§ The Order of the House to be put into Committee having been read,1183
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, that he rose, in pursuance of the notice which he had given last night, to move their Lordships to go into Committee on the Bill for the better Prevention of Crime and Outrage in certain Parts of Ireland. In discharge of that duty he felt that as their Lordships had been pleased to allow this Bill to go through its second stage without requiring any explanation from him as to its provisions, and without entering into any discussion upon the subject, it would be most unpardonable were he now to ask their Lordships' assent to such a measure without offering those observations to their Lordships, which would explain the grounds upon which Her Majesty's advisers had submitted this Bill to the other House of Parliament, and now entertained the confident hope that it would meet with their Lordships' approbation. At the same time, he felt that their Lordships would be enabled to anticipate most of the observations which he should have to make, because, unfortunately, the circumstances which had induced the Government to propose the Bill were too notorious; they had been too long and too broadly under their Lordships' observation, to make it necessary for him to detail them at great length. The very character of the enormous offences that had been committed in Ireland had insured publicity, and must have brought them to the observation of all their Lordships. It was the peculiar feature of these crimes, that, whilst the assassin who committed them remained too often concealed in the darkness which befitted his occupation and his deeds, the unfortunate victim had been dragged into publicity, and whether he had escaped the deadly blow of the gun or the firebrand employed by those who sought his destruction, or whether he had succumbed to his murderer—in the one case he appeared before the world the living witness of the crime which it had been attempted to perpetrate, or, by his death, became himself to all posterity the monument of the evil outrage that had been committed. He should have no excuse, therefore, were he to trouble their Lordships at any length. He had not the excuse of the impartial and illustrious historian, who, when he was about to narrate the history of the religious massacres of Paris of the sixteenth century—when he was about to enter upon the task, let the pen drop from his hand, and filled up the hiatus in his history with the pathetic exclamation— 1184Excidat illa dies ævo; nee postera credentSæcula—nos certe taceamus et obruta multaNocte tegi patiamur crimina gentis.He had not that excuse, because the scenes to which he had alluded had not passed, but were now passing. But were he not fully convinced that every one of their Lordships was acquainted with the leading facts which marked those unfortunate crimes, he should feel it his duty, however painful it might be to his feelings and to their Lordships, to describe these murders with which the public were already too familiar, in the language they deserved. He should not therefore go back to the murder of Mr. Roe, Major Mahon, and many other persons, of which the narrative had already been placed in their Lordships' hands; he should not go so much into these monstrous cases, which could not escape attention, as into the comparatively second class of cases which showed the general state of the country. He should do so, because it would present but an imperfect case for the Bill, in the Committee into which he was about to move their Lordships to go, were he to rest it solely upon these more monstrous acts; but unhappily, that which had added to the mischief arising from these fatal deeds was the evidence that they had been accompanied in every stage by various classes and descriptions of crimes, all tending to the same object, and all inspired by the same spirit of determination to destroy the social order, the social principle and rights of property, aye, and the rights of industry itself. He would state to their Lordships generally the amount of crime of all descriptions in Ireland. During the last month of November, they had amounted to 1,335; in October they were 1,035, making an increase in November, as compared with October, of not less than 300. The prevailing crimes had been chiefly in threatening notices and robbery of arms; and they were principally in the counties of Cavan, Clare, Cork, Galway, King's County, Limerick, Sligo, Tipperary, Mayo, Meath, Fermanagh, Longford, and, in a few cases, Kerry. They consisted of attempts to shoot, robbery of arms, robbery of money, robbery of cattle, assaults, and threatening notices. He was not about to enumerate these cases at length, which would necessarily engage too much of their Lordships' time, but some few he would mention, not in reference to the atrocity of the particular crime, but to the general character which they imparted to the spe- 1185 cies of action, of noxious action, which was going on in the country. Some cases had occurred in the county of Cavan. One of these cases was that of four small farmers, who had planted crops which were coming to maturity, and who, being well aware of the state of the country, and of the system that was going on, had in each case provided themselves with guns for the avowed purpose of defending these crops surrounding their houses. A short time ago, in one night, every one of these small farmers' houses was broken into, and the guns taken away. There was another case, in the county of Waterford, where the offenders interrupted the storing of the property, and another in Limerick, where a man's house was entered at night and his horse disabled. For what reason was he so disabled? Because he had let out his horse to a carrier at a less amount of charge than these persons chose he should—because he let out his horse at a less rate than these legislators chose to require, he was deprived of his horse. Why did he enumerate these cases in preference to others of a more horrible nature? Because they went to the point he had described. They showed a systematic determination to make war on the legitimate industry of the country, on that which was the element in the acquirement of all property, and which if not checked in the growth must effectually prevent anything like prosperity arising throughout the land. He said, therefore, that this was not a Bill rendered necessary for the defence of the rich man, but it was rendered necessary for the defence of every poor man who was honest—of every poor man who was industrious—and there were no persons who could find fault with this Bill, except those who wished to see property put an end to, and the industry of the country suspended. He had alluded to those cases which had recently occurred; he would now mention a case which had recently occurred in Westmeath, for the purpose of showing their Lordships the character of these persons who were selected for victims under this system—that of Mr. Johnson, who was most popular as a resident magistrate amongst all classes, particularly the poorer, for whom he made great exertions during the last famine; and his (the Marquess of Lansdowne's) informant said—I have every reason to hope that, independent of the large sums offered for the apprehension of the assassin, the exertions of the people, who are indignant at the slur cast on their hitherto peaceable district, may lead to his discovery. That 1186 there was a conspiracy against Mr. Johnson, owing to his having fined persons for trespass a few hours before he was fired at, I have not the slightest doubt; and as there are several persons concerned, it is most probable the matter may be brought to light.Another recent case was in Queen's County. A shot was fired into the house of George Barber, and soon after an attempt was made to shoot his son on his way home from the mill, and subsequently a shot was fired into the mill. The cause assigned for this was, that Barber refused to employ a man whom they wished him to employ. Another case was that of the Rev. Mr. Mayne. It appeared that the father and son lived together in a house in the county of Mayo, and an attempt was made to shoot them in their house, at night, on the 28th ult. What would their Lordships think were the reasons assigned for this attempt being made upon these two respectable persons, father and son? It was that the son, who lived with his father, had recently presumed to turn away a servant maid without the permission of this woman's friends, and that Mr. Mayne, sen., had lately married a second wife, of whom these persons did not approve. Having selected these instances for the purpose of showing that the attacks had not been confined to the possession of lands, although that had been the main object, but that all the relations and all the employments of life were attempted to to be governed by this dark and sanguinary code, he would now describe to their Lordships, as shortly as he could, the character and the provisions of the Bill which was now brought under their notice. The noble Marquess proceeded briefly to recapitulate the objects of the various clauses in the Bill. Clause 1 recited that the provisions of the Act were to apply to any part of Ireland specified in the Lord Lieutenant's Proclamation; Clauses from 3 to 9 gave power to the Lord Lieutenant to increase the constabulary force in the districts so proclaimed, according to the necessities which should appear to exist, and to charge the expenses of such increased constabulary upon the districts. It also enabled the Lord Lieutenant to increase the reserved constabulary force by the amount of 200. That reserved force was originally fixed at 200; it had since been proposed to augment it to 400; and the Bill, as it at present stood, gave the power of still further augmenting it by 200, making a total of 600, to serve as a permanent depôt, out of which the coustabulary of the disturbed 1187 counties might be increased when necessary; Clauses 9 to 11 gave to the Lord Lieutenant the very important power of apprehending and punishing, as for a misdemeanor, all persons (with a few necessary exceptions) found carrying arms within the proclaimed districts; Clause 11 gave to the Lord Lieutenant, by publication in the Dublin Gazette, power to call in all arms in the proclaimed districts, and to call upon persons having arms to deposit them in a certain place, to be restored at such period thereafter as the first-named proclamation should have ceased to be in force. Clauses 12 to 14 gave powers to punish for the period of two years persons having arms within the proclaimed districts, after the before mentioned notice should have been published in the Dublin Gazette. Clause 15 conferred the power of granting licenses to certain excepted persons to have and carry arms even within the proclaimed districts. Clause 16 gave a very useful power to justices and constables to call upon persons within the proclaimed districts to join in the pursuit of offenders; and it imposed a most just though severe penalty upon those who should refuse to assist in detecting offenders. This he looked upon as a most important proviso, for it was a most remarkable and painful feature of the system prevailing in Ireland, that notwithstanding the horror which these crimes were calculated to inspire, they were frequently perpetrated in the presence of, or within the knowledge of persons who refused to take the slightest step in aiding to bring the perpetrators to justice. He would mention a case which had occurred in the county of Clare. A man whose house had been broken open and robbed of all the money he possessed, far from being anxious, as their Lordships might have supposed, to make known the great injury that had been inflicted on him, for a long time after the occurrence of the event his great endeavour was to guard inviolate that momentous secret, lest he in his own person should fall a victim for having made known that gross outrage. To put an end to this state of things the Lord Lieutenant had recently made a point of singling out people who, having been attacked, had with undaunted courage repelled the invader and defended their property and lives, with a view of rewarding them for their gallant conduct, and pointing out their example for public commendation. One case recently occurred in Cork, in which an old man, who had bravely 1188 defended himself, almost refused the reward which had been sent to him, saying he had done no more than his duty in defending, to the best of his power, his life and property. He now came to Clause 17, which merely extended to this Bill the provisions of the Whiteboy Acts, the 15th and 16th George III., c. 21, and the 1st and 2nd William IV. c. 44. Clause 18 enacted that accessaries after the fact to murder might be tried and punished, although the principals might not have been convicted or taken: and Clause 19 merely declared that prisoners under sentence might be removed from one prison to another by order of the Lord Lieutenant. He had now recapitulated the principal features of the Bill before their Lordships. Her Majesty's Government, in introducing this Bill, had endeavoured to provide an adequate remedy for the existing evils; but whilst providing a remedy they desired to trespass as little as possible upon the constitutional law of the land. On a former occasion he had ventured to express an opinion that upon the whole the juries of Ireland had done their duty. When he expressed that opinion, some doubt was entertained as to its accuracy; but he was happy to state again upon this occasion, that up to this moment he believed he was justified in saying that the juries of Ireland had conscientiously done their duty. Upon this point he was sure their Lordships would be glad to hear a very recent report which had been received by the Lord Lieutenant from a highly respected resident magistrate in the county of Cork, and he would, therefore, read it. The report commenced—County Cork, Middleton, Dec. 3rd, 1847.I have to report, for his Excellency's information, that the Middleton quarter-sessions have just terminated. There were 147 notices in the cause book; many of the offences charged, I regret to say, were of a very grave character. Convictions were had in almost every case, and the law has been fully vindicated. There were eighteen persons sentenced to seven years' transportation; one for fifteen years; two imprisoned with hard labour each alternate month, for eighteen months; three for twelve months at hard labour; very many for six months. And all the juvenile offenders were sentenced to three months at hard labour, and each to be three times privately whipped in the gaol under the sheriff's inspection. Some few cases were postponed to the assizes, and four or five have traversed in bar to the next sessions.W. H. WANSBROUGH.T. N. Redington, Esq.Now, he must say that as far as the administration of justice was concerned, that 1189 report was very satisfactory. Another magistrate, speaking of Buttevant, said—County of Cork, Kanturk, Dec. 8th, 1847.I hare to report that the Crown cases at Middleton sessions hare been all disposed of. On Friday, the 3rd instant, I proceeded to Buttevant forthwith, and arrived there On the following day, and have to observe that Convictions were obtained in almost every instance Where the prosecutors attended, or in such cases where the traverses obtained permission to put off their trials to the next Fermoy sessions—amounting to twenty-six persons.THOMAS BAILEY, R.M.T. N. Redington, Esq.He said, then, there was at this moment every appearance and disposition on the part of jurors in Ireland to do their duty. He was not prepared, therefore, to propose any measure which should interfere with jurors. At the same time he could not sit down without saying that there was no interference with any class which that House should not undertake, if necessary, to restore peace and tranquillity to Ireland. That (continued the noble Marquess) is the function of juries; and he hoped it would not, at any future time, be necessary to interfere with the ordinary Course of law—he hoped that the peace and safety of the country might be restored without any such interference. That was the opinion of the Government, and that he hoped would be the opinion of the House. The present disturbances in Ireland, though they did not amount to a civil war, were attended with many of the evils inseparable from that condition of society. But even in a state of civil war crimes were committed under some known, though perhaps usurped authority—under the sanction of some names and characters amenable to their contemporaries and to posterity. In the case of the Irish murders no one was responsible; they were committed in secret; their victims were immolated unheard; and so long as such enormities were habitually perpetrated, there would be neither industry nor prosperity in Ireland. He should merely conclude with saying that if the measure now on their Lordships' table did not prove sufficiently stringent to restore the peace of the country, he doubted not that they would willingly grant such further powers as might be required for accomplishing that legitimate and holy purpose. The noble Marquess then moved that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.
§ LORD FARNHAM
had, he said, but a few observations to make on the subject 1190 then before their Lordships. He felt it the less necessary for him to occupy their time with any remarks of his own, as he had already expressed himself on the subject in a very pointed manner, and also because he had on the present occasion to read to the House many documents which would put their Lordships in possession of the state of crime which prevailed in Ireland, and the dangers which were so justly apprehended in that country. He would assure Her Majesty's Government that he gave his warm support to the measure that was then before them, not because of the mildness of the measure itself—and he said this in no taunting manner to them—but because he had their assurance that if a measure of such mildness should fail—and he was as certain as he was of his own existence that it would be found insufficient—that then the Government would demand fresh powers, and sure he was that if demanded, that House would not refuse them. He had already stated in a strong manner the state of crime which prevailed in Ireland. He knew that he had been represented as attacking the character of the country by doing this; but he said, that he was as attached to his countrymen as any man could be, yet that regard for them should never prevent him from speaking the truth; it should not prevent him saying that murders were now carried on in Ireland to an extent such as not only had never before disgraced the annals of Ireland, but such as had never occurred in any country calling itself civilised. He felt himself now called upon to read documents illustrative of the state and condition of Ireland; and he was sorry to say, he had to begin with his own county, with that county alone with which he was intimately connected. No actual murders had for the last two years been committed in the county of Cavan; but he could not give a better description of its present condition than that which was to be found in the letter of a gentleman of large landed property in the county—one of the resident and most useful landlords to be found in any part of Ireland. Of course, he should mention no names. This was the letter to which he alluded:—I have only returned here a few days, but I considered the state of this country to be so bad that I left my wife in Dublin. From all I can learn, I fear that as bad a spirit exists here as in any of the most disturbed districts in Ireland. You have no doubt heard a good deal about it: and no later than yesterday a person, on whose information I could rely, came to me, and request- 1191 ed that I would settle my affairs with Mr. *****, the agent, for that they were determined to shoot him, and as certainly as he was at that moment alive he would be shot. The same person also informed me that the money was collected for shooting ******, a gentleman of large property and a deputy lieutenant; and that two of the best shots had been appointed to the job. There can be no doubt that these two murders have been determined upon, and the scoundrels only wait their opportunity for committing them. ****** leaves the country immediately; ******, ******, *****, and ****** have already taken their departure, and I think everybody that can will follow their example.I fear that the new Coercion Bill will not be found sufficiently stringent to meet the present evil. At the same time I feel thankful for any measure which is in any degree likely to protect life and property.He had now to read the testimony of one of the most useful and valuable gentlemen he knew. This gentleman was the agent of a large estate—was devoted to the progress of agriculture—improved the estates—took care of the tenants—and did all that a country gentleman could be expected to do. This gentleman wrote to him in this way:—Could I write within the compass of this sheet the disgraceful acts within our own district, I would even now bring them to your Lordship's notice.But to mention a few of them. Information has been given to the county inspector that ****, *****, and myself were all marked for assassination. The former has been obliged to fly; and must now remove with his large family from his home. Police patrols are kept about our grounds; but, my Lord, the assassin will not openly attack our houses, or give us a fair chance. They will, perhaps, shoot us on our way to or from the house of God, and no hand be raised to stop the assassin.Again, Mr. ******, after the most frightful notices, has left his home. Mr. ****** is also threatened to be shot. A friend, calling at my house, said he was told that a party in Cavan had been overheard saying that Mr. ******, Mr. ******, and myself, were all marked. (Two gentlemen, different from those above-mentioned.) But such is the reign of terror, that every man looks at his fellow-man with distrust, and dares neither inform on, or appear in evidence against, those who carry on a code of law disgraceful to humanity, and ruinous to the interests of life and property. As an evidence of this, I enclose you the copy of a letter I received, warning me of my fate. Of course I withhold the name of the person who so kindly gave me the information, as his life would be sacrificed.Your exposition of the state of Ireland is true to the letter; and justly do you say, 'no measure could be too unconstitutional to be applied at the present time.'P.S. The clerk of the Ballyhaise Mills has just been fired at, but escaped uninjured.1192COPY OF FRIENDLY WARNING RECEIVED BY ME, NOVEMBER, 1847, AND REFERRED TO ABOVE.(Private and confidential.)Sir—When I received the intelligence, by chance, it was after post hour. I now write to inform you that your life is perilled to assassination. Your precaution rests on your own judgment; but the duty I owe to society imposes on me the conscientious duty of imparting to you that your death is sealed.I write to you confidentially as a gentleman who would not deceive me by divulging what would expose me to the same perilous situation in which you now stand.He had now to call their Lordships' attention to another letter, which he was sure would move their feelings deeply:—Did you hear of poor Mrs. George Beresford's death? Her husband is a clergyman, and nephew to Lord Decies. She was literally frightened to death by the fear of her husband being murdered. She and her unmarried sister were out, and were accosted by two men, who asked them 'if they would like to know who the next two men to be murdered were. Miss! your brother is one—and, madam! your husband is the other!' That same evening Mr. Beresford was sent for to see some sick person; and on his going—in ignorance of what his wife had heard in the morning—Mrs. B. sent some policemen after him, to join him as if by accident, and not to leave him. On his return, some time after, he said, 'Do you know, I firmly believe, had it not been for some police, who joined me on the road, I should have been murdered; for there were some dodging me about; and when I arrived at the place I had been sent for, I found no sick person, nor indeed any one.'Poor Mrs. Beresford was so alarmed at this that she went into convulsions, and died two hours after.Really, the state of crime in this unfortunate country is quite dreadful; and it makes one's blood run cold to hear of the deliberate coolness with which they take away the lives of their fellow-creatures.He had next to refer to a letter written by a gentleman who resided on his property, and who wrote to a relation of his (Lord Farnham):—As you must be interested in the peace of our country, and may wish to have information of what a state we are in, I write to tell you that on Wednesday last I got through the post-office a letter, which had been posted in Derry, threatening my life, or, as the writer expressed it, to shoot me like a dog, if he waited six months for an opportunity of doing so. The same evening three peaceable young men, named ****, ****, and ****, were shot while returning from **** market, along the high road. These facts show the total uselessness of the present Coercion Bill if the disarming of suspected characters is not universal in Ireland. It is hard enough—I have lived constantly here for the last twenty years (ever since I was of age, except one year I was abroad)—I have spent 25,000l. in giving employment to the poor on the estate, and have now got a loan from Government to give employment to all able to work upon the estate for three years 1193 to come, and am now obliged to walk about my own demesne carrying loaded firearms, and two men along with me armed to the teeth. That I have nothing to fear from my own tenantry I am perfectly convinced; but there is such a number of strangers roaming about the country, and we have had such awful examples in other counties, that we must be cautious even here, which we always considered the quietest part of Ireland. I have entered fully into the matter, as you might wish to know of it.The next case he had to refer to was that of a threatening notice sent to a friend of his own, who, he was happy to say, had providentially effected his escape from Ireland—where, if he had remained, he would have fallen a victim to the assassin—and was now actually sitting near him in their Lordships' House. He had no scruple as to mentioning his name. It was directed to "Lord Crofton, or his detestable agent:"—December, 5, 1847.My Lord—From the continued tyranny practised by you and your infernal and hellish agent——, in endeavouring to destroy the poor in every quarter where he gets the least power so to do; he having, at this dreadful season, sixty families under ejectment for a tyrant, who has his protection by being absent. Now, if you do not wish to share like fate of two better men who have late fallen victems to evel advisers, you will on recept of this dismiss from your employment that bastardly imp of hell, the petty tyrant and exterminater of the poor. If you neglect this, blame no one for the consequences that will follow, but your headstrong and mad selfe. You shall never get a second warning in this friendly way.—I remainA FRIEND TO THE OPPRESED AND UN-HOUSED IRISH POOR.The next letter read by his Lordship referred to the case of a gentleman who had expended more in relief for the poor than any ten others of the humane landlords in Ireland—he referred to the case of Sir Robert Gore Booth, and to whose valuable and humane services testimony was borne by Mr. Labouchere, then Secretary for Ireland. Attempts had been made to shoot this gentleman. His groom, who rode his horse, and was supposed to be Sir E. Gore Booth, was fired at, but providentially escaped. [His Lordship then read a letter from a gentleman holding a high official situation, which stated, that the friends of Sir Robert Gore Booth entertained the most painful apprehensions for his safety, and that his life was considered in the most imminent danger. That already two murderous attacks had been made upon persons in his immediate employment, and that he (the writer) and other persons in authority had informed Government that Sir Robert Gore Booth absolutely required 1194 personal protection.] He should now wish to read to their Lordships the testimony that had been given as to Sir Robert Gore Booth—as to his being a good landlord, and as to the amount of good he had done in Ireland:—Sir Robert Gore Booth's estate is large, and the supplies he has procured would keep those of his own well enough, were he not pressed also to find his neighbour's tenants. At his own place, Lissadill, he has established two soup boilers, which make each 140 gallons of soup; and I calculated the cost of the soup in each boiler to be about 32s. 6d. He gives gratuitously 280 gallons of the soup per day, including Sundays. He sells, six days in the week, 150 loaves per day, each being four ounces larger than the fourpenny loaf sold in Sligo; and sold by him at twopence per loaf. He also sells 30 tons of Indian corn per week, at a reduced price, and gives a portion of Indian corn to thirty persons daily. In this manner he has provided for the poor, through the agency of his chaplain, Mr. Jeffcote, since the 29th of August, Indian meal, 393 tons; barrel flour, 70 tons; whole wheat flour, 40 tons; biscuits, 9 tons; rice, 3 tons; oatmeal, 12 tons—total, 527 tons. He has still a good deal in hand; and has ordered on his own account, in addition, Indian corn, 2,375 tons; new seed oats, 81 tons; hogsheads of flaxseed, 10 tons. He has at this moment in Greenock, ready to be shipped (but he is in difficulty respecting freight), 200 quarters of oats, 23 quarters of barley, 200 loads of beans, 18 tons of peas, 100 barrels of flour, 180 of wheat, 99 tons of oats, 25 tons of barley. Much good would be done if the Government would assist Sir Robert Booth in having this large quantity of food transported into Sligo. What he has done for the part of the country in which he resides has been so well done that it would prove a real blessing to enable him to do more.He thought it was scarcely possible for any man even to have thought of doing so much for a starving population. It could be proved that in one year that gentleman had spent not less than 20,000l. in finding employment for the people. The next case was one of a most affecting nature, but unfortunately it was one common to too many of the faithful Protestant clergy of Ireland. It was a letter from a worthy and humane Protestant clergyman, who, writing to a friend, said—Dec. 10, 1847.Will you kindly find me out some good clergyman to take my duty for six months at * *? I am obliged to flee for my life; and such information has been given me that I cannot doubt, coming from such a quarter and without my ever seeking it. It is hard to meet with such base ingratitude as this is to me in * * *, where I have been just 17 years, and where the people have had my best years, health, and means ever employed for their relief and good in every way, without distinction, Romanists being ever treated by me with distinguished kindness, as they well know.I have been now more than two months in 1195 horrible suspense since I received a Molly Maguire notice, and this day a further assurance of the fixed determination on the murder of myself and another gentleman.I shall request your exertions, and an answer as soon as you can. At all events I cannot remain. I must fly till this tyranny be overpast. Very faithfully yours,——.Another friend wrote to him:—Dublin, Dec. 13, 1847.My Lord—Though I am most unwilling to intrude upon your Lordship's valuable time, or meddle in public affairs, I feel that it would be a dereliction of duty in the present case were I not to step out of the ordinary course, and communicate what your Lordship is not likely to learn but from private sources of information.During the past week or ten days several of our valuable and excellent clergy, who make my house their resort, have been obliged, at a moment's warning—some with and some without their families—to vacate their homes, and seek refuge in the city, having been warned in some cases by friends or dependants, and in others from unknown but apparently well-informed sources, that delay would be certain death.At the present time there are four clergymen here similarly situated—two whose murder had been planned; and so certain were parties eight miles distant that it had been accomplished at the prescribed time and place as intended, that it was asserted as having taken place. I am unwilling to trouble your Lordship with detail; this, if needful, can be supplied and substantiated; but I can say, in each case that has fallen under my notice, the respective sufferers have been remarkable for their activity and well-directed energy during the late famine—not merely in the distribution of public bounty, but also in dispensing from their own resources beyond their means, so that even the Roman Catholic, priests of their districts could not withhold their commendations, nor could they charge them with undue influence or attempts to proselyte.I feel, after the noble stand your Lordship has made in defence of our lives and properties, and our rights as Protestants, characterised by so much sound judgment and knowledge of the country and its wants, that your Lordship will avail yourself of this private information, so as, if possible, to render it useful in the present fearful state of the country. I am sure I need not further apologise to one who has in so many ways, with all his appliances, sought the good of his country, The enclosed letter, received from *****, is but one instance out of many of the base ingratitude shown by a Popish people, in return for untiring zeal and unwearied exertions in their behalf. Will your Lordship permit me to say, that the present feeling here is that the measures proposed are not at all sufficiently stringent to meet so disorganised a state of society; and until the Ribbon faction can be cut up, and priestly denunciations, direct or by implication, put a stop to, security need not be expected, nor can confidence be restored? You, my Lord, well know the self-denying and laborious character, the retiring habits, and the long-enduring patience of the Irish clergy, who have long been familiarised with privations, and are little given to complain. It is with reluctance they do so now. I now, with their concurrence, 1196 take the most likely course to have their case brought into full and fair consideration; and certain I am that, to the utmost of your Lordships' influence, the clergy of the Established Church of Ireland will in your Lordship find a firm friend in this their time of need.Believe me, my Lord, with most sincere respect and esteem, your Lordship's faithful servant,——.The Right Hon. Lord Farnham, K.P., &c.He had now done with cases of that description; and he would very briefly revert to a subject which he had brought under their Lordships' notice on a former evening—he alluded to the denunciation of persons by Roman Catholic priests in Ireland. In doing so, he wished, as he had formerly done, most distinctly to have it understood that in bringing that painful and delicate subject before their Lordships, he made no attack upon the clergymen of the Roman Catholic Church as a body, nor upon any individual of that body except those to whom he referred by name. He took that occasion to say that on every occasion he had received from the Roman Catholic priests in Cavan the most cordial co-operation and most efficient support in his arduous, and, he trusted, somewhat successful endeavours to preserve the Queen's peace. He would also add that he had received the most warm support of those gentlemen in his attempts to alleviate the distress of the people. In justice to an individual whom he had the pleasure of calling a friend, a man than whom none were more kind, or more anxious to aid and assist in the maintenance of the law, of all the men connected with the Roman Catholic Church, the individual he most esteemed, and regarded most, was the Right Rev. Dr. Browne, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kilmore. He (Lord Farnham) was only in the discharge of an imperative duty, and he disclaimed being accountable for any editorial or newspaper statement, charging him with having been connected with the Orange lodge, and charging him with bringing gross charges against the Roman Catholic priests as a body. Again, he said, he made no allusion to any one individual belonging to that Church, except those bad men whom he could not hold up to the execration of all good men in too strong language. In regard to his charge against the Rev. Mr. Hughes, he had received the fullest corroboration from a friend of his own, but whose name, although he was not bound to secrecy, he did not think it prudent to communicate. It was sufficient to say, 1197 that he was an individual whose name and high character were well known to all their Lordships, and who was intimately acquainted with many of them. His friend writes:—The violent expressions referred to at the Castlebar meeting, were certainly uttered; as I know from the evidence of a trustworthy auditor.Mr. Hughes's speech at length got so violent, that another priest, a trustworthy man, called him to order. I regret to see the priests, who did good service in encouraging the people to bear their inevitable suffering in patience last winter, now in some places making so bad an use of their power. There are not, however, many about here like Mr. Hughes.Certainly such speaking does more to starve the poor peasantry, by disgusting all who are inclined to help them among the charitable English, than the most wholesale evictions, or exactions of the worst landlord. No one is more anxious to treat them well, as long as they preserve the sacredness of their character, than I am. No one more sincerely blames them for the desecration of their holy office and profession.He was sorry to lay before their Lordships a fresh instance of priestly denunciation—a case which he thought even more important than any which had preceded it. He did not feel at liberty to mention the names of any of the parties connected with the case, nor the county, not even the part of Ireland in which it had occurred, nor, indeed, anything which might indicate the locality where the occurrence took place, because if the matter were not already under the consideration of the law officers of the Crown in Ireland, so far as he was concerned it would soon be brought to their notice; nor would he say whether the language he complained of was used on only one or upon many occasions—suffice it to say, that language was used by a priest of the Roman Catholic Church denouncing certain individuals by name; that one of those individuals was attacked immediately after the denunciation, and escaped with his life with the utmost difficulty. He might also add that he believed sufficient evidence would be produced of the fact and of the language to bring the conduct of that priest under the cognisance of Her Majesty's law advisers in Ireland. The information which he laid before their Lordships did not rest upon hearsay alone—it was founded upon original documents and letters from persons of whose character there could be no doubt whatever. He must again call their Lordships' attention to the case of the Rev. Michael M'Dermott. That individual had published a letter, not referring to any statement made in that House, but referring to certain 1198 statements which were alleged to have been made by Sir Benjamin Hall in the other House of Parliament. It was perfectly competent to the rev. gentleman—it was natural and only just to himself that when accused on such a charge he should take every legitimate means of defending himself. The rev. gentleman was perfectly justified in writing a strong letter; but it was another thing if the language, the character, the style, and the tone of the letter, the very expressions used in it, were the same as the language he inculpated; then he felt perfectly justified in bringing such conduct under the notice of their Lordships. But he was so disgusted with the letter that he would not read it to their Lordships—he would only say that throughout every part of it it breathed a spirit, he would not say of murder, but this he would say, that the whole tenor, tone, and language of it were calculated to arouse the worst passions of the misguided people, whoso spiritual director he was, and to excite them to deeds of violence and blood. He really felt justified in saying that every part of this letter breathed the spirit to incite to murder. No document could be conceived which could possibly breathe a worse spirit, or could less become even a man calling himself a Christian, far less one who was a teacher in a Christian church. In that document, speaking of a friend of his, the son of the murdered Major Mahon, he had the heartlessness to call him "the still mourning, but more lucky possessor of the Major's property." What had been the language of the same clergyman only nine years ago? In writing to Major Mahou in March, 1836, he said—I beg to assure you of ray sincere gratitude for your kindness towards myself personally, and your encouragement to the improvement and industrious habits of my parishioners since you came to reside amongst us. May Almighty God render to you the full reward of your good intentions, and grant you long life to reap the fruit of your kindly disposition in the affections of your poor tenantry!—I am, dear Sir, with the highest respect and gratitude, your obedient humble servant,MICHAEL M'DERMOTT.To Denis Mahon, Esq.And in a second letter, of July, 1845, he ended thus:—I always use my utmost exertions to promote peace among the people, and, above all, respect and punctuality to their landlords and the proprietors of the soil.—I remain, dear Sir, with deep sentiments of gratitude and esteem, yours sincerely, "MICHAEL M'DERMOTT.He now came to a part of the case when 1199 they would see the Rev. Mr. M'Dermott adopt a very different tone. He had a statement, in the handwriting of the late Major Mahon, of the proceedings at a meeting he attended, after an absence of six or eight months in England. On his return home, he as a landlord wished to perform his duty, and assist in the relief of the poor; and accordingly attended at a meeting of the relief committee, at which the following extraordinary scene took place:—AUTOGRAPH MEMORANDUM OF THE PROCEEDINGS AT THE RELIEF COMMITTEE, STROKESTOWN, AUGUST 28, 1847, WRITTEN AND SIGNED BY THE LATE DENIS MAHON, ESQ.Strokestown House, Aug. 28, 1847.The following is a statement of the proceedings which took place this day, when the relief committee met:—On looking at the books on first going in, I observed that there had not been a meeting of the committee since the 24th of July; and on my asking Mr. M'Dermott if there had been any, or if he had called a meeting, he replied, No, and that he did not see any occasion—that things were going on regular and correct; and even added, that, had he known it was desirable, he would have done so. We then proceeded to examine the accounts and look over the vouchers, &c. &c; and having found them correct, I expressed myself to that effect, and then proposed we should go over the lists, which we were called on to revise that day, with a view to reduce the number getting relief, according to the instructions given by Major Howard. The very uncivil and uncourteous manner in which Mr. M'Dermott answered my inquiries, made me put my questions chiefly to the clerk, Costello, wishing to avoid any altercation with Mr. M'Dermott; and, indeed, during the early part of the inquiries, he assured me that it would take my attendance on several days of meeting before I could possibly understand all the details, &c.; to which I not only assented, but assured him that I had no other wish in these inquiries but to make myself acquainted with what, as a member of the committee, I ought to know.I still continued to put my questions to Costello; and, among others, I asked him who revised those lists? For some time I got no answer; but, on pressing for one, Costello said, the committee. I asked, who were those of the committee that did so? He replied, Mr. M'Dermott, and that he (Costello) and the other clerks assisted him. On which Mr. M'Dermott rose up in a violent passion, and asked how I dared to come there to tyrannise over him? How dare I come at the eleventh hour, after leaving him to do all the work, and attack him by 'my side wind' allusions? but that he would not bear it; he had a hand to defend himself, and would do so. He was certainly in a violent passion, and would not listen to my repeated assurances that I had not in the slightest manner said, or intended to say, anything to annoy him. I even appealed to Dr. Shanley if I had done so; and he assured the rev. gentleman that I had not, and that he was perfectly satisfied I had said nothing which Mr. 1200 M'Dermott ought to consider as meant towards him. However, all I could say, or the repeated assurances I gave of not having the slighest wish or intention to attack his conduct in any way, was of no avail. He still continued to use the most abusive and insulting language that could be used by any man to a gentleman. How dare I now, when the committee was nearly closed, and that I never chose to attend since my return home—how dare I now come, and by side wind attack him? I then reminded him of his own words on our meeting that day—that I could not attend, for that he himself had, at the commencement of our meeting, stated that he had not considered it necessary we should meet. His immediate reply was, 'It is false, it is false; and you know it to be false, although you say it.' I referred him to Dr. Shanley, to know if it was not so; but he would not listen to anything. He then continued to abuse me in the most insulting manner. I was a 'stupid ass.' I had not common sense. He only wondered where, or if I had had any schooling; for a more ignorant fellow he never met. Such an ass, that if I had had any schooling it was quite thrown away on me. He then said, turning round to his clerks and Dr. Shanley, 'Here have I been for two hours trying to drive into his stupid head some information, and he is so ignorant he cannot understand it.' I was, no doubt, annoyed at such language, but I did not lose my temper, for even that insulting language. I begged to remind Mr. M'Dermott that he had stated in the early part of the day that my attendance for several meetings of the committee would be necessary before I could perfectly understand it. However, all I could say was of no use. I called on Dr. Shanley and those three clerks who were present [to say] if I did not several times assure Mr. M'Dermott that he was under a false impression, if he chose to think I meant anything personal to him—that I had no such intention. He then again alluded to what he considered as 'side wind' attacks I was making at him. I assured him I had not, that I never had, and never would do so, for that if I had reason to find fault with his conduct, or that of any other man, I would do so openly, and that I defied him to state my ever having done so, as I assured him I was not afraid to tell him to his face anything that I had to complain of. However, all I could say was of no use; he still continued to repeat that I had come when all the business had been done by him, to find fault and tyrannise over him; that I had spent my winter in London to amuse myself, and had left my people to starve in the streets and die, without ever looking after them; that I had done nothing for them, and had no right now to come and interfere: and also he stated to me that I had not attended a committee or done anything for the poor since my return, but had amused myself burning houses and turning out the people to starve. That, I was obliged to assure the reverend gentleman, was not the case, and that whatever I did with regard to my property I conceived rested with myself; that I would not allow him or any man to interfere with me in that respect, and desired him not to presume to meddle with my private affairs. I then felt so hurt that I declared I would not remain any longer, or do any act that day, after the manner in which I had been insulted by him. I then told Dr. Shanley, that after Mr. M'Dermott's conduct towards me, I should report it to Major Howard, and let 1201 him know that in consequence of it nothing had been done respecting the revision of the relief list.We then broke up, and Dr. Shanley and myself walked down together, when I told him I requested him to keep in mind the manner in which Mr. M'Dermott had behaved to me that day, as I should bring the matter before Major Howard, aud request a meeting of the committee on the subject. Dr. Shanley said he would, and remarked that I could not do otherwise.Aug. 28, 1847. "DENIS MAHON.Major Mahon followed up this extraordinary conduct on the part of the Rev. Mr. M'Dermott by writing to him the following letter:—Strokestown House, Sept. 8, 1847.Sir—The very unwarrantable language which you made use of towards me on Saturday, the 28th ult., at a meeting of the relief committee, in presence of Dr. Shanley and others, and further, if I am rightly informed, repeated again by you at your chapels the following Sunday—in justice to my own feelings, and as landlord over a numerous tenantry, I feel doubly called upon to request you will give me an opportunity of replying to these very serious charges. As I understand the relief committee are to meet on Friday next, I request you will come prepared to prove them, as I am determined to lay the matter before the committee on that day (or whatever day they shall meet), and submit to them how far you were warranted in making such charges against me.—I remain, Sir, your obedient servant, "DENIS MAHON.Rev. Mr. M'Dermott, P.P., Strokestown.P. S. I request your answer at your earliest convenience.In reply, Major Mahon received the following letter from the Rev. Michael M'Dermott:—Strokestown, Sept. 9, 1847.Sir—Until you make atonement to my feelings as a clergyman, for your insolent and personal attacks, I shall attend no meeting where you are present, either publicly or privately. I make this reply to convince you that I am only anxious to avoid a person whose conduct seems so extraordinary, and who seems to disregard the ordinary forms of civil society. My calling does not allow me to resent the insults I receive, and therefore common prudence, as well as religion, point out to me the necessity of withdrawing myself from the society of persons who may be inclined to offend me.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant, "MICHAEL M'DERMOTT.Major D. Mahon.Their Lordships would perceive that Mr. M'Dermott in this letter makes no allusion whatever to the charge made against him of having on the previous Sunday denounced from the altar this unfortunate gentleman. It was not his (Lord Farnham's) intention at the present moment to occupy their Lordships' time with a description of the admirable manner in which the property of the late Major Mahon had been managed, because he felt that he had 1202 already trespassed too long upon their patience. He should merely remark that there was a passage—the concluding one in the Rev. Mr. M'Dermott's letter, in reply to the charges made by Sir B. Hall in the other House—which he thought deserving of their Lordships' attention, inasmuch as it contained a most extraordinary and most valuable admission:—If," wrote he, "Sir B. Hall would for experiment sake exchange his comparatively high and exalted situation for the trodden-down situation of those whom he so liberally denounces, he would, perhaps, feel the position and understand the motives of those who, unlike him, do not enjoy the benefit of having their bad passions moderated by a moral and religious education, but who are induced to seek revenge, even to the hazard of existence, on finding themselves dragged from their homes to be plunged into the deepest wretchedness and destitution.He would ask their Lordships, after having read that letter, to say what they thought were the probable or actual reasons which induced the misguided peasantry in the neighbourhood adding to the crimes that had already disgraced Ireland for so many months past, to commit this most horrible murder actually within about twelve yards of many thickly-inhabited houses—a murder, be it observed, the news of which was received in Roscommon with blazing bonfires? He would ask their Lordships this simple question—whether they thought it was the oppressive conduct of a kind, benevolent landlord like Major Mahon, who was forced to get rid of a large number of tenantry because they owed him upwards of 30,000l., many of them in arrears of four years' rent, and who showed still greater kindness to them by not putting them out on the roadside without a home or without shelter, to be, as it were, trodden under foot, but who, on the contrary, actually expended amongst them upwards of 6,000l., with the view of enabling them to obtain the necessary comforts in a foreign country? He would ask their Lordships whether the conduct of such an individual as Major Mahon was the cause of the peasantry of Roscommon committing such a crime; or whether it was not much more probable, to use the emphatic language of the Rev. Mr. M'Dermott himself, because "they do not enjoy that benefit," which he accords to Sir Benjamin Hall, "of their bad passions being moderated by a moral and religious education?" The noble Earl concluded by apologising to the House for occupying so long the attention of their Lordships.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
said, that in the present state of Ireland every body must approve of a measure whose office was to repress crime. He therefore approved of the Bill. If, however, he were to attempt to characterise the present Bill, he should say, not that it was the best measure that could be devised, but simply that there was nothing wrong in it. He doubted whether it went to the full extent to which it ought to have been pushed in the present circumstances of the country; and for his own part he should have been willing to give his assent to a measure of a more stringent character. It was, perhaps, desirable that the powers given by the Bill should be so far narrowed that it should be almost impossible for any one possessed of rational views to entertain the slightest objection to it. Looking at it in this view, therefore, while it might have been desirable for the Government to have gone further, it was, probably, undesirable on the other hand, to risk the unanimity with which the Bill would now be passed. Although there might have been a few Gentlemen in the other House of Parliament, who, whether from the feelings of their own minds, or for the purpose of arriving at the popularity which he trusted they would not succeed in obtaining by their conduct, had opposed the Bill, and whose views might be accounted for in one or the other of these ways, yet that opposition had been reduced to the narrowest limits, whether it were tested by the numbers by whom the Bill had been opposed, or by the intellect which had characterised the debate on the part of those who had so opposed it. It was, therefore, with the most perfect satisfaction that he gave his assent to the measure; and he was also desirous of expressing his perfect willingness to go further if his noble Friends on the Treasury bench found the measure inefficient for the purposes for which it was intended. He trusted that its provisions would be carried into effect with prudence, but above all with vigour and without delay. The search for arms ought almost to precede the proclamation; for if the Lord Lieutenant proclaimed a district, and suffered a single day to pass over before instituting a search for arms, those miscreants who had collected arms for the purposes of assassination and outrage would be adroit enough to secure and conceal them. He would also beg to suggest to the Executive Government and to Parliament a provision 1204 which might be called unconstitutional. He deprecated the introduction of what he must call constitutional twaddle into a subject of this kind. Let not "the constitution" stand in the way of substantial justice and the preservation of the lives of Her Majesty's subjects. Well, then, unconstitutional and un-English as he might be told it would be, yet he entertained doubts whether some restrictions ought not to be imposed upon locomotion in Ireland—whether some difficulties ought not to be imposed on the change of place of certain persons living in certain districts. He agreed in the opinion that many of the recent assassinations were committed by persons not resident in the immediate neighbourhood of the places where the murders were committed, but who were sent for from a distance for that purpose. With the view of providing for such cases, he should be quite willing, if the Bill did not attain the object proposed, to put some restriction on what might be called locomotion in those individuals. He begged their Lordships not to shut their eyes to what must be the social state of the country in which such scenes took place, in which men were instigated to commit such crimes, and in which such instigations could be successful. These outrages, however, were only to be considered as symptoms, and dealt with as such; but at the same time he must raise his voice against any rash interference on the part of the Legislature with the relations existing between the various classes of society in that country. He referred more particularly to the subject of landlord and tenant, in which, if they interfered in the manner recommended by some, they would be stirring a question the end of which they could not foresee. Let not those who were connected solely with England flatter themselves that this question could be confined to Ireland. The two parts of the empire were one country, and if Parliament legislated upon this matter according to the opinions of some in whom it appeared that a spurious philanthropy had got the better of their reason, depend upon it they would be led into a course of legislation the end of which the Gentlemen of England could not possibly foretell. But while they were dealing with Irish crime, let them not forget Irish distress. He thought it his duty to warn their Lordships that in the course of the ensuing winter there would not be less distress in Ireland than during the last winter. 1205 Let their Lordships, the other House, and the public of England, be assured that when they had dealt with Irish crime, the next thing they would have to deal with would be Irish distress. Let them not, when dealing with the criminality of the hired assassin and the denunciations with which the altar was said to have been polluted, be diverted from considering the deplorable distress which numbers in that country must feel, and he believed were already beginning to feel. No one could have read history aright who did not expect that great calamities like the famine of last year would be followed by outrages and crime. Famine, pestilence, recklessness, crime—this was the natural order of events. Whenever it had pleased the Almighty to afflict nations with famine, those nations had always been subsequently desolated and disgraced by crime. An instance of this truth might be found in the reign of our own Charles II. He admitted that the man who was hired in Roscommon to commit murders in another part of the country was not a man who was actually famishing; he must have something in his stomach to enable him to travel to the place where his intended victim lived. Nevertheless, the House must not imagine that there was no connexion between the recent insufficiency of food in that country and the crimes that disgraced it, because they almost invariably followed each other as cause and effect.
EARL ST. GERMANS
said, he did not rise for the purpose of offering any opposition to the Bill which was lying on their Lordships' table. No man who had heard the statement of the noble Marquess, or who was at all acquainted with the state of Ireland, could object to investing the Executive Government of Ireland with extraordinary powers for the purpose of establishing something like a state of security in that country. He should not, therefore, obtrude himself for a moment on the attention of the House, if he thought that anything he might say would be supposed to have the effect of impeding the passing of this measure. He could not, however, allow the occasion to pass without asking their Lordships whether there was any difference between the circumstances under which this Bill was submitted to their Lordships, and those under which he proposed a somewhat similar measure in 1846. In the Session of 1846, he had the honour to make a statement in that House, inferior, he well knew, in eloquence to that 1206 which had been made that evening by the noble Marquess—but one which perhaps could scarcely be said to be inferior to it in the catalogue of offences which it contained, and the system of crime which it set forth. On that occasion their Lordships were at very considerable pains in discussing and improving the provisions of the Bill which he then introduced. That Bill was not a measure of general coercion; as, under the present measure, it gave power to the Lord Lieutenant to proclaim disturbed districts. It gave him the power of sending into these disturbed districts additional forces of constabulary, and of charging on the disturbed districts the expense of maintaining such additional force; and further, it gave him a power which was not in this Bill, of making compensation to the widows and families of murdered individuals, and of giving some compensation also to individuals, who, though not murdered, had been maimed by attacks made upon them. He was not now going to discuss whether that clause was or was not a salutary provision; but he wished merely to show, that in all essential respects the Bill then introduced was as good as that now before their Lordships' House. The House of Commons, however, not only did not take the trouble to read the provisions of the measure which had received the sanction of their Lordships' House in 1846, but they refused to give their sanction to the principle on which it was founded. He would not say that the responsibility of all that since occurred rested on those who gave that vote in opposition to the principle of the Bill of 1846; but he would say that, by an error of judgment, the majority in the House of Commons took a course on that occasion to which was mainly to be attributed much of the crime that had since been perpetrated in Ireland. He would not lengthen this inquiry; but he would say this much, that the introduction of the present measure by Her Majesty's Government in both Houses of Parliament, was not only an act of justice to Ireland, inasmuch as it gave some hope of the re-establishment of law in that country, but it was also an act of justice done to those by whom the Bill of 1846 had been propounded—to men who, he would venture to say, had proceeded on a liberal and conciliatory policy towards Ireland—who had endeavoured to develop the industry and the resources of that country—to extend the blessings of education among all classes of the community, without religious distinc- 1207 tion—and to bestow upon that country all the blessings that were to be derived from the British constitution. He trusted that he would never be found wanting in the discharge of his duty towards Ireland when a liberal and conciliatory course of policy was adopted; but at the same time he would not shrink from the responsibility of aiding in a measure that might be thought harsh, but which he believed necessary to secure due protection to life in that country. As the noble Marquess had said, this was not a measure so much for the benefit of the rich man, who to some extent had the means of protecting himself, as of the poor man, who was at all times open to the attack of the assassin. It should, therefore, have his most cordial support. As the noble Lord who had just sat down observed, expedition on such occasions was of prominent importance; and he trusted, therefore, that the Bill would at once become the law of the land, leaving the Government to redeem the pledge which they had given, that if they found it in any respect deficient or inadequate, they would come to Parliament for further powers. He felt that persons desirous of committing crimes could easily keep without the prescribed districts; and he apprehended, therefore, that the possession of arms by any considerable number of the inhabitants should justify the proclaiming of the district, and the seizure of the arms found in it. He threw out this remark, however, merely for the consideration of Her Majesty's Government in carrying out the law. He quite agreed with the noble Earl who had just sat down, that the state of crime in Ireland showed something unsound in the social condition of the country; but at the same time he was of opinion that Her Majesty's Government exercised a sound discretion in not accompanying this measure with any remedial measures. He trusted, however, that after the restoration of tranquillity in Ireland, Parliament would proceed to take into earnest consideration any measures which Her Majesty's Government might have to propose having for their object the improvement of the condition of the people, and the development of the resources of the country.
The MARQUESS of SALISBURY
said, he regretted that the measure was not of a more stringent nature, though he was at the same time aware that a more stringent measure might have met with a much more protracted opposition in another 1208 place, and that great delay would thus be occasioned in bringing it into operation. He was not disposed to find fault with a measure having for its object the putting down of crime in Ireland; and he was also gratified to find that Her Majesty's Government intended coming to Parliament for further powers, if the present Bill was found to be inoperative.
§ LORD BEAUMONT
said, it was not his object to go into the great question of the present state of Ireland, nor did he intend to go into the details of this Bill. He rose for the sole purpose of alluding to one portion of the speech of the noble Lord who spoke second in the debate (Lord Farnham). He felt that that speech imposed upon him a painful and disagreeable task; but painful and disagreeable as it was, he would not flinch from the fulfilment of it. The noble Lord had now, not for the first time, and in language which left no doubt—which could not be mistaken—made against certain Members of the Roman Catholic priesthood in Ireland, charges which, if proved, undoubtedly stigmatised them as among the chief causes of the state of crime in Ireland. It was vain to tell him that it was only individual priests who pronounced the denunciations which the noble Lord alluded to. It might be so; but the voice of a single priest was so respected among the people of Ireland near whom he dwelt, that his voice spoke like many tongues among them. It was true the noble Lord confined his charge to individuals. It was perfectly true that the noble Lord took care to guard his charges with a general approbation of the body to which the members whom he attacked belonged. Nay, he did more; he went, as he (Lord Beaumont) thought unnecessarily, out of his way to point out the intimacy with which he lived himself with clergymen in his neighbourhood. He showed his own kind feeling towards those who were willing to act well in their administration. There was no necessity for the noble Lord to make these observations. Nobody doubted that the noble Lord felt as kindly and charitably towards members of the priesthood of a faith opposed to his, as he did even to the members of his own persuasion, on the broad basis of that charity which no doubt the noble Lord possessed, and which prompted him to hold out the hand of brotherly love to all. But though the noble Lord guarded his remarks with these general observations, the charges which he brought against a certain number of their 1209 body, must, or at least ought to be felt by the body of the priesthood as a kind of stain upon them all. He would say distinctly, that if no other instances than the instances produced by the noble Lord could be brought forward, still these alone ought to be sufficient to rouse up the whole body of the priesthood of Ireland, for they ought all to feel that there was a stain upon their honour as long as these charges remained uncontradicted. Did their Lordships know the composition of that body? Did their Lordships know the connexion that existed between the highest and the lowest members of the priesthood? That it was the duty of the bishop to watch over the conduct of his priesthood, as it was the duty of the priest to watch over the conduct of his congregation? The whole thing was linked and closed together, and they could not bring charges like these against one member of the body, without directly assailing, or indirectly casting some kind of stain on the rest. Therefore, since these charges had been made—publicly and distinctly made, and echoed and printed, and universally circulated—made, he would add, not violently and hastily, but deliberately, coolly, and systematically brought forward, and he would say further, supported with such evidence as made him inclined to believe them to the full extent to be true—he had since then, he repeated, been painfully disappointed at not finding from those high in office—from the assembled body of the Catholic bishops—such measures announced as would sift to the very foundation the accusations that had been thus brought forward. If he could address them now, instead of speaking in that House he would say, "There is a stain upon you and upon me—there is a stain on the whole priesthood of Ireland—there is a stain, more or less, upon the laity of Ireland, if they do not rouse their priesthood into action under such a stigma—a stain which you are bound to sift and to examine; and if you find it to be true you are bound to punish the guilty party, and to make a general order and ordonnance that any priest who henceforth denounces from the altar any man, by name or indirectly, or who in any way refers to any individual before his congregation at the altar, or from the pulpit, or at the rails, or at catechism, or out of doors, in public or in private, is, in the present state of Ireland, worthy of censure." This was done in other countries. Elsewhere, on the first announcement of 1210 charges such as these, the bishop of the diocese would be bound, in the discharge of his duty, failing in which, he would be called to account for his neglect, to immediately issue general orders, and to bring the individual named before some tribunal. But in Ireland, though all these things were publicly spoken of, he saw with pain that no step was taken on the part of the priesthood to inquire into them. And here he would beg to suggest, that at the present moment the body of the Roman Catholic prelates stand in a totally different position, in relation to the Government, from what they occupied some time ago. Being now, to a certain degree, acknowledged by the Government, and being in communication with the Lord Lieutenant, and being kindly treated by him, he thought the Lord Lieutenant would be authorised to call upon them to assist in bringing to justice the priests who had so abused the powers vested in them. So much for the past. As to the future, he should like to inquire how one part of the present Bill would operate. The 16th Clause provided that every person between the ages of sixteen and sixty should, upon being called upon, do his utmost to discover and apprehend the perpetrator or perpetrators of these outrages; and in case of his not giving assistance to the utmost of his power and ability, he should be guilty of misdemeanor, and punished accordingly. Now, it seemed that these assassinations were frequently expected, and generally very well known when about to take place in districts in which they were planned, if not in the districts in which they were subsequently perpetrated. Many persons were acquainted with the probability of the occurrences before they took place. One letter had been alluded to as having been received by a person who was marked as a victim. It was not a threatening but a warning letter, in which the writer said, "You are going to be shot," and spoke of the intended assassination as a notorious and common topic of conversation in the neighbourhood; so that it appeared these murders were not kept secret from the great mass of the people. Under these circumstances, he (Lord Beaumont) was morally convinced that not only before the deed, or if not before, certainly after the deed had been committed, the priest must know the whereabouts of the parties who were most prominently concerned in its perpetration. He wished, therefore, to know whether the magistrates 1211 had power or could call upon the priest to assist in bringing the offenders to justice? Were the priests to be called upon and bound under penalty to discover the offenders? He wished to know, was it so? For, if it were not, he thought it would be very difficult for the law to be enforced with proper effect. He did not allude to the knowledge obtained in confession, but to the knowledge acquired in their general intercourse with the people. He regretted to say that in some papers, which he supposed to be the organs of the priests, it was said that the people would not and ought not to obey the Act—that they ought not to become informers, or assist under all circumstances to apprehend the parties to an outrage; so that unless the priests were made amenable, this clause would be very inoperative. The noble Lord on the cross-benches had instituted a comparison between the present Act and the Arms Bill of a former Session; but he (Lord Beaumont) thought there was a great improvement, in the absence of that portion of the former Bill which compelled the people to come and get their arms marked in open court, before the bench of magistrates. But he did not intend to enter into the details of the Act. He thought it far too weak to meet the circumstances of the case. But as the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland seemed to think it would be sufficient, he (Lord Beaumont) would support it, without attempting to make any alteration in it.
was glad he had given way to the noble Lord who had just sat down, in whose observations he entirely concurred, and thought they did him great honour. They had come, too, with more force from that noble Lord, than they would have come from him. The noble Lord (Lord Farnham) who had previously spoken, had introduced his remarks with his usual good feeling, and, far from attributing to the whole body of the Roman Catholic clergy the atrocious conduct of some of their body, he had restricted his remarks to the conduct of individuals. But he (Lord Stanley) fully concurred in opinion with the noble Lord who had just sat down (Lord Beaumont), that, considering the intimate connexion which subsisted between the highest and the lowest ranks of the Catholic clergy, so long as such conduct as had been exhibited and commented upon remained unrebuked, uncensured, and uncondemned by the heads of that body, so long the opinions of the 1212 reflecting people of this country and of the whole world would be that there was a stain of moral culpability resting upon them, and that they were guilty of the neglect of an imperative duty who had the power of censuring and condemning. With these observations he would pass from that part of the subject. It would be necessary for him, before going into the merits of the Bill itself, to advert to a question which had been, he thought, unnecessarily introduced into the debate. He meant the allusion to the apparent inconsistency of those Members of that or the other House of Parliament who gave their assent to the present Bill, but refused it to the Act introduced by the Government in 1846. Without discussing the merits of the former Bill, or the propriety of the course then pursued—without stating whether it were or were not an error of judgment—the noble Lord would permit him to point out to him the difference between the circumstances of the two cases. On the present occasion the Parliament was called together in the month of November, for the purpose of providing a remedy for the disturbed state of Ireland; and they did not separate and they entered upon no subordinate business until the Government measure for the protection of life and property, for the application of an immediate remedy to meet the demands of a pressing and extraordinary emergency, had been considered. He begged to be allowed to contrast that state of things with the course which had been adopted in 1846. He (Lord Stanley) and many Members of the other House with him, thought that the Government of that day were not desirous of passing the measure which they then introduced. The present Parliament had been summoned to meet in November. They were about to separate in December, after having disposed of the measure laid before them. In 1846 it had been said, in the Speech from the Throne, that—I have observed with deep regret the very frequent instances in which the crime of deliberate assassination has been of late committed in Ireland. It will be your duty to consider whether any measures can be devised calculated to give increased protection to life, and to bring to justice the perpetrators of so dreadful a crime.So that in the voice proceeding from the Throne in 1846, it was recommended that the immediate attention of Parliament should be directed to a state of things which the noble Earl told them was not less alarming than the present. But was 1213 it made the business of the Session? Had all other business been abstained from? In February the recommendation from the Throne had been acted upon, and a measure was passed, after considerable deliberation, through that House. On the 13th of March it was sent down to the other House of Parliament. But that was the time when the question of free trade was occupying entire attention, and when the Government was intending to make a permanent alteration in the laws regulating the introduction of foreign corn. He (Lord Stanley) thought with others that the introduction of corn was a question of less pressing emergency than the protection of human life; and yet the measure which had been recommended in the Queen's Speech, and which was sent down to the other House on the 13th of March, was appointed to be read a second time on the 10th of August. [Earl GREY here made a remark.] He begged pardon. He was mistaking the measure for the Arms (Ireland) Bill. But it was not until June—until the Corn Bill had come for discussion to their Lordships' House—that the Bill was discussed in the House of Commons. The noble Earl would have done well had he adopted the tone used by a right hon. Baronet in another place, who had said that they should not act in the spirit of recrimination upon the past, but should adopt such measures as the present circumstances required. He (Lord Stanley) concurred with the noble Earl opposite in thinking that the Bill should pass without delay, and that it was for Her Majesty's Government to be satisfied as to its sufficiency or insufficiency. But he could not nevertheless give a silent vote upon it, nor avoid stating his opinion that he would be astonished if it were found sufficient; because he thought the Bill was insufficient, and not at all calculated to cope with the principal part of the evil. They had been told by the noble Marquess of the perpetration of the most appalling murders; that there was a regularly organised conspiracy through various parts of Ireland—a conspiracy for the destruction of life and property, and for the destruction of humble industry. His noble Friend who had spoken from his (Lord Stanley's) side of the House, had told them of assassination committees meeting in various districts of Ireland, and, in terms that might well excite their astonishment, they were told that money was subscribed for the murder of inoffensive parties in that 1214 country. They had a universal combination for the commission of murders—murders of individuals of the highest character—and those murders celebrated by bonfires throughout the land. So universal was the knowledge throughout the country that these murders were about to be committed, that in a distant market town the announcement of the actual commission of a crime preceded by three hours the time of its actual perpetration. Now, the question before their Lordships was, would the measure of Her Majesty's Government put an end to this dreadful state of matters? The first provision in the Bill was that on which the Government mainly relied, and which gave to the Lord Lieutenant powers on proclamation to prohibit, within a forbidden district, the possession of arms, except in dwelling-houses; and next, by a second proclamation, to prohibit arms to all, except some specified persons. Now, supposing they succeeded within a given district in calling in all the arms that at present were in the hands of the peasantry. Did they believe that by the mere withdrawal of the firearms they would be successful in putting down either the crime itself, or still more the excitement to crime, in the organised conspiracy from which it proceeded? They would no doubt cripple the hand that executed, but they would not reach the heads that plotted, or the conspiracy that provided the assassin—the agency that issued the commands, or the tools ever ready to see those commands obeyed. They might to a certain extent diminish the danger; but was it firearms only that were the deadly weapons of murder? Every ditch and every road afforded ready materials for murder. One of the most frightful cases of murder he had ever heard of was one in which a stone was so deeply indented in the skull of the victim that the medical man found it impossible to remove it. Such were the kinds of crime which this Bill did not attempt to prevent. Though he did not lay much stress on the benefit to be derived from the specific system of passports in Ireland, he must say, it was notorious that the majority of crimes were committed, not by persons residing on the spot, but by strangers brought from a distance under a solemn vow to murder any individual that might be pointed out to them on receiving the reward of a few paltry shillings. Though, however, he did not rely very strongly on the passport system, he thought it might usefully prevent 1215 the influx of strangers into the disturbed districts; and it would no doubt be of infinite importance if strangers coming into the proclaimed districts were to be apprehended by the authorities. He found, however, no such provision in the Bill before the House. With respect to the provision, that after the first proclamation of the Lord Lieutenant, with certain exceptions, no person was to carry or have in the district arms "elsewhere than in his or her own dwelling-house," he really wished to know whether the intention of these words was to limit the possession of arms to persons being householders? Did they enable lodgers to have arms, or only those who had houses to defend? Then there was a provision that the Lord Lieutenant might issue a second proclamation, requiring every person, with certain exceptions, not only not to carry arms out of his house, but to surrender the arms altogether; and there was a power given to the Lord Lieutenant to direct search warrants for the seizure of concealed arms. This power was limited to a time subsequent to the issue of the second proclamation—That from and after the day named in any such last mentioned notice, it shall be lawful for the Lord Lieutenant, &c., to direct search in any county, &c., named in any such last mentioned notice, at any time while such first mentioned proclamation shall be in force, &c.He could not comprehend this; and he thought there would be a difficulty in carrying out the intentions of the Act. There was a provision in the Bill, which he rejoiced to see, by which power was given to justices and constables to call upon persons within proclaimed districts to join in the pursuit and apprehension of offenders; and any person refusing or neglecting to join in such pursuit would be guilty of a misdemeanor, and be liable to imprisonment for two years. He (Lord Stanley) apprehended that magistrates might call upon any person to assist in executing the law at present under the common law of England, and that a refusal or neglect would be an offence against the law. As far as he could understand, the object of the Bill was to alter the existing law by affixing to the offence the penalty of two years' imprisonment with hard labour. He could not conceal from himself that there was a very general feeling prevailing in Ireland not to join in the pursuit of offenders, or to aid the law; and he had heard that, for the purpose of furthering 1216 the escape of offenders, a whole population would appear to join in the pursuit, and by running mix themselves with them, and thereby balk the police, who were unable to identify and apprehend the offenders. This provision, therefore, would be ineffectual unless there was an inclination to join in the pursuit, and then it would be unnecessary. There was another provision which was not in the original Bill, and had not been proposed by Her Majesty's Government, but had been introduced in the other House by an independent Member. He meant the penalty imposed upon accessaries after the fact. He wished to be informed what it was that constituted accessaries after the fact. Suppose a warrant were issued against an individual sworn to have committed a murder; the person against whom the warrant was taken out would immediately become an object of general sympathy; nine cabins out of ten in the county would assist him; he would be concealed and harboured and supported. Suppose that this party kept out of the way, or suppose he were taken and brought to trial, but notwithstanding a moral conviction of his guilt, from a deficiency of evidence, or any other cause, he escaped; he (Lord Stanley wished to know whether, under the operation of this clause, or of the law, any penalty would attach to the persons who might have harboured or concealed him? whether, if a person, known to have committed a murder, was brought to trial and acquitted, any penalty would attach to those who had harboured or concealed him, because they were not accesaries after the fact, not having harboured a murderer? Knowing the extent of sympathy which prevailed in Ireland towards persons guilty of the most heinous crimes, he thought it right to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to this point. His great objection to this Bill was, that it fell short altogether of the evil; it was directed to a very small part of it; it was intended to mitigate the symptoms of the disease, not to eradicate the disease itself. After arms had been taken from the murderers, the organisers and contrivers of the murders would remain untouched, whilst stones, and hammers, and blocks of wood, would do the work of pistols and guns; the monster evil of Ireland would still remain to be grappled with. The noble Marquess had expressed a confidence in the good feeling of the people of Ireland in the cause of justice; and he (Lord Stanley) knew there 1217 were districts in Ireland where justice was administered and juries performed their duty. The noble Marquess had said that there were districts in Cork in which convictions were obtained "whenever prosecutors made their appearance." But prosecutors were often afraid to appear. The Bill provided no antidote against such great evils as the noble Marquess had referred to; for he had admitted that whole districts and counties, and provinces almost, in Ireland, were scenes of crimes of the deepest dye; money was collected for the payment of head money to murderers; the names of the assassinating committee were known, and the actual murderers were known, and the subject of the murder was discussed at markets, and in the field, and at the fireside, and by labourers on public works; and not only when the person to be shot was known, but why he was shot. What must be the state of society in a country where murders were committed, and ninety-nine out of one hundred persons knew beforehand that the crime was to be committed—when and why—and no individual would join in the pursuit of the murderer, and no witness would give testimony against him in a court of justice? He had hoped that a Bill would be introduced which would grapple with these evils and with the disease itself; for until the disease itself was eradicated there could be no hope for the safety of life in Ireland, and for the protection of the industrious and humble classes in that country. A reign of terror now prevailed over whole districts, and he rejoiced to hear that Her Majesty's Government were prepared to take stronger measures if necessary, although the noble Earl at the head of the Government was satisfied with this Bill. If the anticipation of the Government should not be fulfilled; if the Bill should fail in its object; or if the noble Earl should find other measures necessary, he was convinced that this and the other House of Parliament would give the same unanimous and cordial support to a stronger measure which they had given to this, he believed, very inadequate measure.
§ EARL GREY
observed, that the noble Lord who had just resumed his seat, had very truly remarked, that the measure had been most cordially received on both sides of their Lordships' House; but that he (Lord Stanley) did not think it sufficient for the purposes intended. After describing, in very powerful language, the present frightful state of society in Ireland, the 1218 noble Lord proceeded to state, that the Government measure did not attempt to touch the head of the offence—that it sought to allay the symptoms, but that it contained nothing calculated to eradicate the disease. The root of the disease, in the noble Lord's opinion, existed in the minds of the people—in their determination not to support the law, but, on the contrary, to show sympathy with the offender. He (Earl Grey) grieved to say that he could not differ with the noble Lord—the observation was perfectly true. Two years since he pressed that point on the attention of their Lordships—he then said, that the disease was too deeply rooted to be cured by mere measures of coercion. Until the disposition of the population was altered, and the people were made friendly to the law, no effectual cure could be applied to the present deplorable state of society. But no Act of Parliament could alter the minds of men. By legislation no new mind, no new heart, could be placed in the breasts of men capable of working the dark deeds their Lordships had heard so feelingly and painfully detailed during the present discussion. The Bill did not profess to cure the evil in the minds of men; it addressed itself to the outward manifestation of that evil, by the speedy and effectual punishment of offences. That was the purpose of the Bill. But to alter the mind of the population, to win back the people, to make them mend their course, and to obtain their assistance in aid of the law, could only be a work of time. In this great work Her Majesty's Government hoped and believed that the present measure would powerfully contribute, by increasing the powers of the Executive, and thus making the means of arresting and prosecuting offenders comparatively easy, by encouraging the sound part of the population to support the law, and grapple with the evil of intimidation, He trusted that there was still a large portion of the population of Ireland that might be considered sound; but unfortunately that sound part was under the influence of intimidation. By strengthening the hands of Government, their Lordships would encourage the peaceable and well-affected to come forward in aid of the law. By obtaining the restoration of order, the Government would make those who were now criminals or connivers at crime see that it would be to their own interest to abandon their present course of conduct, and to lend their aid for the preservation of peace and 1219 order. He considered that the Bill now before the House would tend to produce such an effect. The Bill must undoubtedly be regarded as a measure for repressing the outward manifestation of the wicked spirit to which he had referred, and not for correcting it. Upon one subject he entirely agreed with the noble Earl (Earl Fitzwilliam), who had addressed their Lordships in the course of the discussion. He thought it would be highly injurious to have mixed up with this measure one for improving the general and social condition of Ireland. The first essential to improvement was security to life and property. The noble Marquess who moved the committal of the Bill had very clearly pointed out how the present disorganised state of society in Ireland prevented improvement—how it prevented investment of capital in that country. In moral and social improvement the first step must be to restore order. If Her Majesty's Ministers had introduced the Bill with the limited object of repressing crime, rather than to take away the disposition for crime, he would allow that the measure was open to great objection—many seeming omissions might very reasonably have been complained of. But their Lordships would allow him to point out the moral effect of the measure. He thought that a mild measure, passed with all but the unanimous support of both Houses—many Members in both Houses declaring their willingness to support a still stronger measure—was likely to have a much greater moral effect than a sweeping Bill passed after a long and vehement struggle, and the opposition to which had been raised, not only by persons whose numbers and mode of proceeding deprived them of all weight and influence, but by men honestly convinced that the powers asked for were excessive. It appeared to him that the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) seemed to underrate the extent of the powers given by the Act. The noble Lord found fault with the necessity for two proclamations, believing that it would enable evil-disposed parties to remove their arms to the neighbouring districts. The noble Lord seemed to have overlooked the fact that the moment a district was proclaimed, no person was allowed to carry arms at all. That was the effect of the first proclamation. The second proclamation authorised a search for arms. The Bill gave the Lord Lieutenant power to extend this first proclamation to other and more extensive districts than those placed under 1220 the more rigorous part of the Act; and the Lord Lieutenant would doubtless exercise that power. The power to carry arms would be extremely restricted. This would have a direct and powerful effect in checking the commission of offences. Under the present law the police might hear the sound of firearms in the distance; when they arrived at the spot from whence the sound proceeded, they had no power to interfere; the men brandished their arms in defiance, and it was found impossible for the police to do their duty. When the permission to bear arms ceased, the police might hear the shot, which would be then less frequent; and if they, on proceeding to the place, found a number of people lurking about, those people might be at once stopped and searched. And while the carrying of arms would be thus restricted in the comparatively peaceable counties, in those districts where disturbances were frequent the Lord Lieutenant could require that all arms be delivered up by a certain day. It would be absolutely unjust to make it illegal to possess arms until the parties had an opportunity of getting rid of them. It would be unjust to make the possession of arms a misdemeanor, and to proceed to punish the holders without first giving the parties notice. Then the noble Lord complained that the Act empowered the Lord Lieutenant to issue his warrant to search for arms in no place except the dwelling-house. Such power was not required. The police, under ordinary powers, could search in gardens, yards, bogs, or any such places. There was no power taken under the Act, because such a power was absolutely needless. The only purpose for which a warrant was required was in cases when the police wanted to force their way into dwelling-houses and search for arms, after the possession of arms had been declared illegal. Then the noble Lord asked, whether it would be illegal for lodgers to possess arms. He (Earl Grey) would not give a decided opinion on that head; but he thought it of little consequence. The real object of that part of the Act of Parliament was to prevent the practice of carrying arms. Her Majesty's Government' also relied much upon that portion of the Bill which empowered the Lord Lieutenant to increase the number of police. What would be more likely to restore order than the saddling a district with an expensive police force? The police might be increased to any extent in the disturbed districts. If 100 were re- 1221 quired, the Lord Lieutenant could order them; for 200, 300, any number, he had the same authority; and the district would be at once saddled with the expense. The very moment the police force were quartered, the consequences of crime would be made apparent to every owner and occupier of land, and that would include the greater portion of the population; the consequences would be immediately brought home to him in the shape of a police levy. It was admitted on all hands that the connivance of the people was the great source of crime. If, after the passing of this Bill, they did so connive, they would be the principal sufferers. It had been remarked by one noble Lord that the licensing clause was a vicious change from the former Arms Bill. Formerly the license to possess arms was granted at the quarter-sessions; under the Bill that power would be vested in a person appointed by the Lord Lieutenant. Under the Bill disarmament in the disturbed districts would be the general rule—the licenses would form the exception. A very few persons, such as relieving officers, and others, entrusted with the receipt and payment of money, would be allowed to carry arms. Such being the case, it was thought advisable to place the power in the hands of some person appointed by the Lord Lieutenant. That person would either be the county inspector or one of the higher officers of the constabulary. With regard to another point raised by the noble Lord (Lord Stanley)—the effect of the Bill on accessaries after the fact—he believed that accessaries after the fact would be placed on the same footing as accessaries before the fact are now placed by the law of the land. Formerly an accessary could not be punished before the conviction of the principal. A few years ago, an Act passed providing for the punishment of the accessary, even though the principal may have escaped. The noble Lord had asked this question in reference to the case of a man suspected of murder being concealed by a friend. The acquittal of this man would not be a bar to the conviction of the man who concealed him; that is, it would not be a necessary bar to his conviction. It would, however, be necessary to prove the actual commission of the murder, although the murderer might be acquitted, before the accessary after the fact could be convicted. With all his (Earl Grey's) anxiety to make this measure effectual for the suppression of crime, he was persuaded that instead of accomplishing that object they would de- 1222 feat it if they went too far, and run the risk of committing a substantial injustice. He would not allow the mere technicalities of the law, or mere precautions, to stand in the way of doing that which he believed to be really necessary for the punishment of crime in Ireland; but he would entreat their Lordships not to urge the adoption of any measure which was capable of working substantial injustice. Upon the subject of juries, which had been referred to by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley), he (Earl Grey) did not know how he could add anything to what had been already said by his noble Friend the President of the Council, for he had told them that all the latest reports which they had received from Ireland, from those who were responsible in that country for the administration of criminal justice, established the fact that on the whole juries did their duty very well. Of course it was impossible to foresee what might happen hereafter; but he owned that he felt confidence that when juries were further encouraged by the protection which would be conferred on the well-disposed by the passing of this measure, they would act even with more boldness than they did at present. He therefore hoped and believed that they should not be driven to adopt any measure to provide for juries not doing their duty; but if a case for the passing of such a law should be hereafter made to them, they would not be slow to apply to Parliament for a remedy. With regard to what had been said with reference to the necessity of affording due protection to witnesses, he assured the House that no measure which it was possible for Her Majesty's Government to take for the protection of witnesses would be neglected. He thought that under the operation of this Act, the intimidation which prevailed would be greatly diminished; and he was utterly at a loss to suggest any measure, or far less to guess at what description of measure his noble Friend alluded to when he told them there was no adequate provision contained in the Bill to meet any difficulty which might arise with respect to witnesses. There were only two other points to which he thought it necessary to advert. In the first place, it had been asked, if under that clause by which all persons can be called upon to give assistance in the apprehension of offenders, priests can be called upon to give information as to offenders. Undoubtedly he (Earl Grey) thought it was impossible to put such a 1223 construction upon it. It was impossible, he thought, that under such a clause as that, the priests could be asked to give information which they derived in the discharge of their religious functions. In the next place, reference had been made by the noble Lord opposite as to the course which should be adopted in reference to strangers found in proclaimed districts, and it was suggested that such persons should be obliged to carry passports, or be subjected to arrest. Now, with respect to passports, he (Earl Grey) was not prepared to approve of that suggestion. He had recently learned that passports were completely abandoned in Belgium, and it was thought the abandonment of them would be general. On the other hand, if the power were given of arbitrary arrest, it seemed to him that its exercise might be subject to great abuse. He (Earl Grey) was not aware that there were any more of the details of this measure to which it was necessary for him to refer. He would only make this remark, that while many noble Lords had stated that they conceived it would be insufficient, he had not heard any suggestion that seemed to him to be practicable as to the mode in which it could be improved. It was to be regarded as a mere repressive measure, and as such he did not see what more they could do. It was true that a clause had been introduced in other former measures of a similar nature, which was not contained in this Bill. There was the clause which prohibited persons from being out between sunset and sunrise, and which was commonly called the curfew clause. He (Earl Grey) could only express the same opinion he had expressed in 1846 with reference to such a clause. He considered that that clause was liable to abuse, and would be ineffectual for its purpose. It should be recollected that those dreadful crimes were committed in the open day and not by night, and he believed that that clause would be really of no avail for repressing those crimes. On the other hand it would interfere with the ordinary industry and occupations of the people—it would prevent men from going to market and to work at certain hours, and would enforce a degree of restraint that practically it would be impossible to keep up; and of all things they could do in Ireland, the most mischievous would be to make regulations which generally they could not practically enforce. There was one lesson which it was most important to teach the Irish peo- 1224 ple, and it was this—that the law must be obeyed. They should make it known generally and universally that any instance of the infraction of the law must be punished. There was no one clause in this Bill which they could not enforce, and they made nothing an offence by it which they could not really and practically punish. After all the discussion that had taken place, he still remained of opinion that it was not in the power of Her Majesty's Government to propose a measure more calculated to effect the great object which they all had in view; and he most earnestly hoped that this measure would accomplish that object.
thought it of great moment that whatever Act passed should go out to the people of Ireland—to the criminals and to the whole community—sanctioned by as great a concurrence of authority and feeling in this country as possible; and therefore, however feeble might be his expectations of the efficacy of the present Bill, he yet listened to the argument of those who set off, as it were, against the insufficiency of the measure, the advantage to be derived from a more general concurrence of opinion. He differed from the noble Lord who spoke second in the debate, and with his usual ability and moderation, and who seemed to lament that no prosecution had been instituted against certain great criminals, who, abusing their sacred office, had, by denunciations against individuals, incited others to crimes. No man could hear the bare statement of such an offence without feeling the greatest indignation; and no man breathing could doubt that, far from sheltering such criminals, the sacred place where the offence was committed constituted a grievous aggravation of their guilt. No one could help feeling grieved that they should not have been brought to punishment; but when he was asked to blame the Government for not having put them on their trial, another question arose. That question was, not whether the conviction of those criminals would have its evil effect—not whether it would tend to make martyrs of the offenders—not whether their punishment would have a tendency to unite on the same side with them all the rest of the body to which they belonged, and of which they were the foul and perpetual disgrace—not whether it would tend to mitigate the sentiments of the Catholic lay population of the country, who at present were filled with just indignation, with natural 1225 horror at the offences of those priests, and even make them take part with these pastors—all these considerations he was bound to disregard, for the law must take its course whatever might be the effect of the penalties which it inflicted. But there was another question which he was bound to ask before he required the prosecution of these offenders; and that was, what evidence could be got against them? how could that evidence be collected? and what way were they to succeed better in this case against the priests than they had often done against laymen? And supposing they obtained evidence on oath that at such an altar and on such a day a denunciation was uttered, would none of the flock of the priest come forward to give evidence on the other side? and in this conflict of evidence, would there be no difficulty in getting a jury to declare that the words charged in the indictment as uttered by the priest had been so uttered, and thus to convict him? It was not enough to have the Government shorthand writer present, though that implied a previous knowledge of the time and place; but after he had taken down the words, you must be sure that some of the priest's flock would not give a contrary testimony, and that in the conflict a jury, partly Romanist, would not acquit. Let their Lordships consider what was the influence of a Roman Catholic priest over his flock, especially in a country circumstanced as Ireland, and they would agree with him in thinking that the Government might pause and hesitate before they commenced such a prosecution. Therefore, he must be more certain of the conviction of these offenders before he could join in any complaint, on the ground of their not yet being put on their trial. Let it not be supposed that he intended to bring a general charge against the whole of the Roman Catholic clergy. Were he to do so, he should be guilty not only of the greatest want of charity, but of the grossest ignorance of the state of Ireland as regarded the pastors of the people. He believed, generally speaking, these priests to be men of respectable lives and characters, and that their conduct generally, was an honour to the cloth they wore. But he was bound to add that this opinion, like that of his noble Friend (Lord Beaumont) was conditional, and that it would undergo, if not a change, a very essential modification, if he found that in reference to those murderous addresses from the altar—those cruel denunciations—no steps should be taken to visit—he would not say with 1226 condign punishment—but at least with suspension, the guilty parties who had outraged the common feelings of our nature, disgraced their profession, and foully stained the cloth they wore. If he found nothing done, and that those guilty priests continued in the same functions, he should be compelled, however reluctantly, to say that the stain which might have been kept confined to the individuals, extended itself much more largely, and affected the body itself. The influence of these priests, however, was not the only peculiarity of Ireland, to which these crimes could be traced. Indeed, another consideration, which lay at the root of the whole question, was the tenure of land. It became a question of peculiar difficulty and importance in a country where the possession of land was an absolute necessity of existence. Land being indispensable to subsistence, presented a condition of society wholly unexampled. The poor of Ireland naturally felt when land was taken from them, as if the bread were taken out of their mouths—they were like persons shipwrecked, who cared not how many lives they sacrificed to save their own. Indeed, that influence, though greater there, was not unknown elsewhere. But did he suppose that the required change in the national character could be effected by an Act of Parliament? Quite the contrary—time must be given—the circumstances of society must be altered—the old, bad, and hurtful feelings must be set aside. As long as those feelings existed, and as long as the priestly influence, also in excess owing to what he should presently state, continued to prevail, they could be at no loss for the means of solving the problem which the present state of Ireland offered. Six years ago—aye, fourteen years ago, it had been proved that a conspiracy similar to that at present in active operation did exist in Ireland—it was shown on those occasions, as now, that a central body was constituted with outbranches—that committees were sitting in different places—that the appearance of trials was carried on—that sentences were passed, and those sentences executed, and murderers sent for from a distance to execute them. All this was well known years and years ago. That such a condition of society was connected with priestly influence no man could doubt; that some of the Romish priests used their influence for evil purposes was a truth of which he was entirely persuaded. In this discussion two topics pressed themselves 1227 prominently upon consideration—they were confession and absolution; and he purposely kept them apart, as he complained of each, separately and independently of the other. Upon those subjects he was about to express such Protestant sentiments as he presumed might not be acceptable to his noble Friend opposite. But the more he considered the subject the more firmly persuaded did he feel that the mere secrecy of the confessional had a tendency most hurtful to morals, and practically leading to crimes by lessening the horrors with which guilt was regarded by the criminal. Who that knew the power of conscience could doubt that the greatest imaginable relief was experienced from the acknowledgment of crime? Every one knew that a real solace was derived from pouring into any ear the detail of offences; but how much more complete and comforting was that confession when made to one whom the party had from his earliest youth been taught not only to love and respect, but even to revere! How great the relief to a burdened conscience when the history of guilt that oppressed it was poured into the ear of one by whom it would never be divulged! This was peculiar to the Romish faith—it was unknown to any other religious system; and the duties of the confessional were performed by the priest, not only as the servant of God, but as one believed to have the power of placing the penitent in the awful presence of the Deity. But if such was the effect of mere confession coupled with the priestly office, how much greater was that of absolution! For all this, he never once entertained any such fantastic notion as that legislative measures could put down the practice of confession and absolution. He never for one moment entertained a notion of the kind. But this he never doubted, that confession and absolution gave great effect to the purposes of unworthy men; and one restraint might well be laid upon this exercise of the priestly office. It might be precluded from persons convicted of heinous offences, and especially from those condemned to expiate their crimes with their lives. The Emperor Napoleon entertained strong opinions upon this point, and took strong measures with reference to it. The Emperor, with his wonted vigour, took this course, and that notwithstanding the value he set on the religious influence derived from the concordat, and the court he even paid to the Church, He restrained the power 1228 of the priesthood in matters both civil and criminal. In civil matters they could receive no legacy from any members of their flocks; neither legacies nor deathbed gifts. In matters criminal, Napoleon, as he always did, went at once to his purpose, and applied an effectual remedy—no prison door was opened to the priest, no confessions, no absolutions, no access for the priest, none of what were called the consolations of religion between the committal of the prisoner and his trial, none even when sentence was passed—not even between sentence and execution. The like course was taken, and with perfect success by a well-known Governor of our own at Malta. But beside the religious, we were to consider the financial relations subsisting between the Irish priest and his flock: this matter was very serious. Some time ago when a Committee of that House was engaged with inquiring into the subject of Roman Catholic marriages, it was suggested to Romish prelates and priests examined, that their marriages might take place in church; and it was asked, did there exist any objection to that? The answer was, that they would by no means have marriages solemnised in the churches. In vain it was said that that practice would be the more respectful mode—more respectful to the clergy and to religion. It was replied, that the clergy did not wish it. Next it was proposed that marriages should take place in the morning; to that likewise an objection was raised, they must not be in the morning, there was always a merrymaking; well, but the merry-making might be held in the evening, and the marriage in the morning. No, it must be all one operation. At last it was found out that the company being assembled, a collection for the priest was set on foot; that this collection was made during the hours of conviviality; and it behoved them that the conviviality should proceed to a certain limited extent before the hat went round. By such means as these the priests were paid; and at present it was the only way in which they could be paid. He (Lord Brougham) had preferred giving this instance of the mode of payment to any general description, because it brought the matter home to every one's mind. But he presumed that every one of their Lordships would agree with him when he said, that it was a mode of payment most unworthy, unseemly, and indecent. So long as it existed they would have complaints about the state of Ireland, As to the payment 1229 of the Roman Catholic clergy by the State, he knew that to that there were grave objections, and he felt that till some such proposition continued to be for years constantly repeated—until it became familiar to the minds of Englishmen, the prejudices—the deep-rooted prejudices against it could not be overcome; yet until such prejudices yielded to the voice of reason, and the dictates of experience, no hope existed of the priestly influence being checked, and of the popular control over the priest also ceasing; for the present system produced both those evils—the priest had more power, and he was also forced to become a party in the violent proceedings of his flock. He (Lord Brougham) was also of opinion that the best effects would be produced by an unrestricted intercourse between our Government and the Roman See, and if the laws which interdicted it were repealed; he, of course, did not limit his observation to our intercourse with the Pontiff in his temporal capacity—an intercourse to be carried on upon behalf of 6,000,000 of our fellow-subjects in Ireland ought to subsist for the purposes of their hierarchy, exclusively, of course, of interference with our temporal concerns, as actually was the case in Prussia—a country as Protestant as England herself. As to the punishments of crimes recently committed, the criminals were well known, but they could not be arrested without sworn informations. If what was called the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act were agreed too, he was quite ready to admit that such a proceeding would not be constitutional—it would, while it lasted, be an abrogation of the constitution; but they must not talk of the constitution when no man's life was safe for an hour—when there was a conspiracy extending over five or six counties, and murders were committed in the face of day and with the assent of the people. To talk of the constitution, and be afraid of suspending it in such a case, was senseless; it was contrary to the constitution of human nature to submit to such a state of things. It would be said that the two measures he recommended—namely, a power of imprisonment and service of papers, and a power of so trying offenders as to secure the conviction of the guilty—must of necessity be only temporary remedies. He admitted it; but the present inefficient measure was itself only temporary. He still conceived that it would have been on the whole better to take a 1230 more decided course; but the Government took on itself the responsibility of preferring the present plan; and as what had once been said of some men applied to the present measure, that it "very little means, but means that little well." As it was, though a small step, yet a step in the right direction, he was bound to rest satisfied with it for the present, and to hope, what he really could hardly expect, that it might render any further legislation unnecessary. As to remedial measures, he looked forward to them with even less expectation, for he felt all the difficulties that had been alluded to. He never saw any attempt at a tenant-right measure that did not clearly discommend itself by being contrary to every rule of equity and the true interests of the tenant as much as the apparent interest of the landlord.
§ On Question, Resolved in the Affirmative: House in Committee accordingly; Bill reported, without Amendment; and to be read 3a To-morrow.