Viscount Melbourne moved that the Order of the Day for the second reading of the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Bill be read. The Order having been read, the noble Viscount moved that the following passage in the King's Speech be read, which was read accordingly.
You are already in possession of the Report of the Commission appointed to inquire into the state of the Municipal Corporations in Ireland. I entertain a hope that it will be in your power to apply to all the defects and evils which may have been shown to exist in those institutions a remedy founded upon the same principles as those of the Acts which have been already passed for England and Scotland.
The noble Lord then said, that in moving the second reading of the Bill for the regulation of the Municipal Corporations in Ireland, sent up to their Lordships by the House of Commons, he begged in the first place to observe, and he should do so without any view whatever of dictating to their Lordships, or of calling on them merely to register the edicts of any other assembly, that this Bill in all its parts, in all its provisions, in all its details, and in all the regulations it proposed to carry into effect, came up to that House recommended by a very considerable majority of the House of Commons. But what he begged leave more particularly to point out was, that with respect to its general object, the re-formation of the Corporations as they at present exist, with respect to the admission that they cannot remain in their present state, that they are in themselves faulty and inconsistent with the present state of society, it came up recommended by an unanimous vote of the other House. There was no difference of opinion manifested in debate on that point. It was admitted by all, that no other conclusion could be drawn from the Report of the Commissioners appointed by his Majesty, and which was on their Lordships' Table, than that these Corporations, as they now existed, could be tolerated no longer. This Bill was founded, as was the Bill of last Session, upon the Report of that Commission. But for some observations made in the early part of the evening, he was going to state, that he had not heard a single word of the objection advanced in the course of last Session upon the Bill for the regulation of
Municipal Corporations in England, very unjustly, in his opinion, but still very strongly, and not without some effect upon the minds of their Lordships; he had not heard any condemnation of the conduct of the Commissioners, or of the manner in which they had conducted their inquiry, or of the results they had deduced from it. He was going to say that he had heard no accusations of partiality, no aspersions cast on their conduct, no imputation of unworthy motives, or anything that could detract from, or diminish the authority of their Report and of their recommendations. Certainly the noble Lord opposite (Lord Fitzgerald), in presenting a petition that evening in behalf of the town and city of Drogheda, had stated some imputations on the conduct of the Commissioners who examined into the state of that city. Of course, upon that matter, he could at present give no opinion whatever; but with that exception at least, he was entitled to say, that up to the present moment, this Report was unattacked, and had been admitted to give a fair picture of the state of the Irish Corporations, the way in which they discharged their duties, the abuses which prevailed in them, the insufficient manner in which they fulfilled their present object, and the ends for which they were instituted, and of the necessity of applying to them a temperate and cautious, but, at the same time, an effectual reform. Their Lordships were probably aware from the Report, that these Corporations were greatly more close, greatly more corrupt, and consequently greatly more irresponsible, than even those to which, notwithstanding all the evidence heard last Session at the Bar of their Lordship's House, notwithstanding all the eloquence of the learned counsel who commented on it, and the very great effect it produced upon many noble Lords, they had thought proper ultimately to apply a very searching and decisive remedy. It was stated in the Report—
In the great majority of the Corporations no right or inchoate title to admission as a freemen or member is now recognized, and admission or exclusion depends on the mere pleasure of a select or governing body. Where such rights are acknowledged to exist, they vary considerably in the different Corporations.
The modes of admission which have be-come established in most Corporations, have further contributed to limit the number of freemen, and prevent the formation of a general and comprehensive commonalty.
The Charters of James I., as already stated, vested in the chief officer and free burgesses
of the Corporations then created the function of admitting the members of the commonalty. Select or governing bodies, under the name of Common Councils, became generally established in the ancient Corporations, and appear to have early acquired the privilege of deciding on the merits of the claims to freedom, and of granting or withholding admission.
They exercised also, without limit as to numbers, the power of admitting whom they pleased, by what is generally termed 'special grace.'
Possessed of these powers, the governing bodies have too commonly used them without scruple, not as trusts to be exercised for the benefit of the community, but as the means of attaining for themselves an exclusive dominion over the general inhabitancy, and political influence in the election of Members of Parliament. The course which they seem to have almost universally pursued for this object has been to concede, with the utmost parsimony, to the inhabitants the right to become members of the Corporations as freemen.
The close nature and constitution of these Corporations, he must remind their Lordships, were very greatly aggravated and increased by the Act 21 George 2nd, for which the ancestor of the present Lord Privy Seal was generally held responsible—why he could hardly conceive, and still less appreciate the motives by which he was said to have been actuated. That Act made residence in the governing body entirely unnecessary, under the pretence that there were, in many towns, not sufficient Protestants to form these Corporations. On that ground persons were placed in the Corporations who were quite unconnected with the towns, and yet exercised a complete domination over them. The result was, that in many towns of very considerable trade and traffic, Youghal for instance, the Corporations had fallen wholly into disrepute. "The Corporation of Youghal (say the Commissioners) has long become unpopular; the objects for which it is constituted are, in many instances, of no utility, in others they are injurious, in all insufficient and inadequate." It had always been his opinion, when there were evils which required reformation, and when there was a general disposition to reform them, not to cast too strict a look backwards, by perpetually calling up, and taking notice of, any abuses which might have taken place, particularly when those abuses did not so much reflect on the individuals who had participated in them, as on the system that naturally and necessarily gave rise to them. The Corporations of Ireland were irresponsible bodies, self-elected, which had
large property to administer, with respect to which there was no opportunity of calling the corporate officers to account, and in which the legal proceedings were so prolix, expensive, and so dilatory, that it was impossible to procure a speedy and effectual redress. Such a state of things naturally generated abuses which it was unwise and imprudent, especially when they were determined to reform them, to inquire into and press upon with too much bitterness and severity. He should look more,—as in the case of the English Corporations, for, if their Lordships recollected, by the arguments he had employed, he had maintained the propriety of reforming them on the ground of the political evils which resulted from them—he should look much more to the divisions and hostility, the enmity and animosity, existing in the corporate towns of Ireland, than to any strong cases of abuse or malversation which had been adduced against individual Corporations. What was the case with respect to those Corporations? He would take that part of the Report which related to Enniskillen. Among other matters in it, to which he would not further allude, he found the name of the noble Lord opposite (the Earl of Enniskillen) was frequently mentioned, but never in a manner otherwise than highly creditable to the noble Earl. But the Report stated, "The Corporation of Enniskillen supplies no Magistrates, pro- vides no police, maintains no gaol, furnishes no nightly watch, makes no provisions for the lighting and cleansing of the town, and performs adequately no function which it ought to perform." A similar state of things prevailed in the Corporation of Londonderry, which furnished a remarkable illustration of the inadequacy of the present Corporations to perform any of the duties of a government for large and populous towns. The Report, speaking of Londonderry, said, "In the year 1808, 1814, 1825, and 1832, the Legislature found it necessary to create new local bodies for the management of the affairs of the town." Now, upon the facts thus detailed in those particular Reports, upon the reasoning of the general Report, and upon the admission of all who had argued on this subject, it was evident that the Corporations, as they at present existed, demanded a thorough and entire reformation, for they did not perform the duties which they ought to discharge, and thus they produced all those evils which followed when authority was not exercised in a manner
beneficial to those for the protection of whose interests it was given. This had been most distinctly, fairly, and honourably admitted by those most instrumental in passing the Act of the late King for removing the penal disabilities which then pressed upon the Roman Catholic subjects of the Crown, and who must necessarily be most anxious for carrying out that measure. Those persons considered them to be so exclusive, that their very existence was utterly inconsistent with the state of society now existing. Not only had these Corporations excluded Roman Catholics, but Protestants whose opinions did not coincide with their own; and they had not only introduced division between Protestants and Roman Catholics, but between Protestants themselves. It did appear to him, then, that it was incumbent on their Lordships to make provision for admitting all classes of his Majesty's subjects in Ireland, of whatever religion they might be, to their due share in the management and government of these towns. The Bill now presented to them was framed for the most part entirely upon the Bill passed by their Lordships last session, a great part of which was the work of a noble and learned Lord on the other side, lately Lord Chancellor. He was sorry to hear the noble Lord speak the other night in such a disparaging manner of it. The noble Lord had said that the Bill was now the law of the land, and added, with something of a sneer, that of course we should all wish to carry it into effect. It was rather unnatural not to express good feeling towards one's offspring, and he was surprised at the noble Lord's coldness towards a Bill in producing which he had so large a share. Knowing their Lordships' habits of business, it would be quite disrespectful in him to suppose that they were not all perfectly acquainted with the provisions of an Act of such great importance as the one passed last Session, especially as they had heard it fully debated last year, and seen its provisions fully carried into effect during the recess. Presuming, therefore, on this knowledge, he thought it would be sufficient if he simply stated in what points the Bill now before them agreed with it, and in what respects the two measures differed. The present Bill, in the same manner as the former Act, reserved the rights of freemen perfect and inchoate, and all the rights of property. The same regulations, with respect to metes and bounds of boroughs, were common to both measures. The pre-
sent Bill established the same form of local government—a mayor, alderman, and council, and generally the same forms and rules in other appointments. The same power was given to appoint officers, to dismiss them, and to give compensation. There were precisely the same regulations with respect to the charities of Corporations, which were left in the same hands as at present, until Parliament should alter this arrangement. The same power of regulating the watching, of appointing special constables, of managing the borough funds, paying officers out of them, and imposing rates, was proposed to be given to the town-councils as was given in the English Bill. There were the same restrictions on the regulation of property, regarding ad-vowsons in the gift of Corporations, and the same provisions for the administration of justice. The Recorder was appointed in the same manner, and was to be made sole judge at the borough sessions. He believed there was no distinction in this respect, except that it was proposed to continue the Courts of Conscience, which had been found extremely beneficial in the Irish boroughs, and which it had been thought advisable to retain. The same power was lodged in the Crown of giving Corporations where the inhabitants desired them, and where they should be judged to be necessary. These were the points which constituted the general agreement between the two Bills. The first difference he should think it necessary to mention was with respect to the qualification. This Bill proposed to enact a 5l. qualification. In the English Bill, the qualification was determined by the amount of the Poor-rates, but in the present Bill such a qualification was out of the question. It was found, if they had adopted the Scotch qualification of 10l., that in many of the Irish boroughs where the property was of small value, it would have given so limited a constituency as to have rendered the reform of the Corporations entirely nugatory. It had been therefore resolved to adopt in the seven larger Irish boroughs a qualification of 10l. annual rent, and in the smaller ones a qualification of 5l. annual rent. This would not give too large a constituency in large towns; and would, at the same time, leave a large enough constituency in smaller places. The duties performed by overseers in England, there being no such officers in Ireland, were in part confided to the hands of the churchwardens. The appointment of revising barristers, which in the case of the English Act was to be
intrusted to the judges, would be by the 15th clause left to the Lord-Lieutenant. The Ministers had been lately very unjustly charged with a desire to increase unduly the patronage of the Crown, notwithstanding that he should he prepared to show a Committee that this arrangement would be much the most proper in Ireland. The 22nd clause of the Bill made a difference in the election of aldermen. Their Lordships were aware, that from a desire to preserve that ancient and venerated name, their Lordships had introduced a clause into the Bill of last year, placing the election of Aldermen in the hands of the town-council, the effect of which was to give to the party predominant in the borough a much greater predominance than it naturally had; for, supposing the number of councillors to be twelve, and that of the aldermen four, and that seven of the councillors were of one opinion and five of another—then the numbers of the respective parties would be pretty equal; but if to these seven was given the election of four additional councillors under the name of aldermen, this would make the proportion of the two parties eleven to five—a majority of more than two to one, and there would be no fair representation of the real state of opinion in the borough, as indicated by the first election. In the present Bill, therefore, to prevent this evil they had thought it right that the whole of the aldermen as well as the town council should be elected by the burgesses. The 84th clause reserved to Parliament the power of directing in what manner the division into wards should be effected, an office which under the English Bill was discharged by Commissioners specially appointed, and which by the former Bill for Ireland was vested in the Lord-Lieutenant. The Bill, by the 53rd, invested the Lord Lieutenant with the power of appointing Sheriffs in the cities which were counties of themselves, who were elected under the English Corporation Bill by the town-councillors. It was hardly necessary that he should explain to their Lordships, it would be much better that the appointment to an office so intimately connected with the administration of justice should be vested in the Crown, than that it should be determined by election. And now, having pointed out the grounds on which he thought it absolutely necessary that their Lordships should pass the present Bill, having pointed out the particulars in which it agreed with the Act passed by them last
session, and having enumerated all the material points of difference between these measures, he should have concluded what he had to say, and content himself with moving that the Bill be now read a second time, if it were not for the arguments which had been held, and the motions which had been made, in another place—motions to which, as they stood on the journals of the other House of Parliament, he might call their Lordships' attention without any impropriety whatever, or any breach of the orders cither of the House of Lords or of the other House. It had been said, though it was admitted that the Corporations of Ireland could not consistently with the state of that country and with the present state of the law and constitution be suffered to continue, that there were such material differences between this country and Ireland, such great and striking discrepancies, that it would he highly unwise and imprudent in legislating for Ireland to abide by the same provisions as were by their Lordships' wisdom applied to this country. In the observations he was about to make on this argument he should preserve the utmost temperance and caution; he should not charge anybody with inconsistency, he should not make a violent or declamatory attack on any one, he would not say that such an objection was utterly inconsistent with the course of opinions professed by any party, or with the political conduct they had always hitherto held, and should not attempt to excite indignation either in this or the neighbouring country by proclaiming that it showed a disposition to deny equal rights and equal justice to Ireland, and a desire to inflict on it the miseries attendant on inferiority of social condition. he wished to say a few words on this subject, however, entirely independent of any topics that could bear the appearance of personal invective or declamation, and he begged leave most distinctly to admit that in parts of a territory subject to one dominion—parts of the same empire—there must he such great differences in their civilization, their state, in their property, their religion, their feeling, temper, and habits, as might undoubtedly also require a difference in their institutions. He understood it had been proposed in the other House to do away with the Irish Corporations entirely, to merge and sink the whole population of those towns into that of the country, to abolish all local and municipal government entirely, and render the whole of them subject to the usual and general law of the land,
notwithstanding the provisions required for the administration of property and of the various privileges which might have belonged to the boroughs. Now, although he had said, that he would not make any desultory remarks on this proposition, he hoped he should not be considered as exceeding at all cither the bounds of propriety or the line he had prescribed to himself if he declared himself a little surprised at the motion and at the quarter from which it proceeded —the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth. It was very unlike that right hon. Gentleman; and he should be still more surprised if it were approved of here by the noble Duke. It was very unlike the character of their politics. He did not think what he said was in the slightest degree disrespectful—perhaps it would be called by some persons rather complimentary, more so than was deserved. It was rather holder than their policy generally was; if he might make a comment on that policy in general, he would say that it was rather too late in point of time, and rather too narrow for the exigencies of the occasion. Now, this proposition was larger than necessary for the occasion, and longer in point of time. It was a great exertion of vigour and strength, leaping twice as high as the fence they wanted to get over. It was very unlike the habitual caution and reserve of the noble Duke and the right hon. Baronet, he did not think it was their measure—he thought it came from another school, a school for whose chief and leading master he had a very great respect. He admired this great Parliamentary ability, but he was certainly yet rather young, and the noble Duke and right hon. Baronet might perhaps find that his great talents would scarcely compensate the absence of temperance and discretion. He would advise the noble Duke to take care he was not hurried away from the caution which had generally marked his conduct, and which was much wanted in the politics of the individual to whom he alluded. Now, he perfectly admitted that there might be such a difference between the two countries as would require a different mode of proceeding and a different principle of legislation; he admitted there were very great differences—that there was a certain difference in the temperament and feelings of the people, in the degrees of civilization which each had attained; that there was unfortunately a difference with respect to a greater propensity in Ireland to combination and to violent outrage; and there
was that great and unfortunate difference in the vast disproportion between the numbers of those who belonged to the Established Church and those who did not, which they might view some in one light and some in another, but which he trusted none would allow to influence their decision on the present question. Ireland possessed a system of police essentially different from that adopted in England, and in fact, under difficulties and disturbances, was invested with far greater remedial powers than her neighbours. These were differences certainly, but they were not differences worthy of any very great consideration. But there were some resemblances, too, which could not but be looked upon as important. The people of the two countries lived under the same form of government, under the same parliamentary constitution, under the same trial by jury, and under the same liberty of the press. Now, he would say that these points of resemblance were of far greater weight than any points of difference existing between the countries, and their Lordships ought to pause and consider before they made those points of difference greater than they had evidently been looked upon by the other House of Parliament. He would do nothing to excite the feelings of the Irish people, but he was most fully persuaded that they could not be left out in the consideration of this question. It was their Lordships' duty not to do anything calculated to alienate them from the Government, hut every thing in their power to soothe and conciliate them. It was not his intention at present to go fully into the question of local government. He apprehended, however, that some sort of local government prevailed in all civilized nations. It had prevailed to a greater degree in ancient than in modern times, and had been neglected in no country in Europe more than in England. Corporations perhaps might not be absolutely necessary for the well-being of a community, and their Lordships were aware that Nottingham and other large towns had not managed their local affairs in such a manner as to give satisfaction with a Corporation, whilst Manchester and Birmingham had succeeded in doing so without. The system of local government had long been extant in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the question now was, whether their Lordships would do away with them in the latter country altogether, and thereby pursue a line of conduct which would be but little agreeable with the wisdom and prudence
of statesmen. Their Lordships were called upon to consider, not the points of difference between England and Ireland, they were not of such a nature and magnitude as to justify so large a departure from the customs of old times, the long-established practice of this country, and the laws they had lately passed for the other parts of the empire—they were called upon to consider whether, if there were differences, they were all of such a durable nature as to justify a different law which he presumed was intended to be permanent and durable as the short-sightedness of human views and the imperfection of the human understanding would admit. The noble Viscount concluded by moving that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Lord Lyndhurst,
before the debate was prosecuted any further, thought it was his duty to point out the course which he and other noble Lords on his side of the Mouse intended to pursue with reference to the measure which had been sent up to them from the other House, but not sanctioned, he must say in answer to the noble Viscount, by any very considerable majority. It was, undoubtedly, a question of the greatest importance with regard to any course their Lordships might determine upon pursuing, and required to be discussed with the utmost calmness and deliberation. But, before he entered upon the main subject, their Lordships would permit him to advert to an observation which had fallen from the noble Viscount, which he had repeated several times during the course of the last Session and which he had now again made use of. It was not fair of that noble Lord to impose upon him the charge of that noble Viscount's offspring. He had, undoubtedly, endeavoured to remedy, as far as he was able, any defects in the Bill of last Session, and, to a certain extent, he had succeeded; but he still thought it unfair in the noble Lord to throw upon him the charge of his own offspring. In reference, now, to the subject matter of the debate, he had always understood, when any proposition for the reformation of abuses was to be made, the plain and clear course to be taken was, to point out the existing evil, and to state the remedy which was proposed to meet it, and the effect which that remedy would produce; but what he complained of was, that the noble Viscount had not told them what would be the effect of the proposed measure, and he complained of that because upon the consequences it produced, the uti- 1130 lity of the remedy must depend. He would not go to the Report, nor did he know what reliance was to be placed upon that document, but it was admitted on all hands that in the Irish Corporations evils to a very great extent did exist; they were not disguised, but open, acknowledged, undoubted evils. They resolved themselves into exclusion, the administration of justice being placed in the hands of one party only, and the mal-administration of the municipal government, in consequence of its being placed in the hands of one party Those were the evils that existed; that was a summary of the inconveniences attached to the present system of municipal government in Ireland; and he was quite as ready as the noble Viscount to say, that an adequate remedy ought to be provided. The existing evils were not denied by the people of this country; they were not denied by the Protestants of Ireland; they were not denied by the members of the corporations themselves; and the greater part of those members even wished for a remedy, provided one could be found which would have a fair and just operation, and would not be the means of introducing evils of a similar description. What was the remedy proposed by the noble Lord? He was sure there was no noble Lord in that House who, having carefully and attentively considered the subject, would not feel that, so far from any improvement being effected by it, the existing evils would only be aggravated. Would the system of exclusion be remedied? He would ask the noble Lord to think of the present state of parties in Ireland, of the effect of the proposed measure upon that state of society; and, then, if he could with a fearless conscience, deny that the exclusion of the new system would be worse than that of the present. Would the administration of justice be taken out of the hands of one party? Would justice be administered one jot more fairly, more independently of party and political feeling? Again, he would ask the noble Lord to consider the species of popular feeling which existed in that country, and then to answer, sincerely, whether he did not believe, that the evils of the present system in that respect would, under the proposed one, be aggravated tenfold? What, then, would be the consequences of adopting the Bill now before their Lordships? The Corporations would not then, it was true, consist of Protestants—it was true they would not consist of Conservatives; but 1131 they still would be exclusive; they would consist of one party, and that the anti-Church party—those who were daily seeking the dissolution of the empire, and the overthrow of the Protestant Church—that party which, for want of a better name, he must denominate the Radical party. What was the scope, what was the object of this measure? It was true it would take all municipal power out of the hands of the Protestants, but it would only be to transfer it to the grasp of their opponents, whom he had just described to their Lordships. Would, then, the proposed measure lead to anything more than to a direct transfer of power? Their Lordships had already seen the effect of a similar Bill in England; they had seen in what manner the municipal elections and appointments had been conducted in England. Let not the warning, then, be lost; let them see how the same principles and the same regulations would apply to the state of circumstances in Ireland; and then say whether the remedy which they were endeavouring to administer would not aggravate the evils to be remedied in the present Corporations of Ireland. What had been the object of those who had framed, and those who had countenanced, and those upon whom the measure had been imposed? Why, the object of all was power—power, which had been the object of every measure of reform that had been introduced into Parliament, from the measure for the amendment of Parliamentary Representation down to the Bill upon which their Lordships were then deliberating. In each of those measures the object was the same—to dispossess one party of power, and to give it to their opponents. Nor was the fact disguised by the adherents of the Government, though his Majesty's Ministers themselves did not perhaps avow it; but the case with which it had been accomplished had been far and wide resounded in triumph. If he wished for an illustration of his assertion that the only object of all the reform measures had been to secure the power of a party he need only advert to the discussions which had latterly taken place, both there and elsewhere, upon the appointment of municipal magistrates under the new English Corporation Bill; and, after a careful and anxious consideration of those discussions, he felt bound to say that he could come to no other conclusion than that those appointments had been made solely upon party and political 1132 considerations. And if, then, they found that even in so sacred and important a duty us the fair and impartial administration of justice, the attainment of political power had been the governing object, how could they avoid the conclusion, that in their measures also the object should be only a transfer of power for their own advantage, the suppression of their opponents—to trample down into the dust the Conservative power of the kingdom, and to transfer it to the Radicals? If the consequence then in England was such as he had stated, he would beg of them to consider what was likely to be the effect of a similar system in Ireland. There was party feeling in England, but it was the mere whisper of a temperate breeze when compared with the whirlwind of political passion in that country. Their Lordships might imagine the desperate struggle between parties that would ensue at the first election after the passing of the proposed measure, and they would remember that that struggle must be annually renewed. Need he again ask them, what would be the effect of the measure, to what a state of misery would that remedy bring that already unfortunate country? Their Lordships knew what usually took place, the scenes which invariably occurred, at the elections for Members of Parliament in Ireland; let them, then, only remember what was the qualification proposed by this Bill, and he would ask if the same intimidation and the same violence would not, beyond all doubt, be exercised at the elections and nominations for the new Town-councils—and if there would not be at those elections also displayed, in all its might, against the Protestant interest, the most formidable engine of political power that was ever wielded in any country, he meant the Roman Catholic Priesthood? He remembered the time when their influence had been denied, but it was now acknowledged and boasted, and an engine more mischievous, more terrible, was never let loose upon any country. But he did not like to descend into particulars of that kind, because he knew that their Lordships had read the evidence with respect to that subject, and he knew what an impression it had made upon the country at large, and what an impression it must make upon all their Lordships. The exertion of that influence had not been confined to the ordinary classes of the priesthood; but he found also in the Report of the Committee on 1133 another subject, and of the Carlow Committee, evidence of a Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church having issued circulars to every priest in his diocese, directing them to exert themselves to the utmost in favour of particular candidates. He would have referred more minutely to the evidence, but his so doing would have, perhaps, only weakened the general effect which it had made upon the minds of their Lordships. In a county, with which a noble Marquess, opposite, (Lansdowne) was connected, with the exception of the pastors of three chapels, the Roman Catholic priests had uniformly denounced every one under their direction, who did not vote in favour of the candidates they supported, as enemies to their religion and their God. He would take the liberty of leading to their Lordships a passage from the evidence of a priest himself, a circumstance which at once must render that evidence free from the shadow of a doubt. The noble and learned Lord then read an extract from the evidence of the reverend James Maher, given before the Committee of the House of Commons, upon bribery and intimidation at flections. The passage was as follows: "All of the Catholic religion will vote for Blakeney and Wallace, while we will make our stand here in the capacity of priests, and we will know the man who will vote against us; we will watch the recreant till he goes to his grave—yes, upon the Catholic slave we will set a mark and brand of infamy who will vote against his God and his country." This was an undeniable fact, and proceedings such as this had characterized the elections in Ireland for many years past. The same proceedings would now be repeated in the towns of that country under the elections to be created by the Bill of the noble Viscount. Their Lordships all knew that the Catholic priesthood denied the rites of the Church to all those who presumed to act in opposition to their wishes or advice; the consequences to such persons were, invariably, an exclusion from society, enforced in such a manner as to compel them either to fly to this country for security, or to submit with patience to the grossest insults. What, then, were likely to be the inevitable consequences of this Bill? That the Town-councils would be formed exclusively of persons of the Roman Catholic persuasion. When it was said, that the object was to get rid of a system of exclusion, were not noble 1134 Lords opposite falling into the very error they wished to get rid of, in the substitute they proposed to establish for the existing Corporations? Again, what was likely to take place as to the appointment of Magistrates under the Bill? Would not the result be the same in Ireland as it had been in England, or worse? Would not persons of the same class and feelings as those composing the Town-councils he elected universally? The administration of justice and of municipal affairs altogether would be confined to a party of inflammatory demagogues; and in his calm and deliberate opinion, justice would be poisoned at its source, and corporate property devoted to any but its legitimate purposes. He was not speaking without authority, for he was borne out by what had been going on in Ireland for years past. Nay, more, he would appeal to the testimony of an individual, whose end and aim was the subversion of Protestantism in Ireland, of him who was the director and controller of all the actions of his Majesty's Government, and at whose nod that Government was fated to stand or fall. And what said the individual to whom he alluded, with reference to the English Corporation Bill? He said to the people, "You have got an instalment, a great instalment, towards the accomplishment of your objects; and you have established schools for political agitation." But, continued the noble and learned Lord, having thus far discussed the objects of the Bill before the House, it now remained for him to allude to its provisions. The noble Viscount opposite, had denied some portion of that which had been stated in another place, for he said the application of the same principle to Ireland as to England must depend considerably upon circumstances. He agreed with the noble Viscount in that respect, and the more so, because he considered the state of religious differences to be such, that it would be in the highest degree dangerous to apply the measure of England to the sister country in the same form. The noble Viscount had told them in what respects the present measure differed from the English Bill of last Session, but he had not done so very fully or satisfactorily. First, as to the qualification of persons eligible for the Town-council. Their Lordships had not been told why in so few months' time such a change had taken place upon this subject. In the English Bill there had been no 1135 qualification beyond the necessity of the payment of rates for two years, and for any part of the third year extending to the period of election. Their Lordships well knew of what class of persons these Town-councils would be formed; they would not be confined to occupiers of land, or to people of any property, but men of the very lowest stamp would be admitted into them. All who occupied tenements of 5l. a-year would be imposed upon the towns whose property they would be presumed to represent. But there was another thing the noble Viscount had omitted to mention—viz., the difference as to the persons who were to make out the lists of those entitled to vote. Those lists could not be done by the overseers, for in Ireland there were none; the churchwardens had, therefore, been selected, and yet, in some instances, (and no reason had been shown for such a case) even the town-clerks had been named as the fittest persons for that important office. Why, the town-clerk was the very creature of the Town-council; he held his office under them, was entirely dependent upon them for his place and in every respect, both religious and civil, was their creature and slave. This departure from the principle of the English Bill was not casual, nor in fact were any of the differences between the two measures. But there was another point he wished to allude to. In the English Bill their Lordships had carefully provided for the divisions of the corporate towns into wards, having succeeded in spite of the opposition of the noble Viscount, in carrying that essential point. Now, the noble Lord had passed such provision over in the measure he had brought forward for Ireland. That measure was only to provide for divisions into wards in case a Bill for that purpose should pass the Legislature during the present Session. Such a case, he need not add, depended entirely upon the permission of the great agitator himself. Upon this point, then, and on many others he could name, party purposes had been the reasons for the difference between the measures. There was another question worth mentioning which related to the Bill before their Lordships. That Bill, as it originally stood, contained a provision, giving to the Town-councils control over every society existing in the towns. That part of the Bill had disappeared, and no reason had been given for such disappearance. Again, as to the appointment of Sheriffs, that was, by the original Bill, 1136 to be in the hands of the Town-councils, as in England; but now, forsooth, such a course was considered likely to lead to wrong, because, with reference to other parts of their duties, it would contribute to party purposes, and that part of the Bill had been altered. It was thus, then, at once admitted that the situation of England and Ireland was so essentially different that the Irish could not with safety be intrusted with the same power that could he placed in the hands of Englishmen. The appointment of the police, too, in England was vested in the Corporations; so was it originally in the provisions of the Irish Bill. But such a provision was absurd, at the moment when a Bill was passing the other House vesting the power of the constabulary force in the Government. The watchmen, also, by the present measure, were not confined to the towns, nor, in some instances, even to the county, but extended to others. Why did he allude to all these points? To satisfy the House that Ministers were either staggered at their own measure, or they did not absolutely know the exact nature of the Bill they had concocted. The same arguments might be used against all those who had supported the measure. All they wanted was the establishment of Town-councils, which would inevitably settle down into sects of agitation for their own and party purposes. Their chief object was, either secretly or openly, the suppression of the Protestant Church. Their Lordships must either stand up for a great alteration, therefore, of the measure now submitted to them, or be pre-pared to give full scope and authority to a scheme containing the dangerous provisions he had pressed upon their notice. The Corporations to be established by it were invested with no useful functions whatever. They were to be stripped of the administration of justice. With neither criminal nor civil justice would they have anything to do; both were vested in the Crown; with the police they would have nothing to do, for that was under the control of the Lord-Lieutenant. The Sheriffs were also to be independent of the Corporations; the charitable trusts were to be free from their interference; and with reference to the seaport towns, the chambers of commerce were to be free from their control. There was in Ireland a statute, the 9 George 4th, which deprived the Irish Corporations of all the powers and duties for which Corporations were originally instituted. All, 1137 then, which they would have would be subordinate duties, and they would have no object but the formation of legal assemblies for political discussion and Radical agitation. He would now come to the consideration of the course he and others with him intended to pursue with reference to this Bill. He was no advocate for exclusive Corporations; such bodies could not fail to operate injuriously upon the ends of justice, and could not be defended on party principles. Neither did he defend the existing Corporations of Ireland. Many wise and unprejudiced men, of both Protestant and Catholic persuasions, had expressed their conviction of the necessity of some remedy being applied to the existing abuses in them. No one could be found to stand up for them as at present constituted. It was, as the noble Viscount had truly stated, universally agreed upon that they must be altered. In their Lordships' address to the King they had stated their readiness, if there were abuses, to remedy those abuses; and if they were not hound by that pledge, they were at least bound by duty to see in what shape and form the remedy required could be applied. He could not, then, so far oppose the noble Viscount opposite as to say this Bill should not be read a second time, nor go to a division. He felt he was bound by what he said; he felt, too, that he differed from some of his friends, for whom he entertained the profoundest regard—men of great judgment, unsullied character, and sound constitutional learning. He had listened to their arguments, and was bound to explain the reasons for his differing from them upon this great question. If no alternative existed but that of passing the noble Viscount's Bill, or of retaining the present Corporations, he could not for a moment hesitate to say he would prefer retaining those Corporations as they were. He considered the evils consequent upon the adoption of the Bill of the noble Lord would be far greater than those, great as they were, which existed under the present system. What, then, was the course he intended to pursue? He saw that, by the first clause of the present Bill, all Corporations were at once to be abolished throughout the whole kingdom of Ireland; and, coupling that clause with other provisions of the measure, he challenged any lawyer, however learned or acute, to put his finger on a single charter and say that it was confirmed in an existence. The object of the present Bill was to anni- 1138 hilate completely the existing charters. The question, and the only question, which remained for consideration was; what should be substituted in their place? Should their Lordships substitute the plan proposed by the noble Viscount opposite, or should they pursue a different course, and provide for the few duties which were, according to the present Bill, to be imposed on the new Corporations, by other means than those recommended by the Government? He knew that they (the Opposition) would be charged with annihilating and destroying the Irish Corporations, and with acting contrary to the principles which they professed. It was not they, but his Majesty's Government, which destroyed the Irish Corporations. And, he repeated, the only question now was, what should be substituted? First, let the House consider what was said by those Corporations themselves; and let it be recollected that a Corporation always possessed the power of surrendering its charter. Now, all the petitions that had been presented from these Corporations deprecate the measure of the noble Viscount opposite. Two months had elapsed since the scheme of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) was announced, and not a single Corporation had presented a petition against it. The noble Viscount opposite had, it was true, presented a petition from a town in Scotland, the town of Ayr, and another from Kingston-upon-Hull; but the noble Viscount had not been able to obtain a petition from any Corporation in Ireland against the scheme proposed by the right hon. Baronet in the other House of Parliament. He believed—indeed he might say that he knew—that the feeling throughout the Corporations of Ireland was, that though they were not anxious to retain the present form of municipal society, and were not unwilling to part with it entirely, yet they deprecated the substitution of the scheme of the noble Viscount opposite, which would inevitably be productive of agitation, violence, and misery of the worst description in every town and district of Ireland. He probably might be asked, by what details he proposed to carry into effect the object he had in view; and he would, therefore, state enough to satisfy their Lordships, that it might easily be attained,—pledging himself to prepare all that might be necessary for the purpose, should their Lordships see cause to take the same view of the question as he did. The rights of freemen—their pecuniary 1139 rights, and the franchise they enjoyed, with reference to the election of Members of Parliament, would be provided for as in the Bill of the noble Viscount. The administration of justice in criminal and civil courts would equally be provided for. Provision would also be made for the appointment of Sheriffs, for the administration of charitable trusts, and for the performance of all the other duties incident to Corporations, in the same manner as in the Bill of the noble Viscount. The superintendence of harbours, the regulations of chambers of commerce, and all similar objects would be provided for exactly in the same manner as in the Bill now before the House. With respect to the police within the incorporated towns, that was either provided for at present by local Acts, or by that Act to which he had before referred —the 9th of George 4th. It was unnecessary, then, for any of these objects, to have Corporations in Ireland, for the Bill now under consideration made provision for nearly all of them, independent of any interference on the part of the new Municipal bodies which it was proposed to construct. There was one question which he knew he should be asked, and it was the only question that remained for him to call their Lordships' attention to—he meant the question of the disposal of the corporate funds. What was to be done with the property of the Corporations? Why, that was taken away by the Bill of the noble Viscount. The moment they annihilated a Corporation they stripped it of its property. But the noble Viscount and the supporters of the present Bill said, (and with some truth, perhaps, though not with perfect accuracy) that property vested in a Corporation was in general vested for public purposes, and that the Corporators were trustees. For the purpose of argument he assented to that proposition. The corporators, then, were trustees for charitable purposes, and they were also trustees for the benefit of the Corporation, the town, or the inhabitants of the town. The Government had provided for the purposes of that trust, with reference to the charitable funds. What, then, was to be done with respect to the other property? That property was still to be administered as a trust, and what signified it whether the trustees were new corporators, or individuals appointed like the trustees for the charitable funds. Nothing more was necessary, then, than to have Commissioners appointed by the Lord- 1140 Lieutenant of Ireland, for the purpose of administering those funds intended for the general benefit of the inhabitants of the towns. He would state to their Lordships the amount of the property possessed by Corporations in Ireland, of which formerly, a very exaggerated notion used to be entertained. By the Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry on Irish Corporations, it appeared that, excepting Dublin, the funds of those Corporations did not much exceed 33,000l. a-year. But their Lordships should bear in mind, that it was proposed by the present Bill (and he believed that there existed no difference of opinion on the subject) to put an end to all public tolls, vested in the Corporations. They were considered a great public inconvenience and nuisance, and it was proposed that they should be abolished. The consequence of this proceeding would be, that the small amount of property at present possessed by the Corporations would be greatly reduced. That property would still further be reduced by the operation of another provision, which had been recommended, and, he believed, universally assented to. He alluded to the application of the remaining portion of the funds in the hands of the Corporations, to the purchase and extinction of those tolls which were vested in private individuals. After all this was done, a very small balance would remain to be administered for the public benefit. Under these circumstances, he asked the House to consider the plan which he proposed, and to compare it with the plan proposed by the noble Viscount opposite. Every object mentioned in the Bill would be, according to his (Lord Lyndhurst's) plan, provided for as fully, as entirely, and, in many instances, in the same manner, but, at all events, as satisfactorily, as by the measure of the Government. And by adopting the plan he recommended, their Lordships would reap this advantage— that they would get rid of that intolerable evil and nuisance, to which he had before referred—the establishment of schools for teaching the science of political agitation. They would also get rid of the. nuisance and the evil of annual elections in Ireland, which could be carried on with the same excited spirit, the same hostility, and with the same bitterness and irritability, as now marked the elections in that country. He asked their Lordships to choose between the two schemes; and if they considered them with reference to the state of Ireland, 1141 calmly, dispassionately, and deliberately, they would not hesitate, he was sure, as to the one which they ought to adopt. He begged their Lordships' pardon for detaining them so long. His object had been to state, as clearly and as shortly as the nature of the case admitted, the course which he recommended should be taken. This he owed to the noble Lords on his side of the House, and, in candour and fairness, to his Majesty's Ministers themselves. Never was a question of greater importance agitated within the walls of Parliament; never was there a crisis pregnant with more important consequences than the present. Whatever course their Lordships might pursue with respect to the present measure, the consequence might be serious; but it appeared to him, that less danger was to be apprehended from the scheme which he recommended than from that proposed by the Government. But was it quite certain that the noble Viscount opposite would, whatever appearance he might put on, be hostile to the measure which he (Lord Lyndhurst) recommended? Had not that noble Viscount and his Friends, Members of the Government, fears that, if the present measure should be carried into law, the strength of their Radical supporters in Ireland would be increased to such an extent, as to be productive of great personal inconvenience to themselves? He believed that they did entertain such an apprehension, and he could not help thinking that he was doing their work in proposing a measure which, when carried, they would approve of and applaud; for instead of strengthening in Ireland that class of their supporters to which he had referred, the direct tendency of it would be to strengthen the bands of his Majesty's Government. It was no objection in his eyes that his scheme would have this effect, for in Ireland the hands of the Government required to be strengthened. What was wanted in Ireland was tranquillity and obedience to the law. The rich soil of Ireland, its advantageous positions, and the other favourable circumstances attendant on it, would, if an opportunity were given for the development of its resources, make that country great, prosperous, and powerful. What was it that prevented this result? The tumult, the discord, the agitation and perpetual hostility existing in the country, which rendered life and property unsafe; and it was because the measure proposed by the 1142 noble Viscount opposite had a tendency to increase and embitter the evils of Ireland, not in a moderate degree, but to a very alarming extent, that he regarded it with dread. He was quite certain that if their Lordships passed the Bill as it stood at present, they would soon see, in all parts of Ireland, schools, not merely of agitation, but of sedition, which would endanger the unity of the empire, shaking it to its very centre, and the result would be, either a dissolution of the parts of which it is composed, or that dreadful alternative—civil Mar—the consequences of which no man could foresee. It was for their Lordships to save the kingdom from such great calamities.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne,
without suffering himself to be led by the noble and learned Lord into a premature discussion of the details of the Bill, would advert only to one of the observations which he had made with reference to them, before he proceeded to the far higher consideration of the grounds on which the noble and learned Lord thought the general question ought to be discussed. The noble and learned Lord had dwelt upon the omission in the Bill, beyond a mere reference in a single clause, of any provision for warding, or dividing into wards, the Corporations which it proposed to reconstruct. The noble and learned Lord need not suspect that it was the intention of his Majesty's Ministers to entrap the House into passing that Bill without making any provision for the system of wards, to which he attached so much importance; because the fact was, that preparations had been, and were in the course of being, made during a considerable portion of last year, for that purpose; and that it was solely owing to the delay attendant upon all works of great detail, that the present measure had not been accompanied by another for the division into wards, on the same principle as that which accompanied the former Bill. So much on the details of the Bill. He would not occupy their Lordships' time further in considering the different clauses of which it was composed, for all the circumstances connected with the measure were lost in the one great and portentous consideration of the principle announced by the noble and learned Lord, which, disguised as it might be by his eloquence, set off by the clearness of his speaking, and cloaked by his ingenuity and artifice, amounted, nevertheless, to 1143 the distinct declaration that one of the great constitutional principles attaching to the Government of this country, recognised at all times—recognised as to England, recognised as to Scotland, in the reigns of the Plantagenets, the Tudors, and the Stuarts, before the Reformation and after the Reformation—should be solemnly declared by that House inapplicable to the people of Ireland, and one, of which, in policy and justice, they ought to be deprived. The noble and learned Lord, with a sort of ingenuity which he could not but think unworthy of his great talents, was pleased to say, that Ministers, by the very first clause in the Bill, destroyed all the charters at once, and to assume, that finding them all destroyed, he had only to build up a new system to administer the functions of which they had been deprived. Why, was the noble and learned Lord prepared to contend, that the abominable vices of the Irish Corporations, as they were detailed in the Report on the table, were within the scope and intention of their original charters? And was the noble Lord prepared to contend that to make these constituencies open, to make the officers responsible, to admit individuals to that justice of which they had been so long refused, was not a renovation, but a destruction of those charters? This was a renovation of the system —a renovation which the clauses of the Act the noble and learned Lord proposed to sweep away intended to effect, but his system and his subsequent clauses were intended to destroy it, and to destroy it for ever. He called upon the noble and learned Lord to rise again in his place, and to point out one charter which established the exclusive principle the Corporations had adopted, and of which the people of Ireland justly complained. He called upon the noble and learned Lord to point out any one of the forty charters issued by James 1st which authorised such restrictions. They had been by abuse engrafted on those charters, and that abuse their Lordships were called upon to perform the glorious and noble work of removing. The noble and learned Lord, with his usual skill, had steered clear of this point altogether. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) knew that it had been propounded elsewhere, and propounded out of that House, that it was the real object of those charters to create exclusive bodies, and to exclude certain classes of his Majesty's subjects from that share in the local administration which, notwithstanding 1144 what had fallen from the noble and learned Lord, he would still designate as most important to them. The noble and learned Lord, in the early part of his speech, found fault with the statement of his noble Friend near him (Viscount Melbourne), and said that, although he had generally described the serious evils which had prevailed under the existing system, he had not particularised them. The noble and learned Lord had asked what was the cause of those evils. He would answer him distinctly. It was the existence of irresponsible and self-elected corporations; and, when the noble and learned Lord asked whether they sought to remedy the evil, he replied that they did, because they proposed to substitute for irresponsible bodies responsible bodies, and for self-elected bodies, bodies elected by persons whose interest it was to choose the persons best calculated to promote the interests of those for whose benefit the corporate functions over which they presided were exercised.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
begged to interrupt the noble Marquess for one moment. His argument was, that the noble Viscount had stated the evils of the existing system, but had not adverted to the evil consequences which were likely to result from his proposed remedy.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
if the noble and learned Lord had done him the honour to wait until the very next sentence, he would have found that he was proceeding to the other point of his argument. He did not complain of these little interlocutory speeches, or of this mode of throwing in a short address to the House. He might have hoped that he had not dwelt so long upon his first point as to induce the noble and learned Lord to despair of his ever coming to his second. Well; the noble Viscount, wished to be informed, in the first place, of the cause of the existing evils. That he had stated to the noble and learned Lord distinctly. The noble and learned Lord then inquired what it was that his Majesty's Ministers proposed as a substitute; and he made the inquiry for the purpose of showing that the same or greater evils would be occasioned by the proposed measure than by the system it proposed to abolish. Now this was precisely what he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) altogether denied; and he did so upon the plain and clear ground that what they proposed to substitute was manifestly distinct, opposed to, and different from, what they proposed to remove. The noble 1145 and learned Lord was not the only person who had adopted the uncandid line of argument that Ministers were very eager for the alteration because they were anxious to change a particular set of persons for some party views of their own. The noble and learned Lord had spoken of the evils which he apprehended from the Bill, with a considerable degree of soreness, which appeared to be occasioned by the result of the municipal elections in England. The noble and learned Lord had taken great pains to improve the English Bill, and the present measure had been framed with reference to that Bill as improved by the noble and learned Lord; it contained a very large family of clauses, and if the noble and learned Lord took the trouble to look at them, he thought he would find that a great many of them had been begotten by himself. The noble and learned Lord appeared to feel a little sore that his alterations in the other Bill had failed in their object; and he seemed very desirous that his present amendments should not meet with the same unfortunate result. The noble and learned Lord had dwelt at some length upon the nature of the change to be effected in these Corporations; but although the noble Baron blamed his noble Friend for not explaining its advantages, the noble and learned Lord had equally abstained from stating its disadvantages. The disadvantages to which the noble and learned Lord had alluded were mere phantoms, which appeared in dim and shadowy outline in the distance, shrunk from the touch, and vanished when they were approached—phantoms which had been conjured up when the Parliamentary Reform Bill was under discussion, and on all occasions when apprehensions were to be awakened in the bosoms of noble Lords, but which were always equally shadowy and unsubstantial. The noble and learned Lord's dreadful alarm appeared to amount at last to this—that the Corporations would become schools of political agitation. In the latter part of his speech, however, the noble and learned Lord had replied to a good deal of what he advanced at its commencement, inasmuch as he first dwelt on the prodigious evils of the Corporations, and then proceeded to show that they were so entirely stripped of all their powers, as to be scarcely worth preserving at all. Now there was a very clear and intelligible distinction upon this point, on which he mainly relied, in justifying the provisions of the Bill. It was, that the powers 1146 necessary for the administration of justice which he would contend was upon all occasions more safely, more properly, and, he would even add, more constitutionally, vested in the Crown, were reserved to the Crown; but that all the powers which it was more convenient, more fitting, and more conducive to the public interest to confer on local bodies, were vested in them. These were powers connected with the administration of affairs, mixed up with their daily habits and lives, of which they were far better judges than even the Crown itself could possibly be; and these powers were reserved for local bodies to administer for the benefit of the persons over whose interests they presided. These bodies were retained for the purpose of administering local funds, and protecting local interests, and it was to the habitual exercise of their own authority in the administration of those funds that he looked, not for schools of agitation, but for schools that should prevent agitation, in the which, let him tell the noble and learned Lord, the experience of all countries had shown agitation could be alone kept down-namely, by giving the people wherewithal to exercise their judgment and intellect upon, by enabling them to enjoy all that they were by law entitled to enjoy, and by placing them in the situation in which the Constitution, not only of this country, but of every other civilized country in the world, placed its subjects. The experience of history, and experience of the most re cent date, had sufficiently shown, that every country advanced in civilization by the very means which the noble and learned Lord considered most incompatible with it. A recent traveller in Europe and America would inform the noble and learned Lord that the existence of corporate bodies constituted the safety of a country against that democratic influence which he so much dreaded. He did not know whether the noble and learned Lord had read, but he knew that many Members of that House had read, with the attention it deserved, a most remarkable work on the Constitution and character of a country he had ever met with—he meant M. Tocqueville's book on democracy in America. That gentleman went to America with somewhat aristocratic notions, being himself of an aristocratic family, and returning with a strong persuasion of the evils of a democratic form of government, and the consequences to which the ascendancy of democracy might lead, and who yet found a corrective 1147 of these evils in—what? In the existence of municipal institutions. He said, that strong as the principle of democracy was in America, much as it was exercised, and capable as it was of leading to excesses, there was that in America which would correct those excesses from time to time— a system of municipal institutions, which gave room to every active mind for the exercise of its powers, which gave him a local interest, distinct from the general interests of the State, which prevented him from concerning himself too much with public affairs, and which, he conceived, supposing evils to arise, would moderate, if not entirely check and impede, their progress. Experience upon experience, and all the wisest historians who had written on Europe, had connected the progress of civilization with the discharge of those very functions which it seemed the noble and learned Lord's first wish utterly to subvert and destroy; and to destroy, too, for the purpose of preventing agitation. My Lords (continued the noble Marquess) I was astonished to hear with what perseverance the noble and learned Lord dwelt on this solitary point; for he ventured upon no other. It is astonishing the use that is made of Mr. O'Connell. [Loud Cheers from the Ministerial Benches, answered by ironical cheers from the Opposition.] It is astonishing this universal admission of servitude to Mr. O'Connell. It is really gratifying to hear the noble Lords opposite admit that it is to him they are indebted for all their arguments. [Loud cries of "Hear!"] Noble Lords cry "Hear, hear!" at this moment they admit the fact that Mr. O'Connell furnishes them with all their arguments, they refer everything to him, and judge of a measure being good or bad by his having supported or opposed it. Wise, just, and magnanimous principle. I wish the noble Lords joy of the new principle they introduce into the legislation of this House, and congratulate them on the wisdom of letting it go forth to the public. I am happy that they have had this opportunity of expressing their sentiments, and of interpreting much better than I could have done the conclusion at which I was about to arrive. The noble and learned Lord finds what Mr. O'Connell has somewhere said, that these Corporations will become schools of agitation—whether general or local, by-the-bye, does not appear — and for that reason he opposes the Bill. But do noble Lords remember, when they talk 1148 of these municipal boroughs becoming schools of agitation, that there are means of agitation without them. Do they really believe in that soft state of Arcadian tranquillity of which the noble and learned Lord is so fond; and can they suppose that this beautiful condition of happiness and peace will result from his measure? Does the noble and learned Lord remember, that if this Bill be not passed, the persons who would have composed these Municipal bodies will continue to exist in a country in which public meetings are free, and where they will continue to have the right—unimpaired and unchecked by any obstacle from the Crown, the noble and learned Lord or the majority of that House—to meet and publish, speak and debate. Does the noble and learned Lord really believe, that seeing these local funds and powers vested in the Crown, when they have been hitherto administered by local bodies, will so gratify these people, that there will be no agitation in those places where they are robbed and defrauded of the authority which naturally belongs to them? I own, my Lords, that I can anticipate no such result. So far from thinking (the noble Marquess continued) that the constitution of the proposed municipal bodies would establish schools of agitation, it was his firm conviction that it was the old system of exclusive corporations that had raised schools for agitation in every town of Ireland. He believed it was in the foul and heated atmosphere engendered on the outside of their closed doors, that a great portion of the agitation, the discontent, the sedition—if noble Lords would —had been created, which had gone nigh to utterly degrade the condition of a part of unfortunate Ireland; unfortunate, because unfortunately governed. This was the history of the agitation that had prevailed, and which he earnestly and sincerely hoped to see extinguished; not violently, and at once, but by slow and sure degrees. In doing this they were not having recourse to any new system; they were endeavouring to renovate that which it was the intention of the charters to establish. He could quote word by word from many charters to show that the object of them was to admit the commonalties of the towns in Ireland to a participation in the municipal privileges. Many of those charters actually showed that it was the intention of their authors that those municipal privileges should be 1149 enlarged and extended as the number of the inhabitants became greater and greater, as it was perceived that they would. The noble and learned Lord had dwelt upon that difference of religious opinions which un-happily prevailed in Ireland, but he did not conceive that it was by perpetuating the exclusion of any sect from the enjoyment of municipal rights that that difference could be abated, or abridged in its evil consequences. On the contrary, he thought it was by the admission of persons of dissimilar creeds, but of the same station in life, to act together in the administration of the same authority, and in the performance of the same duties, that that difference could best be abated, and the feelings of all amalgamated in the promotion of one general interest and object. Such had been the view of all the wisest and ablest statesmen, and such, too, had been the principle of all the great and important measures of the British Legislature with regard to Ireland for many years past. He really was surprised to hear the formidable and portentous latitude and extent of argument which the noble and learned Lord had permitted himself to use upon this subject. For he would ask their Lordships, was there one argument which the noble and learned Lord had used as to the possible influence of the priesthood, and as to the possible influence of demagogues, and as to the possible ascendancy of a majority over a minority, as it applied to the comparatively subordinate question of municipal government, which did not apply much more strongly to the question of Parliamentary Representation, to the Union with Ireland, to the Catholic question, and to any of those questions, on one or the other side of which the noble and learned Lord had at different times voted in this and the other House of Parliament? The noble and learned Lord must recollect that the Catholic question was one which was brought forward and justified only upon the assumed principle that is was imparting equal rights to the Roman Catholics, by inviting them to exercise their political privileges, by calling them together, and bringing them to one system of action upon constitutional principles, that the religious difference existing between them and their Protestant fellow-citizens were to be abandoned, and the evil principle of Catholicism (using that word in the sense in which religious differences and religious acrimony implied it, though the evil was not confined to Catholicism) abated and 1150 allayed. If the noble and learned Lord, and the other noble Lords on the opposite benches, were at this hour, of opinion that it was by excluding the Roman Catholics from the enjoyment of their political privileges, and from a participation in civil rights, that those differences and evils Mere to be abated, and that it was by those means alone that Ireland could be rendered tranquil, then he would say, that those noble Lords had deeply erred in the policy they had themselves pursued, and had placed this country in its present relative situation with regard to Ireland., which made it impossible to stop the progress of further measures. For if their Lordships thought it wise to give to the Roman Catholics of Ireland the most important of all political privileges—that of representing others, and of being themselves represented in Parliament, it was most unwise and unsafe to exclude them from administering their own concerns, and of taking a part in those constituent bodies of which they were Members, It was contrary to the policy of former Parliaments—it was contrary to the intentions of those great men who had taken part in promulgating those laws which Parliament had at different times been induced to enact—above all, it was contrary to the policy of the Union which Mr. Pitt, using the language of that poet whose genius was most consonant to his own eloquence, exclaimed in the House of Commons, at the end of the speech in which he proposed the Union—Non ego nee Teucris Italos parere jubebo,Nee nova regna peto; paribus se legibus ambæInvietæ gentes æterna in fœdeva mittant.Paribus se legibus! and this (said the noble Marquess) is the parity which the noble and learned Lord wishes to establish. The noble and learned Lord not allowing himself to distinguish between the principle and the details of the measure, nor perceiving that the details of a measure when applied to two different states of society might differ, while the principle remained the same, but endeavouring to pervert the just sentiments of his noble Friend, the noble and learned Lord had ascribed to his noble Friend a declaration he never made—that it was upon a different principle of Government that the municipal affairs of Ireland and of England were to be administered. He was well aware that there existed a necessity for a difference in the details; but that in the great publicly-acknowledged principle that both countries were to be governed by a 1151 free constitution, and that, in both countries, authority was to be responsible, and responsible to those for whose benefit it was exercised, he contended that there was a strict parity, and that, upon that parity, this Bill was founded. Their Lordships would find, when they came to look at the details of this Bill, that every means had been used to secure the just administration of those funds, and the just exercise of those powers which were reserved for the use and privilege of these municipal bodies. They would find, instead of that secrecy and mysterious concealment of accounts which had been allowed to subsist in the old Corporations in Ireland, and which made it impossible for Committee after Committee, inquiry after inquiry, and lawsuit after law-suit, to detect the mal-ad-ministration and abuses of the Corporation of Dublin alone in the course of ten or twenty years, that it was provided by the Bill, that there should be an annual exhibition of accounts laid before the public, before the Lord-lieutenant, and before Parliament. Nor did it stop there; it provided beyond this, that if there should exist an allegation of mal-administration on the part of the officers of the Mayor and common council, a summary remedy should be applied by a court of justice, which should be enjoined immediately to enter into an investigation of such allegation. Every security was taken that could be supposed to be successful for the purpose of insuring a just administration of the corporate funds. It would be time enough then, when those provisions should have failed of their effect, and when the expectations their Lordships were entitled to entertain of a just administration of the municipal affairs, had been disappointed, for their Lordships to adopt the alternative suggested by the noble and learned Lord. But, he must say, that it would be a most hazardous step to take into the hands of the Crown, at one sweep, all the property of Ireland, and to extinguish all corporate government in that country, which their Lordships professed to govern upon the same laws and principles by which they governed England; and upon which he was confident, after the final effect of the existing dissensions had passed away, they might be enabled to govern it. He quite agreed with the noble and learned Lord, that the prosperity of Ireland depended upon the establishment of tranquillity among the people: but he begged to remind the noble and learned Lord, that that 1152 tranquillity must be founded upon a conviction in the minds of the people, that they actually received, as they knew they were entitled to receive, all the benefit and protection of English Government and of the British Constitution. These were the grounds upon which this Bill had been proposed to Parliament, and it was upon these grounds that he was prepared to give it his most strenuous support.
The Earl of Mansfield
said, that he objected equally to the view of his noble and learned Friend, and to the view of his Majesty's Ministers respecting the Bill now under their Lordships' consideration. Nor did he conceive that the Bill could receive sufficient amendment in Committee to induce him to give it his countenance and support! It therefore was his intention to say "not content" to the question for the second reading of the Bill, but at the same time he did not think it necessary to take the ordinary course of proceeding in such matters, by moving that the Bill be read a second time on a more distant day; in a word it was not his intention to give their Lordships the trouble of dividing on the question. He was at all times reluctant to offer himself to the attention of the House. He was always embarrassed when he did so, but that embarrassment was very much increased by the predicament in which he stood at present, differing as he did, not only from his Majesty's Ministers, but also from those noble Lords with whom he generally had acted. Differing, therefore, from a great majority of the House, he hoped he should not be considered as presumptuous or as possessing overbearing confidence, if he addressed a few observations on this important subject to an audience which he knew to be indulgent, though its patience might be put to a trial, inasmuch as he had its prejudices to overcome. He did so from a sense of duty, thinking that as a Member of this House he was bound to act on all occasions according to the best of his judgment, and bound if he could, to explain to their Lordships his reasons for every vote he gave on measures of importance. He should, therefore, state the reasons upon which he grounded his opinions respecting this Bill—he should put those opinions in contrast with those of his noble Friends near him, but in so doing, far be it from him to cast the least reflection on the motives which induced them to adopt their line of conduct on this occasion; for he believed, nay, he would confidently assert, that their motives were not those of serving 1153 for a political purpose. They possessed none of that rashness or inconsiderateness which had been imputed to them in the course of the present debate, but their sole consideration was the interests of those persons most materially affected by this Bill, and of the general interests of the country. He objected in the first place to the principle of this Dill—its principle pervaded most of the measures which had been brought forward by his Majesty's present advisers, and all those who had been Members of the Cabinet in 1830; that was, a principle assuming the existence of evils and abuses, and of applying to those assumed evils and abuses that which was to be taken to be the best remedy, without dispute, and without the least attention or respect to the rights of public bodies, or of the rights of individuals founded upon charters. It was not fifty years ago since a member of a learned profession, a law officer of the Crown, described in his place, in the other House of Parliament, a charter to be "a piece of parchment with a seal at the corner." This description was but ill-received by a great portion of the House, and was eventually rather prejudicial to the Ministry with which that learned Member was connected. How it would be received in that quarter at present he (the Earl of Mansfield) would not undertake to guess, but he could not help fearing that, notwithstanding all the improvements which had been introduced by his noble and learned Friends into the Municipal Bill of last year—notwithstanding their Lordships had allowed persons interested in the measure to appear at the bar in vindication of their characters and their rights, (an opportunity which could not have been refused without injustice to the parties and discredit to their Lordships)—notwithstanding all this, he could not help fearing that on reflection, it would be found that the Legislature had not always paid that respect to charters to which they were justly entitled. The first instance of this principle to which he objected was to be found in the Reform Bill, and by none was it more deplored than by his noble Friend near him, and yet he feared they were, by their proposed amendment, following that example, and saying "you may destroy the fabric which proves insufficient for the purposes for which it was intended," but for the preservation of which he would contend the Legislature had no right to destroy even with the intention or in the well grounded hope of effecting an improved 1154 reconstruction, without appealing to those persons most interested, whose rights were founded upon charters, with whose property this measure would interfere, property connected with a trust which they were assumed to have misused, from the guardianship of which they were to be removed without any delinquency having been proved against them—without evidence of the fact, and without giving them an opportunity of rebutting such evidence as had been brought forward. This was a principle which he held to be unjust. This was no new sentiment that he was urging against that principle, for he had advocated those sentiments on several occasions. His noble Friends near him, however, admitted the principle of the Bill, but they objected to the proposition in detail of his Majesty's Ministers, and taking a bolder tone, say, "destroy the existing Corporations at once, and we will give you a better plan in substitution." He would not at present enter into a comparison of the two plans, but even for the moment assuming that of his noble and learned Friend on the lower benches (Lord Lyndhurst) to be the best, he must say, that their Lordships were not in a situation even to adopt that plan without further evidence as to some of the facts in which these corporate bodies were interested. The state of the existing corporate bodies to be affected by this Bill was represented in the report of the Commissioners, and though he would not say that the Report manifested any bias in the minds of the Commissioners calculated to prevent their acting impartially, still he could not forget that the evidence taken at the bar last year did not serve to prove that the English Commissioners had the same character for impartiality. But this Report, like its English predecessor, stated instances of maladministration by public bodies, and cast imputations also upon individuals, and yet no opportunity was to be afforded them of giving (as in most cases they could) a complete refutation to those statements. Their Lordships ought not to proceed to legislate on no better evidence than was contained in this Report. He might appear certainly to hold very lofty ideas of charters, and to speak of them as of absolute property. He had never held them to be other than a trust, but he could not think (and indeed experience supported his view) that there existed such a great distinction between corporate property and that of an individual as could 1155 make the one safe while the other was in danger. He would not himself presume to offer a legal opinion on the subject of charters, but on the authority of a noble and learned Lord of the highest legal character, not now present in consequence of illness, and without saying what might be the value of a charter, he must state that it would be impossible to say, that much of the property of England rested on a much surer foundation than the charter property of Corporations. This Bill proceeded by its preamble to state the expediency of the alteration proposed; and here he could not help remarking the difference between the Bill of last year and the Bill of this year now under consideration. The Bill of last year in its preamble (of which he however had not a very distinct recollection) stated, that by reason of various abuses, by lapse of time and other causes, the Corporations of Ireland had become inefficient for the purposes of good local government, whereas the present Bill went wholly and entirely on the ground of expediency. Now, it had been said that there had been no petitions presented against this Bill. He, however, remembered at least one from an individual praying to be heard by counsel against it. The absence of petitions was certainly a remarkable fact, but he could not take it as a declaration of assent, or of indifference; he would rather interpret the absence of petitions in this way—that knowing their Lordships were the guardians of the rights and interests of the community, the people felt that those rights and interests Mere safe under their Lordships' protection, and that it will not be until some further steps have been taken in this measure that their alarm or confidence will be increased and expressed. Their Lordships being, as he had said, the guardians of those rights, it was the more particularly incumbent on them, invested as they were with legislative functions, to proceed with caution. In these times of rapidity in legislation, when acceleration to the utmost could scarcely keep up with reform, he would much rather be charged with tardiness than with injustice. These were his general views on this measure, and he entertained other objections, so strong and forcible, as to prevent him giving this Bill any further consideration with a view to its enactment. Fortunately for their Lordships and for himself, the description of the inconsistencies and absurdities of this Bill had 1156 been pointed out by a learned individual (Lord Lyndhurst) most capable of exposing them, but he (the Earl of Mansfield) must claim the indulgence of their Lordships while he made a few remarks upon that which he considered to be the most important part of the Bill. The object of this Bill was, as he read it, to transfer the power of the Corporations to the Roman Catholics, and to increase their power in Ireland. That object had, it was true, been denied, but he thought the effect of the Bill had not been denied, but on the contrary, he would say its purposes Lad been both admitted and defended. He would venture to say, that this Bill, under pretence of improving the Corporations of Ireland, gave a great power to that portion of the Roman Catholic body which ought to be the last intrusted with it —to that portion of the Roman Catholics which he must describe as a faction —not that portion which was constituted of persons of respectability, of character, of education, of property—those who were obedient to the law, desirous of, and intending to maintain, the union between the two countries—but to that lawless uneducated class who were kept in selfish submission to the priests—who unfortunately were the best of political agitators, interfering in every species of election, and carrying that influence, which their religion and the religious prejudices of the country gave them, to extreme ends, and to the extent of seeking a discontinuance of English connexion. No man could doubt, that power given into such hands would be misused—that they to whom the power was given would have but its semblance, would be but the creatures of more formidable authorities, both lay and religious agitators, who combined would be infallible. Reference had been made to the events of the year 1829, and it had been stated that by the Bill of 1829 equality was established between Roman Catholics and Protestants. An equality of civil rights there certainly was established, but he believed the admission of Roman Catholics into Corporations was established by the Act of 1793. Was the Legislature now to go further and say, "because from some cause or other, perhaps from religious prejudices, those corporate bodies have a reluctance to admit Roman Catholics amongst them, we will let in a contrary force"? What would be the effect of this? would it not lead to still greater exclusion? —in short, would it not have the effect of 1157 excluding Protestants? It had been asked what was the intention on this occasion of those who had voted for the Catholic question, and had been in the majority on various other Bills relating to Ireland? He (the Earl of Mansfield) was certain (though he unfortunately on this occasion differed from the noble Duke near him, the Duke of Wellington) that he had never, in mind or openly, imputed to his noble Friend a disregard of Protestant interests, or a wish, by that measure, to establish Catholic ascendancy. Neither had he ever imputed such an object to the noble Viscount opposite, or to other noble Lords of his party, for he had no reason to do so; but he thought their position was now changed. At that time the noble Viscount and his party were independent; they were Protestants who had not then detached themselves from the supporters of the Established Church, or from those who thought that tithes ought to be paid to the ministers of the Establishment. At that time the Roman Catholics, or, at least, some of them, had not openly avowed their hatred to that Establishment—had not declared it to be an intolerable nuisance. At that time, the Minister had not proposed the mutilation of the Church, he had not used the imprudent word "extinction" with respect to tithes; a word which had created a sullen hatred to that impost; at that time it had not been designated an ensanguined treasure, neither had it been said to be an intolerable nuisance. At that time the British Minister had not proposed or brought in a Bill containing provisions which the Irish clergy, as trustees for the Church, could not possibly accept; and notwithstanding but reasonable provisions were annexed to it, that Bill was abandoned, and the clergy left to penury and insult. At that time he had not made a league with the hon. Member for Dublin. The noble Viscount disliked the word league; he would instead say, he had not then made an implicit confederation with the hon. Member for Dublin, whose hatred to the Established Church—not to the religion of that Church, but to its continuance as an Establishment — had been openly avowed, and who had said, that he would use his influence with his countrymen, and with persons in this country, to join him in his endeavours for dissolving the Union, unless measures were introduced giving equality of laws to Ireland. Ireland already enjoyed equal protection from the law, and the claim made now was, for 1158 Roman Catholic ascendancy—ascendancy never having been claimed by the Protestants, who were the strongest supporters of, though not the sole object entitled to, British protection. These were, then, the grounds upon which he drew a distinction between the circumstances in which both countries were now placed, and those existing when, in 1829, Parliament proceeded to legislate upon the Catholic question. But that very measure of 1819, showed, as it occurred to him, that even then a jealousy was entertained on the subject of equal laws for Ireland. The provisions of that measure showed the jealousy in respect to equal legislation, and the difference that existed between the two countries, and the difference which ought, in legislative measures to be applied to the one and to the other. Without entering into the details of this Bill, he would observe, that he really could not understand the principle on which this Bill was founded. It was in vain to say, if any credit was to be given to the Report of the Commissioners, that it would effect a restoration of ancient usages, for, if he read the Report correctly, the Commissioners, though they manifested a strong wish to make it out, had failed to show that there was an established usage which gave the election of town-councillors to inhabitants as burgesses, or even as householders; therefore, he maintained that this Bill was not a renovation of ancient usages. According to the Report, there were in Ireland about seventy-five boroughs, some of which held charters, and others having had by usage municipal functions. How came it, then, that only fifty-one were mentioned in this Bill? How had the selection been made? Had it been with reference to the amount of property, the extent of population, or the possession of charters? It appeared to him, that some of the boroughs, from the paucity of their population, and the smallness of their property, had no claim whatever to be included in the provisions of this Bill. Of this there was an amusing instance afforded in the case of Belturbet, having a population of 2,026—property none, gaol none, —income 4l.; and its debt (for, like its neighbours, it was encumbered) 100l. There were others in the same, or a similar, situation or condition. And yet towns of greater extent and magnitude, both in wealth and population were excluded. He had already stated, that out of seventy-five existing boroughs, only fifty-one were named in the schedules of this Bill. He 1159 wanted to know what was to become of the remainder? Were they to remain in the continuance of recognized abuses, or, as an hon. Gentleman had appositely said in another place, "Were they to he allowed still to wallow in the abomination?" One word before he concluded, with regard to the plan which his noble and learned Friend proposed to substitute for that of his Majesty's Government. Certainly, if called on at once to decide between this Bill and the plan of his noble and learned Friend, which he believed to possess considerable merit, he could not hesitate in the selection of the latter. It was in conformity with many local acts, under which some of these Corporations were at present regulated, and it might, therefore, be suitable to all with respect to the Corporations themselves, being unfit, as had been urged, for the purposes for which they were designed, the many of the boroughs having been established for the benefit of the Protestant religion, and, therefore, that now there existed no ground for retaining them as exclusive bodies, he could not say, that he took such a view of the subject. It certainly appeared to him, that many of the towns in Ireland would be much better without municipal Corporations, but still he apprehended that many of them had been established, though at different times and under different circumstances, still with a view of maintaining English interests. Look at Dublin, for instance, where the charter was granted to the King's citizens of Bristol resident in Ireland. He must be pardoned when be said that unfortunately Ireland never was conquered, and had, therefore, never undergone those internal changes which had taken place elsewhere. Her community had been varied—consisting of English, of mixed English and Irish, and of the natives under another allegiance. One party had been treated as rebels, and there had never been established any unity of laws and institutions. The boroughs, he contended, had not been, as was alleged, established for the spread of Protestantism, but for the support of English interests. But at that time, certainly, England and Protestantism were synonymous terms. But, notwithstanding all the agitation which prevailed, and still prevails, in lie-land, he would not offer any opposition to the maintenance of those boroughs, provided neither the one party nor the other were excluded on religious grounds Would the grant of a Corporation, how- 1160 ever, benefit these towns? He thought not, and he was fortified in that opinion by the fact, that though the Bill of last year empowered the grant of municipal Corporations to certain towns in England which should solicit it; but few, if any, applications had been made. Even if he could believe that they would confer advantages in Ireland, still he could not consent to legislate in the manner proposed without some evidence of the fact of the approbation and consent of the parties most interested. But how had this measure been got up, and what purpose was it to serve? An hon. Gentleman in another place, who had been often alluded to in this House, and to whom he must advert, even though he should incur the indignation of the noble Viscount, as giving that hon. Gentleman too much importance, was reported to have said, that if their Lordships did not pass this Bill the Union would be but a cobweb, and had addressed in Ireland, and also in this country, language which, though perhaps not deserving much consideration, yet might have some effect upon those who from zeal and prejudice were easily misled, and it was right the people should know, that in all questions this House, uninfluenced by expressions derogatory to its dignity, would deal with measures in a manner dictated by a sense of strict impartiality. He was anxious and ready to acquiesce in any measure that might be conducive to the happiness of Ireland. He wished the connexion between the two countries to be kept up as intimately and closely as possible, that the protection of British laws and the advantages of the British Constitution, which few seemed now to appreciate, might be equally extended to Ireland, but in doing this his only anxiety was, that strict adherence should be had to the rights which individuals now possessed. He might be considered old-fashioned in his views when he said that he feared rapidity of legislation, that he entertained respect for charters, and for the rights of individuals; but he was satisfied that unless those rights were defended, their own would be soon assailed. On these grounds he must for the present hesitate to give his vote for the second reading of this Bill, and he hesitated the more because he was satisfied it could not be so amended in Committee as to alter his opinions as to the effects it would produce.
The Earl of Falmouth
was anxious that he should not be considered, by his silence, 1161 as voting for the second reading of the Bill before the House, as to the principle of which he was not favourable. If he were called upon to make his election between the Bill before the House, and the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, he should not hesitate one moment to prefer the Bill of his noble Friend; but he rejoiced that at this moment he was not placed in that predicament. He felt that as a humble individual Peer of that House, it was his duty to get up in his place and maintain what he believed to be the vital principles of the Constitution. The promoters of the present measure said, that the Bill before the House was not one of abolition; but he must contend that the contrary was the fact, for it went to abolish the existing charters in Ireland, and, therefore, to destroy a valuable part of the Constitution. He was satisfied that no arguments that could be used would remove his objection to the Bill. He regretted very much that the English Municipal Hill, even in the shape in which it had been amended by his noble Friend, had ever been passed, because he was of opinion that it would lead to consequences which even its promoters did not foresee. He rejoiced that he was no party to that measure which was called the Reform Bill; he rejoiced, also, that he was not a party to the Municipal Corporation Robbery Bill; and he rejoiced now in the opportunity of standing up, and protesting against the principle contained in the present measure. He should not trouble the House by going to a division, but should content himself by saying not-content to the question that the Bill be read a second time.
§ The Earl of Ripon
would not detain their Lordships by going into any arguments, or general views, as regarded the subject before the House. He begged, however, the permission of their Lordships to say, in as few words as he could, the general grounds on which he conceived that it would be fit for their Lordships to give a second reading to the Bill then under discussion, and to state why he should be hereafter prepared to support the proposition which the noble and learned Lord behind him (Lord Lyndhurst) had intimated that it was his intention to submit. With respect to that amendment, he would now take the opportunity of stating, that when the noble Viscount at the head of his Majesty's Government asserted that the paternity of the measure to be founded on that amendment 1162 rested with his (Lord Ripon's) friends in another place, he believed that that noble Viscount never made a greater mistake with respect to the origin of that measure. True it was, that the noble Viscount characterised the political conduct of his noble Friend, and in some what a sneering manner, as not being very remarkable for discretion; and that this amendment was quite inconsistent with the habitual conduct of the noble Lord, and the right hon. Baronet who introduced it; and, therefore, that it must be the offspring of some one who was reckless, as to the consequences, what it would produce. He (Lord Ripon) did not know on what part of the conduct of his noble Friend it was that the noble Viscount founded his assumption of indiscretion. He (Lord Ripon) was not aware of what part of the conduct of his noble Friend it was, when they acted with the noble Viscount, that could bear that interpretation, and upon which was founded the assumption that the noble Viscount had put forth. Their separation took place because his noble and right hon. Friend considered that, on principles consistent with their conscience and duty, they could not sanction a measure which was characterised by violence and injustice. It had nothing whatever to do with the principles laid down in the Bill before the House. He should support the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, because it was most desirable that justice should be done to. Ireland, without imposing injuries which he thought would operate detrimentally in a ten-fold greater degree. It was because he thought the Bill before the House would produce that effect—that mischief which he contemplated—that be could not, as an honest man, give his consent to it. If he thought that past history proved, and that the present condition of Ireland showed, anything like a proximation in the state of society and of things in Ireland to what was the case in England, then he should be ready to admit, that justice to Ireland required the adoption of similar laws, and the adaptation of similar principles to the two countries, but when he looked to the actual state of things existing in the two countries, he must say, that it appeared to him that the adoption of the present measure was a most visionary proposition. If they looked to the condition of the two countries—if they looked to all the social circumstances attendant upon the condition of England and Ireland,—whether as to the mode, and forms, and practice, of the executive Government,—the mode of ad- 1163 ministering justice, the mode of reserving the internal tranquillity of the country,— the means of defending it against a foreign enemy,—the mode of returning Members to Parliament,—the means of education,—and, above all, the condition of the poor of that country,—looking to all these things, and these were the circumstances that characterised the social condition of countries,—was there not, he would ask, at this moment, an immense difference between the situation of the two countries? He would ask noble Lords to look to the Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the state and condition of Ireland. These Commissioners came to the conclusion, that there was so material a difference in the state of society in the two countries, that what was most proper for one country, it would be most improper to infuse into the other; and they concluded by stating, that in considering the condition of Ireland circumstances ought to be looked to as well as principles. It was, therefore, admitted, that there was a material difference in the social condition of the two countries, and that the Bill before the House proceeded on that very principle; or else why did it differ in its enactments from the English Bill? By this Bill there was a material difference as regarded the appointment of Sheriffs and Clerks of the Peace. The same power was not given to the Irish Councils as was conferred on corresponding bodies in England, and why? Because distrust was entertained of these constituencies as regarded the impartial administration of justice, the most important consideration as regarded the well-being of a country, and its internal tranquillity and peace. The object which he should have to consider was, whether the Bill before the House was a good Bill; or whether the system proposed to be adopted by the amendment was a better. If it should be proved in argument that this Bill was a good Bill, then it ought undoubtedly to pass; but, on the other hand, should it be made out in argument that it was a bad Bill, and that it would not be productive of justice to Ireland, then undoubtedly it ought not to receive the sanction of their Lordships. In conclusion, he must say, that he could see nothing but a perpetuation of the evils and grievances which afflicted Ireland if the present measure should pass; and it was because he entertained this opinion that he should, when the time came, give his hearty concurrence to the amendment which had been announced by the noble and learned Lord.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
said, the Bill proposed by the noble Viscount was greatly desired by the Irish. It had been said by a noble Earl that a different principle was adopted in this Bill from that of the English Bill. He denied that proposition. Their Lordships must consider the principle and the details. If the principle were fair and impartial justice, then there might be a difference in the details to make that principle effective. This was the principle proceeded upon in the question of Reform in the Representation of the people in Parliament; when Parliament went upon a broad principle, but varied its application as to the rights of freeholders, and the mode of conducting elections. A great argument used for the abolition of the 40s. freeholders in Ireland was, that their existence was hostile to the freedom of election. The British Legislature has never, in the United Parliament, decided that different principles of legislation were to be applied to the two countries. The principle of this Bill was, that the same justice was to be extended to the Irish which has already been conceded to the English. The question was—whether the Irish people were to be intrusted with self-government for local purposes. He could not remain silent when it was declared that the Irish people were unfit to enjoy the blessings of the Constitution. The only ground upon which this Bill could be refused to Ireland was, that those who opposed it considered self-election preferable to popular control. When that proposition was stated he should be prepared to meet it; in the mean time he entered his protest against the assertion—that the people of Ireland were unfit for self-government.
The Earl of Winchilsea
said, that being strongly impressed with the belief that the Bill, if passed in its present shape, would be productive of the greatest mischief, by destroying the Protestant interest in Ireland, he was anxious to state the grounds on which he should give his vote. The Bill of last year, as well as that of the present, proceeded upon the specious principle of Reform. He was glad that the flimsy garb in which this bantling had been dressed by the noble Viscount, had been shown to be the joint production of the Government and the Catholic agitators of Ireland, not only as regarded its carcase, but every limb and member of it. If their Lordships were prepared to pass the Bill in its present shape, they would place the whole of the 1165 political power of Ireland in the hands of Mr. O' Connell and the priests, and the consequence would be, the destruction of the union which existed between the two countries. That was the question which they were called upon to decide, and the proposition, he thought, was a plain and simple one. Their Lordships must recollect that when the Catholic Relief Bill passed, in 1829, there was an end of all the Corporations of Ireland; those Corporations were established for the purpose of upholding Protestant principles, and for the purpose of cementing the connection between the two countries, and he would contend, that those Corporations were virtually at an end the moment that Bill became the law of the land. He, therefore, was of opinion it was unnecessary to uphold them, and therefore he was prepared to support the amendment of the noble and learned Lord. He was bound to entertain the opinion that the great body of the Protestants of Ireland, with the exception of one individual perhaps who had some interest in the question, were in favour of the principle proposed to be adopted by the noble and learned Lord. And why? Because since the period at which a similar amendment had been proposed in another place, not a single petition, with the exception of one or two in favour of the Bill, had been presented against the adoption of that principle. Considering that the Protestants of Ireland, under the pressure of the evils by which they were assailed, were still alive to their own interests, he had a right to assume, from the circumstances he had stated, that they were in favour of the extinction of the Corporations. Noble Lords in that House gave their support to the Catholic Relief Bill, under the vain hope that it would conciliate the Roman Catholics, but since every succeeding concession had been made they had become more dissatisfied, and the consequence had been to lead to acts of further aggression. When that Bill was passed their Lordships were told that the effect would be to give peace to Ireland. [Viscount Melbourne: never by me.] Perhaps not by the noble Viscount, but that was the argument used, and he must admit by some of his noble Friends near him, with whom he had the misfortune to differ with respect to the views which they took of that question. And what, he would ask, was the result? Why, from the moment that Bill passed, Ireland became in a more disturbed state 1166 than she had been in during the previous ton years. Crimes of every description had increased in a ten-fold degree—there was no security for life or property of the Protestants of that country—all law was set at defiance; and to talk of the existence of equal civil rights in that country was an insult to the Protestant community. He begged it to be understood that these observations did not apply to the Roman Catholics of England; their conduct since the passing of the Relief Bill had been most honourable and they had fully realised the expectations which he had formed of them. He felt bound to say thus much, it being only a meed of praise which he felt bound to afford to this highly honourable body of men. If their Lordships concurred in the measure as it then stood, and thereby gave more power to the agitators of Ireland, he was satisfied that the result would be, that their Lordships would be called upon hereafter to pass coercive measures of a nature which had never yet been submitted to Parliament, and he called upon their Lordships boldly to stand forward and save the Protestants of Ireland from the still further evils with which they were threatened.
The Earl of Roden
was anxious to say a very few words, in order that there might be no misapprehension as to the vote he should give on that occasion. If he thought the amendment of the noble and learned Lord would not be carried, he (Lord Roden) should be the last person to vote for the second reading of the Bill. It was one which was calculated to produce the greatest mischief in Ireland, and would place more power in the hands of the agitators of that country than they at present possessed. He trusted their Lordships would never consent to give their sanction to a measure, the object of which was to give additional power to the Roman Catholics to persecute and tyrannise over the Protestants of Ireland. When the time came for going into Committee, he should be prepared to state his reasons why he thought it was advisable that the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord should be adopted, rather than that the Corporations of Ireland should continue to exist under the system by which they were at present constituted.
§ The Bill was read a second time, and ordered to be committed.