§ The Duke of Wellington
could perfectly understand the motive which induced the noble Viscount on the present occasion to do no more than merely move that the House do now resolve itself into a Committee on this Bill. Ten days ago an opportunity for discussing this measure had been given to their Lordships, and he, as well as other noble Lords had then delivered their sentiments with reference to it; and certainly he should be very happy, looking to the circumstances in which he found himself placed, at the present moment, if he could consistently with his sense of duty follow the example of the noble Viscount and remain silent. But he felt that it was necessary for him to explain to their Lordships the course which he meant to propose for the adoption of the House, the reasons why he recommended that course, and the grounds upon which he himself meant to give his vote on this measure. He had stated, on former occasions, his fixed and formal opinion of this Bill. The strong opinion he then entertained was, that their Lordships ought not to adopt the principle of the measure, as it had been introduced to them; and the more he thought upon the subject, the more convinced he was, that it was impossible for their Lordships to give their consent to this Bill in its present shape. He should now state some of the reasons which induced him to entertain that opinion: for, although he had declared them more than once to their Lordships, he deemed it necessary to advert to them again. It was, he believed, perfectly true, that it was the general opinion of the Members of their Lordships' House, that it was proper and expedient to put an end to these Corporations. He knew that some noble Lords did not participate in that sentiment, but he was confident that a large majority of their Lordships did concur in it. He had stated on a former occasion, that those Corporations existed in their present state, and were brought to 551 their present state, principally with a view to the support and protection of the religion of the Church of England established in Ireland. That, he believed, was the object of the establishment of those Corporations in their existing state. Whatever might be done with respect to those Corporations for the future, in his opinion that object ought never to be lost sight of. It might be doubted, from what had lately occurred in this country, whether that opinion was so unanimously adopted as it had been in former years; but he might venture to say the support of the Church of England in Ireland was still the policy of this country —the policy which his Majesty was sworn to maintain—the policy which that House was called by writs of summons to uphold —the policy which every Member of Parliament in either branch of the Legislature was sworn to maintain by the oaths which he had voluntarily taken. Under those circumstances, he thought he might safely say, that according to the ancient constitution, according to the modern constitution, according to the uniform policy of this country for the last 300 years, the maintenance of the Church of England in Ireland formed a prominent and important point of Legislative concern. Looking to this Bill now under consideration, in relation principally to that policy, it went undoubtedly to establish a very large number of Corporations in Ireland, the mode of their formation being, to give votes to the very lowest class of the population of the towns in which those Corporations were to be formed. This was to be done, not upon evidence of their possessing property—not, as in England, upon residence, upon the payment of rates, or the evidence of their possessing anything in the nature of property; but simply on the condition that the parties possessed a 51. or 101. qualification, made up of all kinds and descriptions of property put together; and this without any proof whatever excepting the oath of the parties themselves, of their possessing that qualification. It was well known to their Lordships that a system of perjury extensively prevailed in all parts of Ireland with a view to establish franchises of this description, He had recently seen accounts of inquiries before Select Committees into certain Parliamentary elections, which had taken place in that country, and it was impossible to glance at them without being impressed with the conviction that if any description of franchise depended solely on 552 the oaths of the holders, every species of inquiry would be nugatory, and it would be just as wise to let in at once universal suffrage as to establish a system of franchise in such a manner. Those Corporations thus formed by persons holding a franchise of that description acquired solely by their own swearing, and without any evidence whatsoever of their possessing any property except their own oaths established a system upon which no reliance could be placed, and on which no establishment whatever could safely depend. If they wanted any proof of the danger to the Church of Ireland by the establishment of Corporations of this description, he would refer their Lordships to the declarations, he would not say of those who were the declared enemies, but he must say the strongest opponents of the Church, and who were found on every occasion making the greatest possible exertions against the Church in Ireland. Those persons were heard declaring publicly and repeatedly almost under the very view of the Government, "Give us but this Corporation Bill and all the rest will follow." If there were any doubt about it, he begged to say he should not be disposed to listen to the threats of any man; but, when his own senses convinced him that such must be the result— he meant danger to the establishment— he did say it was his duty to attend to warnings of that description to which he had adverted. They heard a great deal at different times of the absolute necessity of establishing a system of Municipal Government in Ireland, because such a system had been established in England and Scotland; but he begged leave, once for all, to say, that the analogy did not at all hold. The circumstances of the countries themselves were totally different. But, assuming that it were otherwise, if it were necessary to follow the example in England and Scotland, he wanted to know why they did not establish Corporations in Ireland upon the same footing as in England and Scotland? Let their Lordships just advert for a moment to the difference which existed between the system which had been adopted in England and Scotland, and that which was proposed to be followed in Ireland. In England, it was very true, the Corporate franchise was extended very far indeed; but the principle, the foundation of the whole system in England, was the possession of property, the proof of the possession of property by residence, by the payment of 553 rates—every evidence, in short, of the possession of property which could be required of a man in the middling and lower ranks of society. Such was the system established in England. In Scotland it was the same, with this difference, that in England the qualification arose out of the possession of one tenement of the yearly value of 10l., whereas in Scotland it was founded on the possession of tenements of the value of 10l.; it was the same franchise as for Parliamentary elections; and it was required that the person should have resided a year before he could acquire the franchise, and also that he should pay the assessed taxes. But in Ireland there was to be no proof whatever of the possession of property, except the party's own oath, and he was not required to pay a single shilling of taxation. There was another circumstance with respect to Scotland, in itself exceedingly curious, and which showed how very little attention noble Lords opposite had paid to the details of their own measure which they had introduced, when they now came forward and contended, that in this Bill the same principles should be followed in the case of Ireland which had been adopted with respect to England and Scotland. When he had addressed their Lordships on a former evening upon this subject, he had instanced, as one of the objections he entertained to the Bill now under consideration, the power of taxation to be possessed, and the mode in which it was to be exercised by these Corporations, for the purpose of forming a borough fund. He requested their Lordships to advert to the manner in which the same powers were exercised in Scotland. In Ireland the Corporations would have the power of raising a rate to form a borough fund, on the principle of the taxation under the 9th George 4th,—that was a graduated scale of taxation, rising to an enormous amount upon the increase of property. How did the matter stand with respect to Scotland? In the first place, Corporations had no power of taxation at all. There was an Act of Parliament which enabled every burgh in Scotland to provide for what was called corporate expenses, such as paving, lighting, watching, scavengering, supplying with water, and other expenses of that description; but what did that Act of Parliament provide? Why, that the persons who were to adopt that system under the act should have the power of voting for it in a particular assembly, to be called for that purpose; 554 that this assembly should be composed of persons having 10l. houses, those having houses of a certain value having the power of naming a person to give a second vote for such houses, and the adoption or non-adoption of the system under that act in each particular burgh depending on the votes of three-fourths of the inhabitants. If that system were not adopted by three-fourths of the inhabitants, it could not be carried into execution. He begged their Lordships to compare that system as prevailing in the Scotch Corporations as formed by noble Lords opposite with that which they now proposed with respect to Ireland, according to which all those having no property were to elect the Corporations to lay on taxation on a graduated scale, rising in proportion to the amount of property, and against the wishes of the proprietors. Now, in forming Corporations for Ireland, the greatest possible care should be taken, first of all, that no injury should be done to the Church, that no establishment should be formed that could prove injurious to the Church; and in the next place, that by every means in their power they should take care nothing they did should give an influence, a paramount influence, to those in the lower classes of society, who were most likely to be under the dictation of those who were" opposed to the Protestant religion in Ireland. If noble Lords opposite had only taken the pains of looking into the Scotch system, they might have found an act much more acceptable to that House and the friends of the Church than the measure which they had now brought forward. He had already stated the absolute necessity under which he thought the Legislature lay of taking care that nothing should be done in measures of this kind which might prove injurious to the Church; and certainly he, for one, never could consent to this Bill, or to any one founded on the same principles. He voted last year for the instruction proposed by a noble Friend, of his (Lord Fitzgerald), and carried into execution in the Committee by his noble and Learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst), now unfortunately absent; but he certainly was unwilling to propose any amendment of the same description to this measure, because he found that it was objected to in another place on two occasions last year, and that the same measure had now been sent up to that House a third time. In the last communication which their Lordships had on this subject with the 555 other House of Parliament, in the course of last Session, they declared their hope that means might be found on some future occasion to enable the two Houses to cooperate in establishing some system of local government in Ireland. Their attention had been again called to the subject, at the commencement of this Session, by his Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne, when they returned an answer in conformity with his Majesty's desire. Accordingly, he observed, that two Bills in connexion with this subject had been presented to Parliament, besides that now immediately under consideration, one relative to the Irish Church, and the other having for its object to make a legal provision for the poor in Ireland. He could not pretend, it would be quite irregular, to enter into any general discussion upon the measure which related to the Irish Church which had lately been presented to the other House of Parliament. But from the general description of that measure, and the discussion which had taken place in reference to it, he could form some judgment as to its object. He saw nothing in it but a departure, if he might so call it, from a resolution which his Majesty's Government had adopted on a former occasion, but attended by provisions which appeared to him rather more harsh than the resolution itself, and probably more likely to be injurious to the Church. The measure, as before proposed, went to dispose of a surplus which never existed, and never was likely to exist—in that respect there was now an alteration; the measure, as now proposed, went to establish a fund for a surplus, and deprive the successors of those that held benefices hereafter of one-seventh of their income, to be applied to what was called education in Ireland. He certainly could not see a great improvement in the measure. The original measure had been changed, and so far there was some foundation to hope that the second measure would be changed also. He observed that this measure was founded on the construction of an Act of Parliament, and upon a quotation from the public records; which construction, in his opinion, was not the accurate one which ought to have been given. That being the case, he should hope that his Majesty's Government, finding that they had made an erroneous calculation in this matter, and seeing the hardship of calling on those who were already sufficiently degraded and distressed, to make a further sacrifice of 556 fourteen or fifteen percent. of their income, would be disposed to give way upon those particular clauses of the Irish Tithe Bill. He would not, therefore, lose all hopes that the result of discussions on the measure in that and the other House of Parliament might at last produce what for years past they had been most desirous of obtaining—a just and satisfactory adjustment of the tithe question, which would relieve the Church of Ireland from that state of great distress in which it had been involved for the last seven years. In the hope that such might be the case, he was anxious to consider of some means for car- vying that measure into execution. Besides, that with respect to tithes now under the consideration of the other House of Parliament, there was another measure having for its object the establishment of a legal provision for the poor in Ireland. He was perfectly aware of the great difficulty of that question; but if it were adopted at all, if it were in any shape carried into effect, it was obvious it might afford the best and most satisfactory means of testing the qualification with respect to possession of property by the claimants of the franchise in the middle and lower classes of society, and establish a safe resting- place with respect to the franchise in Corporations or otherwise. In the hope that those measures would have this effect, he was anxious to postpone the consideration of this Bill till some future period, in order that the House might see whether those other Bills would answer the purpose of giving security to the Church of Ireland, in the first place, upon that important point of the adjustment of tithes, and whether the other would give that security to the Church and to society in Ireland, by confining the franchise to the bona fide possessors of property who ought to exercise it, and thus the House would have the opportunity of carrying into execution that pledge which they had given on a former occasion of co-operating with the House of Commons in adopting a system of local government for Ireland. With that view he called upon their Lordships to adjourn the consideration of this measure till some further opportunity. The time he proposed was sufficient to enable their Lordships to take the other two measures into consideration, and therefore he should conclude by proposing to substitute for the word "now," "the 9th of June."
§ Viscount Melbourne
presumed that some 557 internal policy of party, or some reason which remained within himself, with which he was not acquainted, had induced the noble Duke not to give some information of the intention which he had declared in the conclusion of his speech; because he really considered, from the course which the noble Duke had pursued, that the proposition made, and the proceeding altogether, were of a nature quite novel in Parliamentary history, and in itself. Knowing that there were considerations of great moment with respect to, and involved in, the measure before the House, and knowing, too, that there were considerations of still greater weight to be borne in mind with respect to another House of Parliament, he thought it would have been (setting aside all feeling of courtesy), it would have been well if some time had been given to the consideration of the subject, which was one of great importance; and the proceeding of the noble Duke was one, which, as far as his experience and recollection reached, was entirely new and unprecedented. The proposition of the noble Duke went to this, that until their Lordships should see how the House of Commons would deal with the other questions which their Lordships knew to be before it, and under its consideration, they should postpone the discussion of this Bill. Their Lordships were bound to consider what were the motives which could induce them to pursue this course. He had already stated to their Lordships, that though these three measures were alluded to in the Speech from the Throne, he did not consider them to be connected or united together, or in any degree dependent upon one another. In the first place, what was it that the noble Duke offered as an argument to induce their Lordships to agree to this proposition? Supposing that they agreed to the proposition, what had they to hope for the future in respect to the measure itself? The noble Duke objected to going into Committee. He had urged no objections to the measure, except upon such points as were matters for consideration in Committee. He had taken an objection, as before, to the second reading, because the franchise was not sufficiently guarded. The noble Duke overstated the fact, when he said that the constituencies would consist of the lowest of the population. He objected, too, to the right of taxation founded upon the Act of 9 George 4th, c. 82, though that was the very Act, which the noble Duke desired to extend to 558 all the towns in Ireland. He did not object to the scale of taxation, and the persons by whom it was proposed the parties should be elected. The present Bill proceeded upon the principle that persons rated by the vestry upon the property of the value of 5l. should be entitled to vote. To this an objection had been raised; but this, and others raised by the noble Duke, were precisely those which might be considered in Committee, and, therefore, it was not necessary, on the present occasion, to enter into them. But, after all, these points were entirely to be overridden and set aside by a distinct declaration which the noble Duke had made against the principle of the Bill. He said he was against the principle of the Bill, and that he never could accede to it, nor to any other founded on a similar principle. How was it possible to accede to the proposition made, when, from what the noble Duke himself said, even if they were to put off the measure, it could only be done in order to have it ultimately rejected or changed, or altered to such a degree as to render it impossible to accept it, or to make it worthless? And what did he say more? Why, the noble Duke said that the Irish Church Bill was in the highest degree objectionable, but that it held out a hope to him by the abandonment in the present measure of the resolution on which it was originally founded. But that resolution (though he felt it was not necessary to enter into that subject now) he (Viscount Melbourne) begged to say was not abandoned in substance, and its principle was fully maintained and supported. He said, then, what hope had they, with respect to the Bill, if they should concede to the proposition for which the noble Duke pressed on this occasion? With respect to the Bill for making a legal provision for the poor in Ireland, that Bill was one of the greatest importance—perhaps of the greatest importance of any measure that ever was brought before Parliament. It was admitted to be a Bill surrounded with great difficulties, and their Lordships knew the intense anxiety which was felt on the subject in this country and in Ireland; but he could not concur in the opinion which had been expressed by a noble Earl opposite, and by a noble and learned Friend near him. They had been pressed on all sides to bring forward that measure. He denied that they were under any moral compulsion to pass the Irish Poor-law Bill. He trusted that it would be found practicable to frame 559 an efficient measure for the relief of the poor in Ireland, but if it should appear that the proposed measure was not suitable to the country for which it was intended, or if it should still further appear that it was calculated to aggravate the evils which it was intended to diminish, they were not in such a situation as would prevent them from postponing the measure, and in the propriety of such a postponement under such circumstances he was persuaded the country would fully acquiesce. At the same time he repeated his anxious hope and his confidence that the Bill at present under consideration in the House of Commons would be found to be a practicable measure, and completely adequate to the purpose for which it had been framed. But it certainly did not appear to him to be wise or prudent on the part of their Lordships—it did not appear to him that they would be doing their duty as a House of Parliament to postpone a measure the advantages of which were certain, and which was required by the country, in order to wait for another measure on the exact nature and on the efficacy of which there must of necessity hang a certain degree of ambiguity and doubt. The noble Duke said, that the Bill for the relief of the poor in Ireland would afford a criterion for judging the property of the middle and lower classes, and of thereby fixing the rate in the Municipal Bill. But nothing could be more easy than in the Bill under their Lordships' consideration to add the qualification which the Poor-law Bill might contain. Nothing would be more advantageous than the facilities to secure a proper qualification which would be afforded, should that Bill be sent to them in a mature and perfect state. As to the noble Duke's proposition, he could see no reason whatever for acceding to it. The subject had been considered in two sessions of Parliament, and their Lordships were perfect masters of it. The noble Duke said that it was their duty to protect the Church of England established in Ireland from injury; and contended that the proposed Corporations would be injurious to that Church. That was begging the question. The noble Duke had not shown a single point in which the new Corporations could be injurious to the Church of England established in Ireland, except as they might affect the constitution of the House of Commons, which was to make laws for Ireland. The course which the noble Duke called on their Lordships to 560 pursue upon the present occasion was entirely novel. They ought always to be cautious of adopting a new course; especially with reference to the proceedings of Parliament. He begged also to suggest to their Lordships the expediency of considering what might be the effect of such a course upon the feelings and conduct of the other House of Parliament. He begged to suggest to them that the consequence of adopting such a course might be to create a struggle and contest between the two Houses. If their Lordships deferred a measure which was sent up to them by the other House of Parliament until they saw what that House did with other measures that were before them, the other House of Parliament might defer measures until they saw how their Lordships might think proper to deal with other measures before them. And he begged to remind their Lordships that such a postponement on the part of the other House of Parliament might be attended with much more awkward circumstances than any postponement on the part of their Lordships. He would not press that point any further, but as he saw no reason for postponing the consideration of the Bill before their Lordships, and as he saw no natural connexion between that Bill and the other Bills which were in progress in the other House of Parliament, he should most distinctly say, "Not content" to the noble Duke's motion.
§ The Duke of Wellington, in explanation, observed, that although he objected to much of the principle of the Irish Municipal Corporation Bill, he was not adverse to the establishment under certain circumstances of local jurisdictions in Ireland.
Lord Fitzgerald and Vesci
was unwilling to trespass upon their Lordships' attention; but considering the part which he had felt it to be his duty to take on this subject in the last Session, when he had submitted to their Lordships certain resolutions which were agreed to, he felt that he in some degree owed it to himself, that he owed it to the interests of that country with which his noble Friend and himself were so intimately connected, that he even owed it to their Lordships, to state the grounds on which he supported the noble Duke's motion. If the proposition involved in the Irish Municipal Bill were now for the first time offered to the adoption of their Lordships —if they could be again placed in the exact situation in which they 561 were last Session, to deal with a bill which established certain Corporations in Ireland, in lieu of Corporations to be abolished, he should not shrink from recommending to their Lordships the course which he had recommended on that occasion. But that was not the case. When he looked at the purpose for which the Corporations in Ireland had been originally established, and the object which those Corporations had in view, he was quite prepared to maintain with his noble Friend, that they were intended for the support and maintenance of Protestant institutions in Ireland. At least it could not be denied that such was the case with respect to the great majority of them established in the reign of James 1st. Considering that the Corporations in Ireland were of an exclusive character, and considering that that was not desirable under recent circumstances, he unhesitatingly concurred in the abolition of those Corporations. The noble Viscount, in the last Session, did not found the measure of abolition on any imputed delinquency on the part of the Corporations, What he then maintained was, that their exclusive character operated injuriously on the administration of justice in Ireland, as well as in other respects. He concurred with the noble Viscount in the expediency of abolishing those Corporations; and when their Lordships refused to go further, when they refused to confirm the exclusive character of the Corporations which it was proposed to create in the stead of the abolished Corporations, that refusal was founded on the same reason as the abolition; namely, the danger of giving predominant power to any party in Ireland. None of their Lordships discussed at any length the details of the Bill of last Session. Now, while he vindicated the course which he had taken last Session, if he were asked why he acquiesced in a proposition so different from that course as the present motion of his noble Friend, he would answer—not that he did not still think that the proceedings of late years had not produced an anomalous state of society in Ireland, which they could hardly hope in their days entirely to get rid of; not that he did not still think that the course which he recommended to their Lordships last year was the best course that could be pursued for securing the just administration of the law and public tranquillity in Ireland; but that he saw no ground for hoping that the measure would be accepted by the other House of Parlia- 562 ment which their Lordships had deemed it right to offer. That being the case, he thought it would be merely delusive and that it would excite unjust expectations, if he were to repeat his course of last Session. It could not be expected after the course which had been taken by the House of Commons, after the elaborate reasons which that House had given for taking that course, but that if their Lordships reiterated their proposition agreed to by a large majority last year, so far from conciliating, it would have the effect of widening the breach between the two Houses—an occurrence which it was their Lordships' duly, not to the constitution alone, but to their own constitutional independence, to take every proper means of averting. Such was his chief and influential motive for concurring in his noble Friend's proposition; and on no other ground should he think himself justified in abandoning the course of last Session. He could assure the noble Viscount that he shared in no councils which had for their object the defeat of the Bill or the destruction of its main objects: for he certainly did find in the manner in which the deliberations of that House last Session had been received in Ireland an additional and urgent reason for inducing them, if they could do so consistently with their duty, for departing from their course of last year, and for adopting another course which was likely to be better received. He entirely disclaimed for himself, and for his noble Friends around him, entertaining any opinion that the people of Ireland were unworthy to govern themselves. And so far was he in the last Session from placing his opposition to the Bill on the ground of the danger of Catholic ascendancy in Ireland, he well remembered, and their Lordships, perhaps, remembered, that while he admitted the existence of that danger, he contended that it must be looked boldly in the face; and that he should object to making the Corporations of Ireland of an exclusive character, whether Orange or Catholic. His objection to the Bill was, that it rendered the principle of exclusion perpetual. On these grounds he thought the course now proposed perfectly justifiable, without attributing to it any of the motives which it had pleased the noble Viscount to suspect. The reasons assigned by the House of Commons rendered it imperative on their Lordships to endeavour to adopt a proceeding which might prevent a further separation on the 563 subject between the two Houses. If their Lordships honestly deprecated that further separation, they could not reiterate the course of last year. What then remained for them to do? The noble Viscount said, "adopt the Bill." Now, their Lordships' objection to do so was net founded on an objection to the principle of establishing Corporations in Ireland. It would be no honest concession on the part of their Lordships if they were not prepared to admit the expediency of establishing Corporations in Ireland. But they wished to be careful as to the mode in which the principle of establishing Corporations in Ireland was to be carried into effect. The noble Viscount said, that the proceeding proposed by his noble Friend was novel, and that its adoption might be attended with injurious consequences in future. He would remind the noble Viscount of a proceeding of a similar nature, not, it was true, where one House of Parliament waited for the proceedings of the other, but still it was similar. When the Catholic Relief Bill was conceded neither House would proceed with it unless it proceeded pari passu with a Bill for putting down the Catholic Association. This showed that it was not a new thing on the part of the Legislature to postpone the completion of one Bill until they ascertained whether or not some preliminary measure made any concession in that Bill a safe and proper one. But the noble Viscount spoke of the delicacy which ought to be observed towards the feelings of the other House of Parliament, and of the dangers which might result from delay. He should quite concur with the noble Viscount if that delay were intended to defeat the Bill; but his noble Friend's object was confined to this, namely, that it would be advantageous for their Lordships to postpone the completion of the measure now in the House until other measures should be before them which might better enable them to judge of the course which they ought to pursue. The noble, Viscount asked what connexion there was between the Bill under their Lordships' consideration, and the Bills supposed to be in progress in the House of Commons, or at least which his Majesty's Government had expressed their solicitude to pass. Those Bills were the Irish Tithe Bill and the Bill for the Maintenance of the poor in Ireland. "But" said the noble Viscount, "there is no connexion between the Irish Tithe 564 Bill and the Irish Municipal Corporation Bill." He (Lord Fitzgerald and Vesci) thought he could show that there was such a connexion between them as would make their Lordships hesitate before they placed the Church of Ireland in the power of those who, by the Bill before them, must inevitably acquire a great preponderance in the State. It should be recollected how every thing relating to the Church of Ireland had been unsettled. By the Act of Union, Parliament had entered into a solemn compact to maintain the Church of England established in Ireland. It was one of the main grounds for adopting the Catholic Relief Bill, that it would give additional security to the Protestant establishment in Ireland. Not only had that been always asserted by the warmest supporters of emancipation— among others, by that eminent man, Mr. Grattan, than whom no man had ever shown more zeal in the cause; but, in the preamble of the Bill itself, drawn up by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, it was stated that, whereas it was necessary to provide security for the Protestant Established Church in Ireland, it was thereby enacted that relief from civil disabilities should be afforded to Catholics, The Act of Union had settled the Protestant Church Establishment in Ireland; the Catholic Relief Bill had settled the Protestant Church Establishment in Ireland; the Catholic Oaths Bill had settled the Protestant Church Establishment in Ireland. But by whom had it been unsettled? By that Parliament which seeing the law by which the Protestant Clergy in Ireland were to be secured in the enjoyment of their rights evaded or set at defiance, commenced the deduction of a large portion of the revenue of the Protestant Church, for the purpose of securing the remainder. Was he (Lord Fitzgerald and Vesci) complaining of that? No; necessity required it. But did not that same overpowering necessity (a necessity which must have been most painfully felt by their Lordships) to deduct so large a portion of the revenues of the clergy, render it imperative on them to look carefully to the means by which the remainder was to be secured? Under such circumstances was it too much to say, that a measure which gave to a large predominant party in Ireland—who professed that an alteration in the Church of that country was their object—more power over the Protestant Establishment, was not unconnected with the Irish Tithe 565 Bill? Without meaning to impute improper motives to any class of men, was it too much to say that a measure which was to create a new body—whose object it would evidently be to unsettle the Protestant Establishment in Ireland, who avowed their plans of confiscation, who declared their attachment to the voluntary principle—was it too much to say, that such a measure was not unconnected with a measure the object of which was not to expose the Church of Ireland to such an attack, until Parliament had conceded to them a fair settlement of their claims? The next point which the noble Viscount had disputed was, his noble Friend's having coupled the Bill under their Lordships' consideration with the Bill which had been introduced into the House of Commons for the relief of the poor in Ireland. He did not mean to say, that the Irish Poor-law Bill was so much connected with the Irish Municipal Corporation Bill as the Irish Church Bill was. But he contended that there could be no other measure except the Bill before their Lordships, so auxiliary to the effectual operation of the Irish Church Bill as the Bill for the relief of the poor in Ireland, if well considered. Nay, he would go further; he would postpone any proceeding with the Irish Municipal Bill until the receipt of. the Irish Poor Relief Bill, were it only in consideration of the former; for it was impossible to know what change in the qualifications introduced into the Irish Municipal Bill the provisions of the Irish Poor Relief Bill might render necessary. He would ask the noble Viscount if he did not really think that the Irish Poor Relief Bill, by giving a rating which should offer to the Legislature a fair test of the proper qualification to be introduced into the Irish Municipal Bill, and thereby furnishing for the Corporations a better constituency, might not be productive of a benefit well worth waiting for? He spoke it with no party feeling; but was it unfair on his part, and on the part of the noble Lords who thought with him, to urge the expediency of postponing the proceeding with the present measure until the Church establishment in Ireland was first secured; and until they should be able to avail themselves of the qualification for the Municipal Bill that might be suggested by the Poor Relief Bill? His noble Friend had most clearly stated the view which ought to be taken of the question, But the noble Viscount asserted 566 that his noble Friend's objections were to the details rather than to the principle of the Bill, and therefore that they could be considered with more advantage in the Committee. The question was, however, how far the power which was comprehended in the details of the Bill could be conferred with safety to the Church of Ireland. The details of the Bill, therefore, became its principle. There were two propositions submitted to their Lordships by the Bill of last year; the first getting rid of vicious Corporations, the second substituting other Corporations for them. To the first proposition their Lordships then agreed; to the first proposition their Lordships would, no doubt, now agree: but he trusted that before they agreed to the second proposition they would wait until they saw that such qualifications were introduced into the Bill as would render it a safe measure with reference to the Church establishment. He hoped that he might at least claim for himself and for his noble Friends the merit of sincerity on this subject. The question of tithes in Ireland was a most important one. Not only was its settlement important as securing the due interests of the Protestant establishment in that country—not only was it important as fulfilling the pledge given upon the subject at the union— but, in his opinion, it was important as it might afford a ground for settling other disputed matters. He was not blind— (who that at all attended to the subject could be so?)—to the anomalous situation of Ireland in many respects, and to the dangers which grew out of that situation. He was well aware of the perils attendant on having an established religion which was not the religion of the majority of the people; and on having that religion which was the religion of the majority of the people unconnected with the State. But the insecure way in which the Church of England in Ireland had been left was most unjust; and that injustice occasioned evils not only to the Church, but to other and very important interests. He would not disguise the apprehensions which he felt when he contemplated the present state of Ireland. But, if the Church of England in Ireland were placed on a stable foundation; if the tithes were no longer taken from the occupying tenant, and collision were thereby prevented; and if some other questions were satisfactorily settled, he should not despair of his country, seeing that under such circumstances the 567 great arrangements necessary for national education might be accomplished by the parties who were now divided. If the course recommended by his noble Friend were adopted; if their Lordships were induced to wait the accomplishment of the measures now in progress in the House of Commons before they proceeded with that before them, he could not but think that the delay would be attended with the happiest consequences; and there would not be found in the other House of Parliament among the Members connected with Ireland any obstinate determination to send up to the House of Lords Bills which they must know the House of Lords would not sanction. In that hope, departing from the course which he had last year pursued, and concurring with his noble Friend, he should certainly give his vote for his noble Friend's motion.
The Earl of Wicklow
felt gratified at this question being now put in such a shape as would enable him most freely to support the proposition of the noble Duke. Had any proposition been advanced having for its object the total abolition of the Corporations of Ireland, he should have felt it his duty to oppose it. But the course which was marked out in the present instance was such, that he should not consider himself warranted in now entering at large on the great question of the propriety or impropriety of conceding corporate privileges. The proposition of the noble Duke was simply to the effect that their Lordships should do that which they had certainly been in the habit of doing at other periods, and which was nothing more than simply postponing a Bill for a limited time in one of its stages. Their Lordships must be aware that it had been a frequent occurrence to postpone a measure for weeks or days for their Lordships' own convenience. In the proposition of the noble Duke, he could see no danger whatever. It was a proposition which could by no means eventually lead to the prejudice of this measure, much less to its total loss. If, indeed, he could believe that any such intention were seriously entertained—a belief of which he disclaimed with the utmost sincerity even the most remote suspicion, feeling thoroughly assured that the noble Duke could not intend anything which he would not openly and candidly avow—if such an intention were really entertained, he (the Earl of Wicklow) was one of those who would give to the proceeding his most decided opposition For his part, 568 however, he apprehended no such consequences; they were not yet advanced far enough in the Session to endanger the question by its postponement, and would yet have abundance of time, before its termination, to consider the measure, in conjunction with those other circumstances, the consideration of which was judged to be essential. His noble Friend had quoted some cases to prove that there was nothing unprecedented in the course which was now proposed. There was a case which appeared to him (the Earl of Wicklow) strongly analogous, in which a similar postponement had taken place, until the result should be ascertained with reference to a measure which was pending before the other House. When the Catholic Emancipation Bill was introduced into their Lordships' House it was accompanied by another measure in the other House of Parliament, and the noble Duke had then said that he would not advance a single step until he should see the other measure advancing. That measure was one for the abolition of the 40s. freeholders—a measure peculiarly affecting the privileges of the other House of Parliament. And yet the noble Duke considered it to be a question of such importance that he thought himself justified in declining to proceed with the Catholic Relief Bill until he should see the other measure proceeding with it pari passu. He would thus answer the noble Lord opposite, who had said that there was no precedent for the course which was now proposed. He would candidly admit that while he thought the proposition of the noble Duke perfectly reasonable—a proposition, indeed, which, in his estimation, their Lordships could not with propriety refuse, he was not influenced in arriving at this conclusion by the reasons which the noble Duke had advanced. He did not see that there was any danger likely to arise to the Established Church in Ireland from the passing of this Bill. Although during the last Session he had not taken any part in the discussion of this question, actuated by the natural desire not to separate himself on any occasion from those with whom he usually acted in their Lordships' House, he admitted that it was with difficulty he had reconciled it to himself that he was justified in taking such a course; for he did not consider it proper in any Member of Parliament, more especially in one who was connected, as he was, with the country whose political relations were then under discussion, to shrink from the performance 569 of his duty. Yet, although he had not during the last Session taken part in the debate upon this question, he was always known to have been anxious for the success of the Municipal Bill. He could not have expressed such an anxiety had he thought there was any danger to the Established Church. He was not an idle spectato of events passing in this country; and he now stated his positive conviction that the passing of this Bill, would be rather favourable than otherwise to the established Church in Ireland. When he said this Bill, he meant the Bill considered with reference to its principle. But he certainly did not think that an important measure of this description could pass through their Lordships' House without considerable amendments. It was, however, not to be considered that this was a question of granting Corporations to Ireland. Corporations had existed in that country for centuries, and the present question was not to be considered as if it were a new concession. It had been said by many noble Lords that these were Protestant Corporations. This was to a certain extent true; but there were many of the Irish Corporations included in this Bill of as ancient a date as any of the Municipal institutions of England. Many of the Irish Municipalities were instituted in the reign of Henry 2nd and John, and others (those especially in the north of Ireland) of James 1st, for purposes the propriety of which he was not at all disposed to dispute. The question was, whether they would apply a remedy to the abuses existing in those institutions —abuses which were upon all hands admitted —by extending to that country the same Reform which they had already conceded to England and Scotland. It had been said, that in exhibiting a disposition to withhold these Municipal privileges from Ireland they had been influenced by motives of a certain description. He did not think there was an individual in their Lordships' House who could justly fall under the sarcasm of the noble Viscount opposite, or of whom it could justly be affirmed that he was influenced by unworthy or party motives with reference to this question. He, for one, disclaimed being influenced by any such motives. To such a procedure he would not be a party. He believed the noble Duke to be influenced by a desire to adopt a new course upon this question, in conformity with the wishes and feelings of the other House of Parliament; and for his part, he believed that there was little 570 danger arising from the course which was now proposed, of the principle of the Bill being established. Though, for his part, he could see no danger with which the established Church in Ireland was threatened by this measure, still he could not be blind to the fact that a great portion of the most influential individuals in the country, and of the most able Statesmen in the other House, had declared that they saw that danger; a large majority, too, of their Lordships' House had declared themselves to be of the same opinion. The noble Duke was actuated by a consideration of the danger which was thus so generally apprehended. And when it was further considered by how small a majority this Bill had been passed in the other House of Parliament, and how large a majority had voted against it in their Lordships' House on a former occasion, in his opinion, if the noble Viscount opposite was really serious in pressing this measure—if he believed that it was a measure calculated to confer much benefit upon Ireland, he would certainly adopt those means which were best calculated to carry it into effect, and avoid a precipitation of the measure, the rather that he had been assured by the noble Duke that he was determined at the fitting time to give to it the most patient consideration. With reference to an observation which had been made by the noble Viscount opposite, upon a portion of the noble Duke's speech, he would observe, that it was quite manifest, from the tenour of the noble Duke's statement, that it was not to the principle of granting Corporations to Ireland that he was opposed, but to some of the details of this Bill. The noble Viscount had adverted to what he conceived might be the possible effect produced in the other House of Parliament by the fact being made known that their Lordships were waiting for the result of certain measures pending before that House before they would consent to the passing of this Bill. He spoke with some apprehension of the probable consequences as affecting their Lordships. Now, if there was anything likely to produce the effect which the noble Viscount deplored, it was the course which he himself proposed to pursue. If the proposition for a reasonable postponement were made in good faith —if they fairly and candidly avowed that they saw nothing which they could really look upon as objectionable in the course to which the general feeling of their Lordships' House appeared to be favourable, it was impossible that any hostility to their Lordships could 571 be excited in the public mind. He considered it, indeed, to be quite unintelligible, under the circumstances, that the noble Lord should refuse to accede to the very reasonable course which had been proposed to him for his adoption: and even if, at a subsequent period of the Session a disposition should he manifested not to concede this measure, the noble Lord could surely then, as well as now, bring forward the measure, when for his part, he should feel bound to support it. He should certainly be desirous to see the Bill in many respects amended; but the principle he would support in its perfect integrity. The Corporations of Ireland might, without any great damage, remain for another year in their present state; and in conclusion, he would sincerely request of the noble Viscount, not as a political enemy, but as a friend, to give his sanction to the proposition of the noble Duke.
The Marquess of Lansdown,
before he stated his opinions on the question before their Lordships, wished to express the great satisfaction he felt with what he had heard from the noble Earl, and, he would add, the satisfaction with which he had heard the noble Baron who preceded him, and still more to the spirit of the remarks which he made on commenting on the speech of the noble Duke —not, he would say, with a view to remove the objections to the course proposed by the noble Duke, but to remove the objections to the arguments which had induced the noble Duke to adopt the plan which he had proposed. The noble Baron and the noble Duke last Sessions, he understood, had, in an unqualified sense, made a declaration of hostility to the principles of the Bill. The noble Duke had, however, explained that his hostility consisted not in objections to the principle, but to certain great details. He understood the noble Duke and the noble Baron to give without qualification their consent to the principle of the Bill. He did not advert to the details because these were matters of minor importance, but to what he called the invaluable principle of the Bill; and he trusted, after what had passed that night, that the noble Duke would now give his adhesion to the measure. He hoped before the debate should close to be distinctly informed what was the real objection which certain noble Lords had to a Bill, the object of which was good local Government carried on by effective and respectably constituted bodies. That was the great principle of the Bill— that was the principle which 572 was rejected last year— rejected, he considered, very injudiciously, and the object and intention of which were to allow the people of Ireland the administration of their own local affairs, and place them on the same footing with other subjects in the United Kingdom. If that were the intention of the noble Duke he must say it gave him unbounded satisfaction. If the principle were really admitted, and if the noble Duke showed a disposition to see it usefully applied, he confessed his satisfaction was greatly diminished when the noble Duke and the noble Baron declined to go on with the plan, and take the necessary steps for carrying it into effect. He did not blame the noble Duke and the noble Baron for not taking the Bill as it stood; but what he blamed them for was, for not going into Committee to consider the details, with a view to confer on the people of Ireland those inestimable privileges which were enjoyed by the inhabitants of Great Britain. He wished to call the attention of their Lordships to the extraordinary novelty of the course pursued on the present occasion. A noble Lord had referred to a former proceeding to prove that there was no novelty in the case, though he confessed the argument of the noble Lord had failed to convince him, because the case referred to by the noble Lord had not the remotest analogy to the proposition of the noble Duke. The case quoted was that which happened when the Bill for emancipating the Catholics was introduced, and when another Bill was to accompany it, namely, a Bill for disfanchising the 40s. freeholders. Now that was proposed by the same Government and at the same time. Was that a question between the two Houses of Parliament, or one in which one House sought to control the decision of the other House till that Bill was passed? The cases were totally different— the Bills were introduced by the Government in that House— they were to go on pari passu, and their influence with Parliament was such as to enable them to carry both measures as one, or as directly bearing on one another. But did that measure bear on the proposition of the noble Duke? It certainly did not. But he had an argument still stronger, and on that point he would appeal to the noble Duke, and he was glad that on the occasion he had the benefit not only of the noble Duke's spoken, but the benefit of his recorded, opinion. The present Session was the first in which the 573 three great measures to which the noble Duke alluded had been placed in juxtaposition. Last Session, when the noble Duke moved an amendment to the address in answer to the King's Speech, the noble Duke did not intimate that there was the slightest connexion between the three measures alluded to in the Speech— namely, Municipal Corporation Reform for Ireland, the Tithe question, and the introduction of Poor-laws into Ireland. After the address had been moved, the noble Duke, exercising that influence belonging to his high authority and station to which he was so well entitled, proposed to alter, and he was successful in doing so, part of the words, and substitute other words on the subject in question. And what were the words inserted in the amended address? his Majesty in his Speech from the Throne adverted to the expediency of inquiring into the state of the municipal Corporations of Ireland, and in the address the noble Duke proposed to add the following sentence: — "Being in possession of the report of the commission appointed to inquire into the state of the Municipal Corporations in Ireland, we will proceed, without delay, to the consideration of any defects and evils which may have been shown to exist in those institutions, for the purpose of applying Such remedies as may obviate just causes of complaint, and insure the impartial administration of justice." Did that amendment refer to any other Bills? Did it advert to the administration of justice, or to any other of the topics now considered by noble Lords opposite so intimately connected with the subject under discussion? Not in the least. Now, what was the cause alleged for the proposed course of proceeding? When noble Lords talked of their intention to delay the consideration of the Bill for a month, he did not suppose that their object was to defeat the measure by delay, for he was bound to take the assurances made that night, but when they talked of delay, and said time was of little consequence, he would ask noble Lords to call to mind what they had said of the gross corruption and the incalculable mischief which attended these institutions in Ireland, and then ask if they were prepared, admitting all that confusion and all that corruption, to hang the present measure on two others never connected with it before, and to one of which there were, on the part of some, insuperable objections? But the real cause of the objection to the Municipal Bill was said to be the way in 574 which it would affect the safety and permanency of the Established Church. He admitted that there had arisen some connexion between these two subjects; but his cause of apprehension was directly the contrary of that entertained by the noble Duke, because if there was danger to the solidity of the Established Church in Ireland he thought the very mode proposed, instead of diminishing that danger, would greatly increase it, and that the hostility to that Church would become more active than ever if the Church was connected with the refusal to the people of Ireland to manage their own concerns. He believed the greatest danger was to be apprehended on that account, and he hoped and wished that the noble Duke had abstained from mixing them up together. The Church of Ireland, all knew, was in an anomalous condition; and if they were to tell the people of Ireland that on account of their Church they were to be debarred of their privileges — that they were to be deprived of the rights and privileges enjoyed by Englishmen — of the municipal rights, too, which they had long enjoyed before—did noble Lords think that would increase the security of the Church? He wished noble Lords would descend to particulars and point out how the present Bill would endanger the Church; for notwithstanding discussions year after year— after discussions in that House and in the other House, no one had pointed out an act of hostility, or shown how the danger was to arise. If the Municipal Bill was granted, and the people of Ireland were placed on the same footing with the people of England, they might not exercise those privileges in the best way for themselves, or exert themselves as much in managing the town concerns; but it did not follow from that, because they did not regulate their municipal affaire in the best way, they were to direct their batteries charged with the ammunition with which that Bill would supply them against the sacred fabric of the Church. He contended that no power to injure the Church would be given to them by the passing of the present measure. But noble Lords said, though the power ought not to be given, still the exercise of municipal rights would give rise to a spirit of restlessness which might be directed against the Church, or any of the Protestant institutions of the country, and that it was therefore the duty of the Legislature to deprive them of the power of inflicting any act of hostility. He saw no such danger. The noble Duke 575 and others spoke as if the Bill would give exclusive rights to the Roman Catholics, or something amounting to that. Now he contended that they were not justified in bringing such a charge against a whole population. The noble Baron could not say that the people of Ireland would abuse these privileges— he would not say they would abuse them, and he was not therefore prepared to prefer a Bill of indictment against a whole population, and say that they would act in opposition to their own interests and the proper management of their own concerns. He could not for a moment conceive that a whole population would act so inconsistently and so absurdly; and experience confirmed his arguments and views on the subject. He had some anxiety to ascertain the grounds on which noble Lords came to such a conclusion, and he had in consequence exerted himself to find out how the affairs in certain towns in Ireland were conducted under the management of the inhabitants, and he found that so far from there being any reason for casting such imputations on the people of Ireland, they were more free from blame on that head than he could possibly have expected. He would give a few instances, and he trusted noble Lords more intimately acquainted with the country than he was would correct him if wrong. He would take four towns, more completely Catholic than any others, and where the Catholics predominated, in order to show how they managed their municipal affairs. He would take Wexford, Cork, Limerick, and most Catholic Galway. He selected these towns because the peculiar bodies which managed their affairs were analogous to those which would be created by the Bill under their Lordships' consideration. He would begin with Wexford. From accidental circumstances the old Corporation, which had long enjoyed the ascendancy, had been deprived of their exclusive privileges and forced to admit Catholics into the corporate body. That had taken place some ten years ago, and while the Roman Catholics predominated in the town, and could have returned all the members of council of that creed, out of the nine mayors who had been elected since the change, only three had been Roman Catholics. That certainly was a proof that even if the majority of the inhabitants were Catholics, they would not elect Catholics to the most important situationins the towns and boroughs. Noble Lords probably were aware that by an Act passed some years ago, 576 the new town of Limerick had the power of electing commissioners for paving, lighting, and watching the town. A large portion of these commissioners were generally Protestants, and on a late occasion a Roman Catholic banker of great respectability was proposed as a candidate, but he was not elected; and a Mr. Watson, a Protestant gentleman was preferred to the Roman Catholic. He would quote a similar instance as regarded Cork. In the Chamber of Commerce in that town there were a great many not only Protestants, but Protestant Dissenters. He would come next to Galway, and though he was not much acquainted with that town, he believed there were more Catholics in that town than in any town in Ireland of the same population. By the 9th of Geo. 4th. twenty-one commissioners were elected by the householders for managing the affairs of the town, and it was rather singular that among the first acts of the elective body — that body which the noble Duke seemed to consider so hostile to the Church Establishment —was the election not only of a Tory, or a Conservative, as some preferred the term, but a Protestant clergyman as one of the commissioners. In a few months after the death of a Roman Catholic commissioner, his place was filled by Mr. Mansell, a respectable Protestant clergyman, which proved that so far from the Church exciting hostility in the minds of the people of Galway, Roman Catholics of that town elected a member and a clergyman of that Church to administer and assist in managing their local affairs. What reason, then, was there for supposing that the people would abuse the trust, and apply the power which they would acquire by the Bill in battering down the Church? He said, then, that their Lordships ought to pause before they refused a great act of justice to a people who had so conducted themselves. It was said they ought to take a large and general view of the question, and wait till they saw what the measures were which had been introduced into the other House. If they took a large view, and wished to go on successfully and peaceably in their career of legislation, he begged of them to consider how the Roman Catholics had been excluded by the old system; he begged them to consider the condition of the Roman Catholics; he begged them to consider their pride and their strength; be begged them to consider their present position and their 577 ancient rights; but above all, he begged their Lordships to consider their former measures, in order to see what advantages they had gained by delay. He would ask what they had done in 1790 and 1791, and with what grace they yielded and gave up to the Catholics what they had long denied them. He asked them to look back at the exclusive system which had prevailed almost since the Reformation, the system which excluded Catholics from the army and navy—and consider with what grace they came to that House and admitted their Roman Catholic fellow citizens to enter the two services, after they had declared by their votes in that House and elsewhere their firm decision and their determination to keep them out. And they were kept out till justice and good policy overcame all obstacles. He therefore asked what advantage there was in delay and why their Lordships connected two measures which were entirely distinct? He was certain that if the Legislature passed the measure without any conditions it would be more satisfactory to the people; and if they performed that act of justice — be would not call it generosity —in the proper time, and grant those privileges to which the Irish people were entitled, they would be saved from much of the difficulty in which the delay now involved the country. If there were any defects, they could be corrected in Committee. He therefore trusted his noble Friend would persevere in pressing his motion for going into Committee, not with a view of carrying the measure in its present exact form, but with a view to do away with the exclusion of Roman Catholics, and adopt the principles of justice and safety which no honest man could impede, and which could alone lead to a permanent settlement of the question.
§ The Earl of Ripon
had voted with the noble Duke on this question last year; because, taking into account the existing state of Ireland, and believing that the Bill introduced by his Majesty's Ministers would prove deceptive in its practical application, he had conceived that the most prudent course for them to adopt would be, to extinguish the Irish Corporations altogether. He did not think, however, that there was anything in the nature of Irishmen themselves that made it unreasonable or impossible to confer upon them the power of regulating their own concerns in a manner safe and consistent with the genera] interests of the country; for, in point of fact, they did at present exercise 578 those functions. They might in every instance, if they thought it advisable to do so, without the intervention of any Corporation, avail themselves of the general Act of the 9th of George 4th, for the purpose of performing those various functions which this Bill proposed to have performed by Corporations. It was also true, that many of those corporate duties were at present performed by persons freely elected under local Acts of Parliament, and which were, in fact, founded upon the principle of representation. He would therefore say, that what was wanted with regard to the power of managing their own affairs, appeared to be nothing more nor less than that those different bodies did not bear the name of Corporations. He fully concurred in some of the remarks that had been made in the course of the discussion respecting the exaggerated state of feeling which had been excited with respect to the probable effects of this Bill, but he did not think that the individuals who had been accused of indulging in those exaggerated feelings were justly chargeable with them. The great mistake had, he thought, originated in the statement that this measure was founded on the eternal principles of justice, and that it was demanded by one portion of the population for the purpose of weighing down the other. When a party, therefore, was told that this Bill would confer upon their avowed enemies the power of completing their degradation, was it wonderful that that party should feel the greatest degree of jealousy and suspicion as to the objects with which the Bill had been framed, and the effects it was likely to produce? He did not mean to deny, that the dangers to be apprehended from it might have been overrated; but if he had not thought they had, he could assure their Lordships he would not be prepared to go the length he now was, or indeed to say he would consent to the total extinction of the existing Corporations. It was not wonderful, that the party to which he alluded should have felt very strongly on the subject; for they had been told, not certainly by the Government, but by others, that the object of this Bill was to bring them down to a miserable and degraded level, in which their influence and station in the country would be entirely lost. If they felt that this measure was likely to produce such consequences, it was no reproach to them that they should have expressed their unwillingness to agree to its adoption. It was the condition in which 579 they were placed that constituted a connexion between this measure and that of tithes, the propriety of which the noble Marquess had refused to admit; and it was on account of the difficulties connected with the state of parties in Ireland, that it behoved them to legislate with the utmost caution and prudence, and not deal with any one question of this description, without taking into consideration the bearings it would necessarily have, first singly, and then in conjunction with other measures, upon the condition of the country, and above all, whether the Established Church was likely to be affected by one or all of them. He did not think the noble Viscount should oppose the course that had been suggested. No one who knew the noble Duke could, for a moment, suppose that he had proposed that course with any sinister object, or with the view of defeating the measure now before the House. Indeed, noble Lords opposite had expressed their gratification at the anticipated settlement of this question held out by the noble Duke; and if the proposed delay should, as it was hoped it would, facilitate that final arrangement, what a consummation would be effected by so slight a sacrifice. His noble Friend who had spoken last, had referred to two or three cases which he conceived proved that the objections which had been made to some portions of the Bill, were extravagant and unfounded. In alluding to the local government of the new town or parish of St. Michans, in Limerick, he said, that it would be impossible for any system to be more analogous to another than it was to that which this Bill proposed to establish. [The Marquess of Lansdown: It had worked well.] The noble Marquess, then, stated, that the mode of managing their local affairs in that town, had worked well. That might be; he did not dispute it; but the noble Lord should recollect, that the working well of this measure depended entirely upon the nature of the qualification and the construction of the Corporation. It did not at all follow, that this measure would work well, because a system essentially different, though similar so far as continuing the elective principle, had done so. In this parish there were, as stated, twenty-one commissioners; but then they were not like the mayor and town-council, which were to be created by this Bill; fourteen of those commissioners were elected for life, seven were removable at the end of every three years, and elected triennially by all the inhabitants of the parish paying taxes, 580 in amount —what? Not by persons keeping houses to the value of 5l. or 10l., but by those who paid taxes to the amount of 4l. Irish currency. The noble Lord was therefore wrong in his conclusion, that a Corporation put together under the provisions of this Bill, would give the same satisfaction or work as well as a body of commissioners thus elected. Under these circumstances, he should support the amendment of his noble Friend.
said, that he should, with the greatest possible reluctance, give his vote against the proposition of the noble Duke, if he had taken the same view of the consequences and obvious tendency of that proposition, as his noble Friend (the Marquess of Lansdown); but it was because he differed entirely from his noble Friend in his view of the consequences and necessary tendency of that proposition, that he was prepared to vote against the proposed delay. He now understood, what he had not so well comprehended a few nights ago, the reason why the noble Duke had declined to answer the question which he had taken the liberty, not unwarrantably he hoped, of putting to the noble Duke, when he had asked the noble Duke to be kind enough to give in his amendments to the Bill, that they might be printed for matter of consideration before they should go into Committee. The noble Duke had refused, in a manner which had certainly led him at the time, though a good deal in the dark as to the precise reason for that refusal, to suspect that the noble Duke had not just then finally made up his mind as to the course he meant to pursue; but that, at all events, he had not made up his mind as to the amendments he intended to propose, he had felt confident from the tone of the noble Duke's reply, but he had not altogether anticipated the result which had taken place in the proposal for delay. He could not but think, that it would have been better had the noble Duke made that proposal, either when the Bill had come up from the Commons, on which occasion the noble Duke, in a few sentences, had taken distinctly the same view of the connexion between that Bill and other measures now in the House of Commons, or when the second reading of the Bill was moved. He thought, that instead of agreeing to the second reading and committal of the Bill to this day, it would have been a more obvious and better course for the noble Duke to have adopted, had he then pro- 581 posed that it be deferred until the 9th of June. But the question, after all, was, what was the meaning of this proposition? He wished to bring their Lordships to that point, the more so because it was his misfortune to differ from the expressed opinion of his noble Friend near him. However disposed he might have been to participate in that great feeling of satisfaction which so predominated in the speech of his noble Friend, the President of the Council, at what had fallen from the noble Earl and the noble Baron, he certainly was unable to screw his personal courage sufficiently firm to be satisfied, as was his noble Friend, with what had fallen from the noble Duke; unless, indeed, he was to understand, that in this case the author had adopted the interpretation of the commentator, and was prepared to say, "I did not mean what I said, but what my commentator has said for me." Unless this was clearly understood, the observations of the commentator must be taken as his own, and not those of his author; and then he would ask, had the noble Duke throughout the whole of his speech, from the beginning to the close of it, held out anything in the shape or nature of an intimation of his intention, he would not say of supporting, but of not opposing this Bill, or any ground upon which to rest a supposition that the noble Duke, and the noble Lord who acted with him, were not as hostile as they ever were, to the fundamental principle of this Bill. The noble Duke said, that the principle of local government, by means of local corporations, was the sum and substance of this measure; and that all the rest was only matter of detail. The qualification principle was certainly a matter of rather larger detail than the others; but still, in the noble Duke's estimation, it had nothing to do with the principle of the Bill. Now, if all this were true, it appeared to him, that if noble Lords had taken up higher ground, and had insisted upon perpetuating the present Corporations, they would have equally adopted what the noble Duke called the principle of this measure. The fact was, there was local government in Ireland already, perhaps not of a very satisfactory kind, local government connected with a variety of qualifications; and, therefore, it appeared to him, that unless they had the Bill before them, and considered the whole subject, they could actually do nothing in the matter. The noble Duke said the other night, that he was opposed to the principle of the Bill; but that he would 582 allow it to go to a second reading, in the hope of being able to get rid, in Committee, of what appeared to him and to his noble Friends, objectionable parts of it. All the noble Lords who had spoken on the subject, with the exception of the noble Earl opposite, who had always been the friend of this measure, followed in the same course, and stated a variety of objections, which proved that they still viewed the whole measure with unmitigated hostility. But what was the ground for delay? This was the question upon which he yet stood in need of explanation. He must say, that it struck him there was something extremely vague and general in this proposition, under which he could not help thinking that something lurked, he would not say of sinister motive—he would not say that, because the noble Duke himself had fully avowed what his intentions were, and he must have been blind and utterly stultified, if he could not have comprehended at one glance what he meant to convey—for no man ever spoke out more plainly on all occasions than the noble Duke—no man expressed himself in less vague and general expressions upon all matters in which he was engaged —no man was less capable of taking up a course which he feared to avow, than the noble Duke. The noble Duke might be wrong in many things — he often lamented the errors of his course; but of one thing he had never accused him, and that was, of not on all occasions openly and manfully stating what his intentions were on any subjects before him. The noble Duke had acted with his usual candour in the present instance: he had declared, that he was still opposed to this measure. But, at the same time, whilst he admitted that this candid avowal had been made on the part of the noble Duke, he could not understand why, after that avowal, the noble Duke should wish to go on after all with this Bill; why he did not proceed to throw it out altogether, and bring in a better one of his own, if he was prepared to legislate on the subject. Why had not the noble Duke moved the postponement of the Committee for six months, instead of five weeks? The noble Duke objected to the Bill, because it was bad; and then he said, "Let us wait for five weeks, in order to see certain other measures which are as yet in another place, before we proceed to see what can be done with this one." One of these measures referred to, which were as yet in the other House of Parliament, was on the subject 583 connected with the Church of Ireland. Now, he wished to inquire how the state in which that measure might eventually pass through the other House, could properly influence their proceedings in respect to the measure now before them. It appeared to him, that one of these three positions, and one only, must be true. Either the Bill now in the other House would be such as to increase the power and stability of the Irish Church, or it would diminish its power and stability, or, lastly, it would not affect it either one way or the other, but leave the Church just in the same position where it was at present. Now, that the Bill he referred to would tend to increase the stability of the Irish Church, the noble Duke had not the shadow of a hope. [An expression of dissent was here understood to fall from the Duke of Wellington.] Well, he was very glad to hear that the noble Duke, after all, had some latent hope on the subject. Now, if the Bill should turn out to realise his expectations on the subject, and at the same time not to disappoint the very slight expectations of the noble Duke —if it should turn out to tend to improve the condition of the Irish Church —then, as he thought, that would be a consideration upon which their Lordships should be induced to pass the Bill now before them; and if it were to pass at all, what reason he would ask, was there that tinder such a supposed state of circumstances it should not be passed now? In the second view which he would take of the case, namely, if the House foresaw that the Bill in the other place would eventually leave the Church precisely in its present condition, then he thought that all their Lordships would admit that this would be no reason for refusing to pass the present Bill, and, if not a reason for refusing to pass it, still less one for merely delaying it. He was now driven to his last hypothesis; and he would suppose that, unfortunately, the Irish Tithe Bill, when it came up from the other House, would be such a Bill as to make the noble Duke apprehend that it would lessen the security and power of the Irish Church. Now, he would beseech their Lordships to consider calmly of this position: he put it to the discretion and discernment of the noble Duke to consider whether, if they knew that the rejection of this Bill in their Lordships' House would have such an effect as to insure the sending up to them from the House of Commons a Bill which, in their Lordships' opinion, would tend to diminish instead of 584 increasing the stability of the Irish Church—he put it to the noble Duke and noble Lords opposite, whether, if they believed this, it could be considered by them as a reason for refusing to pass the Bill now before their Lordships. If noble Lords formed this opinion of the Bill on the subject of the Irish tithes, it would be a most logical argument for refusing to pass that Bill when it came before them, or for altering it so as to remove the objections which they entertained against it. But was there any reason why, because they should eventually reject the Irish Tithe Bill, they should now refuse to give the Irish the right to manage their own Corporations? But the fact was, they could not put off the consideration of this Bill to await the reception of the other Bill from the House of Commons under the implied understanding which appeared to be given by the noble Duke and noble Lords opposite, that if that Bill when it came up should be such as to please them, they would then pass the present Bill as it now was. ["No, no!" from the Opposition.] He was sure that he should hear that! He made the remark on purpose. He was convinced that he should hear from a very considerable number of noble Lords opposite an indignant repudiation of the bare notion of the possibility of their passing any thing in the shape of this Bill, or of the measures adopted by the other House having the slightest influence upon them towards altering their hostility to every principle, every feature, and every tittle of this measure. If, then, the nature of the Bill to come up to them from the House of Commons would have no effect whatever upon their intentions towards this Bill, if upon no terms they would be induced to mitigate their feelings of hostility to this measure, then he came back to his former position, that let the Bill on the subject of Irish tithes be framed as it might —let the discussions upon the subject in the other House produce what effect they might — altering, amending, or modifying its supposed provisions—in whatever form, in fact, it eventually were to come before their Lordships —such a consideration would not have the effect of winning any substantial support in favour of this measure. He would not say it might not affect one or two wavering crotchetty votes; but certainly that it would not tend to mitigate the general hostility which unfortunately prevailed in their Lordships' minds against this measure. This being the case, the 585 two Bills, as it appeared to him, were altogether as distinct and unconnected as any private bill, any railroad or other bill of such a nature, could be with the Bill now before the House. Did not this demonstrate —he spoke it with no disrespect — the absurdity of the proposition of the noble Duke to postpone the further consideration of this Bill until they saw what was done with other measures now before the House of Commons? The noble Duke's objections were well known, and avowed to be directed not at the period when this measure was propounded—not at the details of which it consisted—not at the mode and manner in which its great, and, as he considered, its invaluable principle was proposed to be worked out —he objected to the very principle itself upon which the measure rested. He objected to the whole measure. Like a great conqueror, his predecessor in history, who was said to have been a steady opponent of reform, and, moreover (in which he could not justly liken him to the noble Duke), that he had never suffered any thing in favour of liberty —of this conqueror it was said, as he now said of the noble Duke, that he was "the enemy, the irreconcilable enemy, of the whole measure— of the whole of its details —of every thing comprised within its four corners, and of the very grounds upon which it was constituted." He would say, therefore, why talk of putting off the measure for five weeks, in order to see other measures upon which its fate did actually not at all depend? Why put off the going into Committee on this Bill, in order that they might see how they could nibble a bit away at one corner, and take out one clause, and thrust in another, and make this and that amendment, in order to render it palatable to the noble Duke and his noble Friends on the opposite side? Such a proposition, so totally uncalled for —so totally unjustifiable —so totally useless, served but too clearly to show the lengths to which men might be pushed by the exigencies of political necessity, when, having taken up one ground of opposition to a measure, they found it no longer safe to occupy that position, and that the troops who were to have acted with them in it were no longer united in views and opinions. He came now to consider the next measure upon the strength of which it was proposed to delay the further proceedings in this Bill, namely, the Poor-law Bill for Ireland. The only way in which this measure could bear upon the question before the House, as the noble 586 Duke himself had most clearly shown, for most clearly had the noble Duke put forward his arguments, and therefore the more unfortunately, for by reason of its clearness it stood in its simple nakedness, with nothing to protect it from destructive scrutiny —most clearly had the noble Duke shown that the only reason for delaying this Bill until they had the Irish Poor-law Bill before them was, that this measure comprised a matter involving the consideration of a rating, and therefore that the provisions on the subject in the Poor-law Bill would give them an opportunity of finding a proper system of qualification. Now, he could not exactly devise a qualification founded upon a rating, because none existed, but he believed that he could find a mode of valuing a 5l. house, and in Committee they might turn their attention to devising a proper test of that nature, just as well before as after the passing of the Poor-law Bill, with its rate-paying clause. But why was it that he did not think that rating clause requisite as to the foundation of such a matter of legislation? It was because he recollected the Act of 9 Geo. 4th, passed in the year 1828 or 1829 by the noble Duke opposite, which was applicable to all Ireland, and by which any one town, corporate or incorporate, might manage its own local affairs of lighting and so forth, and yet there was no qualification, no rating upon which to found a qualification. [The Duke of Wellington: An assessment existed in Ireland in 1828, which has since been repealed.] Oh, the assessment had been since repealed; but had the 9th Geo. 4th been since repealed also? He believed that in many towns in Ireland that Act was still enforced, and that by virtue of it the inhabitants proceeded every three years to elect their commissioners of lighting and paving, offices to which considerable patronage was necessarily attached, although there was no test of qualification established amongst them by which they could ascertain a 5l. value. There was another Bill also of some little importance in the affairs not only of Ireland but of the State in general, which brought a considerable extent of power into the hands of certain individuals, and from the dread of which power, in fact, arose much of the hostility manifested to the measure now before the House —a measure affecting infinitely more potently the political state of Ireland than the most sanguine anticipations of the friends or the most direful anticipations of the enemies of 587 the present Bill would bring themselves to imagine it could bring about: he meant nothing more nor less, in fact, than the Irish Parliamentary Reform Bill, which went upon the principle of a 5l. qualification, although there was no rating upon which to estimate such a qualification. [A noble Lord: The Irish Parliamentary Reform Bill contained a 10l. qualification.] Well, the argument was the same. If they could trust one set of voters without a test, why might they not do so with others? At all events, as he said before, if a qualification were required, this was a point to which they could direct their attention in Committee. It was certainly a most notable absurdity to say, that they could not proceed with this measure because they had not before them a certain clause in a certain other measure now in the House of Commons. No man could pretend to say that the rejection or passing of this Bill depended upon the rating clause in the Irish Poor-law Bill; but, at the same time, if it was imagined that the rate clause in that Bill would afford a convenient test to modify some of the clauses in this Bill, a clause might be inserted in this Bill providing, that if a Bill were to be passed on the subject of the relief of the poor in Ireland with a rating clause, then that clause should be adopted as a test of qualification for the purposes of this Bill. He should not be dealing fairly with the House if he did not state that he should not advocate the introduction of such a clause into this Bill. The rate-paying clause was that part in the Reform Act which worked the worst, which operated to the disfranchisement of the constituency, and gave rise to the greatest discontent, and, as he thought, discontent justly founded; and he hoped to live to see the time when, if it were not altogether repealed, it would be most essentially mitigated. He could regard it as nothing but an evil, and he was rejoiced to see, from something which had taken place in the other House of Parliament, that, although the preponderance of feeling was not perhaps against the rate-paying clause altogether, there was certainly an immense majority in favour of a considerable alteration in it. For the question now before the House, however, he thought they had only one of two courses to pursue—either to proceed at once with the Bill, or to throw it out at once; as, from what he had heard on former occasions and to-night, he had no doubt noble Lords opposite, with very few exceptions, were resolved to do 588 in the end. By whatever means or routes they might each think proper to proceed, he believed that they all looked to aiming at the same desired point of rejection. They might in the mean time fritter away one part of the Bill, insert a rate-paying clause, dock out this schedule, insert another, and, in fact, concoct so entirely new a Bill that the man who drew the original would not recognise his work, but the result would be the same in the end, and whether the Bills on the Irish Church and the Irish Poor-laws passed or not, the Bill was doomed to rejection. He would therefore earnestly suggest the decorum of not losing any more time in the difficult and inconsistent course which they had taken up, but at once throw out the Bill by the usual postponement for six months, or at once proceed in Committee to strangle it and smother it with their amendments. One thing or the other he would implore them to do, in order that themselves and the country might be able to understand what they were about —in order that when they were asked by others what they had been about, they might be able to give a plain and straightforward answer. Were they so overburthened with legislation, having arrived at the fourth month of the Session, when they had done precisely nothing — were they so fatigued and worn out with their labour that they could not screw their courage up for one night's legislation in Committee? Why should they be afraid of one night's business. He would guarantee them against more than one night. This was the course which their Lordships hould pursue whilst by the course which they had taken up, and which by too many reasons which he saw before him he was aware they were about to persist in, they would not be doing that which he thought was due to the country, to their own dignity and character, to what they owed to the opinion of the public, nor consistently with the respect and good feeling which should exist between the two Houses of the Legislature. Would they, upon grounds such as had been to-night stated, persist in pursuing the course which they had done last year, and which had then led, if not to conflict, to conference with the other House —conference ending in every man retaining just his own opinions on the subject, only very much strengthened by all the arguments which he had heard from the other side. Would their Lordships be prepared to take this occasion to adopt so new a mode of proceeding, putting off proceeding with this 589 Bill with the intention of holding their decision upon it in terror over certain measures now in progress in another place; for if the motion of the noble Duke meant this he could understand it; if not, he was utterly at a loss to imagine the ground upon which it was made? He would beg to remind their Lordships that the other House held out no threats of this kind against them; it had adopted no course calculated to be derogatory to themselves or disgraceful to their Lordships; but, if their Lordships were to set a precedent that one House should hold out in its course of proceeding an evidently implied threat over the other, under an apparently indifferent motion for a five weeks' delay—if they took upon themselves to set such an example to the other House of Parliament, he would entreat their Lordships to bear in mind that they themselves were to blame in commencing a system, and that if the House of Commons were to follow up that system, it was barely possible that they might find this imitation of their conduct somewhat less convenient than to have calmly and wisely abstained from setting so very doubtful an example.
The Earl of Haddington
begged to be allowed to say a few words to set himself and the noble Lords with whom he acted right in the sight of the House as to the reasons for the course which they were about to pursue. The noble and learned Baron had concluded his speech with a menace, warning their Lordships in a most marked manner how they set up a precedent which they might afterwards find it convenient to have avoided. The noble and learned Lord also stated, that the House of Commons had never dealt in menace. Did the noble and learned Lord not recollect an occasion when there was a threat of stopping the Supplies held out, and with whom did this threat originate, but from one of the first Ministers of the Crown? The noble and learned Lord spoke as if he imagined that their Lordships had entered upon this debate in a spirit of the greatest hostility against the other House. So far from this being the fact, the motion was in itself a very element to induce them to act in a conciliatory manner. It would be recollected that amongst the reasons given by their Lordships for dissenting from certain provisions in this Bill at the conference last year, this House expressed an earnest hope that the period was not far distant when the two Houses, acting on a good understanding, might be able to give a system 590 of local Government to Ireland. That sentiment he, amongst others, still entertained. The noble and learned Lord had advanced a position which he certainly was astonished to hear from a man of his known acuteness and observation, namely, that this measure had no more connexion with the Irish Tithe Bill than with any railway, or canal, or other private bill that had ever come before their Lordships' House. Did this question bear upon the Irish Church question? All he could say was, that all the friends of the Irish Church conceived it did. He asked again, did this question bear upon the Irish Church question? All he could say was, that all the enemies of the Irish Church declared it did. Was it not said by many persons connected with Ireland, and who now associated themselves with the party called "Voluntaries," in this country, that the only mode of giving happiness and doing justice to the people of Ireland was to abolish tithes in toto, and to enact that no person should pay one farthing towards the support of the Established Church, who was not a member of that Church? "That," said those persons, "is a substitute with which we will be content; if we can gain it we will cease to agitate repeal; till we gain it we will never cease to agitate repeal." Instalment after instalment towards the accomplishment of that end they were prepared to take, provided each of these instalments was based upon the obnoxious principle which struck at the root of the establishment in Ireland. Had they not said, too, in connexion with their ulterior views and objects in reference to the Established Church, "Give us this measure of Municipal Reform, and then we shall see whether we cannot at once achieve our ends and objects?" It was obvious that the opinions of these persons were different from that of the noble Marquess, the Lord President of the Council, who said, "I cannot conceive how these Corporations, according to the principle contained in this Bill, can ever be the means of putting a weapon in the hands of the agitators and disturbers of the peace in Ireland." The language used by these agitators and disturbers themselves, showed that they at least took a very different view of the matter; and who could fail to see that their view was correct, when the qualification proposed in the Bill was considered, and the vast influence it would give to persons of the Roman Catholic persuasion remembered? He maintained, then, that this Bill had a most direct bearing upon the 591 security of the Established Church, and that it would operate most dangerously as long as the Church question remained unsettled. With that feeling strongly impressed upon their minds they on that side of the House said, "We will not pass this Bill; we will not depart from the high ground we took in the last Session as long as the Irish Church question remains unsettled." But they did hope that the question might be settled—they hoped that the Bill now before the House of Commons might leave that House in such a shape as to enable their Lordships, without further loss of time, to settle the question of the Church in Ireland. Let the Tithe Bill be brought before them in that House. They should be ready so to consider it in connexion with the Bill now before them as to render the application of both safe. It was impossible for them to deal with the question of Municipal Reform until they knew what were to be the provisions of the Bill that related to the Church. When the Church question came before them, they should be prepared so to consider it, and if necessary so to amend it, as to render it safe to apply the principle contained in the present Bill to the local Government of the cities and towns in Ireland; but if unfortunately they should find it impracticable to come to an agreement on the Church Bill, unquestionably they would not depart from the ground they had already taken on the measure of Municipal Reform. This was what he was chiefly anxious to state, because the noble and learned Lord had endeavoured by his specious statements and subtle arguments so to dazzle their Lordships' eyes and understandings as to prevent their comprehending what they were about. He had already stated, that the course taken on the present occasion was really and truly with the view, and for the purpose, of bringing the question to a conciliatory conclusion: and he could not help feeling that if the course pursued should, notwithstanding all the objections and all the ridicule heaped upon it by the noble and learned Lord and others, have the effect of settling this question, the unsettled state of which was the cause of so many misfortunes and so much unhappiness, their Lordships would deserve the gratitude of the empire, and more especially of that part of it to which they would indeed, by the settlement of this question, have done justice.
The Earl of Roden
considered this bill as a measure which struck at the roots of Protestantism in Ireland, by destroying 592 the Protestant Corporations of that country, and establishing Roman Catholic Corporations in their stead. The noble Marquess opposite had denied, that this Corporation Bill would produce any influence upon the Protestant Church of Ireland, and had challenged their Lordships to show how any influence of that kind could exist under it. Was it nothing, he would ask, to erect in different parts of Ireland, normal schools of agitation for any purposes proclaimed by those who were acting under the charter of the King, and who had vowed the destruction of that Church which they had declared a nuisance? He contended that the noble Duke was justified in saying, that he would not give the powers of this bill to the Municipal Corporations of Ireland until he saw that they could be given with perfect security to the interests of the Protestant Church. The noble Marquess had referred to certain papers, for the purpose of showing how favourable the election of officers under the 9th of George 4th had been to the Protestant party in various towns and boroughs in Ireland. He did not know on what authority the noble Marquess made that assertion, but he had no doubt that the noble Marquess deemed it correct. He (the Earl of Roden) could, however, state, that a very different result had taken place in some towns with which he was acquainted, and in which the election of commissioners had been made according to the provisions of the 9th of George 4th. He would call the attention of their Lordships to what had occurred at the town of Clonmel, in Tipperary. In the year 1828, previously to the passing of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, out of twenty commissioners for lighting and watching that town, fifteen were Protestants and. five were Roman Catholics. In the year 1836, there was not a single Protestant in the whole number of commissioners. It happened, however, by some accident or other, that the mayor was a Protestant. It was suggested to him by a Protestant inhabitant of the town, that as there were a great many rate-payers who were Protestants, some of the commissioners should be Protestants also. The mayor laid this communication before the electors, when he was informed that the Protestants had held power for a long time exclusively, and that the Catholics had now got it into their hands and were determined to do the same. He believed that, if inquiry were made, it would be discovered that this was the practical operation of the 9th of George 4th in 593 nearly all the towns in Ireland. If such were the case under the 9th of George 4th, he would ask noble Lords to consider what would be the result under the more extensive powers given to those towns under this Bill. The noble Viscount had, he complained, cast a variety of imputations on the Protestant Corporations of Ireland—imputations which, in his conscience, he believed were perfectly undeserved. He would say frankly, that it was his opinion that the noble Viscount could not make out any ground for those imputations. The noble and learned Lord, who had followed some time afterwards on the same side with the noble Viscount, had adopted those imputations, and had stated, in unmeasured language, that the Irish Corporations were nests of abuse and sinks of corruption. He should like to know from what sources of information the noble and learned Lord had formed his opinion upon that subject. He admitted, that some of those Corporations had committed errors; but he affirmed that none of them had done anything to deserve the strong epithets which the noble and learned Lord had applied to them. The noble Viscount had also, in a side way, thrown out a threat against their Lordships in case they did not agree in the view taken of it by the other House of Parliament. If he understood the noble Viscount rightly, he had talked of a stoppage of Supplies by the House of Commons. [Viscount Melbourne "No, no."] He begged pardon, but he understood the noble Viscount to have used these words, "There were means by which the other House of Parliament could affect that House, and indeed the country at large." [Viscount Melbourne had said no such thing.] If the noble Viscount disclaims any such words, I am satisfied. Whatever the House of Commons may do, you, my Lords, have but one course to pursue. However inconvenient a difference between this House and the House of Commons may be — however anxious you may be that such a difference should cease, still it is impossible for you, when a question of duty arises, to retrace, on the shallow ground of expediency any steps which you may have deliberately and conscientiously taken. Recollect how your proceedings in the last Session of Parliament have exalted your character in the estimation of the country. That point is rendered clear to all the world by the change of opinion which has already been produced all over the country and especially in Scotland, where the alarm which 594 has been spread lest Protestantism should be put down in Ireland, has already caused men to think of what they are doing, and will, at the next election, alter in a great degree the representation of that country. I concur with the noble Duke in putting off the Committee on this bill to the 9th of June. Whether I shall then consent to it will depend upon the measure to be proposed on the Irish Church, for I will not, I declare it frankly, vote for any measure which endangers, in the slightest degree, the Protestant Church in Ireland; for on that depend the liberty, the comfort, the happiness, and the improvement of all classes of people in Ireland.
in reply to the challenge thrown out to him by the noble Earl who had just sat down, begged to state, that he founded his condemnation of the existing Corporations of Ireland upon the authority of the commissioners appointed to inquire into them, and also upon the opinion of a high legal and political authority connected with that House, but not with that side of it from which he (Lord Brougham) spoke. The Report of the Commissioners said, that the Corporations had used their privileges—their corporate functions—without scruple, not as trustees for the benefit of the community, but for the purpose of obtaining an exclusive dominion over the inhabitants, and a political influence for themselves in the elections for Members to serve in Parliament. That was the Report of the Commissioners. Then the high legal authority to whom he had alluded, spoke of them as excluding men on account of their politics, administering justice by a party, and mal-administering the funds intrusted to their care. When he found the Corporations of Ireland spoken of in such terms by such authorities, he left it to their Lordships to determine whether he was not fully justified in the epithets he had applied to them.
The Earl of Falmouth
had only a single observation to offer, and that was in consequence of what had just fallen from the noble and learned Lord. He had before stated, that he never would hear the Reports of the Corporation Commissioners, either in Ireland or England, quoted as if those Reports convicted the parties against whom they were levelled of misdemeanour, much less of those abuses and that maladministration which were laid to their charge. He never would admit, that the Reports of Commissioners, the legality of whose appointment was exceedingly ques- 595 tionable, formed a constitutional mode of trial and conviction of any parties whatever in that country. It was not his intention at that late hour to address their Lordships at any length upon the subject, but he had before pledged himself never to hear the Reports of these Commissioners, quoted in the manner they had been by the noble and learned Lord, without getting up and denying any party could be considered as tried and convicted by them.
§ The Duke of Richmond
would ask the noble Earl who had just sat down, when he said that these Corporations had not been legally tried and convicted, whether the decision of that House in the last Session of Parliament, whether the recommendation of a large majority of that House that these Corporations should cease to exist, would ever have been carried unless there existed a strong opinion that they had not acted so correctly as they ought to have done. He had reason, however, to say, that he was one of those who sincerely believed that his noble Friend, the noble Duke (Wellington) was only actuated by a sincere desire to conciliate, when he proposed to delay the committal of this bill to the 9th of June. He well knew the noble Duke's character, and he felt quite satisfied that the noble Duke believed that, by adopting this course, the House would be best enabled to bring the question to a satisfactory termination. And although he was one of those who protested against the junction of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, and the Forty-shilling Freehold Bill— though, in their Lordships' journals he had then recorded the reasons which induced him to object to that sort of bartering legislation, yet, if he felt that the putting off this question would enable their Lordships to come to a satisfactory settlement of this and other questions relating to Ireland, he should feel bound to give his vote for the amendment proposed by the noble Duke. But he submitted, that the House of Commons, after the debate of that evening, would not be in a situation to judge very correctly what it was that their Lordships intended to do. What he would suggest, therefore, was this: that they should go into the Committee without delay, alter the bill in such a manner as they deemed most proper, and thus enable the Commons at once to see and understand the extent to which they were prepared to go. If he wanted to enter into a compromise with any man, he invariably said, without hesitation or concealment, "So far will I go, 596 and no further: will you accept my proposition?" He thought it would be well for their Lordships to pursue the same course. There was one part of the subject which appeared to him to be particularly worthy of their Lordships' attention. He had humbly submitted, in the last Session of Parliament, that Municipal Corporations ought not to be given to every small town in Ireland. To the large commercial and manufacturing towns, and to towns containing a great population, he was prepared and disposed to give Corporations; but he objected to Corporations in small towns, even in England, If he had the power, he would only give Corporations to those towns which, from their size and importance, required them; but he would do equal justice to Ireland. The towns in Ireland to which he had last year recommended their Lordships to give Corporations, were placed in a particular schedule of the Bill, which made the qualification to vote for members of the town-councils, the same as the qualification to vote for Members to serve in Parliament—it was the 10l. qualification. Now, if their Lordships were prepared to agree with him, and to give Corporations to those large towns, it would not be necessary for them to wait until the Irish Poor-law Bill was brought before them, because the 10l. qualification had already been fully inquired into, settled, and registered by the revising barristers in Ireland. The voters were all registered—all known; their claims had been sifted to the uttermost, and the Legislature would, therefore, know to whom they were granting the privilege of voting for the return of municipal officers. Under these circumstances, it was not necessary, in his view of the subject, to wait for the bringing up of the Irish Poor-law Bill. With respect to tithes in Ireland, their Lordships were aware, that upon that question, he entertained the strongest opinion. He never could give his sanction to an appropriation clause, but even though the chance were slight, that the House of Commons would abandon that clause, he would, nevertheless, entreat their Lordships to go into the consideration of the present Bill. He would entreat their Lordships to define to the utmost extent what they were prepared to do with the Corporations of Ireland; but he would not ultimately vote in favour of the Municipal Reform Bill, if he thought it would endanger the Established Church in that country. As at present informed, he did not know by what means it could possibly 597 do so, and he objected to his noble Friend's argument, though he knew his motives in using it were the best. He objected to tell the people of this country that it was necessary, not only to sanction, but to maintain abuses in Ireland, for the purpose of protecting the Established Church in that country. He maintained, that neither the English nor the Irish Church had anything to do with the question of Municipal Reform. He maintained further, that the more abuses were destroyed in both countries, the greater would be the security of the Established Church in each. Under these circumstances, he would only conclude by repeating his conviction of the perfect sincerity of the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington), but, in his own opinion, instead of going into Committee on the 9th of June next, it would be better to go into Committee on Monday next, and so at once to show the House of Commons what compromise they were disposed to offer.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
differed from the noble Duke who had just sat down. He objected to the 10l. qualification, not only because it was one of the most uncertain ever established, but because in many places, and especially in Ireland, it had led to so much perjury. Only that day, a petition had been presented from Longford, praying for an alteration of the 10l. franchise, and pointing out the evils that resulted from it. The 10l. qualification, therefore, instead of inducing him to hasten the progress of this measure, constituted one of the very reasons why he wished first to have the Poor-law before them, in order that it might be seen whether a different and better qualification could not be adopted. The evidence taken before the Longford Election Committee showed that perjury had been carried to a very great extent as regarded the qualification. He should be anxious to guard against this in the introduction of the principle of popular election into the Corporations of Ireland. Notwithstanding what had fallen from the noble Viscount, he was not afraid to go before the country upon this question. They, on that side of the House, proposed to delay the further progress of the Bill, until they saw a better or final settlement could not be made of all the questions at present at issue between that House and the House of Commons. They asked no compromise— they desired no compromise. Let the other measures be brought before them, and they would deal with them; and if those other measures appeared calculated to lead to a settlement 598 of the tithe question in Ireland, they would then enter into the consideration of this Bill, and discuss it upon the principle upon which it proceeded—the principle of popular election for municipal offices.
§ The Duke of Wellington
observed, that that noble and learned Lord had called upon him, on a former night, to lay upon the table a copy of the amendments, which he intended to propose, as the noble and learned Lord was anxious to consider them. He had then told the noble and learned Lord, that he had no amendments to propose, and with that answer the noble and learned Lord appeared satisfied. The noble Viscount had also complained that he had not informed him of the course which be intended to pursue, in postponing the Committee on this Bill till the other two Bills were before the House. He thought that he had given the noble Viscount a very palpable hint as to the course which he intended to pursue, for he had, if he recollected right, read the paragraph in the King's Speech, in which those three Bills were mentioned together, and the answer which their Lordships had given thereto. There was one point to which he wished to call the attention of their Lordships, as both the noble President of the Council, and the noble and learned Lord had laboured much to prove the want of connexion between this Bill of Municipal Reform, and the Irish Church Bill. The difficulty under which the Irish Church laboured at present, was the state of the tithe question, owing to the measures of Parliament. This state of the tithe question, which had reduced the clergy of the Church of Ireland almost to starvation, was kept up in Ireland by the excitement occasioned by agitation all over the country. He was anxious to avoid additional agitation, and especially authoritative agitation, by the members of town-councils acting under the influence and authority of agitators elected to their situations by the lowest class of the people —a people, too, acting under the direction of the violent opponents of the Protestant Church in Ireland. He must also notice another objection he had to this Bill. It gave to the town-councils great influence and power in their immediate neighbourhoods, not for one mile, but for a circuit of seven miles. It gave them great influence also, not only in the county in which their corporate town was situate, but also in any neighbouring county or counties which were within seven miles of their town. Some of these town-councils would have 599 jurisdiction over three or four different counties. Was that, he would ask, desirable with a view to the agitation of the question of Irish tithes? He put that question distinctly to the noble Viscount, and he begged that the noble Viscount would answer it. Under these circumstances, he asked whether those who had a sincere regard for the welfare of the Established Church in Ireland, ought not to pause over this Bill until they saw how the Irish tithes question was settled. He freely confessed, that the preservation of the Protestant Church of Ireland was the object which he had in view—it was a principle to which they had sworn their Sovereign, to which they had sworn themselves, and to which the other House of Parliament had also sworn its Members. If that principle were changed, if it were no longer the policy of the country, their Lordships ought to be informed of it before they took any further measure for the preservation of the Irish Church, and more particularly before they were threatened with a collision with the other branch of the Legislature. In conclusion, he repeated that, unless a satisfactory settlement were made of the Church question, he should not consent to the committal of this Bill.
§ Their Lordships divided on the Amendment:—Content 192; Not-content 115: Majority 77.601
|Cholmondeley||Hillsborough (Down shire)|
|Hutchinson (Donoughmore)||Melros (Haddington)|
|St. Vincent||Penshurst (Strangford)|
|Bexley||Stewart of Garlies (Earl of Galloway)|
|Carteret||Willoughby de Broke|
|De La Warr||Bath and Wells|
|Carrington||Oriel (Visct. Ferrard)|
|Downes||Stuart de Rothesay|
|Forbes||Wigan (Earl of Balcarres)|
|Howard of Effingham||Poltimore|
|Ilchester||Say and Sele|
|Meath||Howard de Walden|
|Lord Belhaven||Earl of Eglinton|
|Lord Barham||Lord Forbes|
|Earl of Derby||Bishop of St. Asaph|
|Lord Dormer||Earl of Warwick|
|Lord Portman||Lord Sheffield|
|Marquess of Anglesey||Earl de Grey|
|Earl Carlisle||Lord Ravensworth|
|Duke of Somerset||Marquess Camden|
|Lord Dundas||Lord Alvanley|
|Lord Sligo||Bishop of Rochester|
|Lord King||Lord Marlborough|
|Lord Petre||Lord Lonsdale|