§ Clause 1 was agreed to.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
said, he had drawn up and amended certain clauses for the purpose of carrying into effect the resolution to which their Lordships had agreed when this subject was last under consideration. In bringing forward these amendments or alterations it was not necessary to detain their Lordships by any observations, the object merely being to carry into effect their Lordships' resolution.
§ On Clause 2, which provides for "the reservation of all rights of property and beneficial exemptions to freemen, their wives, and children," being read,
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, the whole question, my Lords, with respect to the continuance or abolition of these municipal bodies, appears to me to turn upon this clause, because it provides for compensation to a certain number of municipal officers in every borough mentioned in the schedule. Therefore I beg your Lordships' consideration to the effect of this clause, which, in my opinion, becomes of most material consequence when the 705 fact is borne in mind, that by Clause 5 of the amended Bill, it is intended that the several municipal bodies shall be dissolved, and that by Clause 22, it is provided that the property which belongs to these corporate bodies shall be placed in the hands of Commissioners. It does appear to me then, my Lords, that when we come to the consideration of the two last clauses which I have mentioned, you must, if you agree to them, negative the clause now submitted for your decision; because it proposes that certain corporate officers should be continued, who, by the subsequent clauses which the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Lyndhurst) has introduced are intended to be abolished. My Lords, in the course of the general debates which have already taken place on this subject, most of the general topics on which it is supported and opposed, have been exhausted; and, therefore, I do not think it necessary on this great and important question to occupy your Lordships' attention for more than a very short time. Your Lordships have already agreed to an instruction which has led to the amendments laid before you by the noble and learned Lord opposite. That instruction is not binding on the Committee; and if your Lordships can, on consideration, see reason for changing your determination, you are not necessarily bound by that instruction to persevere in a course which may be proved to be erroneous. Your Lordships must be too familiar with the general grounds on which your instruction is founded to make it necessary for me to do more at present than to state the general nature of them. They are, then, these—that you are establishing a different law in Ireland from that which you have passed for England; you are doing away with the municipal government to which the people of that country have been accustomed; you are depriving the Government of the assistance of a body to whom they could refer when periods of difficulty arise, and who, by their weight and authority, might afford the Government assistance; that, in fact, you are adopting a totally different and contrary system to that which you propose for England. Omitting, then, all topics which might be suggested with respect to the prudence of the course which you are taking (though that should not be left altogether out of the question), let me impress upon the minds of your 706 Lordships the fact, that you are now about to debar the people of Ireland from those advantages which undoubtedly belong to a system of municipal government. There are only one or two points, which have been omitted in former debates, to which I think it now necessary to refer. And here I must say, that when the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Lyndhurst) expatiated on former occasions on the danger of establishing these local municipalities, and the frequency of election, and all the evils which were likely to arise from them, he was guilty of the most monstrous exaggeration; for though, my Lords, we may all lament that there is too much political feeling in Ireland, and that it is excited and increased by those whose duty it undoubtedly is to temper and allay it, yet I cannot think that these Corporations, which, it is admitted, will have but little power, shall create all the evils and calamities which are prophesied of their establishment. The noble and learned Lord told your Lordships that the effect of appointing such bodies would be perpetual discontent, political excitement, and violent agitation, which must terminate in civil war. I know not how it is, but the argument deduced for the dangers of civil war is found on many occasions extremely convenient; and whenever a change is to be effected in a man's political conduct, and when he is to depart from the course of policy which he has adhered to through the whole tenor of his life, then it is, that the dangers of a civil war come most opportunely to his aid and relieve him from his embarrassing difficulties. But, my Lords, I repeat that it is a monstrous exaggeration to say that these evils (which, undoubtedly, in some degree exist) would be carried to the extent represented by the noble and learned Lord in his anticipations of the effect of the changes which have been proposed. But, my Lords, there is one particular point which I accidentally omitted in what I stated to your Lordships on a former occasion on this Bill. It is with reference to the 9th of George 4th, which is relied upon as a substitute for these town councils and municipal governments. This is an Act which enables the rate payers of a small amount to assemble and perform certain municipal functions. Now, this Act happens at present to be totally inoperative, and insufficient for its purpose; and I do not see how the measure now 707 before your Lordships, or any other, can give that Act more effectual operation. It has been adopted in only eight or nine towns; and what reason is there to suppose that it will henceforward have effect where it never yet had? How differently would the local concerns of paving, lighting, watching, and cleansing be managed by an established body, which would have the power of carrying their objects into immediate effect. But this Act of 9th George 4th, which was meant to provide for such local concerns, has never come into general operation; and we know very well, from the example of England, how totally insufficient for its object any such enactment is. My Lords, on these grounds, having already stated at length the reasons which I think should induce you to pass the original Bill, I now on general principles—on a general regard to the state of the two countries—on particular objects, and on the higher consideration of maintaining the connexion between the two countries, and on all the matters which tend to the local convenience and advantage of the inhabitants of the towns in Ireland—I call on your Lordships to reject the amendments proposed by the noble and learned Lord.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
said, the noble Viscount had very correctly stated the effect of the altered clauses to which he had referred. By adverting to these clauses the whole question with respect to the principle of the Bill was completely raised. The noble Viscount had briefly stated the view which was taken of the case by him, which was similar to what he had declared on former occasions. Now, as to the points to which the noble Viscount had referred, he would only make one short observation; first, as to the 9th of George 4th, to which the noble Viscount had particularly alluded. The noble Viscount had described it as an act of no power—of no consequence—in short, as not being adopted to any considerable extent in Ire-land. In making that statement, however, the noble Viscount had not applied himself to facts. Now he, on the other hand, wished to refer to the Report of the Commissioners, on which this very Bill was founded. The Report said, "This principle has been" (what?—not acted upon as the noble Viscount said, in a few instances—but) "very extensively adopted. The 9th of George 4th, cap. 82, authorizing the establishment of a resident board for 708 these purposes, elected by and from the inhabitant householders, and the provisions of which are enforced in many corporate towns, has been productive of great advantage, and we hope that many other towns will avail themselves of that Act." As to the other points of exaggeration to which the noble Viscount had alluded, and particularly with reference to what he (Lord Lyndhurst) had said with reference to what took place at elections in Ireland, he would appeal to every noble Lord on that (the Opposition) side of the House, who was connected with Ireland, whether it was possible to exaggerate the scenes which occurred constantly at Irish elections? And if the noble Viscount would not meet him on that appeal, then he would appeal to the incontrovertible evidence given before a Committee of the other House of Parliament, which detailed scenes of tumult, of disorder, of violence, of outrage, of the most horrible and dreadful kind—scenes such as no person resident in this country, and accustomed to its decent and orderly habits, could form any adequate idea of. He would appeal to noble Lords in that House, and he would ask them whether such scenes did not frequently occur at elections in consequence of the exasperated state of popular feeling in Ireland?
The Marquess of Clanricarde
called on their Lordships to look at the very delicate situation in which they would be placed if they adopted this amended Bill—if they adopted the very amendment which was rejected in the House of Commons. It was quite clear that the amendments contained matter against which insurmountable objections were entertained elsewhere. When they adopted this form of proceeding, they took up that very proposition which the House of Commons had most decidedly opposed and rejected. Was it not very possible that persons out of doors might take another view of this question—a view that was not taken within the walls of that House? That opinion might be erroneous, but might not individuals be carried away by the idea, that the object of those who introduced these alterations was not to amend the Bill, but to defeat it? Was it not possible that this might be felt in Ireland? He did not say that such was the case; but he feared that such an impression would be seriously felt. What was the ground on which this proceeding was adopted? There was only 709 one argument used in favour of it by noble Lords on the other side of the House, and that was the fear of violence at elections; but was that a reason for destroying all the corporations? Why might they not have left corporations in a few places in Ireland, instead of destroying all? If this had been done, the measure would not have been felt as so great an outrage to the feelings of the people. The manner in which they were proceeding would act most injuriously on the feelings of the people of Ireland; but if they saw even a few of the Corporations retained, such an act would take a good deal of the sting out of the proceeding. What were the arguments adduced for taking this most extraordinary and mischievous course? Not one of the arguments which he had heard that night or on former occasions was good for any thing. What did the noble and learned Lord repeat to-night? He called on their Lordships to look at what the elections were in Ireland. But how did that affect the justice of the matter? Municipal elections were totally different from those to which the noble and learned Lord's argument referred; and if they admitted the truth of his argument, which he was not inclined to do, it might be a wise and powerful reason for taking from the people of Ireland the right of electing Members of Parliament, but it had no fair reference to municipal elections. But it seemed the people of Ireland were not to be allowed to take any part in corporate matters on account of their turbulence and insubordination. Was that view, he would ask, entertained at the time of the Union? Was it intended, then, to say, "These people, these Irish, are a set of uneducated, uncivilized beings; yet we will unite them with you, who really do know the nature and benefit of the Constitution, of which they are ignorant?" Was this said to the people of England or of Scotland at that time? On the other hand, was it said to the people of Ireland, "We will give you a mockery of the British Constitution." Was it said to them, "You are not fit to enjoy those institutions, you are not fit for a popular Government?" No such thing was uttered, no such thing was insinuated. They were, on the contrary, told that they were fit to enjoy a popular government. Again, was such an assertion made in 1793, when the Roman Catholics obtained a large extension of 710 privilege—when they were enabled to become members of corporations? He should like, if he had lived in those times, to have heard such an assertion made when the volunteers were up in arms in 1782. But on all these occasions no such injurious observations had been made, no such insults had been given, as were now offered by the noble and learned Lord. They were not told that they were unfit for the exercise of popular rights in any degree. By the English Municipal Reform Bill of last year the people received a considerable accession of democratic power, and it was impossible, if the same measure of justice were not meted out to the people of Ireland, that they would not consider themselves grievously outraged. By the amendments proposed, all Irish corporate property was to be placed in the hands of the Crown. He knew that that property was not extensive. But the principle, in his opinion, was every thing; and he would maintain that never at any period had such power been given to the Crown. Allusion had been made to the conduct of the people at elections, and it appeared to him that those who most strongly adverted to it belonged to a party who would, if possible, prevent the great body of the people of Ireland from having the least possible share in electing Members to the Imperial Parliament. His noble Friend, when he moved the first reading of the Bill, had spoken of party spirit; but sure he was that there never was such a party proceeding as the present. Those who adopted the course now proposed did not boldly say that they thus proceeded on any point connected with religious views. No; they said that this course was adopted in consequence of the scenes that occurred at elections. But had not those elections been free? and if so—if they could not show that the elections had not proceeded in accordance with the voice of the people—if they could not show that representatives not esteemed by the people had been returned to Parliament—then, he would contend, that they had no right to adopt the course which they were pursuing, on account of those elections. The whole proceeding was founded on this principle, not that those who supported it cared about what took place at the elections, but because they did not like the men who were elected. The Bill would certainly be rejected elsewhere if presented in such an altered shape, but he was sure 711 that the people of England would not, in the end, allow the people of Ireland to be deprived of the fair benefit of municipal institutions, even if the question were deferred for the present, as he unhappily imagined that it would be. He would say that the people of Ireland had, in their elections, shown a just sense of the benefits of the British Constitution, and of the rights and duties of British subjects. He might not approve of all the selections they had made, nor of much that had occurred, but it appeared to him that the people of Ireland had, generally speaking, shown as much independence as any body of men could. But noble Lords opposite did not like the persons whom they returned to Parliament. They did not think it improper or unconstitutional for noble families to return gentlemen to Parliament as the representatives of counties, though they objected to the right of the people to select such individuals as appeared to them to be most anxious for the protection of their interests. Some of those persons who were returned by noble families were not, he believed, more distinguished for their talents, their industry, and their integrity, than representatives who had been sent to Parliament under the auspices of Mr. O'Connell, or any other commoner. He could not see why a freeman, in a free country, should not use his best efforts and exert his best abilities to keep his name before the people on fair and honest grounds. Was it not the spirit of perseverance which was manifested at the Irish elections which a few years ago carried the Catholic question? Violence might sometimes be manifested, when their feelings were highly excited; but taking the Irish as a Catholic people—and they were a Catholic people—he would maintain that the elections showed that they well understood the value of useful, proper, and constitutional privileges. Would any one say, that Catholics were not as much entitled to free institutions as Protestants? He called upon their Lord-ships to take up the question fairly, for if that were not done in that House, he was sure it would be done out of it. These things, which he had taken the liberty to mention, were perhaps not often mentioned in that House, but it was right that their Lordships should know them, for if they acted with a party feeling in legislating for the people, their conduct would have a most serious effect upon their character as 712 a legislative body. He thought they were adopting a course which would be most mischievous to their dignity; and if they were not provoking a collision, which was to be deprecated, they were approaching very close to it, by refusing to pass this Bill. If that should turn out to be the result, they would have to recollect that the fault was their own.
§ The Duke of Richmond
thought that some parts of the argument made use of by his noble friend were worthy of consideration; and though he was not disposed to go the same lengths, he confessed he could not see why Dublin, Belfast, Dundalk, Kilkenny, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, and Cork, should not have Corporations. Corporations had been given to much smaller towns in England—towns with half the population and trade of these towns, and he did not see why they should be refused to the large towns of Ireland. He did not think, however, that they would be productive of much good in the many other and insignificant places mentioned in the schedule. This question might be considered out of doors as connected with the Catholic question; he opposed that question because he thought it was dangerous to the welfare of the country, but when the Catholic Relief Bill passed into a law, he declared that it was then his intention to maintain its principles, because it had become the law of the land, and he did not now mean to permit it to be repealed either by a direct measure or by a side wind. He should, therefore, vote for the clause as it stood, reserving to himself the power of retaining the places he had mentioned in schedule A, and striking out the remainder.
§ The Lord Chancellor
remarked, that in the former debate upon this Bill the House was only partially informed of what the proposal of the noble and learned Lord opposite was, whilst on the present occason", the details of the noble and learned Lord's scheme were before them. He would now bring the House to look at what they were really expected to do—what the proposal was which they were called upon to accede to. It was simply this: they were called upon to take away from every corporate town in Ireland all its municipal rights and all its corporate property. Although this was small in amount in some places, in others it was of considerable importance and amount, and the inhabitants in all respects entitled to 713 consideration and respect. With regard to corporate property, he thought that the same principle should be acted upon for Ireland as had been applied to England. What was it that the English Bill did? After making certain provisions and regulations for local expenditure, it left the surplus, if there happened to be any, for the benefit of the town to which it belonged; but by the present Bill the Crown was to have the sole control over all the corporate property of Ireland, and was to dispose of it, through Commissioners appointed by it, and removable by it also. He felt it his duty to call their Lordships' attention, if only to this single view of the case, and to the innumerable offices and the vast expenditure which it might be in the power of the Crown, through this Commission, to make. The corporate officers of those towns were public trustees, but if they had abused their trust in any way, was it to be argued that, therefore, what still remained of the old institutions should be removed? The Bill was brought into the House of Commons for the purpose of correcting the acknowledged evils which had crept into the Corporations, but not to destroy them. He must object to the system pursued towards the people of Ireland, in telling them that they were not to have Corporations in their principal towns—that, in fact, they were to have a system of legislation applied to them totally different from that of the other parts of the kingdom. It was said there had been outrages at some of the elections; now, if that were so, though the fact might be used against the exercise of the elective franchise by the parties implicated, he did not see how it could form a ground for depriving them of Municipal Corporations. An election for a Member of Parliament was necessarily a political contest, but it did not follow that the election of municipal officers should be so. Those outrages at elections were not, in his opinion, a reason, at least not an adequate reason, for justifying the House in depriving the towns of Ireland of Municipal Corporations, and the inhabitants of those towns of their rights as citizens. He had heard it said, and within those walls, too, "Look to the effect of the English Corporation Bill; see what has been the result here; and shall we extend the same system to Ireland? He confessed he saw no reason why they should not extend it to Ireland. He did not know why the people of that 714 country should not exercise the right of electing their municipal officers, and of popular control over the funds which belonged to them. Where was the force of the appeal to the English Corporation, Bill? Where had been the riots and confusions, and inconveniences which might be supposed to arise in Ireland? Where had they arisen in England? He warned their Lordships not to deny the Irish people their rights, for, being a people highly sensitive upon this point, it was not easy to calculate what would be the effect of that denial. The people of Ireland would find it difficult to understand why they were allowed to choose their representatives in Parliament, and were yet to be deprived of Municipal Corporations. He called on their Lordships to hesitate before they decided upon pursuing that course.
The Earl of Haddington
would not follow the noble and learned Lord who had just sat down through his entire observations, but would admit at once that the people of Ireland were entitled to equal rights and justice, for that was the very principle upon which he and his noble Friends acted in opposing what they considered to be a great and fundamental change in the Municipal Corporations of Ireland, without being a reformation or improvement. It had been said, that the Corporations of Ireland had been exclusive in their character; he admitted it, and he admitted also, that there was much justice in the complaints which had been made against them. That was the very reason why he and his noble Friends said those Corporations ought no longer to exist. The difference between the noble Lords on his side of the House and those on the other side, was this—that, whereas the latter concurred in wishing to replace those exclusively Protestant bodies by exclusively Catholic bodies, the former concurred in the view of doing equal justice to both Catholics and Protestants, and, therefore, it was better far to take away the torch of discord, and say, that these Corporations should cease to exist altogether. They had been reproached by the noble Marquess on the other side for proceeding by way of instruction, which the noble Marquess said was pursued in the House of Commons, and, as he might very well have argued, the proposal there was to make a very great and fundamental change in the Bill. He was not aware whether that was intended as a charge against them, but if 715 so, he would reply, that he and his noble Friends had pursued the most convenient course, because the changes proposed to be made in the Bill were very extensive. The proceedings of the other House, however, had no influence on the course pursued in that House, although it might have a right to express its opinion upon the result. Some noble Lords opposite had opened rather a new field. The Bill proposed to leave all the old Corporations of Ireland, and to create some new ones; the amendments went to do away indiscriminately with all Corporations. Those noble Lords had said they were ready to do away with the minor Corporations, but that there were some great towns in which Corporations ought to be left. Now, there was a very glaring inconsistency in this course. Where was the equal justice of it? Was that the way they had proceeded with regard to England? If not, ought they to deal so with Ireland? Was that the cure for agitation? No doubt, if the noble Viscount's Bill passed into a law, the lay and clerical agitators would take possession of the municipal property of these new Corporations, and, concentrating all their strength there, render them the strongholds of agitation. By passing that Bill, they would be legalizing a sort of Parliament for the very purposes of agitation, and establish a permanent kind of Catholic Association; and what would he the consequences to the peace and the government of the country he would leave their Lordships to imagine. Great fault had been found with his noble Friends, as having exaggerated the effects of the riotous elections in England. His noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst) had directed the attention of the House to some authorised documents, upon the details of which it was unnecessary for him to enter, which proved the extent of the mischief done at those elections. But could it be at all doubtful that the effect of this very last attempt to restore peace to Ireland would be to encourage agitation and confusion at future elections? And might they not lament the proceedings which took place at the elections in Ireland, not because certain men might be returned, but because the freedom of election did not exist there? The right of electing representatives in Parliament might be considered as the life-blood of the Constitution, but that could not be said of Municipal Corporations. Already the people of Ireland seemed to exercise their full share of 716 power in the other House, but he was not desirous of joining those, if any there we're, who wished to deprive them of their constitutional rights. At the same time he did not think it necessary to provide, not power for the people, but power for those who deluded, and goaded, and agitated them to make demands beyond their necessities. Those men already possessed enough of that power, and exercised it to a lamentable extent. Was it necessary for the House to add to the means of agitation? They were told the other night, that they could not stop agitation; it must go on. If so, why should they give a premium to agitation by passing this Bill? If they were called upon to protect the people of Ireland from agitation, let them do so by rejecting the shadow of municipal rights, for it was not against the substance that he and his noble Friends were voting. He had never spoken disrespectfully of the Catholics of Ireland. It could not be denied that most of the agitators were Catholics, but it would be unjust to charge upon a people that which ought to be charged upon a few only. With respect to the mass of the Irish peasantry, he was sure that thousands of them would rejoice if they were delivered from that system of agitation and intimidation which was inflicting misery and destruction upon them and their neighbours. Let it not be said, that any jealousy of Catholics or narrow minded-ness influenced their course upon this occasion. No, it was because those who urged them on, and goaded them to destruction, and led them as far as they could to ask for the Repeal of the Union or its equivalents, and they were not slow to declare what were their equivalents; they were this Corporation Bill, which was put in the very front of the rank, and then such a Church Bill as would insure to the people of Ireland—ay, and to England too, that voluntary system by which nobody should pay any thing to the support of religion unless they pleased. These were the objects which they sought, and this Bill was one of the means by which it was attempted to obtain them. This was a most important question; he would not enter further into it, but it certainly was one of the deepest importance to the peace of the country and the integrity of the British empire. He knew that, decide the question which way they would, in reference to that unhappy land, it was an alternative. He had no hesitation in admitting that; but on comparing the two plans, he would 717 say, adopt the one, and you are upholding all those mischiefs which may end in the ruin of the empire; but pursue the other, and you are laying the foundation of the future peace and security of the country.
The Marquess of Conyngham
remarked, that it could not be said that Irishmen asked for any thing unreasonable, when they demanded municipal reform. The only question he thought ought to be this, how is such reform to be carried into effect, so that it may be a full, efficient, and satisfactory measure—so that the people might have the local control over their own property in such municipal institutions as were given to them? Their Lordships had given an efficient reform to England—they had given a been of equal importance to Scotland; could they, then, expect that Ireland would be satisfied with less. They were told that there was a broad line of separation, a marked distinction to be made between the mode in which justice was to be conferred on England, and doled out to Ireland. Did they expect that Ireland would remain contented under such an indignity? Did they not proclaim to the people of Ireland that they were unworthy of managing their own affairs? He totally denied, that there was any unfitness or any unworthiness on the part of his countrymen. The chartered Corporations might have abused their trust; but, as an Irishman, he protested against any distinction being made between the two countries so unjust as that which he referred to, and which was now proposed to be made. Let their Lordships make any such distinction, and it would be anything but satisfactory to the people of that country; it would do anything but promote peace and tranquillity in Ireland. His Majesty's Government had introduced a Bill based upon justice—a Bill which sought to regenerate and not to destroy Corporations. The noble Lord had, on the other hand, introduced a Bill which "out-heroded Herod"—a Bill which swept away even the names of Corporations from the face of Ireland. If one thing more than another could tend to increase the influence of Mr. O'Connell—if they could do one thing more than another to give strength and energy to agitation and to agitators—it would be doing this. When he talked of Mr. O'Connell, he did so because that Gentleman had been so frequently alluded to by noble Lords opposite—he did so, because there appeared 718 to be a determination on their part to refuse any measure which that Gentleman supported. Now, if on the present occasion, their Lordships did this—if they refused that measure which was now proposed, then they gave to the people of Ireland a cause, a legitimate cause, for complaint. Irishmen had obtained civil and religious liberty; would, then, their Lordships now turn round upon them and say they were unworthy of municipal reform? Was that the way to conciliate them? Why, their Lordships were holding out a premium for agitation. They were compelling the people to change their language from that of entreaty to complaint, and from complaint to menace. What carried emancipation as it had been carried? Ireland was not satisfied—the country was agitated from one end to the other—necessity at length compelled them to yield to the demand made upon them. They resisted until gratitude was not felt for the concessions made. Let them depend upon it that the most effectual check to agitation was, to do equal justice to Ireland. In common with his fellow-countrymen he suffered from agitation. The more they dealt out justice, the more was tranquillity secured and agitation depressed. The most certain way to increase peace and promote tranquillity was, by assimilating the laws and institutions of the two countries. For this reason, and this reason only, he implored of their Lordships to hesitate before they came to the conclusion of rejecting the Bill that was now submitted to them; before, too, they sought to fix a stigma upon Ireland, by declaring that, though her people had obtained civil and religious liberty—though they had the power of sending Members to Parliament—yet that they were not to elect a mayor or a town council, or to look to the management of their own affairs. He begged pardon for thus trespassing upon their Lordships. He really had no intention of rising; but he could not help protesting against their Lordships doing an. act of injustice to Ireland, which he assured them would be felt from one end of that country to the other.
The Marquess of Londonderry
said, the noble Lord opposite had talked of even justice; would it be even justice to abstract these Corporations from the Protestants and to give them to the Catholics? He confessed he could not but look with jealousy at these Corporations, conceiving, as he did, that they would give rise to a 719 Roman Catholic ascendancy, and if this increased power were put into the hands of the Catholics, what, he would ask, would their next object be? Such, he was afraid, as would place those individuals who were possessed of property in that country in a very alarming position. By the Bill proposed by the Government, the Corporations were thrown into the hands of the Roman Catholics, and without doubt they would have a representation, not part Protestant and part Roman Catholic, for even the lay Catholic would not have power to arrest the influence of the priest, but throughout the country they would have an entire representation of Roman Catholic priests. Now, was that a state of things for any noble Lord having property in Ireland not to be desirous of preventing? Was it a state of things that the noble Marquess (Conyngham) would support? With regard to the undue influence which priests and agitators could exercise over the people in that country, he would read an extract from the evidence of Mr. Fitzgerald, a magistrate of the county of Tipperary, given before the Select Committee on bribery and intimidation at elections. He was asked—"As far as you know of the political power of the priests, and the objects they seek to attain, do you not suppose that they would seek to make use of their influence in any way they can to promote their political objects?—I do. Do you not conceive that the tithes of Ireland have given rise to a great deal of excitement, and have been among the motives for the active exertions of the priests, which you say have greatly augmented in the last three or four years?—I think the question of tithes has been made very much a stalking-horse with respect to the agitation of the county in which I reside; tithes form a prominent question. With respect to the tithe system being the cause of the extraordinary extent of outrage in my county, I think that I am prepared to prove that it is not at all an exciting cause." That was to say there were other causes equally exciting in which the priests interfered. He would now read a portion of Mr. Singleton's evidence. That Gentleman was asked—"From what you have seen of England and the north of Ireland, and have read of other countries, do you conceive that such a state of society exists in any other part of the world?—No nor would it be there except for the deep organization and confederacy of the peo- 720 ple. So you consider that this organization is such, that at any moment it may be employed either for the objects of an election or for any popular purposes to which it might be applied under the direction of their leaders?—Yes. Is it parochial organization?—I think it is parochial, extending to the county or to counties. Who is the leader of that parochial organization?—Persons residing in the parish having the influence and direction of the persons in it. Who are those persons; any particular class of persons?—I should say the middle classes. Who have effected these organizations?—The same class of persons. There is no class of persons to whom you attribute this sort of organization of the Roman Catholics in the country?—Yes, to the letters of different persons. Of whom?—Daniel O'Connell, Esq., and the former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Carlow, Dr. Doyle, and gentlemen of that class. You think the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland are instrumental in carrying that organization into effect?—Yes. What is that organization for?—For any and many political purposes. When you state those to be the objects of this organization, on what authority do you speak; how do you come to know the objects of the organization?—From my experience as a police magistrate, from frequently having examined persons upon oath, taking informations, and from the result of prosecutions. Do you consider that this organization, such as it is, is capable of being directed to the carrying of any object that might be considered desirable by the leaders?—I do. Do you consider, for example, if it became expedient to make the people call out generally for the Repeal of the Union, it would be possible to make this organization bear upon that particular point?—Yes." Now he would not trouble their Lordships by reading the whole of this important evidence; but he conceived he had read a sufficiency of it to show, that they should not vote for that increase of power which the Bill before them would bestow upon the Roman Catholics of Ireland. He at least should enter his most solemn protest against the Bill, as it was introduced by the noble Viscount, and, if he had his choice he should prefer having it negatived in the House of Commons to adopting it as presented to their Lordships' House.
§ Lord Hatherton
entirely concurred in the accuracy of the noble Marquess's de- 721 scription of the evils that have flowed, were still flowing, and were likely to flow, from organization and intimidation, for the purpose of conducting elections in Ireland, but he thought it was the natural growth of their (the noble Lords' opposite) own injustice, and that until they should be prepared to do full and ample justice to that country, there would be no possibility of extinguishing the system complained of. It was to the observation of the noble Earl who had spoken last but two (the Earl of Haddington) he was desirous more particularly of applying himself. That noble Lord's argument, and it had been urged in a former debate upon this question, was, that a system of exclusion would be the result of the Government measure—a declaration which came with a bad grace from that side of the House. The noble Lord was, no doubt, an ardent friend of the Roman Catholic body, and as such was entitled to be exempt from suspicion or censure; but let the noble Earl not forget that nineteen out of twenty noble Lords who sat behind him were not of his way of thinking on that subject, and they felt that it was from the old Irish Corporations they derived their principal support. That House had never heard any complaints of exclusiveness or agitation as long as it was in the right direction. But was ever a Corporation more exclusive than the Corporation of the city of Dublin, or more distinguished as a school of agitation? and yet they had not heard any of those noble Lords declaim against it as long as there was anything to be gained by it. If the English Municipal Bill had not rendered it necessary to take notice of the Irish Corporations, would any noble Lord have taken notice of them? For centuries they had been considered as citadels of strength by the party to which he was alluding. For centuries past down to the other day, the Government of Ireland had been carried on for the interest of that party—for the interest, he might say, of a few families; but no sooner was it proposed to purify those Corporations, than they were denounced as a dangerous nuisance—and, acting upon the feeling of the great majority of the people of that country, as a monstrous principle of exclusiveness. He was, and always had been, impressed with the conviction that the Government of Ireland by local Corporations was one eminently suited to the constitution of the country. It had been stated by a noble Lord, "that the same measure in the same form was not always 722 suitable to Ireland and England; that the difference in the condition of property," he quoted the noble Lord's own words, "the wide difference of religious faith in the two countries, rendered it utterly impossible to apply the same measure in the same form to the two countries." Now, this question was peculiarly applicable to that principle; but he begged to know how long noble Lords intended to stand by that principle? Did they act upon it last year when the Irish Church question was brought forward for their consideration, and would they act upon that principle when the same question would be again submitted to them? He admitted that the same measure in the same form would not answer for the two countries, owing to the difference in the state of property, and the wide difference that existed in the religious persuasion of the inhabitants; and for that reason separate and distinct measures had been introduced for Ireland. From the time of the Union up to the present no effort had been made—and it was a disgraceful thing to have to recount—to conciliate the people of that country, or to endeavour to unite them under one system of government. Thirty years had been allowed to elapse from that period down to the accession of Lord Grey's Administration, during which the Irish people had reaped no benefit whatsoever from that Union. They had, indeed, with the aid of the Liberal party in England, forced open the doors of Parliament, but that advantage had remained fruitless not having brought with it either patronage or power; and he was satisfied that, until they extended to Ireland the same institutions which this country enjoyed, they never could unite them under the same Government.
§ The House divided on Lord Lyndhurst's amendment, when there appeared—
§ Content 107; Not-Content 53; Majority 54.
§ The 3rd clause was agreed to.
§ Clauses 4 to 9 inclusive were struck out of the Bill.
§ Clause 10, being the 4th clause in the amended Bill, was agreed to as amended.
§ Clauses 11 to 21 inclusive were struck out of the Bill.
§ It was proposed that the 22nd clause (as follows) be struck out of the Bill:—"And be it enacted, that in every borough shall be elected, at the time and in manner hereinafter mentioned, a certain number of fit 723 persons, who shall be and be called 'the alderman' of such borough; and a certain number of other fit persons, who shall be called ' the councillors' of such borough; and one fit person, who shall be and be called 'the mayor' of such borough; and the number of persons to be so elected councillors of such borough shall be the number of persons in that behalf mentioned in conjunction with the name of such borough in the schedules A, B, and C to this Act annexed; and the number of persons so to be elected aldermen shall be one-third of the number of persons so to be elected councillors; and such mayor, aldermen, and councillors for the time being, or so many of them as shall at any time be elected and have accepted the offices shall be and be called 'the council of such borough.' "
§ The Duke of Richmond
objected to it, as it was by this clause aldermen and councillors should be appointed in towns named in schedules A and B. He could not see why Corporations ought not to be given to large towns. He would not give them to small towns, for he did not think that Corporations were required in small towns, either in England or Ireland. But he felt that in Dublin and other great commercial towns there could be no danger in giving to the people the management of their own affairs. He felt quite satisfied that these Corporations were the strongholds of Protestantism in Ireland, and in that case would noble Lords, he would ask, vote for their destruction? If they were the strongholds of Protestants, surely it was not for passing a Bill as an amended Bill that they ought to put an end to such Corporations. If they did so, it would, he could tell them, be taken with avidity—agitators would thank the House of Lords for destroying such Corporations, and for which they would be much obliged to them. Sincerely believing, as he did, that no mischief could follow from having Corporations in the large towns, he should object to the clause being struck out. He should propose a motion to the effect of giving Corporations to the large towns either on the Report being brought up, or upon the third reading. [Viscount Melbourne: Move it now.] He would in the first place oppose the clause being struck out.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
felt, he said, so much the importance of this clause—it was one which so materially affected and involved the principle of the Bill—that it was impossible for him to give a silent vote upon it. The clause was one that he 724 was most anxious to retain. The noble Earl had imputed inconsistency to those who were anxious to retain in the smaller towns Corporations. Now though it was admitted that, in the smaller towns, Corporations were not to be retained, yet at all events, to those who desired to see them in the great cities in Ireland, the same objection could not apply. In those great cities there existed a higher quality of voters as contrasted with the lower. In those great cities there existed large corporate funds, instead of there being, as it was said of the smaller towns, no corporate funds. He and his noble Friends were anxious to respect corporate rights in Ireland—to respect ancient corporate property, and which, for the first time, that House was now invited to invade; an example which, be could tell that House, would not on a future occasion be forgotten. He was anxious to do this, for the purpose of keeping alive the corporate principle, of preserving property in the hands of persons competent to manage it. But the noble and learned Lord had in an authoritative manner assured them that the people of Ireland were incompetent to be intrusted with the election of those who were to manage such property—that they could not be intrusted with such power, either with safety to themselves or safety to the country; and yet by some fatality, at the very time that the noble and learned Lord pronounced a general sentence of in-competency against a whole people, the noble and learned Lord called their attention to the 9th George 4th, which was an Act of Parliament by which such matters were provided for, and that too by popular elections in that country. When the noble and learned Lord said, that the Act in question had been extensively applied, the noble and learned Lord urging that as an argument for getting rid of the corporate jurisdictions in Ireland, could the noble and learned Lord tell them of one single instance in the course of the extensive application of the Act, in which the popular elections under it had been improperly conducted? Why, what did that fact prove? what was the deduction from the noble and learned Lord's admission? Did they not see that here was a system of popular election which might be applied to the existing state of society in Ireland? They thus had evidence on the one side in favour of popular elections, while there was no evidence on the other opposed to them, because to make out such a case it must be shown that the corporate elections 725 would be of a different character; and before that could be their Lordships' decision, they must be called on to assume that the people of Ireland were incapable of choosing proper persons to conduct their own affairs—to administer their own property. The noble and learned Lord had abstained from telling them what was the amended title which he meant to give to the new Bill. The former title must be altered. That described the Bill as being one to regulate the Municipal Corporations of Ireland. To "regulate" them the noble and learned Lord did not mean. To call his Bill a Bill to "amend" the Corporations would be absurd, and the noble and learned Lord had not yet found the courage (so we understood the noble Marquess) to call it a Bill to abolish them. But what was the real title of this Bill, which ought to be perfectly and distinctly described? It was a Bill for the purpose of vesting in one man—for the purpose of vesting in the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland—all the privileges and all the property of the Corporations of Ireland. No one could suppose that the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland could administer that property himself; every one would admit that he must have agents; but all that it was necessary to do to vest the power entirely in him was to provide, as the noble and learned Lord had provided, that the persons appointed to administer the property should not be responsible to the people, but responsible to him, and to him only, and that they should be removeable at his pleasure. Why, could any machinery be contrived of a more exclusive character for the purpose of making him sole master of the whole amount of that corporate property? That power was vested exclusively in him, and yet the noble Earl told them that the principle had for its object to prevent exclusion. Many of the towns in Ireland were exceedingly populous and exceedingly opulent, and yet an attempt was made to persuade their Lordships that there were not to be found in them persons capable of governing the Corporations. He was confident that if their Lordships adopted the course which was recommended to them by the noble Lords opposite, they would take a step which they would soon wish to retrace. It would have the effect of separating every one of these towns, and of laying the foundation of complaints which were not the less likely to be actively and constantly proclaimed, because they would be derived from a perpetual comparison of 726 their condition with the state of other towns in England, with respect to which they had proceeded on a principle distinctly opposite. It had been said that the whole amount of this property was small. There had been all sorts of arithmetical calculations for the purpose of satisfying their Lordships how exceedingly small it was; but was there nothing in principle? And then did their Lordships forget, that though this property certainly was small, it was so owing to the mal-administration of the corporate funds? Mismanagement had made the funds small, but by good management they might become largely productive. Their Lordships were about to confer a power in the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, which he was sure he might say that the present Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland would be one of the first to disclaim. That noble Lord would be one of the first to feel he ought not to have the power of administering for local purposes that which he could not so well administer as could the persons who were locally interested. This was a proceeding in the inverse ratio of civilization. Of the government of Austria he wished to speak with respect, but he thought it no disrespect to say of that government, that it had the reputation of being perhaps the most cautious government and the most apprehensive as regarded the effect of any charge. Even the government of Austria had—he would not say introduced, because it had existed before—but had extended and conferred municipal government on the very ground alleged in this case, that it was the greatest benefit that could be conferred on the people, and the one most likely to prevent them from mixing in the disorders and embarking in the courses which were hostile to the government of the State. In concurring in the motion of the noble Duke, he did so in a disposition to meet certain noble Lords in this House in a spirit of fair deliberation—he would not call it compromise—he did so because he felt that, with regard to these particular towns, there could not be, in his opinion, a question as to their being entitled to the enjoyment of a continuance of the privileges which it was proposed by this Bill to preserve. He would at the same time declare, that against the total extinction of municipal institutions in Ireland—against an authoritative declaration from this House to the people of Ireland, that in this House the people of Ireland were thought unfit for all the purposes of local government, he must 727 enter his most solemn protest in the strongest terms that he could express it. Such was the opinion he entertained now—such was the opinion he should adhere to, and he trusted it would be adhered to by all those who felt an interest in the success of this great measure.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said: My Lords, I am not inclined to depart from the principle of the alterations proposed some time ago by my noble Friend in a resolution of instruction to the Committee. The noble Duke calls upon us to retain this clause in the Bill, with a view to preserve in Ireland a certain number of the larger Corporations. The noble Marquess who has just addressed your Lordships had argued the question much in the same manner as the noble and learned Lord who spoke about an hour ago, and as other noble Lords have also done, solely and simply as if it were a question of the preservation of the property of these Corporations. By the Bill originally proposed the Corporations, large and small, were deprived of all privileges except those of electing a mayor and administering the corporation property. But besides this they had been given certain power of taxing the several towns committed to their charge, which privilege the corporators did not before possess, which privilege was certainly not conferred on the Corporations in England, or certainly not in the way in which it was proposed to be conferred on the Corporations in Ireland. My Lords, I do not hesitate to say, that a more tyrannical Bill than this was never yet introduced into Parliament, nor greater powers ever conferred than those which it proposed to confer upon the new Corporations in Ireland. Now, let me take the case of the city of Cork for instance. There the election would be in the 10l. electors. The corporate assembly would consist of persons possessing property to the amount of 1,000l., and who had been chosen by the 10 l. electors. This body would have the power to levy rates on the inhabitants, not in the manner in which the county rates are levied, as provided for by the English Bill, but according to the principle of the 9th of George 4th, c. 82, which levies on the man who occupies a house worth 5l. a year and upwards, but under 10l., 6d. in the pound; on the occupier of a house worth 10l. and upwards, but under 20l., 9d. in the pound; and on the occupier of a house of the yearly value of 20l. and 728 upwards, a shilling in the pound. This was the oppressive power of taxation which this Bill proposed to confer. A list of those who would have the election of the corporate assembly was to be furnished in the first instance by the churchwardens, and subsequently by the town clerks, but they would have as little to pay to the corporate property as if they lived in the city of London. These are the people whose rights we are said to be destroying. Your Lordships have been told that, having granted a measure of corporation reform to England, you are bound to give a similar measure and to act on the same principles towards Ireland. But, my Lord, is there no difference in the relative circumstances of the two countries? What is the reason that we have been called upon to pass measures of a very painful nature towards that country, and which have never been demanded by the circumstances or condition of this country? Has not the whole history of Ireland, and all that has been stated of it by every Lord-Lieutenant and Secretary who has been successively connected with that country, proved that not only was the condition of that country essentially different from England, but that you could not establish the same system for the two countries? Have you not even established in that country a totally different scale of taxation from that established in England? Seeing, then, the state to which the Corporations of Ireland would be reduced by this measure—seeing that nothing would remain of the existing Corporations but the property, and the necessary consequence of the measure would be to establish another exclusive system on the ruins of the present exclusive system, which the Bill proposed to abolish—I certainly never can consent to the establishment of such a system without feeling the strongest apprehensions for those who would be obliged to live in those towns in which you would purpose to establish this oppressive system. As to the evils of the present corporate system of Ireland, I believe more has been said of them than was really deserved. In many of the towns where this exclusive system existed, individuals have accumulated great wealth, and the system so much complained of has not prevented this from taking place. But, supposing that these complaints were well-founded to the fullest extent, I contend that, in proportion as these Corporations may have misconducted 729 themselves, it is the duty of a wise legislature not to throw power immediately into the hands of an opposite party, who would, most probably, apply it to the purpose of avenging the past. I cannot consent to this revolution of power from the hands of one set of men into those of another and opposite party. I do not see any reason whatever for effecting such a change, unless to gratify the ambition of some at the expense of the interests of all. I do not think it necessary for the beneficial management of the property that it should be in the hands of the town-councils; for it appears to me that Commissioners appointed under the clause proposed to your Lordships, would administer the property as usefully and as efficiently as the town-councils. It is true that the property would not receive the augmentation from the system of taxation proposed by the Bill now under consideration. That system of taxation would be in the hands of another set of persons equally elected by the people, but under a different system, and which would be most for the benefit of those who had the tax. On the whole, when by the unanimous consent of all parties who have taken away all the privileges possessed by the existing Corporations, except the election of the mayor, and the management of the property, I cannot alter the opinion I have already expressed, and think it best to follow up the proposition which was originally proposed to your Lordships in the resolution of my noble Friend.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
begged to ask what was the nature of the tyrannical power of which the noble Duke had spoken? The town-councils were to be elected by the people, and having been so elected, they were to have the right of levying certain rates upon the people. The system then was one in which the people were to have a control over the management of the funds raised amongst themselves for their own benefit, and that was described by the noble Duke as a tyrannical power. If there was the least force in the arguments of the noble Duke then the House of Commons was a tyrannical institution, and all elective Governments were tyrannical powers. When the people were misgoverned by a small minority the noble Lords opposite did not charge that with being a tyrannical system, but when it was proposed to improve the 730 condition of the people it was said no, they were not fit to be intrusted with more power. What was the course which had been pursued? First, the people were misgoverned and the progress of civilization was arrested, and then, when it was recommended that they should have extended to them the advantages of good government, it was said that it would not be safe to trust them. Thus they argued in a circle in favour of continuing the old system of oppressions. He recollected that the same course of argument was adopted when the abolition of the slave-trade was recommended. He lamented as much as any man the passing of those Acts adverted to by the noble Duke as restrictive of the liberties of the people, and he never heard of a Minister who did not regret the necessity for imposing them. The noble Duke should bear in mind that all such Acts were always said to be, and, in fact, were the exceptions, but it was proposed now in legislating for Ireland to make a similar principle the rule.
said, that the 9th George 4th gave to the majority of the householders who chose to adopt its provisions a Tight of electing Commissioners, who would have the power of taxation for the purposes of carrying that Act into effect. In most instances the majority of the rate-payers had refused to adopt that Act. In one of the great towns of Ireland they had not agreed to adopt that Act. When, then, he found the majority of the people, having the power to avail themselves of that Act, refusing to do so, he considered that to force it on them, and compel them to adopt a system of taxation to which they were adverse, was an exercise of tyrannical power.
was surprised at the sentiments which he had heard from noble Lords on the opposite benches. Were they to be told in England, with its Representative Government, where the people had the power to tax themselves, that to grant such a power was to establish a tyranny? And to tax themselves for what? For their own advantage and their own concerns. He repeated, he was astonished at the speech he had heard. He thought he had been living under a free representative popular Government; one in which the people had a large share in the transaction of their own business—a Government including three great king- 731 doms, England, Scotland, and Ireland. Every one of the speeches which he had heard to-night from the noble Lords opposite, had for their object to show that one great third of this empire was unfit, was incapable, of being governed by a popular, free, and elective Constitution. It had been said, also, that the Bill would have the effect of substituting one exclusive system for another. An extraordinary signification might be given to the word "exclusive." He thought it meant that which kept out a great body, and admitted only a part; but, according to the interpretation of certain noble Lords, it appeared that the principle which admitted the whole was exclusive. If one-eighth was kept out, and seven-eighths were admitted, that was termed exclusion. ["Hear, hear," from the Duke of Wellington.] "Hear!" said the noble Duke. What was his meaning? Did he think that the whole notion of free Government was founded on false principles? The manner in which the noble Duke cheered, and his whole course of argument, proved to him, beyond a doubt, that such were the opinions entertained by the noble Duke. He thought that for the majority to have power, particularly if they conscientiously differed in religious sentiment from the minority, that was exclusion. What was that but being opposed to the principle of free Government. If there happened to be a majority one way was public opinion to prevail, or was it not? Yet if it did, the noble Duke said, it was exclusion. Public opinion might be wrong, it might be tyrannical—he did not deny that a majority might be tyrannical; but for the majority to have the power was the principle of a free Constitution—a free Constitution could not exist without it. That he would maintain in the face of the noble Duke, and in opposition to any writer or speaker on political subjects. He denied, however, that the Bill did give that exclusive power; it made no distinction between Protestant or Catholic, Orangeman or Repealer—it gave to the people of Ireland that which was their own. It was now proposed not to abolish all the Corporations, and it was thought, under the circumstances, it would be most wise to support the amendment now before their Lordships. He preferred the Bill as it originally stood, but nevertheless he must admit, that in point of judgment, wisdom, and justice, there was a 732 material difference between the amendment and the motion, which otherwise stood for the consideration of the House. By voting for the motion of his noble Friend, their Lordships would possibly give to two or three towns in Ireland a more democratical form of Government than they thought advantageous, but that was the full extent of the error which they would commit. By adopting the other motion, and saying to the people of Ireland, "You are unfit for popular elections," what a strange and pregnant principle would they not act upon! Would they address Ireland in such language as this—"You are unfit to be trusted—we not only will not give you that which we have given to Scotland and to England—not only do we think that you are not ripe to enjoy the fruits of free Government, and that England and Scotland were—not only do we think that, but we do not see any prospect of your ever becoming so; we will not give you a chance—we say, that you shall not go into the water because you cannot swim, and we wish to confine you on the dry strand eternally, in order to prevent you from trying to swim." The noble Duke said, any one must be blind not to see the difference between the two countries; if they legislated for Ireland on principles opposed to those on which they legislated for England and Scotland, he would not say, that they would exhibit their ignorance, but he was sure they would find Ireland in a situation in which they could not mean to place her. They were bound to legislate for her as a part of the empire, and as a part she was entitled to free representative municipal institutions, which, he would contend, were singularly adapted to the state of Ireland. The influence of the priests was dreaded; but could it be supposed that to raise men in a humble station to offices of some little distinction would have the effect of materially adding to the influence of the priests? So, again, with regard to the agitators, he thought he could prove that nothing was so short-sighted as to fancy that by shutting out the "agitators," they destroyed their influence. The real method of rendering powerless those who were carrying on that species of legitimate warfare against them, would be by adopting the principles of this Bill; to reject it, would be to show a disproportionate degree of suspicion and distrust of the Irish people, 733 and not to extinguish that evil of which they pretended to be in such a state of serious apprehension.
§ The Duke of Wellington
begged to assure the noble Lord who had just sat down, that he regretted having interrupted him, and the rebuke which that interruption drew from the noble Lord occasioned in his mind no unpleasant feeling towards him; on the contrary, he was glad to hear it, for it involved a precept which he hoped the noble Lord himself would hereafter observe. He hoped that in future the noble Lord would listen with patience to others, and not be guilty of interrupting them in the sort of way for which he (the Duke of Wellington) had then to apologize. He begged then to explain what he had said on the former occasion. It was this—that the effect of the Bill, unless it was modified, would be to give to a certain class power over the property of another class, for the mere numerical majority were not the owners of the property of the country; that he would call tyrannical. It was the giving exclusively to one description of persons the power to do almost as they plesaed with the property of another description of persons.
requested the noble Duke distinctly to understand that he meant not to convey any rebuke whatever, not even the least complaint, of what had occurred. The cordial cheers of his Friends were certainly most gratifying—to excite the notice of his opponents was the next best—anything was better than not being listened to. He always liked to have cheers, if not from the one side, at least from the other.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
said, he felt it necessary to throw himself on the indulgence of their Lordships for a very few minutes, in consequence of the observations which had been made upon the course which he had taken, by the noble Marquess opposite. The noble Marquess complained, that he should propose amendments without having stated what the title of the Bill was to be. But had he (Lord Lyndhurst) not told their Lordships all that it was possible for him, at the present stage of the measure to tell? The House adopted a certain resolution, which was imperative on the Committee. He, in order to facilitate the business of the Committee, had taken upon himself to make such motions as were requisite for carrying that resolution into effect, and though under no obligation to 734 do so, he had drawn up certain amendments for that purpose. The noble Marquess must well know, that in Committee it was always the practice to postpone the preamble of the Bill, and it likewise was a matter of course to postpone the title of the Bill until all the amendments were disposed of. The House must see that it would be impossible to state the title until the character of the Bill was ascertained. At the proper time, then, he should submit for their Lordships' consideration a title corresponding to the amendments that might be made. The noble Marquess, no doubt unintentionally, had quite misrepresented the tenor of his observations—they applied to the noble Lords in that House who were connected with Ireland, and to the evidence which had been given before the Intimidation Committee. He stated some facts from that evidence, and he adverted to some particulars which must come within the knowledge of those noble Lords. Upon that a charge was founded, that he intended to strip Corporations of their property. What foundation was there for any thing of the sort? The existing Corporations in any case, whether the Bill were amended or not, would be deprived of their property. And who in future was to administer that property? The Bill before the House was recommended to their Lordships because under it there must be in future nothing but equal justice. He had no difficulty, however, in saying, that the operation of the Bill, if it were left as introduced by the noble Lords opposite would produce effects as far as possible from equal justice. The application of the same principle or rule to different places must produce dissimilar results, and could not lead to equal justice. It was, in fact, as unjust as the practice of the Grecian tyrant, who stretched some victims, and curtailed the proportions of others, to suit his unvarying standard. In what position was Ireland now placed? One-fourth of her inhabitants were English by descent, English in their habits, English in their usages, Protestant in their religion, and unalterably attached to English connexion; they were a minority standing now on their own defence. If ever there had been a minority standing on their own defence, it was the Protestants of Ireland. They had to contend with a population alien to Englishmen, speaking, many of them, a different language, professing a different religion, re- 735 garding the English as invaders, and ready to expel them at the first opportunity. Such was the state of Ireland, and in legislating for such a country noble Lords opposite were under the necessity of giving up their own propositions, and in many respects modifying their own Bill; but the measure required to be still further modified. With these considerations before their eyes, it did appear incomprehensible how noble Lords could suppose that a country could be legislated for on the same principles as England, when they themselves admitted that Ireland required the application of such measures as the Coercion Law and the Constabulary Act. But the measure before their Lordships was recommended as comprehensive and anti-exclusive, and that it must prove so because there had been a profession of assimilating it to the English Corporations Act. If the results were even in a slight degree similar, the present measure must be as exclusive as its most strenuous opponents anticipated; for the English Bill gave to the new Corporations in this country a character quite exclusive, limiting them strictly to persons of one description. What would be the result of all this? You would put an end to Tory associations, you would put an end to Protestant associations, but you would establish Radical associations; and what was worse, you would establish Catholic associations instead of Protestant Corporations. That would be the infallible result; and no man who had seen anything of the state of Ireland for the last few years could entertain the least doubt upon the point. Their Lordships had been told some years ago of the happy results to be derived from conceding Catholic Emancipation. They had been told in the progress of that measure, that if it were passed it would restore quiet to Ireland; that nothing further would be required; that all would be order and tranquillity. Since that the temporalities of the Church had been cut down; since that an attempt had been made to plunder the property of the Church; since that an attempt had been made to apply the funds of the Protestant Church to the education of individuals in the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church. You have recently put down numerous bodies of men defensively associated for the protection of their property and their religion—he meant the 736 Orange societies. You are putting down the Protestant Corporations; and your next step is, to erect in their stead Radical and Catholic associations. What will be your next step? To establish the Catholic religion as the state religion of Ireland, and to degrade the Protestant Church into a dependent sect. That attempt would be made, and would, he hoped in God, prove a failure. Such, however, would be the consequence of the measures introduced by the noble Lords on the other side. Agitation they boasted of, but who could doubt the misery which that produced in its effects upon the elections in Ireland? It had been said, however, if the Legislature acted on the principle of this Bill, and endeavoured to get rid of the election of corporate officers in order to get rid of agitation, you must also get rid of the election of Members of Parliament too. But were their Lordships to go the length of this Bill, and to sanction all the evils of annual agitation and annual election?—were they to add all those evils to those which already existed in the election of members of Parliament, merely to gratify the noble Lords opposite, by adopting the course which those noble Lords had proposed? Their Lordships knew that the elections of Members of Parliament in Ireland were under the complete control of the Catholic priests of that country—that the mandates of those priests were irresistible, and that when they were once issued, no Catholic dare disobey the order given him to vote as the priests in their mightiness were pleased to direct. If any man disobeyed their order, assassination, or the fear of assassination, must be ever present to his imagination. Had not their Lordships read the letter which Lord Kenmare—himself a Catholic nobleman—had written to his agent, complaining of this detestable system? It had been said, however, on the other side, that elections were still free in Ireland. Elections free! There was no such thing as a free election in Ireland, unless they called that election free which was conducted under the will and domination of the priests. Their Lordships were now called upon to establish clubs of agitation, tumult, and sedition in every town in Ireland. Could any man doubt of the miserable consequences which must ensue from so lamentable a system? A noble Baron, on a former evening, had spoken to their Lordships of the beneficial 737 effects of agitation. Whenever that noble Baron rose he was always certain by his good humour to put their Lordships in agitation; but the agitation which that noble Baron produced was the pleasant sparkling of champagne. Very different was the agitation which must be expected in Ireland; it was the fiery eruption of a volcano, it was the agitation of "the yeasty waves," whichConfound and swallow navigation up,Even till destruction sickens.It was that agitation which he wished to put down. His advice to their Lordships was—"let us tranquillise"—not "let us agitate Ireland." Let Ireland avail herself of her ingenuity, of her climate, and of her fine position. Then she will be great, glorious, and free. But there were some basemen, who for their own sordid ambition kept her in turmoil, tumult, and agitation. They were more ruinous than the storm, and more destructive than the volcano.
§ Their Lordships divided on the Question, That the twenty-second clause stand part of the Bill. Content 45; Not-content 98—Majority 53.
§ Clause expunged. Other clauses were struck out or remodelled.
§ The House resumed.