The Marquess of Clanricarde,
in rising to bring forward the resolutions of which lie had given notice, said it was now his duty to bring under the consideration of their Lordships the resolutions which he had laid on the Table; and in doing so he felt alarmed at the importance of the subject, when he reflected on all the circumstances connected with it. Because, although the motion he was about to make was in itself sufficiently concise, and related only to one sole act of the Government, yet he knew that, considering the state of feeling with respect to Ireland, on both sides of the House, and considering also the state of that country at the present moment, and the natural interest it had excited in the minds of the people, it would be as presumptuous as it would be vain in him to attempt to limit the discussion of this evening within the four corners of that paper which contained his resolution. Indeed his noble and learned Friend on the Bench below him, and other noble Lords, the other evening, plainly intimated that the state of the country was in their minds such as to require that the observations should not be strictly and closely confined to the motion upon which their Lordships would have to vote. But he would certainly endeavour to confine himself, not indeed entirely to remarks of which the scope would not extend in any degree beyond the terms of the motion, but to such matters as bore directly upon the point to which he should have the honour to direct their Lordships' attention. If he were to undertake to discuss the 1100 whole state of Ireland, and attempt to criticise and examine into all the causes which had led to the present unfortunate state of that country, and then venture to suggest such measures as might appear to him likely to retrieve it from the embarrassments and difficulties in which it was involved—and, as he thought, by the measures of the present advisers of the Crown—he should be undertaking a task far beyond his powers to accomplish. If he had wished to make this a party motion, and to catch votes, it might have been easy for him, under present circumstances, to have followed a course which, in late years, had been adopted by some noble Lords on the other side, and to have quoted speeches made in Parliament to show that the motions and speeches of those noble Lords were more applicable to the present times than to those times when such; motions and speeches were made. But this was not a time for indulging in mere party or personal recriminations, and therefore he should not quote any speeches made upon former occasions; he should make no attack upon any minister or any noble Lord, or upon any person, either in office or out of office. Although the resolution he had framed did convey a direct censure upon the Government still he had chosen plain language, and it was as mildly worded as his sense of the case would warrant. He need not enter into any history of the question commonly called the question of Repeal. From the time of the union that question bad, at different periods, been more or less agitated in Ireland. In 1834 (and upon that occasion only) it was made the subject of a distinct motion in the House of Commons. Petitions upon the subject had been previously presented, but he believed that this was the only time on which a distinct motion was made on it. Their Lordships knew how that motion was met. From time to time, since then, the question had been revived in Ireland, and was agitated with more or less success. It had, however, a very short time ago almost died away, or at least it was little heard of, and hardly to be perceived. But in the course of last year the repeal agitation gained great strength, and during last autumn and winter it had extended its sphere with considerable success. Till the opening of this year, there was notoriously a very anxious feeling on the part of the Irish people to know what course was likely to be adopted by her 1101 Majesty's Government, and by the Imperial Parliament, when this Session should be commenced with respect to the several measures which they hoped would be entertained, and to the removal of the several grievances of which they more or less complained, and generally with respect to what would be done for the general benefit of their country. Since the opening of the present year, repeal agitation had increased very considerably; but what to his mind was infinitely worse, the feeling of the people of Ireland in favour of a repeal of the Union had undoubtedly and indisputably gained ground. He did not allude to the humbler classes of the people merely; but he meant that this feeling had increased amongst the honest, loyal, and peaceably disposed persons, who were not inclined to agitation, but who entertained an opinion favourable to repeal, under, as be thought, very mistaken views, but with perfect sincerity. However, the repeal agitation bad, at all events, increased in power. Large meetings were held all over the country—the public peace was disturbed in various parts by agitation most prejudicial to the best interests of the country—very much affecting the character of the people, the security of property, and highly detrimental to the development of the industry and natural resources of the nation. This agitation went on increasing, he was sorry to say, as the Session of Parliament was advancing, in which no great measures, such as the people had expected to hear of, were announced, or appeared likely to be brought forward. What was the course adopted by her Majesty's Government in this state of things? A noble Earl, not now present (the Earl of Roden), who, though not connected officially with the -present Government, had been connected, by office, with the present Ministers when previously in power [`' No, no"]. he understood that the noble Lord was, on that occasion, appointed to an office ["No"].Then he had been offered an office and refused to accept it. However, all he meant to say was, that a noble Lord, who deservedly enjoyed the high consideration of the present Government, as one of its independent supporters, thought it right, in their Lordships' House, and a noble Lord who lately held office in the household thought it right in the House of Commons, to express their opinions upon the subject of this agitation, and the views which they conceived the Government ought to entertain in respect to it. In 1102 answer to the speech of the noble Lord in the House of Commons, the Minister thought fit to make a very strong use of the name of the sovereign. In his humble opinion, very indiscreetly, if not improperly. He was well aware that the complexion it first wore, and the interpretation put upon it, was not such as was intended by the Minister. He was well aware that it was not intended to bring forward her Majesty as personally giving expression to an opinion improperly in Parliament; at the same time he was bound to say, that the very use of her Majesty's name at all on such an occasion was very indiscreet and unconstitutional. But whatever opinions on that subject might be entertained, he would venture to say, that no man in either House of Parliament, who heard the speeches of the noble Duke and of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of her Majesty's Government, ever conceived, even in imagination, that those speeches were to be made the foundation of a very strong act of administration. That, lie would venture to say, did not enter into the heart of any Member of either House of Parliament to conceive. It was, therefore, not without considerable astonishment to him, that within a few days afterwards there appeared those letters, some of which were upon their Lordships' Table, and all of which were at that moment before him. Of these letters he complained as constituting an act of extreme indiscretion, as doing violence to the constitution, as being contrary to all precedent, and as being founded neither upon wisdom, nor justice, or any sound constitutional ground. Before he proceeded to remark upon these letters, he wished to say that he treated them all through not as the letters of Mr. Henry Sugden, but as the letters of the Irish Government, and therefore of the English Government, which was responsible for the Irish Government. He said so. because, considering the state of the whole question, and considering the warnings given to the Government upon this subject through the winter, in the spring, and in Parliament, it was impossible that the Government should not have considered the question of Repeal, and how far the law could interfere with the agitation that was going on, and what steps ought to be taken. But it was useless for him to argue inferentially that these letters were those of the Government; because when he moved for them, the noble Duke, with his characteristic straightforwardness, said at 1103 once that he was prepared to answer for the acts of the Irish administration. It was not a single letter alone of which he complained. The Irish Government had been acting upon the speeches of Ministers in Parliament up to the present day. The correspondence upon the Table was a very incomplete specimen of all that had passed between the Irish Chancellor and the magistrates of Ireland. It was perfectly notorious that several other letters had appeared in the newspapers, to which, however, he would not advert, because he wished to confine himself to the point—that speeches of Ministers have been made the foundation of this principle of administration. A short time after the speeches were made in Parliament a letter was written by the Irish Government to Lord Ffrench, respecting his intention to attend at a Repeal meeting. He begged to call their Lordships' attention to one particular fact, which though not sufficient to rest entirely his motion upon, ought not to be left out of sight—namely, that here, for the first time, he would venture to say, in the records of any judicial power in Great Britain a man was punished for intentions only. It was said in a letter from the Lord Chancellor's Secretary to Lord Ffrench, that as his Lordship had stated that it was his intention to attend a Repeal meeting, the Lord Chancellor had directed that his Lordship should be superseded as one of the magistrates of the county. The case stated was not that when Lord Ffrench's intention was ascertained, he was warned of the consequences of his attending a Repeal meeting. His Lordship was not told that that intention might be injurious to the country or to himself, but the moment his intention was ascertained, without waiting to see whether the gentle hint given by the first warning might not have induced his Lordship to depart from carrying that intention into effect, Lord Ffrench was dismissed from the magistracy. This he believed was a case without parallel. But the point of which he chiefly complained, and on which he founded his motion was, that these dismissals were founded on speeches made in Parliament. He did not suppose that this proposition would be disputed. He would read one or two passages to show that it was the speeches made in Parliament upon which the executive government chose to found their act. In one part of the letter from Lord Ffrench, it was stated,Her Majesty's Government having re- 1104 cently declared in both Houses of Parliament their determination to uphold the Union of the two countries, it became the duty of the Members of that Government to support that declaration.The letter also said, that after her Majesty's Ministers had in Parliament expressed their determination to prevent the Repeal of the Union, it was impossible to allow persons promoting agitation for Repeal to remain in the commission of the peace. In the letters addressed to Mr. Macdonnell, Mr. Dillon Browne, and others, the same thing was distinctly and clearly stated. In the letter to Mr. Macdonnell, he was asked whether he attended a certain meeting subsequent to the declarations in Parliament by her Majesty's Ministers. And in a second letter to that gentleman, it was said that as the meeting that gentleman attended was held so far back as the 7th of May, (the speeches in Parliament having been made since then), the Lord Chancellor would have acted, &c. —thus clearly resting the whole of those proceedings on the speeches made in Parliament by the minister. In another case a gentleman expressed himself very indignant at not having been dismissed, from the commission of the peace, but he was not dismissed, because he attended a Repeal meeting before, and not after the speeches were delivered. There could be no doubt technically, fairly, and virtually, in every sense, that the Irish Government dismissed the magistrates in consequence of the speech made by the Minister in Parliament. He was not about to complain of this as a breach of the privileges of Parliament; at the same time, it was competent for him to move that the standing orders should be read. And certainly it would be a very fair ground of complaint, if those standing orders were allowed to remain upon the books—that they should be treated with such disregard by her Majesty's Government, inasmuch as those proceedings which could alone be founded upon a violation of those standing orders had taken place by their subordinates. He only stated this to show how hastily and ill-considered was this act of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Most undoubtedly her Majesty's Ministers, considering calmly and coolly a strong act of the executive Government, would not have thought of grounding it upon what was a decided breach of the privileges of Parliament. Therefore it showed that this was a hasty and ill considered act of the Lord Chancellor; and it there- 1105 fore supported him a little in the motion he was about to make. But his clear and simple complaint was this, that it was a proceeding founded upon an unconstitutional principle— one without precedent, one totally unknown to the constitution, totally unjustifiable, and likely to irritate, and properly irritate, the people of any free country; it was, therefore, a proceeding which ought not to pass without strong notice on the part of their Lordships. It was impossible to produce any precedent of a similar proceeding throughout the whole of the history of this country. It could not be found in the time of the Stuarts, or at any time when the privileges, prerogatives, and arbitrary principles were sought to be carried to extreme heights; it could not be found in the records of history that a speech in Parliament, declaring the will of the Sovereign, or of the Government, who were the responsible advisers of the Sovereign, was to be an act which the Sovereign's subjects were to obey; and that they should lose their station, place, influence, dignity, or profit, if they ventured to gainsay such a speech so made. What would be the consequence if anything of the kind were to be tolerated? The whole Parliamentary history of the country would be entirely changed in its nature, if any such principle were to be acted upon. What would have been the case with respect to that great question, Catholic Emancipation? What would be the consequence if any such course had been held with respect to that question? It was perfectly well known that in consequence of the personal and conscientious prejudices and opinions of George the 3rd relating to that measure, Mr. Pitt refused to carry it forward, or force the subject upon his Majesty. But did Mr. Pitt, or any other Minister of George the 3rd who possessed his confidence, think that they could put an end to the Catholic question by coming down to Parliament and declaring that the opinion of the Sovereign was of such a nature as to put an end to all discussion and agitation upon the subject? Had anybody ever dreamed of such a course? Then it was well known that George the 4th entertained great objection to the measure; but what would have been the effect, had the noble Duke, when he became Prime Minister under that monarch, come down and stated that he had advised his Sovereign, and they were determined to resist that measure as far 1106 as they could? Could any man suppose that if the noble Duke had adopted that course it would have retarded the agitation, or that it could have had other than the most calamitous effects? There was an anecdote told—whether true or not he could not undertake to say,—that when George the 4th was advised by the noble Duke that the measure must pass, and was solicited by the noble Duke for permission to introduce it, the monarch was so ad. verse to the proposed course, that he sent for Lord Sidmouth, and offered to entrust him with the Government of the country, on the condition of making a No-Popery Administration. Lord Sidmouth, after some hours' deliberation, declined to take the responsibility upon himself. Why should not Lord Sidmouth have undertaken the responsibility? If the Government had come down and said they were authorised to make a declaration such as this, there would certainly have been a civil war. In England no Government ever had, or ever would dare attempt to put such a principle into action. It was contrary to every principle of freedom. He could not imagine any argument by which the Government were to be justified for dismissing magistrates upon the ground of their having acted in contravention of the speech of a Minister declaring the will of the Sovereign in Parliament. Upon that he rested his case. But he might be told, that he should not look upon the act in a narrow and restricted view—that it could not strictly and technically be justified, but that regard should be had to the whole state of the country and the effects to be produced there. It seemed that that was the argument to be relied upon. Now, what had been the first effect, the natural effect, of this movement? It had been stated, that it was intended to throw discredit in the popular mind upon the agitation now going on. But what had been the real, the natural, the certain effect of this act of the Government upon the public mind and the popular sympathies? why, if proof were wanted, it was contained in the letters before their Lordships, by which it would be seen, that so soon as this most unconstitutional act was performed, every man of warm feelings in the country felt his sympathy excited on the side of those who had been dismissed. Great part of the correspondence bore out that assertion. Let the House look at the expression of Mr. John O'Hea, of Cork, who said that—, 1107Not being a repealer, he had taken no' part in the agitation, but still he held, in the language of Lord John Russell, that the question of repeal was open to discussion.These gentlemen who had been dismissed, so far from being degraded in the eyes of the people, became immensely exalted; they had been suddenly called into eminence; the name of Lord Ffrench was now enrolled in the pages of history, and would be handed down to posterity. These gentlemen had been called from the quiet of private life, from which some of them perhaps had never expected to emerge, and they were called heroes and martyrs by the people. And could any man, with a knowledge of human nature, or of experience in the working of a popular form of government, have doubted that this would have been the first and immediate effect? Another, a second effect, he would next notice. This act, on the part of the Government, was intended to put down the Repeal Association—to weaken the power, authority, and resources of that body. But what had been the real, the practical effect? He had already stated that this agitation had proceeded gradually and slowly, and sonic time ago the Repeal Association made it a matter of boast, that the rent for the week amounted to 117l. Upon the delivery of those speeches in Parliament, the repeal rent rose to 330l. Then the letter to Lord Ffrench came out, and the rent rose to 600l. The following week, when these letters became more widely known, it rose to 1,200l. The following week it fell a little—to about 1,000, but since then it had not fallen, while one week it had risen to 3,000l., so that the average was probably about 1,400l. or 1,500l., so that before tho Government had dismissed the magistrates; the Repeal Association considered it a boast to have collected 117l. in a week, and since then the average weekly rent has been 1,400l. to 1,500l. So much for the wisdom and judgment shown in sending these letters. He had omitted to call the attention of their Lordships to the injustice, vacillation, and inequality which had characterised the manner in which an act, of itself sufficiently strong, had been carried out. He found that a gentleman had been written to for attending a repeal dinner. He answered that he had attended a dinner given to the representatives of the county, at which the question of repeal, amongst a great number of other subjects, was agitated, but that he was not 1108 a repealer. That gentleman, however, was superseded. He might be told, that looking at the general state of the country, it was impossible to look at a dinner given to Mr. O'Connell as otherwise than illegal. If so, then might every magistrate, attending a repeal dinner be dismissed. It however appeared, by the course of the Government, that up to the 7th of May, all the magistrates 'might do just as they pleased in regard to these meetings, while, after that date, they must not even attend a dinner given to their representatives. Now this act of dismissing the magistrates, was of itself a harsh and a strong act, and it might at least be supposed that it would be administered in detail with equality and consistency. But he could show that no less than eight or nine magistrates had attended on the occasion, and only two had been dismissed. It appeared, that those two had attended a meeting in the morning, for the purpose of petitioning, and were therefore repealers; whilst the remainder did not attend the morning meeting, but were at the dinner in the evening. So, then, the men who had attended a meeting for a legal and constitutional object—namely, to petition—were dismissed; while those who had attended a dinner, when the only object could have been agitation and speech making, were retained in the commission of the peace. When such things were done, were their Lordships to be told that the object of this act of the Government was to discredit agitation and weaken the Repeal Association, and that it was calculated to have a beneficial effect upon the minds of men? There was a third effect produced by this conduct of the Government to which he should next advert, namely, the effect it had upon the character of the magistracy of Ireland. A great improvement had taken place of late in the character of that magistracy, and the manner in which their duties were performed, for which the country was in a great measure indebted to the exertions of that illustrious statesman the Marquess Wellesley, and the people were, on the whole, satisfied with the general character of their magistrates, and had confidence in their conduct. Now there had been, he believed, above sixty magistrates removed from the commission —not taken from the whole of Ireland, for then the number would appear but small, but taken particularly from those parts where it was most advisable that the feelings of the people should be conciliated, where 1109 the magistrates were most scarce, and where it was most necessary they should enjoy the affection and confidence of the population. It was not, however, the mere number of gentlemen dismissed, but the character or complexion thereby given to the magistracy, because, if it was avowed that all who attended these meetings were to be superseded, the feeling would get abroad that all those who were commonly called liberal magistrates were viewed with displeasure by the Government, who took the opportunity of getting rid of as many of them as possible, and that those who remained would be of political opinions little in accordance with those of the people. That was a most serious matter which he wished particularly to impress upon their Lordships. He had been told that it was necessary to look at it in an enlarged sense —that these magistrates were, after all, engaged in attending illegal meetings; and how, he had been asked, could the Government have confidence in those who attended illegal meetings? He denied, that the repeal meetings were illegal. He would not attempt to define what was an illegal meeting, for that was a difficult task even for a good lawyer. A meeting might be called for a perfectly legal purpose, and yet become illegal; and a meeting might be called for an object not strictly legal perhaps, and yet be perfectly legal in the terms and manner of its holding. He contended, however, that these meetings were not illegal, and he stood upon the authority first of the Irish Chancellor, whose letter to Lord Ffrench it was impossible to read, without seeing that it inferred that the meeting was legal. If the meetings were illegal, why should the Chancellor have referred to the speeches in Parliament. Moreover, Mr. O'Connell and others, in answer to the Chancellor, bad contended that the meetings were perfectly legal, and the Chancellor had made no attempt to refute them. These meetings must be legal, unless the Bill of Rights was a nullity. But he would quote another judicial authority, no other than that of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and whom he was anxious to cite, as he considered that noble Lord to be a higher constitutional authority than the Chancellor of Ireland. The noble and learned Lord said:—That he was an advocate for the right of the Irish people to meet to consider—to plan —to petition—to remonstrate—to demand.He quoted the opinion of the noble 1110 Lord, because lie had expressed the constitutional doctrine in the best and closest manner, a doctrine which probably would not be disputed. But if these meetings were illegal, then he contended that the Government had grossly neglected their duty, and if any one proved to him that those meetings were illegal, he would submit a motion to their Lordships in which he knew they would concur. There was no doubt that those meetings, be they legal or illegal, had caused great mischief in Ireland: that the agitation now going on had worked infinite harm; but if those meetings were illegal, why bad these magistrates been dismissed without inquiry? Why had they not been brought to a regular trial and convicted of their delinquency? The Irish Lord Chancellor had written to a Gentleman, late the Member for Athlone, desiring to know if he had attended a Repeal meeting. Mr. Ferrall, in return, asked who was the informant, a question which the Chancellor declined to answer; upon which Mr. Ferrall, on his part, declined to answer the Chancellor's query. Now, if these meetings were illegal, why was not Mr. Ferrall brought to trial? The difficulty of the case was, that these meetings were, in fact, not illegal. What was the condition of Ireland at the present moment? It was in a state approaching to anarchy. He had heard of advice having been given to the peasantry to enter upon a system of passive resistance to the payments of all tithes, cess, and dues that might be demanded of them. Now, if such ideas as these were spread abroad, he repeated that the country was in a state verging upon anarchy, that the framework of civil society was shaken, and the machinery by which the business of the community was carried on was endangered. If it had come to this, it was because the Government had brought the law into such odium, that the people regarded it not as a protection and benefit, but as a machine for their oppression. He had a right to say, that this, if it were so, was the fault of the Government. The country had been delivered over to them in a peaceable state; there was no agitation of this kind. The Repeal Association, it was true, might have been in existence, but nothing had arisen to the height it had now attained. There were also occasional outrages—too common at all times—at that period, but those outrages were local. There was none of that general spirit of agitation and resistance 1111 to the Government which existed at the present moment. The people respected the authority of the law. If that point were disputed, he would refer to the letter written to the ten stipendiary magistrates, whom it had been proposed to dismiss. He would take the description, however, of the peaceable state of the country from the language of those who might attempt to justify the acts of the Government from the present state of the country. This state of things had arisen gradually, and a Government with proper capacity, vigour, and activity, would have met the first approaches, but he complained that in the first place, the Government had found themselves incapable to obviate the difficulty, and in the next, incompetent to meet it. If they had looked to the social wants and exigencies of the people — lie did not speak of their mere political grievances — the Government might have averted these things. It was not Mr. O'Connell, with all his eloquence and influence, who had gained over the people entirely to the repeal agitation, and made them disappointed with the Imperial Parliament, but the administration and legislation of the Government—it was their paying no attention to the wants of the country, their not endeavouring to develope and put into action her industry and resources. It was the neglect of these things that had given, rise to the feeling in Ireland that the Imperial Parliament and the Imperial Government did not attend to the grievances of the people, and that they would fare better under a separate Legislation. He, for one, thought the Repeal of the Union, even if it could be accomplished, which every one knew could not be, would be the greatest misfortune that could happen both to England and to Ireland. But still it was necessary to attend to the condition of that country, to improve her laws and institutions, and adapt them to the feelings and condition of the people. Something must be done to develope the resources of the country. He ventured to say that a very little exertion on the part of the Government might have met the national feeling and prevented it arising to the height it had. He did not now ask if the Government were going to take steps in regard to Ireland, because, unfortunately, it was within the knowledge of all of their Lordships that nothing was to be done. If it was understood that no coercion was to be adopted, then he agreed so far with the Government, and, 1112 thanked them for refraining from the course they had been recommended to take. Nothing could be more injudicious than to attempt coercive measures, but at the same time he was sorry to say, that he thought a great deal more must be comprehended under the head—" Nothing is to be done." If the population of Ireland were to be left in its present condition, excited as it was by all the causes of discontent, to which he had adverted, with the whole country thrown into disorder, and without any thing being done to improve the state of the people, results would be produced with which it would be very difficult to deal in these times of peace, and which, if unfortunately we should come to times of war, would be terrible to reflect upon. The cost to the country of this state of things must already have been very great; the movement of the troops, the marchings and counter-marchings, of which there had been so many, must have absorbed a considerable sum of money, which, if judiciously expended, would have gone a great way in removing some of the causes of the agitation. He must apologise to their Lordships for having travelled over so wide a field, but he did think that the whole conduct of the Government, past and present, told on the motion which he should submit to their Lordships. He was strongly of opinion that the dismissal of the magistrates in Ireland was one of the most injudicious and inexpedient acts ever done by a Government. He defied the Government to deny that the dismissal of the magistrates on the ground of doctrine, laid down in the speech of a minister in Parliament, was totally at variance with the Constitution, and with the whole existence of an unpaid and independent magistracy. Out of that House he had not met with a single man who supported it. He did not believe there was one man out of the walls of Parliament who would say that he approved of this act. Therefore he said that, although he knew the influence which Government had with their Lordships at this moment, he hoped they would support his motion. He was confident, when their Lordships' own honest conviction told them it was their duty to their country, as well as becoming their honour as Peers, to vote independently of party or personal considerations, that in accordance with those sentiments they would give their votes. The noble Marquess moved the following resolutions:—1. That it appears by the papers before 1113 this House, that the Irish Government has dismissed several magistrates from the commission of the peace, on the ground that they had intimated an intention to attend meetings to petition for a repeal of the legislative union of Great Britain and Ireland, after a declaration by her Majesty's Ministers, in both Houses of Parliament, that her Majesty was determined to uphold the said Union; although it was allowed, in dismissing the said magistrates, that such an intimation, or the attending such meetings before such declarations in Parliament, was not a sufficient ground for dismissing magistrates from the commission of the peace.—2. That to dismiss magistrates from the commission of the peace on such a ground, is unconstitutional, unjust, and inexpedient.
§ The Duke of Wellington:
My Lords, the motion of the noble Lord is directed against the officer who holds the Great Seal in Ireland. 1 beg your Lordships to review in your minds the speech by which the noble Lord introduced that motion, the topics on which he dwelt, and the charges which he made against her Majesty's servants, and I think your Lordships will feel that it is a motion directed positively against her Majesty's Government. He says, what is very true, that they are responsible for the acts of the Irish Government. They are responsible for the acts of the Irish Government; and, my Lords, I hope, before I sit down, to convince your Lordships that those acts were forced upon the Government, and that they would not have done their duty if they had not carried them into execution. The noble Lord has stated that this repeal agitation commenced some time in the course of the last year. Begging the noble Lord's pardon, I must remind him that the agitation commenced some few months antecedent to the last year, and that, if he will refer to some of his noble Friends near him, he will find that they bad heard of that agitation—nay, that the Lord-lieutenant at that time had very properly denounced that agitation previous to the period at which we assumed the Government. I shall be very glad if the noble Lord, bearing in mind that fact, which I do not believe he will deny, will show how he makes out his charge against her Majesty's present servants, that to them must be attributed this Repeal agitation. Why, my Lords, surely if this Repeal agitation commenced long previously to the period at which we were in office, at least it must be inferred that no official act or omission on their part could have caused this agita- 1114 tion. But, my Lords, the agitation had existed for a very considerable time. It had grown; meetings had become frequent; those large assemblages of men had become larger, the anxiety which they created throughout the country had become more intense; the language held at them had become more violent, and at last the attention of Parliament was drawn to them, as stated by the noble Marquess, by a question put to her Majesty's servants in this House by one noble Lord, and by a noble Lord also in the other House. But, my Lords, before I proceed to discuss what passed upon that occasion, I must remind your Lordships of what is very important in discussing this question, the proceedings which took place in Parliament and in the country upon the subject of this question of the Repeal of the Union as far back as the years 1831 and 1834. The noble Lord stated correctly that at the latter period a motion was made for the Repeal of the Union, and upon that occasion noble Lords, then high in office in the Administration, some of whom I have the pleasure of now seeing in this House, and others of whom are high in influence, and, though not in office, have taken a great lead in the other House of Parliament, all, in the strongest manner pressed their opinions against the repeal of the legislative Union, which they declared to be neither more nor less than a severance of the connection between the two countries, or as leading, unquestionably, to that severance. It was declared by some of them positively, that Repeal could not do otherwise than lead to a severance between the two countries—a statement, I confess, in which I entirely agree. Some of them even went so far as to say that it would be better at once to declare the severance than to begin by the Repeal of the Legislative Union, so certain was it that the Repeal of the Union must be followed by the severance, and possibly by a war, which would terminate only with the reduction of one of the two countries, and the enfeeblement of the other. This was the opinion of some noble Lords; and on the occasion to which I referred, when the question asked by a noble Lord in this House, and by another noble Lord in the other House, drew from me, in this House, and from my right hon. Friend in the other House, answers stating the positive intention of the Government to maintain the Legislative Union, I must do the noble Marquess opposite and a noble Lord near him, as well as hon. Members in the other 1115 House of Parliament, the justice to say that they did not evade the positive expression of their opinions, and their concurrence in the determination expressed by her Majesty's Government to maintain the Legislative Union. That declaration, and the reference then made to what passed in 1834, as well as the concurrence —I may almost say unanimous—of this and the other House of Parliament, had become matter of notoriety, not only in this country but throughout Ireland. The noble Lord has adverted to the use of her Majesty's name in these discussions. All that was done on that occasion was to state that the advice of her servants to her Majesty was to concur with the sentiments delivered by her predecessor on the Throne, and subsequently in his answer to the address delivered by both Houses of Parliament. Thus, then, my Lords, I say, that after what passed in both Houses of Parliament on that occasion, it became a matter of notoriety that the opinion of Parliament was, that the Legislative Union should not be repealed, and that every effort should be made on the part of the Government to resist the attempt to occasion that Repeal. Then, my Lords, under these circumstances, the Lord Chancellor finds Lord Ffrench and other magistrates calling these meetings to repeal the Union, assisting at the meetings, presiding at them, and urging all the proceedings. At this time the opinion of Parliament was notorious, yet meetings consisting of 10,000, 20,000, 100,000, no matter as to the number of thousands, continued. My Lords, I wish to know with what object they were continued. Was it with a view to address Parliament to repeal the Union? No, my Lords, they were continued to obtain the desired Repeal of the Union by terror, if possible—if not, by force and violence. And the persons calling these meetings, I beg your Lordships to observe, were the magistrates, the very men who must have been employed by Government to take measures to resist this violence, to prevent breaches of the peace, to arrest those who should be guilty of such breaches, and to bring them to justice; and then the noble Lord says, that the Government were not to dismiss those magistrates from their situation, and that they were not to draw a distinction as to the time when it became notorious to the whole world what were the views entertained by Parliament and the Government on this important question. My Lords, in 1116 this and the other House of Parliament, no one would have any idea of repealing the Union except in regular course, like another act of Parliament; but, with these meetings of 50,000 or 60,000 men, was there any question of discussion? No, my Lords, the question was terror, force, and violence. That was the ground on which the Lord Chancellor told these magistrates after the views of Government had become notorious, you must be dismissed if you attend, or excite to attend such meetings. Now, my Lords, I say, that it being the duty of the British Government, having its attention awakened to those meetings, to prevent, if possible, breaches of the peace, to resist them, and to give protection to persons and property. It would be impossible for them to undertake to perform those duties, leaving magistrates in their situations who should have rendered themselves conspicuous either by calling together those meetings, or by presiding over them, or by addressing or attending them. Each case for decision by the Lord Chancellor must have depended on the peculiar circumstances attending it. My Lords, the noble Lord has stated that these meetings were not illegal. I certainly do not consider myself competent to decide whether they were or were not illegal. This I know, that they consist of very large numbers — whether of 10,000 or 100,000, I am sure I cannot tell, and I do not believe any man can tell to a certainty. They are assembled in very large numbers, regularly organised, marching under the lead of persons on horseback, with bands and banners, in regular military array. After having attended these meetings, those present are dispersed by word of command, without trouble, violence, or breach of the peace, and march back perhaps twenty or thirty miles. No violence is committed; yet, my Lords, to those who had to contemplate these meetings, to consider what might be their consequences, to consider the power exhibited in calling them together, and the discipline observed in carrying the whole plan into execution, as well as the power of those who exercised that discipline, I say it became the duty of the Government to take precautions, to consider of the situation of the country, to observe what passed at the different meetings, to read the speeches delivered, to get an account of the threats held out, such as "Repeal or blood," with inscriptions of that kind upon the flags, and to be pre- 1117 pared for the worst that might happen. ' My Lords, I have had some experience in the course of a long life, which I have passed in the service of the Sovereigns of this country, of such revolutions. A distinguished author has written regarding the French revolution, "On conspire sur la place." There is no secret in these transactions, and the reason why there is no secret is this, that the great means of operation are deception of their followers, and terror in respect to their adversaries. Accordingly, we hear a learned gentleman exclaiming to his audience "Napoleon had not in Russia such an army as this is; the Duke of Wellington had not such a one at Waterloo." Very possibly not, my Lords. Bear in mind what he said in respect to the augmentation of his numbers, and the means of assembling those persons. He said upon one occasion that, by the post of one night, he could collect the whole of this force in different parts of the country, and it is perfectly true-1 have not a doubt of the fact. What is the consequence? Why, my Lords, I say I believe it is the duty of the Government to be prepared, as I hope the Government has become prepared, in all parts of the country, to protect the persons of the inhabitants, to protect property as far as possible, and to do everything in their power to maintain the dominion of her Majesty and of this country in Ireland. The noble Lord said that the different events which might ensue were in the bands of one individual. My Lords, this is not the doing of the Government, this Government has nothing to say to it; but all that is in the power of Government, all that they can do to be prepared to resist the consequences of this state of things, all that wisdom and foresight can suggest to protect the property of individuals, the House has a right to look for, and to expect that Government will be prepared for the worst that can happen. My Lords, I am as much concerned that this state of affairs should exist as the noble Lord can be; but of this I am quite certain, that the way to be prepared is not to have in the service of Government—not to have Government dependent on the exertions of—a number of magistrates who have excited and encouraged these proceedings, assisting at and presiding over these very meetings. That could not have been desirable, and I say that the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Lieutenant would not have done their duty if they had not 1118 removed those persons from her Majesty's service. The noble Lord complains that in consequence of these magistrates having been removed, a great sympathy for them has been excited throughout the empire. Why, my Lords, I do not know. I cannot say whether more thousands or less have assembled since these magistrates have been removed; but this I know, that I feel more security, if I am convinced that I shall not have to employ a man to assist in putting down these mischiefs who may himself have been instrumental in causing them. My Lords, I come now to advert to the charge of the noble Lord, that the Government has not been attentive to the wants and interests of Ireland. I will remind your Lordships of a speech which I am sure you have read with the greatest satisfaction and even thankfulness—I mean that of the noble Lord sitting at the 'Table, delivered in the year 1834, in the other House of Parliament, on the subject of the advantages derived by Ireland from the Union up to that period. My Lords, that unanswered, that unanswerable speech will show your Lordships how much the people of Ireland have gained by the Union between Ireland and this country. From that time to the year 184I the noble Lords sitting near the noble Marquess will not agree that the interests of Ireland have been neglected. I am sure I am not conscious of their ever having been neglected at any time. Since I have had the honour of having a seat in her Majesty's Councils I am sure that they have not been neglected, and that everything has been done which could be done in order to promote those interests. At this moment, and throughout this Session there has been under consideration of Parliament a measure for altering a law which has given dissatisfaction to Ireland-I mean the Poor-law; and for relieving principally the lower classes from the payment of rates, which only awaits the pleasure of the House of Commons for its discussion, in order to be laid before your Lordships. If any other measure has been proposed, it has been invariably attended to with a view to carry into execution every plan which seemed likely to be beneficial to Ireland. It has been agreed to on all hands, that such must be the course with respect to Ireland; that everything must be done which can be done to conciliate the affections of the people of that country, and which can tend to insure their contentment. With respect to the particu- 1119 lar measure to which the noble Lord referred, namely, the bill for correcting the registries, it has been explained in another place, that it has not been possible to bring forward that measure up to the present moment, because it is necessary to connect with it other measures for extending the franchise, in consequence of the diminution of the number of voters which would otherwise result from it. This, and nothing else, I can assure the noble Lord, has been the cause of the delay. In respect to other measures, everything, your Lordships may depend upon it, will be done, as occasion may offer. But, my Lords, I must say, that, grieved as I am that there should be so much truth in the representations made by the noble Lord of the existing state of the country, and of its prospects, threatened as they are by the continuance of agitation, I must say, that no measure that could be proposed, no new measure which could be adopted, would have the smallest effect in removing any of these evils or inconveniences. My Lords, the only mode, the only course to be adopted on the part of the Government, is to oppose a strong resistance to everything like a breach of the peace or public order, and to be prepared, as I hope they are prepared, to enforce measures for preserving quiet and protecting property in Ireland. My Lords, I know of no remedy but that for the state of affairs which exists at present, particularly as it appears that whether the peace of the country shall be disturbed or not, depends on the will of one man, and his influence over the wills and actions of some thousands who possess influence in the various parishes of the country. That is the real state of affairs. The noble Lord has referred to the extreme poverty of the country, and to the absence of all measures, on the part of the Government, to relieve that poverty. My Lords, it certainly is true that there are in Ireland a vast number of poor. I have been sorry to see that it is stated in some returns on the Table, that there are as many as 2,000,000 of poor in Ireland. My Lords, it happens unfortunately, that in all parts of the empire there are poor; but I will beg to observe, that it is not in the power of this Government, nor of any Government, nor of any Parliament, in the course of a few weeks, or a few months, or, I may say, a few years, to relieve the poverty of a great country like that, extending as it does to such a portion of the population.
1120 But, my Lords, I beg to know whether poverty can be relieved by that description of agitation for the repeal of the Union. Is poverty relieved by marches of twenty-five and thirty Irish miles a day, during the period of spring and summer, to hear seditious speeches? Is poverty relieved by subscriptions of thousands of pounds to the repeal rent, and the O'Connell rent, and other funds of that description? No, my Lords; that poverty must be relieved by a perseverance in industry and sobriety; not taken up by fits and starts for the sake of a more orderly appearance at seditious meetings, where the people are marshalled by bands of music and flying colours. The evils, whence that poverty proceeds, are not to be cured in a day. The remedies must be some time in operation; and all I can say, is, that the Government are sincerely desirous to avail themselves of every opportunity that may tend to benefit the people of Ireland, and to relieve that poverty of which the noble Lord so eloquently complains. The noble Lord adverted to the state the country was in at the period at which her Majesty's present Servants came into office, and compared it with the state in which the country was at the present moment. I have already adverted to that part of the noble Lord's speech, and will now only remind your Lordships again that the repeal agitation had been going on for some time, for a year at least, before her Majesty's present Government came into office. But, although it is true that the repeal agitation and the political agitation which are now going on are much greater than they were three or four years ago, yet, my Lords, it happens that other descriptions of crimes have rather diminished of late than increased. I will read to your Lordships a return, which I received an hour ago, showing what the state of the country has been during this political agitation, and showing also what power is exercised by those who conduct the people at these meetings, and how the persons wielding that power can keep the people quiet at any period when it suits them to keep them so. In the month of June, just expired, the total number of offences in Ireland, of a serious character, was 447. In the preceding month, May, the number was 54I. In the corresponding month of last year, June, I842, the number was 800. Now, my Lords, I will just read to you the particular crimes affecting public peace.
|June, 1843.||May, 1843.||June,1842.|
|Demanding and stealing Arms||10||11||20|
|Injury done to property||36||0||115|
§ And so on for every description of crime of a similar character, all of which have diminished in numbers during the time when this political agitation has caused so much anxiety to the Government and to the whole nation. I have shown your Lordships that it was under these circumstances these orders were given by the Lord Chancellor. I have shown that her Majesty's Government are responsible for the dismissal of these magistrates. I have stated the grounds on which I hold that dismissal to have been justifiable, namely, the fact that the Union of Ireland with England could not be repealed in the ordinary course of legislation; that no man of sense could expect it to be repealed otherwise than by force and violence; and that Government, determined to carry the law strictly into execution, and to give all possible protection to life and property, by preparing to resist force and violence, if force and violence should be attempted, would have been unworthy of their places in her Majesty's councils—unworthy of the confidence of honest and sensible men, if they had left in office men to whom, in a moment of difficulty, they must have looked for assistance in the maintenance of the public peace, although those very men had presided over meetings at which seditious speeches had been uttered. I shall conclude by earnestly urging your Lordships to meet the resolutions of the noble Marquess by a direct negative.
The Earl of Clancarty
spoke as follows: —It is, my Lords, with much hesitation that I present myself to your Lordships at so early a period, in a debate likely to prove of the greatest importance, by calling forth, ere it closes the sentiments hitherto unexpressed of many of the leading Members of this assembly upon the state of Ireland at the present time; nor should I have thought of doing so, but that the question having been put by the, noble and learned Lord from the Woolsack, the debate must 1122 suddenly and prematurely have closed had I not risen to address you. But considering the nature of the question involved ill the resolutions of the noble Marquess—considering that a constitutional question is brought to issue in these resolutions, upon which there have appeared to exist conflicting opinions among the first legal authorities of the land. I certainly am surprised that it should have devolved upon me to take up this debate, and I could have wished, before taking any part in it, and certainly before saying any thing upon the constitutional question at issue, to have heard expressed the sentiments of those among your Lordships, whose opinions would alone be entitled to any weight upon such a subject. But as the second resolution proposed by my noble Friend, by calling in question the expediency of the dismissal of the magistrates, in fact opens the whole question of the policy of her Majesty's Government with respect to Ireland. I shall, in the few observations I am desirous of addressing to your Lordships, confine myself to that part of the question, which at the present time is one of intense public interest, and upon which in common I am sure with many of your Lordships I cannot help looking with very great anxiety. Feeling as I do the highest possible respect for the noble and gallant Duke who conducts the business of this House with so much ability and with such benefit to the public, and being of opinion that to no other hands than those of her Majesty's present Ministers could the Government of the country be, at the present time, committed with the same advantage or with almost any hope of success. It is with the utmost regret that I am compelled to say, that the Government of Ireland exhibits a melancholy and a painful contrast, although I believe a solitary exception to that character for vigour, ability, foresight, and watchfulness which has, under their auspices, attached to the administration of the affairs of the empire in every other department of the Government. But not only has their general policy in regard to Ireland disappointed public expectation, but more particularly has it been wanting in the present emergency in those qualities which are essential to the securing of public confidence. And I regret to say that having most attentively listened to the speech of the noble Duke, I have not heard anything calculated to remove that impression, or to lead to the expectation of any greater 1123 vigour for the purpose of preventing, or of any step for the purpose of putting an end to, the very alarming state of things in Ireland. The noble Duke speaks, indeed, with much confidence of the Government being prepared for whatever may happen. But I would pray your Lordships to look - at the picture that both the noble Marquess and the noble Duke have this evening drawn of the state of affairs in that country. Look at it as it has been represented to your Lordships in the respectably-signed petitions that have been addressed to this House upon the subject, without, I am sorry to say, having elicited the expression of much sympathy. Look at it, as it was, about three weeks ago, represented in the very temperately-drawn resolutions of the Irish supporters of her Majesty's Government, of both Houses of Parliament, whose representations and tenders of co-operation, however, appear to have been alike disregarded by the Minister to whom they were addressed. Look at the latest accounts from Ireland, and read of disaffection rapidly overspreading the land and the organized masses of the population, more and more intent upon the overthrow of Church and State, and the dissolution of the Union between the two countries. And then, my Lords, it may well be enquired how has the determination so strongly expressed, about two months ago, by the Ministerial Leaders in both Houses of Parliament, to use all the power and influence of the Government in maintaining inviolate the terms of the Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland, been followed up? Calculated as that declaration was to lead to the belief that something would be done to put a' stop to the Repeal agitation, how has the awakened confidence of the public been justified? Why, by the single act of the dismissal of magistrates holding opinions' in favour of Repeal, for which it is the object of the present motion to censure'! her Majesty's Government. Meetings for the Repeal of the Union have, nevertheless, continued to be held, more frequent and more numerously attended than they were ever before known to be,—meetings declared by my Lord Chancellor upon the Woolsack to be illegal, and by Sir Edward Sugden, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, to be "Not in the spirit of the constitution." Meetings at which hundreds of thousands are congregated together, not for the purpose of delibration— not for the purpose of petitioning Parlia- 1124 ment, but for the purpose of exhibiting the amount of physical force that may be any where brought together, by which it is proposed, if necessary, to obtain by force a concession of demands—meetings, in fine, at which the population is incited to disaffection and rebellion, by every device which unscrupulous ingenuity can suggest. Such meetings have been matters of every day occurrence, and notwithstanding their illegal and unconstitutional character, and what Sir Edward Sugden has further noticed, "their inevitable tendency to outrage," not a step has been taken to put a stop to them. My noble Friend proposes to condemn the act of dismissing the magistrates as unconstitutional. I shall not, my Lords, discuss that question which others are so much more competent to decide, but I must observe, that it is most unfortunate that the only overt act of her Majesty's Government implying disapprobation of those meetings since the declarations made in Parliament, should have been one of such questionable propriety. I would, however, give her Majesty's Government credit for having acted from the best motives. The noble Duke has represented the importance in an emergency, such as the present, of having only such men in the commission of the peace as the Government could count upon in case of a breach of the peace resulting from what is now going forward, that he could have no confidence in magistrates who had shewn themselves in any degree the promoters of the Repeal agitation. And I agree with the noble Duke in this view of the case. But giving every credit for singleness of purpose and good motive in the step the Government thought proper to take, I must say, that one more injudicious, less likely to check the progress of the Repeal movement, or rather more likely to give it an increased impulse, could not have been taken, while the meetings themselves were not prohibited. What, my Lords, has been the effect of it? Why, the magistrates who have been dismissed (and these include some very efficient and respectable magistrates, whose loss from the bench will be attended with much inconvenience, particularly I will say in the instance of Sir Michael Bellew, a Roman Catholic gentleman, most respectable in every relation of life, and especially as a landlord and country gentleman)—I say the magistrates so dismissed have, and with some reason, felt, themselves unjustly dealt with, precluded from expressions, 1125 while others have been freely permitted to express their opinions upon a subject, on which there has always existed a difference of opinion in Ireland. Many have thence thrown themselves with increased ardour into the van of the Repeal movement, with their influence as Repealers immensely enhanced; and, in attending those great meetings, they have been relieved from the sworn obligation they before were under of acting as justices of the peace in the event of any riot or disturbance,—My Lords, such a measure, even if otherwise unobjectionable, was not suited to such an emergency. If the Repeal meetings were illegal as well as unconstitutional, it was the duty; and very certainly the part of sound policy in the Government to have put a stop to them. If, however, notwithstanding the very strong opinion given upon the subject by the Lord Chancellor, a doubt has arisen as to their illegality, I must say, that considering the representation given of them by the Irish Chancellor, "that they had an inevitable tendency to outrage—that they were not in the spirit of the constitution, and that they might become dangerous to the safety of the state,"—Considering also their manifest inconsistency with the proper objects, I might also say with the very existence of Government, it was still the duty of the executive, if needful by applying to Parliament for the requisite powers to put a stop to them. — But in the absence of the requisite energy, or of any properly conceived measure on the part of the Government, to what do we owe it that there has as yet been no outbreak in Ireland? My Lords, the noble Duke has told you upon what the Government rely for the maintenance of peace; that the peace of Ireland, (if peaceful a country can be called, with a population breathing defiance against the constituted authorities)—but the peace of Ireland, such as it is, is admitted by the noble Duke to be dependent upon the disposition and power of one individual, and that man, let me observe, a dismissed magistrate,—My Lords, if such be the reliance of the Government, which I confess I have heard with very great surprise, I would beg to warn the noble Duke that, great as is the influence of Mr. O'Connell, undoubted as is his interest to avoid any open breach of the peace, his influence may not always be equal to his desire to keep within bounds that immense physical force which he has been instrumental in pledging to carry the 1126 Repeal of the Union, and which is now wrought up to a state of unexampled excitement upon the subject. Mr. O'Connell's power, so far from being relied upon by the Government, should he considered by them as evidencing a most diseased state of society, the causes of which the Government should investigate. — One cause of it, I regret to say, is to be found in the opinion that very generally prevails in Ireland, an opinion which experience has too much justified, that the most strongly expressed determination of a Minister of the Crown to resist any organic change in the Constitution, the most conclusive arguments urged against any such measure will be no bar to his being eventually the very person to carry it through' Parliament. The mode by which the Catholic Relief Bill was carried,—an act in itself just and politic, and which ought to have been settled at the period of the Union, but which owing, to the time and cicumstances under which it was passed has been most unfortunate in its results,—the history of the passing of that measure, and of the series of inroads upon the Protestant Constitution of the country with which it was followed, have gone far to justify the policy adopted in the practice of. Mr. O'Connell, of intimidating, menacing, and embarrassing weak Governments for the purpose of effecting such objects as he may have in view. He has, in fact, learned, by experience, that if he cannot always obtain the whole of his demands, lie very certainly receive an instalment of what he is pleased to call the debt due to Ireland. Your Lordships need hardly be told what the nature and amount of that debt is stated to be at the present day, that it would involve not merely a Repeal of the Legislative Union between England and Ireland, but a severance between the two countries in respect of religion, laws, interests, sympathies, in all but a nominal Sovereignty of the Crown, which feeble bond of union would doubtless soon also be dissolved by the conflicting interests of the two nations, and the demand that would assuredly soon be made that the Sovereign of Ireland should reside among her people. It is, my Lords, to be looked upon as a consequence of the weakness and want of any fixed principle of action in successive Governments in Ireland, of ruling upon an unsound principle of conciliation, consisting not in the faithful and vigorous discharge of the functions of Government, but in compromising the 1127 laws and principles of the constitution, that professional agitators are enabled so easily to teach the Irish population to despise Government, and to join them in assailing the fundamental Institutions of the country, which were designed for the general advantage of the whole country, and not, as it is by some falsely or ignorantly asserted, for the benefit of a particular class or sect—Institutions, which it should at all times be the practice, as it is the duty, of the Executive Government to strengthen and uphold, and by their own example to lead others to respect. What my Lords is the language of Mr. O'Connell with respect to the concessions that have been made at the expence of the Established Church? I will with your permission read a short extract from a speech, reported in the Dublin Evening Post, to have been delivered by him at the great Repeal meeting that took place at Skibbereen about the end of last month.He (Sir James Graham) said that the Catholics took an oath not to disturb the Established Church as settled by law. Why the Protestant Church, as settled by law, when he (Mr. O'Connell) first took the oath, was a different thing from what it was now, when he took that oath first, the Church established by law in Ireland had eighteen Bishops and four Archbishops. And the Protestants themselves cut them down to eight Bishops and two Archbishops. This was a definition of the Church as settled by law; and they said he was bound by the first oath he took; but there could be nothing more ridiculous or absurd. [Cheers.] At that time, too, these Church-rates all over Ireland; they were collected every Easter, and the people well remembered them "Hear." There stood the man who abolished them—[Vehement cheering]. Yes! he took away 72,000l. a-year, which were levied off the Catholic people of Ireland for building Protestant Churches, and he was now told that to the first oath he had taken he should adhere. [Cries of "Oh"]. As he before stated, nothing could be more ridiculous or absurd. Then, with respect to tithes, it should be known that there were no tithes by law now; they were converted into rent-charges; and from that one-fourth had been struck. [Hear, hear.] The law settled their Church, and settled it again, and would continue to settle it; and what he proposed was, that every Parson should be paid by the Protestant who required his Ministry.—[Loud Cheers,"]These sentiments, my Lords, and the manner in which they were received at that great meeting, strikingly, but painfully, exhibit the feelings of a considerable portion of the Roman Catholic population, with respect to the securities taken at the 1128 passing of the Catholic Relief Bill, for the future inviolability of the Protestant Establishment, and of the effect of all the subsequent concessions, professedly designed for its better security. The operation, in fact, of the whole policy of concession, that has been for a long course of years pursued, has been to lower the standard of morality among the people, and to beget feelings of disrespect for the institutions and Government of the country. The course that her Majesty's Government proposes taking, as we have just learned from the noble Duke, is to allow the fever of the Repeal agitation to wear itself out, merely taking the precaution of sending a sufficient military force into the country to be prepared for any outbreak or insurrection. No one, my Lords, for a moment doubts that a comparatively small number of disciplined troops can with ease disperse or overthrow the largest assembly of an undisciplined mob; no one doubts the power of England to strike with effect when she pleases; no one, except the poor deluded peasantry, who are industriously taught to believe their physical and combined strength invincible, and who knowing themselves to be individually brave, believe what they hear, and perhaps long to measure their strength with an adversary. But I must deny that it can consist with the proper objects of a paternal Government thus to jeopardy the lives of our Irish fellowsubjects—thus to confine their care for the country to the contingency of having to take military possession of it, after the outbreak and calamities of an insurrection, the probability of which is indicated by the very precaution of sending the military into the country. I cannot think it consistent with Ministerial duty to look on, as it were, with calmness and indifference at the dangers which threaten, and against which there is but one opinion as to the importance of applying a remedy. It may possibly happen that, after all, there may be no open insurrection. The abundant harvest with which a kind Providence again promises to bless the land, may, by withdrawing for a time the attention of the peasantry from politics to the more grateful task of gathering in the harvest, seem to justify the foresight and sagacity of the Minister. But will any of your Lordships tell me that the Repeal agitation will therefore be without its evil consequences? Can it, with a shadow of I reason, be hoped or believed that the mul- 1129 titudes who have enrolled themselves as Repealers, will so soon forget their pledges, their money paid, and the exciting language of their leaders, which yet rings in their ears? Such a hope, my Lords, is visionary. Is it too a matter of no moment that a precedent should be made for the unchecked holding of meetings declared by the highest law authorities to be illegal and unconstitutional, and to have an inevitable tendency to outrage? Is it a matter of indifference to the Government, that the minds of the population should be day after day poisoned by seditious harangues, and by the dissemination of' opinions utterly opposed to the maintenance of the fundamental institutions of the country, and to that social harmony which the excitement of great political questions in Ireland has so often disturbed? I am quite sure, my Lords, that her Majesty's Government do not feel that indifference to the welfare of the Irish people, which their policy, as now propounded, looking alone to the putting down, and not to the preventing of insurrection would seem to indicate. I would entreat them to look the question of Ireland well in the face, and to show themselves, what 1 am sure they are, well able to cope with its difficulties. If the law is insufficient, as it now stands, to enable them to act with effect, let them, even now, apply to Parliament for such powers as they stand in need of. To a conciliatory policy towards the country at large, no one can, or ought, to object; it is tile very thing that Ireland stands in need of. But conciliation must not consist as heretofore in weakness, vacillation, and compromise, but in upholding the institutions of the country—in administering the law with firmness, vigour, and impartiality — in promoting the social, moral, and physical welfare of the nation, by means of education, and especially by education based upon the only sure, but now abandoned, ground of revealed truth—by the liberal endowment, as in former times, of institutions for the promotion of practical science and of agriculture, and by the undertaking of great public works. In this way the public money will be much more economically and usefully laid out than by sending troops into the country. The advantage to be derived from money so laid out would be immediate and great in the gratitude and returning quiet and contentment of a large population, at present poor and unemployed. The remoter advantages would 1130 be immense in the development of the resources of a country by nature rich, and only poor through the fault of misrule. And I am firmly persuaded that by a judicious expenditure of public money, with this object in view, even the Exchequer would be largely repaid, as the produce of the Excise and other indirect taxes came to indicate the increased consumption of taxed articles, and consequently the increased comforts and enjoyment of the Irish population. But even if money were not granted, great benefit would also result from money advanced for public works, as the Government would thereby, showing confidence in repayments from Ireland, remove much prejudice from the minds of English capitalists against investing their money in that country. I will not, my Lords, further dilate upon this subject, which happily engages much of public attention, and meets with the advocacy of so many at the present moment, but shall conclude the observations, with which I have trespassed upon your Lordships' attention with one remark. My Lords, it is not by flattering the Irish people in their prejudices; it is not by passing hollow compliments to the Roman Catholic priests, as the conservators of the public peace, and aspersing the character of the Irish landlords by vague and general accusations, as if they were at the bottom of all the evils and disturbances of the country, it is not by sacrificing the temporalities of the Established Church and discouraging the Protestant religion in Ireland, least of all is it by excluding the Holy Scriptures from the national schools for the education of the poor, that the condition of Ireland can be improved. But it is by upholding the law, by ruling in the spirit of the fundamental institutions of the country, and by directing the energies of the people to useful and beneficial purposes. It is by these means that the welfare of Ireland and of the empire may be promoted, it is by these means that the Government may become respected, and it is only by such means that with the blessing of Divine Providence, the Union of Great Britain and Ireland can be effectually and permanently consolidated.
§ Earl Fortescue
said, that in the observations he was about to make he should endeavour to confine himself to the subject immediately before the House, and to divest himself as much as possible of all party feelings and prejudices. He had listened with the greatest attention to the 1131 speech of the noble Duke, but he could find in it no grounds for altering the opinion which he had entertained from the first, that the course adopted by the Government in the dismissal of the Irish Magistrates was unconstitutional in its principle, and unfortunate in its results: The noble Duke had dwelt much on the distinction to be made between the attendance of magistrates at repeal meetings before and after the declarations made by himself and his right hon. Colleague, in the other House of Parliament; but he could not admit that the speeches of Ministers in their places in Parliament had the power to add in the least to the obligations which their own sense of duty might impose, either on magistrates or on any other person, to maintain the legislative Union. If the meetings which those magistrates had attended, were of the character which the noble Duke had ascribed to them, the Irish Government ought to have issued a proclamation to put them down in the first instance, and should have followed it up by the steps necessary for giving it effect. That had not been done, and he thought that the magistrates bad been ill-used in being subjected to the penalty of dismissal without due notice. And what had been the result of the proceedings? Many highly respectable gentlemen had voluntarily resigned their commission gentlemen in whom the great mass of the people of Ireland placed the greatest confidence. The noble Duke, had, it appeared to him, treated somewhat too lightly the question of sympathy on the part of the Irish people for the dismissed magistrates. That was a circumstance by no means to be disregarded in the present state of Ireland, where respect for the administration of the law was not of so old a growth as it was in this country, and where it was, therefore, the more necessary to do nothing that could impair it; and what was the time selected for the dismissal of the magistrates? It was the very moment when the Government was introducing into Parliament a measure, giving powers of a very stringent character, for regulating the possession of arms in Ireland. To show some of the effects likely to flow from the removal of the magistrates, he need only point their attention to what had passed at the last meeting of the repeal association. On that occasion, notice was given by Mr. O'Connell of the intention to appoint arbitrators throughout Ireland, to whom the people were ad- 1132 vised to appeal for the settlement of disputes, instead of to the magistracy. Their ' Lordships might be sure, that amongst the very first of those arbitrators appoint' ed would be the dismissed magistrates. It would be impossible to prevent the people from appealing to the arbitrators, and thus the magistracy would be deprived of that portion of their duties which obtained for them popularity and good-will, and would retain only the more ungracious task of imposing penalties and inflicting punishments on offenders. He could not but look upon such a state of things as that as a great calamity. He had, however, heard with much satisfaction, from the speech of the noble Duke, that it was not the intention of the Government, under present circumstances to have recourse to any measure of coercion, as such a proceeding on their part would but aggravate the evils under which Ireland was labouring. But there were measures of a different character, which might justly claim the attentive consideration of the legislature, and which, as he thought, might most advantageously be adopted. He must confess, that he considered one of the greatest grievances of Ireland to consist in the present state of the Protestant church. It had always been his opinion that the existence of a church so disproportionate to the numbers of the people in communion with it, was not only a calamity, but a scandal to the country. He had frequently heard in former times, of the benefits arising from the residence of Protestant clergymen in different parts of Ireland, earning the respect and affection of their neighbours by their exemplary discharge of the duties of resident country gentlemen, even when they had no clerical functions to perform, but he never could agree in that opinion, on the contrary, he felt that the contrast of our richly-endowed clergy with the scantily paid ministers of the great body of the people could not fail to engender feelings of dissatisfaction. He wished to see the two churches placed on an equal footing; both attached to the state, and both paid by the state. There were likewise other evils in the social condition of Ireland which required to be seriously considered, and among them in particular the relation between landlord and tenant, which had formed so prominent a topic in the present agitation, and he feared not without some just ground of complaint. He was well aware of the delicacy and difficulty of any interference with the legal rights of pro- 1133 perty, but he could not help feeling, that "property had its duties as well as its rights." One of the first duties of the possessors of all property, was, undoubtedly, to care for the well-being of their tenantry. In furtherance of this end he should strongly advise that the extensive clearances of estates should be speedily made the subject of Parliamentary enquiry. with a view to some legislative measures on the subject. There were probably few estates in Ireland from which the removal of a part of their population might not be desirable, but that removal should certainly be put under some restrictions. He hail been led to trouble the House with these observations, because he felt that the subjects to which he had referred were among the most prominent sources of the present discontent; at the same time he was fully alive to the difficulties of her Majesty's Government. He did not wish, unnecessarily, to aggravate those difficulties, far from it; but he must say, he thought, that an attentive consideration of all the circumstances of Ireland, with a view to the redress of her manifold grievances was absolutely necessary for ensuring tranquillity, and contentment, to that important portion of the empire, thereby securing the integrity and stability of the whole.
The Earl of Mount-Edgccumbe
said, that this must not be considered a generally Irish question; on the contrary, it was a question in which the people of all parts of the empire were interested, and he felt that on that ground he might be excused fir addressing to their Lordships a few passing observations. Judging from the course taken by the magistrates, he could not but think that the Government was fully justified in dismissing them. Every one knew what were the duties of a magistrate, and what was the character of the contract into which he entered on assuming office. It was his duty not only to lay down and enforce the law, but as far as possible to prevent the possibility of its infringement. Now, would anybody dispute that those meetings were calculated to produce great excitement and alarm? The noble Marquess opposite had talked of the injustice of punishing the magistrate; he should have remembered, however, that the magistrate was not appointed for his own honour or advantage, but for the purpose of maintaining the law and supporting the Government in the maintenance of the law; and the act of countenancing the repeal agitation therefore did, in fact, render him unfit 1134 for the trust reposed in him. With respect to the state of the population of Ireland, he had always been ready to avow that it was a foul disgrace on the character of this country. It was a blot on our escutcheon, which completely precluded us from claiming that station among the nations of the civilised world which, upon every other account we were certainly entitled to. Holding that opinion, whilst he should-be most happy to join the Government in controlling — aye, even in punishing those who were playing with the sufferings of the Irish people, he did not hesitate to say, that he should shrink from any measure which, having a penal effect, would add a bitter drop to Ireland's already sufficiently wretched lot. It was difficult, most difficult, for him to say what remedies ought to be applied; perhaps there were none which were not to a certain extent objectionable. As, however, a physician in the crisis of an alarming disorder was sometimes obliged to resort to medicines scarcely less injurious to the constitution than the disorder itself', so in a case of this kind the Government, if necessary, must not hesitate to have recourse to strong, and even at other times, objectionable enactments. If this was a proceeding which would meet with condemnation on the one side, they might depend on it that less energetic steps would by their opponents be attributed to their fears, and would be succeeded by measures having for their object to enforce further concessions. There might be some doubt, it was true, as to how far some who now supported the administration would go along with them if they adopted a bolder policy. For his own part, however, if they threw aside what he would call their "old opinions," lie should not hesitate to support them in any just measures they might propose; and if this was considered to be engaging over much, he would beg those who heard him to remember that the present was a Government in which he placed implicit confidence, and that the present crisis was of a character which might perhaps best be described as the preliminary of a civil war.
The Earl of Glengall
said, that, with respect to the propriety of the conduct of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and the Government in the superseding of magistrates, which, was, after all, the real question for consideration, no man could doubt but that Government was fully justified in that super session. But the manner of it was quite another thing—and, for his 1135 part, he regretted that the manner was not as equally correct as the act itself; he could wish that those letters to which so much attention had been drawn had not been written; but, that the offending magistrates had been dismissed solely on the facts and merits of each case. Looking at the dismissal, by these letters, in a constitutional point of view, much, undoubtedly, might be said; but, on that branch of the subject, he would not enter, preferring to leave it in the bands of noble Lords whose eminent knowledge and experience better qualified them for such considerations. On the subject of the great and intense sympathy felt by the people in Ireland with those superseded magistrates, much, indeed a little too much, had been said. The sympathy was not quite so strong nor so general as noble Lords seemed to imagine, because it was apparent that in the cases of many of those magistrates, the people must be aware that in their voluntary martyrdom, political and party motives had a good deal to do, and he thought many of them had since found out that they were not quite the martyrs they desired to be. And though he did not deny, and did not attempt to conceal from himself, that the public would sustain some loss by the retirement of some of those gentlemen, who were remarkably good and efficient magistrates, he must be permitted to ask, whether others superseded, had been efficient and in the habit of attending to the duties of the magisterial bench. Of such he must respectfully say, that perhaps their loss would not, by their brother magistrates nor by the public, be very sensibly felt. A good deal of observation had been directed to the institution of the arbitrators, as it was called, which was said to be con, templated—and which, in fact, was to subvert all judicature and all courts of justice, for it would be seen that the plan contemplated the setting aside of not magistrates alone, hut all other and higher courts of law. In that plan, or rather in that proposal and menace there was nothing new. He remembered perfectly well that in the year 1829, previous to the time when Government came down to Parliament and declared its intention to concede Catholic emancipation, precisely the same plan was suggested, the same menace was held out. It was a mere political move, and nothing more—and to it he could not attach any considerable weight. And now with regard to those repeal meetings, he could not conceive how any noble Lord could say 1136 that they were legal. Let noble Lords remember the case of the meetings at Manchester in 1819, and point out any difference between such vast assemblages collected in the one ease as repeal meetings, in the other as reform meetings. In. the Manchester case, the objects were vote by ballot and universal suffrage, and those other equally wild theories advocated then by Mr. Hunt, by whom the memorable meeting to which in particular he alluded was convened. For the part he then took Mr. Hunt was prosecuted and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. And what was his crime? The charge was, that he had countenanced or convened a tumultuous assembly—an assembly of many thousand persons ostensibly met for the purpose of petitioning, but marching in regular military array, with bands and banners, and the other insignia of organization. lint before Mr. Hunt had addressed that meeting at all, it was dispersed and persons were cut down. The meeting was dispersed and prisoners made, although no actual breach of the peace had been committed—no treason had been uttered, as it was uttered daily in Ireland. In Ireland those meetings were accompanied with all those insignia of organization—the vast multitudes assembled in regular array, marshalled in battalions, headed by leaders, and attended by bands and banners, and foulest treason was spoken. He should wish noble Lords, who talked so frequently and so much about the necessity of assimilation between the countries, about the duty of applying the same principles and the same laws to both countries, to explain why the same principles and the same laws were not to be applied in cases thus almost identical—nay, why the law should be applied where the case was less strong, should be slighted where the guilt was more manifest? He should like to learn whence arose, and what was the difference that rendered that which was illegal at Manchester, legal at Waterford? On the legality of such meetings that eminent authority Lord Plunket had pronounced his opinion—and all who had heard must remember the powerful, the convincing, and unanswerable speech then delivered by that noble Lord. Another consideration which should not be lost sight of—was the state of the people. He was the last man that would propose or recommend measures of an unconstitutional character, or sanction the granting to Government powers beyond the ordinary powers of law and of the ex. 1137 ecutive; but he could not conceive how any well-wisher to Ireland, how any friend of law and of the constitution, could refuse such powers if asked for, when the alarming and critical condition of the country was considered, when the whole mass of the population was subjected to the poisonous influences of daring sedition. He could refer to instances where strong measures had been adopted, when the necessity for them was not one-tenth part as strong as at present. Forbearance was to be commended, but forbearance had its limits; forbearance might be carried too far, and in mercy to all Ireland it was the duty of the Government, it was the duty of Parliament to do all that Government and Parliament could do, in order to afford some better protection than mere military means and the presence of a military force. That protection they ought to provide for the poor deluded people, who were fed with hopes in which they were sure to be most miserably disappointed; they were the par_ ties who really required the greatest degree of protection; it was a solemn duty to guard them against the advice and instigation of fanatic and mischievous leaders, and to arrest them by a strong but friendly arm in that progress which would plunge them into all the horrors of a rebellion. He did earnestly hope that there should be given, and promptly given, some effectual demonstration of opinion and resolve, which might have the effect of opening the eyes of the poor misguided masses of his fellow-countrymen to the perils of their career. There was another class to whom protection was due, for whom protection was necessary—the Roman Catholic gentry of that country, his respected brethren, who resided on their estates, gentlemen of station, of respectability, of sincere devotion to the laws and constitution, a class than which there was none more deeply interested in the preservation of tranquility. Of them he must say, that their present state was even worse, if possible, than that of the Protestant gentry, for they were marked out as the first objects of a sure revenge in case they did not fall into the ranks of repeal. For their sakes, therefore, something should be done, for their sakes, if for no other reason, an energetic line of policy ought to be pursued, With respect to the Protestant gentry, to his poor Protestant brethren—those who were daily, nay hourly, subjected to menaces and insult, who were taunted as Saxons and intruders, and bearded with displays of physical force—did they—die 1138 his poor Protestant, fellow-countrymen not deserve all the protection that was clue to firm, faithful and forbearing loyalty? They saw multitudinous assemblages of their adversaries held, they heard insulting harangues delivered and taunts and menaces repeated, and saw green flags, bearing inflammatory devices, emblems of 1798, and the harp without the crown, waved through fairs and markets—ay, waved in their very faces; and to all this they were constrained to submit; while those who so acted, escaped unpunished and unquestioned; but if the Protestants dared to assemble to commemorate occasions and express opinions dearer to them than life—if they displayed the purple flag they were deemed guilty of a crime against the law and were punished. Yet he was happy, he was proud to refer to their conduct on those memorable anniversaries, the first and twelfth of this present month. See how those anniversaries had passed by. Notwithstanding the annoyances, the insults, the real persecution to which his poor Protestant fellow-countrymen had been sub, jected, not a man, as far as he had learned, had on those days marched in procession. This was most creditable to them; it was a matter of joy and pride to their friends. For his part he could only say, that the present course of the Government—the forbearance policy—might be right; he sincerely trusted that it would be successful, and that that House and the country would have to thank her Majesty's Government. But suppose it did not succeed, what would be their position? what would they say then? He had a very shrewd guess what the country would say, but he could not guess how the Government would then account for its supineness. Forbearance ! Their Lordships had much of that, but he would ask, what on earth was the Government waiting for? Were they waiting until the whole population of the country was simultaneously assembled under their fanatical leaders—were they waiting until they were marched in military array to the appointed rendezvous—were they waiting until the signal fires should blaze from Donegal to Kinsale (and those fires had been rehearsed already between Limerick and Waterford)—were they waiting until New Ross and Wexford were in possession of the revolutionists—or did the "do nothing" people wait until in the north another Wolfe Tone appeared with a hostile fleet off Carrickfergus, or another Hoche with another armament was found in Ban- 1139 try Bay, in the south? Such things happened forty-five years ago—and might occur in 1845. Could they wait until another Humbert gained another victory at Castlebar? Forbearance under some cir- cumstances was a virtue, but it might be carried too far and become a crime. Let them remember that "the wise and valiant conquer difficulties by daring to defy them, whilst the timid shrink from the sound of fear and danger, and create the impossibilities they dread." Their Lordships had done already a vast deal for Ireland in the way of concession. They had already conceded Emancipation, the Church Temporalities Act, Grand Juries and Criminal Juries Acts, and Municipal Corporation Reform. They had also repealed the Subletting Act; and let them see what little satisfaction these concessions had given. What return had they received? —what did the Repealers want? That be knew, but he would not at present say. With respect to the corporations, they were all, with the single exception of that of Belfast, repeal conventions—nay, even the boards of Poor-law guardians had formed themselves into repeal committees. The noble Lord opposite had rather thrown a slur on the appointments made by the Government in Ireland. It was complained that they had appointed their own friends to office. That was very true; but noble Lords opposite ought to be the last to complain of, that—for, if ever there was a Government unscrupulous in its appointments of friends and partisans, that was the Government to which noble Lords opposite belonged. He did not quarrel with them for those appointments, but, nevertheless, he thought they should not have taken their Attorney-general out of the National Association. He was not one of those who advocated the wretched policy of abandoning one's friends for the sake of gaining one's adversaries. If there was one reason why, more than any other, he gloried in being an Irish Conservative it was that scarcely a man of that party had, during the thirteen years that noble Lords opposite had been in power, abandoned his colours or surrendered his opinions for base lucre. Another grievance — a grievance for want of a better—was the fixity of tenure. This, of course, was an attack upon the landed interest. He had no objection to the suggestion of the noble Earl (Earl Fortescue) who spoke last but one, that there should be a legislative inquiry into the circumstances and relationship of 1140 landlord and tenant in Ireland; but he would venture to express his firm conviction that the landlords of Ireland, if the people of England knew the whole truth, would be pitied instead of being abused. Of the bonâ fide landlords, those who were possessed of 10,000l. down to 2,000l. a year, he would say that no men strove more heartily to benefit their tenants, but the difficulties with which they had to contend were frightful. It was heart-rending to endeavour to do good and to fail. It was quite true that there was a class of landlords amongst the middlemen, bankrupt landlords, whose circumstances might compel them occasionally to commit or permit hardships; but surely all the rest were not to be blamed for the conduct of those unfortunate persons. It often happened, too, that low attorneys were in possession of lands under the courts; and they, acting with strictness in the management of the estates in their hands, might also, and very often did, inflict severe hardships upon tenants. All these things were talked about; the people of England heard of them, but without the necessary explanations; and, moreover, nothing was lost in the talking of them, but a great deal more was often added. But there was a great deal of political business frequently mixed up with the relation between landlords and tenants. After the passing of the Emancipation Act, it became necessary for those who wished to wield power over the people to disunite landlord and tenant, in order that they might be the easier used for political purposes, for without that power they would not be able to marshal the people at the hustings. Formerly, however, the landlord and tenant considered themselves as Members of one and the same family; it was not then a very safe thing for one landlord to oppress or annoy the tenant of his neighbour; and frequently would a landlord risk his life for the protection of his tenant, who might be oppressed by a bad neighbour. The I landlord was, in those days, ready to risk his life for his tenant. Another very singular fact connected with this agitation was, that there was a little Roman Catholic Church temporalities business mixed up with this fixity of tenure cry. The people of England should know that the Roman Catholic clergy receive dues voluntarily paid by the Roman Catholic population, consequently the greater the population the greater the amount of dues they received. The Roman Catholic priest had, therefore, 1141 a direct interest in the subdivision of property—the greater the number of small holdings on an estate the better for the income of the priest. The large farms were not near so valuable to them, even though held by Roman Catholics. How would English landlords, noblemen, or gentlemen like to have their estates cut up into small portions of five or six acres, and fixity of tenure established? Just let them think of that, when they heard the landlords of Ireland upbraided. In later years agriculture in Ireland had vastly improved. Great numbers of the Protestant gentry, and very many of the Roman Catholic gentry too, had, for purposes of improvement, taken their own land partly into their own hands, and managed farms of from 500 to 1,000 acres, from which, therefore, the Roman Catholic clergyman got nothing, when held by Protestants: but, if held by a Catholic landlord, he might receive from that whole farm perhaps 15l. Now, if the estate was cut up into those small divisions, he might get from 80l. to 100l. Thus it was manifest that the interests of the priest were clearly mixed up with the subdivision of land. The noble Lord opposite had mentioned something about the revenues of the church. Upon that subject he would not touch, further than to say he should very much like to see any administration either the present, or one from the other side of the House, dissolve Parliament, and go to the country upon that question. Any administration that did so, would itself be left in a minority much greater than the majority that sustained the present Government. With respect to Irishmen filling Irish situations, he was desirous of saying that he should be glad to see the Duke of Leinster or the noble Marquess opposite, Lords-lieutenant of Ireland, if the other party were in power; for he was certain that the other party could not do more mischief than their predecessors, any how. It had been the fashion for an English Lord-lieutenant and English gentlemen to go over to Ireland replete with their newfangled theories and prejudices, and just as they began to discover their tremendous blunders, they were recalled to their native land, to be succeeded by another batch of the same sort of persons, equally qualified to thump upon the same rocks and tumble into the same quicksands from which their predecessors were only just extricated, fit objects for the care of the Humane Society. Another grievance complained of was sending over English Lord Chancellors to Ire- 1142 land—and on this subject he was rather on the side of the grievance-mongers. It should be remembered that when a former Government had desired to promote an eminent lawyer, orator, and statesman, Lord Plunket, to the office of Master of the Rolls in England, Gray's-inn, Lincoln's-inn and Westminster-hall all rose in dread commotion,;became absolutely tumultuous in opposition to such an appointment. But when that eminent lawyer was displaced from the office of Chancellor in Ireland, and another appointed, the Irish bar retaliated —then arose their cry of reciprocity and free trade in Chancellors. Nothing could have been more untoward—nothing more inopportune, than the arrival of the Scotch Chancellor, unless it were the arrival of Scotch coaches. With regard to lawyers and coaches, the Irish people were desirous of nothing but pure Irish manufacture. Now, to turn to a more serious subject, the stagnation of trade in Ireland. Those who complained of the stagnation should remember that it had been increased if not caused by the agitation that harassed the country. If any imagine that a matter to be deplored—that would tend to undeceive them as to the agitation, it would open their eyes—banish their errors—for as passive resistance would cause non-payment of tithes, rents, taxes, cess, and everything else, the people would keep the money in their pockets, and would be much better off to be sure than if it was in the pockets of the landlord, or in the coffers of the treasury, and stagnation of trade could then be a matter of little regret. But, to deal with the subject more seriously. He would ask those who imagined that the agitation would subside, what reason they had for that opinion? Why, the chief agitator, leader, general, director—dictator, for that was his proper appellation, laughed at such an idea—he declared that nothing the Government could do could stop the agitation ! The Government made declarations, but the great dictator looked on the declaration as mere words, and the people thought so ton. Every day but added to the numbers and strength of that agitation. Did a former agitation in Ireland subside until emancipation was carried? Did the French disaffection subside? Did it not go on until it ended in revolution? Were not the King and Queen and nobility of France, and I afterwards the Roman Catholic clergy and religion destroyed? Did not the senate of France afterwards declare that there was no God? Are you waiting for such events as 1143 these, (exclaimed the noble Lord); I would offer one word of advice to the Roman Catholic priesthood. I would point out to them the danger of the career they are now pursuing. I would beg of them to turn to the pages of history, and there read the results of revolutions to the Roman Catholic Church. Let them remember that the revolution in the United States of Holland destroyed the Roman Catholic Church there; that in England our glorious revolution was most destructive to the interests of the Roman Catholic Church; and that in France, in 1790, the Roman Catholic religion was annihilated. Let them turn to the new world, and there see how, again, the interests of the Roman Catholic Church in Spanish America were blighted. Let them see what happened again in France, in 1830. Whose was the first palace sacked, whose the first life sought? Those of the Roman Catholic Archbishops of Paris. And in Spain, only the other day, let them see how the nunneries and monasteries were demolished, and the revenues of the church confiscated and plundered. Let them, I say, reflect on these things. Surely it is the duty of the Roman Catholic priesthood, as ministers of the Christian religion, to teach their followers good fellowship towards their neighbours, and the duty of man to man to preserve peace, to respect authority, and to do that which is right to all, instead of suffering themselves to be led away by fanatical leaders, and rushing into all the miseries and horrors of a revolution.
The Earl of Wicklow
did not regret this motion, but he did the manner in which it had been discussed. He believed that the dismissal of the magistrates was unconstitutional and unjust, and the grounds for it appeared to him to be totally untenable. It had been stated by the noble Marquess, that no notice was taken of their conduct until after the declaration of Ministers in this House; but that declaration made no alteration whatever. The noble Duke had said, that when the declaration was made in Parliament it became a matter of notoriety that the Government determined to maintain the Union, and, therefore, the magistrates ought to have known their duty; but that did not afford the slightest ground for the conduct of the Lord Chancellor. There were times in this country when the carrying of the Catholic Emancipation Act was thought just as remote and impossible as the carrying of the Repeal of the Union now. It wits by peti 1144 tions got up at public meetings, coming in, as they did, to Parliament., that that measure had been carried. In his opinion, therefore, the grounds laid for the dismissal of those magistrates for attending those Repeal meetings were unconstitutional and unjust; but at the same time lie must state his opinion that these magistrates had been properly dismissed from their office, for it was impossible for any magistrate who attended those meetings, and heard the insults heaped on this country, and the outrageous language applied to everything dignified and exalted in this country, to do his duty as a magistrate subsequently. If any magistrate were quietly to stand by and not protest against the language used at those meetings, which they knew none of these gentlemen had attempted to do, he would say that on that ground, and on that ground alone, they were unworthy to hold their commissions. Agreeing with the noble Lord's resolution so far, was he called upon to give his vote in accordance with it? By no means. He had been long enough a Member of that House to know how to construe and consider the phraseology of resolutions proposed to Parliament. He considered the resolution proposed to imply nothing more nor less than a consure on the Government; and if he were by his vote to say he would censure her Majesty's Ministers, and thereby tend to dismiss them from their places, and place in their stead noble Lords opposite to fill them, he was bound to consider something more than the resolution, namely, what the consequence to the country would be from passing it. He found in office men who in their acts of government, whether foreign or domestic, had in his opinion performed their duty in the best manner for the interests of the country. He had not been able since they came into office to place his finger on a single act of theirs of which he did not approve. Allusion had been made to their appointments in Ireland; but there was not one of them which did not reflect on the Ministers and on the object of their choice the greatest honour. In their appointments for the Church they had selected the best and fittest men, without regard to party or any other consideration. Under these circumstances, when he compared their acts with the acts of those who must be their successors, lie considered that in giving his vote to keep them in office, he considered he did that which tended most to the welfare of his 1145 country. They had heard a great deal from the noble Lord opposite on the back benches (Earl Fortescue) and from others, against the Government for doing nothing, and that they were called "the do-nothing Administration." He had heard much on this subject, but no two men ever agreed upon it. Some said, "Why don't Ministers come down to Parliament and ask for further powers?" Others praised them for not asking for further powers, but blamed them for not showing energy in other quarters. He conceived that Government had best done their duty to the public by not asking for any further powers; he considered the laws of the country were enough for any present emergency. He was satisfied, from the conduct of the Government, that they had an anxious eye towards Ireland, and he was convinced that the disturbers of the public peace in that country knew it too; and he was as satisfied as that lie addressed their Lordships that there was not the least danger of any outbreak there. He trusted to the great influence of Mr. O'Connell himself and to the priesthood of the country to prevent this. If he knew the character of the individual he had alluded to, he would not excite them to actual outbreak, because if he had the least spark of honour in his breast, having goaded the people on to outbreak, he would be ready to take his share in it. It was for that reason that he did not apprehend any danger of any outbreak. As to the measures of conciliation required, they were told by the leaders of this agitation what they desired when they told the people what they would give them when they had their own Parliament. They told them that they must have universal suffrage and annual Parliaments. Was the noble Baron opposite prepared to give them that? They must have fixity of tenure, which meant confiscation of landed property. The noble Earl opposite said, he would give some consideration to that subject; but he would ask the noble Earl, could such a measure be at once introduced? Then they demanded a total sacrifice of the Established Church. The noble Earl had intimated that he was willing to make concessions on that point. The noble Earl had stated that the condition of the Established Church in Ireland was an anomaly, He would ask the noble Earl when he and his party were ten years in office, why had they not proposed something on the subject? The noble Earl's party never thought of subverting the Church; 1146 they had brought forward a measure which had an invidious tendency regarding the Church in Ireland, but they had said they did it to support and uphold the Church. They did it under false pretences. And yet, for not bringing forward measures of this kind, the present Ministers were taunted with not doing their duty. From what lie had read in the public press of what had passed in another House on this subject, he did declare to their Lordships that he had been perfectly disgusted with the leaders of the Whig party for their conduct. He had never been more astonished than on reading the speeches of noble:Lords and hon. Gentlemen who had held high office under the former Government, and who had remained ten years in office without redressing grievances of which they now complained; and then when they saw the Government embarrassed under the circumstances of the country, for party and factious motives they lent themselves further to embarrass the Government. It was enough to disgust the country with the professions of public men. It had been stated as one of the great evils of the dismissal of the Irish magistrates that the remainder of the magistrates were to be ' superseded by the voluntary appointment of arbitrators. He had not the slightest apprehension of this. This had been merely spoken of by Mr. O'Connell, and had got into the public prints, and it was now taken for granted that such would be the case. But what power would those arbitrators have to enforce their decisions? Was it to be supposed that the Protestant inhabitants would go to these arbitrators? Or that the aggrieved and defeated party would rest satisfied with their decisions. The thing was absurd, and the threat held out was futile. He was disposed to think that the present agitation would wear gradually away. His noble Friend who had just sat down thought it would continue, as the agitation for the Roman Catholic Emancipation had done. But the emancipation agitation never could have succeeded if it had been confined to Ireland. Emancipation had been conceded because the majority of the people of this country were opposed to the further continuance of restrictions upon the Roman Catholics, and because Emancipation was in accordance with common sense and justice. If the Repeal of the Union were a question of the same kind, if it ever were advocated by a majority of the thinking people of this country, then lie said it ought to 1147 pass into law, as had the Roman Catholic Emancipation, because it would be based on justice and reason; but till that took place, so long as this agitation was confined to the mere mass of the people, and not even to them, he did not think such a measure either ought or would pass into a law. He believed that this question was merely had recourse to for the purpose of intimidating this country; lie believed the great body of the country were indifferent about it, and that, though they attended repeal meetings in great masses, they unwillingly appeared. He believed the Roman Catholic priests incited these meetings to show their power, and that there was a malignant feeling at the bottom of it to give encouragement to our enemies in France and America. He did not believe that those who attended these meetings ever thought that there was any possibility of carrying their object. If this were so could it be supposed that this agitation could go? He firmly believed that the individual at the bottom of all this agitation was grievously disappointed that some measure of coercion had not been adopted. He thought that the resolution went to condemn a Government of which he most heartily approved, and he therefore should give it his most strenuous opposition.
§ Earl Fortescue
in explanation, begged to state that his opinions with regard to the Established Church in Ireland were opinions which he had entertained for a long time. With respect to the opinion of the noble Earl as to his consistency, after the expressions the noble Earl had applied to this motion, as contrasted with the vote he was about to give—after the expression of his own inconsistency, it very little troubled him what opinion the noble Earl might entertain of him.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
confessed, that though his noble Friend bad promised his vote to the Government, and made a handsome apology for them, yet after his speech he had almost expected that he would vote against them. He denied that the dismissal of the magistrates had taken place on unconstitutional grounds. The Government would not have done its duty if it had allowed them to remain in the commission of the peace any longer after what they had done. It was said, that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland had dismissed these magistrates for not attending to what had been said in both Houses of Parliament as to the determination of Ministers to support the union of the two 1148 countries. He took upon him to say that they had not been dismissed for any such thing. It was stated distinctly in the Lord Chancellor's letter that they were dismissed because their attending these repeal meetings was an evidence to the Government that in case their services should be required for the purpose of putting down any disturbances which might accrue from these meetings, they could not be trusted, for they themselves had excited the people to the very acts complained of. He was told that it was very unfair not to give them any warning; but they had had warning enough. They had been told by both Houses of Parliament, under a former and under the present Government, that the Government were determined to support the Union. Turning from that point he came to the attack which had been made upon the Government by the noble Earl on the back benches. The noble Earl stated, that the Government had taken the worst means of dismissing those magistrates. It was very true, that many very useful magistrates had been dismissed; but looking at the state of the country—looking to what was going forward there, they were totally unfit to be retained or continued in the commission of the peace. Some of those Gentlemen had thought fit to dismiss themselves, and he was very glad they had embraced the martyrdom so much eulogised by those who thought with them. With respect to the attack which had been made upon them for, as was said, doing nothing with reference to this agitation, there were only two courses to pursue under such circumstances—namely, to act vigorously, and demand other laws than those now in operation, or not to do so; and, on mature consideration, the Government had determined to adopt that line which they called forbearance; and time would show whether they were right or not. Anything was better than that a Government should take strong measures, and call into action extraordinary powers of law, unless they had a strong case; and unless they could come down to Parliament and defend themselves for so doing on the ground of the state of the country. He asked, then, whether there was any reason for their so coming down, or for their making use of force to suppress these meetings? Let the House, however, not think, if it should become their duty to take those measures, that they would not do so; but let their Lordships also re- 1149 member, that the first blow struck would lead to bloodshed and to violence, which it would be afterwards difficult to arrest or remedy. If they had thought it right to interrupt these meetings by military force, and blood had been shed, they would, in his opinion, have stood in a twenty-times worse position than they did at present. They now stood prepared for whatever might happen; and, should the peace be broken, they would be found to do their duty, but they would not be driven to be the first to take measures which might involve the country in bloodshed. They were anxious to prevent revolution: and they hoped that their forbearance, anti their resistance to the strongest pressure that could be put on men, viz, the charge that they were not satisfying their supporters, would lead to nothing that might bring on such a state of things. They were, at all events, resolved not to be the first to begin such a state of things; but should necessity arise for a different course from that which they were now pursuing, they would be found to do their best to meet the occasion. A government was placed in a frightful position if it took measures of a severe character and failed, and a government should never bark, to use a homely phrase, before they could bite, and take care that when they did so they caught fast hold. Such, then, was the course the Government had followed; and he flattered himself that it would be successful; nay, more, he had confidence that it would, and every day that passed convinced him that they had chosen the right course, and that the evil complained of was weakening. And, though he did not think Mr. O'Connell was yet quite prepared to give up the course he was engaged in, yet he really believed that he would hail interference on the part of the Government. If anything should happen to render it necessary, he hoped that Parliament and the country would give the Government increased means and powers, should they be required, the more readily because of their refusal to ask for them till the last moment. The noble Lord, in conclusion, paid a handsome compliment to the manner in which the Irish Protestants had conducted themselves during the recent proceedings in Ireland, and observed that the Government would be ungrateful indeed, if they did not acknowledge that it was mainly attributable to their demeanour that the whole of Ireland was not now in a flame.
The Marquess of Downshire
expressed the great satisfaction he derived from the statement he had just beard from the noble Lord the President of the Council—a statement which he was confident would be productive of feelings of the highest satisfaction amongst the Protestants of Ireland. He had received a letter from a magistrate of the county of Down, which was confirmatory of all that had been said by his noble Friend the President of the Council. The writer stated:—The 12th has passed off more peaceably than the lit, and the people have behaved as well as their best friends could wish.Such had been the conduct of the whole body of the Protestants of Ireland; and he rejoiced in the terms of approbation in which they had been spoken of in the course of the present debate; and if there was any reward that could prove acceptable, next to the approval of his own conscience, it would be that expressed approbation. He trusted that it would also have a salutary effect on their opponents, showing them that if they respected the law, and obeyed the advice of their true friends, they also would obtain the same reward in the commendation and praise of her Majesty's Government, and of all really patriotic men. He had within the last few days been present at the meeting of the Agricultural Society of Derby; and, as much had been said about the poverty of Ireland, he could not but wish that, instead of turning their attention to repeal agitation, the people would look to the improvement and cultivation of the land of their birth. He had himself done his duty in promoting the industrious habits of the population, and thereby advancing their real interests. He felt such to be his duty, for he had seen the benefits thereby conferred. In that course he trusted to be permitted to persevere, and he earnestly hoped that he and others so disposed would meet with aid from the people themselves and those who possessed much influence to such an end. He did sincerely trust that the Roman Catholic clergy, leaving the turmoil of party strife to others, would join, heart and hand, in efforts that must promote the welfare of the people. With regard to the present motion, he must observe that it would be impossible for the Gentlemen who had been dismissed from the commission of the peace to interfere or read the riot act in assemblies which they themselves had been instrumental in inciting.
§ The Earl of Charleville
said, he should 1151 be very sorry if it could have been supposed that it was from any discourtesy, or any purpose of annoyance, that he had cheered and smiled at a certain portion of the speech of the noble Earl, lately Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (Earl Fortescue). That smile had only been caused by what lie could not help considering the noble Lord's exaggerated description of a bill introduced into the other House of Parliament. The noble Earl had stated, that that Arms' Bill contained clauses of a most despotic character, and much more stringent than those contained in any former act. He could not but recollect that, in days not very far distant, a measure had been introduced and carried, which contained clauses more deserving the epithet "despotic"—a measure allowing a magistrate to break into houses in search of arms. It was an act which deprived the Irish people of the trial by jury, and prevented them from assembling, even for the purpose of petitioning Parliament, without the previous permission of the Lord Lieutenant. Nay, further, it empowered any person holding a warrant from a magistrate to break open houses and search for arms—and in place of the offender being tried by a jury of his countrymen, as was proposed by the present arms bill, that measure which had received the sanction and approval of the noble Marquess who had introduced the motion, and of the noble Earl who bad lately held the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, subjected him to trial by court-matial; and, therefore, he was surprised that that noble Earl had alluded to the Arms Bill, now in another place, in the terms which he had used. But the noble Marquess had astonished him in selecting the ground which be had chosen, as the ground for a vote of censure on the present administration. He could not agree with his noble Friend who spoke from that side, that those dismissals were either "unjust or unconstitutional," though he admitted that it was a ground which that noble Earl was entitled to take. But he was surprised that the noble Marquess should have been seized with that new-born zeal—he who, in 1832, allowed Sir It. Nagle and Colonel Pierce Butler to be dismissed for attending anti-tithe meetings, without making any complaint, or moving, as he had in this instance moved, a vote of censure on the Government; and he did think that gentlemen who attended meetings of such a character were not entitled to 1152 be retained in the commission of the peace. That the agitation which existed in Ireland had reached a very fearful height, no man could doubt. All loyal, peaceable, and well-disposed persons were terrified by those large assemblages. The numbers might have been exaggerated, but still it was manifest that the people did assemble in very great numbers, and under such control by their leaders, that it could not be doubted that they were ready to perpetrate anything to which they should, by those leaders be urged. He felt that the Government was entitled, to a certain extent, to thanks for the precautions they had taken—but it was too much to expect that the loyal and devoted subjects of the Queen should be exposed to the losses and system of terrorism now prevailing—and to many other inconveniences, without the law being put into force and some measure being adopted to prevent the continuance of such evils. As to the legality or illegality of the various meetings alluded to he would not venture an opinion in the presence of other more competent judges —and, perhaps, variety of opinion may exist. But when it was remembered that the people assembled on the Sabbath day, a day dedicated to devotional purposes, by those differing from the great body of those so assembled in religious belief, it was not impossible that those so engaged in religious duties might be seized in a body before any assistance could reach them. That did alarm—that did cause great terror. It did appear extraordinary, if the law held forth no remedy for those things in Ireland, since then it differed so materially from the law in England—he must ask, in great humility, if noble Lords and others were exposed to such alarms and dangers in their own counties, was it likely that they would rest submissive, and contented, as the loyal people of Ireland had done? He extremely regretted that his noble Friend, the Lord President of the Council, had held out no hope that the law would be exercised with vigour, and that a stop would be put to such dangerous proceedings. He deprecated coercion, and coercion acts—be believed them to be unnecessary. But when their Lordships recollected the talent, standing, ability, and learning of the individual who headed the agitation in Ireland—when they remembered that he had been constantly instilling into the minds of the people that those meetings were legal, he thought it was the duty of the Government to take some steps 1153 to inform the loyally-disposed people of all religions whether those meetings were legal or not, because his own conviction was, that a very great majority of the people of Ireland were still well and loyally disposed. He believed that at those meetings many were induced to attend from fear, others attended from curiosity—some were compelled to attend by spiritual advice from the Roman Catholic altars, and a very small portion of those who attended were wickedly disposed. If the Government had in the first instance fairly and firmly met the difficulty in the face, and courageously allowed the magistrates to warn the people against attending those meetings he solemnly and seriously believed that Mr. O'Connell's objects would have been more defeated than even by the forbearing policy which his noble Friend the President of the Council had boasted was likely to defeat him. He believed that by such a course those objects would have been defeated without that injury which he regretted to say was inflicted on the country by the paralysation of labour, and the excitement in the minds of the people, inducing them to believe that great revolutions were at hand—that property was about to be confiscated, distress removed, and those who now laboured under distress made the possessors of the soil. Such representations as those had prevented the poor people coming over, as they had been accustomed to do, to attend to the harvest in England. Also, in the west of Ireland, where the first potato crop had failed, the poor people were by these representations prevented resolving the land—all which causes greatly tended to increase the difficulties under which the people constantly laboured, and the poverty which all must deplore. In the autumn of last year, and many times since, he had received numerous communications from all parts of the country, and from persons of all religious persuasions, and he would now read to their Lordships a short extract from a letter which he had received from a Roman Catholic priest, who, he believed, was coerced to go with the crowd, anti obliged to subscribe to the Repeal fund and the tribute. The extract was this:—Attempts will be made to damage me with my people, and to sever the ties that bind me and them together. Is not this too bad' I look upon Repeal agitation as a regular humbug. I think it is a pity to see persons wasting their time, and money, and energies in so hopeless a project. I believe 1154 they could be far better engaged on Sundays than in attending political meetings, the chief result of which is to disturb the peace of society. These are my convictions, and they seem to me well founded; but then it appears, from the temper of the times and the colossal proportions which Repeal agitation is assuming, that I, and all sober-minded men of my order, must take one or other horn of a dilemma— either abandon your convictions and go with the crowd, or resign the government of your people. Was there ever anything so provoking? I am disposed to live in peace with all my neighbours—to avoid useless political turmoil—to do all I can for the temporal and spiritual welfare of my flock; and this I am not allowed to do. I must become an agitator, I must collect the tribute, I must attend public meetings and dinners. I have taken the liberty of throwing out my thoughts to you quite candidly; and they are the thoughts and sentiments of many of my order, who, to save their own interests, give no utterance to them, but prefer going with the current.Before the repeal agitation began, they were beginning to know something of social peace in Ireland. Irish Members who had been too long separated and kept in violent opposition to each other upon that all-engrossing topic of Roman Catholic emancipation, were beginning to be drawn closer together—to meet upon common ground, to discuss Irish subjects and Irish interests—to commence, in fact the formation of an Irish party, not in an invidious or obnoxious sense, but a party acting together in the consideration of Irish subjects, and in support of those measures which they thought would be beneficial to the general interests of their country. He alluded to no political subject, but to matters involving the general interests of the community, such as the construction of railways, the developing of natural resources, and making provision for the destitute poor—on which subject it was felt by the Irish people, however willing to endure a tax for the relief of the really destitute, that an English Poor-law, with all its expensive machinery, and however well intended by English Members, was imposed on a principle based too much on analogies, founded on the experience of the law in England, and in ignorance of the real circumstances and feelings of Ireland. He believed that the present agitation had been much encouraged by no salutary warning having been given by the Government, to enable the people to rally round the well-disposed, and make head and front against the democratic 1155 movement in Ireland. His noble Friend the President of the Council had stated that it was the duty of the Government to dismiss all the magistrates that had been dismissed for attending certain meetings; but he had not explained why some had been dismissed and others had been retained. Nor had he shown what essential difference there was in the case of one magistrate, who for attending a public dinner was dismissed, while seven others who had committed a similar offence, if offence it were, had been retained in the commission of the peace. That was a circumstance which he thought required explanation—and he trusted before the debate was closed, some noble Lord connected with the Government would show the cause of that exemption. He would say, however, that so far from thinking with the noble Lord behind him (Lord Wicklow) that the conduct of the Government was a sign of their weakness, it rather showed a confidence in their own strength, and he did trust, that notwithstanding the declaration of the noble President of the Council, that noble Lord would be induced to reconsider the question, and that some steps would be taken to prevent the multitudinous assemblages of the people being any longer convened. I have heard (said the noble Earl) with extreme pleasure the just encomium passed upon the conduct of the Protestants of Ireland, those who at all times, and under all circumstances, and all trials, have proved themselves the true, the constant, and determined friends of British connexion. I believe that, now that the intercourse between both countries has become easy and expeditious—now that opportunities and facilities are afforded for visiting Ireland, those who had formed a very unjust opinion as to the character of the Irish Protestants and Irish landlords, would by personal intercourse and acquaintance have had their prejudices removed and their minds disabused, were it not that the unsettled state of matters in that country, has unfortunately for the present deterred English gentlemen from visiting our shores. But great credit has been taken by the managers of those vast assemblages for the preservation of the peace. I say if the peace has not been broken, if those great meetings have been allowed to separate without any collision, the credit is not entirely due to those who governed the people, but was mainly attributable to the forbearance of the Protestants, who, though 1156 taunted and insulted, abstained from opposition, awaiting that aid being given them—the only aid they ever want, the firm and constitutional exercise of the laws of their country.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
said, that at the time the noble Earl rose, he was about, conceiving the debate was coming to a close, to address a few words to their Lordships, not for the purpose of entering into that variety of important topics which had been imperfectly glanced at in the course of this debate, but which too frequent opportunities would arise hereafter for their Lordships again and again to consider, but simply for the purpose of distinctly explaining the grounds and the extent of the vote with which he was about to conclude; because that vote was connected with, too, important past transactions, and might be connected with, too, important future transactions, for him not to feel an anxiety that it should be distinctly understood. He was the more anxious to explain, because had he come into the House after the speech of his noble Friend (the Marquess of Clanricarde) and had not heard that speech, and had not heard the motion with which he concluded, but had only heard the speech of the noble Duke, and some of those who immediately followed the noble Duke on the other side of the House, he should have conceived that the motion made by his noble Friend was a motion asserting the legality of the meetings that had taken place in Ireland, and censuring the removal of the magistrates for having attended those meetings. Had that been the purport of the motion of his noble Friend he would distinctly say it would have been a motion he could not have supported. He would ask their Lordships, however, to refer to the terms of the motion itself, and say whether those two conclusions were not distinctly excluded by those terms; whether the motion was not strictly confined to that point upon which he had no hesitation in giving his opinion, namely, that assuming that these meetings were illegal—that assuming that it was fitting that no magistrate should be allowed to remain in the commission of the peace that attended these meetings, yet that the mode taken to proclaim to the magistrates of Ireland that they were no longer to attend those meetings, was one neither just towards them, nor salutary to Ireland—because it was made to rest upon an unconstitutional ground. One would 1157 have supposed, from the speech of the noble Duke, that it had been made to rest upon certain circumstances of force and violence—for those were the terms employed by the noble Duke—upon circumstances of force and violence, which at any one particular period had marked the progress of these meetings. Had it been so —had that declaration been made — had her Majesty's Government, upon their own responsibility, stated to Parliament that that was the state of these meetings —had it been a subject of a message from the Crown—had it been the subject of a formal despatch and communication to the Irish Government, he would say, that then a distinct, advantageous, and constitutional warning, would have been given to all Ireland of the state into which those meetings were bringing the country, and the condition to which any loyal subject was exposing himself by becoming a party of them. But did he found in the argument employed by the noble Duke one word of these allegations of force and violence, which now, for the first time, was said to have characterised these meetings—did he find one word of this in the letters which were the subject of his noble Friend's motion to-night—letters which were so justly, fairly, and truly described by his noble Friend in his resolution, that the noble Duke almost felt, for the moment, an embarrassment of giving the resolution a direct negative, when he proposed reading the letter a second time this day six months. [The Duke of Wellington: That was a mistake.] He was perfectly aware that the noble Duke had no intention to propose any irregular course; all he meant to say, was, that perhaps there was something passing in the mind of the noble Duke as to the nature of the motion, which led him to make that mistake. But what was the fact? The Lord Chancellor of Ireland affirmed that up to the time when the speeches were made in Parliament by the Minister of the Crown—observe, that up to that time he had never intended to interfere with the attendance of magistrates at these meetings, but that having read, that in Parliament it had been stated by her Majesty's Ministers that they meant, what was called and described in somewhat vague terms, to maintain the Union, he thought it his duty to take those steps which were now the subject of complaint. Now, he would say that that was no constitutional ground for the Lord Chancellor to take. The last 1158 thing that the magistrates of this country —the last thing that the loyal subjects of this country ought to be invited to attend to, or to make the rule of their conduct, was what passed in debate in Parliament. They might attend, and ought to attend, to the declarations of the Crown—to message from the Crown to Parliament—to the instructions which they received, if in a local government, from the Government at the Home Office; and those instructions if they had been sent, as they ought to have been sent, and subsequently laid before Parliament, would have afforded that plain, distinct, solid, and intelligible ground which would have told every man what he was expected to do, and what he was expected not to do, in the performance of a public duty. And when he recognised, in common with all their Lordships, the importance of the line taken upon this occasion—and when he considered the consequences it might have hereafter upon the fate and conduct of affairs in Ireland, he thought it no immaterial circumstance that a line so taken, with a view to the preservation of the public peace, should have been taken up not only advisedly, not only deliberately, but should have been carefully placed upon a solid and intelligible ground. As to the declaration made in Parliament, by the minister, of the intention of the Government to preserve the Union —was there anything new in that declaration? Why, the noble Duke himself had told their Lordships, and had told them truly, that ten years ago a declaration was made to that effect, and which he would say was not less solemn—nay, it was more solemn than the declaration of Sir Robert Peel, because it was accompanied by a formal vote of an address and declaration to the Crown. Therefore, it was the most solemn statement with regard to a determination to maintain the Union that had ever yet emanated from the Government or the Parliament of this country. And yet, for ten years afterwards meeting after meeting had been held for the purpose of advocating the repeal of the Union, without its ever having occurred to anybody, above all, to the Lord Chancellor Sugden himself, that that formed a ground for the dismission of magistrates who might have taken a part at these meetings. If the meetings had assumed a new character; if they had involved circumstances threatening the peace of the country, which peace the noble Duke and his Colleagues were bound to preserve 1159 —then those circumstances were fit to have been stated and proclaimed to the public, and made the ostensible, as he had no doubt they were, the real grounds of the proceedings the Ministers bad adopted. It was obvious, without pronouncing any opinion upon the legality of these meetings that the whole question must resolve itself into one of three or four points, no one of which was involved in that debate, or rather, that conversation—for it was nothing more—which arose within the walls of the two Houses of Parliament, when the speeches in question were made. It might be that some persons might maintain—he certainly was not of that opinion —that it was unlawful to petition Parliament at all to Repeal the Union. It might be held by others that it was unlawful to meet to advocate a repeal; while it might be held by some to be legal both to petition and to meet to petition for a Repeal. Others, again, might consider that the assembling in great numbers for that purpose was unlawful; while it might be held by some, that if persons assembled under circumstances indicating au intention to use force, or if they indulged in accustomed and repeated utterance of seditious language, that would make the meeting unlawful. It was hinted at by the noble Duke himself, and he thought the noble might have dwelt more forcibly upon the point, for it constituted in his opinion the whole strength of the Government case, that these meetings being ostensibly held to petition Parliament, resolved themselves into meetings not petitioning Parliament, and therefore in themselves creating an obvious and important distinction in a way in which the Government and Parliament might be justified in adopting measures against them. But all these proceedings, without the grounds being stated, without being explained, without being defined, were to be allowed to resolve into a discussion or conversation in this and the other House of Parliament, and without any one allegation connected with the circumstances to which he had alluded being advanced to justify the course the Government had pursued. This he would say was calculated to mislead the public of Ireland with regard to the cause of the proceedings of the Government, and to deprive those respectable magistrates, to many of whose characters they had had ample testimony borne that night, of an opportunity of considering whether, when her Majesty's Government had given those 1160 instructions to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland which they ought to have given, and had stated the grounds for giving them, they (the magistrates) would persevere in giving their attendance, support, and countenance to those Repeal meetings. It was but a few years ago that a most important measure was passed, which it would be almost an act of madness to think of repealing; he meant the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act. When there were meetings held and petitions voted for the purpose of procuring the repeal of that act, what would have been said, supposing Lord Plunket, who was Lord Chancellor of Ireland at that time, Lord John Russell having had occasion to say in the House of Commons that he would maintain the Catholic Emancipation Act, and would always advise her Majesty, under all circumstances, to maintain it, and even if Sir Robert Peel, sitting on the Opposition Bench, stated his concurrence in that opinion, what would have been said, supposing Lord Plunket had declared that the statement of Lord John Russell, so supported by Sir Robert Peel, made in a passing debate in the House of Commons, furnished a constitutional ground for him to dismiss any magistrate from the commission of the peace, who had taken part in promoting, or endeavouring to procure the repeal of that act? Why, if Lord Plunket had taken so absurd and wild a step, he would have been denounced in both Houses of Parliament as pursuing the most unconstitutional line of conduct that was ever taken up by any Chancellor. It was the worst course of proceeding that ever was adopted, because it was the most unintelligible, the most indistinct, and the least defined ground that could have been taken to have influenced the determination of the Lord Chancellor. With that feeling he could not refuse to express his concurrence in the motion of his noble Friend, so far as it went to censure the ground upon which the Irish magistrates had been dismissed. Having said thus much, be did not feel disposed to enter into those topics which had not unnaturally, not irregularly, but not necessarily connected themselves with this night's debate. He had heard with great satisfaction some parts of the speech of the noble Duke, he had heard from the noble Duke with great pleasure, first, that which he was sure the noble Duke would have felt it his duty to say—namely, that he felt it to be the first act of the Government to maintain security of 1161 life and property. He had heard with further satisfaction, coming from such an authority, that he conceived he had taken steps to maintain the security of life and property in Ireland, and that he was prepared for any emergency that might arise that would put life and property in jeopardy. That was a most satisfactory declaration to their Lordships and to the country. He hoped that all vigilance had been used, and would continue to be exercised. He had, indeed, hoped, conceiving it to be the first duty of the Government to preserve life and property, that in another part of this kingdom, where circumstances had, for some months past, endangered property at the least, the same degree of vigilance would have been exercised. In that part of the country to which he alluded, property of a particular species had been exposed to greater danger for some months past than it had been immediately exposed to in Ireland itself. He lamented that the spirit of insubordination in some parts of Wales had continued so long unchecked and unpunished. But he trusted that there also effective and decisive measures had been taken for protecting that particular species of property which was aimed at, and which there, as in Ireland, if attacked with success, would inevitably lead to attacks upon every other species of property, and endanger every other species of security. He had also heard, with feelings of great satisfaction, from the noble Duke and from the noble President of the Council, that it was the intention of her Majesty's Government to use with vigour the powers of the law of which they were now possessed, without having recourse, unless required by the most stern necessity —and unless they were enabled to make out the strongest case—without having recourse to Parliament for additional assistance and increased powers. He thanked her Majesty's Ministers for that forbearance, and he could assure them that that forbearance would be recollected, if they should, unhappily, come to that extreme point in which it would be their duty to call upon Parliament for increased means of preserving the lives and property of her Majesty's loyal subjects. The noble Duke had stated, and he thought stated truly, that it was impossible that any one remedy could be adopted by the Government, whether suggested in Parliament or out of doors, for effectually putting down that species of agitation which he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) agreed with the noble 1162 Duke was the immediate evil which hung over the fortunes, cramped the industry, and struck at the happiness of society in that country. But while he alluded to Ireland as being in that state, he did not conceive, because no immediate remedy could be found for such a condition of things, that that was a circumstance which operated as any justification, either of her Majesty's Government or Parliament, in abstaining from diligently and attentively considering the causes in which that state of things originated. Those causes he would not enter into now. They were causes which might for the most part be found in the history of the past events of that country. They were such, he was aware, as could not be removed by a blow, or be put an end to at once by any single act of interference either of the executive or the Legislative authority. Did not all this prove how deep those causes lay, how extensive they were, and how imperious was the necessity for her Majesty's Government—if it were not possible to do so by rapid steps, at least by slow yet determined means— to remove those causes? By some singular combination of events, one man in Ireland is endowed with the power of moving thousands and hundreds of thousands to a movement to put tenantry at war with landlords, the upper classes at war with the lower, and to disjoint the whole organization of society at large.Can such things be, And overcome us like a summer's cloud, Without our special wonder?Are other states so affected? Are other kingdoms so convulsed? Are there other other instances found of individuals, with. out any assistance from fortune or authority, but by force of circumstances, drawn out of the state of society itself, enabled to wield a power so great that it is declared by the Government itself to be formidable? I cannot look at this, continued the noble Marquess, and not see that no Government will do their duty in this country, which. does not weigh well these causes, and come down to Parliament—I will not say immediately and at once, but from time to time—with such propositions and such a course of measures, maintaining all the while the authority of the law, refusing to concede what is unjustly demanded, but endeavouring, by Legislative means, to remove what lies at the bottom of this state of things, and provide for a more hopeful, more secure, and more happy 1163 condition. It was therefore I heard with pleasure the speech of a noble Friend of mine who sits opposite, who, in a spirit of candour which does him honour, stated that he thought the time was come when it was necessary for all men to reconsider their opinions, as connected with Ireland. In that sentiment I most heartily join with him. I ask for nothing out of reason. I call upon her Majesty's Government from time to time to reconsider their opinions on this subject. I call upon them to maintain the law, and to maintain order; but when they have maintained law and order, not to think that they have done all, but to recollect that there remains behind a still more important duty than even the executive routine of Government; that there remains the duty of going before rather than of following public opinion, and of submitting boldly, openly, and honestly to this and the other House of Parliament, the views they entertain as to what ought to be the course of policy towards Ireland for the future. And if they do so manfully state to Parliament their intentions, whether they adhere to or abandon any opinions they may have formerly expressed, they will be entitled—for myself, I speak with sincerity, and I think I can answer for many others to support and assistance—as far as that assistance can be useful to them—in effecting those measures for the benefit of the country, which are admitted on all hands to be rendered necessary by that state of things which is a disgrace to a government which presides over it, and to the society which suffers by it.
§ The Duke of Wellington
in explanation said, he thought he had clearly expressed that it was the almost unanimous opinion of both Houses of Parliament, that the legislative union ought to be maintained —that it was notorious that such was the unanimous opinion of both Houses and of the Government. He had concluded, therefore, that those who continued to excite, and preside over, and harangue these meetings intended to force their measures by terror and violence, and he had stated that under these circumstances the Government could not depend upon those magistrates, and they were dismissed because the Government could not place dependance upon them, His noble Friend the President of the Council had positively stated that the magistrates were dismissed because the Government could not place reliance upon them.
said, he was now called on, as their Lordships were, by the proposition of his noble Friend, to do neither more nor less than to pronounce by his vote, and as far as his vote could go to aid their Lordships in declaring, by a solemn resolution, that the first law officer of the Crown in Ireland, the keeper of the Great Seal, the head of the magistracy, and the first judge in Ireland, had been guilty in his mixed capacity, Ministerial, magisterial, and judicial, of an act unconstitutional and unjust. Before he could come to that conclusion or recommend to their Lordships to come to such a conclusion, he thought he was not stating the case too strongly when lie said, that he must see his way clearly, and have undoubted proofs that the charge was fully made out. He would not for some chance expression in a letter declare a judge liable to censure, and deserving of impeachment. For, my Lords (continued the noble and learned Lord) you cannot stop here; if the Lord Chancellor of Ireland have done an act not merely inexpedient (I care little for that), but unconstitutional and unjust, if he have abused the great powers intrusted to his hands, if he have exercised the most delicate of all these powers, the appointment or removal of magistrates, in a manner unconstitutional and unjust, and if the Lords in Parliament assembled should declare that he has so acted, and should pronounce upon him the gravest censure ever pronounced on any Chancellor, any judge, any Minister, in the history of Parliament (short of an actual impeachment for corruption), then, my Lords, I say, it follows that there should be an immediate address for his removal from the office and the power which it shall thus have been declared he has so grossly abused. And if we stopped short of that I know not if the other House of Parliament would not find it necessary to proceed with the impeachment of that high officer. My Lords, are you prepared for all this, merely because, in a letter, I admit, of course, to be his, he has given for a good act a bad reason? For I hear no objections taken to his act by any party among those who have borne a part in this debate; and the noble Marquess (Marquess of Lansdowne) so narrowed the question—to such small dimensions—such (I had nearly said) infinitesimal dimensions—such an evanescent and insignificent magnitude, that it amounts to no 1165 more than this—that he does not assert these meetings to be legal; that any one had a right to attend them, still less gentlemen holding the Queen's commission.I am not called upon (said the noble Marquess) to deny that these meetings were illegal in themselves, or that it was a gross breach of duty in the magistrates attending them; or that it was highly improper that gentlemen should be permitted to hold the royal commission, after having attended meetings of such a character; but all that I am called upon to aver in support of the motion is, that a wrong reason has been given for doing that which in itself, and if grounded on another reason, would have been perfectly justifiable and utterly unassailable.That is the narrow and the insignificant ground on which the noble Marquess is prepared to adopt so severe a censure on the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Now, I am at issue with the noble Marquess, even on the question taken precisely as lie has stated it. I assume that he had to do with nothing else but that narrow view of the question, and I meet him upon that. I say, my Lords, that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland did not. dismiss the magistrates of Ireland on the ground that a declaration had been made in both Houses of Parliament. And if any one reads with candour and fairness the Chancellor's letter, he will see that it will not bear that construction. I am sorry, my Lords, to trouble you, but this is a question of great importance to the learned, eminent, and distinguished personage concerned; and your Lordships are almost indeed sitting judicially.Her Majesty's Government having recently declared in both Houses of Parliament their fixed determination to maintain the Union, it becomes the duty of the Members of the Government to support that declaration.Now, first I step aside for a moment to dispose of the objection taken as to its being a breach of privilege for a Chancellor to make any allusion, or for any person at all not in Parliament to refer to what has passed in the Legislature. My Lords, the Chancellor does not say, that he heard of it from common reports. He says he knew it; and why might he not have known it from the communication of his colleagues, who certainly had as much right to give as he had to receive such intimations? I put that point therefore quite out of the question. Then, what does this amount to? Simply to a statement that circumstances had occurred, 1166 and another argument was found very ably on this by my noble Friend, the noble Duke; but I am now on the strict technical objection,—and I ask, what was this but saying, before the last declaration of Government there was every reason why magistrates should not attend these meetings? Before that last declaration, the determination of the Government to support the Union had been well known; but now comes, on the very eve of these proceedings—on the very eve of these meetings about to be presided over by Lord Ffrench—on the eve of this comes the declaration in both Houses by the Queen's Government of their firm, fixed, and unalterable determination to support the Legislative Union; and this the Chancellor states, not as the ground of dismissal, but as an additional ground, there being ground enough already before this added aggravation of the misconduct of the magistrates; for the noble Marquess (Marquess of Clanricarde) is not correct in stating in his resolutions, that it had been said by the Chancellor, that, previous to this last communication of Government in both Houses of Parliament, there was no ground for the dismissal of the magistrates. One of his resolutions states it, and this is one reason for not supporting them,—that they are thus inconsistent with facts. It is not stated, as he alleges it to be in the Chancellor's letter. The Chancellor says no such thing. The Chancellor says,It had been his earnest desire not to interfere with the expression of opinion in Ireland by any magistrate in favour of Repeal.He does not say he had no right to interfere, that he was not entitled to do so;Although, from his avowal, he had deemed it inconsistent with the determination of the Government to uphold the Union to appoint as magistrates persons pledged to Repeal.Now, my Lords, has the Chancellor's letter been fairly dealt with? Would not any one who had heard the speech of my friend the noble Earl and the noble Marquess who last spoke—would not any one who read these resolutions suppose, that within the four corners of the letter there is no other reason presented—no other topic dwelt upon—nothing in the conduct of the magistracy, except with reference to the declarations of the Ministers? 1167 I will now read a passage from the letter, which, in connexion with what my noble Friends have been representing, is calculated, indeed, to excite our special wonder."The allegation that the Repeal meetings are not illegal does not diminish their inevitable tendency to outrage; and considering the question in all its bearings, the Chancellor cannot believe that such meetings are in the spirit of the constitution as they become dangerous to the safety of the state.Why, what was the use of this if the declarations of the Ministry in Parliament were inefficient? And my noble Friend's narrow way of putting the question shows this, for he declares it would not matter to his view of the question whether the meetings were legal or not.—It is necessary, therefore, continues the Chancellor, that the Government should be able to place firm reliance on the watchfulness and determination of the magistracy to preserve tile public peace.Nothing of the declaration of the Ministers.A magistrate who presides over and forms part of such a meeting can neither be prepared to repress violence nor be expected to act against a body for whose conduct he would himself be responsible; and to such a person the preservation of the public peace cannot safely be confided—while the determination to preside over such a meeting after the declaration in Parliament"—(here now is matter of aggravation, not of substantial accusation)" shows that the time has arrived for depriving those of power who thus would apply it to dissolve the Union.Now, my Lords, I consider my constitutional views on these subjects of constitutional law and rights as high almost as those of any of my noble Friends, and I have no hesitation in saying I consider this as a constitutional view of the relation subsisting between the magistracy and the Government. The magistrate has other capacities than his judicial, in which be ought to act. He is part of the Executive Government of the country. He represents the Executive, and it is fit and proper that in all great crises like the present, in which the safety of the empire may be jeopardized, there should be a full and entire understanding between the Executive and the magistrates employed by the Government. And, my Lords, I will not permit it to be said that this was to be likened to the case of a common paltry party question—or a petty factious 1168 dispute or division on some minor affair. I will not suffer it to be said (without contradicting it to the best of my ability) that the present state of Ireland, and the present division between the Government and the magistrates have any, the remotest resemblance to such cases as those referred to by my noble Friends. And if I am asked whether I would turn out a magistrate merely because lie differed from a Minister in potitics?—no such thing ! I reply, on no account should the holder of the great seal be influenced by any such ideas! But, my Lords, when the fate of the empire depends on the view taken of a particular question—when agitation is prevailing to an extent so frightful that those who are least harshly disposed towards the agitators confess themselves alarmed by its progress—when the gigantic strides making by popular violence to all but the assuming of Government over even the loyal subjects of the Crown—then, my Lords, in such a state of things, those intrusted with the Government would shamefully neglect their duty, if they did not take care that the powers of the magistracy should be committed to none who were capable of abetting such disorders. My Lords, we need only consider the state in which Ireland was. I will not inquire into the numbers attending these meetings: 600,000 or 700,000 cannot, of course, meet for the purposes of discussion. It must be for force and intimidation. It must be dangerous to the public peace. I know those, at all events, my Lords, who would have no right to deny this,—those who boast from day to day that these meetings are so numerously attended. I can hardly stop to say I entirely disbelieve their statements. I will not describe how ridiculous these exaggerations are—the grossest even of those which have proceeded from the same quarter. I barely wait to remind your Lordships that 600,000 or 700,000 (if the place could be found to contain them) would amount to one-fourth of the whole male population. Without observing, however, on the supreme ridiculousness of the thing, it is enough to remark that of meetings attended by 100,000, nay 60,000, or 40,000 men, discussion cannot be the object—that terror, and terror, alone can be the object of those who attend them; that they must be dangerous to the public peace; and that as such they are not legal, There 1169 was high authority for this doctrine during the debate on the Manchester massacre, when it was admitted by the Opposition that such meetings would be an abuse of the right of petitioning, and would require the most watchful care. Such were the opinions of Lord Erskine—such the opinions of Earl Grey. My Friend the noble Marquess did not then express his sentiments, [the Marquess of Lansdowne — " but entirely agreed."] — but entirely agreed, and, indeed, has expressed to-night substantially the same opinion. Would that the noble and venerable Earl himself (Earl Grey) were here, to enlighten us by his wisdom, to charm us by his eloquence, and support us by his manly courage, amidst the difficulties in which we are placed. That noble Earl, though firm in opposing the Government on the occasion, expressed in strong terms his disapprobation of bodies of men marching in military array, and (with Lord Erskine) characterized them as perilous, and liable to the greatest abuse, and threatening the public peace with the utmost danger; requiring, therefore, the strictest vigilance and the most constant care. Supposing now, my Lords, those noble Lords had been asked what they would think of magistrates, whose province it was to be perpetually vigilant and careful, who ought to be peculiarly observant of all that tended to preserve the peace,—what would be thought of magistrates attending such meetings? Nay, what of their actually presiding? My Lords, I think I see Lord Erskine's eye lit up with fire at the bare supposition of the truth of which I am sure he would at first have been quite incredulous; and the indignant reply would have been, that such men were utterly unworthy to remain an instant longer in the commission of the peace. References have been made to the Manchester meeting; and although my noble Friend who spoke last has not given an opinion as to the legality or the illegality of that meeting, I may be allowed to say, that in acting so he has only shown his prudence. But my noble Friend must have misunderstood the noble Lord who opened the debate, because I distinctly understood him to say that these meetings in Ireland were legal because the Lord Chancellor did not say they were illegal. It was my intention to have argued this point; but as it was not insisted upon by any of the noble Lords 1170 who have preceded, except the noble mover, I will not go into it further than to say, I have never given any opinion as to the legality or the illegality of these meetings. It would be a very rash and fruitless thing to do, without having the whole of the circumstances, the very minutest circumstance connected with any meeting before one, because the slightest variation might make the greatest difference in the world, viz.,—the difference between their legality and illegality. However, in the present case I am not under the necessity of giving an opinion one way or another. I will not go the length of saying whether mere numbers make a meeting illegal. I am not called upon to say, but it is well known that numbers make a very great ingredient in illegality. But, my Lords, I am not called upon to stop to discuss that point. One word more as to the system of agitation, and the great meetings, and the course pursued by some individuals. It is a singular thing, my Lords, that not only are enormous crowds collected, which, making every allowance for the grossness of the exaggeration which prevails upon the subject, we cannot deny are exceedingly numerous, still at those meetings another operation goes on, with which the whole system has an intimate connexion—I allude, my Lords, to the financial part of the system. My Lords, there is a constant levying of money at all those meetings; but still, as I allow for exaggerated numbers, I am also disposed to abate in the sums stated to be collected, also, although I know some of your Lordships arc not disposed to agree with me in that. I see my noble Friend opposite (Lord Glengall) thinks otherwise. Well, he believes and gives credit to the financial part of the statements; he believes that the sum of 3,000l. and upwards was collected in one week, and lie calculates the future at 6,000l. [No.] Well, I will confine myself to 3,000l. collected in one week. I cannot think that they are going on collecting at the rate of 150,000l. a year, but at all events they are collecting very considerable sums of money. Now, my Lords, one naturally asks what is all this money collected for? They are large enough to excite watchfulness — they are of such magnitude as to call for the vigilant attention of her Majesty's Government, because if people go on collecting large sums of money and you see no grand object in 1171 view, the question arises how is this money to be spent?—one must feel that it will be spent in the way it ought not to he; but, my Lords, my difficulty is of another kind—it is strictly, nay absolutely, true that no account whatever is ever rendered of the application of the money. Now, my Lords, of the hundreds of thousands of the public institutions in this country which are supported by voluntary contribution, I will venture to say that among the whole there is not one solitary instance to be found in which a strict and accurate account is not given yearly, sometimes half-yearly, of the manner in which every shilling subscribed has been expended. Every shilling is honestly dealt with and accounted for to a subscriber, even to the amount of one shilling. Not so are our unfortunate fellow-subjects in Ireland dealt with. They, out of their small means, are prevailed upon to subscribe considerable sums—they part with the money, but not the shadow of a statement is even pretended to be given them as to the way in which the money has been expended. It may be, my Lords, that it is honestly and innocently expended. his possible that it may be all laid out in advertisements, yet one cannot see exactly how thousands can be spent in that way. Agents must be employed, and no doubt they must be paid, but that cannot absorb thousands per week; yet, my Lords, another set of officers must be employed, viz., collectors, and I have no doubt that much of the money may be allowed to stick to their fingers, in order to stimulate and encourage them in the execution of their duty; but still, my Lords, the 3,000l. and upwards was paid in, and in one week—surely, then, some account of it ought to be given—the subscribers ought to be made aware, in some way, how it has been expended. In cannot be laid out in the purchase of arms; they are not wanted we are assured. Surely it cannot be used for the purposes of corruption;—it it cannot be, my Lords, to pay any debts, because the body, as a corporation, have none. Then, what becomes of the money is the question which constantly occurs, and as constantly remains unanswered. That is a circumstance which cannot tend to increase our confidence in the system of agitation pursued, or increase our feeling of security under the present system, and, above all, it cannot tend to increase our confidence in magistrates who become 1172 parcel of a system that is marked by peculiarities such as those. I heartily rejoice, my Lords, that this question has been. brought forward, because of the continual attack and insinuation indulged in at the conduct of the magistrate who took the step of dismissing magistrates so acting. I lament, however, that it was taken so late, because I lament that in consequence of the time the step was taken, a great many estimable and honourable men had tendered their resignation, and the country had lost their services. But even taking that into consideration, I do not hesitate in giving my approval to the step taken; I hold it not only justifiable, but praiseworthy. I will not enter into many details on the present occasion, for no doubt many opportunities will be afforded me and your Lordships for discussing them all, during the remainder of the Session. My Lords, I heartily rejoiced in the announcement made by her Majesty's Go vernment of the course they have taken, and are determined to pursue. It is very easy, my Lords, to say to a Government, "Why don't you do something? you are doing nothing;" yet those persons never hint one word of what they would have done. Now, I will not call such conduct captious, it is frivolous. A noble Lord opposite said, "Why do you not come to Parliament for a bill? the case is very pressing—the system of agitation now going on, is hazardous and ought to be down—and you cannot do it too speedily and vigorously, and in order to put it down effectually, you must do it suddenly." And yet the noble Lord proposes to do it by a bill. Being called upon by the pressing exigencies of the times, the noble Lord calls upon you to present a bill containing so many clauses; why, it would be so many weeks before the other House of Parliament—it might, nay, it would, be six weeks in committee before the other House, and then be no nearer a law than now, for no doubt the same course would be adopted with it as is now taken in respect of the Arms Bill, which I see by the votes is progressing at a very slow pace. Then it is said to the Govern. ment—you have no vigour, you are a do nothing Government—make way and let us have a more united, a more powerful—at least, a Government that will use its power, and stop these rebellious proceedings." Well, suppose that to be done; the Government are out, and you have an 1173 Orange one. Why, what would be their strength? I do not believe they would divide twenty strong in the other House, and not ten in this. That is a particular remedy certainly, but is an impracticable one. To refer now, my Lords, to the conduct of the Orangemen on the 1st and 12th instant, I must say their merits were transcendant, having given up their accustomed processions in obedience to the law, while they saw their adversaries allowed to hold, meetings to any extent, attended not by thousands, but by hundreds of thousands, with their bands of music, and in military array. Why, they actually boasted publicly of their discipline; to use an expression of their own, they were as well trained under their repeal wardens, as were her Majesty's troops under their sergeants. The Orangemen saw all this, while they were not allowed to hoist a single colour—still they, to their immortal honour, had remained quiet—and upon no former occasion had the Queen's peace been so perfectly preserved. I feel it necessary to guard myself against being supposed to differ from my noble Friend who last addressed your Lordships lest it be supposed I entertain a different opinion in respect to the state of Ireland, and what ought to be done, from my real opinion. I consider it is the duty of the Government and the Parliament not to wait for events; not to wait for the improvement of public opinion, but to outstrip it, and lead it into a better channe. I am happy to hear that there is to be no coercion; and I would advise that the Government ought not even to proclaim the meetings. Noble Lords must see to what that course would lead. They might commit the solecism, but they would get into this insuperable difficulty, from which they could not extricate themselves—they must indict, prosecute, but they must do more; they must disperse the meetings which were proclaimed, and woe be upon those who began the conflict. I know to whose bosom the first gun fired would bring hope, and joy, and comfort; it would !put new fuel within his reach to again revive the now slumbering agitation. A proclamation, but, above all, the first march of troops to carry it into effect, while it would dispirit the loyal, and dishearten the wise, would bring comfort and joy and exultation to those whose heads are full of sordid interest—I will not dignify it even by the name of bad ambition 1174 —whose whole soul is bent upon gratifying the meanest propensities of the human mind—avarice and vanity. What are the Government prepared to do, if not by coercion — if not by fresh powers from Parliament, what is it I urn most anxious to avoid all discussion on agitating points, but I have a duty to perform, which I cannot neglect. I need not say that I am anxious to uphold the Protestant Church in Ireland; it is essential that you do so; you cannot help protecting it, you cannot avoid keeping it up. However, I cannot without a feeling approaching to dismay, look at the sight which Ireland presents, the unexampled sight which the sects and the Church of Ireland presents to our view; 6 000,000 of Catholics, 2,000,000 of Protestants, at the very utmost, and one-half of them not belonging to the Established Church, but to various sects of Protestant Dissenters. I do not, my Lords, grudge the Establishment its endowments, and we cannot choose but uphold them for her. It might have been otherwise some I50 years ago, but you cannot help it now. Both politically and religiously she must be upheld; but still, my Lords, where is there a country in the world—but, above all, where is there a Christian country in the world, in which the vast majority of the inhabitants are utterly and hopelessly left unprovided with spiritual instruction by the State. Look at Austria, or Prussia, or Hanover, in every country any of your Lordships can name, the State provides religious instruction for every class of Dissenter as well as for the Established Church. My Lords, in those countries the Dissenters are only a small minority, yet they are provided for, but in Ireland the Church is the small minority, yet not one farthing is provided for the spiritual instruction of the vast majority. That, my Lords, is a state of things unprecedented in the whole world. My Lords, it is a state of things that cannot last for ever; then, why do not the Government and the Legislature direct their attention to this crying evil, and provide some means for the spiritual instruction of the Roman Catholics? Such a step must lead to this consequence—you will take them out of the hands of those who lead them only to mislead—who guide them only to misguide. We are told that the agitators say such an offer would be spurned; that the very idea of it would 1175 be spurned. My Lords, a friend of mine, well known to your Lordships, had a conversation with a Roman Catholic prelate, which I will relate. My noble Friend said to that right rev. prelate, "Bishop, we are thinking of making a state provision for the Roman Catholic clergy, what do you suppose they will say to it?" The prelate replied, "Every man of them, from the highest to the lowest, will strenuously and by all means give to such a proposal the most decided opposition." "But," said my noble Friend, "suppose we carry it, what will then be done?" The prelate said," Then every man, from the highest to the lowest, will instantly and gratefully receive it." In my opinion, propositions on this subject ought to be brought, forward from time to time, and so, by directing public attention to it, prepare the public mind for a favourable reception of it. I am not the only person who has pressed this matter upon the serious consideration of the House, and I hope it will receive the attention to which it is so justly entitled. I have to apologize to your Lordships for having so long occupied your time; but I felt that I should not discharge the duty which I owed to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Chancellor of Ireland if I did not frankly and fully state the views which I took of this most important question.
observed, that his noble and learned Friend had worked himself up into the belief that the act of the Irish Government was most laudable, and he praised not only the act itself but the manner and the ground of those dismissals to which the present motion referred. Now he would say, that the ground of the dismissals was unconstitutional, unjust, and inexpedient. If in a particular case a Lord Chancellor dismissed a magistrate for malversation in his office, for taking a bribe, or for committing any other offence of that nature, the Lord Chancellor acted in the capacity of a judge; but the present was a case of State policy. Did any one suppose that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland wrote the letters which it was well known he did write to Lord Ffrench, without the full concurrence of the Cabinet? Similar letters were issued again and again to other magistrates. He professed himself unable to discover any ground for dismissing a magistrate in the mere fact that he announced his intention of attending a meeting which might or 1176 might not be legal, for no one could beforehand determine upon its legality. What had been the effect of the declaration of her Majesty's Government? What was considered lawful before that declaration was viewed as unlawful afterwards. (In corroboration of this the noble Lord proceeded to read the letters directed to be written by Sir E. Sugden to various magistrates who had attended Repeal meetings, and the replies of the magistracy.) He must venture to differ from his noble Friend with regard to his construction of the relation in which a magistrate stood to the Government. The magistrate stood in the position of a judge, and he utterly denied that a judge could be dismissed until he had committed an offence. [Lord Brougham (sitting on the Woolsack.) "You are wrong—wrong—quite wrong."] His noble and learned Friend need not interrupt him. His noble and learned Friend was out of the House whilst he was there. It was curious what a hankering the noble and learned Lord has after that seat. He s always wanting to be upon the Woolsack, and I suppose by-and-by he'll get the Government to put him there, and then we shall have him defending them with more zeal than ever. But (the noble Lord continued), although his noble Friend said he was wrong, he was well assured that he was right. If a magistrate incited to disorder or disaffection, then indeed he might be removed; but they were not to remove magistrates merely because they disliked their politics. Dismissal was intended as a punishment and disgrace, though, sometimes it was an honour and a great addition to a man's popularity. In this case he averred, that, unless there was some offence committed, the dismissals were unconstitutional. Now, what was the offence—the only offence alleged? It was that the dismissed magistrates attended certain meetings. Wherein was the illegality of those meetings? It was not in the numbers which attended them, because, if numbers constituted illegality, then the meeting at Epsom on the last Derby day was one of the most illegal assemblages ever held. But the illegality dwelt on by the Lord Chancellor consisted in this — that the meetings were attended after the declarations of her Majesty's Ministers in both Houses of Parliament. Now, what were those declarations? The noble Duke opposite appeared to represent them as 1177 some constitutional proceeding in the Houses of Lords and Commons; but the fact was, that Lord Roden came down in the one house, and his son Lord Jocelyn, a very gallant officer, in the other, and in a very irregular way they put questions to the Ministers, which, as there was no subject-matter of discussion before the House, were very irregularly answered. That was the proceeding which, according to the Lord Chancellor, constituted a law. The Lord Chancellor had not denied the legality of attending such meetings prior to the declaration of Government, and the question was, whether attendance at those meetings formed a constitutional ground for dismissing a magistrate? He thought not, He regretted the dismissals, and, unlike the noble Duke, he regretted the resignations still more, for they were calculated to cripple the administration of justice in Ireland. They were now told that arbitrary tribunals must be set up in Ireland. It was a bad state of things. He admitted, that the union ought to be maintained, and that upon the maintenance of the union depended both the happiness of Ireland, and the greatness of this country; but the inconsiderate steps which had been taken by the Government would endanger the union, and greatly aggravate all the perils of separation. He had rather lamented to hear the noble Duke say, that for the present there must be only stern resistance. He heartily assented to the resistance, but that was not all that ought to be done. There ought to be measures of concession and conciliation. A measure of that nature would not meet with the fate of the Irish Arms Bill in the other House, a bill for branding arms, and for making domiciliary visits to search for arms, nobody knowing what was meant by arms. He hoped, that the Government would determine upon the introduction of such measures as would put an end to the dissatisfaction which existed in Ireland.
§ The Earl of Eldon
wished to correct an error into which the noble and learned Lord had fallen in supposing that the late Lord Eldon did not think he had the power to dismiss magistrates; he claimed the power, but he refrained from exercising it.
said, that Lord Eldon carried the principle further than all other Chancellors. In the celebrated ease of 1178 the Durham magistrates, it was held by him that in England no magistrate ought to be dismissed when once in the commission, until convicted of some offence. In Ireland, there was a difference. When Mr. Peel asked Mr. Ponsonby in the House of Commons the reason why some magistrates who held extreme opinions upon Catholic emancipation were dismissed, he replied, "That he always considered each case well, and had his reasons; but there were cases in which he would refuse to give his reasons for dismissing magistrates."
The Lord Chancellor:
My Lords, I rise with great reluctance at this late period of the night to address your Lordships, but considering the situation which I fill, and the learned individual against whom the resolution of the noble Marquess is directed, I do not think I shall properly perform my duty if I abstain from expressing my opinion upon the subject that has engaged your Lordships' attention. On a former night I took occasion to state my opinion upon the subject of the proceedings of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, whose conduct in the dismissal of the magistrates is perfectly justified; and who would, I think, have deserted his duty if he had not pursued that course which he had adopted. My Lords, I adhere to that opinion. I say that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and the Government of Ireland would have deserted their duty if they had not interfered in the manner they have done for the purpose of dismissing those magistrates, whose dismissal forms the subject of the present inquiry. Considering this to be a great constitutional question, I cannot help observing, that I think it has been conducted in a most extraordinary way, in introducing into it little petty lawyer-like criticism, and 1 might not have thought myself called upon to rise for the purpose of taking part in this debate, if my noble Friend who has just spoken had not adverted casually indeed, and without much impression, to the nature of the proceedings, the constitutional character of those meetings, and the unconstitutional course which has been pursued by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He says, that the people have a right to assemble to petition; he says that they may assemble together for the purpose of petitioning for the Repeal of the Union; that there was no distinction between the law in question—that which established a union between Ireland and England, and any other. He says, 1179 that the meetings were legal, and that the dismissal of the magistrates for attending those meetings was illegal and unconstitutional. That is the charge which appears to have been made against the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and has appeared in the papers which have been laid upon your Lordships Table. That charge has been often repeated. I feel myself, therefore, called upon to repel that charge, to look at facts as we find them, and I would ask your Lordships to say whether any reasonable man, looking at those facts steadily and unprejudicedly, can say that the course which has been pursued was unconstitutional? It is impossible fairly to consider this question, without adverting to the existing state of Ireland. I should not do justice to my hon. and learned Friend, and to the Government of Ireland, if I did not direct your attention to the actual position and state of things in Ireland in respect to the present agitation. In the first place, I would call your Lordships' attention to the Repeal Association, an association which was formed for the purpose of repealing the Union nominally, but, according to the admission of every noble Lord and reflecting mind, an association which has for its object the dismemberment of the empire. This is the expression used by a noble Lord, and properly and correctly used. No person car for a moment doubt that the Repeal of the Union must necessarily be followed by a dismemberment of the empire. My Lords, 1 regret to say, that this association numbers in its ranks, and as active co-operators, almost the whole of the Roman Catholic priesthood of Ireland. I regret the more to say, that they are supported and co-operated with by almost the whole of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Ireland. Looking at these facts—at the influence and power of those individuals over the population of Ireland —at the force and the power possessed by this association, which is almost unlimited and unbounded in its extent—let me direct your Lordships' attention to the machinery which is made use of to accomplish the objects of this association. Your Lordships will find, that in every parish in Ireland officers have been appointed, who are called repeal wardens, to whom allusions has been made in the course of this debate, whose object is to drill and discipline the population of Ireland—to communicate with the association; and, as has been said in the course of this debate, to render the whole population capable of being set in motion 1180 within twenty-four hours. This is not all: we find there has been a curious contrivance adopted for the purpose of enlisting the people as recruits and soldiers in the service of this association. This is of a singular and most effective kind—passes are granted upon the payment of the small sum of Is. without which, it appears that no man belonging to the lower classes is safe, or can, without hazard, go abroad. These passes are considered as enlisting in the service soldiers who were ready to obey any commands which they received from those who acted as the leaders. Again, my Lords, let us consider the operations of this society, the means it employs to carry on its operations, the mischief it is capable of effecting. I shall now allude to the topic which has been so well commented on by my noble Friend. I mean the power that is exercised for the levying of voluntary contributions, as it is called, but as I should call it—though it may be considered a bull—by forced voluntary contributions. Large sums have been transmitted to the treasury in Dublin for the purpose of carrying on the operations of the association. It is by this association, thus constituted, that those meetings are assembled, the time and place of holding which arc duly appointed, and the whole proceedings take place under the direction and counsel of the one great leader. I ask your Lordships if in any civilised country such power as this has ever existed—a conspiracy more formidable, one more dangerous to the state and more pregnant with mischief. But let us see the objects of this association, for when we are considering the conduct of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, it is proper to take the whole case into our consideration. What then are the objects? This organisation—this foul conspiracy, because it cannot be called by 'a better name, has for its object, to Repeal the Union. That is its first step. They then propose to establish ' an Irish Parliament—an Irish House of Commons in Dublin, which are to be collected together by the Universal Suffrage. They are next to constitute a peerage, composed in a manner which is to be selected by the association. I am yet but repeating what has been publicly stated by the leader, the captain of this association. The next object they have in view, which has been publicly declared, is the destruction of the Protestant Church of Ireland—the confiscation of the property of the Church to be applied to such objects as the 1181 association may hereafter think right and proper. The third object is to establish what is called fixity of tenure—that is, a transfer of property from the landlords to the tenants, which is proposed for the purpose of flattering the passions and exciting to agitation the great mass of the people. My Lords, I don't think it necessary to refer to documents to establish these facts, as they are not concealed, but are stated in broad day and published by the leader of the association. I might appeal from the authority of the noble Marquess to the speech of Lord John Russell, which was made on this subject some years ago in the other House of Parliament, in which that noble Lord described the objects of this conspiracy in terms much better than I can make use of. It is remarkable that at that time this association was in its infancy, and it has since been matured, and is infinitely more formidable now than at the former period. Let me direct your Lordships' attention to those multitudinous meetings, which are considered by some as legal assemblies, and such as could be fairly attended by persons holding the situations of justices of the peace. 1 regret, my Lords, to see that the noble Lord to whom I have alluded by some incautious expression has given much encouragement to those meetings. My Lords, I do not believe that the noble Lord has used those expressions, which have been most unfortunately repeated and made use of in the placards which are exhibited for the purpose of summoning those meetings. I allude particularly to the meeting in Athlone, at which it was stated that the noble Lord had given his concurrence to the legality and constitutional character of those meetings. I am persuaded that nothing of the kind ever fell from that noble Lord. Unfortunately some expressions fell from the noble Lord which led to this supposition. Speaking of those meetings—the manner in which the evolutions of the people were conducted—the regularity of their marches —the display of banners with every military insignia, have been already painted in such admirable colours by the noble Duke, that it would be idle for me to attempt anything of the kind. Let us, my Lords, but attend to the speeches that have been made at these meetings. Everything that can excite the hatred of the people towards this country, inflame their ambition, or excite and awaken their cupidity, is made use of on these occasions. The extraordinary thing is that those excitements which 1182 are addressed to the most excitable people in the world are attended with no disorder, no disturbance; the people are under such powerful control that it can be explained on no other principle than that they suspend their feelings in the confident expectation that by so doing they will be enabled in a future period to indulge them without restraint and without control. But it is said by some that these meetings are legal; I ask you whether it be possible in any civilized country that there could be such a system of law in operation as would admit of the legality of such meetings? It is said that they excite no terror, but numbers that do not excite terror do not make meetings legal. We find, however, that in some places where the Protestants are few they dare not show themselves, and this we know that in Mallow, where a great meeting was held on a Sunday, the Protestants dared not attend Divine service. From what did this proceed? Was it not from terror, from alarm, and an apprehension of the consequences. If there be any one then, who can say that such meetings are not illegal, there is no proposition, however absurd or extravagant, that such persons would not indulge in. We are told that these meetings are to exercise the right of petitioning; but the noble Marquess has put them on their true ground when he asks are they really for this purpose, or is it merely under that colour and pretence? My Lords, they are hypocritical meetings, and the pretext of petitioning is held out to disguise their real object. What do we find in the speeches addressed to the people at these meetings? Allusion in one instance is made to the people having beaten the troops at Brussels, and they are told not to be under any apprehension of the consequences of a collision. Allusion is also made to the three glorious days of July, in such an obvious manner as to show that by union and energy and courage and activity they need not be afraid in a combat or a contest with the soldiery. Nay, my Lords, there was another allusion made to Affghanistan and Cabool, obviously with the same object, and showing that where the people are determined and united they need have no fears of the result. My Lords, does not this show the objects of these meetings; that they are not for the purpose of discussing petitions to Parliament, but that it is the first step in the march towards rebellion, and that it is fir the purpose of encouraging the people and preparing them for such a result. Has 1183 there not also been allusion made to assistance from France? What is this assistance required for? Assistance to petition? Allusion is also made to America, and to assistance and support from that quarter. My Lords, all these circumstances lead to one conclusion and one only —namely, that petitioning is a mere pretence, and that these meetings are, in fact, nothing less than preparations for rebellion. Again, my Lords, another stride has been taken within a short period. We hear of a convention, and allusion is made to the convention that existed at the time of the revolution. It is stated on high authority that the Union is unlawful, that it was effected by a violation of all principle, and is not binding. The authority of Lord Plunkett and Chief Justice Bushe are quoted that the Union is not lawful or binding, and that they may set up a convention on the model of that established at the revolution. And yet these are said to be meetings to petition Parliament. My Lords, if I am correct, or anything like correct, in ray description of these meetings, who can say that any party who countenances and encourages them is not guilty of illegal and improper conduct; and if a magistrate the representative of the executive, countenances them, what right has he to complain if he be dismissed from the commission of the peace? Let the question be fairly and impartially discussed, and if you go along with me in the description I have given of the objects of this conspiracy, tell me if I am right in saying that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland has acted in the true spirit of the constitution in dismissing those attending them, and who held at the time the office of a justice of the peace? It is said that some of these magistrates, and Lord Ffrench, for instance had done nothing. Why Lord Ffrench's name was attached to a proclamation calling one of these meetings. Is that doing nothing? How is it possible for any rational man to get up and contend that the dismissal under such circumstances is unconstitutional, and then to quibble upon the meaning and construction of a letter, my Lords, this I am convinced of, that no person should be allowed to hold an office under the Crown who attends meetings of this description deliberately and advisedly, and had I held the office of Chancellor of Ireland I should have felt it my duty to do the very same. My noble Friend asks me whether I should have written such letters, but in my opinion never was 1184 there such a misconstruction of letters. The learned Lord stated distinctly that these meetings are illegal—he says they inevitably tend to outrage, and how any man can say that meeting shaving an inevitable tendency to outrage can be legal is inconceivable to me. He says, "You who attend these meetings are not fit to be entrusted with the preservation of the peace, and we in any emergency can place no reliance upon you;" and upon these grounds, and these alone, the magistrates are dismissed. That the Lord Chancellor states the meetings to be illegal is beyond the possibility of doubt. He says I dismiss you the Government dismisses you and cannot resort to you for assistance in case of any disturbance of the public peace. But the question is too important, the subject is too large, and it embraces considerations too weighty to descend to criticising a little phrase contained in a letter. The question is, ought persons attending these meetings to be allowed to retain the commission of the peace? On these grounds I shall oppose the motion of the noble Lord; and I am confident that a large majority of your Lordships will be of the same opinion, and that the Chancellor of Ireland will have no reason to be dissatisfied with the discussion that has taken place.
§ Lord Cottenham
said, that the declaration of his noble and learned Friend upon the Woolsack had added an importance to this debate, which, important as it was from the first, it had not previously possessed. His noble and learned Friend had stated it to be his opinion, that the conduct of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland in dismissing the recently superseded magistrates was perfectly constitutional; and added, that if he had been in his (the Chancellor of Ireland's) situation, he would have acted as he had done. He owned, that he was much astonished at the courage of his noble and learned Friend in making such a statement. His noble and learned Friend had given them a description of the state of affairs in Ireland, and if the picture which his noble and learned Friend had drawn were correct, if that conspiracy really existed of which he had spoken, why then, high treason had been committed. High treason was rife over the land, and Government had taken no measures for its suppression. His noble and learned Friend talked of a conspiracy to overturn the Government, to subvert the Established Church of Ireland, and to 1185 sever the union between the two countries, not by means of Parliamentary enactment, but by physical force: and these, too, not as designs which might be undertaken, but as designs, in the prosecution of which, that which had passed and was now passing in Ireland, had taken place. If it was so, did not that amount to high treason? And how was this high treason met? Why, by dismissing some half dozen magistrates from the commission of the peace: an act by which they had increased the danger, and by which—if there was high treason at all in the case—they had very much promoted its objects. In stating his views as to the course pursued by the Irish Government, he would offer no opinion as to the objects of those who were promoting the present agitation, but he had no hesitation whatever in stating it to be his deliberate opinion that the conduct of Government—for he would not view it as the conduct of an individual Member of the Irish Government—in dismissing these magistrates was perfectly unconstitutional, and he could prove it from the statements of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland himself. He did not wish to go beyond the Lord Chancellor's own letters in making the case good against him. These meetings might be dangerous. He would say nothing in their favour—nothing in the favour of those who attended them; but it was not because the magistrates had attended them that they were dismissed—it was not because they attended meetings for the purposes of high treason that they were dismissed; on the contrary, they were dismissed before they attended them—they were dismissed for mere announcement of intentions of attending repeal dinners. And there was another class of dismissals, in which the magistrates had been superseded for writing letters expressing their adherence to the Repeal Association. The course pursued by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland was simply this — that for every overt act by which a magistrate publicly professed his attachment to the cause of of Repeal, he was to be dismissed from the commission of the peace. He might do it by signing a requisition calling a meeting—by attending a meeting—by being present at a dinner—by any declaration of opinion favourable to Repeal. All or any of these acts were considered by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland as afford- 1186 ing sufficient grounds for the dismissal of magistrate from the commission of the?peace. This was what his noble and earned Friend said that he would do were he Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Was it the law of England or of Ireland that a magistrate, guilty of no offence, should be dismissed from the commission because he entertained sentiments favourable to Repeal? It surely was a bold declaration of his noble and learned Friend, and yet it was the ground of dismissal laid down by the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. They had heard of high treason; but what became of this high treason of which they had heard for several months? If there was anything true in the statement made by his noble and learned Friend, high treason must have been rife in Ireland for some months before the declaration made by her Majesty's Ministers, as well as after it; but no measures were then taken for its suppression. Surely there was nothing new or unexpected in that declaration. Everybody knew that her Majesty's Government were determined to uphold the Union, but it was only after that declaration had been made in Parliament, that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland thought fit to remove magistrates from the commission of the peace for attending Repeal meetings. It was always a most delicate thing to dismiss a magistrate, inasmuch as it was a reflection on the character of the individual. The history of this country might be searched, and no instance before the present case would be found in which a magistrate had been dismissed for having declared opinions in favour of the repeal of any act however sacred. The Lord Chancellor of Ireland had never stated in his letters that the Repeal meetings were illegal; and if, then, it be proved, as he thought that it was proved, that the Lord Chancellor for Ireland had dismissed magistrates not for illegal acts, but because they entertained opinions not sanctioned by the Government, he thought that such a proceeding was highly unconstitutional. It was putting magistrates upon a different footing from any other persons in the realm, and inconsistent with their character as Gentlemen. Hitherto, however, large and apparently dangerous Repeal meetings might have been, the persons composing them had abstained from any breach of the peace. He believed it was the desire of the leaders to do so, and it was not unreasonable to suppose that 1187 the magistrates in question only meant to carry a constitutional object by peaceful means. But, suppose that at some future period these meetings should abandon their peaceful character, and that breaches of the law should be committed, the fair probability was, that in such an event a magistrate would perform his duty, and assist in putting down unlawful proceedings. These very men might be the last persons to commit any breach of the peace or offence against the law; nay, a fair inference was that they attended these meetings in order that by their presence peace might be preserved, and no violent proceedings permitted. The letters of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland never conveyed any intimation that the meetings were illegal; they amounted to this, "the Chancellor declares that you have entertained opinions different from those of Ministers, and although you have committed no breach of the law, yet for differing from the declared wishes and sentiments of the executive Government, you are dismissed from the commission of the peace." This was an interferance sanctioned by neither practice nor law, and therefore properly characterised in the resolutions before their Lordships, as unconstitutional, unjust, and inexpedient.
The Marquess of Clanricarde,
in reply, remarked, that the Ministry had sacrificed their dignity, and what was of much more consequence, had compromised the dignity of the Crown, by an ill-judged and unseemly contest (in which they had been signally defeated) with the agitators. Why was not something done to redress the grievances of Ireland? He should probably feel it his duty more than once again, in the course of the present Session, to bring the subjects connected with Ireland before the House. He agreed with his noble Friend opposite in the compliment paid to the Protestants of Ireland, but be thought it would be better policy to repress the people at the beginning than to allow them to go into danger.
§ Their Lordships divided:— Contents 29; Not-Contents 91:—Majority 62.1189
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|List of the Not-CONTENTS.|
|The Lord Chancellor||Glengall|
|Marg of Breadalbane||Duke of Cambridge|
|Earl of Rosebery||Duke of Montrose|
|Lord Saye and Sele||Marquess of Huntly|
|Duke of Sutherland||Marquess of Ely|
|Earl Zetland||Earl of Tankerville|
|Earl of Scarborough||Earl of Hardwicke|
|Lord Strafford||Earl of Ripon|
|Earl Yarborough||Viscount Hood|
|Lord Montfort||Viscount Lake|
|Earl Thanet||Viscount Beresford|
|Lord Denman||Lord Middleton|
|Earl Cowper||Lord Ravensworth|
|Bishop of Norwich.||Lord Skelmersdale.|
§ Adjourned at half-past two o'clock.