§ Viscount Melbourne
then rose and said, My Lords I rise now to move the adjournment of this House, and in doing so I shall take the liberty of making a few observations on a subject connected with the adjournment. Your Lordships have been informed from what has already taken place elsewhere, that his Majesty has been pleased to appoint me first Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, and that I and my friends who have taken office with me have waited on his Majesty, and have received from him the seals of our respective offices. With regard to the difficulties that must be encountered by this Administration, I know them to be 998 great and arduous—many indeed are of a peculiar and a severe kind. It is not, however, my intention to expatiate upon these difficulties at the present moment, but it is my intention to state, in a few words, the principles on which the Administration now formed will proceed. Suffice it then to say, that they are the principles of the former Administration, with which I was similarly connected last year—principles which, to a great extent, have been admitted, recognised, confirmed, and strengthened by those whom I am about to succeed. They are the principles of safe, and efficient reforms—reforms which, while they purify and cleanse, will seek at the same time to strengthen and give stability to our institutions. With respect to the particular subject which has recently engrossed the attention of Parliament, and which has just now been adverted to by a noble Lord on the other side of the House, the (Earl of Wicklow) I mean the subject of matters of a religious character, I desire to assure your Lordships, and, through your Lordships, the country, that every measure which is contemplated on the subject will have for its object the promotion and the increase of true piety throughout the whole and every part of his Majesty's dominions. I have but a few observations to make on the present occasion as to the adjournment. In the hurry and pressure in which this Administration has had to be formed, it has been impossible that all the business of this, or the other House of Parliament, could be regularly proceeded with. Your Lordships are aware that some time must necessarily elapse before his Majesty's Ministers in the other House of Parliament can be able to proceed with the business there, and that House has, therefore, adjourned till Monday, and will adjourn from that time till the 12th of May. I trust that your Lordships will be willing to do the same, and if you think proper I will make a motion to that effect; but if you wish that we should only adjourn to Monday, I will move the adjournment accordingly. Under all the circumstances of the case, and considering the great pressure of business before the other House, and that we cannot well proceed with that business before it has been sent up to us from the other House, I should propose that we adjourn to Tuesday, the 12th of May.
§ The Duke of Richmond
thought, that it 999 would be inconvenient for the House at once to adjourn for so long a period as the 12th May. There were several committees sitting, and one of them was upon a subject of the greatest possible importance. He had the honour to fill an important place in one of these Committees—that upon the state of our gaols—and, on behalf of that Committee, he suggested to his noble Friend, that if the House now adjourned till the 12th of May, the Committee itself could not proceed with any business till the 13th. There were many witnesses to be sworn to give evidence before that Committee; and he should propose, therefore, that the House should adjourn, in the first instance, to the 30th inst., with the understanding that it was to meet then solely for the swearing in of witnesses for the Committees, and that no public business would be taken.
§ Lord Alvanley
said, that there was a subject to which the general attention of every man in England had been lately much directed; and now that his noble Friend had announced himself as the head of the new Government, he should wish to give his noble Friend an opportunity of affording some explanations on that subject. He therefore asked whether his noble Friend had procured the powerful aid of Mr. O'Connell and his party; and on what terms. In ordinary times, a Minister might fairly decline to answer such a question; but these were not ordinary times. The Government must either treat with Mr. O'Connell, or must declare war against him. His noble Friend and the party with whom he acted had once declared war against that individual in a speech which, upon their advice, his Majesty had delivered from the throne. He wished to know whether his noble Friend's opinions had changed since that time; and if the Government had entered into a treaty with Mr. O'Connell and his party, then on what terms it stood with them? Mr. O'Connell's opposition was well known, and it was not likely that he would withdraw his virulent opposition without some equivalent; and the House ought to be put in possession of what that equivalent was to be. The reason why he put this question to his noble Friend at so early a period of the existence of the Government was, that for months past Mr. O'Connell had lost no opportunity of stating his opinion as to the Repeal of the Union, and the destruction of that House, In the autumn 1000 of last year Mr. O'Connell addressed a letter to a noble Friend of his (Lord Duncannon), at that time Secretary of State for the Home Department. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman who was recently at the head of his Majesty's Government—yes, I say the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, for during his short continuance in office he exhibited in that arduous, glorious, and memorable struggle, which must ever distinguish his Government, a degree of moral courage, of patriotism, and invincible fortitude, such as I am convinced has never been, perhaps never will be, surpassed. That right hon. Gentleman has, in the House of Commons, already read the letter written by Mr. O'Connell to which I am about to refer. After some appeals to Members of the then existing Ministry, the letter goes on thus—"I do feel the powerful influence of duty which commands me to make the utmost efforts, in order to procure for Ireland the Repeal of the Union." This is plain enough; but he is still plainer, and his language is, perhaps, more forcible in an address which he made at a meeting of the Anti-Tory Association. He says—"I was never more convinced of the necessity of a Repeal of the Union, and of establishing a national Parliament on College-green. It is not vanity, but I shall not be satisfied till in that Parliament I am hailed by some Member as the father of my country. The time is not far distant when the Union will be prostrate at our feet, and Ireland freed from her chains." And alluding to the difference among Reformers on that subject, he said that "they would sink those differences for the present, and bring them again into play when a more fitting opportunity presented itself." These were that individual's opinions only two short months ago. With regard to this House, I shall now read an extract, which shows that without its abolition this hon. and learned Gentleman will not be contented. It is for your information, my Lords, and for that of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Melbourne), upon whom, if he is not already aware of it, I trust that it will not fail to make the impression which in my opinion it ought to produce. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in addressing a very numerous meeting, said, "The reform of the House of Lords is absolutely necessary to establish and secure our popular freedom. I am anxious that that House 1001 should be based on sound common sense; in short, that it should be converted into an elective assembly." Such language, coming from such a quarter, is not to be considered as mere words of course. Mr. O'Connell has pledged himself, as deeply as any public man possibly can pledge himself, to subvert the constitution of this House; and I call on the noble Lord opposite to give that information which he is bound to afford by his character, and his station first as a Gentleman, to state to the people of England on what terms he stands with Mr. O'Connell, and next as a Peer, and a Minister of the Crown, to declare how far he coincides with Mr. O'Connell's opinion, as to the constitution of that House, and the Repeal of the Union. I ask him, on what terms has he negociated with Mr. O'Connell, and how far he stands committed to that hon. and learned Gentleman, who most solemnly declares he will never rest till be has effected the Repeal of the Union. I call on the noble Lord as a Peer of the realm, and a Member of this House, to state how far he coincides with the hon. and learned Gentleman in his project for reducing this branch of the Legislature to so humble a position as that of a mere elective assembly?
entreated his noble Friend (Lord Melbourne) to allow him to say a word before he gave any answer to the question put by his noble Friend opposite. [Loud cries of "Order."]
No; and it is precisely for that very reason that I rise to answer it [cries of "Order."]
rose to order, and complained that when the noble Lord was putting a question, in which he was quite regular, he was interrupted by the noble and learned Lord, who was clearly out of order.
said, that he had a right to speak upon the Question of Order. He had risen, in the first instance, to stop his noble Friend opposite, on the ground that the question he was putting was out of order. His noble Friend then said that he had done, and then there was no longer any interruption of his noble Friend's speech; but then he (Lord Brougham) craved his noble Friend near him (Lord 1002 Melbourne) not to answer the question; and he now craved his noble Friend not to answer it. It was a question unparalleled in disorder. The Gazette would show who were in place, and the measures would show what would be the conduct of the Government. Had their Lordships ever before heard a question as to what arrangements had been made with any individual? His noble Friend would, of course, take his own course; but lie humbly entreated him not to sanction such a question by answering it.
The Earl of Wicklow
contended that the question was not out of order. Whether it was a judicious question or not, was another matter; but it was not out of order; and the noble and learned Lord's rising in that unprecedented manner, was in itself a most disorderly proceeding.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, I shall not say much upon the Question of Order, nor how far my noble Friend opposite was in order or not, when he put the question to me. He certainly made a longer speech, and indulged in a greater number of observations, than is usual in asking a question. However, nothing is more easy and simple than to give an answer to the questions he has put, and I shall give the answer. In the course of his speech, my noble Friend asked me how far I coincided with the opinions of Mr. O'Connell with respect to this House? I answer, not at all. My noble Friend asked me whether I entertained the same opinion that I expressed on a former occasion when an Act, commonly known by the Coercion Act, was under consideration in this House? I answer—that I certainly do. I persevere in those opinions. The noble Lord asked me whether I have taken any means to secure the assistance of Mr. O'Connell, and if so, upon what terms? I answer that I know not whether I shall have the aid of Mr. O'Connell. I have certainly taken no means to secure it, and most particularly I have made no terms with Mr. O'Connell. To that which has been stated by my noble Friend I beg to give a most decided negative—if he has been told the contrary, he has been told that which is false. There is no foundation, directly nor indirectly, for such a statement.
§ Lord Alvanley
If I have been out of order, I am most happy to have been so, for my being out of order in putting the 1003 question has produced a most satisfactory answer from my noble Friend opposite, and I do not think that I have merited the rebuke of the noble and learned Lord.
The Duke of Buckingham
said, that nothing could be more satisfactory than the reply of the noble Viscount, and he trusted that the country would profit by the declaration. Rumours, however, had got about, that great pains had been taken to conciliate Mr. O'Connell. It was now found that that was not so. The noble Viscount had stated that the measures of his Government would have the same principles for their foundation as the measures of the Government of which he had before formed a part, and that all his measures would be directed to increase the usefulness of—[The noble Duke was here corrected by Peers on both sides of the House, in his mistakes as to what Lord Melbourne had said.]—On what principle had the late Government resigned their situations? It was on this principle, that being beaten on a Question in the other House of Parliament by that House adopting a resolution that no measure relating to the Church of Ireland would be satisfactory, unless a clause was introduced for appropriating the surplus funds of that Church, if there were any surplus funds of the Church, to other purposes than those of the Protestant faith, they resigned rather than carry that resolution into effect. Now he might be permitted to ask the noble Viscount emphatically, whether he was prepared, acting as he said in the interests of true religion, to bring forward a measure for the regulation of the tithes of Ireland connected with that resolution, that the surplus, if any, should be applied to other than religious purposes?
§ Viscount Melbourne
The course now pursued by the noble Duke is most inconvenient, for if I were to go into the Question of the Tithes, I should enter upon a long and difficult subject. I shall be content, therefore, with stating distinctly that I am bound by, and consider myself pledged to act upon, that resolution.
The Marquess of Londonderry
had refrained till now from presenting a petition with which he had been intrusted; but he felt it his duty now to state that he was charged with presenting a most important Petition, signed by 60,000 inhabitants of the north of Ireland. That petition was for protection to the Irish Church, now 1004 threatened on every side. It was impossible to see who was placed at the head of the Home Department without knowing that Ireland would be convulsed to ts foundations. He should take the opportunity the earliest day after the recess to present this petition. He had hitherto refrained from presenting it, as he felt convinced that the conduct of the late Government would have afforded consolation to Ireland; but as he now found it likely to be the contrary, he should discharge his duty to those who had intrusted him with this petition. If the noble Viscount went on in this way, he would be carrying on his Government by the positive forbearance of the Conservatives on the one hand, and the delusive promises to the O'Connell party on the other. He might fairly ask the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Lansdown), whether such a Government was competent to govern the country—he might do this as the noble Marquess had done it to him—but he should follow a different course from the noble Marquess, and not quarrel with their incompetency till it was exhibited. They had seen an opportunity of that, for since the declaration that had been made of no agreement whatever with Mr. O'Connell, of a positive veto, a positive exclusion against Mr. O'Connell and his Radical crew, his Radical tail would soon show how little the noble Viscount's Government had to depend on.
rose to order, and complained that the noble Marquess was not speaking with proper respect of the House f Commons.
The Marquess of Londonderry
wished to treat the House of Commons with perfect respect. He had bowed to an opinion of that House; but he did say, and he distinctly declared, that that section of the House of Commons, which he had mentioned as a Radical tail, was the greatest curse to his country.
§ Viscount Melbourne
The noble Marquess has put words into my mouth which I did not use. I did not say one word about a veto or an exclusion. I said that I had taken no means to secure the aid of Mr. O'Connell, and that I had made no terms with him. As to the word 'veto', or 'exclusion', they are words which I should be very sorry either to use or acknowledge.
The Marquess of Londonderry
What he had meant to state was that there had 1005 been a public meeting or dinner, and from what passed then between the noble Lord, now the Secretary for the Home Department, and Mr. O'Connell, he thought that terms must be made with Mr. O'Connell, and now he thought, from what had fallen from the noble Viscount, that it was a positive denial of his having any interest in the matter.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that he had no objection to the arrangement proposed by his noble Friend (the Duke of Richmond), and he should, therefore, move that the House do adjourn to the 30th, on the understanding that no business whatever, but that of swearing witnesses, should then be entered upon, and that the House should then adjourn to the 12th of May.
§ Motion agreed to.—Adjourned accordingly.