The Marquess of Westmeath
said, he saw by the papers of this day a proclamation, purporting to have been issued by the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, on the subject of what was called "the Teetotalers' pledge." 591 If that proclamation was authentic, it contained one sentence which he must say greatly surprised him, and which he much regretted to see. The passage was this:—" To the benefit which the temperance pledge has conferred upon Ireland in the improved habits of the people, and the diminution of outrage, his excellency bears a willing and grateful testimony." With respect to the merits of sobriety, he would not say one word; but it astonished him to find the representative of the Sovereign expressing his approbation of what was called "the Temperance pledge," which he considered to be nothing else than a piece of mere slipslop. The necessity of cultivating sobriety was, or ought to be, impressed on the mind of every Christian. He thought that the noble Lord was trifling with the duties of his high office when he expressed his approbation officially of a Popish device. A sort of popularity might be gained by the course which the noble Lord had taken; but it was that species of popularity which he believed individuals in that House would seek to gain. He asked whether the proclamation were authentic or not.
The Marquess of Normanby
had received no official information on the subject. He had, however, seen the proclamation, and he had no reason to doubt its authenticity. He believed, that the pledge to which the noble Marquess alluded had produced very great and beneficial effects. He would not dispute with the noble Marquess about the "pledge" being "slipslop;" but he would say, that from all the information which he had received on the subject, he was convinced that a most beneficial change had been effected amongst the people by what the noble Marquess had been pleased to denominate a "Popish device."
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, the proclamation contained matter more worthy of observation than that to which the noble Marquess had referred. He alluded to the new law which it laid down. The old doctrine was, that the assembling of large bodies of people to create terror was illegal, and it was forbidden. Here, however, it appeared that large bodies of people, sufficient to create terror, had assembled—as, in the town of Clonmel, where a large procession sufficient to create terror had assembled: but those assemblages appeared not to have been 592 forbidden on that account, but on account of their wearing certain badges. The best course would be, not to allow the people to assemble, under any circumstances, in such numbers as to create terror. That was the true doctrine of the law he believed; but not a word was said upon that point in the proclamation.
§ The Earl of Devon
confessed that he had heard with great regret the observations of the noble Marquess. He was sorry that it should go forth that one of the Members of their Lordships' House had expressed such an opinion of what had been beneficially going on for some time in Ireland. He did not wish to commit himself by speaking decidedly; but his individual opinion was, so far as he had an opportunity of judging that a great and substantial good had been done. He believed that it had been effected by perfectly legitimate means and legitimate exertions, and that it was as little connected with fanaticism, with party, or with appeals to religious feelings of a peculiar character, as could be imagined. He had himself heard Father Mathew address the people; and his manner was such as any noble Lord who heard him might adopt in addressing a public body in support of such an object. It was, he conceived, pessimi exempli to speak in reproachful terms of that which had been productive of very great good.
The Earl of Wicklow
differed in opinion from the noble Marquess (Westmeath). He thought that the temperance societies were calculated to effect much good, and the individual who had devoted himself to the futherance of the plan deserved the greatest praise for what he was doing. The temperance societies, he believed, were set on foot with the best motives, but there were parties who would not scruple to make them subservient to other purposes, and use them as instruments to create alarm.
The Marquess of Westmeath
did not wish to withdraw any expression he had used, because he had expressed the sentiments of his mind. He had formerly stated, that he loved sobriety as much as any man, and that he sincerely wished the people to abstain from drunkenness. He did not regret that the people should be sober; but he did not approve of the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, by an act of his government, bringing prominently forward this "Temperance pledge" as the 593 great means of amending the morals and manners of the people.
§ Subject dropped.