HL Deb 03 December 1847 vol 95 cc594-7

said, that in pursuance of the notice which he gave last night, he now rose to move for a return of the number of persons that had been tried under the 13th Clause of the Insurrection Act, 3rd and 4th of William IV., cap. 4. That Act of Parliament, after being carried, remained in force twelve months, and he believed two months more. The object of that Act was this—there was found at that time in Ireland the greatest objection on the part of jurors to give true and honest verdicts. He did not mean to say that such a difficulty existed now; but he wished to call their Lordships' attention to one clause in the Act, because he thought it would be well for the people of Ireland to remember, that, if they did not do their duty as jurors, and if any intimidation was held out to jurors or witnesses, we had the experience of that Act before us, and that if the Government found that their present measures would not be strong enough (as he feared would be the case), Her Majesty's Ministers would not hesitate to come to Parliament for additional powers. The general defect of the clause to which he alluded was this—timid jurymen were afraid to find a man guilty of a murder in any case, because, if they did so, they would expose themselves to be put on the proscribed list, and a sentence of death would only be too quickly carried out against them. He believed the moment that Act of Parliament was promulgated—the moment the people found that the Lord Lieutenant had the power of establishing these courts-martial, the offence entirely ceased, and, in fact, these courts-martial never sat at all. Unquestionably that law was a wise one, for, by giving stringent powers to the Lord Lieutenant, the people were made to obey the standing law of the land, without any recourse being made to these extraordinary powers. It might be asked, why did he—one not connected by property with Ireland—now rise up in his place, and take up this which might be supposed by some to be an Irish question? He considered it a question affecting the best interests of the empire at large; and he felt it his duty to do his utmost to prevent that unhappy country from degrading the realms of our gracious Sovereign. When persons' names were put down—the names of the most intelligent, the best, the most honest in the land—for assassination and murder, and when they were assassinated only because they had given offence to some particular class of individuals in that country, he must say, that the state of society there, and this system of Ribbonism, appeared to him most alarming. There assassinations were perpetrated, and not by persons residing in the neighbourhood, but by strangers who came from a distant part of the country to do the diabolical work of their employers. Ireland never could be a prosperous country unless Parliament took care that life and property should be held sacred there. Could any one expect that British capital could flow into that country, or that it could be applied to bring into cultivation large tracts that might be cultivated, whilst there was such a total absence of all confidence? Who but a fool would take his money into a country where he could not apply it as he pleased, and where there were a hundred chances to one that his agent would be shot if he protected him from being robbed and cheated? He felt that, laying aside all party feeling, they should all join heart and hand to take care that the law should be maintained in Ireland. He thought the Irish, if they were in earnest—if we told them that if they committed an offence, they should certainly be punished—he thought they would be apt to obey the law, and that again that country might be called a civilised one; for he could not consider a country civilised which required the presence of so large a standing army, and such a large number of police; and, notwithstanding which, the law was openly violated in the brightest hours of the day. It was fortunate that the present Lord Lieutenant was a man of great humanity and firmness; and he, for one, would most willingly give him the most arbitrary powers, because he was certain that he would never abuse them. It was with this feeling, and not with the slightest intention of making an attack on Her Majesty's Government, that he moved for those papers, which he believed would show to their Lordships and to the people of England, that when Parliament passed a stringent Act, then the Irish took care that it was not put in force by obeying the existing law as it stood. The noble Duke concluded by moving for the papers.


My Lords, I have not the slightest objection to the return for which my noble Friend has moved; but, at the same time, I must be allowed to express my assent, and to say that I cordially concur in the greater portion of what has fallen from the noble Duke; for I consider that the state of particular parts of Ireland is disgraceful, not only to that part of the United Kingdom, but disgraceful even to this part of the United Kingdom—disgraceful to the Government and the Parliament under which it exists, unless the most prompt and efficient measures are taken by them to remedy it. It is obvious that no capital can be expected to flow into those parts of Ireland; but there are other parts in which I now will say the evil does not exist. Your Lordships and the other House of Parliament are too well aware that no plan, no scheme, can be adopted for the improvement of the social condition of that country which does not require, as an indispensable accompaniment, the restoration of that security for life which unhappily does not exist in some parts of that country. If those measures which will shortly he brought under the consideration of your Lordships, should, unfortunately, he deemed insufficient, still I am authorised to state that the able and distinguished individual, the present Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, is of opinion that they will arm him with sufficient powers to enable him to make a successful attempt to put down the state of things which exists in that country; but this I must add—if, unhappily, contrary to my noble Friend's hope, and contrary to my hope, these measures should prove insufficient for the purpose for which they are intended, then I can confidently state to the noble Duke that Her Majesty's Government will not be slow to ask for additional powers; and I am bold enough to say, that I think Parliament will not be slow to confer those powers, when it knows that they are necessary for an object, which, by every means in our power, both morally and politically, we are bound to effect.

Returns ordered.

House adjourned.

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