§ Earl Grey
rose to state the outline of the Bill, of which he had given notice, for the effectual repression of disturbances in Ireland. But previously to proceeding with his statement, he moved, that the part of his Majesty's Speech relating to the disturbed state of Ireland be read. The clerk accordingly read the following passage:—' But it is my painful duty to observe, that the disturbances in Ireland, to which I adverted at the close of the last Session, have greatly increased. A spirit of insubordination and violence has risen to the most fearful height, rendering life and property insecure, defying the authority of the law, and threatening the most fatal consequences, if not promptly and effectually repressed. I feel confident that to your loyalty and patriotism I shall not resort in vain for assistance in these afflicting circumstances, and that you will be ready to adopt such measures of salutary precaution, and to intrust to me such additional powers as may be found necessary for controlling and punishing the disturbers of the public peace, and for preserving and strengthening the Legislative Union between the two countries, which, with your support, and under the blessing of Divine Providence, I am determined to maintain by all the means in my power, as indissolubly connected with the peace, security, and welfare of my dominions.'
§ Earl Grey
My Lords, in conformity 719 with the recommendation contained in the passage which you have just heard read from his Majesty's Speech, I rise to discharge the painful, but necessary duty, of proposing to your Lordships a "Bill for the more effectual Suppression of local Disturbances and dangerous Associations in Ireland." It is, indeed, my Lords, most painful to learn the extent and violence of that spirit of insubordination which is stated in his Majesty's Speech to prevail in that country, and which is now manifesting itself in the most lamentable manner, rendering life and property insecure, bidding defiance to the ordinary powers of the law, and threatening, unless speedily and effectually repressed, to produce the most fatal consequences. Still more painful, to me at least, the conviction that there exists no hope of checking the career of outrage in Ireland by the ordinary powers of the law, and that it has become necessary to propose to Parliament to reinforce the Executive Government with additional authority, in order to enable it to perform its first duty—that of protecting the loyal, peaceable, and industrious portion of the community against a daring system of outrage and aggression, threatening them with the most serious dangers. Before I proceed to state the grounds on which it is proposed to rest this measure, or explain to your Lordships the minuter details of its provisions, perhaps it may be fitting that I should state why the usual, though, I believe, by no means the invariable, practice of previously referring the subject to a Committee, in order that the circumstances which are alleged to warrant such proceedings may be inquired into, has not been adopted on the present occasion. The reason is obvious, and lamentably indicative of the state of Ireland, I have not moved for a Committee, because the evils which I am to speak of are, unhappily, so great and so notorious, that it cannot be necessary to prove their existence before any Committee, in order to induce your Lordships to act with promptitude and vigour for their removal. It is not in this case, my Lords, against the existence of a secret conspiracy, acting under the mask of privacy, and directing its dark attacks in silence against the Government—it is not against any proceedings or operations, fatal to the maintenance of peace and good order, the source of which is concealed, assailing us we know not from what quar- 720 ter—it is not against the obscure growth of seeds of mischief that shun the light, but diffuse the most baleful influence—that we call upon your Lordships to provide by the measure now to be proposed for your adoption. It is, my Lords, in the first place, to repress a dangerous association, forming itself, I may say, into a Senate, which acts, avowedly, under an organized plan of proceedings, and the efforts of which are directed to the attainment of objects which threaten the peace and safety of the community, and the unity and integrity of this empire; and which, if not immediately suppressed, can only tend to produce the most serious and lamentable misfortunes to the State. It is to put down combinations formed in defiance of the law—against armed bodies acting under an apparent system of organization—committing the most brutal and atrocious outrages, violating the rights of property—inflicting even death—for the double object of intimidation and vengeance—it is to suppress a fearful system of such avowed combinations, that I ask your Lordships to strengthen the hands of the Executive. Of these lawless combinations the effect is also, my Lords, to deter prosecutors from enforcing the law—to prevent witnesses from appearing to give evidence—to intimidate juries from discharging their duty—and, in short, to render the law itself impotent and nugatory, as regards the protection and safety of the well-disposed part of the community. My Lords, these are the dangers against which his Majesty's Government feel themselves called upon to provide; and by which I am required, in the performance of a most painful but imperative duty, to propose to your Lordships to sanction measures that I admit to be of a severe nature—inconsistent with the ordinary forms and principles of the Constitution—and only to be justified by the alarming necessity of the case. But, that necessity existing, his Majesty's Ministers would have been guilty of a dereliction of their duty, had they not come to the resolution of proposing such a measure as the one I am now about to submit to your Lordships. It is not necessary, perhaps, to inquire from what source or from what causes the disorders in question have arisen. As far as they can be traced to the existence of any reasonable or just causes of complaint, I am sure your Lordships will concur with me in thinking that 721 it will be one of our first, and most pleasing duties to provide a remedy for such grievances. But, at the same time that the Legislature and the Government manifest a disposition to correct abuses, and to obviate just causes of complaint—and although they will not desist, notwithstanding the present afflicting situation of affairs, from promoting those plans of relief which they feel it to be their duty, as it is their great anxiety, to accomplish—it is yet necessary, in the first place, that the authority of the law should be vindicated—that those who have offended against it should be taught that, pending the work of redress, it will not be permitted them to rush into the commission of violence and crime; that peace and order should be restored and reestablished, that society in Ireland may be placed in that condition of security and quiet which is necessary for the full and fair discussion of any plans of relief, and the ultimate accomplishment of such ends. I am unwilling to detain your Lordships with the melancholy story of the disturbances which rage in Ireland, well known as the circumstances are to your Lordships; but it is necessary that I should state, in some degree, the facts on which we ground the necessity of proposing to your Lordships the present measure. Notwithstanding the utmost exertion of all the existing powers of the Government in that country, the ordinary execution of the law, on account of circumstances which I shall presently recount to your Lordships, has been hitherto inadequate for the protection of the peaceable part of the community: such has been the effect of those excesses which have now attained so lamentable a height. I have already alluded to the two main facts—matters upon which the consideration of the subject before you may be said to resolve itself—first, the establishment and existence of a society, founded on principles and under a system of organization to promote the accomplishment of ends which are absolutely inconsistent with the peace and security of the empire. It is hardly necessary, perhaps, that I should call your Lordships to the new association formed in that country. When I say the new association, perhaps I use an improper term, for it is evident that, under a new name, it is only the revival of a society which has already existed for many years. The association I mean is 722 that of the "Volunteers of Ireland." The real object of this association, which professes to be established for the redress of grievances, is neither more nor less than the Repeal of the Legislative Union between the two countries. It has been said, that all the disturbances which have arisen, have arisen from a mere sense of injury, and that reparation of injury, if alone, will be sufficient to restore tranquillity to Ireland. Would to God, my Lords, that I could lay that flattering unction to my soul, that any circumstance arising from past experience, or from the present aspect of affairs, would allow me to indulge in the hope that, by a redress of grievance alone, the peace of Ireland could be reestablished. My Lords, we all remember the Catholic Question. Nobody was more sanguine than I was, in my hope that that great, that preliminary and fundamental measure would have been the beginning of peace and contentment throughout Ireland. My Lords, I say it—the truth obliges me to say it—but I say it with regret and pain, that hope has been grievously disappointed. Nobody indulged in that hope more fervently than I did; nobody ever felt, at the same time, more strongly than I did; and I expressed that feeling in every debate upon the subject—that though this was the necessary, the primary, and fundamental measure, still that that alone would be found insufficient; and that it must be followed by other measures of an alleviating and effectual nature, to repair the injuries of centuries. But I did hope, that that measure having been once passed with such an earnest of the intention of the Legislature and the Government to attend to the just wants and complaints of Ireland, it would have enabled the promoters of that measure to pursue the course of amelioration and redress undisturbed by popular agitation. It is true that Catholic Emancipation was too long delayed—it is true that it was deferred until concession seemed to be not made to the claims of justice, but to the commands of necessity, by the triumph of a superior power over the Legislature itself. Nevertheless, when I listened to the promises of those professing a desire for nothing but a redress of grievances, and who had thus received an earnest of the good dispositions of Parliament towards them, I did hope that this boon would have satisfied them for the present, and that they would have patiently waited for those further 723 measures of relief of which Catholic Emancipation was the safe and sure beginning. But I have been bitterly disappointed; it has not suited the views of the agitators to allow of the return of tranquillity, or that the hopes of the nation should be directed to the act of the Legislature. The intoxicating nature of agitation had been proved—the sweets of power had been tasted. It seemed too slow to them to wait for the regular course of reform. Agitation was renewed, and the condition of Ireland is now worse than ever it was before. Do I say this because I think the course then pursued, of granting Catholic Emancipation, wrong?—Quite the contrary, I still think as I did then, that Emancipation was demanded equally by justice and policy; but I also think that it should have been granted when it would have seemed the dictate of justice and policy alone, instead of being withheld until it looked like a concession to imperious necessity. More measures, my Lords, were necessary undoubtedly, and more were to be proposed; but those persons would not wait for these legislative measures—they would not wait to see whether these legislative measures would satisfy them or not. No, my Lords, they would have agitation. For keeping up agitation the Volunteers were formed. The agitation is to be continued, not till it is seen that Parliament is employed in relieving the distress of Ireland—not till the evils are corrected of the Church cess, of the Grand Jury presentments, of local defects in the administration of justice—not even till the Church Establishment is improved; agitation is to be continued, not till all these things are accomplished, and then to cease—no, ray Lords, it is not then even to cease; but do what we may, however anxiously we may exert ourselves to remove the grievances of Ireland, agitation is not to be discontinued, till the legislative Union between the two countries be severed, and till the foundations of the British Constitution and of the British power be razed! The friends and promoters of this new association will exclaim like the orator of antiquity, "agitation, agitation, agitation!"—or in the emphatic language of the great author of the measure—" agitation, and nothing but agitation," must be continued, till the ruinous consummation I have mentioned shall be completed. It is in vain to say, that we ought to wait and try the effects of some healing 724 and remedial measures. No, my Lords, we must first establish the authority of the law. Look, my Lords, at the principle, and at the organization of this society. This society is formed on the pattern of the Volunteers of 1782. My Lords, the name, the period, the circumstances of the association which it has assumed as its model—all show the designs of the persons who have formed it. The very term for it, "Volunteers," is significant. What does it mean? It means a person who willingly engages to perform some sort of military duty. The organization, too, extends over the whole country. There is a central association in Dublin, calling itself the Pacificators of Ireland; and a part of their pacific plan is, that parties of three persons shall go in the character, and bearing the name, of pacificators, to different parts of the country, appealing to the farmers and the people to join the association, which is thus planned to branch out in all directions and embrace the whole society, under the guidance and control of the central association of Dublin. Observe, my Lords, that these Pacificators are to hold public meetings—that they are to come together at the period of the Quarter Sessions; they are to decide disputes between man and man, superseding the police and the law, and obtaining possession of the whole power of the State. And when all these objects are accomplished, I want to know, my Lords, what will be the situation of the Government and of the country? What is to prevent these Pacificators from using the force which they will thus acquire? What is to prevent them from accomplishing the separation of the two countries? It is said that they are not now armed; though they are to be ultimately armed, when the law permits it. And when will that be, my Lords? When they have acquired a moral and numerical force, superior to all the power of the Government itself, and when the circumstances shall be such, in the progress of revolution, as they shall judge proper for the establishment of a national guard, like the inhabitants of a neighbouring country. This then, my Lords, is an open and avowed danger, different in character from all former associations. It is not a secret society; it is not bound together by secret oaths; it does not hold secret meetings: the individuals who direct it are persons acquainted with the laws, but keeping 725 themselves within the limits of the laws while they are engaged in this dangerous conspiracy to accomplish their ulterior objects. It is not necessary for me to state to your Lordships that the power already in existence is not sufficient to put this society down; yet it cannot be suffered to continue and extend itself through so many ramifications, till it embraces the whole country without a total abandonment of our duty; and more power, therefore, must be given to the Government—a power sufficient to this purpose—if your Lordships will not abandon altogether that security and safety on the maintenance of which the very existence of the Government depends. It is said, that the object of this association is directed only to pacific and legitimate measures. I have stated the progress of its organization; I have told your Lordships what its principles are; I have stated what it ultimately contemplates; I have shown you that, at the present moment, it depends on the breath of one man to bring it into action; that it contemplates being ultimately armed; I have told you what is its source, and what are its objects, and that it sends messengers to establish subordinate branches in all parts of the country; and I cannot better describe the objects of the society than by bringing before your Lordships what was said by a Mr. Steele at the formation of the society. What does he say? He says this, my Lords:—'I profess myself the instrument of the Great Liberator in the pacification of the country; and to promote that pacification, I propose that Pacificators should be sent to every parish in Ireland, so that the working of Irish regeneration may not be retarded. There is no measure which I, as a Pacificator, shall not be ready to adopt. No man can be a pacificator to-day, unless he is a fierce, popular agitator, and is ready to do whatever is commanded by Daniel O'Connell.' In this combined character of a fierce and popular agitator, this gentleman is very like a character described by those who are acquainted with Ireland, of a man who goes into a crowd, and deals out his blows right and left, crying out, "Preserve the peace—keep good order." That is the sort of peace and good order which this "Pacificator," who is also "a fierce and popular agitator "is likely to produce. But to proceed: Mr. Steele said, that I told the mea of Clare, that 726 if such a crisis were to arrive, in consequence of any atrocious act of the Government—like that of Camden and Castlereagh in 1798,—and that O'Connell should command us to have recourse to arms and blood, and convulsion, instead of our usual constitutional warfare, by which we had achieved such resplendent and inevitable triumphs; in that case, I would not order the Clare men to go into Cratloe Wood to cut down trees for pike-' handles, but that I would first send them to cut down the trees on my own domain of Lough O'Connell, and that I should, of course, myself, not be idle, nor a mere looker-on in the conflict.' Thus it was contemplated at that period, that the Volunteers should form an armed association, when "the laws will allow them." Regretting the establishment of such an association formed within the land, it is not necessary for me to add much to these statements, showing the high confidence placed in one person—showing that the association is ready to assume arms, and obey his mandates. Is it necessary for me, my Lords, to say more on this part of my subject, in order to prove to you that you must, to preserve the existence of the state, enact laws to enable the Government to put down this association? This, my Lords, forms one of the objects of the enactments of the Bill I propose to submit to your Lordships. But, my Lords, it is not only against this association that the Bill will have to provide. There are other societies with objects which are certainly more reprehensible, and the acts of which are certainly more immediately mischievous. In many parts of Ireland the state of things almost amounts to actual rebellion. Large bodies of men assemble at the sound of a horn, or by signals, such as fires or beacons; they are under the direction of one person, showing a complete organization; they meet in great numbers, and conduct themselves in such a manner as to defy the powers of the Government and the law to restrain them. It is said, that these have nothing to do with the association already mentioned, and that their measures are not authorised by the meetings at Dublin. I cannot assert, my Lords, that they are cause and effect; but there is such a remarkable coincidence, that to a common man, observing the proceedings of the Dublin Association, seeing the objects contemplated by it, looking at its conduct, and hearing its harangues—a 727 common man witnessing its proceedings, would not wonder that the turbulence of the others should graft itself on the measures proposed by the Dublin Association—he would not wonder that the denunciation of tithes in the disorganized state of Ireland should not only pass into active resistance to tithes among the great body of the people, but into a determined opposition to all such claims; impeding the carrying into effect the processes of the law, subjecting all those who attempt to carry them into effect to nightly attacks, to threats, to violence, and murder—a common observer would not wonder if he heard the Government represented as insensible to the grievances of the people, the law as made only to oppress the people, and not for their good government, that the people should be roused to an active opposition to the law and to all the measures of Government. If, following such denunciations and such language, midnight attacks should take place, and justice should beset aside, he would, at least, say that there was a close connexion between them; and if they were not the cause and effect, at least that they could not be separated in contemplating the present situation of Ireland. I have stated that most of these associations carry on their meetings in open defiance of the law—in open violation of it; that the law itself, in its ordinary operation, is not sufficient to stop the progress of these meetings. I must state that, at present the whole, or at least a very considerable portion of that part of the kingdom, is in a state of great disorder; and it is not necessary that I should state to your Lordships that it is the nature of such disorder to increase and extend itself, if not timely put an end to by vigorous means of repression. The whole of the province of Leinster, my Lords, is in a disturbed state. In the province of Munster, the counties of Cork and Tipperary are in a state of great disturbance. In the province of Ulster, even Protestant Ulster, a great extent of country is disturbed. The county of Down is, I believe, in a disturbed state. In the province of Connaught—as your Lordships heard the other evening so forcibly described by my noble friend (the Marquess of Sligo), and supported by unanswerable documents—the county of Mayo is in a very disturbed state. Here too, my Lords, we see how things are connected; for, with respect to Mayo, a 728 great part of these disturbances is distinctly to be traced to the contested election; and what, my Lords, was the nature of that contest? It was between a person who professed himself a friend to the Repeal of the Legislative Union—a staunch repealer, and two candidates who were for supporting that Union in its existing state. My Lords, the object of the association at Dublin—the recorded object—is to procure the Repeal of the Legislative Union, and to procure a strong party to support that, by influencing the elections. No doubt there are persons who, like those pernicious writers who first of all inflame the passions of youth by their descriptions, and then think they can put them to sleep by a moral sentence; there are persons who blow up the flames of discontent, thinking that they can repress them by exhorting the people to obedience, who claim credit for obeying the laws, though, while they carefully protect themselves, they are not unwilling to possess the influence which may be acquired by putting forward others to agitate and disturb the country. There are, no doubt, my Lords, those who excite agitation; but they cannot be so deficient in sagacity—they are not so ignorant of the world as to suppose that a recommendation to observe the law can stop that agitation at the point where they wish; and they cannot be so ignorant of human nature as to hold themselves guiltless of the crimes to which the excitement they cause invariably leads. To return to Mayo. The frightful state of that country was described to your Lordships the other evening by my noble friend, when he was refuting the charges that were then brought against him—that disturbance was produced by the excitement of the elections—and it was avowedly connected with those propositions and opinions which are put forth for the Repeal of the Union. My noble friend stated, that at the elections no man could reach the hustings unless he came to vote for the candidates who supported the Repeal of the Union, or unless he was protected by the police or the military. This, my Lords, was the pacificator's freedom of election; so that those who speak most loudly of the liberty of the subject—who speak of the indefeasible rights of man—who call out for freedom and purity of election—these are the very persons to exercise an unlawful intimidation, which destroys all freedom, and which, my 729 Lords, is a far greater abuse than any of those I had to expose to your Lordships when bringing forward the great measure of Reform. The armed associations of which I have been speaking perambulate the country by day and by night; they threaten all loyal and peaceable men, and not only act for what they call public purposes, but, not unfrequently, to gratify private vengeance. It is not true, as has been asserted, that these associations are wholly directed against tithes. Undoubtedly there is a strong feeling against tithes in Ireland, the unfortunate consequences of which are to be regretted; and it is still more to be regretted that something has not before now been done to remove or obviate its effects; but the assemblies I speak of are not exclusively directed to attain the object of getting rid of tithes. They prescribe on what terms land shall be let, and who shall hire it—they prescribe the mode in which a man shall dispose of his property, under the penalty of death. They prescribe, too, what persons one man shall employ—and they prescribe to the labourers for whom they shall work, forbidding them to labour for any obnoxious individual. They support their decrees with great power, enforcing them by outrages, spoliation, murders, burnings, and other similar crimes—bringing out the inmates of the houses which they attack, and beating them to such an extent that death ensues, or inflicting on them the lesser evil of immediate death. My Lords, this is the state of the country wherever this system prevails, and it is conducted on a principle which shows that these bodies are organized, and can be assembled to attain any object they are directed to accomplish. They assemble in great numbers, make concerted signals, watch the route of the military, and are able to avoid any conflict with the troops by their superior knowledge of the country; so that the army is unable to suppress them. One provision, then, of the Bill which I shall submit to your Lordships, will be to arm the Government with a power to prevent these armed associations by night, and to prevent the disorders and cruelties which they produce. My Lords, these practices are most dangerous and alarming, and they show the absolute necessity of Parliament granting to the Government new powers to support and enforce the law. The time is arrived, my Lords, when, if we would not 730 have violence effect its lawless object, it is become our duty to enable the Government promptly to carry the law into execution. One cause of this necessity (and perhaps this is the most alarming and dangerous of the proceedings of these bodies) is, that they proscribe all those persons who are in any way employed to carry the law into effect; so that all those who assist the law are exposed to the most cruel proscription. To give your Lordships one singular instance of this, I will mention the case of an orphan girl, against whom a mandate of proscription was directed, and her master was ordered to dismiss her from his service, because her mother had given evidence against a person on a trial on account of tithes. Such orders are enforced by the penalty of death; and cases of this kind are so numerous, that, if all the documents were submitted to your Lordships, they would cover the Table, and could not be read in any reasonable time. The proscription of those who enforce the laws is one of the most dangerous, the most alarming, the most fatal effects of these proceedings; rendering the laws impotent, and the detection and punishment of guilt impossible. The vengeance of these guilty men is, of course, directed against prosecutors, witnesses, jurors, and all who are engaged in carrying into effect the provisions of the law. Such a state of things renders the administration of the law impossible; for neither jurors nor witnesses will do their duty. I have statements, my Lords, of measures of violence exercised against persons under these circumstances, which would occupy much of your Lordships' time were I to read them; I will, therefore, confine myself to one or two instances out of a great number which display the intimidation employed to prevent jurors and witnesses from doing their duty. I hold in my hand, as one specimen, a letter from the chief constable of police, dated Cashel, no longer ago than January 29th, which was forwarded for the information of the Lord Lieutenant. This letter contains the information, that at eight o'clock in the evening, five armed men had attacked a man by the name of Patrick Lalor, who was nearly 70 years of age, ordering him to give up some ground which he had taken two years ago. They took him out and shot him, so that he survived only half an hour. The constable had repaired to the spot, 731 and all the appearances of guilt appertained to a man by the name of Madden, who had formerly occupied the ground. The son of Lalor was an eye-witness, and though his manner betrayed his knowledge of the transaction, he would not disclose the names of the perpetrators. Here was an instance of an atrocious murder for holding land contrary to the will of the Whitefeet, and of a system of terror which prevented a son from giving evidence against the murderers of his own father, lest he himself should experience a similar fate. My Lords, it is not necessary for me to advert to the attack on the police at Carrickshaugh, for your Lordships know that, on that case, the Jury would not find them guilty, which was a striking proof of the impossibility of carrying the aw into execution. At Kilkenny, also, at the assizes, the Jury on a trial did not agree, and they were dismissed. This was at a period of considerable excitement, and they all agreed that nothing should be known of their opinions; but within little more than half an hour after they had been dismissed, a placard appeared bearing the names of those Jurymen who were for the acquittal inscribed in black, and the names of those who were for finding the parties guilty inscribed in red; as if they were for blood; and the placard was headed—" Blood! Blood! Blood! "Those who were thus threatened were obliged to leave the country; and he believed that the steward of his noble friend behind him, who was a Juror, was one of those who were obliged to leave. Five of the Jury were, I think, for the conviction, and seven for the acquittal; and all those who were for the conviction were obliged to leave that part of the country. I have here a great many documents to which I might call your Lordships' attention, but I will forbear. There is one case of a man who was obliged, by such an interference, to give up his mill, and he was deprived of the means of subsistence, and actually obliged to leave the country by the terrible denunciations of these armed bands. These facts may suffice to prove to your Lordships that the Ministers are justified in calling for additional power, and to convince you that something must immediately be done to enforce the laws, if you will not give up the Government altogether, and will do nothing for those who ask you to save and protect them. Further to show the 732 necessity of this new measure. I may quote a case which occurred at the last assizes held at Clonmel, for the county of Tipperary. At those assizes the panel of the Jurors amounted to 265, and it appeared, on calling over their names, only seventy-six attended; the remaining 189 declared that they would not attend, and that though called and fined, they certainly would not come. It was then stated, that the most respectable of the Jurors, particularly the Roman Catholic Jurors, were so intimidated that they would on no account perform their duty. The most striking example, perhaps, of this which I can adduce, shocked as I am at mentioning so many atrocities which, however, I am obliged to do before I can ask your Lordships to consent to this Bill—the most atrocious case, perhaps, (though I am really afraid to mention names lest evil befall those who are yet left) is that of a gentleman who was murdered near his own gate, on account of a tithe cause. His son-in-law witnessed the murder, and he was summoned by the Coroner to give evidence; but he sent a message instead of attending, declaring that he would submit to any penalty the law imposed rather than appear as a witness, for he could not do that, without eventually forfeiting his life to the vengeance of those who had murdered his relation. Here, then, was a most atrocious violation of the law, and a person most interested in enforcing the law would not assist in it. It is evident, then, as stated in his Majesty's Speech, that "a spirit of insubordination and violence has risen to the most fearful height in Ireland rendering life and property insecure, defying the authority of the law." In fact, my Lords, the law as it now stands cannot be executed, and there is such a system of intimidation that your Lordships must find the means of enforcing the law—or it will be utterly ineffectual to protect the rights of the subjects. My Lords, to show your Lordships further what is the state of the country, I will quote a letter from a person employed by the Government, dated Kilkenny, Jan. 20, 1833, and directed to Sir William Gossett. In this letter the writer states "it is but right that Government should know, in due time, that many gentlemen, who have always been conscientious in the discharge of their duties, will not attend as Jurors at the next assizes. They care not what fine may be imposed on them. They refuse to attend, 733 because they know that death will follow if they dare to act. It is the boast of the prisoners that they cannot, under existing circumstances, be found guilty. There is an awful calendar; and if strong measures be not resorted to, the law will be set at nought." It is not necessary for me, my Lords, to go any further into particulars to prove the first part of the proposition, that the state of Ireland is of no ordinary description, and that the situation of people of loyal and good character is so unprotected that the law is crippled—it is not necessary I say, for me to go any further to prove that the state of the country requires that the power of the law should be restored, and that vigorous remedies should be applied. To bring the state of the country before your Lordships, however, down to this time, and show your Lordships that the ordinary laws cannot remedy the disorders, I will now quote a letter which I hold in my hand addressed by the Attorney-General of Ireland, to Mr. Stanley and dated the 24th of last month. He states, that the criminals upon the Home Circuit alone are equal to what they were in the whole country two years ago, and that their crimes are not of an ordinary, but of the most atrocious description. Of 150 cases, not one is connected with tithes—not one victim was a gentleman or a man of fortune, but the poor and the defenceless, labourers, women, and the most helpless class of the community, are the victims of that tyranny which is carried on in such a relentless spirit, and in such blind obedience to a cruel system. Assassination, he says, is the order of the day, and the habitual practice of those who make robbery their occupation. He gives an account of the crimes committed during the last year, and I almost fear to read to your Lordships the frightful catalogue. Between the 1st of January, 1831, and the end of December, 1832, the number of homicides was 242; of robberies, 1,179; of burgla-ries,401; of burnings, 568; of houghing cattle, 290; of serious assaults, 161; of riots, 203; of illegal rescues, 353; of illegal notices, 2,094; of illegal meetings, 427; of injuries to property, 796; of attacks on houses,723; offiringwithintenttokill,328; of robbery of arms, 117; of administering unlawful oaths, 163; of resistance to legal process, 8; of turning upland, 20; of resistance to tithes, 50; taking forcible possession, 2: making, altogether, a total 734 of 9,002 crimes committed in one year, and all crimes of a description connected with, and growing out of the disturbed state of the country. I must, unfortunately, also state to your Lordships, that this system is in a state of progression, and is increasing, rather than diminishing. I will not go further into the details, but merely state a comparison between the three months ending with September—that is, July, August, and September, and the three ending with December—that is, October, November, and December. The total number of crimes committed in the first three months was 1279; the total number committed in the last three months was 1646; so that the number of crimes is unfortunately increasing. This increase of crime affords a strong ground, my Lords, for intrusting the Government with additional powers; for unless the growth of crime be checked, it threatens to lay waste the whole country. Be-fore proceeding to lay before your Lordships the plan of operations which his Majesty's Ministers have determined to pursue, I wish to make a few observations. It is clear that these insurrections and the inflictions which follow them are not confined to a particular class of persons, for these outrages—the murders, the pillages, the burnings—have been directed against Catholics as well as against Protestants. They arise from a general demoralization, such as I believe never before existed. I shall now, with your Lordships' permission, say a few words with respect to the conduct of his Majesty's Ministers. I think that they cannot be charged with having come to Parliament too soon or unnecessarily to ask for additional powers. The contrary is the charge to which they are most exposed. They have deferred this step as long as possible. I did not listen to the urgent appeals which were made to me to adopt severe measures in the course of the last Session of Parliament; and I plead guilty to an anxious desire to delay having recourse to them, till the latest moment, and until their necessity should be such as to force itself on the conviction of all mankind. I do not, however, feel that it is a heavy charge against the Ministers, that they have suffered themselves to be pressed and urged to take this step, rather than show themselves eager and anxious to adopt it. I confess, that I did hope, that the ordinary powers of the law, supported by a large military force (the 735 largest, I believe, that has ever been in Ireland during a time of peace, and, in point of regular troops, exceeding, in a proportion of nearly four to one, the amount of the regular army which was, at the time of the Rebellion, in that country), I did hope, with the assistance of such a force in support of the Administration and execution of the law, that peace and good order would have been preserved; and in consistency with all the principles of my public life, and with what I felt to be my public duty, I did not therefore think myself at liberty to propose measures of severity and coercion until the powers of theexisting law had been found insufficient. I should be sorry to think that, by any neglect of duty on my part, I have in the least contributed to the promotion of crime in Ireland; but I accept the defence made for Government so feelingly, so convincingly, and, I think, so honourably, in another place—that the postponement of these measures until the last moment was, at least, attended with this advantage—that it caused the necessity of a step which I feel to be contrary to the principles of the Constitution to be seen and acknowledged by all. But it was not merely upon general principles that I acted in this way; the fact is, that the milder measures which Government, in the first instance, adopted to restore tranquillity, did not prove unsuccessful. Their first essay was to send a special commission to the county of Clare, where the disturbances had been as great as in any other part of Ireland at any subsequent period. By this measure, and by the support of a military force, perfect peace was restored to that county, which, from that time to this, has remained in a state of tranquillity and order. The same good effect was produced in Queen's County. As was formerly stated in this House, a prospect of success in putting down the disturbances I have described, did show itself at the period to which I am now alluding. The first proceedings adopted for the enforcement of tithes gave us hope, that the resistance to the collection of tithes would cease, and that, with the strong exertions of Government, the empire of the law and the security of the country would be permanently established. That hope has been disappointed; and when things arrived at the state at which they are at present, I certainly did not hesitate to seize the very first opportunity which 736 the assembling of Parliament has afforded me, of coming before your Lordships for the purpose of asking you to strengthen the hands of his Majesty's Government, and to adopt such measures as will enable us to act with effect for the protection of the country. My Lords, I feel that I have omitted many things which I ought to have stated to your Lordships, and among others, in speaking of the intimidation held out to prosecutors and witnesses in Ireland. I should also have added that the same system was directed against the Magistrates likewise; and although I feel it to be the duty of the Magistrates to act vigorously, and the duty of Government to press upon them the necessity of executing the trust reposed in them fearlessly, still I admit that it is not in human nature, exposed as the Magistrates are in Ireland, not to shrink from the performance of a duty which exposes themselves, their families, and property, to destruction. I lament exceedingly that all the exertions which might have been made for the restoration of peace—and which, I believe, with the assistance of the military and police force, would have been effectual for that purpose, were not resorted to. I am, however, far from imputing blame to the Magistrates on this account, knowing, as I do, the severe penalties to which the discharge of that duty exposed them. This, however, is only another circumstance which makes it imperative on us to arm the Crown with additional powers for the repression of those outrages and disorders which prevail to such an alarming extent in Ireland. It now becomes my duty to state to your Lordships the nature of the measures which I mean to propose for this purpose. I have already remarked that the Bill has two objects: first of all, the suppression of that illegal association, which I have described to your Lordships at some length, and the dangers arising from which require no comment; and next, the repression of the violent disorders at present existing in Ireland. For this purpose the Government have had under their consideration various Acts of Parliament applicable to both cases; and the Bill which I have to propose to your Lordships combines different provisions taken from several laws which have been passed both in the Irish and English Parliaments at different periods, for the putting down of similar evils, with such alterations as the circumstances of the case 737 and the time appear to require. In the first place, with respect to illegal societies and associations, the provisions of the Bill which I have to lay upon the Table are taken from the 8th George 4th, cap. 1, commonly called the Proclamation Act, which enables the Lord Lieutenant to disperse all assemblies that may be by him, deemed dangerous to the public safety, or inconsistent with the due administration of the law; and all adjournments or continuation of the same, under any name or pretext whatever. The only alteration which I have to propose with respect to this Act, is to make this offence a misdemeanor at common law. As the law of George 4th now stands, it declares these meetings illegal; but it has been disputed whether the sitting of these meetings after the issue of the Lord Lieutenant's order for their dispersion, be not, in fact, a misdemeanor under the common law. Although I believe that such a position cannot be maintained, still, to prevent any mistake or dispute on the subject, the offence is made, by the Bill which I propose, punishable as a misdemeanor. In subsequent parts of the Bill provisions are made for declaring districts to be in a state of disturbance; and it is provided that different courts and different modes of inquiry shall be instituted in the proclaimed districts, before which any offences against this Act may be prosecuted. This relates to the whole of the country; and the Lord Lieutenant is to have the power of suppressing all illegal meetings, at all times, and in all parts of Ireland. The Act also provides, that persons prosecuted under it shall be obliged to plead forthwith, and not be allowed to delay their trial by traversing. The Lord Lieutenant is to have the power also by proclamation, of declaring any county in a state of disturbance, and such county shall be deemed a proclaimed district, to which the enactments of the Bill I now propose shall be applied. By this proclamation all the inhabitants will be called upon to abstain from seditious and unlawful assemblies, and to remain within their houses between sunset and sunrise. This is a provision taken from the 4th George 1st, and appears to me to be absolutely necessary under the present circumstances of the country. It is also provided, that a proclamation in the Dublin Gazette is to be taken as a sufficient notice that any district, to which such proclamation applies, 738 has been declared a disturbed district; and it is also further provided, that in these proclaimed districts, no meeting for the petitioning of Parliament, or the discussion of any alleged grievances, or of any matter relating to tithes, &c. Church or State, shall be holden, without a previous written notice of ten days being given to the Lord Lieutenant, and his sanction being obtained to such meeting. If this notice were not required, the proclamation would be useless except in Dublin. The period of ten days has been selected, to allow time for forwarding a due notice to Government of all meetings to be held at a distance from that city, as well as for receiving an answer to the requisition. Your Lordships are aware, that by the Insurrection Act, the power of trying these offences was confined to justices of the Session, assisted by a serjeant-at-law, or king's counsel to whom was committed the power of inflicting a penalty to the extent of transportation. I think there are good reasons why it is not perfectly desirable that this power should be intrusted to Magistrates. In the first place, they are, as I have stated, liable to intimidation; and in the next, they are, as has been found on former occasions of a similar nature, too often engaged in party disputes, which engender ill blood and pervert the course of justice. In the last place, it has been felt, that after the cessation of the evils themselves, irritation and animosity remain; and those Magistrates, who perform their duties most scrupulously and faithfully, are exposed to feelings of ill-will and threatened vengeance that long survive the cause in which they originated. For all these reasons it has appeared to his Majesty's Government advisable to propose that all offenders in these proclaimed districts shall be tried by courts-martial, constituted in a manner which I shall afterwards explain to your Lordships, and which will be enabled to try all offences committed under the various Acts known by the name of the "Whiteboy Act," and others, and also all offences under the law which I shall propose for your Lordships' adoption. They will have full power for trying such offences, and will be enabled to pronounce sentence in the same manner as any court of oyer and terminer. This, I admit, must appear a very extensive and unconstitutional measure. It is a substitute of courts-martial for the ordinary courts of common- 739 law I feel as much pain, arising from the necessity of proposing such a measure, as any man can; but, in order to make the law effectual for the suppression of the existing evils, we feel it to be impossible to stop short of what we now propose. In making this provision, I feel, however, that we are bound to secure it as far as possible from abuse. By former Acts, and particularly by the 39th George 3rd, passed for the suppression of outrages and disturbances, power was given to the Lord Lieutenant to appoint courts-martial as he should think fit, without any limitation as to number or otherwise. Here it is provided, that courts-martial, assembled under this Act, shall not consist of more than nine, or of less than five persons. It is also provided, that no officer under twenty-one years of age, or who shall not have held his commission in the army during the period of two years, shall be capable of acting on such courts-martial. It is also further declared, that these courts-martial shall not have the power of trying for any offence to which the penalty of death is annexed, without the special direction of the Lord Lieutenant, and in that case they will not have the power of inflicting a sentence beyond transportation. These are the limitations and securities, added to those arising out of the general honour and good conduct of the officers of the army, which we propose to attach to the provisions of a law, that is, I again admit, unconstitutional, but which we feel to be absolutely necessary. My Lords, there is another security which I had almost forgotten to mention to you, but which I consider to be a most important security for the proper conduct of this tribunal. I have already stated, that, under former Insurrection Acts, the Lord Lieutenant was empowered to appoint a sergeant-at-law, or king's counsel, to assist the Magistrate. Here it is made imperative that a king's counsel, or sergeant, shall attend and assist, as judge-advocate, in these courts. When I state that such is the nature of the law, I must declare that I feel no suspicion that the power of these courts will be abused, but, on the contrary, I entertain the most sanguine expectations that they will be exercised effectually and justly. Having said so much with respect to the great outlines of the intended measure, I do not think it necessary, at the present moment, to enter into an explanation of all the subordinate details by which the whole principle is to be carried into effect. I have already ob- 740 served, that all persons found out of their houses between sun-set and sun-rise, and all persons who shall be discovered, upon search, to be absent from their houses during the same period, without being able to advance a lawful reason for such absence, will be subject to be tried before these tribunals. Power will also be given by the Bill to enter houses in search of arms and ammunition; and all persons refusing to deliver them up, when called upon so to do, will likewise be subject to the powers of this Act. There is a further clause directing that any person found distributing seditious papers shall be subject to the penalty of misdemeanor; but, on such persons truly declaring from whom they shall have received these seditious papers for the purpose of distribution, it may be lawful for the courts-martial to discharge such persons out of custody. It is also provided, that any attempt to injure either the persons or property of witnesses or prosecutors, or of any person attending for the purpose of prosecution, or any attempt to deter such persons from appearing in court, shall be punishable, if committed in a proclaimed district, by transportation for seven years. This provision, which, in former Acts, applied only to witnesses, and, in such cases, inflicted the penalty of death, appears to me now to be properly extended to jurors and prosecutors. Then follows a clause to shield officers, acting on courts-martial, from future prosecutions. This is likewise a proviso which I consider indispensable; because it is quite evident, that, however carefully and faithfully those officers may discharge their duties—and I believe they will always be found to act impartially—they cannot but be, unless protected by such a clause, exposed to malicious and vexatious prosecutions. This protection, however, is not to be given them without some limitation and control; and it is, therefore, provided, that any complaints made against officers, on account of the proceedings at any court-martial to which they may have been attached, shall be inquired into by a court-martial called for that purpose. Thus far martial law will be applied to those districts in which the state of disturbance shall be such as to compel the Lord Lieutenant to declare them to be proclaimed districts; and I trust that this measure will be found effectual to restore the country, at no distant period, to such a state as may allow the Government to have recourse to the ordinary power and authority of the law for the re- 741 pression of disturbance. There is another provision to which I wish to direct the attention of your Lordships, which, in ray opinion, is decidedly called for to render this measure effectual. It is intended to be enacted, that when any individual, arrested under this Bill, sues out a writ of habeas corpus, it shall be a sufficient return to the writ, within three months from the time of his arrest, that the person so detained was kept in custody by virtue of this Act. This provision only applies to proclaimed districts; and the power of detaining a person thus charged is not to be indefinite, but limited to three months; for it is further provided, as an additional security, that all persons arrested under this Act, shall be brought to trial within three calendar months, or discharged. I do not think it requisite for me to state further the general provisions of this Bill. There are certain subordinate details necessary for its execution, which certainly ought to be subjected to the most careful examination, but which will more properly fall under your Lordships' consideration at a future stage of the Bill. I am aware that it is an extensive and a severe measure. It combines the provisions, as far as they are applicable to the present case, of the Proclamation Act, the Insurrection Act, the partial application of martial law, and the partial suspension (where such suspension shall be deemed necessary) of the Habeas Corpus Act. These are, undoubtedly, great, and extensive, and severe powers to be intrusted to Government—are only to be exercised in extraordinary circumstances, and are such as, if permanently established, are incompatible with free institutions. These are, however, powers which the necessity of the case appears to me to call for, and which, by the necessity of the case, and by that alone can be justified. For, my Lords, it is a condition of all free governments to possess powers of an arbitrary nature, applicable to circumstances such as at present exist in Ireland. Such powers, if resorted to on all occasions, must prove destructive to every free government; but if an emergency arise in which the public safety is endangered, and there exist no powers of this nature, no free governments can be secure against the results of such an emergency. On the principle of salus populi suprema lex, it has been the practice of all free governments—and of none more than the Government of this great empire—when the safety of the State was threatened—when public tranquillity was sub- 742 verted and destroyed—for the security of liberty itself—for the very preservation of freedom—to suspend for a time, and for a time only, the usual laws of the State. All true liberty, ray Lords, is based on public order; and if public order be disturbed and destroyed, liberty cannot exist. Under a government possessed of arbitrary power, liberty can have no existence. Under a government not possessed of power to control violence and repress outrages, such as I have described, the security of the State itself would be at an end, and order annihilated. The question, then, for your Lordships to decide is, whether or not a case has been made out, to justify the measures I propose. I have stated to your Lordships what have been the endeavours of the Government to put the common law of the land into execution. I have described the way in which we have proceeded, with reference to those unconstitutional and illegal associations; for though, by cunning devices, they keep themselves apparently within the strict limits of the law, there is no doubt that in their nature and objects they are subversive of the peace, security, and even liberty of the country. I have shown your Lordships in what manner the outrages now prevailing in Ireland, whether springing from this sort of associations or not, have spread all over Ireland. I have shown you how largo bodies of armed men assemble together and assail his Majesty's peaceable subjects. I have shown that they are active in the destruction of the property of obnoxious individuals; and I have shown that the existing law is impotent to control them. Having shown this to be the case, it is with extreme reluctance, and yet with entire confidence, that I throw myself upon your Lordships' candour in proposing measures which I trust will be effectual for suppressing those associations, and putting an end to those disorders. I have omitted to mention another measure which it is in the contemplation of Government to propose, but which does not properly form a part of the present Bill. I mean a measure to provide for changing the venue in cases where intimidation is practised, and to enable the Crown to remove the trial of offences to some other part of the country than that in which the venue may be originally laid, in order that justice may be fairly and impartially administered. This will be the subject of another and separate measure, which, also, the present state of Ireland renders necessary. In con- 743 clusion, my Lords, I beg leave to move, that the Bill I hold in my hand for the more effectual suppression of local disturbances and dangerous associations in Ireland be read a first time.
The Earl of Longford
said, that after the very detailed exposition into which the noble Earl had entered, it was not necessary for him to trespass at any length on the attention of their Lordships, nor should he have felt it necessary to do so at all if it were not for the very great importance of the subject. He did not rise for the purpose of offering any opposition to the Bill which the noble Earl had laid on the Table, because, unfortunately, in the circumstances in which Ireland was placed, he had only one of two alternatives—either of giving support to the Government in restoring the due dominion of law in that country, or allowing it to become a prey to those whose machinations would involve it in ruin. He admitted that the statement made by the noble Earl did not contain any exaggerated picture of the present condition of Ireland; and, so far from thinking the proposed measures too strong, he would say, that if he had any objection to them, it was that they were not strong enough. He owned, however, that he did not look with any great hope to the operation of those measures, considering that their execution was to be confided to one who did not enjoy the confidence of the people of Ireland. He had, therefore, little expectation that they would be efficient. He could assure their Lordships, that it was difficult for those who were not on the spot to form a correct notion of the state of Ireland in many parts, as far as related to the general insecurity of person and property. By day, as well as by night, this general insecurity prevailed. What, he would ask, was the cause of this general insubordination?—Excitement. What was the cause of excitement?—Agitation. What was the cause of agitation?—Invitation. He would not conceal his impression of the fact, that the people of Ireland had been invited to go on with the agitation, from which he believed much of the present disorders proceeded. Who was it that had publicly called on the people of Ireland, and told them to "agitate, agitate, agitate?" Why the very individual who was now called on, in the execution of those measures of coercion, to repress those results of agitation, which agitation he had before encouraged by his own advice. There could not, he therefore contended, be any 744 great confidence placed in the result of measures the execution of which was to be in-trusted to such hands. He said this without any feelings of personal hostility to the noble Marquess at the head of the government of Ireland; but on public grounds he felt that he was justified in saying, that in his administration of the government of that country the people could not place much confidence. The people of Ireland might be divided into three great classes—the upper, the middle, and the lower. Of the upper he might say, that nine-tenths were supporters of the Government; of the middle-classes, three-fourths; and of the lower one-half. These were all anxious to lend all their support to the due maintenance of the laws, but it could not be expected that they would come forward to give their support to the State, unless the State protected them in return. It was now admitted, that the Government had not the power, and the Magistrates, and others connected with the administration of the law, declared that they could not continue to act, unless the Government were armed with powers to protect them. Last Session, the Government was told, that it ought to be armed with such power, but they then declared that it was not necessary. What had happened since? Why, they had now an organization of parties throughout the country, as general and as strict as if it had been that of a military power. He was aware that the chief parties to this were not military men, nor was the organization one of a military character; yet it was carried on in such a manner that men were told when to agitate, when to act, and when to cease; that it wanted but a very little more to bring the whole into a military form. That system was still going on; to that system coercion was to be applied. But who were to be coerced? Not the peaceable and well-disposed, but the riotous and disorderly—those who committed crime. But would the measures proposed by the noble Earl reach those who were the most guilty? he feared not. He had an intention to propose a measure which he thought would reach the parties most guilty, but, as the matter was taken up by the Government, he would not now bring the measure forward. In measures intended to reach the crime of treason, it was known that the innocent seldom suffered; but then it often happened that the parties most guilty—the aiders and abettors—escaped. The most guilty leaders were in general cunning enough to screen them- 745 selves from punishment. They might speak and act—they might deliver violent speeches, and send forth inflammatory publications, and yet all this time keep themselves within the law, while they were producing the very worst effects on the public mind. Would not, he asked, the ends of justice be defeated, if the acts of such men were allowed to escape with impunity? How would matters stand in the case of a county which was proclaimed and placed under martial law. A county could not be proclaimed until several acts of riot and insubordination had taken place within it. It was probable that a month or so of agitation and disorder would pass over before the proclamation of the county could take place; but how was it proposed to deal with those who had caused the agitation and excitement, and thus induced the necessity of placing the county out of the ordinary pale of the law? Were there no means to be devised of reaching such persons? If there were not, the chief end of these coercive measures would, in a great degree, be defeated. He called the attention of the noble Earl to these points, not with the view of entering into the discussion of them at that moment, but for the purpose of directing his consideration to them in a subsequent stage of the measure now before them. He would beg of their Lordships to consider that it was not the higher classes in Ireland who required the protection of the Legislature; it was an humble class, who were goaded into excitement by others. The protection of the Legislature should be given to men who were disposed to obey the law, but who were deterred by a system of intimidation and violence. He hoped these matters would not be lost sight of by noble Lords in the progress of the measure before them.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, that having heard the proposition of the noble Earl (Grey) he hoped their Lordships would not suppose that he rose for the purpose of throwing any difficulty in the way of that proposition. Not only did he not intend to offer any opposition to the measure before their Lordships, but he felt disposed to give it all the support in his power. He would not even offer a word calculated to cause any soreness to those who proposed and supported the noble Earl's Motion, which he hoped would pass unanimously. Without at present entering into the general subject arising out of the measure before them, he would only 746 say, that he still entertained the opinion which had been expressed by himself and many other noble Lords, that a measure of this kind ought to have been introduced before now. He was of opinion that the Government ought to have continued the Proclamation Act in Ireland, and he had thought, at one time, that the noble Earl was disposed to do so. The result, however, was what he anticipated, and they saw it in the measure now before them. With that measure, he repeated, he did not mean to quarrel; he only hoped that it would be successful, and produce the desired effect. Having said thus much, he would not now enter into the consideration of the evils and their causes, to which the noble Earl had alluded; but, in reference to the cause of some of those evils, he thought that the noble Earl had not hit the great evil which had produced the present state of Ireland; and, therefore, he feared that the measures which the noble Earl brought forward would not be found strong enough to meet it; he alluded to the evil of a perpetual conspiracy between the priests and demagogues of Ireland against the government of that country. He would admit that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act would go far to meet this, but he feared that it would not be found strong enough to reach it. The noble Earl seemed to place great reliance on the efficacy of courts-martial; but he should bear in mind that courts-martial could not act without having evidence on oath before them; but if the measures of intimidation of which the noble Earl had spoken were still to be carried on, it might be difficult to obtain that evidence, and in that case he might find that his whole machinery of courts-martial would break down. He hoped the noble Earl would give this subject full consideration. He knew what courts-martial were, and he knew that dependence might be placed on officers of the army for the honest and honourable discharge of any duties which they might be called on to perform; but before they decided, they must have full evidence before them. He did not state this with a view of provoking any discussion at present—for that he would reserve himself to the second reading of the Bill—he only ventured to throw it out as a suggestion for the consideration of the noble Earl. Another point to which he would beg to direct the attention of the noble Earl was that 747 which related to the arrest of persons charged with offences against the proclamation, or against any act by which they might be brought under the jurisdiction of the courts-martial. Did he understand the noble Earl to mean, that the courts-martial on military officers were to undertake those preliminary duties which were now discharged by Magistrates and officers of the civil power—such as the arrest of persons, taking informations, and other necessary forms, preliminary to the trial of the accused? If military officers were to perform the part of the police and of the Magistrates, he was much afraid that they would not answer the proposed object—that they would not go on with the trial of the accused without the ordinary aids usually rendered at present by Magistrates and others of the civil power. He would now say a word upon another point. The noble Earl had not said anything about the approval of the decision of the courts-martial. All that he was able to collect from what the noble Earl had stated was, that the judgment of the courts-martial should be binding, the same as that of his Majesty's courts of oyer and terminer. But let it be recollected, that the decisions of courts-martial were not considered final until they had been approved of by the Crown. Was it intended that the judgments of courts-martial in proclaimed districts in Ireland should be sent for approval to the Lord Lieutenant, who represented the Crown? If so, his objection was answered, for he thought it would be most unjust and impolitic to give this power to courts-martial without allowing them the aid of a superior authority, which ought to take upon itself the responsibility of the confirmation of the sentence. Before he sat down he would say a word on the subject of the Catholic question. The noble Earl had expressed his regret that the concession of the claims of the Catholics had not been productive of all the benefits which had been expected from it; and one reason assigned by the noble Earl was, that the concession of those claims had been forced from the Government.' Why, he (the Duke of Wellington) had stated to their Lordships, over and over again, the causes which had induced the Government of that day to recommend the grant of that concession to the King. They had stated that Ireland, not from one cause alone, but from many causes, was at the time in a state bordering on civil war. 748 They had not said that civil war was to be expected; they might, if they had been so disposed, have occasioned a civil war, and thus have postponed the concession; but they had not taken that course. They had never thought of making the concession through fear. They saw Ireland, from many causes, in a state bordering on civil war; and they had recommended the concession of the Catholic claims as a measure likely to be productive of most beneficial effects; but they had never said and never were under any apprehension that a civil war in Ireland would have been the consequence of a refusal of those claims, and; he owned that he was surprised to hear any such insinuation thrown out. There were many noble Lords then present who well knew the grounds on which that great question had been brought forward, and who could bear testimony that it had not originated in any fears that a civil war would be the consequence of its refusal. Having made those few remarks, he would not trouble their Lordships further, but would repeat that it was not his intention to offer any opposition to the motion of the noble Earl, but that, on the contrary, he would give it all the support in his power.
§ The Earl of Uxbridge
said, he had had the honour of a seat in that House so very recently that he claimed their Lordships' indulgence for rising thus early on a question of such importance to obtrude himself on their notice. He was, however, induced to do so by the remarks which had fallen from the noble Earl (Longford) on the cross bench. He owned that he had heard from the noble Earl with astonishment and regret that a noble Marquess, his near relative, had been the cause of the agitation which now prevailed in Ireland; nay, more, that to him might also be attributed some of the violent results of that agitation. Good God! from what country had the noble Earl come who had made the assertion? Did he (the Earl of Longford) not know, as a native of that country, that agitation had prevailed long before the noble Marquess (Anglesey) had been called upon to preside over its Government? Had the noble Earl read the whole of the letter in which the words quoted by him had been used? If he had done so attentively, he would have found that it could not fairly be said to bear the construction which he had put upon it. The words "agitate, agitate, agitate," did not mean, and never were intended to convey the 749 meaning, that anything was to be done which was contrary to law. All that his noble relation meant was, that the people of Ireland should not cease to use all legal means to obtain the restoration of their just rights. But if the noble earl had entertained a serious conviction that it was the intention of the noble Marquess to produce the agitation which had since taken place in that country, he must say that the noble Earl bad not done his duty as a Lord of Parliament, for he had suffered two years to pass away, during which the noble Marquess still continued at the head of the government of Ireland, and he had never once come to that House to state which he ought to have done, if his conviction were such as he now declared—that the noble Marquess was not a fit person to continue at the head of that government. What, he would ask, had prevented the noble Earl from bringing this charge forward at an earlier period, and why had he now, at the end of two years, selected the period of the absence of the noble Marquess to introduce it? He was, he owned, much surprised at the course which the noble Earl had adopted with respect to his noble relation, and he could not forbear to express himself upon it as he had done. He hoped their Lordships would excuse him for thus obtruding himself on their attention on a matter so merely of a personal nature.
The Earl of Longford
, in explanation, said, that in the last session he had been prevented by a severe affection in his throat, which had almost deprived him of speech, from attending in Parliament. He could not, therefore, have brought the subject forward at that time, but he had taken the present, the earliest opportunity which presented itself, of bringing the matter before the House; and he must now repeat what he had before said—his conviction that while the noble Marquess remained at the head of the Government of that country he could not obtain the confidence of either of the two great parties into which it was divided. The words of the noble Marquess—" agitate, agitate, agitate," had, he was convinced, not been received in the sense in which the noble Earl (Uxbridge) now took them; on the contrary, they were received in a sense diametrical y opposite. He had not said that the noble Marquess had created the agitation that had followed, but that he bad encouraged it. That certainly was 750 the prevalent feeling in Ireland with respect to his advice on that occasion. When he stated this, he was far from attributing to the noble Marquess any intention of producing the mischievous effects that had since taken place in Ireland; but though nothing might have been and was no doubt further from the wish of the noble Marquess, it was his belief, and as such he had stated it to their Lordships, that very bad effects had followed from that advice, and that, in consequence, the noble Marquess (and he spoke in this case what he believed to be the feelings of a very large body in Ireland) could not be looked up to with confidence in Ireland, which must necessarily detract from the efficiency of those measures the execution of which were to be confided to his hands.
§ The Earl of Eldon
would admit that when a measure of the kind now presented to their Lordships was brought forward, it must rest on a principle of necessity, arising out of considerations of public security. On such occasions, in order to preserve the general liberty of the country, it must be partly compromised for a time, which could not be done without a suspension of the ordinary forms of the Constitution. When a necessity for such a suspension was made out, no man who wished well to his country should withhold his assent from a coercive measure, however deeply he might lament the cause which had called it forth. On these grounds, and believing that the necessity existed, he would give his support to the Bill introduced by the noble Earl; but having thus given his assent, he should wish to know the particular period during which it was proposed that the measure should continue in operation. No doubt it must continue as long as the cause existed which had called it forth, but he should wish that it should continue a little longer—that was, until (and this, he thought, would not be found without its proper use in repressing agitation) justice was done in all those cases which might have arisen while it was in force, and that the close of the act should not be marked by the impunity of some of those who should become guilty under it. The noble Earl would remember an instance of the kind which occurred at the expiry of the Proclamation Act. A party who had pleaded guilty, and whose case had been adjourned over, had been allowed unavoidably to escape with impunity. He hoped the noble Earl 751 would not think this suggestion unworthy of his consideration: the object being to reach as far as possible those who were really guilty, it would be desirable that the Act should not be allowed to expire until justice was done on all who should have been found guilty by the courts appointed under the Act.
§ Earl Grey
observed, that the noble and learned Lord who last addressed the House, had truly stated the principle on which this measure rested. It must be defended on a principle of necessity, arising out of considerations of public safety; but the extraordinary power thus called into operation could not ex vi termini be allowed to exist beyond the cause which had produced it. As to the specific time to be named in the Bill itself, during which it was to be in force, he had left a blank in it, which could be filled up in the Committee. He feared that it could not be allowed to cease as soon as could be wished, but the sooner its extraordinary powers could be dispensed with the better. He should be glad to be enabled to propose its repeal in the present Session, if circumstances should permit. At present, it was his intention that it should be in force until the next Session of Parliament, and to the end of that Session; Parliament in the mean time taking such measures for its repeal or further duration as circumstances should require. He was aware of the case to which the noble and learned Lord had alluded under the late Act; and though there was no provision made in the present Bill for such a case, he should be happy to avail himself of the noble and learned Lord's aid, and to receive any suggestion of his to meet any case of that kind, if it should be considered necessary, At present he did not think it was, but he should give the matter his best consideration, and if, after such consideration, he should think such a provision advisable, he would be glad to have the assistance of the noble and learned Lord in making it, but that subject would come more properly before the House at a future stage of the Bill.
The Lord Chancellor
rose to detain their Lordships for a very few moments, while he expressed his entire and complete concurrence both in the views which his noble friend (Earl Grey) had expressed, and in the measure the first reading of which his noble friend had proposed to their Lordships. No man in 752 that House, or indeed, he might say, in the country, could more deplore the sadness of the case which not only justified, but made it imperative on the individuals composing his Majesty's Administration to call on Parliament for a measure of such severity as characterised that now proposed; but, much as he deplored the necessity, the time had arrived when it would be an act of inhumanity as well as injustice to hesitate. He agreed in voting for the proposition of his noble friend, and, by so doing he considered he took upon himself the full share of the responsibility which might attach to his Majesty's Administration, for having proposed that measure—first, because he deemed it absolutely necessary. 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. Now, in what manner did those principles refer to Ireland? The facts which had been detailed to their Lordships by his noble friend, and the reference which had been made to others of a no less melancholy nature, proved, beyond the possibility of doubt, that that allegiance which the peaceable portion of his Majesty's subjects, which the honest and industrious classes of the realm, were disposed willingly and cheerfully to pay to the Crown, could not meet with a return from the hands of the Government such as that part of the people had an undoubted and indefeasible right to expect; he meant effectual protection of life and property. Such being the case, and with a view of remedying such a state of things, he for one heartily concurred in recommending to their Lordships the enactment for the present—he sincerely hoped the duration would be brief—of a law vesting extreme powers in the hands of the Executive Government of the country. The second ground on which he ventured to recommend to their Lordships 753 the proposition of his noble friend was, a firm conviction that it would prove effectual. Had it been a paltry, insignificant measure—he meant in its tendency and effects, but still as great an encroachment on the Constitution, as great a violation of ordinary rules, and as great an infringement on the liberty of the subject as any of the powers proposed to be created by the measure of his noble friend could be said to effect—had it gone to sanction violence without affording the least hope that the object which it contemplated would be attained—he for one would never have given it his sanction. That, however, was not the case. The measure of his noble friend went very energetically to effect its purpose; indeed the very extremity to which it went afforded the best security that, on the one hand, it would effect that purpose, and, on the other, that its duration would be short. That probability of a short duration formed the third ground on which the measure had his support. Severe in its nature, strong in its aspect, he felt confident it would be found effectual in its purpose, and consequently that the period of its duration would be brief. Before proceeding to state his further reasons for recommending the adoption of the measure, he desired to allude to the speech of the noble Duke (Wellington), with a view of setting him right upon two points which he seemed to think would diminish the efficiency of the measure—firstly, the want of powers to compel the aid of the civil authorities; and secondly, the difficulty which he alleged would be found in obtaining evidence. With regard to the first point, he begged to observe that the Bill would contain ample provisions for compelling the assistance of all the civil authorities, whether justices of the peace, constables, or police, to render full assistance to the tribunals which were to be established in the execution of processes &c. Then, with respect to evidence, it was but natural to expect, that the very provisions of the measure would restore confidence to those whom it might be found necessary to bring forward either as prosecutors or witnesses. The last ground on which he supported the proposition of his noble friend was, that he had entire confidence in the individual to whose hands its execution would be intrusted. The extreme power which, for a particular purpose and for a limited period—and it 754 was to be hoped it would be for a very limited period—Parliament was called upon to enact, was to be placed in the bands of his noble and gallant friend, the Viceroy of that unhappy part of the kingdom—unhappy, as being made the prey of disturbers and agitators—a man whose wisdom and sagacity as well as great firmness, were acknowledged—a man who, on every occasion, mixed up humanity and kindly feeling with firmness, boldness, and promptitude. In that man he placed his most unbounded confidence, because his character gave ample security that not one of the powers with which he would be intrusted would be abused. On the contrary, that, so far from being exceeded or abused, the past life of that individual, and the feelings which he had ever manifested, gave every assurance that those powers would not be called into action unless in cases of necessity, and that, when had recourse to, they would be used with all the wisdom consistent with his well known affection for the people of the country over which he presided. There was one other reason which induced him to approve of the proposition; it was, that it was accompanied with measures of relief, and because, great and important as those measures were which had already been announced, he knew that others were in preparation, and would follow when the authority of the law was restored, and the peace of the country effectually secured.
said, that he did not intend to follow the noble Lord in his arguments; and that he considered he gave a strong example of forbearance in not detailing the reasons he might give why the measures proposed by the noble Earl should not be adopted. The noble Lords on his side the House deplored the unhappy state of Ireland as much as any other noble Lords could do, and they lamented as much the painful necessity that could call for an extension of the powers of the law. He had been more than once called upon to vote for coercive measures towards Ireland, and he had invariably done so with the most unfeigned regret, which he considered to be upon such melancholy occasions, the general feeling of that House. If he had voted for former coercive measures against his wishes, how much stronger must now be his reluctance to support the present measure, which he considered to be nothing less than a complication of all 755 the coercive measures hitherto proposed with respect to Ireland? Though certainly, he felt disposed to support Government in their efforts to uphold the law in this sad emergency, still, he wished to examine and compare those measures, and see whether the acts complained of justified such unexampled measures of severity and coercion. Such were his feelings upon every occasion that extraordinary powers were demanded. For the present, he forbore to point out the acts committed by the present Government, as well as those they abstained from, which, in his opinion had mainly led to the evils they all now deplored. He would say no more then, than merely repeat the extreme pain and regret with which he should vote for the details of the proposed measure, even though he should think them the very best to meet and remedy the existing evils complained of. However, he confessed that precedent justified the noble Earl in the course he was pursuing. It was another subject of regret with him, that the Bill should be read without any authority, save that of the noble Earl, for the details of the many evils which that Bill was destined to remedy. Some other testimony was necessary; and he thought that the House should proceed upon certain and definite evidence, which could not be given unless documentary proofs were laid upon the Table. He begged, before he sat down, to be informed when the Bill was to be read a second time?
§ Lord Cloncurry
had entertained a hope that the noble Earl and his colleagues would not have pressed for a measure suspending the laws in Ireland, until they had previously tried what might be the effect of that measure relative to the Irish Church, just propounded by Government, upon which they seemed to found such strong hopes of tranquillizing much of the agitation but too prevalent in Ireland. The Irish Members had expressed their unqualified gratification at that measure, and he was sure so would the majority of the Irish people. He trusted the noble Earl would excuse him expressing on this occasion the deep concern and anxious fears he could not help entertaining, at finding that a measure of this character and nature should have been deemed necessary, at so early a period after their Lordships had been convened together in Parliament; and would ear- 756 nestly recommend that the adoption of those measures should be deferred.
The Marquess of Lansdown
believed the measure introduced by his noble friend to be indispensably necessary, and that it would be considered both by the House and the country, that it was become expedient to intrust the Government with the extensive powers applied for in this instance, in order to preserve the peace as well as protect the lives and properties of individuals in that alarmingly agitated country. At the same time, he avowed that the measure was a severe and awful one, and he concurred with the noble Baron (Lord Cloncurry), in feeling great reluctance to sanctioning the measure. The peculiar circumstances of this case were of so urgent a nature, and so necessary in order to maintain those objects he alluded to, that they precluded the possibility of his noble friend waiting any longer. The measure was become already necessary at once, for the protection of the peaceable inhabitants of Ireland, and the vindication of the authority and greatness of this free nation. A noble Baron had claimed to himself considerable credit for his forbearance in not entering into the discussion of the causes to which he thought he might attribute the present disturbances and agitation in that country. But on that subject, he would throw down the gauntlet, and challenge that noble Lord as to the merits of that forbearance. Upon his side, he believed the Government might have asserted a still stronger claim to forbearance than the noble Lord or his friends possibly could. On this subject he would not amplify, but content himself with saying, that it seemed extraordinary, that he alone should require or call for documentary evidence to prove that there existed a state of things in Ireland which alarmed all friends of order in both countries. That such a disorganized state of society really existed, no one but that noble Baron required other proofs than those which had attained such general publicity through the ordinary channels of information. All were, he believed, with the exception of the noble Baron, convinced of the danger which threatened the security of property there, and liberty and freedom, not only of the rich, but of the poor and peaceably disposed throughout Ireland. It must be obvious, that the production of documentary evidence would have the dangerous and much to be avoided effect of making 757 disclosures of names and persons to whom the information upon which Government felt itself bound to come down to the House, and demand these extensive powers, might, and most probably would, be traced. The consequences must unavoidably be, that had these disclosures taken place, these persons would be held up to the vengeance of the lawless and bloody-minded in that country, and become the objects of furious and sanguinary persecution. This would be to afford a fresh opportunity to that odious and banded tyranny in Ireland, which made victims of all those persons in that country who had peculiar claims to the protection of law, because they obeyed, and fain would support the law. In that obedience consisted their crime. He would not hesitate to tell that noble Baron, if he had remained in the House, that it was wise and prudent, if these increased powers were at all to be granted to the Irish Government, to adopt the proposition at once, upon the well-known notoriety of the facts, without waiting or call-ling for documentary evidence. It was their duty to acquiesce in the first and second reading at once; and it would be the duty of Ministers to render it suitable to its object in the Committee when the Bill would be examined in detail. The intention and object of the Ministers in proposing this Bill was to restore peace and tranquillity in Ireland, so as to pave the way to the promised measures of relief, which he felt it would be impossible to extend to that country with safety, until effectual protection was given to persons and property. From the moment the Government entertained the saddening conviction that there was no prospect of checking insubordination, violence, and bloodshed, by the operation of existing legal means, they immediately set about accomplishing that which it was the first duty of good Government to attend to—namely, the protection of the property and lives of those who were peaceably disposed and obedient to the established laws. In so acting, they had but performed their bounden duty; for, as had been well observed by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, if the Government did not afford protection to the subject, from the subject it could not expect allegiance.
The Earl of Wicklow
had hoped that, from the manner in which this subject had been brought before the House by the noble 758 Earl, and supported by the noble Lord on the Woolsack, and after the observations of the noble Duke, there would have been no attempt made, particularly in the absence of the noble Baron to whom the allusion was made, and the challenge given, to introduce topics of an acrimonious nature into the present discussion, such as had fallen from the last speaker. He concurred generally, he must confess, in the calm and temperate suggestions made by that noble Lord. If they were bound, by the urgency of the case, to adopt the alternative of dispensing with the law, and give to his Majesty's Ministers a power to wield at will, a weapon of such extreme severity, it certainly would have been desirable that such documents should have been laid on their Table, to inform their Lordships' judgment on the necessity for this very decisive and much to be regretted measure of coercion. He would appeal to all the regretted precedents of instances of coercion in Ireland, that it had been the habit, on such occasions, to produce documentary evidence, such as that required by the noble Baron, who had been the object of remarks made by the noble Marquess, in a tone tending to excite a feeling of hostility, from which those with whom he acted, as well as others, appeared to have determined to abstain.