Viscount Melbourne moved, that the following paragraphs in his Majesty's most gracious Speech at the commencement of the Session respecting Ireland be read by the clerk.
His Majesty has more especially commanded us to bring under your notice the state of Ireland, and the wisdom of adopting all such measures as may improve the condition of that part of the United Kingdom. His Majesty recommends to your early consideration the present constitution of the Municipal Corporations of that country, the collection of tithes, and the difficult but pressing question of establishing some legal provision for the poor, guarded by prudent regulations, and by such precautions against abuse as your experience and knowledge of the subject enable you to suggest. His Majesty commits these great interests into your hands, in the confidence that you will be able to frame laws in accordance with the wishes of his Majesty and the expectation of his people. His Majesty is persuaded that, should this hope be fulfilled, you will not only contribute to the welfare of Ireland, but strengthen the law and constitution of these realms, by securing their benefits to all classes of his Majesty's subjects.
§ Viscount Melbourne
then spoke to the following effect:—My Lords in rising to move the Second Reading of the Bill entitled "The Irish Municipal Corporations Bill," I have the satisfaction to feel that it will not be necessary for me to I trespass on your Lordships' patience at so 261 great a length as I was compelled to do in former years. With respect to its details they are much the same as in the Bills which have already been under your Lordships' consideration. Your Lordships well know that the object which the Bill has in contemplation is to abolish and abrogate the present Municipal Corporations in Ireland, and to substitute for them an improved form of Municipal Government. The names and schedules comprehended in the Bill are nearly the same as they were in the former Bills. The Bill is adapted to the same principle of population; providing that all towns with a population of 3,000 persons shall have a Municipal Corporation. It also provides that the qualification for election shall be 10l. in the larger towns and 5l. in the smaller. There are some slight variations or differences in the details: but to them it is not necessary for me at present to call your Lordships' attention. I will only at present say, that they are founded on the experience with which the working of the Municipal Reform Bill in England has furnished us. There is only one point of great importance in those details; namely, the manner in which the sheriffs of cities and towns in Ireland are to be nominated. According to the existing law, those sheriffs are elected by the town councils. In the Bill of last year the nomination was placed in the hands of the Crown. We now propose to steer the middle course. We propose that the town-council shall nominate three persons, one of them to be approved of by the Lord-lieutenant. If he rejects all three, the town-council is then to nominate three more; and if the Lord-lieutenant disapproves of them all, he is to nominate the sheriff himself. There is nothing more in the clauses of the Bill which affects its principles. My Lords, I bring forward this Bill in pursuance of the paragraphs in his Majesty's most gracious Speech, which, at my desire, have been read by the clerk. In that speech his Majesty was advised to call the attention of Parliament to the state of Ireland, with a view to put down the existing evils in that country, and to enact such measures with respect to it as might be calculated to be beneficial. In order to carry that recommendation into effect we have introduced three measures; not as connected, or united, not as dependent one upon the other, but as distinct measures, of which Parliament may 262 reject the one and accept the others; and yet as measures all of the highest importance, and in our opinion entitled to the most serious consideration. As this is the first of those measures, I beg leave very briefly to state the circumstances under which it appears. The Bill is divided into two parts; the first part goes to the abrogation of the corporations now in existence. In the former discussions which took place in this House upon the subject there did not occur, and I apprehend that in the present instance there will not occur, much difference of opinion on this point. All parties agree in the propriety and expediency of abrogating the present system of Municipal Government in Ireland. Some are averse to it for one reason, some for another, but the greater part are opposed to its continuance, because they consider the Irish Corporations to be exceedingly narrow, limited, and exclusive. I do not mean exclusive merely as Protestants, but exclusive even in their Protestantism; the fact being, that they do not comprise any important part of the really respectable portion of the Protestant body in Ireland. That I apprehend to be the general feeling manifested by the decisive votes of the House of Commons, and expressed in the opinions of a large majority of your Lordships—a circumstance which exempts me from the necessity of dwelling further on that part of the subject. My Lords, I cannot but feel hope—I cannot but flatter myself— that we come to the discussion of this question in the present year under more favourable auspices; that we come to the discussion of this question in the present year in a better temper of mind; that we come to the discussion of the question in the present year, with a calm consideration, calculated to produce a fairer investigation of its merits, and a more impartial and judicious decision with respect to them. Last year we were somewhat in a state of irritation, the result of the municipal elections in this country. In the course of those elections strong party feelings had been generally excited, and erroneous views were taken by the noble Lords opposite of the manner in which they supposed the power of the Crown had been exercised on the occasion. I apprehend that all this irritation is now subdued. Nay, I understand that it has been stated, on great authority, in the House of Commons, that these Town-councils of ours 263 have become very good Conservative assemblies. It appears, therefore, that the English Municipal Bill, notwithstanding the fears of its opponents, has been productive of no bad effects; but on the contrary, that when it becomes matured and mellowed it will prove to be a measure of the most salutary character. But I think that, employed as we now are in considering the merits of a new Municipal Bill for Ireland, we should rather neglect our duty if we did not look a little to the effect of the Municipal Bill in England— if we did not examine how far it has succeeded in working out the objects for which it was passed; and especially in producing a greater harmony of feeling in the various corporate towns than that which previously existed. On these subjects I have received several reports of the most satisfactory nature. With your Lordships' permission I will read one that has reached me from Bristol, because it is most clear and distinct with reference to the beneficial effect which the Municipal Bill of this country has already had on local relations and affairs:—
§ "I. AS A MEANS OF LOCAL GOOD GOVERNMENT.
§ II. IN THE ADMINISTRATION AND SECURTTY OF CHARITABLE TRUSTS.
§ "1. Local Government.
§ "Under this head it is necessary to premise, that had an equitable allotment of councillors been made to the several wards, the party most identified in feeling with the new system would have obtained a majority of six councillors at the first election: and that, consequent upon the error of the barristers, the political friends of the old corporators did obtain a majority of two voices, which enabled them to increase it to twelve, by the election of partisan aldermen. And although this majority has, by the subsequent election, and by one death and a removal, been again reduced to two, it has sensibly impeded the beneficial operations of the measure. The excellent principle of the Municipal Reform Act has, however, been found, in spite of all obstructions, to develop itself, 1st, in the better administration of justice;—2ndly, in the increase of public security;—3rdly, in the more judicious administration of the city property;— 4thly, in the creation of confidence in the municipal body;—5thly, in softening political and religious animosities; and, 6thly, in the consequent prospect of greater prosperity.
§ "1st. Administration of Justice.—The improvement in this important constituent of good government has been very extensive and Most beneficial to the borough. Justice is 264 more accessible, cheaper, and more efficient, and some corruptions which have impeded it have been exposed and removed.
§ "Justice is more accessible.—Formerly the magistrates were a non-resident body, and prisoners taken in the act of felony have been suffered to go loose from the impossibility of finding a magistrate to hear the charge. Now the magistrates reside in the borough, and no difficulty exists at any hour of finding one in almost any locality.
§ "Justice is cheaper, independent of the saving of time, a most important consideration to a trading community, by the facility with which a charge may now be heard and decided on by a magistrate. Formerly offenders were often not prosecuted because of the expense attending it; an expense which fell exclusively upon the prosecutor, however praiseworthy his conduct might be. The citizens resisted the imposition of a county-rate out of which such expenses might have been paid, on the grounds that it would have been levied and administered by an irresponsible body; and insisted upon first ascertaining whether the corporate property, duly administered, was not equal to this burthen, and fairly chargeable with it. The magistrates forming the old aldermanic body, fearing the consequences of the struggle, never enforced the rate; but a fund is now provided, from which the legitimate expenses of the prosecutor are paid, and justice is thereby facilitated.
§ "Justice is more efficient.—Formerly the criminal jurisdiction at sessions was vested in the committing magistrates; and that of assize, extending even to punishment by death, in the recorder and aldermen. Now, the first is placed in the recorder's hands, the last in the hands of the judges of the land, by whom it is administered far more satisfactorily to the public. The power of trying a prisoner by the committing magistrates has ever been looked upon locally as most objectionable; while it was felt that cognizance of life and death required the sanction of the highest authority, and was not a fit power to be delegated to any section of a body so constituted as a close corporation. The administration of justice in Bristol has thus attained a higher degree of respect in the public mind, consequent upon the change.
§ "In civil law Bristol has immemorially possessed a court, called the Tolzey, having a power of foreign attachment, and empowered to take all causes which may be tried at Nisi Prius. In this court actions may be decided in about two months, at an expense of about 10l. Yet, by a series of appointments, by the old corporation, of men notoriously incompetent to discharge the duties of judge, the public were deprived of these advantages, and driven from this court into others, where the expense was quadrupled and the delay greatly increased. Under the new law, the recorder has been constituted judge of the court, and competent ability in such an officer 265 it is always in the power of a city like Bristol to secure.
§ "Justice has been weeded of its corruptions.— Among its civil courts Bristol possessed one most valuable to the poor—the Court of Conscience for the recovery of debts under 40s. The patronage was in the old corporators, who were the commissioners, and by whom it was used to pension off the decayed members of the body. The last appointment to the registrarship of the court was that of a bankrupt alderman, in whose hands, although notoriously, to the day of his death, in pecuniary difficulties, the money of the suitors was suffered to accumulate without any security. Upon investigation by the new body it was found that the office had practically, in the hands of the registrar, become a sinecure of from 1,000l. to 1,400l. per annum; that illegal fees had been extorted from the suitors; and illegal imprisonments inflicted by the commissioners; and that the balance in the hands of the registrar exceeded 2,000l. The new commissioners restored the fees to their legitimate standard, reduced the terms of imprisonment to those which could legally be enforced, exacted ample security from the newly-appointed registrar, and put an end to all further wrong to the suitors, by causing all sums received, to be applied to the liquidation of claims on account of which they were paid; and all previous demands to be satisfied so far as might be out of a sum of about 500l., which they luckily secured from the old registrar.
§ "This sum was just expended when his death occurred, leaving him in default to the poor suitors of the court to the extent of 1,800l., an event which had been predicted and commented on, from the known extravagant habits and involved circumstances of that officer, many years before.
§ "2nd. Public Safety.—Under the old system the watching of the borough was as bad as it could be, and it was found impracticable to amend it, although several times attempted, from the impossibility of overcoming the jealousy and removing the hostile feeling mutually existing between the old close body and the citizens.
§ "The suburbs were then, for the most part, entirely without a police or a resident magistrate, and the greater and more dangerous portion was neither watched nor lighted at night. Naturally part of the borough, although excluded from its jurisdiction, they were the nurseries of the crimes which infested the city, while the city was unable to supply the best check, prevention, by reason of its limited authority. The extension of jurisdiction, under the Municipal Act, has been productive of the happiest effects; the whole district is now efficiently watched throughout, day and night, property is immeasurably safer than before, and there is already a perceptible difference in the character of the populace of a most beneficial nature.266
§ "3rd.Financial Reform.—The management of the civic property by the old body was of a most wasteful and improvident character. With an income averaging 16,000l. per annum, its debts, at the period of the change effected in its constitution, amounted to upwards of 100,000l.; whilst its expenditure so far exceeded its income, that twenty years proceeding at the same rate would have made the body bankrupt; and the trust estates would have probably been involved in the ruin like the Charities. The saving already effected in salaries alone is, notwithstanding the jurisdiction, double its former extent, 6,000l. per annum. From the sale of advowsons, the most objectionable species of patronage which such a body could possess, nearly 40,000l. will accrue to the city.
§ "4th. Public Confidence.—One of the greatest advantages which the city has derived from the introduction of this law is the absolute creation of what before did not any where exist—public confidence in the local government. Whether the elements of this confidence consist of entire reliance on the parties chosen as councillors by the burgesses, or on that corrective nature of the constitution of the governing body inseparable from the principal of representation, is of secondary importance, for its good effect is the same. Formerly any movement of the corporation with reference to the public was always met on the part of the citizens by parochial meetings and central committees of delegates, then followed negotiations, in which ready suspicion on the one hand played at cross purposes with excited jealousy on the other, and the result always left the breach wider than before. Now, the debates in the town council give to public feeling vent enough; the movement comes from within, and agitation and its evils are avoided. This feeling is shared by all parties; most assert, none deny, the benefit of the change.
§ "5th. Party virulence has been softened down; and not only party virulence, but sectarian virulence also; this, in a moral and social point of view, is one of the happiest effects of the change of system. In no place have party and sectarian feeling run higher than in Bristol; and in no place have more disastrous effects been in consequence produced. The operation of the change has been to throw party leaders together; and, the first jealousy overcome, acting together in matters where party could be forgotten, they have learned to respect each other's talents and virtues, and to forget distinctions of opinion, whereby they could only be remembered to their common injury. The consequence is, that there is more and heartier union, and a better feeling on subjects of common benefit; and thus one element of prosperity has been, though indirectly, given to Bristol by this measure, which Bristol previously wanted, and suffered for the want of."
Now, my Lords, I have also received re-
ports of a similar nature from Leicester, from Norwich, from Liverpool, from Cambridge, from Ipswich, and from other places; and although they differ in some respects, yet essentially the writers of them concur with the writer of the report which I have just had the honour to read to your Lordships. They declare generally that the administration of justice has been improved—that there has been a great diminution of public abuses, more especially with reference to police. It was on that last point that the noble Lords opposite were the most apprehensive. They were afraid that the new town-councils would not place the police in a situation calculated to maintain the public tranquillity. It now appears, however, that the operation of the English Municipal Bill has been most advantageous with reference to the police: All this, my Lords, is a great good. Then I say that this great good we ought to endeavour to communicate to Ireland. It is on the working of the English that I recommend to your Lordships the adoption of the Irish measure. It is Dot necessary to go back to the examples of Greece or Rome, or the more recent ones of the Netherlands and other parts of the Continent. All these are in favour of the plan which I recommend; but the success of the English measure is a much more powerful motive. At present the members of the Irish Corporations are too much in the habit of looking to the Castle, and of doing nothing for themselves. But there is nothing which unfits the Irish people for taking upon themselves the duties which this Bill will impose. Thus to employ them, and give them important duties, may give completeness to what is at present considered a deficiency in the Irish character. Really, my Lords, the question is reduced into a very narrow compass. It is contended by the opponents of this Bill that it is not applicable to Ireland, in consequence of the different position in which that country and England are placed in consequence of the difference of religion in Ireland—in consequence of the violence of politics in Ireland, and of the social bitterness which that violence engenders. It is said by the opponents of the measure that we only propose to transfer power from one body to another, from the Protestants to the Roman Catholics. My Lords, I rather doubt that. From all I know, from all I see, and from all I
have heard, I very much doubt if such will be the effect of the adoption of the Bill under your Lordships' consideration. But supposing that you give up some power to these new town-councils, let me ask your Lordships what is the nature of that power? It can in nowise be dangerous. It is said that hope tells a flattering tale; but fear tells one full of intimidation. It has been alleged that these town-councils will become "normal schools of agitation." Possibly political matters may be agitated in these town-councils, and on those matters they may be induced to present addresses to the King and petitions to both Houses of Parliament. If that be the danger apprehended, I hold it very cheap indeed. If they step out of their sphere, depend upon it their influence will be very small. None are so weak as those who endeavour to go further than they have a right to go. There is, therefore, no danger that they can have any such bad effect as is anticipated. Public opinion would divest their proceedings of all weight and if they stepped beyond the bounds of their duty they might be safely left to bring forward measures which would be only a proof of their own weakness and imbecility. With respect to the influence of town-councils, I do not consider that even of such importance. But are there no other assemblies at present? Are there no general associations? And I mention not these for the purpose of proving that they may have much effect on Parliament, but I point them out to show that these associations have the means of influencing the return of Members of Parliament. I mention them to prove that by correspondence, and by raising funds for supporting candidates, they may act as efficiently, and more efficiently, than town-councils in returning Members either of Conservative or Radical principles. That is the real object in view, and it therefore becomes your Lordships to take that circumstance into your consideration. But it has been said that these new town-councils, under a popular Government, may be so constituted as to affect the stability of the Protestant Church. Now, I cannot think that much danger is to be apprehended on that account, because the danger, if danger there be, will come, not from town-councils, but through the medium of Members of the House of Commons. That is the dominant body, and I think I am therefore justified in setting the one against the
other. These town-councils might use the borough funds, it has been said, in strengthening a particular candidate; but those who make this assertion ought to recollect, that there would be a proper management of the borough funds, that there would be a just and efficient superintendence of the accounts, which are under the control and management of the town-councils elected by the rate-payers, and that there could be no opportunity of applying the funds to the purposes of corruption, as was done under the old system. As far, therefore, as regards the managements of the funds, and the patronage in the gift of each corporation, I think their importance has been greatly overated— that the greater part of the influence arising from these will be withdrawn under a new and well-constituted system—and that, therefore, the arms which may be obtained from these quarters are not so formidable, nor can so much use be made of them as some anticipate. I therefore, call on your Lordships to accede to this measure. It is but a little to give, and a great deal to withhold; and I implore your Lordships to consider the subject carefully, and view attentively the large grounds on which it Stands, before you reject the Bill. It will not do now to say that you will reject the Bill because the great majority of the people of Ireland are of the Roman Catholic religion. It is impossible to say that, and, at the same time, look forward to the future well government of Ireland. Is there any probability that the Roman Catholic religion will prevail less than it does now in that country? Is there any chance of it diminishing—is that likely? If we look to all that has occurred for centuries—if we are to be guided by the experience of the past, it is impossible to suppose that any number of Roman Catholics can change that religion which has taken such a deep hold of their minds, and in which they were born and bred up. If I am to be guided by the opinions of learned divines, both of the last century and the present day, I cannot come to any other conclusion. I know that some say that Catholics are gaining on the Protestants, and that point has been urged in both Houses of Parliament, but I doubt it; I think the natural apprehension of these individuals leads them astray on the subject, but certainly those best acquainted with the subject consider that there has not been and
is not likely to be any great change in religious opinions. If not, why then make a law which shall interfere so materially with the liberty, the feelings, and communities of a people now in connexion with this country? I trust that nothing will ever be done by England to weaken that connexion, and that nothing ever will arise which can lead to the separation of the two countries. That union has been sanctioned by time. The two countries have been bound together by mutual alliance—by intermarriages—by every relation of life—by the mutual possession of property, and by mutual advantages which affect both countries, whether we look to their operation in time of peace or the maintenance of our security in time of war. If we look to the history of the union we shall find of what advantage it has been in days of danger and difficulty; and such an impression has that made that an historian, perhaps of a superstitious and poetic character, has said that whenever the two countries have been nigh separation, there has always been something like the unexpected hand of Providence to keep them united. If we look to the history of the two countries we shall find that the victory gained on the field of Aughrim was owing to the accidental death of the celebrated French general who commanded, and on that account the battle was decided in favour of King William. Historians say there was but one man in the field who could have saved the army opposed to him, and that man was killed. If that was the character of the union at that period, how much more striking has it been since, when the country was at one time in such imminent danger, when battalions of volunteers were raised at a moment, when the safety of the state might be said to be hanging by a thread, and the danger was overcome by the patriotism and the prudence of those men at the head of the popular party? The same circumstances occurred in the terrible days of the French revolution. It is impossible not to see what dangers the union passed through at that time; and I therefore pray your Lordships not in any way to run the hazard of doing for yourselves what neither the legitimate claim of King James, backed as it was by the existing religion of the country, nor the power of Louis 14th, nor the national calamities and disasters arising from the American war, nor the horrid events of the French revolution, were able
to effect. I pray you to do everything in your power to preserve that union which has come through so much danger and difficulty successfully and triumphantly. This Bill is one of infinite importance when compared with the consequences of its rejection. It is of great importance that the Corporations, as they at present exist, should be done away with, and that better Corporations should be substituted for them. Such is the object of the Bill; but the opposition which has been shown to it, the grounds on which that opposition is based, and the language which has accompanied the manifestation of that opposition, have swelled the Bill into an importance that really it does not possess. I beseech your Lordships to desist from further opposition, and to cease that unnatural and dangerous conflict which you have begun. I pray you to be the first to give up all petty jealousies, and to discontinue the perilous warfare that has been commenced. Let us not be the first, my Lords, to sever that union which has existed so long, and which has promoted the mutual benefit of England and Ireland.
Tuque prior, tu sparce, genus quiducis Olympo:
Projice tela manu, sanguis, meus.
As you have the power, so exercise the grace of bringing the matter to a speedy, an immediate, and a satisfactory conclusion.
§ The Duke of Wellington
wished to avoid every thing that would interfere with that good temper and calm deliberation which had been recommended by the noble Lord whom he was ready to meet on his own principles. He was certainly one of those who so far concurred with the noble Lord in the measure of last year as to agree to the second reading of the Bill, which he did upon the principle that the existing Corporations of Ireland ought not to be continued. But he believed it might be contended with great truth that those establishments were formed with a view to support and protect the Protestant religion and Protestant interests in Ireland. It was perfectly true that the Legislature had, within the last half century, made more than one attempt to improve those Corporations, or to mix with them other persons besides Protestants, and that those attempts had been successfully resisted by those Corporations. For himself he could say, it was not his wish, and he believed it wag not the wish of any number of persons 272 in that House, that the exclusive system of those Corporations should be maintained. But there was a great deal of difference between putting an end to those Corporations, and establishing another system directly the reverse, a system which, in fact, under the name of Corporations, introduced another description of Corporation, which was to be exclusive in another sense, and fitted to produce in every part of that unfortunate country, an entire revolution in the whole of its local affairs. He believed the Ministers of the Crown had totally failed last year, both in that and the other House of Parliament, to prove that this exclusive system ought to be adopted; and he was therefore surprised that they should come down a second year, and propose, not only the same measure, or, as the noble Lord had said, not the same measure which he proposed in the former year, and which he failed in obtaining, but a measure which he admitted himself to be not so good as that which he then brought in. What he contended was, that if the noble Lord had intended to conciliate that House and to draw from it its support to his measure, he ought to have brought forward a measure in the other House of Parliament more consistent with the views entertained by their Lordships' House, such a measure as would have had the effect of removing the inconveniences of the existing Corporations in Ireland, and which would, therefore, have obtained the support of that House in favour of an efficient system of reform. He had various objections to this measure. In the first place he objected that it was proposed to give votes to the lowest description of the inhabitants of the towns who were to have Corporations. The noble Lord had adduced the example of the Corporations of England. Why did he not introduce the same qualification for electors into this Bill as was laid down in the English Corporation Bill? Why had he reduced the qualification to so low a sum as 5l.? The qualification, low as it was, was not to consist of a tenement of that value, but of every description of property the holder of the tenement might possess. Then there was no proof whatever required of possession, as there was under the Reform Act. He begged their Lordships to look at the scheme of taxation attached to this measure. The English Bill gave power to the town-council to levy a borough-rate, 273 of the same description as the county-rate. According to this measure the town-council was to levy a rate upon the principle of the 9th of George 4th, which was, that the rate should increase in proportion to the amount of property possessed by the rate-payer. By that Act the tenant of a house of the yearly value of 10l. was to pay a rate of 6d. in the pound; tenants of houses from 10l. to 20l. were to pay 9d.; and those who occupied houses above 20l., 1s. in the pound. That principle had been introduced into this Bill notwithstanding the strong objection which was taken by that House against it in the course of the debates on the Bill of the last Session. But there was a more objectionable portion of the Bill still, namely, that which provided against any alteration; so that the town-councils would be left to take their own course, and would have little else to do than to lay on an expensivé rate on the inhabitants when they pleased. The noble Lord had been pleased to give the House an account of the improvements which had attended the establishment of Municipal Corporations in England, and he had recommended the example of those Corporations to the attention of their Lordships. The noble Lord would lead the House to expect that the same advantages would be enjoyed in Ireland; but he would beg leave to remind the noble Lord that those reforms which had been made in England were not required in Ireland. There was no want of a police in Ireland. That country was well provided with police everywhere, and, in point of fact, one of his greatest objections to this measure was, that it went to provide for the establishment of a local police. It was proposed to establish a police which was to have a jurisdiction over all parts of the country in which the town or Corporation might be situate, and all parts of any adjoining county within seven miles of that town. He repeated that it was one of his strongest objections to this measure that the corporate towns were to raise what were called constables, but which were neither more nor less than armed men, by means of whom they might be enabled to carry on a war against order, or, if they thought proper, against the resident gentry and magistracy of the district. Under these circumstances he believed that such a measure, giving to the town-councils these powers of levying rates upon the arbitrary 274 system of the statute of the 9th of George 4th, was improper. The system of the 9th of George 4th had been adopted solely to save the Corporations the expense of an application for a private act, and to enable them to adopt that system if they so thought proper; but to force that system upon these towns, as it would be by the operation of this Bill, he must object. It was perfectly true that these towns might take this system of taxation—that they might either submit to it or apply by petition to Parliament for a private Bill; but he believed it was without precedent that Parliament had ever forced upon towns a system of taxation of this description by means of town-councils, without having their previous consent to the adoption of the system. Now, he begged leave to observe, that the 5l. voters, who in these Corporations might have to vote for town-councillors who were to have the power of laying on this system of taxation, might be persons who might not be so qualified as to be liable to any taxation under the provisions of the 9th of George 4th. This was not the principle of the act which had been applied to this country—it was unfair and inapplicable to Ireland, and he must say, that having thrown the whole matter into the hands of the lowest description of the population, and having no check upon them, the leaders and demagogues of these towns would impose taxes on the property of the neighbourhood, of which they themselves would not be called upon, or liable to sustain any part. Certainly, he (the Duke of Wellington) should be justified in the opinions which he held in giving his vote against the second reading of this Bill, but being sincerely desirous to be able to make such amendments in it as would render the measure fit to pass their Lordships' House, he would not oppose the second reading; and he earnestly recommended their Lordships to give the Bill a second reading, and to allow it to go into Committee, in order to see what alterations may be adopted to render the measure fitting and suitable for the purposes for which it was designed.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
said, that he did not rise for the purpose of now entering into the general merits of the measure now under their Lordships' consideration, but he rose merely to state the reasons upon which his vote was grounded. He entirely agreed with the noble Duke who had last 275 addressed their Lordships, that this Bill ought to be read a second time. On the discussion which took place on this subject last year, their Lordships had all agreed, that the present constitution of the Corporations of Ireland had been productive of evil, and that some remedy was required to be applied; and it would be inconsistent with that admission now to refuse the second reading of the Bill. It appeared to him, that their Lordships would act inconsistently with the course which had been pursued last year, if they were to move, on the motion for a second reading, the rejection of this Bill; and he was desirous to avoid any inconsistency with the course taken on that occasion. The third reason he had for the second reading, was the answer which had been given by this House to his Majesty's Speech from the Throne, by which they had stated in the most distinct and precise terms, that they would take this important subject into their most serious and attentive consideration. It therefore appeared to him, that he should act inconsistently with the pledge given on that occasion, if he did not allow this Bill to be read a second time, according to the motion of the noble Viscount. There was another ground which he thought required noble Lords on his side of the House not to oppose the motion of the noble Viscount, and that was the language which had been used in one of the reasons assigned in the conference with the other House of Parliament, when the measure of Irish Corporation reform was before this House last Session. It appeared to him, that by it this House was pledged to entertain this subject; and that if they did not accede to the motion, noble Lords on his side of the House would act inconsistently. Having stated thus much, he begged to say, it was not his intention, on the present occasion, to go into the consideration of the provisions of this Bill, as he acceded to the motion of the noble Viscount—it was entirely unnecessary for him now to do so,—future opportunities would be afforded for the purpose of considering more conveniently, in all its details, the provisions of this measure. He must, however, be allowed to say, in the most distinct terms, that he, for one, would never acquiesce in the passing of this Bill in its present shape. How far it might be rendered more adapted to the purposes intended, more consistent with 276 the safety of Ireland, of the Established Church in that country, the maintenance of Protestant interests there, and the connexions between Ireland and this part of the kingdom, it was not for him to predict. All he meant to say was, that he voted for the second reading, merely for the purpose of further consideration and further inquiry, but nothing would induce him to acquiesce in this measure in its present form.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, the noble Duke had expressed his surprise that a measure which had been rejected by their Lordships, should be again brought under their consideration. Why, he could refer to many measures which had been rejected repeatedly by their Lordships, and were afterwards carried. The noble Duke knew that; he knew, also, that measures which he had introduced, were much more stringent, and went a great deal further, than those he had resisted when he led the Opposition to them in that House; but the opponents of the noble Duke recommended the present Bill, and, therefore, it was improper. The noble Duke knew that there was a Bill, which he had always divided in opposition to, and yet he was the very man to introduce and carry that Bill, which had been over and over again, rejected. He hoped, therefore, that he had purged himself of every thing like disrespect, and convinced their Lordships that his conduct in introducing a Bill, which had been once rejected, was as respectful as the conduct of the noble Duke on former occasions. The noble Duke and the noble and learned Baron said, they were ready to agree to the second reading of the Bill, and he was glad of that, though their language did not hold out any large prospects of success. He hoped, however, that the further consideration of the Bill would lead to better results than he had reason to anticipate at the present moment. With regard to the police of towns, adverted to by the noble Duke, he would only say, that by establishing a good system of police in towns, it would have a corresponding effect in the surrounding country; and as to the parties being unjustly taxed, without their consent, he believed that was a subject which interested the rate payers; and if they had believed there was any such danger of abuse as that alluded to, they would have instructed their representatives in Parliament to oppose the clause.
said, it appeared undoubted that they were to go into Committee on this Bill. He must say, that he was rather sorry for it; because he was led to believe, from the tone of the noble Duke and of his noble and learned Friend opposite, that they would only throw away some five or six weeks of their time in unprofitable discussions on the subject, and in the end find themselves in the same situation in which their Lordships and the other House of Parliament and the country were at the close of the last Session. If he had any reason to believe, that, during the months which had elapsed since that period, anything had occurred to lead the noble Duke and his noble and learned Friend to take a different view of the subject than they entertained last year, he should indeed take their agreeing to the second reading as a most blessed event, both to this and the other country. But until he heard something more from noble Lords opposite of a kind to lead him to this conclusion, he must say, that his expectations were not only sanguine, but that, in fact, they were nothing at all; and that nothing probable or possible was to be gained by going through, what he was going to call, a farce; but he would not use that term, but what he really thought must prove a very bootless proceeding indeed, both as regarded this measure and the country.
§ Bill read a second time, and ordered to be committed.