 1210 principle to protect. An attack upon tithes was one of the most serious description. Such an attack was levelled against the Church. He knew not what was the Ministerial measure upon this subject, but he would do his best to support it. But he must say, in the meantime, that the Government was bound, and the King was bound by his oath, to protect the property of the Church specially. Nor was it the property of the Church alone that was involved in this organized attack upon tithes. What would they say to the lay impropriator? Was a man who had invested a large property in tithes to be told, that he must lose it all because there was a cry against that sort of property? That surely would not be language consistent with the Constitution, or with the duty of those who were bound to propose measures, to enable his Majesty to protect his subjects in their just rights against lawless violence. He entreated the noble Lord who had spoken last, and those upon whom his speech had made any impression, to weigh well the difference between the situation of the present Administration and that of which he (the Duke of Wellington) had formed a part, with respect to Ireland. At present Ireland had no public grievance. This he affirmed; the noble Lords opposite knew this to be the case. And he would tell them, that they would be obliged at last to adopt a measure of coercion, the extent and severity of which would be in proportion to the length of time they allowed to elapse before they acted upon that advice. With reference to the collection of large bodies in Ireland, for the purpose of overawing the authorities, intimidating his Majesty's subjects, and defeating the law, he well remembered upon the subject of the Manchester affair, many years back, to have heard the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Plunkett) make a most able, eloquent, and unanswerable speech, in defence of the conduct of the Magistrates, in the other House of Parliament. Now, he should like to know from that noble and learned Lord, what distinction he drew between the situation of the Magistrates of Carlow and Cork upon the late occasions, and the situation of the Magistrates at Manchester, whose conduct he had so ably and eloquently vindicated. He should be told, no doubt, in consequence of this allusion, that he was always anxious to spill human blood. 1211 He should be able to bear the reproach, sustained by the consciousness that his sole object was to save the shedding of human blood. He wanted to save human life by legislative means, before the necessity arose for the employment of arms against mobs and crowds of people. His object was, to see the conspirators got the better of. Upon a late occasion in Ireland, to which he had already adverted, it appeared that the King's troops were for three days in the presence of large mobs, and that the latter at length succeeded in their unlawful object, and carried off the articles which had been distrained. This he charged to be a conspiracy, and one of the most dangerous kind, and, if not put down by legislative means, would, in the end, require means of the most painful description to put down. The noble Lord who had last addressed the House, had advanced that Ireland was now in a state of greater tranquillity than she had been for some time past. He must say, that as far as his information went, the reverse was the case. It might be true that tranquillity had been restored in a particular district, but did any gentleman feel himself secure in that country. There was one test, however, to which he was anxious to bring the noble Lord's statement, as to the tranquillity of that country. Could the noble Lord say, that in any one instance the Government had been able to carry into execution the Tithe Act lately passed? Was there a single instance in which that had been found practicable? He must say, that if the clergy were paid out of the Consolidated Fund, and this Act were not carried into execution by the Government, the members of the Administration would stand in an awkward predicament before Parliament. It appeared by one of the statements read by the noble Lord, that the Lord Lieutenant had lately traversed the Queen's County with perfect security. This circumstance was adduced as a proof of the tranquillity of that part of the country It was no proof at all. He did not mean to say it was meant to deceive, but such statements did, in effect, operate as a deception upon the world. It was well known that the Lord Lieutenant, when he moved about, was surrounded by troops, and the fact stated by the noble Lord proved nothing either one way or the other. What he wanted to see in Ireland, as the only proof 1212 of tranquillity to which he could attend, was, some security for property, some security for tithes, and some peace. He now came to that part of the subject which was the most painful, because, in his opinion, it reflected the most strongly upon his Majesty's Ministers. He referred to their treatment of the Protestants of Ireland. In the treatment to which the Protestant Church had been subjected he must say, that the Protestants of Ireland had been entirely thrown aside. There could be no doubt that the Protestants of Ireland, who, like all other bodies, were divided amongst themselves upon many subjects, were unanimous in their feelings against his Majesty's Government, with a sense of injury done, and a sense of insecurity in their situation, the contemplation of which was most painful to all who wished well to the union of the two countries. It was undoubtedly desirable to widen the basis of the Union as much as possible; but he deceived himself who thought that the connexion between the two countries could be maintained if the Protestants were estranged—or ever thought of looking elsewhere, or to themselves rather than to the Protestant Government of England, for protection. It was not yet too late; he hoped it would never be allowed to go so far as that. But, if something were not done, the time would at last arrive, when the Protestants of Ireland would have to choose between that which they would most unwillingly accept, a Catholic government, or a separation. He entreated their Lordships to weigh well this part of the question. The Irish Protestants had been in all situations, and under all circumstances, the firm friends of England. He had now accomplished all that he rose to effect. He had stated his opinion to his Majesty's Government, and informed them of the steps which he thought would pacify Ireland. He knew not whether it was intended to press the Motion of his noble friend to a division. He had no wish beyond stating his own opinion. It was not for him to point out the particular measures which it became his Majesty's Government to adopt; but he could not sit down without repeating, that if they viewed what had taken place in Ireland in any other light than that of a conspiracy, they would certainly be in error.
The Duke of Cumberland
thought it but fair to state, that he should certainly 1213 divide the House upon the Motion of the noble Earl.
gave full credit to the noble Lord who made the Motion then before their Lordships, for the sincerity of his intentions, and the purity of his motives, but he confessed that he thought he had some reason to complain, that the noble Lord had thought proper to visit upon the present Government all the vices and misfortunes which previous Governments had brought upon that country for centuries past. The noble Lord had also been pleased to attribute those acts which constituted crime against society at large, to hostilities subsisting between Catholic and Protestant, narrowing and confining that which affected the whole community equally, to an offence exclusively against the Protestants. The noble Lord had directed his complaints against two classes of crime, which he said prevailed in Ireland. The first was a conspiracy, which interfered with the enjoyment of all property—which assailed the dominion over land. Now, he would appeal to any one who heard the noble Lord, to say whether the effect of his observations was not, to impress the minds of all who heard him with the belief, that those offences were, in every instance, committed by Catholics against Protestants. He would not say that that was unfair, since such an expression would seem to convey some imputation upon the noble Earl, but this he would say, that it was most unfounded; indeed, so unfounded, that he had expected, that though the noble Duke who spoke last agreed generally with the noble Earl, he should still have thought it becoming—nay, felt it necessary, to have replied to such a statement. The noble Earl had said, that the effect of the present system of his Majesty's Government would be, to drive from Ireland every Protestant, and banish them for ever from their native soil. He would ask the noble Duke, whether be joined with the noble Earl in that assumption; and, if he did, upon what ground he had brought himself to do so? True it was, that the noble Earl had read letters from private individuals, but what did they prove? Could documents so utterly unauthenticated prove anything? Had any one of them been verified by affidavit? Could the noble Lord, upon such grounds, before Parliament, and in the face of the country, think himself justified in bringing forward 1214 such accusations as the House had just then heard? On the part of the people of Ireland, and especially on the part of the Catholics, many of whom he knew, he begged to deny the existence of any such conspiracy. It was really absurd to talk of a conspiracy of nearly a whole nation against a very small portion of its inhabitants. He found it difficult to comprehend how such a line of argument could be consistently pursued, unless it was intended to re-agitate the old debates upon the Catholic claims; and, with all his experience of public life, it did surprise him, that any assertion so gross and monstrous should have passed the lips of any one. He would put the thing on this footing—was the present resistance to tithes a Protestant, or a Catholic resistance? How many of the Protestants joined in the resistance? Had they not all joined in it, whenever it appeared in their neighbourhood? That was a matter of public notoriety, and there could not be a grosser perversion of terms than to ascribe the present state of Ireland solely to the Catholics. It was inconceivable to him what pleasure any one could take in making such gross mistakes, and in thus dashing the hopes of the country for ever. From the course which the present debate took, there was no one who heard it that would not actually ask himself this—what hope can there he for Ireland? Their Lordships had heard two speeches—one from the noble Duke, the other from the noble Earl—and what was the remedy recommended by either? The noble Earl told them, that the whole nation was in a conspiracy against a small portion of their fellow-subjects, and that the only remedy for that was the resignation of the present Ministry. After stating, as he conceived, the nature and extent of the danger, he then says, that the present Administration must go out, or there will be no peace for Ireland.
did not undertake to repeat the exact words, though he had taken a note of them, and might, if it did not detain their Lordships, refer to that note; but of the general purport of that observation of the noble Earl he could entertain no doubt—it ran through the whole of the introduction of his speech—it was a species of prelude or symphony before he entered upon the full tide of song, but 1215 the scope and tendency admitted of no doubt; according to the noble Earl, the source of the complaint could by no manner of means be deemed problematical. It was all to be traced to the one fact, that the present Ministers were in office, and if they would only have the goodness to go out, all might yet be peaceable and happy in Ireland. But, after all, would that accomplish the objects which the noble Earl had in view? If an effective Administration could be formed of other materials, it would not surprise him to hear the noble Earl use such language as had just fallen from him; but he should have thought, that the noble Earl might have taken such counsel from recent events as would lead him not to anticipate much beneficial change from the resignation of the present advisers of the Crown. If there existed this alleged conspiracy on the part of the Roman Catholics in Ireland, to overturn the Protestant interest in that country, if his Majesty's Ministers suffered themselves to be made the dupes of such a plan, then the Motion should at once have been, to address the King to dismiss the present Ministers from his Majesty's councils. He would take the liberty of denying the assumption which had prevailed throughout the whole of the argument. The noble Lord talked as if the Protestants of Ireland were united against the present Ministry. But this was not the case. There was a certain party in Ireland, who thought themselves entitled to call themselves exclusively the Protestants of Ireland. If it was said that this noble Marquess, or that noble Lord—this gentleman, or the other gentleman, was a Protestant, their answer was, "Aye, but his principles are just as bad as if he were not one;" and this was their logic—"Every Protestant must be an enemy to the present Administration: therefore every man who is not an enemy to the present Administration, cannot be a Protestant." He believed that there was a large and honest party in the country, both of Protestants and Catholics—and he founded his assertion on a long and extensive experience and acquaintance with all parties and classes of men—he believed that there was a great party, both of Protestants and Catholics disposed to support the Government of the country. It was the duty of the Government to identify themselves with that sound and honest party in the country. He hoped the 1216 Government would have the courage to join themselves to that sound and honest party, and rely for support, not on any faction, but draw upon that great fund of probity and good sense which existed to a vast extent amongst the people of England and of Ireland. He believed that his noble friend would have the courage and honesty to draw upon that fund. He believed that they would be able to dictate to all parties—not to offer an insult either to Protestants or Catholics, but, on the contrary, to conciliate and promote the interests of all. It was the duty of Government to face the faction which opposed it, and say it was resolved to carry on the public business, and for the public benefit. The noble Duke had alluded to the past history of Ireland, and said, that he could not institute any comparison between the former periods of disturbance and the present. In former times the crimes and disturbances of the Roman Catholics were caused by their having a grievance, whereas at present they had none. He was glad the noble Duke had placed concession to the Roman Catholics on its true grounds.
§ The Duke of Wellington
begged pardon of the noble Lord; but he did not say they had no grievance, but that they could not state tithes to be a just grievance.
said, but if they thought they had a grievance, that, according to the noble Duke's own theory, was sufficient to explain these revolutionary movements; and, as the noble Duke must see that revolutionary movements did take place, he could not, in the teeth of his own doctrines, deny the existence of a grievance. He agreed with the noble Duke, that property ought not to be invaded; but there was a feeling amongst the people very generally—indeed, they were almost unanimous—that tithes were a grievance. Objections had been raised to the conduct of his noble friend, the Lord Lieutenant. It was charged against his noble and gallant friend, that he at first, cried out against the Proclamation Act, and afterwards availed himself of it. Now, the noble Marquess might think the measure unwise, impolitic, and even unconstitutional, and, on those grounds, oppose its being passed into a law; yet, having once 1217 received the sanction of the Legislature; he was bound to obey it; and there was no reason why he should not make use of it when those circumstances occurred against which it was intended to provide. He found the Proclamation Act in force when he assumed the Government of Ireland; his predecessor had issued proclamations under it, and found it answered well. The noble Marquess, it succeeding the noble Duke (Northumberland) made use of it, and, in his opinion, he was very right so to do. He did not apply on the subsequent Session for it renewal; whether be was right or not it: doing so he would not presume to say his only object was, to justify his noble friend from the charge of inconsistency With regard to the complaint made against the noble Marquess, for pardoning some individuals convicted of joining in at outrage, it appeared on investigation, that these men had been mainly instrumental in preventing the mob from proceeding to personal violence; and the farmers promised, that if the Government would pardon those men, they would immediately pay up the tithes; which they did, and the noble Marquess, considering all the circumstances, granted them a pardon What fair ground of complaint had the, against ins noble friend, the Lord Lieutenant. He challenged them, from the beginning to the end of the tithe disturbances to point out any one instance it which the Lord Lieutenant refused to give the most prompt and effectual aid to ever person applying for assistance. If he had done so in any one instance, let the documents be referred to, and the case pointed out. The opponents of tithes had acted upon a new plan. They did not violate the law; they said they would not pay tithes, but that in itself was no violation of the law. They said, that the parson might come if he chose and distrain their goods; but when the parson distrained he found nobody to buy. What could the Government do in such a case? Government could not become the auctioneer, nor find buyers. The case in the county of Cork had been referred to by the noble Duke. Why, how did it stand between the Government and the parson? The parson says, "Will you give me assistance?"—The Government says, "Can you find buyers?"—"Yes."—"An auctioneer?"—"Yes." The Government gave assistance; a great body of people 1218 was assembled, but not one buyer could be found. The parson was unable to fulfil that part of the contract for which he stipulated. What was to be done? Were the troops to remain there to the end of time? No; that was impossible; and the consequence was, the distress was driven back, and the party escaped. Every case that had occurred had been maturely considered by the person who occupied the office of public prosecutor in Ireland; and if in any case a prosecution could have been instituted, it would have been immediately commenced. Government could not do more than they had done; they had no other alternative, except that of attacking the multitude as clangorous to the public peace—an alternative which he would not do the noble Duke the injustice of supposing him capable of contemplating. With reference to the disturbances which had taken place of a different character, he must remark, that in more instances than one, the Magistrates had called for the aid afforded them by and under the provisions of the Insurrection Act, and had said they would not act without it. He would beg to ask, if it was on such a demand that the Government were to extend to Magistrates, declaring their refusal to act without it, the provisions of the Insurrection Act? The Insurrection Act might be a necessary evil under certain existing circumstances. Well might his noble friend (Marquess Wellesley) who presided over that country, and who had left there an eternal monument of his fame—well might he reflect with pride on the course he pursued. Those who should hereafter peruse the history of that country, would find his master-mind written in characters more durable than if they had been engraven on brass. The laurels which he had acquired by his Administration in Ireland, one only could reach. Did he adopt the Insurrection Act as a thing to be recurred to from time to time until it should become a permanent law? No; he submitted to it from mere necessity. He did great service by adopting it; but he always viewed it as an instrument of power, the use of which nothing but a case of an overwhelming necessity mild justify. And what was it that his noble friend, the present Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had done? He said, "I will not resort to this extraordinary course, until the ordinary powers of the law have been tried and found insuffi- 1219 cient. I will not throw a whole people into the hands of an angry Magistracy: I mean not to speak harshly of those gentlemen; I have the honour to know many of them, but they are, like other men, liable to be acted upon by their passions." His noble friend said, he would not put the people into the keeping of an angry Magistracy, and deprive them of the intervention of a Jury. Rather than a victory should be gained by successions of appeals to a strong unconstitutional act of this kind, he would try his hand another way, and would not submit to this dictation of the Magistracy. When he spoke thus of the Insurrection Act, he meant not to condemn its enactments under every possible circumstance; because he originally had a great hand in framing it. But was it for the Magistrates to say, they would not act without the Insurrection Act; was it thus that Ireland was to be governed? No: accordingly his noble friend said—"Then I will act without it, and will see what the ordinary force of the law can do." His noble friend did so; and what was the effect of his noble friend's firmness? The very Magistracy who declared that they would not act without the extension of the Insurrection Act—the very persons who said they would resign if the Act were not allowed to be brought into operation—abandoned their intention when they found that his noble friend would not yield to their solicitations, and, turning in earnest to the application of the common law, found that it was possible to restore and maintain tranquillity without the extraordinary aid which they had demanded. The experiment was tried by the usual assizes, and by special commissions in the county of Clare, and peace was restored. The same ordinary course of law was also tried in the counties of Limerick, Tipperary, and Galway, with the same results. Were not, then, the Protestants of Ireland, and every freeman, and every one who felt for the constitutional rights and liberties of Ireland (he hoped these words were not gone quite out of fashion), were they not bound to return their grateful thanks to his noble friend for the course he had pursued? Was not tranquillity more perfectly restored than it would have been by harsher measures, which would have left the miserable dregs of bitter party feelings still rankling in the mind, and prevented satisfaction being felt on either 1220 side? Declarations of that kind on the part of the Magistrates had not been confined to the present Administration. In 1829 many of the Magistrates declared that they would resign if the Insurrection Act were not brought into operation. That declaration was not regarded by the then existing Government—the application for the extension of the Insurrection Act was resisted—the Magistrates, as in the late instances, did not resign—the common law, as in the late instances, was resorted to—and tranquillity, as in the late instances, was, through the instrumentality of that common law, completely restored. The noble Earl who opened the Debate had passed a very warm and, no doubt, a very sincere, eulogium on the Magistrates and gentry of Ireland. He respected those persons as much as the noble Earl; but, at the same time, he would not become so indiscriminate a panegyrist of their conduct as the noble Earl. During the Administration of the noble Duke, who preceded my noble friend now at the head of his Majesty's Councils, a strong claim was put in for the extraordinary exertions on the part of the Magistracy of Ireland. Now, the answer to these claims, on the part of the Magistrates, was to be found in a letter written by a person, not being one of the present conspirators whom he saw around him, but by the Secretary of the noble Duke who presided over the Government of Ireland at that time. The letter was written in the year 1830, and was signed by Sir Henry Hardinge. The letter stated, that a Protestant had been murdered as he was returning from Church in the evening; this was one of those cases on which some of the noble Lords were in the habit of dilating, as instances of atrocity peculiar to Ireland, and to be ascribed solely to Catholic partisanship—but, though murder was very shocking, yet similar cases constantly occurred in England. The Magistrates in that case were intimidated by threats. The witnesses did their duty and lodged an information against the criminals, but the gallant Magistrates did not dare to commit—and were those Magistrates to be charged with conspiracy? A meeting of Magistrates was convened; they, however, declined to do their duty, but called on the Government to do theirs; and these worthy people were those who styled themselves exclusively the Protestants of Ireland, and against whom the Government 1221 was alleged to be in a state of conspiracy. He would give another specimen of this exclusively Protestant party, and their respect for the laws. The noble Lord then proceeded to read another letter, dated 9th June last, which stated that the anti-educationists had at last resorted to physical force against one of the new schools. They forcibly ejected the master and boys—tore down the title of "National School,"—destroyed the reading lesson, which, as their Lordships probably knew, was published, and contained only those pure doctrines of the Christain faith in which all sects agreed.
would not mention at that moment; he might tell the noble Earl presently. The chief patron of the school applied to a neighbouring Magistrate for redress, but he flatly refused him, alleging as a reason, that he had sold a Bible. Notwithstanding this, he (Lord Plunkett) had to congratulate the noble Lord opposite, that the new system of education had made, and was still making, successful progress through the country. It was, by the by, somewhat curious that the noble Lord, who had dwelt so much on the carrying about the holy turf, should be ignorant that it was not a superstition, but had been got up by the anti-tithe party, with a view to intimidate the Government. The right reverend Dr. Murray had published an address to the Roman Catholics of Ireland, denouncing the folly of it. But it had been said, that the affair of the holy turf had been got up by the priests, because one of the priesthood had been met by a young officer at the head of one of these parties. He (Lord Plunkett) would not deny that many of the priesthood had been active during the late disturbance, but he thought it was too much, and too heavy, to erect a charge against the entire priesthood of Ireland on so slight a foundation. However that might be, he could not but attribute all these combinations to the not passing the measure of Emancipation of the Roman Catholics in the year 1825. He felt assured that, if the privileges they sought had then been conceded to them, no such combinations as the present would have existed. He regretted having to trouble their Lordships at this great length, but he must trespass upon their attention further, while he alluded to the charges which affected, 1222 in some degree himself. It had been said that the Government of Ireland had misconducted itself with reference to the Magistracy of that country, by retaining improper persons in the Commission of the Peace, and by removing or rejecting persons properly qualified for the discharge of those important functions with which a Magistrate was invested. No particular case, except that of Captain Graham, had been mentioned, for he could not suppose the case alluded to by the noble Lord opposite was the case of Mr. Ruthven.
The Earl of Roden
said, he did net know particularly; there were many cases, and that of Mr. Coppinger, of Middleton, was one.
had never heard of that case, and had not any recollection of it. But the case of Mr. Ruthven was shortly this, and was verified by affidavit. It did appear that this gentleman had attended a meeting in some part of the county of Dublin, and at that meeting he made use of some most inflammatory language, telling the people assembled, amongst other things, not to deal with those who should continue to pay tithes. On a Representation of the case being made to him (Lord Plunkett) he had consulted with his noble friend, the Lord-lieutenant of the county of Kildare, on the subject, for he confessed there was a difficulty presented itself to his mind upon it. The difficulty was this, and he begged to call the attention of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Eldon) to it. Undoubtedly it appeared certain, that to combine not to pay tithes was an offence punishable by an indictment, but it was, in his judgment, by no means so clear that to incite not to pay tithes was so punishable. However, it was supposed that the language made use of rendered that gentleman liable to a prosecution. That being the case, he felt it his duty not to interfere as Chancellor, and he believed such was the usual practice. He appealed to the noble Earl (the Earl of Eldon), whether he, as Chancellor, whenever a Magistrate had committed an offence for which he was subject to a prosecution, did not invariably wait for the results of that prosecution. That, he believed, was the law laid down by the noble Earl, though he did not agree with him in the extreme extent, as he thought there were some cases in which the ends of justice would be better answered by the deprivation of a Magistrate, upon whose character strong 1223 doubts rested, than by waiting the results of a prosecution. In this case, however, he had written to the Lord-lieutenant of the county in which the gentleman held the commission, and that noble Duke did not think it was one calling for the dismissal of the party from the Magistracy, but it was ultimately considered best that he should be admonished, and so he was. Another case complained of, was the case of Colonel Verrer. Now, what was the real truth of that matter? He (Lord Plunkett) had at the same time before him, the informations of the chief constable of the town of Duncannon against two gentlemen of the county of Armagh, Colonel Verrer, and Mr. Grier. In these informations it was stated, that Colonel Verrer and Mr. Grier had come into the town of Duncannon, at the head of a body of upwards of 5,000 Orangemen, with twenty banners flying, and a variety of Orange emblems. That was one of the processions which the noble Lord had lauded so highly, and described as extremely innocent. They were, however, anything but innocent. Their avowed purpose was the commemoration of ancient glories; but their real effect was the infliction of present insults and injuries. If the noble Lord would enumerate the crimes and atrocities to which these processions had given rise, he would call them anything but innocent. This procession met the Roman Catholics; bad language was exchanged; and being, as was generally the case on such occasions, provided with concealed arms, pistol-shots were fired, and several persons severely injured. These processions, then, were no glories to the Roman Catholics, but were most degrading and insulting to that class of the community; and their consequences were, a catalogue of crimes, and effusion of blood, not to be equalled in the annals of the crimes of any country. Colonel Verrer, on being written to, declared that his meeting with the party was accidental, that he was riding out with his lady, but that he certainly went into town with them. He positively denied that he wore any Orange emblem, though it was sworn he did by the constable. He (Lord Plunkett) felt more desirous to act upon the word of Colonel Verrer than upon the oath of the policeman. Under such circumstances, he did not think he should have been justified in dismissing Mr. Ruthven, when he had not dismissed Colonel Verrer and Mr. 1224 Grier. The charge made against him was a want of impartiality; but was there any want of impartiality in this matter. Now one word as to the case of Captain Graham. He was a Captain of Yeomanry, and he commanded the Yeomanry in the unfortunate transaction at Newtownbarry, to which he (Lord Plunkett) should not now particularly advert, further than to say, that there were about twenty lives lost on that occasion. He had never said, that Captain Graham had acted in that instance with a want of humanity: on the contrary, he believed him to be a person of high character and honour; and if he (Lord Plunkett) had been on the Grand Jury before whom bills of indictment for murder were sent against Captain Graham, he would most certainly have thrown them out; but he must nevertheless say, that he was perfectly satisfied that Captain Graham had acted unwisely and illegally in this affair; and he was equally satisfied that the feeling in the country was so strong against him, that there was no duty of a Magistrate which could have been efficiently performed by him. But it was a mistake to suppose, that he (Lord Plunkett) had dismissed Captain Graham. He had not done so. He had never dismissed any Magistrate, with one single exception. At the time that this affair at Newtownbarry had occurred, there was no Lord-lieutenant appointed for the county of Wexford. When the Lord-lieutenant was appointed, he said he would not decide this matter, as to the re-appointment of Captain Graham to the Magistracy, but would leave it for the decision of the Lord Chancellor. Now when he (Lord Plunkett) came to investigate the facts of the case, he found that Captain Graham, apprehensive that a riot would take place, had, two days previous to the riots in question, sent for the Yeomanry on his own authority. He begged to tell their Lordships, that doing so was against law. During his absence from that House he understood that this point had been under discussion, and that a question had been put by the noble Earl (the Earl of Wicklow) to his noble friend the Secretary for the Home Department, as to the state of the law upon the point in this country. He would not dispute the statement which his noble friend then gave of the law on the subject in this country, he would not say that, according to law here, a Magistrate would not be 1225 justified in calling out the Yeomanry, but this he would say, that such was not the law in Ireland. No person had the right or power to call out the Yeomanry in Ireland, except the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The Act of Parliament (the 42nd George 3rd) which authorised the Lord Lieutenants of counties and Sheriffs to call out the Yeomanry in this country, expressly confined that power in Ireland to the Lord-lieutenant of that country. Under these circumstances, when the reappointment of a Magistracy took place, it appeared to the Lord Lieutenant, that it would be better not to again fill up Captain Graham's appointment; it was so intimated to him, and he stated that he did not wish it himself. He had, in conclusion, to beg pardon of their Lordships for having so long trespassed on their attention; it was necessary for his justification that he should do so, and he now trusted that he had satisfied their Lordships, that the line of conduct which he had pursued, so far from meriting the attacks made upon it by the noble Earl, was the only one that a person filling his situation could have adopted.
The Earl of Caledon
said, it was not my intention to have addressed your Lordships, but I rise in consequence of a reference made, by the noble and learned Lord to a transaction in which I was concerned. The noble Lord was perfectly correct in stating, that Colonel Verrer and Mr. Grier appeared at the head of a party of Orangemen. But when Colonel Verrer denied that he headed the assemblage for the purpose imputed to him, the noble and learned Lord should not have assumed that he was guilty of any offence, without having had recourse to further evidence to prove that guilt. I hope I may now be permitted to offer one word in explanation of the vote I shall give. I regret very much that the words of the Address did not embrace the general state of Ireland, but that it is confined to the afflicted state of the Protestants; now I do not conceive in the north of Ireland the Protestants have any just cause for apprehension, but I shall vote for the Motion because I can not object to any measure which has for its object the consideration of any portion of my unfortunate country.
§ The Earl of Eldon
said, it was due to Ireland that some inquiry should be made. He should not, on the present occasion, say one word as to the demeanour of either 1226 Protestants or Catholics. No man opposed emancipation more than he did. He then stated to their Lordships, that if, at any future time he should alter his opinion on that question, he would come down to the House and candidly avow it. From that time, however, up to the present moment, he never was able to change that opinion. He never had any doubt as to the illegality of the Catholic Association, and he was equally clear as to the illegality of those meetings which assembled in opposition to tithes. In neither case was the common law called into operation with sufficient force, for, if the common law of Ireland was the same as that of England, it would be sufficient to put down these illegal associations. Why was it not appealed to in the case of those recent combinations against tithes? He was prepared to maintain, that the very first document (the letter of Dr. Doyle, we believe) which was brought under the consideration of the Committee, was an illegal act, and might be brought under the operation of the common law. To leave matters of this kind to be settled by the progress of good sense and of calm reflection was, in critical circumstances, rather an unsafe mode of proceeding, for if calm good sense had been absent for so many centuries, it was not, very likely to return in time enough to be useful. If there was ground for the Association Act, there must be ground at common law for putting down such associations; and he was never more surprised, on finding the common law the same in both countries, than at the circumstance of no prosecution having been instituted. The common law must be utterly ineffective and of no use, if it was necessary to wait and see the mischief done before it could be brought into operation. With respect to the law as it regarded the Yeomanry force, yeomen did not cease to be citizens. When assembled upon any occasion, they were perfectly competent to discharge all the ditties of citizens. They might, therefore, in any case where danger and tumult presented itself, interfere like any other citizens to put it down, without, being specially called upon by the Lord Lieutenant It was his conviction that the resistance to the payment of tithes began in conspiracy, a conspiracy which, if prosecuted with vigour, might be severely punished.
The Earl of Wicklow
said, that if he had been in the House when it was proposed to his noble friend to postpone his Motion, 1227 he should have most strongly protested against the reasons assigned for the postponement. He should have urged his noble friend to proceed with it, and then if the noble Viscount at the head of the Home Department had not sufficient industry to make himself acquainted with what he ought to know of the state of Ireland, or sufficient energy to act upon that knowledge, the House would be able to judge of his fitness for office. They would know what to think of the noble Viscount. The other reason for the delay was that assigned by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who said, he could not without the greatest pain sit for one or two hours, and hear his noble and learned friend (Lord Plunkett) abused, while he had no opportunity of defending himself or the Irish Government. They had not often an opportunity of hearing a Lord Chancellor of Ireland in that House, and it still more rarely happened that Government required such assistance to fight their battles. He was not aware of any one point adverted to by his noble friend in the course of his speech, with which the noble and learned Lord had such a connexion as to require his presence for the purpose of explanation with the exception of the case of Captain Graham. The noble and learned Lori was in his place when he (the Earl of Wicklow) gave notice of his Motion. The noble and learned Lord then said, that it would be necessary for him to attend in Ireland for the discharge of his professional duties. He was surprised at hearing this because it was Passion Week, a time which he thought was generally taken by the legal profession as a period of relaxation. The noble and learned Lord observed upon that occasion, that he could be but very slightly interested in the subject of the Motion. He rejoiced, however, that this Motion was deferred, for they had now an opportunity of hearing the noble and learned Lord's defence. With all his talent all his experience, and forensic skill—with all his opportunities of knowledge and of the fullest information—they heard the speech of the noble and learned Lord, and he would leave it to their Lordships to judge of its effects. It gave him pleasure to see upon what easy terms, with how little of argument, the noble Lords opposite were satisfied. With all respect for the noble and learned Lord, he must say that he never heard a more feeble speech, not merely from the noble Lord himself, 1228 but from any member even of the present or of any other Administration. The noble and learned Lord refused to give credit to the documents referred to by his noble friend (the Earl of Roden), because they were not supported by affidavit, while the noble and learned Lord himself referred their Lordships to documents that were equally unsupported. The noble and learned Lord did not pretend to say, that it was illegal in Colonel Verrer, or any other person to ride at the head of an assembly of men whose object was not illegal. The bill brought in by Mr. Stanley the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, proved that such assemblies were not illegal, for the object of that was to make them so. The noble and learned Lord admitted that the meetings in opposition to tithes wee illegal. Was the noble and learned Lord then, to tell them, that, because the person who rode at the head of a legal assembly were not dismissed the Magistracy, he could not dismiss those who connected themselves with illegal meetings of the lowest rabble, headed by demagogues? In reply to his question of what the Lord Lieutenant ought to have done, he (the Earl of Wicklow) would tell him, in the words of another part of his (Lord Plunkett's) speech, that he ought to have allied himself with the wealthy, the loyal, and the respectable, to put down the disturbers of the public peace He attributed the present wretched state of Ireland to the supineness and ill-judged measures of the Ministry. He alluded to one of the early instances of resistance to the payment of tithes, where two men were convicted of a breach of the law: the Government remitted their sentence. It was in a spirit of gross truckling to the lowest rabble that they were induced to pursue this course. From the moment those persons, who were found guilty of conspiracy against the payment of tithes in the county of Kilkenny, received a pardon, things went on from bad to worse and the whole country was rapidly carried into its present situation. But was there only a single case of a Magistrate acting in this manner? Another Magistrate pursued the very same course, and yet was still left in the Commission of the Peace, He had said, upon a former occasion, that so gross an act of injustice was never committed as in the case of Captain Graham, Why was he kept out of the Commission of the Peace? Because, said the noble and learned Lord, his conduct was a violation 1229 of the law. It was not very likely that a county Magistrate could be conversant with a point of law, upon which even such high authorities as the noble and learned Lord, and the noble Viscount at the head of the Home Department, differed. The Home Secretary admitted that the Yeomanry, upon the occasion alluded to, were bound to obey the Magistrates. This the noble and learned Lord denied; and, when there was such difference of opinion upon the point, a gentleman in the situation of Captain Graham might be well excused for not clearly understanding the law. Captain Owen expressly stated, that Mr. Stanley, the Secretary for Ireland, commissioned him to employ the Yeomanry. It was said, that Mr. Stanley at the same time directed him to swear them in as special constables. Captain Owen, however, said that no such condition was imposed upon him; that Mr. Stanley said, "May you not swear in special constables?" which he did not understand at the time as applied at all to the Yeomanry. Under such circumstances, it was a most unfair proceeding to disgrace a gentleman like Captain Graham in the eyes of the country and of his acquaintance. It was productive of the very worst effects. The consequence of it was, that one entire county was now without any Magistrates; the gentlemen, resenting the treatment Of Captain Graham, refused to be put in the Commission of the Peace; and in another neighbouring county they were afraid to accept it. By the preamble to the 37th George 3rd, the Yeomanry were associated for the preservation of the peace. Now, was it to be said that, associated on such a principle, they were not to act when called upon, and when there was danger of having the peace broken? A clause was subsequently introduced, making provision for a case of invasion by a foreign enemy, and this, he believed, led to the idea that the Irish Yeomanry could not be called out except by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Whether this were the law or not, it should at least be clearly understood by the Magistrates. At the period when the present Ministers came into office, Ireland was comparatively tranquil, happy, and contented, but in the space of two short years of misgovernment, it had been reduced to a state of disorganization unexampled at any former period. It had not the protection of law, and the people were, in fact, driven back to the very first 1230 principles of social order. They were arming every where in self-defence. He received a letter lately, stating that the Protestants in the county with which he was connected, were going in such crowds to register their arms that it became necessary to adjourn the Quarter Sessions. He should support the Motion, because he hoped the result of inquiry would be, to open the eyes of Government. It was the only means by which they could be taught an effectual lesson upon this important subject.
The Marquess of Lansdown
admitted that, if the learned Lord's effort was feeble, the effort of the noble Earl, by the same rule, must be extremely powerful. As to Captain Graham, he had acted from the best intentions, but with singular indiscretion; he had violated the law; and if he had been suffered to continue in the Commission of the Peace, the worst consequences might have been apprehended from the irritation which it would produce. He contended, that the Yeomanry could only be called out by the Magistrates to act in cases of apprehension of invasion—not of riot: there was this just and proper distinction between the Irish and the English Acts. He protested against those ills, which had resulted from a long course of mis-government, being attributed to the conduct of the present Administration. If any party were liable to accusation for the course they had pursued, it was a party of noble Lords opposite. He defied anybody to show the act Government had done which it ought to have left undone—or the act it had left undone which it ought to have done for the tranquillization of Ireland. On the contrary, noble Lords opposite had opposed the only practical system of general education ever proposed for Ireland, and it could scarcely be denied, that the best mode of preventing outrage and producing tranquillity was, by disseminating a sound and moral education as extensively as possible. There was evidence of the benefit that was to be expected from education, given before the Committees in 1824 and 1825. For proof of the advantages of extended knowledge, and of the evils occasioned by ignorance among the Irish peasantry, let them look to the reports of what was said on this subject by Dr. Burney and Lord Kingston. But it was no longer a question whether the Government would give the people of Ireland education, or whether they would not, for 1231 it was certain that people would have education in some way or other. The best way was, to secure the means of giving the people the education they might receive with advantage. At present even, he believed that for every regular schoolmaster there were twenty hedge-schoolmasters. The things taught by these people were most noxious, and the books they circulated among the young were bad. Yet, rather than consent to the system of education which the Government proposed, and which would only omit one or two passages that were considered objectionable, there were noble Lords who would continue the present mischievous system—a system which was a never-failing source of disloyalty, superstition, and ignorance—and who would then come down to that House and reproach the people of Ireland for their ignorance of that very knowledge which these very noble Lords so carefully withheld from them. The noble Duke and the other noble Lord who had spoken on the same side, were shy to say that they wanted the Insurrection Act for Ireland. Yet he knew, that by some persons it had, at least on former occasions, been demanded. He believed there was good documentary evidence to show that Magistrates had pressed for new and extraordinary powers, and that threats had been given, that unless some extreme measures were conceded, the support of the party would be withheld from the Government. It was true that these applications had not been made to the present Government, but there was a great deal of documentary evidence to show, that they had been made to the last Government, and, he must add that, to the honour of the noble Duke, they had been uniformly refused. If there was one man, therefore, on whom the present Government was entitled to rely for support in a question of this sort, it was the noble Duke, who had himself been applied to, for the purpose of obtaining from him the concession of extraordinary powers, and who had been strengthened in his refusal by the support which the noble Earl, now at the head of the Government, then afforded him. He repeated, that the noble Duke had set the honourable example of opposing such an indecent application. The ordinary course of law, if the law was vigorously enforced, would be sufficient, and it was the first duty of the Government to enforce the law vigorously, There 1232 was a noble Earl opposite, who, though he did not ask for the Insurrection Act, spoke of making the law what it ought to be. It was to be hoped that noble Lords, before they voted for the Motion now under consideration, would satisfy themselves what the law was, and whether there had been any fastidiousness on the part of Government in making it strong enough for the protection of those who required its aid, or in devising laws to meet the difficulties presented by the existing state of Ireland. He would state, from the most authentic source, from a high legal authority, what was the present condition of the law; and he thought that no one would then deny, that the law was in itself strong enough, if it were possible to be enforced. The noble Marquess here referred to the 10th Geo. 4th, c. 34, by which, in the case of offences against the person, all violent assaults were punished with transportation. In the same manlier was punished the administering of unlawful oaths, and the Judges did not hesitate to enforce it; for one man who was murdered, but whose evidence had been previously taken, was held sufficient to convict fourteen men on the following day. In the same manner, any combination to induce any man to send away his servants, was punished by transportation. A heavy punishment was likewise provided for those who sought or solicited or conspired for such a purpose. Offences against property were provided for by the 9th Geo. 4th; and then as to associations; in the first place, illegal associations were punished; next, the having of unregistered arms; and the attempt to form these associations was punished with transportation. A combination to defraud the clergy of the tithes, or to obstruct their collection, was to be punished with imprisonment and whipping. After reaching this catalogue of the laws as they now stood, the House would probably wonder with him at the demand of the noble Earl to make the laws as they ought to be. He thought he had a right to call on the noble Lord to state the specific Act which he required. Would he move it, or could he show that any of those which were now in force were not properly enforced? Temperately, but firmly and regularly, were they enforced. He defied the noble Earl to show that that was not the case. He declared that he knew no instance in the history of that unhappy 1233 country, in which the course of justice had been more steady in its application than it had been in the present year. He was equally prepared to assert, that there had been no want of honesty or courage on the part of witnesses or Juries, and there never had been a greater number of convictions under similar circumstances. Did noble Lords want the Insurrection Act and military punishment; and did they believe that such a course would produce as good an effect upon the minds of the people, as the punishment of offenders by the regular course of the law? The people of that country knew well the difference between justice and injustice, and between proceedings according to and against law. As a proof of this, he might mention, that frequent as were the instances of attempts to assassinate Magistrates who had acted under the Insurrection Act, there was scarcely one instance of the kind against Jurymen who had convicted prisoners in the constitutional discharge of their duty. In Clare, in the Queen's County, and in Galway, there was not an instance of the acquittal of rioters; and the Commissions that had been sent into those counties had had the effect of putting down discord and restoring confidence. He had property in the Queen's County; and, because he wished to preserve that property, he felt most deeply indebted to the noble Marquess, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, for the firmness, and the moderation, which was the best ally of firmness, that he had shown on this occasion. There were those who resided in that county, and who felt in the same manner. He had received a letter to that effect from a Magistrate, who had once held different opinions, and wished for extraordinary powers, but who now admitted, that the measures of the Government had changed his opinion, because he saw that they had restored confidence to the people. It was now, however, a charge made against the Government, that they had omitted to enforce their own Act for the collection of tithes. Why, the noble Lord who made the charge must see by the Act, that the time had not yet come to enforce it; but every preparation had been made to enforce the law, and, when the time arrived at which it could be enforced, he would see it enforced. He conjured the House to pause before they recommended the Government either to violate the law by a stretch of 1234 power, or to seek from Parliament new powers unknown to the Constitution. He would tell them what was the opinion of the learned Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench in Ireland. Chief Justice Bushe said—'Some of those who are disgusted and alarmed by the progress of insurrection, and impatient of the persevering follies and vices of the people, may look to such measure as a remedy more appropriate than our pre-sent proceeding, while the audacious and infatuated wretches now confederated against the peace of the country, may be taught, by their more criminal instigators, to despise a danger and defy a power which they have never experienced; but let both take counsel from those who have lived before them, and they will be told what a fearful thing it is to live in a country bereft of those free institutions, which, while they restrain, protect all classes of society in the enjoyment of their respective rights. Such an evil is to be deprecated, but the time may come when it may be the least of two misfortunes, and the only means left to quell rebellion and avert anarchy. It is not unnatural that those who witness and suffer by daily and increasing outrages should think that time already arrived, and surely, on the other hand, it will be expected by any constitutional man, that the Legislature will always pause to the last moment, and almost beyond the last moment, before it will adopt that course which, however, the history of all countries shows that the extreme danger of the common weal may call for and justify. Whenever that day shall come, vœ victis vœ victoribus—woe to the vanquished, woe to the conquerors!' Feeling convinced that all attempts to control excitement by violent and extreme laws had ever failed, he must, therefore, again and again, as a man as well as a Minister, thank the Lord Lieutenant for the course which he had pursued. He trusted that the same course would still be adopted, and he was sure, that whatever others might think of the noble Lord Lieutenant, he would obtain, as he would deserve, the confidence of the King and the Parliament.
The Marquess of Westmeath
defended the Magistracy of the part of the country in which he resided, from the observations that had been made upon them. The demand which the noble Lords on his side of 1235 the House had made upon his Majesty's Ministers was called for by the circumstances of the case. He had, at least, a right to inquire of the noble Earl opposite, what was the quantum of disturbance which, in his opinion, would justify him in acceding to the measure he was called upon to adopt. He denied that there was any return to tranquillity in Ireland, or any symptoms of a return. He could say, that positively for the county of Westmeath. [The noble Marquess entered into a great variety of statements of local outrages, to show that Westmeath and the neighbouring parts were in a disturbed and disorganized state.] Even on Thursday last, the most violent articles had appeared in newspapers to excite a deadly animosity against the Protestant Church, and all who paid tithes. He acknowledged that the laws were strong enough, but there were no means to enforce them; and, all he asked was, that the industrious and loyal classes should be protected by Government in the night, and they would protect themselves by day, especially if they could derive confidence, and all attendant advantages, from their ostensibly possessing the protection of Government. If the law were well executed by his Majesty's Ministers, how came it that the crimes of which he had read a list could exist? Let not the House have foisted upon it the idea that the law was strong enough, unless Ministers would do something to give efficacy to the law. If his Majesty's Government did not pursue a totally different course, the House would separate but a very short time before the most serious evils would ensue. He wished the Insurrection Act to be put in force, but he also wished that it should be wielded by some persons nominated by the executive. He did not wish, therefore, to have the people exposed to what noble Lords opposite called the angry passions of the Magistrates. He claimed the protection of civilization against barbarism, and, if Government pursued their present course, within six weeks after Parliament separated, every man in Ireland would be obliged to arrange himself under one party or the other. No man could deny, that a conspiracy existed to destroy the Protestant Church, and to drive the Protestants out of the kingdom. The newspapers of the country openly avowed the fact.
The Earl of Roden
replied, that his Majesty's Ministers were particeps criminis if they did not remove those Magistrates 1236 who were attending the meetings of the disaffected. When the noble Marquess spoke of his system of education, leaving out only some parts of the Bible as improper, he wished that he had explained what those parts were, for it was always received that all parts of the Bible were the Word of God.
§ The House divided:—Contents, Present 60; Proxies 19–79. Not Contents, Present 70; Proxies 50–120;—Majority 41.
|List of the NOT CONTENTS—Present.|
|Amherst||Howard of Effingham|
|Lichfield||Ponsonby of Imokilly|
|Meath||Say and Sele|
|Hawke||Lovell and Holland|
|VISCOUNTS.||Bath and Wells|