My Lords, in consequence of the question, I considered it my duty to propose to the noble Viscount at the head of her Majesty's Government, previously to the adjournment for the recess, I must now revert to the subject, and in very few words allude to the series of letters addressed to a noble Lord holding a high official situation. My Lords, when your Lordships are aware of, and consider the spirit in which these most instructive epistles are indited—I say, most instructive, because they throw considerable light on the state of affairs, plainly developing the objects and designs of a certain class of her Majesty's subjects, thus clearly pointing out, though unintentionally, the best mode to be adopted for the safety and integrity of the British constitution; and also because they show the contempt and dissatisfaction they express as to the system of national education conceded in Ireland, to the great injury of the Protestant religion and, lastly, because they indicate contempt for the Government, by the peculiar selection 899 of an official functionary as a medium for setting the law of the land at defiance—I say, my Lords, when all this is considered, your Lordships must be quite satisfied that any comment upon these letters becomes unnecessary. But, my Lords, as they contain a gross infringement upon the law, they should not be permitted to pass unnoticed, or with impunity, for, my Lords, to the overbearing, tyrannical, bigoted, and implacable conduct of the clergy of the Church of Rome may be attributed the barbarous condition of at least three provinces in Ireland, and, if not decidedly opposed by Parliament, will ever render that portion of the empire a perfect scene of desolation; and here I must assure your Lordships, notwithstanding anything that may have been said or insinuated to the contrary, that there would be no difficulty in keeping those persons quite within the sphere of their clerical duties, and thus, by acting with common firmness and equity, the poor Protestant, as well as the Roman Catholic, would be relieved from the most dire oppression. My Lords, I feel, perhaps, the degraded and very deplorable state of Ireland the more keenly and bitterly, from having had four highly respectable and inoffensive Protestant tenants basely and brutally murdered, and others severely injured, within a short space of time. As yet, no convictions have taken place, and I am apprehensive that none will, in consequence of the diabolical and tremendous combination that pervades the land, proving, that no justice can be had in Ireland through the instrumentality of the common law. My Lords, having now taken a very cursory but correct view of affairs in Ireland, I shall not further encroach upon your Lordships' time, but as some noble Lords may be now assembled who were not present when this subject was first touched upon, I shall request permission to read that clause in the Roman Catholic Emancipation Bill which was enacted as a guard against the assumption of titles belonging to the Church of England by priests of the Church of Rome. The noble Viscount having read the clause: [see ante, p. 542.] Now, my Lords, the question which the noble Viscount is requested to give an answer to, and I trust it may be a satisfactory reply to the loyal Protestants of this great empire, is, whether any steps have been taken, or are to be taken, in consequence of a clergyman of the church of Rome having assumed the high rank and 900 title of an archbishop of the united Church of England and Ireland, by affixing the name of John Tuam in concluding certain inflammatory letters addressed to one of her Majesties principal Secretaries of State. Before sitting down, I must beg to assure the House, that it is without any party feeling whatever I have stood forward.
§ Viscount Melbourne
, in answer to the question put by the noble Lord, begged leave to say, that for several reasons which he did not think it prudent to particularise, but in all of which he concurred, her Majesty's Government in Ireland did not think it expedient to institute a prosecution in the case which had been mentioned as coming under the clause of the Act of Parliament which had been referred to.
The Earl of Wicklow
said, that the answer which they had just heard given by the noble Viscount was, in his opinion, one of the most discreditable that he had ever heard fall from any noble Lord in that House. The noble Viscount knew that the law had been violated, he had heard the clause in the Act of Parliament read, and yet, for reasons which the noble Viscount would not condescend to make known to their Lordships, it appeared that he, a minister of the Crown, was prepared to sanction a breach of the law. This, indeed, was fine encouragement for breaches of the law in Ireland. He believed, that the individual who had been referred to, took his course for the purpose of provoking a prosecution against him. Now, it was not befitting in Ministers of the Crown to enter into the motives of any individual whatever; but if there was a breach of the law, it was their duty to take care to have the violator of the law punished. It was their duty to see the law carried into efftct. They had heard of the extraordinary violations of the law which were perpetrated in Ireland—they had been even told by the noble Viscount who had asked the question, that some of his tenantry had been butchered without there being the least probability of any of the guilty parties being brought to conviction. It was in such a state of things that they were told by the noble Viscount, in the face of the House, that he was prepared to sanction a breach of the law. That he must repeat, was highly discreditable to the noble Viscount.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
must say, though there was no occasion for going into the subject-matter of the present dis- 901 cussion, that his opinion was exactly the reverse of that which had just been expressed by the noble Earl. Whether he regarded the conduct pursued by the noble Viscount in that House as a peer, or as a Minister of the Crown, he could not but look upon the answer given as a most wise and a most discreet answer to the noble Viscount opposite who had indulged his curiosity. If the noble Earl entertained the opinions which he had just expressed, instead, then, of confining himself to such a strong, such a forcible, but not a reasonable, mode of language, what the noble Earl ought to do, what could not but be regarded as the wisest course for the noble Earl to pursue, would be to submit a distinct motion on the subject, so as to bring under their Lordships' consideration the whole bearing of the case. He had not the least doubt but that the Irish government had exercised equal discretion and judgment in this matter. A government prosecution ought not lightly to be instituted; but if the noble Earl and others felt so strongly in this matter, it was open to them, as well as to the Government to institute a prosecution. He believed, there was nothing in the act to prohibit the noble Earl from prosecuting Dr. M'Hale. The effect of a prosecution by them would be the same as far as the right rev. Prelate was concerned, who had notoriously violated the Act of Parliament, but the effect upon the country would be very different. The effect of a government prosecution might be a very serious matter, It was not fair to say, that a government sanctioned a breach of the law because it did not think it prudent, proper, or necessary to institute a prosecution for a particular offence. They were aware, that former breaches of the law had taken place in former times, under other governments, and yet those governments, most wisely, in his opinion, had abstained from prosecutions. Was it not, he asked, perfectly plain to every person who read the letters of the right rev. Prelate who had been referred to, that nothing would be so gratifying to him as a prosecution in the way now asked for, and it would, too, be far more profitable to him than the infliction of the fine of 50l. could be injurious. He thought, that the noble Earl, before he had uttered so violent a reprehension of the noble Viscount's answer, should have shown that some good was to be attained from the prosecution of the person alluded to. There was no doubt that there had 902 been a most flagrant breach of the statute, that was perfectly useless, too, for sustaining the doctrines and opinions of Dr. M'Hale. It was a different thing, however, to entertain an opinion of his conduct, and to censure the Government for not instituting a prosecution against him, and to charge them for this with a neglect of their duty, and to call down upon them the vengeance of Parliament. He thought that the judgment exercised by his noble Friend at the head of the Government in Ireland, was a most sound one; and the noble Earl, instead of merely expressing strong opinions, ought to bring forward a distinct motion, censuring his noble Friend. If the noble Earl did so, he did not entertain the slightest doubt but that their Lordships would coincide with him in thinking, that the course pursued, which was now so much censured, had been most wise and judicious.
observed, that the noble Marquess coincided with the noble Earl in thinking, that the course pursued by Dr. M'Hale was a violation of the statute. The noble Marquess, however, was mistaken in supposing that it was a matter of curiosity which had induced him to put the question to the noble Viscount. He denied it; nor was the question put in any party spirit. He hoped he was as far from curiosity as the noble Marquess, and that the noble Marquess felt as free from party spirit as he did at that moment. He should be exceedingly sorry to put such a question in any party spirit; but as the noble Marquess had recommended his bringing forward a motion, he could only say, that when he had consulted with some of his noble Friends he should have no objection to bring forward such a motion He thought, that this was a matter which ought not to be permitted to pass. Perhaps, in the next session, they would have the Archbishop of Tuam endeavouring to take his seat on the opposite benches. How were their Lordships to know "Poer Tuam" from "John Tuam"? "Poer Tuam" was the legitimate archbishop, and yet "John Tuam" might be trying to make his way into that House.
The Earl of Winchilsea
regarded it as the duty of the Government to see that the law was properly enforced. If the noble Viscount disapproved of the Act, why did he not seek to have it repealed? The breach of the Act had been committed in a correspondence with the Minister of the Crown. The individual committed 903 the breach of the law in corresponding with the Government. Now, the Government ought to deal out even-handed justice to all parties. Strong laws had been passed against the expression of Protestant feeling, and in some instances those laws had been rigidly enforced. They ought to be enforced with equal rigour against Dr. M'Hale. He fully participated in the feelings which had been expressed by the noble Earl.
§ Viscount Melbourne
observed, that the noble Earl had said, that he did not condescend to tell them his reasons for the course he had adopted. Now, he begged to ask their Lordships, whether he had said anything which justified that language? He had said, that there were "reasons which he did not think it prudent to particularise," and noble Lords must recollect, that these questions were only asked and answered, not as a matter of right, but of courtesy, and for the general convenience of business. It was not usual, nor was it necessary, to enter into general reasons or arguments, nor indeed to do more than distinctly and clearly to answer the questions which were put. The noble Lord who had spoken last said, it was the duty of the Government to enforce every statute or to move for their repeal. That, in his opinion, was not the case. It was not the duty of the Government to enforce every Act of Parliament, nor could any such doctrine be held or maintained. He would suggest to the noble Lord, that it was at all times to be considered, whether prosecution would be prudent? He had the strongest reason for believing, that it would have been imprudent. He begged of the noble Lord to consider, whether they ought not to inquire a little whether that which had been assumed in the whole course of the debate could be proved, whether or not there had been a breach of the Act of Parliament, they were to recollect, that it was a penal Act of Parliament, and must, therefore, be most carefully and strictly construed.
The Earl of Wicklow
said, that if the noble Viscount had given that reason which he now urged, he should not have made any observation upon it. He did not, however, see how it was possible to think that the Act had not been violated. If the noble Viscount had said, that he had a doubt whether the Act had been violated, then he should have been perfectly satisfied; but then he found that the noble Viscount had first admitted, that the law had been violated, and then added, that for reasons 904 which he did not think it prudent or necessary to mention, it was not the intention of the Government to prosecute for the violation of the law. Such a declaration and such an avowal drew from him the expression of his surprise, especially when they came from the noble Viscount. From what had taken place now, her Majesty's Ministers sanctioning a breach of the Act of Parliament, he was prepared to expect, that henceforth all the prelates in Ireland who had abstained from the violation of the Act, would sign their names with the same titles they had used before the passing of the Act. They would have the prelates in Ireland assuming titles which did not belong to them.
§ The Duke of Wellington
considered, that very great inconvenience arose from these incidental discussions, by asking questions when no notice had been given. If noble Lords had notice, they could, by looking to the Act of Parliament and seeing what was the bearing and what the effect of the clause, before they came to a discussion, be able to form a judgment upon it. He must say, that he thought the noble Earl had put a construction upon what had fallen from the noble Viscount which was not exactly fair. The noble Viscount had stated positively, that the person in question had been guilty of a breach of the law, in the first instance, and he understood him, in the second instance, to say, that the law was a penal statute, and that it must be construed strictly. It was then to be remembered, that in directing a prosecution they were to consider, whether or not there was sufficient proof to convict a person who might be supposed to be guilty of a breach of this statute. That was what he understood the noble Viscount to have stated. As well as he recollected the statute, the prosecution must be a Government prosecution. It was not in the power of any individual to prosecute; it must be the Attorney-General. He would not find fault with the decision which had been come to by the noble Viscount, not to order a prosecution, until he was quite clear of having proofs, so as that a conviction might be brought home to the person prosecuted. He must say, that there was no very great reason to be dissatisfied with the noble Viscount for this; but he must protest against the House being brought into discussions of this description.
The Earl of Wicklow
said, that the noble Duke had confounded the two answers given by the noble Viscount, he 905 had mixed the first and second together. If the noble Viscount had said on the first, that which he declared on the second, he should have made no observation. In his first answer he had said nothing about the difficulty of a prosecution—if the noble Viscount had done so, he should not have said a word; the observations be had made were called forth by the tone and manner of the noble Visount.
§ Viscount Melbourne
had said, that there were reasons which he did not think it prudent to particularise, but in which he conconcurred with the Irish Government in not thinking it expedient to institute a prosecution under the clause of the Act of Parliament which had been referred to. He now added, that there was not such proof of the signature as to bring it distinctly under the Act of Parliament.
§ Subject dropped.