said, he objected to the whole Bill, as unprecedented and unjust, but especially that portion of it which disfranchised freemen. He would state some of the objections which he entertained to this Bill. In the fourth page of it, it was declared that, under certain circumstances, 40s. freeholders in towns should be admitted to vote at elections. If there were one species of voters in Ireland more objectionable than another, it was the 40s. freeholders in towns. He had represented a town of that country; and had found that individuals were in the habit of speculating in those freeholds as a means of realizing money. Persons previously prepared for the election had been found to occupy the tenements at rents such as to place them entirely in the bands of the speculators. These, then, were the species of voters who were, by this Bill, to be continued in the exercise of the elective franchise; while, at the same time, the freemen of these towns were to be deprived of it. In this case, it was no justification to say that there was a precedent for that deprivation. The injustice of depriving freemen of their elective rights was not to be defended by what had been done in England. Their situation, indeed, appeared to have been altogether overlooked. He would illustrate that observation by facts. The constituency of the town of Drogheda was composed almost entirely of non-resident freemen. The nature of their occupation rendered it in most cases impossible for them to be otherwise. The working journeyman earned his bread in the metropolis, and although he might expend part of his earnings in Drogheda, he was unable to fulfil the condition of residence. So with the merchant, who, though he enriched the town to which he belonged, yet was deprived of his vote because he did not live in it. Their Lordships had, in legislating, ever regarded with a watchful eye the interests of those who were unable to protect themselves. Under the English Bill the elective franchise was secured in perpetuity to the freeman who at present possessed it: not so, however, under the Irish Bill; not only 748 the unborn child, but even the child actually in existence, were deprived of their right. Would their Lordships legislate upon different principles in the two cases? Justice had not been done to Ireland in the details of this Bill; and that opinion was shared by many noble and esteemed friends of his, not then present. When he looked at some of the provisions of the Bill, he must deem it a most inauspicious measure. One part of it—that relating to the oath of affirmation to be taken by the 10l. freeholder on registration—involved a most important consideration. When the great question of Catholic emancipation was settled, and the registration of voters in Ireland arranged, it was enacted, that every freeholder coming forward was to be called upon to produce the deed, lease, or instrument, by virtue of which he claimed such freehold; and, upon the production of that lease, the claim was decided by the Assistant-barrister. Such was intended, he believed, to be the mode under the operation of this Bill, but the language was so confused that he could not speak positively to the meaning of any part of it. By the Act of 1829, every person who was then adjudged entitled to register, must take the oath of affirmation. That oath contained the following very important words, which were left out in the present Bill:—"That a solvent and responsible tenant could, as I verily believe, afford to pay for the same, as an additional rent, fairly and without collusion, the annual sum of 10l., over and above all rent to which I am liable in respect thereof." Why was that omitted in this Bill? What was the bearing of its omission? Was it not to fritter away the security heretofore existing, that the 10l. freeholder was superior to the freeholder of 40s.? There was an infraction of that very Act which was passed purposely to regulate the 10l. freehold qualification. In connexion with that subject, allusion had already been made to the great measure of Catholic relief. That was a measure called for by every principle of justice—it was a measure of policy—of necessity—the necessity of putting an end to the discontent then existing in that country. That measure had been described by one of the highest authorities in this House, as having been marred; and it certainly had been marred, though not by the noble Duke who carried it through, but by those who succeeded him 749 in office. It never was supposed that the measure could be immediate in its beneficial effects, its most ardent supporter could not expect such a result—could not believe that, as the extended arm of power was held out, the troubled waters of discontent would at once subside. No, it was a prospective measure—a measure, the object of which was to reconcile the Catholics to those institutions from which they had been excluded, and to laws which had degraded them. Was it not natural to suppose, that the people who obtained that measure, as they were taught to believe, by the assumption of an attitude of force and resistance—was it not natural to suppose, that they would be excited by feelings of victory, and that they would exult over what they deemed a fallen foe? Was it, then, for the Government, who had to carry the measure into execution, under such circumstances, to espouse the cause of that party? What was the reason why that great measure had been marred? It was to be found in the selection of the new Government of that country, and in the acts of that Government. When speaking of the noble Marquess at the head of it, let it not be conceived that he intended, in the remotest degree, to say anything disrespectful of him; but he must say, that that noble Marquess had disqualified himself for the station which he held, by making himself a partisan of those who were then agitating that country. He meant the letter addressed by the noble Marquess, soon after his arrival there, to which the utmost publicity was given. That letter was a proof of disqualification beyond the possibility of redemption, under the circumstance of the existence of two parties in Ireland. Noble Lords might say, that the case was afterwards changed; the case might have been changed, but the partisan remained. That letter was upon record. In another public letter, subsequent to that which he had mentioned, which bore the remarkable words that he might be permitted to suppose himself addressing all Ireland, the noble Marquess talked of "that great measure of justice." That circumstance, together with every act of the noble Marquess, shewed the people of Ireland what was the drift and the views of the Government with regard to that country; and what was the consequence? Were the gentry of Ireland to be upbraided for not rallying round the noble Marquess? Was 750 it to be supposed that they could repose any confidence in his administration? It appeared to him that the authors of this Bill were open to the charge of insincerity, for every care was taken to specify who were to possess votes; while, at the same time, it was well known that in Ireland freedom of election could not be exercised, that a voter could not present himself at the poll, and deliver that vote which was consonant with his own feelings and wishes. Should he oppose himself, on such an occasion, to the prevailing excitement, he exposed himself to the risk of being waylaid and maltreated. He might be told, that there were laws to punish the offenders in such instances; but what was the case with regard to all law in Ireland? There existed not the means of enforcing it. There was another portion of this Bill to which he had the very greatest objection; it was that which enacted that no clergyman should be permitted to vote as such, unless his name should have been duly registered. He must protest against that clause, and he hoped their Lordships would agree with him. He might be told, that it was nothing more than was done in the English Bill, that the English clergyman was also called on to register before he could exercise a vote. But look at the different situation of the clergyman of the two countries. In England the clergyman delivered in a paper, in which he said, "I claim to be registered," and if his claim were correct, he was immediately adjudged entitled to register. But what was the case in Ireland? There the clergyman must come forward and say, "I do swear that I possess a freehold, &c.," at the very moment when the persecution against him was so strong that he was unable to tell whether he really had any property at all. In what a situation, then, was this unfortunate man placed. He was degraded from the station which he had hitherto filled. He entreated their Lordships to consider all the injuries which would be inflicted, and the dangers which would attend this measure, and in consideration of which he had felt it his painful duty to oppose its further progress. He had now pointed out what he considered to be the defects of the present Bill; and it was for their Lordships, and not for him, to decide.
had but a very few observations to make. It was not his intention to allude to the manner in which 751 this most important Bill appeared to have been treated by their Lordships; were he to do so, he should too much trespass upon their attention. He did not consider himself at liberty to vote for this Bill, though he had concurred in recommending to Parliament the Catholic Relief Bill. That bill was accompanied by a measure materially altering the qualification of the freeholders of Ireland, which was stated by the right hon. Gentleman who proposed it, and was understood by Parliament and the people, to accompany the measure of relief as an indispensable security; and he did not consider himself at liberty to diminish that security, which he should, to a very great extent, if he agreed to this Bill. The object of the bill for raising the qualification of freeholders in counties in Ireland was to restore to property its legitimate influence. That property was universally known to belong, principally, to the Protestants; and it was because it was Protestant property, that they had been desirous so to secure its just and proper influence. Parliament could not but see that, in Ireland, the preponderance of numbers was with the Catholics, while the preponderance of property was with the Protestants. Yet they had been desirous of giving—or rather of restoring—to Protestant property that influence to which it was entitled. That object was achieved by the bill determining the qualification of the Irish freeholders. It had been explained to the House by his noble friend who had just sat down, that the very qualification of the freeholders, as settled by the bill to which he had referred, was practically altered by this Bill. But that was a measure to which he could not consent, because, under all the circumstances, the Protestant had a right to maintain, in all its strictness and rigour, the qualification of the freeholders in counties as fixed by that bill. But, further, this Bill established a leasehold qualification. He was not prepared to say, that, after establishing in the counties of England a leasehold qualification, they were, in any manner, precluded by the measures which were passed in 1829, from establishing a similar qualification in the counties of Ireland; but they were bound to make that leasehold qualification as high as the freehold qualification. That was, indeed, the intention of Government a year ago; for, undoubtedly, the qualification, as settled by the Bill, which was 752 brought into the other House of Parliament in the beginning of last year, was as high as the freehold qualification established in the year 1829; and, therefore, with that qualification, he could not have quarrelled, if his Majesty's Ministers had only had the boldness, and the justice, to adhere to that which they themselves at first considered a reasonable and expedient provision on this head. But they had not done so; they had introduced into this Bill a leasehold qualification, which was lower than the freehold qualification, as settled in 1829; they had thereby introduced a class of voters much inferior to that established by the Bill of that year; and thus diminished the security which was afforded by that Bill, and diminished the due influence of property in the counties. He must object to this Bill, then, even if it went no further than to alter the qualification in towns; but it went a great deal further, for it regulated and altered the qualification in boroughs. It was distinctly stated by the right hon. Gentleman who proposed the measure of Catholic Relief in the other House of Parliament, that it might be expedient to make an alteration in the right of voting in counties of cities and in corporate towns; but, at the same time, he expressly declared, that it would be inconsistent with justice to raise the freehold qualification in those towns, unless at the same time a corresponding measure with respect to the rights of corporate bodies to create freemen were introduced. The right hon. Gentleman stated, that some alteration upon both of these points might be required; but that much consideration of the peculiar circumstances and relations of the different cities and towns would be needed, before it would be possible to introduce a satisfactory arrangement upon the subject. This, however, at least was laid down by the right hon. Gentleman as a principle never to be departed from—namely, that the freehold qualification was not to be raised, unless some measure of restriction was imposed on the right of corporate bodies to create freemen. That principle of justice and impartiality was immutable. But his Majesty's Ministers left the freeholder as he was; they did not raise the qualification, but they disfranchised the non-resident freemen; and, therefore, they introduced a measure which acted only upon one party, for, unfortunately, the freemen and free- 753 holders were generally of different opinions and different parties. In the Report of the Commissioners, it was stated, that the freeholders ordinarily voted for one of the candidates and the freemen for another. The freemen had now the majority, but, under the measure which was suggested of disfranchising the non-resident freemen, the right of electing Members of Parliament would be practically transferred from the Protestants to the Catholics, altogether, by giving the Catholic freeholder a majority over the Protestant. When it was seen, that such would be the effect of this measure, even if it went no further, Parliament ought to pause before consenting to adopt it. But, in effect, the measure went much further, it adopted pretty nearly the new English qualification of voting in towns. The adoption of that qualification had the effect of creating a very large majority of Catholic voters, who would necessarily command the election of the Representatives of most of the towns. It might be said, that the Catholic Relief Bill put an end to all differences between Catholic and Protestant. Would to God that it had done so! but he knew, that it never was the thought of any man who proposed that Bill, nor of any man who acquiesced in and supported it, that the Representatives of Ireland should ever be so cast as to give to the Catholics a great preponderance in the elections. Quite the contrary; it was understood that the measure which accompanied the Relief Bill was a real and good security, because it restored to Protestant property its due influence in the election of Representatives. By the Catholic Relief Bill, again, the due influence of Protestant property was restored in counties. Noble Lords might say, that all this was very wrong, and that no inconvenience could arise under present circumstances in this enlightened age, from the existence of any number of Catholic Representatives in the other House of Parliament. It might be so, though they had recently seen that it was otherwise; but, at the same time, such was not the condition on which that Bill was passed; and, therefore, he felt it his duty, as one of those who recommended that which should be acquiesced in by Parliament, to oppose a Bill that most materially deprecated the whole security upon which Parliament was induced to sanction that former measure. He had said thus much, because he was 754 desirous of explaining his vote upon the present occasion. Deeply as he regretted religious differences in Ireland, much as he deplored the existence of any distinctions between Protestant and Catholic, it was impossible for him not to look a little to circumstances which were passing around, and not to know that the Protestant supported the great measure of the Union with Great Britain, and that the Catholic did not. It was impossible for him not to feel, that even in this Parliament—but much more in a Parliament altered as it was to be by the measure of Reform which had now passed both Houses—it was most important that there should be preserved a great proportion of Protestant Representatives for Ireland. He desired to maintain the Union between the two countries, because he was satisfied that it was essential to their mutual benefit, happiness, and prosperity; and he opposed this Bill, because it was his firm conviction, that, by throwing a preponderating influence in the election of Representatives for Ireland into the hands of the Catholic body, which was materially influenced by priests, and which was much more influenced by agitators, the existence of that Union which was so indispensable to the interests of both countries would be greatly endangered. He voted against this measure on principle, because he believed it to be dangerous—because he feared it might be destructive to the Union. This was not a time for entering fully into that subject. He must own, however, that he looked with deep dismay to the condition of that country, and that he felt that his Majesty's Ministers were heavily responsible for its present and future state. He would not make himself any party to such responsibility for further evils. He would not create difficulties with which, whatever might be their good intentions, they might find it almost impossible to contend. He would not create a danger against which it might be impossible for them, under the altered circumstances of the Legislature, to contend, by agreeing to a measure which destroying the sole security that accompanied the Catholic Relief Bill, and that induced Parliament to grant, and the people to acquiesce in it, increased greatly, at the same time, the influence of Catholics in Parliament, endangered not only the Protestant Establishment in Ireland, (which one could hardly now speak of as being in 755 existence), the Protestant Government of these realms, the tranquillity of both countries, and the integrity of the empire, which his Majesty was bound to preserve, as well as of that Church which he had sworn to maintain.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
defended the conduct of the noble Marquess at the head of the Irish Government, and contended that the event proved that the advice of the noble Marquess to the people of Ireland with respect to agitation, was the best that could have been given, and necessary to be acted on, in order to carry a measure which was essential to the preservation of that country as an integral part of the empire. The noble Baron opposite objected to the present Bill as taking away the securities of the Protestant interest. Did any man think, that if Parliament refused to pass the Bill, the interests of Protestantism would be rendered more secure in Ireland? What was the main feature of the measure? It consisted in this, that it did away with the existence of rotten boroughs in Ireland. There were, at present, about eighty Members who were returned by open constituencies; sixteen by close, or nomination boroughs; and four or five representatives were under the influence of individuals who did not act with noble Lords opposite. Probably the noble Baron did not think that these last-mentioned Members afforded much security to Protestant interests, which were thus left to be defended by the sixteen Representatives of close boroughs. Truly this was a slight defence. To be sure, the noble Baron alluded to the enfranchisement of leaseholders in counties as hostile to Protestantism; did not the noble Lord know how many, or rather how few, leasehold franchises would be created by the Bill? If he were aware how insignificant their number was likely to be, compared with the gross amount of the county constituency, the noble Baron would hardly think it worth while to allude to them. Besides, would not this very leasehold franchise introduce the tenants of Church property into the constituency, and if so, did the noble Lord consider their introduction as dangerous to Protestantism? In his opinion, leasehold tenants would vote with their landlords; so that the interests of property, as against numbers, would be strengthened. The noble Lord complained of the extinction of non-resident free-men; but the resident freemen would have 756 votes; and did the noble Baron suppose that the Roman Catholic interest would predominate in Belfast, Dundalk, Newry, and other towns, that might easily be mentioned? The noble Baron appeared to entertain great fears of agitation. He told the noble Lord, that such being the case, he was bound to pass this Bill, because, if it were rejected the influence of agitators would be increased tenfold by the creation of an actual grievance. Was it to be supposed that the Members for ten or twelve boroughs (assuming them to be in the Roman Catholic interest, and also assuming that interest to be hostile to the connexion with this country, neither of which assumptions he could admit) could carry a Repeal of the Union against the wishes of the English and Irish people? He denied that the great body of the Roman Catholics was in favour of a Repeal of the Union. The Catholics were an agricultural people, and fully alive to the advantage of having the English market open for their produce; they knew that a Repeal of the Union would deprive them of the benefits which they at present enjoyed, increase the amount of taxation, add to the wants of the poor, produce fresh evils, clog industry, and substract from the country that which it stood most in need of—capital; and knowing all this, the great body of the Catholics could not be favourable to a Repeal of the Union. In Dublin, which would profit by the presence of a local legislature, some desire might exist among the shopkeepers for a Repeal of the Union, but he denied that the feeling was general throughout the country. Of this he was convinced, that if their Lordships rejected the Bill, they would be adding to every one of the dangers which they apprehended; if they passed it, he hoped and believed that there would be found sufficient loyalty, discretion and judgment in the Irish people to maintain the Union between the two countries, and, by so doing, support the dignity of the Crown, the stability of the Government, and the true interests of the empire at large.
said, that his opposition did not assume that no measure of Reform for Ireland should be granted, but that the present measure was inconsistent with the principles upon which the Roman Catholic Relief Bill was carried, and upon which alone it was competent for the House to legislate.
§ Viscount Melbourne
was of opinion that 757 the objections made by the noble Lord to the provisions of this Bill, were more properly the subject of consideration in the committee upon the Bill. He had heard, with much surprise the attempt made in his absence to inculpate the noble Marquess at the head of the Irish Government. So far from seeing that there was any just grounds for a charge of this nature, he was of opinion, that if a character for firmness tempered with humanity, for conciliation connected with high personal and moral courage, fitted a man for that arduous situation, the Marquess of Anglesey was pre-eminently qualified to fill it. As to the reasons which operated upon others in the vote they gave for abolishing the 40s. freeholders in Ireland, he knew nothing, but he voted for that abolition, not because he did not consider it as dividing the balance equally between Protestant and Catholic interests, but because he thought the 40s. freeholds were a bad mode of letting the land, injurious to the interests of the landlord, the morals of the people, and the true interests of Ireland. He concurred in the opinion of the noble Lord, that there was a large portion of the Catholics, both from feeling and interest, loyal to the connexion between the two countries, and opposed to any Repeal of the Union, a fact the more singular, when it was recollected what had been the character of that Irish Parliament now sitting in Dublin, with a fellow of Trinity College, and a clergyman, as one of its most violent leaders. He had weighed and considered those effusions so frequently uttered there. They were much like those of the Catholic Association; they were characterised by the eloquence—no, he would not say eloquence, for that implied wisdom and vigour of thought, but by talk as violent as false, and as imprudent as the resolution they had deliberately come to, that the Repeal of the Union would be highly advantageous and beneficial to the Protestant population of Ireland.
again repeated his opinion that the great body of the Catholics were opposed to the Union.
The Archbishop of Armagh
said: The Bill under your Lordships' consideration appears to me so vitally connected with the interests of the Protestant religion, and the permanence of the Church Establishment in Ireland, that I cannot satisfy myself with giving a silent vote upon this occasion. It is, perhaps, useless for me to 758 assure your Lordships, that I am actuated in what I am about to say by no political hostility, although conscientiously differing from his Majesty's Ministers in many points of their policy. I look at the measure, not as it is brought forward by this or that set of men, but as it is likely to affect the Protestant religion, and the Protestant institutions of Ireland. My Lords, in the few observations which I shall address to you, I shall proceed on the supposition that it is no less politically than religiously wise, that there should exist an established Church in Ireland, and that this Church should be one—one in faith and discipline with the Church in England. If, indeed, we have gone the length of total indifference as to the form of religious belief and worship to be adopted and cherished by the State, so that it be the religion of the mere numerical majority in a particular division of the empire, if we can persuade ourselves as Christian legislators and statesmen, that, whilst enlarged views in trade and commerce, and improvements in the different arts and sciences, conduce to the prosperity of the State, purity of religious opinion is in no way connected with national and individual happiness; if the various forms of superstition and error be, in our eyes, as worthy of the state endowment and especial patronage, as the creed and reasonable services of our Church, then, my Lords, I am free to confess, that what I have now to offer is out of place, and founded upon antiquated principles, the soundness of which is, in this age, no longer acknowledged. If that be so, then, certainly, my zeal for the Established Church is wholly uncalled for; and I know not how my presence, and that of my brethren in this assembly, as Protestant bishops, and our right of interposing in your debates, can be defended. But, my Lords, I trust we are not legislating on such principles. I trust that the state is still essentially Protestant, and that whilst the fullest toleration is extended to all religious persuasions, whilst Roman Catholics are admitted without question as to their creed, into both houses of Parliament, still the Protestant religion is to be considered as exclusively taken into alliance with the State, and invested with peculiar privileges and endowments. Believing this to be the spirit of our Constitution, and being firmly persuaded that such an establishment is not only conducive to the propagating re- 759 ligious truth, but also the best safeguard for liberty of conscience, and the only means of avoiding the mischiefs arising from opposite sects, each contending for, and promising to itself, the mastery, I feel myself warranted in calling upon your Lordships, seriously to consider before passing this measure into a law, how far it is consistent with the security of the Established Church in Ireland, and with the kindred institutions in that country. When the legislative Union of the two countries was proposed at the beginning of the present century, one great argument in favour of that salutary measure was, that it would consolidate the two churches, and place the Irish branch in its true position, as no longer the church of a minority, but as that of the great majority of Christians in wealth, and station, and intelligence, in the united empire. Three years ago, when political power was conceded to our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, it was contended that the concession could be made with safety to the Church; and some of the most able advocates of the Bill asserted that they would not have supported it except upon the conviction, that instead of weakening, it would be the means of strengthening the Church's security, whilst it was conscientiously opposed by others as well as myself, not on the narrow motive of exclusion, but on the broad and constitutional principle, that the privileges sought for could not be granted without endangering eventually our ecclesiastical establishment in Ireland, which in that day men on all sides professed themselves anxious and bound to maintain. Nor would that measure have been carried, had it not been accompanied with the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders, who, under the peculiar circumstances of Ireland, were supposed likely to exercise the franchise under the direction, or rather spiritual control, of the adversaries of Protestant establishments. Why, then, my Lords, the question to be considered is this—at least it is the question which I propose to myself, and by the answer to which I justify the vote I am about to give—Can this change be effected with safety to the Established Church, and those Protestant institutions and interests which form the strongest bond of connexion between the two countries, and are the main bulwarks of the settlement of property in Ireland? It is well known that the corporate boroughs which retained the right of returning Members at 760 the Union, were very much under Protestant influence, and that they were originally intended to form, at any rate, that they actually formed, some sort of counterpoise to the numerical superiority of those who were opposed to the Irish Church Establishment. I do not say, that since the admission of Roman Catholics to political power, they form a sufficient counterpoise; very far from it. But, no doubt, they add in some degree to the strength and protection of Protestantism; and be they strong or weak defences, the Protestant Churchman feels that they are important, because they are the only ones now remaining. It has been said, and with some plausibility, that property will ever retain its influence in these boroughs, and that the great preponderance in wealth and station, though not in number, is still with the Irish Protestants. But the qualification of the voter is placed on so low a level, that property will no longer have its weight. In the towns which it is proposed to throw open, the great majority of voters will be those whose interest it is to court the customers who are adverse to our establishments, rather than those who are friendly to them. As long as there was a counterpoise to this popular influence, it was right that the class of persons alluded to should have a voice; and the practical excellency of the British Constitution was, that every interest caused itself to be heard in Parliament, while all was so mixed up by time and various associations, that no single influence could predominate to the undue depression of another. The smaller shopkeepers and renters of 10l. are not dependent for support upon their opulent neighbours, but upon the custom and patronage of those who are poorer than themselves; and every succeeding year, as it decreases the value of money, will in proportion increase the democratical tendency of the measure. I am aware, indeed, that the exclusive privileges of the Burgesses of these towns are viewed with dissatisfaction by many of the opulent inhabitants who now find themselves excluded from a right of voting; and if the Bill had gone merely to confer the elective franchise upon such persons, it would have appeared to me far less exceptionable than it does now. But how will the present Bill operate to their relief? Will it give them that preponderating influence which they covet, and which they suppose they shall obtain? Very far otherwise; with- 761 out procuring for them any pre-eminence, it will raise to their level a class of inferior voters, who, from their greater numbers, will still keep them in the comparative want of political consequence, in which they complain they are now placed by the chartered rights of the Corporations. The respectable Protestants of every class will quickly find, that the power which they hope to enjoy will be snatched from their hands by those who may be expected to use it not merely for the subversion of the Established Church, but for the elevation of their own church on the ruins of the Protestant faith. The increase of Roman Catholic Members for these boroughs, and of those who are hostile to our existing institutions, it is well known, will not be inconsiderable, and since no equivalent is to be given for what we lose, what is gained by our adversaries will operate in a twofold proportion against ourselves. The accession of ten Members to the Roman Catholic side, when taken from the Protestants, is, in fact, an addition of twenty to their party. Now I believe that no Protestant can contemplate the state of Ireland without feeling that the confederacy against Protestant interests and the settled rights of property is already sufficiently powerful without this gratuitous addition to its force. I say gratuitous, because nothing is to be gained by granting it. It will end in the disappointment of the very Protestant Dissenters who are now friendly to it. No doubt some jealousy is occasioned in their bosoms by the superior endowments and privileges of the Church; but still this feeling is consistent with much good-will towards us, and did the consequences of the Bill now appear to them, as I think it will soon do, to be fatal to the Church Establishment, I am persuaded they would join with us, as they will perhaps do when it is too late, in support of institutions which are to them, no less than to ourselves, the main defence of religious liberty and purity of faith in Ireland. But will the measure be satisfactory to those whom it is intended to conciliate by its means? or is it likely to prove a final adjustment of our unhappy differences? Are we at last to fix our standard here? I say of it, as I did of the Emancipation Bill, that the boon is valueless in their estimation, except as it will prove a stepping stone to ulterior encroachments. They openly contemn the measure as an affront, while they threaten you with rebel- 762 lion if you withhold it. The dissolution of the Union—separate legislatures—the subversion of the Church—confiscation of its property—the extinction of the British name—the restoration of Ireland to her just rank amongst the list of nations, which is but another name for her subjugation by some powerful intruder—these are the wild projects which they openly profess to have in view; and, in carrying on their purpose and achieving their objects, the Protestant clergy are driven from their homes, and deprived of their property, and the Protestant layman is no longer safe, who dares to oppose himself to their dictation. The laws, it is boasted by their leaders, can no longer be executed, and the evasion of them is justified on pretended principles, before the face of honourable men, by those to whom an unlimited power over the conscience is confided by their faith. The Roman Catholic population are bound together by illegal obligations for the attainment of those objects, which, when recommended by their spiritual advisers, assume a sacred character. In such a state of things, my Lords, it is proposed to add considerably to the strength of a party, already too strong for the laws; and this without the prospect of satisfying them, nay, with the express declaration on their part that they will not be satisfied with such a measure. Events threatening the existence of Protestantism are passing in rapid succession. Who supposed that, at the time of the Relief Bill, the security held out in the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders, would, in three short years be neutralised by the creation of a more dangerous class of voters. This Reform, it is said, is the consequence of that Emancipation; but what will be the consequence of this Reform? The downfall of Protestantism—the elevation of the Roman Catholic faith—the dismemberment of the empire—or the dreadful option of civil war. To avoid that civil war we conceded the Relief Bill, and still the threat of it is presented to extort fresh and fresh concessions from our weakness. Viewed in itself, this measure may not justify such anticipations; but I believe there are few who will say that it has not within itself the seeds of further innovations. What those innovations are, is already proclaimed, and who can doubt that the same unceasing agitation, the same system of bloodshed and intimidation, will be resorted to for bringing them about? 763 I am not unwilling to concede much to the prejudices, and I would concede everything to the just complaints, of men; but I see no advantage, and on every side much danger, in a measure of Reform, which, without satisfying any party, will strengthen the hands of those who are sworn to destroy Protestantism in Ireland, on the maintenance of which, not only the prosperity of that country, but also the permanence of its connection with the other parts of the empire depend.
The Earl of Roden
The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde), who is not at present in his place, lamented that my noble friend who opened this debate should have felt it to be his duty, at the present stage of the measure, to speak upon the principle of the Bill, and I cannot help lamenting also that it should be necessary for him to do so, owing to the haste with which the measure was pressed forward in the absence of noble Lords, who would have taken an opportunity of opposing the principle of the Bill at what, perhaps, would have been the more fitting stage, namely, on the second reading. And here, my Lords, I cannot help returning my thanks to the noble and illustrious Duke (the Duke of Cumberland) who did everything in his power to induce the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government to postpone the discussion of the principle of the Bill for a few days, in order to afford the possibility (and it did not exceed a bare possibility) of Peers resident in Ireland to attend in their places. I regret the more that the noble Earl should not have conceded so reasonable a request, as my noble friends from Ireland were obliged to visit that country, in order that they might, by their presence there counteract, so far as in them lay, the mischievous effects arising from what I call the apathy with which Government has viewed the alarming progress which disorder and tumult have made in that unfortunate country. On the part, therefore, of my noble friends, I beg leave to thank the noble and illustrious Duke for his exertions to postpone the second reading of this measure; and I cannot but lament that the noble Earl did not think it within the line of his duty to extend that courtesy to others which had been adopted towards him. When I had to bring forward a motion of great public importance, I consented to postpone it at great personal and indeed public inconvenience, at the re- 764 quest of the noble Earl, that it might not be pressed in the absence of the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Plunkett) whose attendance, as it subsequently turned out, was no more necessary than that of any other Peer who has the honour of a seat in this House. I cannot, my Lords, help saying, that his conduct on that occasion was but a continuance of, and strictly in unison with, the line adopted by the noble Earl ever since the introduction of the measure into this House. His own sovereign will is the only rule by which he will suffer our actions to be regulated, and should your Lordships attempt, even in the slightest degree, to resist the exercise of this arbitrary power, you know the remedy that is hanging over your heads. The force which the Constitution placed in your hands has been withdrawn from this House. You are rendered now totally a dependent body—dependent upon the will and pleasure of the noble Earl; and the power which he has so unconstitutionally usurped, he is determined to use with all the vigour of a despot. With such a prospect of the uselessness, the utter hopelessness, of resistance, it would be idle in me to detain your Lordships at any great length. The subject, however, is one so fraught with important matter, connected either with the happiness or misery of my country—and I augur nothing but misery from it—that I should not feel that I was discharging my duty as an independent member of this House—for, although the independence of the House as a body is gone, individually I have not forfeited mine—were I not to offer some observations upon the Bill on your Lordships' Table. This, my Lords, is the last scene of that drama in which the noble Earl has acted the first part, the minor characters of which have been so admirably supported by his colleagues. That drama I look upon as a deep tragedy; and even now, before the business of the scene has been brought to a close, I wish again to warn him of the results which must inevitably follow this measure. It will undoubtedly be the means of severing the two countries. The Protestant institutions of Ireland at least will be levelled with the dust, and eventually the destruction of this once mighty empire must be achieved. My noble friend who opened this debate has been taken to task for referring to the transactions of 1829. I 765 have used every means in my power, here and elsewhere—the unfortunate measure of that year having passed into a law—to induce others to refrain from expressing any opinion likely to counteract any beneficial effects that were calculated to follow it; but when the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, stands up in his place, and eulogises that measure, and would have the House imagine that it was fraught with advantage to the country, I cannot, I own, under such circumstances, refrain from adverting to it. I cannot, my Lords, refrain from expressing my sentiments with respect to that measure, which was falsely termed a relief bill. It is, I own, with the deepest sorrow that I contemplate the consequences which have flowed from it. I have seen all those halcyon days, which its supporters promised us, come to nought, and though I know well that the noble Duke who proposed it to the House intended it as a measure of protection to the Protestant religion in Ireland, I do believe that my noble friend will now confess that he has been deceived with respect to the results which have followed from the measure. I was glad, on a former occasion, to hear a noble Lord, who was a supporter of that measure, now that he sees how much he has been deceived, state that he lamented the vote he had given, and that, were the thing to be done over again, he would take a different course. Whatever evils have arisen, or may hereafter arise from that measure, I have nothing to charge myself with. I had strong religious and conscientious opinions upon the subject; my course was therefore perfectly clear, and although my gloomy anticipations have been fully realized, I should be happy, much happier indeed, had my prognostications turned out to be incorrect, and those in which the supporters of the measure indulged had been realized. With respect to this Bill, my opposition to it is short and concise. I oppose it, because, in my opinion, it will effect the destruction of Protestantism in Ireland. I oppose it because it takes away the birth-right of Protestants, and confers it on those who are opposed to them—I oppose it because it is unjust in principle, and partial in its details. I oppose it because it takes power from those who have used it for the maintenance of the institutions of the country, and confers it on those who will use it to 766 subvert those institutions. I know not, when we go into Committee, whether we shall be permitted by the noble Earl to alter, or even to argue on the details of the measure—but this I do know, that in the Committee I shall venture to propose such amendments as I think likely to curtail, at all events, the mischievous effects of the measure. This Bill will give to demagogues and priests that influence which property alone ought to possess. It will enable them to return to Parliament a class of men totally unfitted to wield the destinies, or control the power of this great empire. My noble friend has referred to the injustice done by this measure to the freemen, but he has not told you why that injustice has been perpetrated. I would refer noble Lords to the speech of the Secretary for Ireland, who introduced this measure into the other House of Parliament, and there the reasons are given openly, plainly, and avowedly. He states that his reason for acting in this way by the freemen was his hostility to the Protestants, and the reason he gives for their being disfranchised was simply their being Protestants. Following up his plan of insulting everything Protestant in the country, I was not at all surprised that, since that period, he should have given expression to such sentiments, with respect to the great majority of the Protestants of Ireland, as he was most incautiously led to utter. Speaking of the Orangemen, that right hon. Gentleman said, that they were the wretched remnant of an expiring faction. Circumstances have since, however, taken place which have shown him that they were no wretched remnant—that they were no expiring faction—and I believe the time is fast approaching, when that Government, which now seeks to blacken the character of the Orangemen, by heaping opprobrious epithets upon them, will have to call upon them as it recently called upon them before, to protect it from its present friends, and enable it to maintain the connexion between the two countries. His Majesty's Government is acting in a most extraordinary manner. One would have supposed that ere this the eyes of the Ministers ought to have been opened as to who the real friends of the connexion with England are. The agitators do not hesitate to declare that their object is to sever the connexion between the countries, and yet they are cherished and supported 767 by the Government. But is there nothing masked under this apparent candour? Do the agitators seek for nothing beyond a Repeal of the Union? My Lords, any man must be wilfully blind to the passing events, if he fails to discover that the day is close at hand when the contest must take place: when that hour arrives I trust we shall be able to meet the difficulty, be that difficulty what it may. We live, ray Lords, in troublesome times; we have a Government that wants courage—that wants decision—that wants temper to carry the country through the perils by which it is beset. The conduct of Ministers since their accession to office has proved them deficient in each of these qualities. Those whom they have done every-thing to allure, laugh at and despise them, while on the other hand, those upon whom they may rely, they have spurned and contemned. I hope the time will come, ere it be too late, when they will open their eyes, and perceive the difference between those who are ready to be their friends, and the men whom nothing can win over to their side. At present all parties look down upon them. Their conduct has rendered them undeserving of respect, and they are consequently despised by all. I know it has been said, that there are three parties in Ireland. My Lords, where are they? In vain have I strained my eyes to catch a glimpse of the third party: I have listened and listened in vain to hear some sound denoting their existence, I believe in my conscience that no such party exists. In Ireland no party approves of the proceedings of the Ministers—they have not the confidence of the Magistrates—they have not the confidence of the gentry—they have not the confidence of the landed proprietors—they have not the confidence of the Protestants, and they have not the confidence of the Roman Catholics. Whether this Bill will give them the confidence of the Roman Catholics I will not take upon myself to say; but this I do know, that the Roman Catholic party have expressed themselves much dissatisfied with it. The noble Marquess asked me whether I objected to this measure because it did away with nomination boroughs; and he then went on to show how impossible it was those boroughs should be the means of upholding the Protestant institutions. I must take the liberty of stating that I am not opposed to all Reform. A long 768 period has now elapsed since I stated that I had no objection to opening what were called the nomination boroughs, and to conferring the franchise upon a respectable constituency; I never, however, contemplated transferring the rights of the Protestant Corporations to a Roman Catholic mob. I conceived the proper and just way would have been to have thrown open the boroughs to all the Protestant residents, with a proper restriction. The Government, however, has gone further, and has struck at the root of the Protestant institutions. The noble Marquess has said, that there could be no doubt whatever that the 40s. freeholders would vote with their landlords. I know not whether the noble Marquess had anything to do with elections when the 40s. freeholders in counties were in existence, but if he had, he must have known that the 40s. freeholders voted as their priests directed them, and contrary, not only to their own expressed wishes, but also contrary to the desires and wishes of their landlords. And so it will be again, and yet their rights are maintained, while those of the freemen are to be annihilated. The noble Viscount has passed a high eulogium on the noble Marquess, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. I am sure I am the last person in the world that would say a word derogatory to the character of my noble friend; I have known him long, and have a sincere regard for him, but this I must say, that the management of the affairs of Ireland might be confided to better hands. What I complain of is, that his Government has viewed with apathy the daily infractions of the law—that his Government did not, by a timely exhibition of vigour, show the people that he was not only not a friend to anti-tithe meetings, but determined to put them down. I do trust, however, that the noble Marquess will see the necessity of going back to his first principles—principles which induced him to call the yeomanry of Ireland into existence. I have been told, that additional troops have been ordered into that country. I do believe that there exists in Ireland a body of men, which, if called upon by a Lord Lieutenant and a Government determined to act fairly, is sufficient, without the assistance of any troops from England, far gone as matters are at present, to restore in less than three months quiet to the country. I do not speak merely as a matter of conjecture. I live in the country, 769 and I know that all which is wanting to restore tranquillity is firmness on the part of the Government. If that firmness be exhibited, and the Protestants get fair play, the country will be saved without the intervention of England. The noble Viscount has also referred to the state of Ireland, and has stated, that the Roman Catholics are not the only persons favourable to a Repeal of the Union. In proof of this, the noble Viscount referred to a petition presented by me to this House a short time since. It was with very great pain and regret that I presented that petition, which was from the Corporation of Joiners. But I trust and believe, that there are few Protestants who are favourable to the Repeal of the Union: these few imagine that, in the event of the Repeal being effected, the same Parliament would go back; that the boroughs which were disfranchised would be again called into existence, and in fact, that an exclusively Protestant Parliament would once more assemble in Dublin; when they, however, discover their error in this respect, I do believe the few who now advocate the measure will see the mischief that must ensue from a Repeal of the Union taking place. With respect to the Roman Catholics, it is certainly my opinion, that there are many respectable members of that community, who are aware in their hearts of the evil tendency of the measure, but driven on by priests and demagogues, they join in the cry for a Repeal of the Union, though their private opinions be adverse to those which they publicly avow. The noble Viscount has also referred to the Conservative Society, to which I have the honour to belong. I consider that society most beneficial, most necessary, and most useful. It has not only shown the Protestants of Ireland the dangers by which they are beset, but it has pointed out to them a remedy for the evils. I am rejoiced to find, that the noble Viscount reads the debates of that society, and that he considers the ability displayed by the speakers worthy of an eulogium from him. One word, however, fell from the noble Viscount with respect to the debates, which renders it necessary for me to call upon him for proof. He said, that the Conservative Society was like the Catholic Association, and both were false.
I wish the noble Viscount would give the House some specimen of this false reasoning; and as to his comparing the Catholic Association to the Conservative Society, it is totally ridiculous. One was established for the destruction of the Constitution, while the other strives to maintain what is yet left of that glorious fabric—the exclusive object of one was to create disorder, while the object of the other is to afford protection to person and property, and to guard the liberties of all—Roman Catholic as well as Protestant. The noble Viscount has quoted a speech delivered at that society by a friend of mine—and I am proud to call him such, for I do not believe that there exists a more able, zealous, or ardent friend of the Protestants than my friend, Mr. Boyton. The noble Lord did not mention Mr. Boyton's name, but it was to him he alluded, and he states, that that Gentleman is friendly to a Repeal of the Union. Mr. Boyton, of whom the noble Lord has spoken in such just terms for his eloquence and talents, is no friend of a Repeal of the Union. It so happened that I was in Dublin a few days after the speech to which the noble Viscount alluded had been delivered, and I had a conversation with Mr. Boyton upon the subject, and I can assure the noble Viscount, that he is not friendly to a Repeal of the Union. The object of that speech was, to hold out a warning to the Government, lest, by injustice and persecution, they should drive the Protestants to look for a Repeal of the Union, as a measure of Protestant relief, and induce them to think that they would find more justice even from a Roman Catholic Government and a Roman Catholic Parliament, than from the noble Lords opposite. This warning, I think, cannot be too frequently repeated, and I only hope it may not be lost upon his Majesty's Ministers. If the noble Viscount find fault with the existence of a Protestant society in Ireland, he must blame the Government of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for that country, has treated the Protestants of Ireland in the most unworthy and unjustifiable manner. All his acts towards them have been characterised by injustice, while, on the other hand, he courted and conciliated those who set themselves up in open defiance of the laws. It was such conduct as this that called the Conservative Society into existence—a society which has been 771 already a blessing to the country, and which has done more during the brief space since it has been called into life, towards arousing the Protestant spirit of the land, and directing that spirit towards the maintenance of the liberties of the country, than could be achieved by any other means whatsoever. I hope it may long continue in the course in which it has set out, and so far as my exertions go, they shall be freely given to forward the views and objects of the Conservative Society of Ireland. The noble Earl concluded by thanking the House for the attention with which he had been heard, and stated, he should reserve his observations upon the details of the Bill, until the House was in Committee.
§ The House went into Committee.
§ The Preamble postponed.
§ Clauses 1, 2, and 3 were agreed to.
§ On Clause 4 being read,
§ Lord Wynford moved, that the words "or other buildings" should be added after the word "counting-house," in order to prevent the possibility of persons having double votes for the borough and for the county.
§ The Duke of Wellington opposed the Amendment as restricting the right of voting in counties.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, the Amendment would create much confusion, and lower the class of voters. He should resist it.
said, if the noble and learned Lord were acquainted with Ireland, he would not propose his Amendment, which would not have the effect he wished. He opposed the Amendment.
§ The Duke of Richmond
said, that, in another place, when the English Bill went down with a similar amendment, every lawyer on both sides of the House scouted it.
§ Lord Wynford
did not care what lawyers said in another place; the question was, what was right and what was wrong.
The Duke of Cumberland
thought all objections might be obviated by inserting a proviso, for the purpose of preventing a man voting in a borough, from having two votes.
§ The Duke of Richmond
said, the effect of such a clause would be, to disfranchise any Gentleman who possessed a vote for Oxford or Cambridge, and who might also happen to have a vote for a borough.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ The 5th Clause agreed to.
§ Lord Wynford
objected to the proviso in the 6th Clause, and moved that it should be wholly omitted. He contended, that, as the right of voting by 40s. freeholders was abolished in counties, the same right ought not to be preserved in towns. The voters in each ought to be put on the same footing.
said, the Bill only preserved the right of 40s. freeholders for their lives, as was also the case with the rights of freemen.
§ The Duke of Wellington
objected to the 40s. freeholders being retained in towns, whilst the rights of freemen were to be abolished. It was enacted by the Bill, that all freemen admitted after the 31st of March, 1831, though bona fide freemen, and resident, should also be disqualified. This clause, he was aware, was in the English Bill; but the reason for that was, that the English Bill was at that period before Parliament, whereas the Irish Bill was not introduced for a long time subsequently. The reason assigned for getting rid of the freemen was, because they would support the Protestant interest in the towns. Now, he had no hesitation whatever in stating, that the interest connected with the Church and the Protestant institutions of the country must give way, if the franchise were transferred into the hands of the Roman Catholic population. It was easy to say, that there ought to be no difference between Roman Catholics and Protestants. He wished to God it could be so; but the circumstances of that country were such as to render it necessary that a counterpoise should be given, to counteract the influence which the Roman Catholics would acquire by the Bill. He wished to carry the principles of 1829 into effect, and that could not be done if both parties were not placed on an equal footing. He thought it most unfair to give the Catholic population of towns the power of returning Roman Catholic Members to Parliament; and he should, therefore, seeing that the rights of the freemen were to be abolished, object to the 40s. freeholders being retained.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
said, that the non-reservation of the rights of freemen made since March, 1831, was no argument for the deprivation of the 40s. freeholders in the towns. If the noble Duke thought the freemen unjustly treated, he might 773 move to restore them their privileges; but the noble and learned Lord could not move to disfranchise the 40s. freeholders, for disfranchisement was contrary to the principles of the Bill.
The Marquess of Westmeath
said, that the keeping up of the 40s. freeholders in towns was done as a set-off against the freemen; both ought now to be retained, or both disfranchised. He should support the Amendment.
The Earl of Roden
considered the question one of justice; and it did not appear to him to be in accordance with justice to deprive freemen of their birth-right, merely because their votes might tend to support the Protestant institutions of the country.
§ The Duke of Richmond
complained of the frequent allusions which had been made to Protestants and Roman Catholics, and said, that his noble friend could scarcely be aware of who the person was who supported the rights of the freemen in the Other House. That person was Mr. O'Connell, and he could not be looked upon as a supporter of the Protestant institutions of the country.
The Duke of Cumberland
said, the question was, whether it was in accordance with justice to deprive the freemen of their rights, and not who advocated the restoring of their rights elsewhere, or who opposed it. He was sorry to see the noble Duke, who was at one period one of the strongest Protestants in that House, now abandoning those principles.
§ The Duke of Richmond
said, that the noble Duke seemed to suppose that there was no friend of Protestantism in the House, save himself and one or two noble Lords with whom he acted. He denied that the Bill was subversive of Protestant interests in the slightest degree. He challenged the noble Duke, or any noble Lord, to show that he had ever voted in opposition to Protestant interests. He did vote against the Catholic Relief Bill, because he was opposed to it at the time; but the Bill having once been carried, he gave his hearty co-operation to carry it into effect. This, however, he must say, that he considered the only benefit that would arise from that Bill was the doing away with all religious distinctions. But how could that desirable object be carried into effect, when, night after night, they heard from the lips of noble Lords, Roman Catholics denounced, and Brunswick and Orange 774 Meetings were found following their example? How could the peace of Ireland be preserved, when such gross misrepresentations of the conduct and intentions of Government were held out? Why, at one of the meetings in the north of Ireland, he understood this was the language used:—" My boys, keep the Bible safe in your hands, and take care that your powder is dry." The only wonder was, that when such language as this was held, Ireland was not in a state of rebellion. He contended, that Catholics were the King's subjects, as well as Protestants—that they had equal rights, and that the Government was dealing out a measure of even-handed justice. Was he, therefore, for this, to be made the subject of such attacks? He repelled them with all the respect due to the noble Duke, but with the warmth which they were calculated to excite.
The Duke of Cumberland
regretted that, contrary to his intention or desire, he had excited the anger of the noble Duke opposite. He begged distinctly to state, that he wished to treat this question as a matter of justice. But when the noble Duke attacked his noble friend (the Earl of Roden) near him, and accused that noble Earl of bringing the question forward purely as a Protestant question—when the noble Duke said, that seeing the attacks made out of that House upon the Roman Catholics, and the exciting language that was made use of by his noble friend, as well as by others, he was only surprised that Ireland was not in a state of open rebellion, he (the Duke of Cumberland) felt bound to interfere.
The Earl of Roden
felt, after the attack made on him by the noble Duke, he was bound to trouble them with a few words. If the noble Duke never had any other flaw to complain of in his (Lord Roden's) character, than being a perpetual advocate for Protestantism in Ireland, he might well congratulate himself. He thought the noble Duke was irritated at what fell from the illustrious personage behind him, and if any one had no reason to complain, it was the noble Duke (Richmond) who commenced the attack upon them. The noble Duke had appealed to the House, whether he was not as good a Protestant as any noble Lord in it; he had vaunted much in his own praise; but he (Lord Roden) judged of men by their actions. He would affirm, that it was no proof of good Protestantism to support a measure which 775 struck at the rights and privileges of the Protestant people of Ireland. The noble Duke had accused him of denouncing the Roman Catholics. He (Lord Roden) denied his ever having done so; he never denounced the Roman Catholics, but he did denounce the Government, and he would continue to do so, so long as it acted with injustice towards the Protestants of Ireland. The noble Duke might depend upon it, that, whenever the rights of his Protestant fellow-subjects were endangered, as he maintained they were by this measure now proposed, neither the noble Duke, nor any other man, should prevent him from speaking in their de-fence, and, as far as he could, from maintaining their cause.
said, did the noble Earl imagine that he was the only Protestant in that House? It would appear from his language that such was his opinion. He had no right, however, to arrogate to himself a monopoly of Protestantism, any more than he had a right of arrogating to himself a monopoly of returning Members to Parliament. The noble Lord said, he was not a friend to monopoly. Yet there was a town in Ireland called Dundalk, containing 10,000 inhabitants, over which the noble Earl exercised a monopoly. The noble Earl was the sole nominator and elector, and he had exercised his power to the utmost, for he had now placed in Parliament, as the Representative of the people of Dundalk, a person who was more odious to them than any other individual in the empire. He said this with no disrespect to the individual himself; but he repeated, that one more odious to the inhabitants of Dundalk than Capt. Gordon—
§ Lord Wynford
rose to order. He submitted to the House, whether it was consistent with order, that any noble Lord should speak of any Member of the other House of Parliament as a person that was odious. Besides the observation did not bear, nor could it be made to bear, upon the question properly before the House, which was simply, whether a proviso should be inserted in the Bill.
was ready to do full justice to the great accuracy of mind and perfect impartiality of the noble and learned Lord who had interrupted him; but the fact was, that the noble and learned Lord was wholly mistaken in supposing that he (Lord Plunkett) was out of order. He believed that he was speaking as much 776 to the point as many of the noble Lords who had preceded him. Again, he did not say that Captain Gordon was in himself odious, but that he was very odious to those persons who were called his constituents. His politics were the same as those of the noble Lord who returned him, and the politics of both were equally odious to the inhabitants of Dundalk. He contended, that the language used at the Conservative meetings—their professed desire to appeal to arms, and their abuse of Government for not permitting the contest between Protestant and Catholic, was anything but conciliatory. Reverting to the question before their Lordships, he argued, that it was by no means a measure of justice to deprive those persons of the franchise who already had it. Residence here was necessary, as well as in the case of freemen; and those who now possessed the franchise were to hold it for life, in the same way as the 40s. freeholders. In fact, the existing rights in both cases were to be preserved on the same condition—namely, residence. He should support the Clause as it then stood.
The Earl of Roden
thought the noble Baron (Lord Wynford) was perfectly justified in calling the noble and learned Lord to order, as nothing could be more disorderly than referring to a Member of another House, and pronouncing epithets upon him, which, however, were since softened down. The noble and learned Lord was in gross error when he applied the term monopolist to him. He had shown, that, in his view of Reform, he was none, as regarded the borough of Dundalk; and he knew well there were many noble Lords about him as sincere in support of the Protestant cause as he was. The noble and learned Lord had stated, that Captain Gordon was odious to his constituents; this he denied: he had reasons for knowing, that he was elected by the unanimous voice of his constituents, and they were not the inhabitants of Dundalk, but the Protestant Corporation of that Borough. There never was a more useful man returned to the House of Commons than Captain Gordon; he was particularly fitted for an Irish Representative; he knew that country well; he had laboured through its length and breadth; he was sincerely interested in its welfare, and had been most useful in his exertions. He was not odious to the Catholic body—he was to the demagogues and Jesuits; but the 777 Catholic people flocked to his meetings, and were deeply interested in his addresses to them. He was a noble champion of the Church of Ireland, and his exertions were known and esteemed. The noble and learned Lord's information respecting this Gentleman was not correct, and was only conveyed to him by persons who wished to represent matters as they thought most likely to please the noble and learned Lord. Notwithstanding the noble and learned Lord's charge, he would continue in his course; and he trusted to be at all times ready to meet him, or any one else, to answer such charges as those brought against him.
, that a great deal of time had been wasted by the undue use of the words Protestant and Catholic.
§ Amendment negatived, and Clause agreed to.
§ On the Clause relating to the qualification of freemen in towns,
§ The Duke of Wellington
moved, that the whole Clause be omitted, for the purpose of substituting a Clause similar to that in the English Bill. His object was, to preserve unimpaired the rights of freemen, whether acquired by birth, servitude, or marriage.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that there was a great difference between the modes in which those rights were conferred in England and Ireland. In the latter, they were conferred exclusively for Corporation or election purposes, and were given accordingly to a much lower class of persons. It was, therefore, necessary to make a distinction in the Acts; but the object of Government was not, he could state, to affect any respectable class of freemen.
§ Amendment withdrawn; Clause agreed to.
§ The remainder of the Clauses were agreed to, as were the Schedules, with verbal amendments.
§ The House resumed.