§ On the Motion of Earl Grey, the order of the day was read for summoning the House to take into consideration the Bill, as amended by the Commons, intituled "An Act for the more effectual suppression of local disturbances and dangerous associations in Ireland."
Earl Grey rose and proposed the adoption of the following clause—(the words printed in italics being the amendments of the Commons):—
And be it enacted, that any person liable to be prosecuted for any offence committed within any district proclaimed as aforesaid, contrary to the provisions of an Act passed in the Parliament of Ireland in the 27th year of the reign of King George 3rd intituled 'An Act to prevent tumultuous risings and assemblies, and for the more effectual punishment of persons guilty of outrage, riot, and illegal combination, and of administering and taking unlawful oaths, or contrary to the provisions of an Act passed in the 50th year of the same reign, intituled An Act for the more effectually preventing the administering and taking of unlawful oaths in Ireland, and for the protection of Magistrates and witnesses in criminal cases;' or contrary to the provisions of a certain other Act, passed in the 1st and 2nd years of the reign of his present Majesty, intituled An Act to amend an Act passed in the Parliament of Ireland in the 15th and 16th years of the reign of his Majesty King George 3rd intituled an Act to prevent and punish tumultuous risings of persons within this kingdom, and for other purposes therein mentioned; or contrary to the provisions of the said Act of the 15th and 16th years of King George 3rd therein referred to; or contrary to the provisions of a certain other Act passed in the 2nd and 3rd years of the reign of his present Majesty, intituled 'An Act to restrain for five years, in certain cases, party processions in Ireland;' or contrary to the provision of any Act or Acts to continue the said Acts or any of them, and also every person charged with any offence contrary to the provisions of this Act, ex-
cept any offence created by this Act, and directed to be tried and prosecuted according to the course of the common law, shall and may be tried by and before a Court-martial to be appointed as aforesaid, and whether the offence so charged shall or shall not have been committed before the issuing-of any proclamation under this Act: provided always, that in case the Lord-lieutenant should direct that any person charged with any offence contrary to any of the Acts aforesaid, which by law now is or may be punishable with death, shall be tried before any Court-martial appointed under this Act, such Court, in case of conviction, shall, instead of the punishment of death, sentence such convict to transportation for life, or for any period not less than seven years: and provided also, that such Courts shall in no case impose the penalty of whipping on any person convicted by or before such Courts: provided always, that it shall not be lawful for any such Court-martial to convict or try any person for any offence whatsoever committed at any time before the passing of this Act: provided also, that nothing in this Act shall he deemed, or taken to give such Court-martial any power or jurisdiction to try any person or persons charged or to be charged with the printing, publishing, or circulating of any libel, or with any combination or confederacy contrary to the provisions of the said recited Statute of the 27 th year of the reign of King George 3rd or with any prevention or obstruction of any person, or any act to defraud any person in the assertion or enforcement of any civil right or claim contrary to the provisions of the said last-mentioned Statute, unless such combination or prevention, obstruction or act, shall be accompanied by force or by threats; but that all such offences, unaccompanied by force or threat as aforesaid, shall remain triable according to the course of the common law."
The Noble Earl said, that the Amendment in the clause was to the effect that offences of a political nature should not be tried by a Court-martial, but according to the course of the common law.
said, that if the Amendments were to be made on the grounds stated by the noble Earl, they were not sufficient. The original enactments stood upon the ground that there was good reason to suppose that Jurors had been intimidated, and that substantial 1296 justice could not be obtained according to the usual course of the common law, and that being so, it was without any violation of the liberty of the subject, enacted that such offences as those to which this Bill referred should be tried by Courts-martial. The noble Earl could only have been right before upon the supposition that justice was not to be obtained in Ireland according to the course of the common law. If that were still the case, why alter the provisions of the Bill? The provisions of this Bill, as they originally stood, were most stringent. When the Bill, of which this was in part an imitation, passed in 1829, the degree of political agitation in Ireland was most violent; it was much greater than at present. The election for Clare had just brought to the world the knowledge of the fact, that there was a sort of military organization among the people of Ireland—they were not riotous—they paid an insulting obedience to the law—there was throughout the country a latent rebellion that might be called into active exertion by those who were at the head of the Catholic Association; yet the Government of that day did not introduce such enactments as were to be found in this Bill. If the noble Earl was prepared to show that the condition of Ireland was improved, he should be most ready to accede to the Amendments now proposed, but as the noble Earl had said nothing of the kind—as he had given no explanation that could lead him to draw such an inference—he should with the greatest reluctance be compelled to refrain from giving his support to Amendments, which, if the state of things in Ireland was not altered, appeared to have been somewhat irrationally introduced into this Bill.
§ The Earl of Eldon
said, that their Lordships were at this moment engaged in discussing one of the most important constitutional questions that he had ever seen introduced in Parliament since he had had the honour of a seat in that House. It involved the principle that what necessity compelled necessity justified. If the Minister was prepared to come down to the House and say, that necessity warranted the suspension of the Constitution—and it was a suspension of one of the most important parts of the Constitution—the Trial by Jury—if he were prepared to do this, their Lordships might understand the grounds on which they were proceeding; but, if that was not so—if the ne- 1297 cessity did not exist—the rule of justification was applied to a state of circumstances that did not warrant it. He had long been the political opponent of the noble Earl, but he had never in his life uttered anything of him that was disrespectful, and in what he was urging he had no wish to do so. But was not the whole conduct of the noble Earl on this matter quite inconsistent in its character? One of the most important alterations that could be proposed would soon be submitted to them, and it was this—that the subjects of Ireland were now to be tried by Juries, who were destined to be tried by Courts-martial six weeks ago. He felt somewhat strongly upon this subject, on account of the position in which that House was by this measure placed with regard to the country. The men who had been opposed to the Reform Act had been represented as enemies of civil liberty, and of the rights which all men in this country were entitled to enjoy. He warned the noble Earl to observe how soon that sort of language might be altered in its application. He was really ashamed to see how the noble Earl was now made the subject of abuse throughout the country. The country papers said, with regard to that measure of Reform, which they called a restitution of the old law of the country, but which was no more a restitution of the old law of the country than it was a restitution of the principles of the Constitution of France: the country papers said, with regard to that measure something of the same kind that they now repeated with regard to this measure—they said, "No matter what the House of Lords says, or what the opinion of the House of Lords is, we will go to the House of Commons and get all that altered." The noble Earl should take heed of this. There were various ways in which a Bill might be brought into Parliament. This Bill had been brought into the House of Lords, and had passed through that House upon the responsibility of the Ministers, If the Bill was not wanted, the Ministers alone were responsible. He would not stand before his country, and be abused as a man who would give up the Constitution of his country, when he could say to that country, "[did not consent to this Bill, but on the responsibility of those who told us that Ireland could not be saved without it." If the whole people of England could be brought within a distance to hear him, he 1298 should declare to them that he would rather suffer death than take away from the subject the right to Trial by Jury, and make him liable to be tried by Courts-martial, if he had not thought that such a measure was absolutely necessary for the safety and protection of the people of Ireland. Under these circumstances, he must press the noble Earl for an answer to the question, whether this measure was necessary now? To pledge that House to measures, and then in this way to abandon them, without any apparent reason whatever, was to do that which must tend to the destruction of that House and of the Constitution. He hoped, that the House would never be pledged in that manner again. When a noble Lord, whom he now saw in his place, had come down to Parliament as a Minister on a similar occasion, he had done so under the absolute pressure of necessity, and, under that necessity, had got a Bill read three times in one night. But that was when the mischief was so immediate that forms were necessarily sacrificed. He had no object but to do his duty; and he would not allow himself to be called an enemy of his country because he had only done that which appeared to be his duty, upon the representation of a responsible Minister.
§ Earl Grey
My Lords, no one is more willing than I am to give credit to the noble Earl for the purity of his motives—for his regard to the Constitution—and for the sound reason with which he desires that all his actions shall be governed. I subscribe to the position he has laid down, that this was a measure of necessity—it was introduced as a measure of necessity, and, therefore, without the usual formality of the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry, as it was thought that the circumstances were such as to carry with them a complete justification of the Bill; and I had the satisfaction of seeing that view of the subject adopted in this House almost unanimously, while its justice was admitted by considerable majorities elsewhere. I subscribe also in some measure to the proposition, not that what necessity compels necessity justifies, but that what necessity compels necessity limits. This I measure, which went to deprive the subject of part of his legal rights, I introduced with the most painful feelings; and if what I have done has exposed me to the severe reflections that the noble Earl intimates, I shall console myself with the 1299 reflection that it was a painful discharge of that duty which my conscience required me to perform. The noble Earl has argued as if the whole ground of necessity was abandoned by the introduction of these Amendments. I cannot understand this to be the case. The necessity which, as I have before stated, compelled the measure, ought to limit it; and if, in the discussion of a measure, it is shown that with certain limitations it would be as efficient as the case of necessity required it to be, then, as it seems to me, the Houses of Parliament are bound to admit those limitations, and to alter the measure accordingly. Undoubtedly, as the Bill originally stood, the offences which are enumerated in the clause we are now discussing, subjected those who committed them to be tried by Courts-martial. If the objects of that provision can be attained in another way, I am bound to consider whether I cannot dispense with these provisions in the particular case, and if I can, without injuring the general efficiency of the measure, I am bound to do so. One part of this Bill relates to meetings of an illegal nature, and which are calculated to produce most evil effects. It was to stop such political agitation that this Bill was proposed. I will not stop to inquire whether that agitation was greater or less than in 1829, but it was of so great an extent, and threatened such dangerous consequences, that there was no one who did not feel the necessity of some measure to repress the evil. It is not necessary for me to go further than to the repeated calls made on me for some measure of this nature for a long period before it was introduced. The meetings, that are the subject of this enactment, have been held generally in districts which there is no reason for proclaiming. As it is almost impossible that meetings should continue to be held in such districts, the question is, whether we shall continue this provision of the law with regard to them. After carefully considering the subject, I am of opinion, that the measure may, with perfect safety to its general efficiency, be limited in the way now proposed by these Amendments, and I shall therefore give them my support. I have been called on to state whether Ireland is in an improved state. In some districts there has been some improvement, but not in all, and not enough to justify the remission of this measure. During the last circuit, Juries 1300 have performed their duty better than they did formerly, but still it is frequently impossible to carry the law fully into effect, in consequence of the difficulty of getting witnesses to come forward. I have a letter from one of the highest law authorities in Ireland, stating that the very expectation of this Bill has produced a most salutary effect, and when carried into execution, I hope it will be found to answer its purpose. That being the case, I appeal to your Lordships whether I am liable to be attacked for inconsistency—to be accused of abandoning principles, or to be charged with acting in contradiction to the necessity of the case, if, in this particular instance of limitation, I propose to you to acquiesce in the Amendments that have been agreed to in the House of Commons—Amendments which, I think, may be adopted with safety, and without diminishing the efficiency of the Bill? What was the object of this Bill in the first instance? It was to institute Courts-martial, for the purpose of preventing the punishment of death from being visited upon those who did their duty as Jurymen or witnesses. The Amendments will not diminish the power of Courts-martial in that respect; and as to the taking away from me, and giving to the noble Earl opposite that popularity which he now seems so earnestly to desire, I must be content to suffer the loss in consequence of having done my duty, and must permit the noble Earl to receive all the advantage of it. I do think that the Amendments now proposed may be agreed to, consistently with the principles stated by the noble Earl and the noble Lord opposite, and consequently it is their duty to assent to these Amendments. It is on these grounds generally that I shall assent to them. It was with the deepest regret, that I found myself compelled to propose the measure. Feeling the necessity of it, I did not shrink from doing my duty, however painful that duty was, and consistently with that principle I would not preserve part of the Bill which can be safely done away with.
§ The Duke of Wellington
either had not understood the original provisions of the Bill before it underwent alteration, he would not call it amendment, in the other House, or the noble Earl had not fully stated its existing powers. It appeared to him that according to the original provisions of the Bill, as it was introduced to 1301 their Lordships' House, there were three modes of dealing with the particular offence of assembling after the Proclamation Act, two of which related to meetings in districts not proclaimed under the second portion of the Bill, and the other to offences in districts which were proclaimed. The first of these modes related to summary convictions before two Magistrates, according to the Bill of 1829; the second to convictions according to the ordinary course of common law; and the third related to convictions by Courts-martial in districts proclaimed under the operation of the second part of the Bill. Now what was the alteration which the Bill had undergone? Why that, whether the offence was committed in a part of the kingdom that was not proclaimed or in a district that was proclaimed—whether it was committed in such a manner as that, under the original Bill, it might be tried in a summary way before two Magistrates, or whether it might have come under the jurisdiction of a Court-martial—it was in every case to be tried according to the common law. Was not this, he asked, a complete revolution in principle? The preamble of the Bill, if such an amendment was adopted, should be altered, if it went to state the expediency of certain measures which the details would not contain. The preamble expressly placed the trial of offences connected with the holding of unlawful assemblies in proclaimed districts to Courts-martial, and in districts not proclaimed by the ordinary courts appointed to try misdemeanors. But what was the alteration made by the House of Commons? Why, it completely put an end to the power of trial by summary process, and provided that the offence, even in proclaimed districts, should not be tried either in a summary manner by two Magistrates, or by Courts-martial, but by the ordinary courts of common law. Now he felt called upon to say that, if the courts of common law were found capable of doing any business whatever, they were capable, if properly exercised, and ought to be used, in discharging all the judicial functions of the country. He repeated that, if the courts of common law were now found adequate for the trial of offences connected with illegal assemblies, they ought to be deemed equally adequate for the trial of all manner of violations of the law, and Courts-martial 1302 ought not to be employed at all. If, however, on the contrary, it were true that Courts-martial were requisite for the discharge of the judicial business of the country—if it were true that owing to intimidation neither Jurors nor witnesses could be obtained, and if it were true that the ordinary tribunals could not be relied upon for the vindication of the law, their Lordships ought not to shrink from doing that which was necessary, however harsh, nor suffer a measure which they believed called for, to be idly frittered away. The question to be considered was, whether justice could be administered in proclaimed districts without having recourse to military tribunals? If it could, Courts-martial should not be called into existence at all. If such a hope, however, could not be obtained, and if it were necessary to establish military tribunals, he took upon himself to say they would be useless unless they were vested with the powers to try the particular species of offence to which the Amendment under consideration referred, as well as every other species of offence which under the other provisions of the Act, might come before them.
thought that the noble Duke had in some measure mistaken the question. The noble Duke argued as if those Amendments which were now the subject of discussion went to take away all the provisions of the Bill, which were adapted to give effect to the law in Ireland. The noble Duke, at the conclusion of his observations, had put a sort of dilemma, in which he supposed the Ministers to be involved. The noble Duke said, that if the ordinary law were sufficient to put down those offences. Courts-martial was not required; if it were not, and Courts-martial were established, then said the noble Duke, you ought not to go back to the common law. But that dilemma could not be sustained. It was not stated that the institution of Courts-martial was every where necessary. The provisions contained in the other parts of the Bill would have the effect of giving protection to people in those parts of the country which were not proclaimed, and would enable the courts of law there to do their duty with effect. But such was not likely to be the case in the proclaimed districts, and therefore, though the Courts-martial might be indispensable in one place and for one class of offences, they 1303 might not be required in another and for another species of crime. He believed there had existed, and he was sorry to say, that he believed there did still exist, a most unexampled state of disorganization in many parts of Ireland. The unfortunate people of that country had been oppressed with an iron tyranny such as no other part of the world had ever seen since the days of Robespierre. The Bill was still necessary, although not as a measure of coercion, but of protection to the unfortunate people. His noble friend at the head of the Government said, that he was not desirous of carrying it further than he was absolutely compelled to do, and was he therefore to be described as giving up the Bill altogether? His noble friend did not wish to lose sight of those principles which ought not to be broken in upon except in case of absolute necessity, and which ought to be infringed no further than the limits which that necessity positively prescribed. The question had not been argued as fairly by other noble Lords as by the noble Duke, but had been argued as a matter of personal blame to the noble Earl at the head of the Government. They were asked why the Bill had been introduced in that House? and they were told in effect, that if they were now to adopt these Amendments they would be bringing their own House into disrespect. The noble Earl opposite had spoken much of the Constitution. Was that one of the principles of the Constitution which the noble Earl would rather suffer death than violate, to refuse to consent to Amendments made in a Bill by the House of Commons? At least, it was not supposed to be so in the other House, where Amendments made by their Lordships in a Bill relating to Trial by Jury had been readily adopted. It was, indeed, one of the advantages of the Constitution, that a measure brought into one House was corrected afterwards by the examination of the other. He did not consider that the Bill had received any such alterations in the other House as would render it inefficacious. A considerable effect had already been produced in Ireland by the mere announcement of this measure, which, for his own part, he considered was required by, and still adapted to the situation in which Ireland was now placed. The noble Earl stated, that he understood the trials on the late circuits had produced satisfactory results—that there was at 1304 length freedom of opinion and of action—that Jurors were not afraid, nor witnesses intimidated. But the real question was, if there were perfect freedom, would not more cases have been brought forward for trial? Were prosecutors in that situation which they ought to be? He would state one remarkable fact which occurred lately. It was a prosecution against a police officer for murder, in which the relatives of the deceased had to appear in the character of public prosecutors. Allowance ought certainly to be made for the natural feelings of individuals in such circumstances; but these feelings were carried too far when they attacked the prerogatives of the Crown, in such a way as had rarely or ever been done, by challenging every Juror from whom an impartial verdict might be expected. When the Jury were impanelled, the prosecutors thought that Roman Catholics were more likely to give a verdict according to their wishes than Protestants, and in consequence nine jurors of the former and three of the latter persuasion, were sworn in. The party was acquitted, as he was in fact blameless; that showed, he admitted, an improved state of feeling. He had very strong hopes that this Bill would not be required to be put in force in any single instance; but that did not prove that it was not necessary to enact it. He would beg their Lordships to consider the description of crime to which it was still applicable—that almost every case which could possibly arise, connected with the intimidation of witnesses, or the attempt to turn public functionaries from their duties, was embraced by it. All these offences were met by its provisions. Though founded on the Proclamation Act of 1829, it went much farther, and was far more comprehensive in its nature; for it gave the Lord Lieutenant the means, when the ordinary powers could not reach offenders, of directly attacking and putting an end to outrage. It gave great facilities for carrying the common law into effect in the districts where it was yet in force, and in any other parts of the country it gave military courts as they were properly called, power over all those offences which impeded the administration of justice. What had been the state of Ireland for the last twelvemonths? Not merely had the ill-disposed been rioting in every kind of lawlessness, but they compelled others to join in their train—the well disposed, 1305 who were anxious to fulfil their duties—to pay their rents—to be peaceable, loyal, and good subjects, had been in many instances forced into a reluctant concert with evil doers. It was to put an end to this frightful state of things, that the Bill had been brought in; and without stating that all the alterations were absolute improvements in the Bill, he would still say that it was a good Bill, and sufficient for the purpose. He was satisfied to take it as it was, being convinced that it would preserve peace, ensure order, and protect life; and he therefore put it to their Lordships whether, under such circumstances, they would do anything to defeat or impair it?
§ Lord Wynford
said, if he believed that there was such a happy change in the constitution of society in Ireland as to justify these changes in the Bill, he should feel it his duty to oppose every Amendment, and in order to procure the rejection of the Bill, because he would never wantonly consent to the violation of the established Constitution of the country. But he did not think that any change of a salutary nature had taken place on which they could congratulate themselves. He would beg to state that the averment of the noble Lord, that it was exceedingly doubtful if the Bill would ever be put in force, in consequence of the Amendment in the state of the country, was to him a source of uneasiness. If a noble Lord in another place had been correctly reported, he had described this supposed improvement as the very circumstance which was of the most alarming character. And in that opinion he (Lord Wynford) most certainly agreed; for it was a calm of a delusive and portentous nature, and only showed the immense and unwholesome control which certain individuals could exercise over their fellow-countrymen. It was evident there were persons of influence sufficient to suppress their angry passions, and almost on the instant to make them quiescent and apparently obedient to the law, but who, when it suited their purpose, could bring them forward in most formidable array—a thing which he denounced as wholly inconsistent with the peace and good government of the country. But in reference to this boasted improvement, he would beg to ask whether the case of the Rev. Mr. Doyle, whose trial at Naas, which had been published in the papers of that 1306 morning, had been read by their Lordships, and whether it showed any features which should induce their Lordships to consent to this Amendment made by the Commons? That Rev. gentleman had been indicted for publishing seditious libels and attending illegal meetings, and the second count, for being present at such meetings, applied to the part now under consideration. This Rev. gentleman, who talked of getting rid of all tithes, and who attacked the Aristocracy in every way, would have been as he expected convicted; but after four hours deliberation the Rev. gentleman had been acquitted. Now he considered that unlawful assemblies, in the present temper of Ireland, were, of all things in the world, her greatest curse, and ought, above all things, to be vigorously met and resolutely put down. How could the fidelity of the preamble be maintained under these alterations? What did it complain of? Why, that there were unlawful assemblies which afflicted and disturbed the country. Then, he contended, that these unlawful and tumultuous assemblages were the worst part of the grievances of Ireland, and ought not to have been withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the Courts-martial If they wanted evidence of the injurious tendency of these meetings, let them look to the last eighteen months, ever since another individual of the name of Doyle had written a certain letter, which had produced dissension and disturbance as surely as thunder followed lightning. These offences were the foundation of all others—they were the parents of all the outrage and all the intimidation which had lately prevailed; and if they could not be tried by the ordinary course of the law, as the noble Premier had at first stated, and which had not since been contradicted, they ought to be assigned for decision to the Courts-martial. These meetings were all for political purposes, and all in their consequences contributed to the disruption of society. If such meetings were not to be attacked, punished, and put down, it was a mere mockery to pass this Bill, and it would be wise to come to some understanding at once and reject it. He should oppose to the utmost any attempt to destroy the Church of Ireland because he was bound to protect his Sovereign, and his Sovereign was bound to protect that Church. Now any attempts to injure or destroy that, or to 1307 intimidate its Ministers, were political offences, and the King, as parens patriœ, was bound to take every measure to defend it, and their Lordships, as the great supporters of the Throne, were called upon to assist him in maintaining order and enforcing justice. If they could not do this by the ordinary law they were bound to go beyond it, no matter for what offence. They ought, then, after the statement of the noble Earl at the head of the Government, to decide on these political offences at once. If they withdrew thorn from the Courts-martial Clause, the Bill was merely a bit of waste paper. It was folly to talk of murders and maraudings only being subject to such courts. They could not re-animate the murdered body—they could not restore vigour to the limb when the mortal blow had been given by the midnight assassin; but they could prevent those tumultuous meetings which first gave birth to such enormities, which engendered such atrocities, which excited such evil and such horrid passions, and they ought to do so. He was satisfied that the Bill, as formerly sent down from that House, was a necessary, a just, and an efficient measure, wholly equal to its end. It was not so now. He had a high respect for the other House; but he had also a proper respect for that House to which he had the honour to belong; and he therefore called upon their Lordships to respect their own privileges, and not give way on the present occasion, by agreeing to Amendments winch were at once unwise and uncalled for.
The Earl of Wicklow
hoped no one would suppose that any objections had been taken to the Amendments, in consequence of their being more lenient than the original provisions of the Bill. Such, he was convinced, was not the case; and he had heard with pleasure from his Majesty's Ministers that the Bill, as it now stood, was competent to their wishes; that under such a Bill, they would be able to maintain peace and security in Ireland. He must say, however, that the noble Earl at the head of the Government, had placed their Lordships in a very difficult position. As the responsible Minister of the Crown, the noble Earl had brought in a Bill of extraordinary, if not unprecedented, severity; and their Lordships, reposing perfect confidence in the positive statement of the noble Earl as to its abso- 1308 lute necessity, had adopted the measure. But now, after a period of six weeks, the noble Earl brought forward the same measure, if so it was to be called, but greatly and most essentially altered, and asked their Lordships' concurrence with the alterations, on the ground that the state of Ireland was altered, and that the discussions in another place had thrown a new light upon the subject. Of such conduct the House had surely a right to complain. It was evident, that either the noble Earl (Grey) when he made his first statement was ignorant of the real state of Ireland, or that knowing the state of Ireland, he had asked for a measure as absolutely necessary, which he now said was not absolutely necessary, or even justifiable. If any improvement had taken place in Ireland since the bringing forward of this Bill, it was occasioned by the confidence which the mooting of such a measure had given to the well-disposed part of the community in the Government. But a short time back, the peaceable and the loyal had felt themselves left at the mercy of the ruffian; but when they saw this measure brought forward, they concluded that the Government meant to assert its supremacy for the security of the people, and under that conviction they had given their exertions to maintain the law. That, he contended, was a strong reason for maintaining the disposition first evinced. Nothing short of it on the part of the Legislature would give peace to Ireland. In its present shape, the Bill was greatly impaired. The noble Earl said, it was as efficient as when it was sent to the Commons, and fully equal to the wants of the Government. If it would enable the Government—if, as the Ministers said upon their responsibility, that with the Bill, as amended, they could maintain peace, and secure property and life in Ireland—he had no objection to it; but he must deny, that the Bill, as amended, was calculated to effect what the original Bill would have effected. The original Bill brought two distinct classes of persons within its scope. First, the political agitator, against whom, indeed, the strongest passages in the noble Earl's speech on introducing the Bill had been directed. In the second place, all persons in proclaimed districts, who should be absent from their houses in the night time. Whereas, now, the only persons who would be amenable to be tried under the measure 1309 were those who had actually been guilty of violence, such as midnight incendiaries and assassins. He repeated, however, that he was glad to hear, from Ministers, that the Bill, with all its material alterations, was adequate to the maintenance of peace and security in Ireland; and he had only to regret that the noble Earl (Grey) had before so completely misled their Lordships, by his positive declaration of the absolute necessity of so great a departure from the Constitution as he then proposed.
§ Viscount Melbourne
maintained, that the Bill still gave abundant power to the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland to put down illegal meetings. The meetings, the proceedings at which, in the Bill as it originally stood, were to be brought within the purview of Courts-martial, were only meetings in proclaimed districts. Now it was well known, that the principal body aimed at by the Bill was the Volunteers. But meetings of the Volunteers were very rarely held in these districts likely to be proclaimed, so that the efficiency of this Bill was not diminished as regarded them. It was true that an improvement had manifested itself in the state of Ireland, and that Juries had lately done their duty; and he agreed with the noble Earl, that one cause of that improvement was the encouragement given to the well-disposed, by the introduction of the Bill into Parliament. But it was not less true, that while the convictions were going on to which he alluded, outrages were prevailing to an extent which proved that the ordinary laws were not enough to repress them. He could not admit, that that House at all compromised its dignity, by agreeing to amendments which proceeded from the other House. All that their Lordships ought to do, was to consider whether those Amendments were right or not; and, if right, to agree to them. But it was maintained by the noble Earl (if his objections meant anything), that the Bill ought to be brought in precisely as it was ultimately to pass. Did the noble Earl ever know a Bill of severity of this kind go through both Houses of Parliament without receiving sufficient modifications? was not that the case with the Bills of 1794? And did not the measures known by the name of the Six Acts undergo this most material alteration, that their operation was confined to meetings in the open air?
§ The Duke of Wellington
complained, that the provisions of the Bill were now inconsistent with the preamble, and that those meetings against which it was declared in the preamble, that some extraordinary measure of legislation was necessary, were now not included in the operation of the Bill, but were submitted to a different mode of punishment. If, however, his Majesty's Ministers conceived that the measure, in its present form, was sufficient for the purpose in view, he, for one, would not wish them to carry it one iota further. He did not complain of the Amendments, but he complained of the inconsistency of the preamble with the provisions of the Bill.
The Marquess of Lansdown
observed, that even if the Amendments exposed the framers of the Bill to the charge of inconsistency, and they were at the same time thought right, they ought to be adopted. But he denied the validity of the noble Duke's argument. No difference whatever had been made in the mode of punishment, the only difference was in the mode in which guilt was to be ascertained. If it were discovered that only one case out of one hundred of those to which the provisions of the Bill originally applied, did not need the application of extraordinary powers, that case ought to be removed, and restored to the dominion of the ordinary law. If there was one thing of which he was more confident than another, it was this, that if their Lordships passed the Bill as it stood, they would hear no more of those assemblies which all parties agreed were destructive of the peace and prosperity of Ireland.
The Earl of Roden
said, that when the noble Earl (Earl Grey) first introduced the measure in February, one of the strongest arguments he pressed upon the House was the necessity of adopting some measure which should enable the Government to put down the political agitators. Now, however, the noble Earl took quite a different view. It was now thought necessary only to arrest and punish the dupes of the agitators, and to leave the agitators to be dealt with by that which the noble Earl had expressly declared to be incompetent to their suppression, the common law. For his own part there was but one Amendment upon which he should feel it his duty to take the sense of their Lordships, and that occurred in 1311 the fourth clause, and respected the clergy. With respect to the Bill itself, as sent to the House of Commons and as it now appeared, what had been said of the month of March might with justice be applied to it—it went in like a lion and came out like a lamb. He was not unwilling to admit some benefit had already arisen out of the measure in the security which it promised to witnesses and Jurors, and the consequent confidence which it inspired in those classes of persons. It was to it he in a great measure ascribed the attendance of Jurors at the last Assizes, but he feared that those good effects would be neutralized by the Amendments which were made in the Bill. This was a view of the case which their Lordships ought not to forget, and they should take especial care that none of the benefits which the Bill had produced should be in any way frustrated. He was free to confess that the Bill was a measure of unprecedented harshness, and could only be justified by the necessity of the case. The Bill was a Whig Bill, but it was not on that account he found fault with it but because of the injudicious alterations, How could the noble Earl opposite and his colleagues justify those alterations? What had occurred since it had been introduced into that House to change the opinion of his Majesty's Ministers? They could not say that the state of Ireland was different now to what it was in February. If the Bill was justifiable at that time it was so up to the present moment. If it were not, in the opinion of his Majesty's Ministers, justifiable at that time, they were guilty of a great injustice to that House in throwing the odium of so harsh a measure upon their Lordships' shoulders. It was unfair towards their Lordships to make them appear the originators of unnecessarily harsh measures, and then to propose or admit of modifications to such measures elsewhere. But, in point of fact, there was no just reason for those alterations. The state of Ireland continued still equally alarming, as was proved by insurrectionary outrages of all descriptions. These were becoming every day more numerous and notorious; and authentic statements of them were every day published and were known to both Houses of Parliament. The Bill, too, was called for by the peaceable, the loyal, and respectable portions of the Irish community. Their Lordships 1312 would see, from the Resolutions entered into by the Lord-lieutenants, Noblemen, Sheriffs, Magistrates, and gentry of Kilkenny, how much the Bill was desired in that part of Ireland; and yet, notwithstanding such testimony in favour of the efficacy of the Bill in its original shape, they had it now brought down to them from the other House, frittered away and deprived of some of its most essential points. In fact the Bill was now almost nothing. It would be wholly inoperative in what he considered its vital features. He saw nothing at all to gratify him in the changes that were made—nothing to redeem or compensate the advantages which were thrown away. The tendency of those alterations must necessarily be to throw odium on the aristocracy, to give them an unjust character for severity and harshness, and to give credit to others for mild and conciliatory dispositions. However that might be, there was another objection to those Amendments, which, in the mind of every friend to order, was of great importance. The great object of the Bill was to put down agitation, and most willingly did he give his support to a measure having that object in view. When he supported the Bill he chiefly approved of that clause which was directed against agitation and agitators and he had no doubt but that it would be retained; it was therefore with great regret he perceived that an alteration had been made under which the great agitators would escape, though their unfortunate dupes might be handed over to a Court-martini. There was no one subject upon which their Lordships ought to be more resolute than in suppressing agitation in Ireland; if it continued the Catholics would be emboldened by success, while the Protestants would be disgusted by the repeated disappointment of their hopes of protection. These feelings might create the most disastrous results. Their Lordships might rest assured that nothing was more conducive to the peace and security of Ireland, and to the integrity of the empire, which depended so much upon the Union of the two countries, than making a marked distinction between the two great parties in Ireland. The protection of the Protestant interest by the British Legislature was essential to the maintenance of the Union; and if ever they should, through disgust or disappointment, coalesce with the other party 1313 it would be utterly impossible to prevent a Repeal of the Union, or, in other words, a dismemberment of the Empire. He objected to those Amendments on several grounds, and on none more particularly than that the higher classes of agitators and offenders were exempted from summary jurisdiction and military tribunals, whilst their humbler dupes, led on by artifice, operating unfortunately too often upon distress, would be handed over to those tribunals which he had hoped were intended principally for the punishment of the ringleaders. He did not mean to divide the House upon the Amendment, but if any noble Lord proposed its rejection he should have his support.
remarked, that half a million of people in England had petitioned against the passing of the Bill at all. It was a measure which certainly established a tremendous gulf between England and Ireland. He certainly did not mean to say, that the Bill was not necessary, but he deeply deplored that necessity, feeling, as he did, that Ireland ought to be governed by other means than by the sword.
§ Earl Grey
denied that his conduct was justly liable to the charge which had been preferred against it. He certainly should have done very wrong if he had proposed any measure stronger than what the necessity of the case seemed to him at the time to require. But after much consideration, the Bill which he had had the honour to introduce to their Lordships was framed in conformity with what that necessity appeared to justify, and had been adopted by their Lordships in consequence of his statement. It then went to the other House of Parliament, which had an undoubted right to make what alterations in the Bill they thought proper. For those alterations he was not responsible. Some of them he wished had not been made. But when the Bill came back with these alterations, it was for their Lordships to consider whether it was not still sufficient for its purpose. That was the true ground on which the question stood. A noble Earl had alleged that the course which had been adopted was calculated to blacken the aristocracy in the minds of the people. If that reproach was applicable to the House for adopting the measure, how much more applicable must it be to him who proposed the measure? But he must deny that either the House or the 1314 individual who was then addressing them was justly subject to the reproach. When the Bill came from the other House of Parliament with alterations, it was their Lordships' duty to examine those alterations; and if they considered them beneficial, to adopt them. And even if they considered those alterations objectionable, yet not so objectionable as to warrant risking the loss or the delay of the Bill, they would then pay a proper deference to the other branch of the Legislature, as well as to their duty to the public, by agreeing to the alterations. He did not think that this alteration with respect to Courts-martial materially affected the Bill. These were the only alterations made in the first part of the Bill, and he did not think that they militated against its efficiency. He now approached the second part; and though there were numerous alterations made in it, yet they were not of any particular importance, with the exception of that which limited the power of the Lord-lieutenant, so that he could not apply the provisions of the Act to districts merely because tithes had not been paid. That clause had certainly made a great change in the operation of the Bill, but he hoped that the difference was not so great as to prevent their Lordships from passing it. With respect to the preamble, he thought that it was strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Bill. It stated that the laws now in force had been found inadequate to the prompt and effectual suppression of the disturbances, and that the interposition of Parliament was necessary, for the purpose of checking their further progress and to maintain the peace. He conceived that that had been fully made out, and the provisions of the Bill would carry it into effect. He agreed in opinion with the petitioners from Kilkenny, who stated in their last resolution that the least possible delay should be allowed to intervene in passing the measure into a law. He thought that the Bill, as amended, would have the effect of tranquillizing Ireland; and he was sure that the noble Duke opposite (than whom there could not be a higher authority on military matter) would declare that, with the Bill as it then stood in his hand, he would answer for the peace of that country. He would conclude by saying, that it was for their Lordships to say whether they would receive the Bill as amended, or whether they would reject any, or which 1315 of the Amendments made in the other House.
§ Clause with Amendments agreed to.
§ Several verbal Amendments were agreed to. On the Question being put, on the omission of the words in the 4th clause "shall be cognizable by any Court appointed as hereinafter mentioned, and if not committed within any such district—"
rose and said, that undoubtedly the Amendment in this clause made a great alteration in the working of the Bill: inasmuch as those attending meetings were only liable to be punished at common law as the clause now stood, whereas they could be punished summarily as the clause stood formerly. He recollected that when he formerly objected to the clause, it was said, that as the punishment inflicted was less than that awarded at common law, it would operate better than if more severe punishment were ordained, in consequence of the summary jurisdiction under which it might be awarded. He did not conceive that the clause, as amended, was more favourable to liberty than formerly, but quite the reverse. Though it was generally proper to confine observations to the clause under discussion, he thought it worthy of observation at that time, how unequally the Bill acted. By the 22nd clause it was enacted, that every person who should injure the property or person of any one who had appeared as a juror, witness, or prosecutor, or for the purpose of any prosecution or civil proceeding, or who by menaces, or otherwise, should deter any one from appearing as a juror, witness, &c., or otherwise, should be triable for such offence, if committed within any proclaimed district, by a Court-martial, and on conviction be liable to transportation for seven or fourteen years. This brought the poorer classes under the jurisdiction of Courts-martial, while the great agitators, who were the cause of the disturbances, were specially excepted by the clause then under consideration. If the alterations in the Bill had been made in the other House, contrary to the wishes of Government, and by an overwhelming majority of that House, then the Ministers and their Lordships would all be placed in the same situation. But that was not the case. Ministers not only agreed to many material changes, but they even suggested some amendments themselves. They must, therefore, have offered a measure for their 1316 Lordships' adoption, which was either inadequate to the case in point, or which they were not justified in passing. He did not like that provision of the Bill which enacted that the poor should be tried by Courts-martial, while the great agitators were tried by common law. It was not consistent with ordinary justice—it was not calculated to raise their Lordships in the opinion of the country—nor was it consistent with the grounds on which the noble Earl had founded his case for the necessity of the additional powers conferred on the Government by the Bill.
§ Earl Grey
said, that the noble Baron had endeavoured to create the impression that the Ministers were dealing leniently towards the great agitators, who caused the disturbances, while they oppressed the poor who only acted as their followers. He was convinced that the sense of the country would reject the imputation which the noble Baron endeavoured to cast upon Ministers. The noble Baron would allow that there was a difference between the culprit who practised midnight outrages, and plotted in secret, and him who went boldly in the face of the law, and that different modes of punishment were applicable to the two species of crime. That was the reason why the difference drawn between him who maliciously injured property, or deterred a juror from attending on any trial, or any offence of that sort—and the agitator. And as a proof that these agitators themselves did not consider that they were favoured by the measure, he might mention that persons addicted to such practices were those most opposed to its enactments. He thought, therefore, that whether their Lordships adhered to the clause as amended or not, they would acquit his Majesty's Government of any intention to truckle to the great agitators. He now came to the part of the noble Lord's statement which regarded the taking the power of summary punishment from the Justices of the Peace. The question was, whether the increased punishment would not he sufficient to answer the ends of justice. In his opinion it would; especially as any Magistrate, Peace Officer, or other person, authorized by the Lord-lieutenant, could commit to prison any one found out of his house at certain hours, or who contravened the provisions of the Act. If the punishment of the common law were found effectual, he could not but consider it desirable that it 1317 should be adhered to, as there was always a prejudice entertained against a conviction by a Magistrate without the intervention of a Jury. He, therefore, thought that their Lordships would consider that the Amendment might be agreed to, without destroying the efficacy of the Bill.
§ The Amendment agreed to.
§ Several verbal amendments agreed to—Upon the Amendment to the 4th clause being read, which provides that it shall not be in the power of the Lord-lieutenant to apply the provisions of the Bill merely because tithes had not been paid.
§ Earl Grey
said, that he could not but acknowledge that he approached that Amendment with great regret. He hoped, however, that the difference which it made in the operation of the Bill was not such as would induce their Lordships to reject the whole Bill. He, however, saw no greater difficulty in adopting the provision than that it was useless and clearly inoperative.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, that he objected to the Amendment because it was inconsistent with the previous part of the clause. The commencement of the clause gave the Lord-lieutenant the power of declaring a district in a state of insubordination, and then the clause went on to say that it should not be lawful for the Lord-lieutenant to apply the provisions of this act to any county or district merely because tithes should not have been paid. But a county or district might be disturbed in consequence of outrages arising from tithes, and it was surely not intended that the Lord-lieutenant was not then to proclaim the district. The Amendment at the end therefore did not take from the Lord-lieutenant the power given by the first part of the clause, though it appeared to do so, as far as tithes were concerned. But that was not his greatest objection to the clause. He objected to it more particularly because it gave the sanction of Parliament to a most improper distinction between tithes and other property, and deprived the clergy of that protection which was extended to every other class of his Majesty's subjects. He objected to it too, as the clause, if it meant anything went to put down tithes; and if it did not mean that, it meant nothing. Two years ago a party in Ireland had determined that tithes should be put down, and the Legislature had passed an Act to defeat their intentions, and compel the payment 1318 of tithes, yet that very Act was now to be defeated by the clause in question. Why did not the framers of the Bill begin their preamble with "Whereas it is expedient that no payment of tithe shall take place in Ireland." It would have been better to have done so at once, than thus to wink and connive at the injustice to which the Irish clergy were to be subjected by the Bill. There was another amended clause to which he would make some allusion—namely, that which related to combination to defeat the law. It was to the following effect:—" Provided always, that it shall not be lawful for any such Court-martial to convict or try any person for any offence whatsoever committed at any time before the passing of this Act: provided also, that nothing in this Act shall be deemed or taken to give to such Court-martial any power or jurisdiction to try any person or persons charged or to be charged with the printing, publishing, or circulating of any libel, or with any combination or confederacy contrary to the provisions of the said recited Statute of the 27th year of the reign of King George 3rd, or with any prevention or obstruction of any person, or any act to defraud any person in the assertion or enforcement of any civil right or claim contrary to the provisions of the said last-mentioned Statute, unless such combination or prevention, obstruction, or act, shall be accompanied by force or by threats; but that all such offences, unaccompanied by force or threats as aforesaid, shall remain triable according to the course of the common law." Their Lordships would bear in mind that Courts-martial could try no man except directed so to do by the Lord-lieutenant. They would also bear in mind, that the Legislature passed the Act 27th of George 3rd, referred to in the Clause for the protection of this species of property in the clergy. It contained this clause:—" And be it enacted, that any person who shall, voluntarily, enter into any unlawful combination or confederacy to defraud any clergy man of the Church of Ireland, or lay impropriator, of any tithes or dues, or any part thereof, or obstruct him in the collection thereof, or shall, by force, threats, or other unlawful means, prevent any clergyman, or lay impropriator, or any person or persons employed by him, from selling or disposing of any tithes, or do any act to defraud any clergyman or lay impropriator, of his tithes, or any part thereof, &c." Now it would be 1319 seen by the clause he had before quoted, that the Lord-lieutenant had the power to Older all other offences to be tried before Courts-martial; but he was not allowed to order offences connected with the collection of tithes, so that the clergy were not to have the same protection as the rest of his Majesty's subjects. He said it would be disgraceful if such an Act found a place on the Statute-book. He wished the sentiment embodied in those never-to-be-forgotten words which fell from the lips of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, at the beginning of the Session, a allusion to the Bill, had been acted on in the present instance. The noble and learned Lord then expressed himself in the following terms:—'The duties between the subject and the Government were reciprocal, and that Legislature, in which was vested the supreme power of the State, had no right to claim obedience to the law, nor had the Crown any right to claim allegiance, until that Legislature should secure, and that Crown command, complete and effectual protection for the life, liberty, and property of the subject. That Legislature was to be deemed as having abandoned its functions, and that Crown was to be considered in the hands of a usurper, and not qualified to claim allegiance, from the very moment it could be shown that the protection of the subject was at an end'.* He must contend that, if ever there was a case in which the protection of the Legislature was required for a body of men who willingly paid allegiance to the Crown, this was the case; and that, if ever there was a case in which it was clear that protection was refused, merely because it was the Church of Ireland and its property, which consisted principally of tithes, that demanded it, this, too, was that case. He objected to the first Amendment, because it gave a sanction for the spoliation of the Church of Ireland; and to the second, because it took away from the Lord-lieutenant the power of sending any offence which connected itself in any shape with tithe to be tried by Courts-martial. Their Lordships were in the habit of hearing a great deal said about the distress of the people of Ireland. Now, if there were distress in that country, it was attributable to the insecurity of property there, which prevented the rich man from engaging in* Hansard (third series) xv. P. 752.1320 those enterprises which might produce an increase of capital to himself, but were certain to produce an increase of employment to his poor labourers.
The Lord Chancellor
said, if he thought those alterations objected to by the noble Duke could prevent the operation of the Bill, and leave the peaceable and loyal inhabitants unprotected, and deprived of that security which it was the main object of the Bill to give, be could not agree in sanctioning, but must refuse to adopt, such a clause. But because he had no such opinion he would concur in the Amendment. Had such a clause been proposed in that House, he should have agreed to it with great reluctance, because he looked upon it as absolutely and utterly inoperative. With regard to the other clause alluded to by the noble Duke, he did not consider it would, in the smallest degree, impair the efficiency of the measure. For these reasons he could not concur in the opinion expressed by the noble Duke. He had the greatest respect for the quarter whence the Amendment came. The authority of the other House must always carry with it great weight, but, in this instance, he must say he could see no sound reason or argument for the change, and it was with the greatest repugnance that he gave it his support. It would, however, be wholly inoperative, and could not have the slightest effect in modifying the measure, or diminishing that protection which they were bound to give to his Majesty's peaceable subjects. Objection was made to the clause because it did not apply to the peaceable refusal to pay tithes; but might not a complaint on the same grounds be also made, because it did not apply to the peaceable refusal to pay rent or just debts? Why, was it not said, that no district should be declared disturbed and insubordinate, on account of men not paying their tradesmen's bills, or on account of the non-payment of the King's taxes. Why, in short, was the Lord-lieutenant warned, not on any account to take a peaceable and quiet district for a disturbed and insubordinate one. But the patience of their Lordships was already sufficiently exhausted, without his dwelling for a moment longer upon this Amendment, which, in justice to those who proposed it, he must say was not without a precedent; for, he was sorry to observe, that the records of our Statute-book presented numberless instances of over caution, 1321 of contriving how to avoid doubts where doubts could never exist, and of introducing provisoes without any necessity whatever. However indefensible this Amendment might be in other respects, he must say, that it was utterly harmless and innocent. No man's rights were injured by it—no man's privileges were taken away or interfered with by it; and he was not prepared, on account of the Amendment in this clause alone, to dissent from the alterations made by the House of Commons. But it was said, that this Amendment gave an indication as if Parliament had different feelings on the subject of non-payment of tithes, from those which it ought to have; that it countenanced a belief that the Legislature was not so determined as it ought to be to protect all rights of property, and ecclesiastical property as well as any other property. He discovered nothing however in the rest of the measure, in the motives from which it was brought forward, or in the principles upon which it was framed, to give the least reason to suppose that Parliament was not determined, until the law should be changed, so long as the rights of landlords and tenants and of the Church should continue upon their present footing, to give to all those rights, and to all descriptions of property, ecclesiastical and otherwise, the protection to which the law of the land entitled it. And this brought him to consider the last section to which the noble Duke had referred—namely, the restriction of the power of bringing certain cases to trial by Courts-martial, by excepting offences cognizable under the 27th of George 3rd. Upon full consideration of this Amendment, he was inclined to think that those offences were well and wisely exempted from trial by Courts-martial. To this point it was but justice to say that, in his judgment the House of Commons had rather improved the Bill than altered it for the worse, although he confessed that the improvement never occurred to him when the Bill was before their Lordships. From the nature of those cases, he thought, on reflection, that they could not be well taken out of the hands of the ordinary tribunals, For offences of combination and conspiracy were the most nice, the most delicate, and the most difficult for Juries, nay, even for Judges themselves, as well as for Juries; they were, he said, the most difficult questions which in ordinary cases came before 1322 Courts of Justice. The nicety of the evidence and of the matter of the charge, as contrasted with the evidence, inclined him to think that it would be well to keep such cases in the ordinary Courts. But he had a second reason, and it was this; he was sure it was not the wish of the opponents of this Amendment, any more than of its supporters, to bring tithes into greater disrepute and odium than at present attached to then), and he thought that to embody such unpopular tribunals as Courts-martial for the purpose of enforcing tithe, would be to take a very injudicious mode of regaining for them the respect which they had lost in the public mind. A third reason which influenced his judgment upon the effect of this Amendment was, that there was an important limitation to the exception. Whenever these combinations were attended with violence, they were excepted from the exception, and left to be dealt with by the Bill as it originally passed their Lordships' House; that is to say, they were left to the jurisdiction of Courts-martial in proclaimed districts. As to any insinuations that might be thrown out against him, he disregarded them utterly and totally; he was going to say indignantly, but that his indignation was not at all moved by them. If he felt, as he did, a reluctance to resort to such a measure as the present Bill, and if that repugnance was only mitigated, never overcome, by the absolute necessity of the case, which left his Majesty's Government no choice but this measure, or some other equally objectionable; if concurring in the measure on this ground, anything had escaped him, or any oversight had been committed by him or his colleagues in framing the principles of the Bill, or devising the machinery by which they were to be carried into effect, were they to reject the suggestions of others, simply because they had not occurred to themselves, and because some factious or captious persons might say, "You passed these things over, and you are taking a leaf out of other men's books." He would never reject a leaf of another man's book, so that the book were better than his own, and that he had the choice between the two. He would therefore adopt this alteration. Even if it were against his better judgment, he might, perhaps, have been prepared to accede to it as all Ministers acceded to such alterations in all times. 1323 He believed his noble friend, if the noble Baron (Lord Ellenborough) would allow him to call him so, who made on this ground a charge of inconsistency against his Majesty's Government, was pretty nearly the only one at that side of the House who was entitled, if even he was entitled, to bring such a charge against Ministers. He could refer to the Six Acts, in which very important alterations were made; for instance, restricting their operation to meetings in the open air, and rendering them only temporary instead of permanent. These changes were adopted with great reluctance, and no charge of inconsistency was ever breathed against the Government of the day for complying with them. But it was said, that this Bill was totally different from the Bill as it was first brought in, and that it retained none of its effective provisions. What! was it nothing to enable the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland to make the attending any society whatever, whether under cover or in the open air, for whatever purpose convened, and however peaceably conducted, a misdemeanor, and to render the party Punishable for attending at it? But it seemed the Bill made the great agitators free. Yes, if they chose to go to prison they were free; they were free if they chose to attend a meeting which might be innocent or laudable in itself until the proclamation of the Lord-lieutenant made it illegal. But then the agitator was not to be tried by Court-martial, while his dupe, his cat's-paw was. Could any man give any other than one answer to a plain question which he was about to put? Courts-martial were to exist only in proclaimed districts. Now, he asked, could there be any agitation in proclaimed districts? The answer was, that the cat would as soon go voluntarily into the fire, as the other animal thrust himself into a proclaimed district. The Bill was still a very effective one. That alteration in the Bill which enabled the police at any period to ascertain in a short time the inmates of a house by having a list of them, had increased its severity and efficacy. As much had been said against the House of Commons for depriving the Bill of its efficacy, he must do them the justice to say, that in this point they had increased the efficacy of the Bill.
The Duke of Buckingham
complained of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack having employed all his in- 1324 genuity and all his skill to lead the attention of the House away from the point at issue. The noble and learned Lord seemed aware that the month of March had expired, and that he was therefore at liberty to make April fools of their Lordships. Nothing could be so ridiculous, so feeble, so burlesque, as the noble and learned Lord had made this piece of legislation appear, which the noble and learned Lord had nevertheless supported. If he had wanted arguments against this part of the Bill, he should have found them in the statements of the noble and learned Lord and of the noble Earl. That it was totally unnecessary had been proved by the noble and learned Lord. The noble and learned Lord had been prolific in abuse of the clause of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of the right hon. Gentleman who was Secretary for Ireland, and is now Secretary of State for the Colonies, and of the unfortunate Gentleman who proposed, and those who supported the Amendment, though the noble and learned Lord called them his political friends. He should not lavish his abuse upon them in imitation of the noble and learned Lord; he should content himself by saying that the proviso was useless, and mischievous because it was useless. It was to him a strong objection that by it tithes was the only species of property that was not protected by this measure. Those who proposed this proviso seemed to have no objection to give a broad hint to the clergy of Ireland that they were not to be protected. He did not say that there was such an intention on the part of Ministers, but it seemed, by their assenting to this clause, that they had no objection to prostrate the Protestant Church of Ireland. This was, in his opinion, the first step towards the ruin of that Church. Whether it had been well done or not he did not say, but it was by means of that Church that Ireland had been governed; and he desired to know, if its place were not supplied by something equally strong, what was to prevent the separation of the two countries? They must make the King the head of the Catholic Church, or they would not be able to preserve the Union. The Bishop of London agreed with many of the observations which had fallen from the noble Duke. When he had heard the noble Lord on the Woolsack take such pains to demonstrate the absurdity of 1325 this proviso, and its incongruity with the other parts of the Bill, he could not do otherwise than hope that the noble and learned Lord meant to resist it. He agreed with the noble Duke that it would make the Bill inoperative, and worse than inoperative. They were not to judge of the feelings of the Irish by the feelings of well-educated Englishmen. Certainly, the clause would not, in the minds of the English, sanction the non-payment of the dues of the Establishment. They would discriminate between the sanction and the prohibition to the Lord-lieutenant. But the Irish, he was afraid, would suppose that this limitation was meant for a settled purpose, and that purpose, they were likely to suppose, was the encouragement of tithe-payers not to pay tithes. That such would at least be its effect, it was not possible, he believed, to deny. As a minister of the United Church of England and Ireland, he could not sanction the Amendment. The only objection, perhaps, which could be made to rejecting the Amendment was, that it would delay the Bill, and that the Bill was necessary to tranquillize Ireland. But he did not believe that rejecting it would cause any serious delay. It was owing, he understood, to peculiar circumstances and to misapprehension, that the proviso was carried at all. He anticipated, therefore, if the Bill were sent back to the Commons with the clause struck out, that it would occasion no discussion, and he believed would not be followed by a division. If their Lordships divided on the clause, he could not withhold his support from those who objected to this Amendment.
said, that the clause was of trifling importance when taken in conjunction with the rest of the Bill. It did not, in fact, exonerate the non-tithe-payers from any of the enactments or provisions of the Bill, nor was there any disposition in the Government to encourage them not to pay their dues. When an accusation was made, that Ministers sought to prostrate the Protestant Church, their Lordships ought to look at the conduct of Ministers, to see what they had done, and what they proposed to do, and their Lordships would find in that, a complete refutation of the opinion that such was the intention of Ministers. Government, in fact, had brought on itself a great deal of odium, and had exposed itself to much obloquy, by exciting itself to 1326 collect the tithes. Its exertions on that point, he had a right to complain, were not met by that corresponding support from the other side which it was entitled to expect. The clergy, he admitted, were in great distress; but it was by facts—not suppositions or reports in newspapers—that the intentions and conduct of Government should be judged. He was sure that no instance could be adduced in which, the Government had refused to employ the military or civil force to support the clergy. He was of opinion that the clause, as it now stood, gave the clergy much greater protection than they had before. It made the combination to resist tithes liable to be tried by a Court-martial. It was intended to protect, and it would protect, the property of the clergy.
The Bishop of London
wished it to be understood, that his observations had been exclusively confined to the proviso in the fourth clause.
The Duke of Buckingham
could assure the noble and learned Lord that he judged of the Ministers by their acts alone.
§ Lord Wynford
objected to the proviso. There might be a conspiracy in a district to prevent the payment of tithes, while, by this proviso, the Lord-lieutenant would be unable to proclaim it. He considered that the property of the Church was most sacred, and ought to be protected to the utmost.
The Marquess of Westmeath
supported the Amendments, not because he approved of them, but because he thought opposition might delay the Bill, which was much wanted in Ireland.
The Earl of Roden
said, that this was the only Amendment to which he should object. He considered that the clause as it now stood would stultify their Lordships' whole proceedings on this Bill, To him the clause appeared totally unintelligible, useless, and foolish. It was the produce, indeed, of an inveterate feeling against the Protestant clergy. It came from the inveterate enemies of that Church, and he was determined to take the sense of the House upon it. This proviso was originated and supported by gentlemen in the other House, who openly and fairly declared what their object was in carrying-measures of Church spoliation into effect. He found fault with his Majesty's Government for conceding this point—certainly not with the noble Earl personally, but 1327 with the noble Earl's colleagues in the other House, for consenting to a clause which they themselves condemned. His; Majesty's Government now asked their Lordships to consent to a clause, the folly of which they admitted. But if they, found fault with it, they were bound to act upon their opinion; and he trusted they would not, for the sake of a delay of twenty-four hours, suffer so objectionable a proviso to pass. He knew that his Majesty's Ministers were very obnoxious in Ireland. They were obnoxious to both parties; but that they had rendered themselves obnoxious by any exertions which they had made to enforce the payment of tithes he utterly denied. It might be true that the Government never refused any application made by a clergyman for military aid; but that was not enough; something more was required; for there were many clergymen in Ireland who would, and did endure the most severe privation, rather than run the risk of being instrumental in the shedding of human blood. The Government had omitted to give sufficient proof of the wish that tithes should be collected. There was one case which recurred to him at that moment which proved his assertion. A Magistrate of the county of Meath had, some time since, presided at an anti-tithe meeting in a Roman Catholic chapel, where he and those present had entered into resolutions not to pay tithes; and yet that Magistrate still remained in the commission of the peace, though his conduct had been fully represented to his Majesty's Government [Name]. He had no objection to name. The Magistrate who presided was Mr. Taaf, of Meath county. He certainly thought his Majesty's Government had to answer for the present state of things in Ireland. He knew several cases in which farmers had said, "Let the Government show that they are in earnest in wishing tithes to be collected, and we will pay them; but under the present system of intimidation we dare not." He believed that much of the blood which had been shed in Ireland must rest upon the heads of the Government.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
much regretted the alteration made in the other House of Parliament, which was admitted to be perfectly useless. He felt as unwilling to delay this Bill as the noble Earl opposite, but he could not admit that for the sake of a delay of twenty-four hours they were 1328 to permit this clause to remain. It was said on the other side that it was totally inoperative; but though it might be inoperative, it did not therefore follow that it was innocent. When one side admitted it to be absurd, and the other believed it to be far from innocent, he hoped the House would not, for fear of a delay of twenty-four hours, consent to pass the clause in its present state.
§ Earl Grey
entreated the noble Lord and the House not to believe that the rejection of this clause would lead to a delay of twenty-four hours only. The consequence of its rejection would be a conference between the two Houses, and it would be utterly impossible for them to get the Bill through before Easter, unless they sat after Good Friday. So long a delay would be productive of great inconvenience and danger. He did not take upon himself to defend the clause; he agreed with his noble and learned friend on the Woolsack. He much regretted its introduction. But it would not, in the slightest degree, diminish the efficacy of the Bill, for the clause was totally inoperative, and for that reason, and to avoid delay, he was prepared to waive his objections. With regard to the conclusions which would be drawn in Ireland from the introduction of this clause, he thought there had been much exaggeration on the part of those who objected to it. There was nothing like a disposition on the part of the Government to give less protection to tithes than to any other species of property. He quite agreed with his noble friend that they were entitled to equal protection. He denied—he indignantly denied—that the Government had ever refused to give equal protection to tithe-owners as to the owners of other species of property; and if he believed that it would encourage any such delusion as had been stated, he would I most certainly reject the clause. But it would go forth to the country with a complete disclaimer on the part of the Government, and he could not anticipate any such results as had been predicted. He regretted those general observations which had been indulged in, and the general attack which had been made on the members of the Administration; but he would say this, that had those parties who were loudest in blaming the conduct of the Government in Ireland been as anxious to repress the first symptoms of disorder 1329 there, as to avail themselves of them as a means of embarrassing the Ministry, the present measure of coercion would, in all probability, not have been required. The Government was most anxious to suppress disturbance by a vigorous exercise of the powers of the law as they found it, and it was not until they found these powers unavailing, that they felt themselves justified in calling for additional authority. The present Bill left the clergy in full possession of all the powers they now had to collect their tithes, and gave them the same protection that it held out to all other owners of property. He should, therefore, vote for the clause as it stood.
§ The Earl of Harrowby
said, that what had fallen from the right reverend Prelate had rendered it unnecessary for him to state his view of the question. The people of Ireland would look to the parties who proposed the clause, and, knowing that they introduced it with ulterior views, they would believe those ulterior views to have obtained the sanction of Parliament if the clause were suffered to remain. Yet so strongly was he impressed with an apprehension of the evil consequences of delay that be would rather swallow the pill, bitter as it was, than lose time. He thought, however, that the clause might be rendered harmless without requiring the delay supposed by the noble Earl. To make a conference necessary there must be an alteration of the proviso; but, if only certain words were introduced, the Amendment upon the Amendment might be agreed to in the other House and the Bill sent up. The great evil of the clause as it stood was that it made a distinction between tithes and other property. It was admitted, that this distinction would be inoperative, and it had, therefore, occurred to him, that by the introduction of some other grounds of exemption the distinction itself would be destroyed. He should therefore move, after the words which made it not lawful for the Lord-lieutenant to apply the provisions of the Act to meetings relating to the payment of tithes, to insert the words "or rent or taxes."
§ Viscount Melbourne
objected to the Amendment, as likely to lead to a very great discussion and delay. Besides, if it really was the opinion of the noble Lord opposite, that the exception of tithes would create an impression that tithes ought not to be paid, the addition of the 1330 words "rent and taxes" would only have the effect of extending that impression to them.
The Lord Chancellor
could not concur in the proposition of the noble Earl. He quite agreed with his noble friend who spoke last. It would create new grounds of discussion. He was quite confident that the introduction of those words would prove a fruitful source of delay, discussion and opposition in the other House. It had been suggested, that the insertion of those words might induce the peasantry of Ireland to evade rent and taxes as they evaded tithes, and to make then" believe, that the evasion would be looked upon with a lenient eye—such an inference would be most illogical and erroneous; but was not more illogical, or more erroneous than the original supposition that this exception of tithe in any way warranted or justified its non-payment.
§ The House divided on the Amendment, when there appeared—Not content, present 46; proxies 39–85:—Content, present 40; proxies 5–45:—Majority 40.
§ The Clause as amended by the Commons agreed to.
§ On the Amendment on the Clause respecting the search for arms being read.
said, he thought the alteration impaired the efficacy of the Bill. If it was intended that they were not to go into a house and desire the inmates to come forth till the lists were ready, great delay would be occasioned—indeed it must necessarily occupy some time before the census could be made. He would, however, offer no opposition to the Amendment, though he considered it necessary to put on record his opinion upon the subject.
§ The Amendments made by the Commons were all agreed to.
|List of the Not-CONENTS.|
|The Lord Chancellor||EARLS.|
|St. Vincent||Monteagle (Sligo)|
|Foley||Saye and Sele|
|Camperdown||Howard de Walden|
|Durham||Howard of Effingham|
|Grey of Groby||Middleton|
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Clanwilliam (Earl of Clanwilliam)||Lichfield|
|Sheffield (Earl of)|