§ Lord Lyndhurst
I rise my Lords, for the purpose of opposing the motion submitted to your Lordships by the noble Viscount. When the question came under your Lordships' consideration upon the last occasion I beg to state my entire concurrence in the course that was then pursued by your Lordships. It appears to me that when your Lordships concurred in the propriety of that proceeding, it is perfectly impossible for us now, if we wish to act consistently, and as we ought to act, and in accordance with the proceeding which was then adopted, not to see that there is no other course to be proposed than a further prolongation of the consideration of this Bill. On the former occasion ray noble Friend (the Duke of Wellington) moved the postponement of the committee, for the purpose of giving an opportunity for other bills—depending in the other House of Parliament to be sent to your Lordships. It was supposed, when these bills should come before your Lordships, that means might be found for so regulating and modelling the bill before this House as to deprive it of most of the objections to which it is exposed in the opinions of your Lordships. Your Lordships concurred in that view of the case, and accordingly the committal was postponed to the present day. Noble lords considered, and they went upon the assumption of the fact, that the two bills should be in the House at the present time. It appears that in this respect the noble Duke and other noble lords miscalculated, as the second reading of one of those bills is appointed only for this day. The noble Marquess has informed us—that this is purely accidental—that it arises from the state of business in the other House. I am willing to assume this as the fact. I am bound to believe it is the fact; 1309 and if it be so, then, if that had been anticipated by the noble Duke, and foreseen by you, instead of fixing upon the 9th of June for going into Committee, a more distant day would have been appointed. How, then, can we consistently with our former proceedings pursue any other course than that of resolving that the Committee be further postponed? If the purpose for which it was postponed was that of looking to these subjects, and taking them into your consideration at the period to which I refer, then it appears to me that you have but one course to pursue, and that is, the prolongation of the time. I am aware that the postponement upon the former occasion was opposed by many noble Lords on the other side of the House. By some it was stated that a postponement was equivalent to a rejection of the measure. It is quite clear that his Majesty's Ministers have not so considered that postponement, because they pledged themselves, and in no equivocal terms, that they would deprive the country of their services if the Bill were rejected. The postponement, my Lords, has not led to that calamity, and I am entitled to assume that that view has not been taken by the noble Viscount and the rest of his Majesty's Ministers. I have no disposition, my Lords, to refer to the arguments which took place in the last Session, and of the views taken of the question upon it. But permit me to say, that I still entertain the opinions which I then held, and which I felt it my duty to express, that the best and safest course to be followed with a view to the tranquillity of Ireland was to pursue those measures which I then submitted to your Lordships. I believe in my conscience that at this time no wiser course can be adopted. If I am asked why I am now inclined to depart from that course, I answer because I am desirous, and am most anxiously desirous, that the question should be settled—because I am convinced that in matters of legislation you should not only attempt what is best, but you ought also to legislate in such a manner as will be satisfactory to those upon whom your legislation is to operate; and if I can be satisfied that this Bill can be so modelled and so framed—that it may become the law in Ireland, consistently with the tranquillity of that country, consistently with the safety of the Protestant Establishment, and consistently with the interests of the Protestant people in that country, then I shall be desirous of 1310 seeing it pass into a law, for the purpose of having the question settled, and of conciliating the feelings of the people of Ireland. But I agree with what was stated on a former occasion by the noble Duke, that unless it can be framed in such a way—unless it be made consistent with the maintenance of the Protestant Establishment, and consistent with Protestant interests—no consideration ought to induce us to pass it; because I am convinced that in the maintenance of that establishment, and in the preservation of these interests, mainly and entirely depends the union between the two parts of the empire. If that establishment be broken down, if those interests be trampled upon, you lay the foundation for the severation of the two countries. What are the objections that I have to this measure? It is not my intention to go into the details of the Bill; this is not the time for doing so. My main objection is this:—Looking to the provisions of this Bill—looking to qualification, especially of the electors, contained in this bill—I am satisfied that it would in effect hand over the Corporations of Ireland to the Roman Catholic agitators in that country. There is no person acquainted with Ireland—there is no one who goes over the evidence given before the Committees of the other House on the subject of the elections—but must come to the same conclusion I have stated—that if you pass this Bill in its present shape and form, you hand over the Corporations in Ireland at once to the Roman Catholic agitators in that country. What has been the complaint against the corporations as they exist now? Over and over it has been urged against them—and it is that which induced me to acquiesce in what was proposed last Session—that they were exclusive—that they were exclusively composed of Protestants, and yet it ought to be remembered for what these Corporations were formed, and what they were in their original establishment—that they were formed for the very purpose of supporting the Protestant Establishment and Protestant interests. Still, considering the changes that have taken place in society, in manners, and in other circumstances, I was willing to go as far as the measure of last Session contemplated. What is proposed by this measure, and what would be its inevitable consequences? Instead of Corporations liable to the same objections which are now made against 1311 them—instead of their being composed exclusively of Protestants—that which they were originally intended to be—they would become exclusively Catholic, and under the domination of the Catholic agitators of that country. I know and I am sensible that with many this is a strong argument in favour of the measure. I am sensible that this will be a strong recommendation of the measure with some persons; it is the object they aim at; it is to that we are to ascribe so much zeal and perseverance and labour upon their parts. It is for the purpose of accomplishing so immediate an object, and through the attainment of that object, they hope to attain another which they keep steadily in view, and which they avow—the destruction of the Protestant Establishment in that country. Allow me now to say, that I cannot help thinking that his Majesty's Ministers share in the feelings that I have stated. That they should share in the feelings I have stated is not unnatural, when we consider the language that has been held by them with respect to Ireland. I say that it is not unnatural for them, because they look to the support of that party as of the utmost importance to the continuance of their political existence. It is not unnatural that such a circumstance reconciles them to the sentiments of that party. That is a circumstance which to me affords the strongest objection against them. If I wished for a striking illustration to press upon your consideration, it would be this—it would be the conduct of his Majesty's Government with respect to the General Association in Ireland. Never at any period in this or in the history of any other country was there to be found a body of men so formidable in their character, so extensive in their combinations, and so desperate in their designs, established in any regular Government. That Association is composed of men from every part of Ireland—composed to a great extent of the Roman Catholic priesthood of that country—in communication with the whole of the Catholic priesthood. It has in every parish in Ireland an agent under the name of a pacificator, for the purpose of assuming to itself the power of levying money—"voluntary contributions,"—as they are stated to be, but, in fact, forced contributions—and levying money upon the public at large for the accomplishment of their own objects. They take upon themselves the superintendence of registry matters, influencing and overawing the electors; nay, more, in many instances of overawing the Government itself. They 1312 take upon themselves to denounce, and to proscribe Members of your Lordships' House, and, more than that, if you look to their objects—for you will find they do not scruple to avow them—there is the organization of such a body, and with such tremendous means of mischief; and what are the objects to which they are directed? This is not mere speculation; it is not mere matter of conjecture; it is what is stated in their resolutions. Their objects are the overthrow of the Protestant Established Church—they tell us they will never cease from agitation, never will dissolve their body, until they have accomplished their object—that object they call "justice to Ireland;" and in case they do not succeed in that, then they tell us that their next attempt will be to repeal the Union. Have I overstated the character of this Association?—have I overstated the nature of its organization?—have I overstated the mischiefs that it is combined to accomplish, and to which all its energies are directed? Well, my Lords, what have Ministers done with this Association? What have they attempted to do? Have they attempted to dissolve it? Not one step has been taken by them for that purpose. I am satisfied that so far from any step being taken to dissolve that body, or for the purpose of abating such a nuisance, that they themselves have directly supported and encouraged it. My Lords, I am aware that, on a former night, the noble Viscount told us that he disapproved of this Association, but he did so in a manner peculiar to himself, as if with a view of lessening as far as possible the effect of what he said, and of placing himself still well with his supporters among that body. The noble Viscount likened its proceedings to those dinners which the Conservative party celebrated at different periods of the last autumn, those meetings being held for the purpose of supporting the authority of the Crown, upholding the institutions of the country, and maintaining the Protestant Establishment. These meetings were likened by the noble Viscount to the proceedings of an Association whose objects were to interfere with the prerogative of the Crown, to destroy Protestant interests, to pull down the Protestant Establishment, and to confiscate its property, and apply it to purposes for which it never was intended. I am quite aware that the noble Viscount threw out something like a doubt that the law could reach that association. I think, if I recollect right, that I saw something like a smile upon the face of a 1313 noble and learned Friend opposite when it was declared that the members of that Association could not be prosecuted for a conspiracy, as none of its proceedings were secret. It struck me that such an observation was somewhat singular as proceeding from one who was formerly a member of that profession to which I have the honour to belong. But has any attempt been made by the noble Viscount to prosecute the Association? Has he taken the opinion of the law-officers of the Crown? I never heard of such a course having been taken. I never heard even that it was surmised. But supposing that the law as laid down on the opposite side is correct—supposing that the members of that Association could not be prosecuted for a conspiracy—why has there not been an application made to Parliament on the subject? Why has not the attempt been made by his Majesty's Ministers? There has been no suggestion even of such a course being adopted. I pass by all these matters because it is in the recollection of your Lordships, that in the early part of this Session a noble Lord, who is a Member of this House, and who is also a member of that Association, declared in the hearing of your Lordships that if his Majesty expressed his desire that the Association should dissolve, it would at once submit to the expression of such a wish. Have we any intimation of the expression of such a wish by the noble Viscount? Has he intimated a desire on the part of Government that the Association should be put an end to? I never heard of any intimation of such a wish; but there is an anxious desire upon every occasion to defend the proceedings of that body. I have stated that not only have his Majesty's Ministers not shown an anxiety to dissolve the Association, but they have directly countenanced it. I beg leave to state in confirmation of this the facts which are now notorious to all, and which have been discussed over and over again in another place, and which have been established on the clearest possible evidence. To what is it I allude? Ministers have selected members of that Association, assembled in the manner I have described, and for the illegal objects I have mentioned to fill public offices. From that society they have selected stipendiary magistrates—nay, more, one of the objects of the Association being to superintend the registration of voters, they have selected from that Association persons judicially to determine upon the registration. Nay, more, to show the 1314 countenance that has been given to that Association, they selected from that Association one of the most influential members of the body, one who was employed to draw up the rules, and they placed him in one of the most confidential offices that a person could be intrusted with under the Government—an office of that description in which he may be called upon to pronounce an opinion with respect to the legal character of the Association itself. His Majesty's Ministers have done nothing to discountenance that Association; but everything to uphold and encourage it. I wish now to draw your Lordships' attention to the conduct of the Government in reference to another Association of a widely different character, and to contrast the conduct of that society with that of the body in question. I never did approve of the manner in which the Orange body was organized. There was a defect in their constitution; but they were assembled, with what views? Their object was, to maintain the prerogative of the Crown, to uphold the laws and institutions of the country, and, above all, to protect the Protestant establishment. As soon as his Majesty intimated a desire that these Associations should be put an end to, by their own voluntary act they were put an end to. But look to the conduct of the Government in reference to that Association. Not a member of that society was to be appointed to any office or situation. Upon that principle his Majesty's Government acted. They not only acted upon it, but in their regulations for the police in a Bill which passed your Lordships' House last year, they were directly excluded. That was what was done with that society; it was at direct variance with what was done with the other body. In the first instance, it was declared that parties were incompetent to hold any office or situation, though the object of the society to which they belonged, was the maintenance of existing institutions; but with reference to the other Association, with objects directly the reverse, there has been no disqualification of its members for any office of trust. Am I, then, warranted in the statement which I have made, that the increase of the power of the Roman Catholics in Ireland, is not viewed altogether with distaste by the noble Viscount? I do not say that this is not natural. The Association is a formidable engine of power. It is exercised at present in the support of the 1315 Government, and I do not say, that the Members of that Government should not view it with as favourable an eye as possible. But, my Lords, what is the situation in which his Majesty's Ministers stand? In no former period of our history has the Government of this country been placed in such a position. To whom do they look for support? To the enemies of the Protestant establishment. In Ireland their supporters are composed of the declared enemies of the Protestant Church of that country. In England, the political Dissenters are their main stay and support. Deprive them of the aid of the one or of the other, of those, and what becomes of the Government? They feel that their power is gone, and that they have no means of supporting themselves. I repeat, that this is the first time in the history of this country when the Government has depended almost exclusively for support, on the declared enemies of the Protestant Church. My Lords, where is this to stop? Concession, we know, leads to still further concession, according to the natural course of events. Give these men a part of the spoils of the Church—yield to them what they ask for now, and you encourage them to make further demands. My Lords, when will the noble Viscount pause in his downward career? This is no speculation. These reasonings are generally speculative; but, unfortunately, this is a matter of fact. What are we told by those persons? They say that they will receive all you offer, but that they will take it only as an instalment, and that they will never cease agitating—that they will never cease convulsing the empire until they strip the national Church of its property. There objects are distinct and clear, this principle is avowed, too, to a certain extent, by the Members of the Government themselves. We are told, "How will you govern Ireland? how will you regulate that country and restore tranquillity to her? Concede every demand, and if she is not contented, go on conceding; give her more, and go on conceding till she is satisfied." This, my Lords, we are told by a noble Lord, one who is not the least able, or the least influential member of the Cabinet of which he forms a part. What are the supporters of the Government asking for now? The prostration of the Church of Ireland. This Bill conceded to them, they gain that object. What is their next demand? They tell you that 1316 you must repeal the union. Such, then, is the course which his Majesty's Ministers have adopted. Now, my Lords, allow me to call your attention to the Bill itself. I have stated on a former occasion that nothing should ever induce me to acquiesce in passing this Bill as it stands. In the first place, I see that a 5l. qualification is the basis of the Bill. I am not so insensible to what is passing around me, as not to know what a 5l. qualification is. My Lords, I know that a 5l. qualification is no qualification at all, and that if we act upon this principle, the constituency by which these Corporations are to be regulated, will be composed of persons who will be goaded and driven to vote under the absolute direction and nomination of the Catholic Priests. What is the cry? Justice for Ireland, and a demand that her municipal institutions be placed on the same footing as those of Scotland. Well, my Lords, how is it in Scotland? The very smallest qualification, is a 10l. qualification, and that secured, in a variety of ways, a substantial qualification; and yet the supporters of the Government demand a 5l. qualification for Ireland, although they say that Ireland ought to be put on the same footing with Scotland. The qualification, alone, continued the noble Lord, would induce him never to agree to the Bill. Then there was this inconsistency in the Bill. Last Session an act had been passed which took from the magistracy in Ireland the appointment of police constables and transferred it to the lord-lieutenant, and yet this measure gave the appointment of the constables to the town-councils; and the jurisdiction of these was extended all over the counties in which the boroughs were, and in some instances, to the adjoining counties. There were three objections that he entertained to the Bill. First, there was the extraordinary patronage which it would confer. It intrusted the town-council with the power of appointing officers at their discretion. The town-council were also to have the power of giving salaries at their discretion, and of levying rates to defray the expense of those salaries, and for other incidental matters. He had another objection, and a strong one, to urge against the measure. First, he considered the mode in which the town-council were to be chosen which he had already pointed out to their Lordships. Then he considered the views which were enter- 1317 tained by the parties, to whom was to be intrusted the local authority, and the probability that the individuals who thus obtained the command of the public purse would be thereby enabled materially to extend their influence. Let their Lordships conceive what the state of Ireland would be, with bodies of that description in the possession of power, with political agitation spread over the whole face of the country, combining together, corresponding with each other, and thus forming their corporations into formidable engines for furthering the objects of the parties who were the patrons of this Bill. The noble Viscount, who was sometimes disposed to philosophise in his observations, had more than once said that bodies which assumed a power which did not legitimately belong to them, so far from being formidable, only rendered themselves contemptible and ridiculous. That remark might be applicable to a country like this, where there were countervailing forces. Here there was a powerful magistracy and an influential clergy—here, there were institutions of various descriptions to control and check any body of men who usurped functions to which they were not entitled. The case was widely different in Ireland. What controlling power existed there? If they set up these bodies in that country, arrayed them in legal authority, gave to them the forms and insignia of office, the power of commanding the constabulary, and in making use of the public purse, as they might do, under this Bill—if they did this, would any one tell him that they would not thereby crease a power of a most formidable character? In cases of this kind, he was unwilling to rely on his own general observations, or on his own experience; but there was a witness on this subject, who was appealed to on a former occasion by a noble Friend of his, whose evidence appeared to him to be decisive—a witness, whose testimony, he thought, he noble Viscount could not object to, because he considered him the patron and protector of his Majesty's Government. A witness, who was more schooled in the arts of agitation than any other individual who had ever lived—who was more experienced in keeping alive popular excitement, and who better knew the means of moving the people of Ireland in conformity with his own views than any other individual whom he had ever known. He called the evidence of that individual 1318 in aid, who told them that all he was anxious to obtain was a measure of municipal reform; he said, give him that and he would make himself responsible for their obtaining the rest. Without this evidence he should have come to the same conclusion at the dictation of his own reason; but when he found himself so supported—when he found himself supported by evidence which the noble Viscount could not controvert—he felt that he was placed in a situation that was altogether impregnable. In a question of this kind, above all others, the aide-toi principle was that on which they ought to act. Let them look to the state of Europe, and compare it with what was its state about 200 years ago, when the reformed religion was extensively established throughout the continent. He regretted to say, that in Europe now there were large masses of the population by whom the reformed religion was no longer acknowledged. Let them not deceive themselves on this subject; let them see what was going on in this respect in Ireland, and let them not altogether shut their eyes to what was passing in England itself. The noble Viscount on a former occasion, in arguing this Bill, was pleased to tell them how admirably the Municipal Act had worked in this part of the United Kingdom. The noble Viscount told their Lordships as it had been so successful here, notwithstanding the anticipation of their Lordships to the contrary, he felt sure that any one looking fairly to the subject must see that they might safely confer the same privileges and powers on Ireland. The noble Viscount alluded in support of his views to some communications he had received as to the working of the Municipal Act in different parts of this country. The communications to which the noble Viscount referred, formed, indeed the greater portion of his speech. The noble Viscount referred, among other corporations, to that at Bristol. Now, having himself formerly held the office of recorder of Bristol, he knew something of that city; and he begged to state that he had received a communication in reference to the Bristol Corporation which was directly at variance in every particular with the statement of the noble Viscount. He would just touch on one or two of the points of his communication in answer to the observations and statements so much relied on by the noble Viscount. One of these was as to the better administration of the corporate 1319 property. A sum of 30,000l. was to be raised by rates on the inhabitants of part of Bristol, for the purpose of making good the loss occasioned by the riots and disturbances which had occurred in that city some years ago. One of the first measures of the new town council was to provide for that loss out of the corporate property. Thus they applied 30,000l. of the capital of the corporation—of that corporate property which was to last for all time—to relieve the individual subject to the payment from the charge. It was said by the noble Viscount that the administration of justice had been greatly improved by the Municipal Corporation Bill. He had observed how much better it was for offenders to be tried by the judge of assize than by the recorder of that city. Now, what was the operation of the measure in this respect? Why, that every man who committed a crime was subject to the jurisdiction of the judge of assize, before whom be was tried at a distance of thirty miles from his friends or his witnesses. The effect of such a system must make it impossible for persons to bring their witnesses before the judge of assize, because they were not able to bear the expense. He entertained great respect for the judges of assize; but he begged to say that, in his opinion, those individuals who had filled the situation of recorder for upwards of 100 years were in no respect inferior to them. It would be enough for him to say who those individuals were. There was Sir Michael Tooke: then, at no long interval, Lord Ashburton. There were also Lord Thurlow, Sir Vicary Gibbs, Lord Gifford, and, after a short interval, Sir Charles Wetherell. These were all men highly gifted, and as capable as any other men, well, faithfully, and satisfactorily to discharge those duties incident to the criminal jurisdiction of this country. The noble Viscount had said, that party animosities and disputes were comparatively put an end to by the operation of this Bill. With respect to that representation he begged to refer to the statement with which he had been furnished. The noble and learned Lord read the following extract from the document:—The perpetual recurrence of elections for representatives of wards excites a feeling, perhaps, inseparable from any contest, but rendered more bitter and more vehement from the narrow circle in which it is confined, which makes the matter personal to every one who 1320 partakes in it, and brings almost every neighbour into personal collision. For the purpose, or under the pretext, of guarding the franchise, and preventing the intrusion of improper votes, a system of espionage is kept up; and in the interval between the annual elections the ferment is enlivened by the contest for the registration. We live, therefore, in a constant fever. If by the abatement of sectarian violence is to be understood the unnatural union between the body of Dissenters of the most opposite opinions with the members of the Roman Catholic Church—a union intended only to effect a common purpose, and which must most assuredly terminate when that purpose is answered (if answered it shall ever be) in increased hostility to each other—then, indeed, such an abatement has taken place. In any other respect the assertion is unfortunately as little true as the other averments of the statement.The noble Viscount, besides referring to Bristol, alluded to Cambridge, Leicester, Norwich, and several other places. He would therefore read a statement from Cambridge, which was communicated to him on an authority quite satisfactory, and that statement, like the one from Bristol, was completely at variance with the statement made by the noble Viscount, and which he wished to be taken as the foundation of a similar system in Ireland. He had thought it his duty to say thus much with respect to the measure before the House, and thus much with respect to the conduct of his Majesty's Government. But the people of Ireland were desirous that a Municipal Bill should pass. He was desirous, as he had already stated, that a Bill should pass, provided, as he had also said, such a Bill could be so formed as to be consistent with the tranquillity of that country and the safety of those interests to which he had adverted. He was desirous that that Bill should be founded on the principle of election. He was desirous it should be founded on the principle of election, so as to ensure responsibility among those persons who were to be elected, and to whom the administration of the different towns was to be intrusted. Being desirous that that object should be accomplished, being desirous that this question should be set at rest, being desirous that as far as was possible the wishes of the people of Ireland should be complied with, he came to the conclusion originally of supporting the motion of the noble Duke, and he was only acting consistently now in praying for an extension of the time that was ori- 1321 ginally granted. He wished this measure postponed till the time when the Irish Church Bill might come before them, which he supposed would be at no very distant period. It was possible, that the provisions of that Bill might be such, either in the form in which they would reach their Lordships, or as their Lordships might frame them, as to put the Church of Ireland, as far as its property was concerned, on a safe and secure foundation. When that was accomplished, one great impediment to the passing of this Bill would, in his opinion, be removed. There was another Bill in the other House of Parliament, establishing the principle of rating which was to be extended to the whole of Ireland. When that Bill came up to this House, they might find that it afforded materials for the settling of the qualification on a secure basis, so that they could establish not a mere nominal qualification, but a qualification tried by the best possible test, that of bearing the public burthens of the country or of the place. Should that be the case, and he anticipated that it would be, they might then be able to model an important part of the Bill so as to free it from those objections to which it was ex posed. It was on this ground—it was because he hoped to be able to pass the measure in a manner that would be satisfactory to the people of Ireland, instead of voting for its rejection on the present occasion, or at any future stage, that he was desirous of having another opportunity of forwarding, or of framing it, in conformity with the principle he had mentioned. For the accomplishment of that object, and in furtherance of those views, he should propose, as an amendment to the motion of the noble Viscount, that the word "now" be struck out, for the purpose of substituting "the third of July." He named that time, because he concluded that the bills he had mentioned could not be before the House at an earlier period: but if any assurance were given by the noble Viscount that they would come up at an earlier date, he was willing to alter the day to the earliest possible period.
§ Viscount Melbourne
Judging from the commencement of the noble and learned Lord's speech, though I was well aware he was going to make the motion with which he concluded, yet I must own that, judging from the commencement of the noble 1322 and learned Lord's speech, I did hope that, on the general subject at least, he was about to adopt a calm, cool, and dispassionate tone; that he was about to adopt a tone which would not be altogether, otherwise than conciliatory; a tone exhibiting that fair and proper feeling to which I beg to declare myself not at all insensible. I am sorry to say, that my hope has been disappointed. The noble and learned Lord has, in the course of his speech, used expressions and uttered sentiments which, in my opinion, are very little if any less objectionable, which are very little if any less offensive, which are very little if any less likely to have a prejudicial effect on the feelings of the two countries, than was that speech which he delivered on a former occasion in this House with such eminent success—with so much success in exciting indignation and passion—with so much success in accumulating every difficulty and obstacle possible in the way of a fair and conciliatory conclusion of this subject. What does the noble and learned Lord say on the present occasion? In the course of that invective in which he has thought proper to indulge, he has said, that those who compose the Conservative meetings, are the friends of the King and Constitution; while we, the Ministers, are supported by none but the enemies of the Constitution. What right has the noble Lord to make that assertion? What right has the noble and learned Lord to make that charge? Be they Roman Catholics or be they Dissenters, by what right does he assume that superiority of character? What entitles the noble and learned Lord to assume that right to censure and condemn? Is his character so high? Is his character so far above theirs as to justify him in setting himself up as the censor of others—as the censor and condemner of such large masses of his fellow subjects? I mean to speak nothing but what is respectful of that noble and learned Lord. I have always expressed a great respect for his abilities; and I repeat what I have more than once in this House stated, that I confine my respect strictly to his abilities. Having that respect for his abilities, I say it is not fitting—I say it is not becoming the station which he has filled in this country—that he should cast this bitter censure on so large a body of his fellow countrymen and fellow subjects. But with respect to the question which the 1323 noble and learned Lord has brought before the House, I stated on a former occasion that I could not concur in the grounds which the noble and learned Lord has submitted for the postponement of the measure; and having objected to them on the 5th of May, it is not likely that I should concur in them now on the 9th of June. I do not think the reasons urged are at all sufficient. I think it is unusual, I think it is most imprudent, I think it is most unwise, to make the operations of this House depend on anything passing in the other House of Parliament. I say, first, that the course proposed is a new mode of proceeding; I say it is an inconvenient mode; I say that it cannot tend to advantage between two co-ordinate Assemblies, each being a House that is the guardian of its own powers and privileges, and acting one on the other; I say, that proceeding on this principle is not likely to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion. My Lords, I see no reason why your Lordships should not go into Committee at present. The noble and learned Lord has stated objections to the details of the bill; he has objected to the jurisdiction given to the corporations; to the extent of patronage they will have at their disposal. These, however, are all questions for the Committee into which I now move your Lordships to go. But though the noble Lord stated these objections to the details, the greater part of his speech went to the principle of the bill—it referred to the state of Ireland—to the state of the population of Ireland—to the power to be given to those who form the greater portion of the population of Ireland. The noble and learned Lord said the bill proposed to confer on them a power which cannot, with safety to the Protestants of Ireland be trusted to them. Yet he says the people of Ireland are desirous of the bill; and he also is desirous that the bill should pass. He is desirous, too, that it should be founded on the principle of election. Why, is it not extraordinary that he should be desirous of passing this measure, entertaining the opinions he has expressed respecting the majority in Ireland, and the motives by which they are actuated? But the noble and learned Lord would have the bill founded on the principle of election. New, I will answer for it, that be his ingenuity and skill what they may, he will not be able to escape from the difficulty of the majority of the 1324 population of Ireland being Roman Catholics. If that really unfits them to possess the privileges which this bill would confer on them, no skill or ingenuity of his can ever contrive an escape from it. I therefore, beg to say, that, in my opinion, he has acted most inconsistently in giving any countenance to the bill whatever. The noble and learned Lord, having been unfortunately absent during a considerable portion of the session, has come forward on the present occasion, and raked up all the topics of the Roman Catholic Association, and the appointment of persons who were members of that Association to office in Ireland, those topics having been discussed over and over again. It was what the session began with, and, according to the noble and learned Lord, it seems to be that with which he intends the session shall close. The noble and learned Lord appeals to his own consistency and to the consistency of the House on the present occasion. He says you cannot, consistently with what you have already done, adopt any other course than that of postponing the bill on the grounds on which you postponed it before. I beg to claim for myself, and for the noble Lords beside me, the privilege of paying some attention to our consistency, and we feel that we cannot give our consent to any further postponement, having objected on a former occasion to the reasons advanced in favour of the delay as insufficient. I stated that to act on the grounds which were then proposed would be most dangerous, and to postpone the forwarding of one bill till some other bill comes down from the other House is a course of great difficulty and delicacy. I put it to the noble Duke, than whom there is not, I believe, one of your Lordships who is more capable of taking a sound practical view of any question, whether it is not so? I ask him whether he thinks it practicable for the two Houses to proceed in this manner—whether some accident is not likely to occur—whether some temper may not be excited—whether some difficulty would not probably arise which would render it impossible to bring the matter to a satisfactory termination. The course proposed is one more refined and subtle, I will venture to say, than any which the sound sense of the noble Duke ever suggested, or which has come within the range of his experience. With great bodies of men you cannot act in that manner, and if that be the object which we 1325 have in view we shall fail. Then why not go into Committee? What is the reason why you will not go into the consideration of this Bill—why you will not go into Committee, and then take into consideration all the practical suggestions of the noble and learned Lord, rejecting all the general objections with which he has chosen to accompany them, and which, if allowed to take effect, would be fatal to the whole measure? The noble and learned Lord has alluded to Gentlemen whom he has pleased to call the patrons and defenders of the Government. He says we are entirely supported by the Roman Catholics of Ireland, and we are therefore willing to assist and promote their interests every way in our power to the prejudice of the Protestants at large. I say that is not the case. I beg to deny that imputation altogether. I beg to say, that we are no more willing to see the Protestant interest in Ireland trampled or trodden under foot than he is—not in the slightest respect. We are determined to assert the rights, liberties, and properties, and all that belongs to every class of his Majesty's subjects, whether they are of the Church Establishment, or whether they are not of it—whether they are of one description of faith or of another. The noble and learned Lord has adverted to the Roman Catholic Association of Ireland. I have said what I think of that Association, and I do not consider it necessary to repeat my remarks on the present occasion. But the noble and learned Lord says, was there ever such an Association before? In reply, I think I might endeavour to recal to the noble and learned Lord's recollection, whether, when he sat on the woolsack from the year 1827 to the year 1829, there did not exist such a body in the country? The noble and learned Lord then called to his aid neither the common law, if that was sufficient, nor did he introduce any new statute on the occasion. [Lord Lyndhurst expressed dissent.] I know what the noble and learned Lord is going to say, he would tell us that he did introduce a new statute; but though he did so, was it not under cover of the Concession Bill—of that Bill which was to confer equal civil rights and privileges on the Roman Catholics? I will not inquire now whether what was done on that occasion was prudently or wisely done, nor will I express an opinion as to 1326 the observation which accompanied the measure, because I do not wish to stir up matters which formerly created great differences of opinion; but I cannot help saying, that I think, unless it had been the intention to concede to the Roman Catholics all they required as regarded equality of civil rights, that concession never would have been made. The noble and learned Lord has stated, that we gave way to the Roman Catholics of Ireland, and speaks of the Association in Ireland as a Roman Catholic Association. Unfortunately that Association is not a Roman Catholic association; and if there is any thing dangerous and formidable in that Association—if there is anything which makes it more dangerous and formidable than the former one, it is, that a body of Protestants belong to it, and that it has a more general character than any that ever before existed in that country. With respect to persons who have been members of that Association having been appointed to office in Ireland, I must say, most distinctly, that when an Association comprises amongst its members many distinguished individuals—when it has grown up to be of considerable importance—when it has excited a great deal of enthusiasm in the minds of young men, and many young lawyers have been induced to enrol their names in it—I think it would be unwise, I think it would be exceedingly imprudent, on the part of the Government to pronounce against all connected with it a ban of exclusion from office. But, says the noble and learned Lord, that is what you have done with respect to the Orange societies. Now I beg to say, that though that course was proposed by the Government, I entertained doubts as to its policy; I will even say, that I never came to a decision with greater doubt; but I yielded to the proposition on account of the peculiar character of those societies. They were entirely secret—the members were bound together by secret oaths, I never have been initiated in their mysteries, but they were similar, I believe, to those of freemasonry. I have understood that rites were observed of a very solemn nature; that they were of an awful devotional character. Certainly the members of the Orange lodges sometimes were bound by illegal secret oaths and awful ceremonies.
The Duke of Cumberland
having been 1327 much connected with those societies, he begged to observe, that there never was any thing of the sort described by the noble Viscount, or he certainly never would have countenanced them.
§ Viscount Melbourne
If there were not secret oaths, nobody could go in but members; the proceedings were secret.
The Duke of Cumberland
The meetings of every club in London are secret. I never would have belonged to a society in which any oaths were taken of the sort mentioned by the noble Viscount, or in which there were any proceedings contrary to the spirit of the laws and constitution of the country.
§ Viscount Melbourne
The members of the Orange societies were, as I believe, bound together by oaths of secrecy; and that induced me to adopt, with respect to them, the policy of excluding them from office under the Government. The noble and learned Lord, in speaking of the Roman Catholic Association, made it a ground of charge against them that they took on themselves to levy money, to nominate candidates, and to influence the elections. Will the noble and learned Lord allow me to ask him, is there no club in London which does that. Does he know of no club in which money is raised, and that has been instituted for the very purpose of carrying such objects as the influencing of elections into effect? If that is to be a complaint against the Roman Catholic Association, there are other bodies that must share it. I deny that any encouragement of the General Association has been given by his Majesty's Government, and I say, that to appoint a professional man to office under the Government, who has been a member of it, is not to afford it undue encouragement. The noble and learned Lord had observed, that 100 years ago the number of Catholics in Europe was not equal to the number existing at present. I do not know to what countries he alludes; but if it be a fact that the Protestants are diminishing, or that the Roman Catholics are increasing, I am sorry to hear it. I am sorry to hear that the Roman Catholic religion is gaining anywhere on the Protestant religion. I have seen a statement to that effect in the writings of men of ability, but I hoped that it was not accurate, and I regret to hear a similar statement made on the authority of the noble 1328 and learned Lord. But, if it be true, that don't alter the present case at all. If the Catholic religion be winning and gaining—if it be increasing and drawing on the reformed religion—it is not by refusing to impart to the Roman Catholics the rights and privileges belonging to them, it is not by objecting to their number, that we shall correct or remedy that which we regret. The noble and learned Lord had adverted to one or two of the arguments which I used when I had the honour of submitting this Bill to your Lordships' consideration, and he has more particularly adverted to the proofs I furnished of the successful working of the English Municipal Bill. That, perhaps, was an imprudent argument to use, it certainly has had the effect of raising more discussion than I intended, and might tend to prevent that very good which it was my object to show existed. What I have always said, was, that it would be, and I now say, it is evident that the Bill has worked better—that it has worked more smoothly—that it has worked more tranquilly in the second year of its operation than it did in its first. I expect it to work still better next year. As evidence of the success of that fact, I appeal to time, which tries and passes judgment on all measures. With respect to the operation of the Act at Bristol, and the counter statement of the noble and learned Lord, I have only to remark that I have been intrusted with a large petition from Bristol, agreed to at a public meeting, which confirms everything I stated on this subject on a former occasion. That petition I shall have the honour to present to your Lordships, and I do not wish to excite any further discussion on the subject, because I know it is one on which parties might be found who would make assertions on the one side, which would be denied on the other, without coming to a satisfactory conclusion. My Lords, I again declare that I cannot agree to the proposed postponement of the Bill. I must say, "not content" to that postponement. Having made these observations, I shall pass by all the more violent parts of the noble and learned Lord's speech. His long absence will perhaps account in some degree for the violence in which he has indulged, it may be the result of his opinions having been for a considerable period pent up. In conclu- 1329 sion, I must say, not only "not content," to the postponement of the Bill, but also "not content" to the recurrence of any of the warmth which has been allowed to exhibit itself in these discussions.
§ Their Lordships divided on the original motion:—Contents 74; Proxies 119; Not-Contents 128; Proxies 77–205; Majority 86.1331
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Albemarle||Howard of Effingham|
|Minto||Saye and Sele|
|Lichfield &c Coventry||Plunket|
|List of the NOT-CONTENTS.|
|Loftus (Ely)||St. John|
|Maryborough||Stewart of Garlies (Galloway)|
|Melross (Haddington)||Stuart de Rothesay|
|Penshurst (Strangford)||Willoughby de Broke|
|Enniskillen||Douglas of Douglas|
|St. Germain||Tyrone (Waterford)|
|Bishop of Hereford||Viscount Maynard|
|Lord Lovat||Lord Wallace|
|Earl Sefton||Earl Poulett|
|Earl of Lichfield||Marquess of Exeter|
§ Amendment carried, Committee put off.