HL Deb 20 July 1847 vol 94 cc570-90

said, he would now, in pursuance of the Motion of which he had given notice, call the attention of their Lordships to a subject of the last importance: he alluded to the course which had been pursued by Her Majesty's Government in conducting the business of the Session which was now so nearly closed. He need not refer to his own conduct during the past Session, from first to last, to justify him in stating what he felt was necessary to be stated; yet he would allude to it to show—although such an insignificant subject might not be deserving of attention—that he had not been actuated by any desire of pertinaciously opposing Her Majesty's Government; that he had given his support to such measures as he considered for the public advantage, without any regard to the quarter whence they had originated; and that when some measures to which, after deliberate consideration, he could not conscientiously give his support, had been brought forward, he had either abstained from debating them, that he might not be charged with a factious opposition, or had openly given his opposition to such of them as he felt he had no right to suffer to pass in silence. He, therefore, felt that he had a right to claim their Lordships' belief that in the Motion he was then making, he was not actuated by any factious design, or impelled by any party motive whatever, but that he was actuated by a sincere desire to promote the interests of the country in the highest branch of its concerns—the legislation. It was, therefore, to bring under the view of their Lordships, before they separated, the course which legislation had taken during the past Session, that he then rose to address them; and he did it with no vague or general view of merely uttering commonplaces, and still less with the design of casting blame or reproach upon the Government—for much that had occurred was inevitable—just at the point of their Parliamentary demise, and when they were going to render an account before the country. It was, therefore, with no view of uttering vague and idle complaints, and still less with an intention of casting blame where he would be most unwilling to blame—unless where it was unavoidable—that he rose; but it was with the practical view of endeavouring, by the force of the experience of the past, to gather lessons of wisdom for the future; and, if it were possible, to prevent the calamity of ever again falling into the horrible position—both to the Parliament and the country—of passing another such Session as they had now—he could hardly say arrived at the conclusion of. He would, first, with their Lordships' permission, advert to what would form but a very moderate portion of his contemplation—he meant the actual measures which had succeeded in passing through both Houses of Parliament—the Bills which had been actually passed into laws. He was about to say that, "un- happily," these formed but a very limited compartment of the picture he was about to present to their view, and would claim a very small portion of the retrospect in which he called on them to indulge. But, really, when he considered what that portion was—when he considered what the measures were which had been passed—he should rather say "happily," because worse measures—and he said it with all the respect it was possible to feel for Acts of Parliament that had actually become luws of the land—worse measures, in his view, never were passed in any Session of the Legislature. He did not wish—God forbid he should!—to drag their Lordship3 into any repetition of the debates which they had had upon those measures. They had debated them again and again; and the result of all these debates had been, that they had passed measures most calamitous to the country—calamitous even beyond the result foretold by previous calculation when passing them—and he had a right to call them still more calamitous now that they had had experience of their operation. Still he should advert to them for the purpose of justifying himself, hoping that they would never again see such measures passed by the Legislature, or any measure that might call forth such expressions of regret. He would refer, in the first place, to the Bill for regulating the administration of the English Poor Law. Upon that Bill he would not trouble their Lordships with a single word (as he had already entered his protest against it), further than to say that much of the success of that measure would depend upon the appointments that would be made under it. Firmness in carrying into effect the principles of that law, an incapability of being deterred by clamour cither from the press or from Parliament—for in both quarters it had arisen—and, next, a capability of explaining and defending the measures of the department with which it was intrusted—those, he believed, were the great leading qualities to be desired in the person to be appointed to the important office of Chief Commissioner. The next measure to which he begged leave to refer, was the Destitute Persons (Ireland) Bill. He, for one, had never been able to see the policy of pursuing the course taken by this Bill. We had actually taken upon ourselves to feed the people of Ireland; and if it were said that the distress was local, that it was topical, that it was chiefly confined to six counties, he must say that the relief afforded would show that somewhat more than one-third, between one-third and one-half, but nearer one-half than one-third, of the whole people of Ireland were being fed out of the public supplies. He understood that no fewer than 2,900,000 and odd were at the present moment receiving sustenance out of the treasury of the public—sustenance paid for by the people, and doled and distributed by officers employed by Government. But that was to cease, it was said. But when? He confessed he looked forward with deep alarm to the cessation of that relief, for he had always thought it one of the worst characteristics of the perilous course on which they had entered, that it could not possibly last long. If, then, the distress continued, and if the resources should become exhausted, as they undoubtedly would, and relief should cease, the result would be that they had only put off the evil day, and that they had made things worse by increasing the number of applicants for relief, and made it far more difficult to provide for themselves when the relief ceased. The people, he was told, were now to be flung upon their own resources; but he considered it would have been a wiser course to have left them to their own resources at first. It might have been difficult, perhaps, to have maintained the tranquillity of the country under these circumstances; but he was convinced the danger had been incalculably increased by the perilous experiment of several months' relief. It was one thing to deny relief from the beginning, and throw the people on their own resources from the first, and quite another thing to give them relief without throwing them on their own resources, and afterwards, having turned them into beggars, withdrawing the eleemosynary dole. He must say, therefore, that there was much more reason to be alarmed for the tranquillity of the country at this moment, than if they had never entered on this unwise course. A great portion of the ten millions voted by Parliament were gone, and had been expended in articles of food brought across the Atlantic; and although a large portion of that grant was to be repaid by a charge on Irish property, it appeared that some had already exclaimed against the repayment. The doctrine of repudiation had been imported across the Atlantic; but there was this difference in favour of the Irish, that the odious and despicable doctrine had been derived from persons who admitted that they had the means of payment, but who told them they would not pay. He hoped such a feeling would not be found to exist in Ireland. Should the destitution in Ireland continue, how were the Government to meet it without a vote of credit? He, for one, had been against the course pursued by Government; but, having taken that course, they ought to have adhered to it consistently, and gone on with it as long as the necessity continued. It might be inconvenient to do so; but they should have thought of that before they began; having once begun, they ought to go through with it. If necessity was to be admitted as the excuse for having done what they had, surely necessity was an excuse for going on. They were, therefore, as much bound to take a vote of credit in this case, as in time of war. A vote of credit was only applicable to a contingency; but such a contingency must be the inevitable consequence they would get into in relieving the great portion of a people out of the public funds. It had been recommended, and the plan had been adopted, to give relief to persons unable to provide for themselves in April, May, June, July, and up to September; but why they were not to be relieved in October, November, or December, or until Parliament met, he was wholly unable to comprehend. If necessity justified what had been done, it surely called upon them to give a vote of credit before Parliament separated. He must make one additional observation before he left this part of the subject. He found that in several districts assessments under the New Poor Law had been made. He found that in some places an assessment had been made of 9s. in the pound for the quarter, that was 36s. for the year, which in many places was nearly double the rent of the land. It should be remembered, also, that this was not on the old valuation of the land, but on a new valuation, by which there was an increase of between 40 and 50 per cent on the valuation. With such a state of things, if the pound sterling had not the capacity of expanding itself in Ireland in a way which was never found to be the case either in public or private affairs in England, a great convulsion must arise. Then, with respect to the third measure, he could not conceive anything more pregnant with ruin than what was likely to arise from the recent measures of the Legislature. In the view which he had taken of that measure, he had the high authority and support of several of the most able Members of both Houses. He alluded to the Factories Act, in the opposition to which he was joined by his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, by his noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, and by his noble Friend—than whom no man was more able to discuss in the most satisfactory manner that or any other subject—the present excellent and able Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He had seen within the last three days a statement in the papers which fully justified him in the course which he took with regard to that measure, and which it required no seer to foretell. He had said, if they reduced the hours of work from twelve to ten, or eleven, that wages would be reduced in a proportionate degree. This had really taken place in a most important place in the north of England. The hours of labour had been reduced in conformity with the Factories Bill, and the manufacturers proposed to reduce the rate of wages in a proportionate degree; the consequence was, there was a strike of the workmen at one of the greatest manufactories in Yorkshire. This manufactory belonged to some persons who were formerly constituents of his; and he knew them to be most humane men; but it was not a question of humanity, it was a question of pounds, shillings, and pence; they could not do otherwise than they had done, or they would very shortly be in the Gazette, and be utterly ruined; they could not feed all those persons, unless in the same way as they gave sustenance to the people of Ireland. It was monstrous to suppose that they could feed a million of workpeople in this way. These were the measures which had passed this Session; and he did not wish to speak disrespectfully of them; but he must say, that worse measures never passed in any Session than those three, and these were all the measures of any importance which had passed. Hitherto he had been dealing with realities—he had been in the living world among actual beings; and he found only three measures; he was now about to descend to the shades below, and to deal with those whom his noble Friend near him would probably call the "lean world;" where— Ibant obscuri solâ sub nocte per umbram, Perque domos Ditis vacuos et inania regna"— of those promised, some had never been born; others had departed after a moment of existence. Of others he could say nothing, for nothing could be said of what never had even a momentary existence, which were fantasies that died in the thinking: of some that struggled into life, all that could be said of them was, that a thousand freaks and fancies died with them. A great number of them had been promised, and a great many suggestions had been made—one Minister saying this measure should pass during the present Session, and another promising another measure. One Minister had said that he wished to act with more liberality to the Catholic clergy; and another said he was not prepared to do so. He (Lord Brougham) was prepared to agree with the former, and he, therefore, was in favour of paying them by the State; and he said this more particularly because he knew it was a most unpopular doctrine, and if truths were not to be stated because they were unpopular, they never would become popular. He knew that he differed in opinion with a great portion of his countrymen on this question; but it was only his duty boldly and openly to state his opinion. He knew that a former Colleague of his on the bench opposite agreed with him on this subject on a former occasion, and they examined a Roman Catholic bishop as to the propriety of paying the Roman Catholic clergy by the State, so as to relieve the people from the charge of maintaining them, and also to relieve the Roman Catholic priests from the state of dependence in which they were, so that when they had the necessaries of life and subsistence provided for them in a different way from the present, they might cease to be at the mercy of political agitators. The case was put of an allowance out of the Consolidated Fund. When this Catholic bishop was questioned on the subject, he replied, that from the primate down to the lowest vicar (those are called vicars in the Roman Catholic Church who perform the duties of curates in the Protestant) every man of us would do all in his power to prevent such a measure. My excellent Colleague said we knew that; but suppose it was possible, in spite of the priesthood, to carry a measure for such a purpose? The reply of the Catholic bishop was, "He should say every one, from the primate to the lowest vicar, would jump at it." Some time afterwards he (Lord Brougham) had taken the opportunity of stating this in the House. In consequence of his having stated this, a most respectable gentleman had been pleased to suppose that he alluded to Lord Spencer. He (Lord Brougham) had never said that he alluded to Lord Spencer; but it had been assumed that it must be Lord Spencer, because he had said that a most estimable Colleague of his was with him—although he had twelve estimable Colleagues at the time. This person, however, took it upon himself to go to Lord Spencer, and question him on the subject; and Lord Spencer's reply was that he had never said a word to any Roman Catholic bishop on the subject. He (Lord Brougham) had not stated the case half so strong as he might have done, for much was said as to a flight of rooks across the Castle yard, which he did not allude to. He thought this was a most important subject, and he was sorry his views had not been carried out by some measure before the present time. He greatly valued the advice of a noble Friend of his on the cross benches—advice which was given twelve years ago—and he was sorry that advice was not taken into proper estimation some years ago. He alluded to the recommendation of his noble Friend to establish diplomatic relations with the See of Rome. They should recollect that there were more than seven millions of Roman Catholics in this country—a much larger number than was found in Prussia, which had long established such relations with Rome. Chevalier Bunsen was several years the Ambassador of Prussia there; and during that time he carried on the correspondence of the two Courts of Prussia and Rome in the most satisfactory manner. It should be recollected also that Prussia was Protestant quite as much this or any other country. He could not say a word respecting Prussia, and let one moment pass, without paying the humble tribute of his admiration at the noble sacrifice of power made to patriotism by the illustrious Sovereign of that country in giving a constitution to his people. He knew that it had given almost universal satisfaction, although it had not been received with that gratitude which it deserved in some quarters. In the course of last Session they had heard something about the Irish Church; but in the present Session nothing had been said or done on the subject; but any measure on this matter appeared to be in "limbo of vanity," from whence things never came to life, therefore he would say nothing more on this subject. There were other measures just begun, but which had never been gone on with. They were puny infantile measures which instantly dropped into oblivion, and reminded him of the feeling which had been described on entering the lower regions— Continue auditæ voces, vagitus et ingens Infantumque animaæ flentes in limine primo, Quos duleis vitæ exsortes, et ab ubere raptos, Abstulit atra dies, et funere mersit acerbo. These never went further than the threshold. But if they went to the Parliamentary Votes, they would there see a whole crowd of ghosts of measures of various sizes, and of various degrees of importance. Some of them were of the most important nature, and most were of some value; but all had fallen in one pitiless process of abandonment and massacre by the authors of their existence. The first of these that struck him was a most proper and useful measure, and was well-timed; but it was only brought on the 24th of June, although it had long been promised. It appeared to have been a four or five months' child, and was now abandoned. The object of this measure was most important; it was to extend to Ireland the system of voting, as well as limiting the duration of the poll, as practised in England. He had looked over this Bill—this five months' child—for he could hardly call it "the infant Hercules." The preamble said, "Whereas it is expedient to limit the duration of elections in burghs in Ireland to one day," and so forth; but there was not a single word on the subject in the body of the Bill. There was a permissive clause in the Bill, that the duration of the polling might be extended to four days in case of riot; but there was nothing in it, unless in the declaratory part of the preamble, to limit it to one day. This Bill would have proved a great acquisition at the present time; but it was only brought forward on the 24th of June, and was abandoned. There was another Bill of a very important nature, and which was intended to effect a just and equitable purpose. It was to enable persons to tender their votes at elections who had not paid up their rates in proper time, provided no demand for payment had been made. This was all quite correct, for a man should be entitled to his vote if he had paid all the taxes asked from him. It would be a great hardship upon a man who had not paid altogether his rates and taxes when he had not been called upon to do so. Penalties were imposed by the Parliamentary Electors Bill on the tax collector who neglected his duty, and endangered the vote of an elector. This was a most excellent measure, and was peculiarly appropriate at the present season, when they were on the eve of a general election. That Bill had only been introduced on the 2nd of June, and had gone to join its brother Bill in limbo. Then there was another Bill intended for the advantage of Ireland, to which he would shortly address himself. He must express his deep regret that this measure had not been proceeded with, which was not only intended to aid in the relief of the destitution in Ireland, but also would have had the effect of bettering the condition of the tenants and raising them from their present state, by tending to get rid of the fatal and injurious competition for land. He alluded to the Bill for the sale of Encumbered Estates, which he held to have been of the greatest possible importance, if not of supreme importance to Ireland. Some had said this was the only one measure proposed at the beginning of the Session which was really good; others, however, with himself, said that it was by far the best measure which had been brought forward. No one objected to it when it was first brought forward; but he had suggested at the time to his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack that it might have the effect of throwing estates into Chancery. The answer, which he had received from his noble and learned Friend was most satisfactory, and he had hoped that it would have been pressed forward; but it had gone—not for ever, he trusted—but it had certainly gone for the Session. Why had this happened? Was it because they had alarmed the Irish landlords as to the mortgagees coming in on them and at once demanding payment? This reason had been given, he believed; but it was not one to which much weight should have been attached. It was clear to him that this would happen to a much less extent than was supposed. It was never to be supposed that in many instances it would occur that when a landlord could borrow money at a lower interest, it would bring down the mortgagee to demand payment, to whom a higher rate of interest was paid. If in any part of the country persons held estates which were encumbered, they would have derived great benefit from such an Act, by being enabled to relieve themselves in the most rational manner. If they were in such a condition as to be little more than the nominal owners of estates, the sooner the better for them that they looked their difficulties in the face, and came to an understanding with their creditors. How many instances of bankruptcy had he known—how many instances of insolvency had come before him—how many instances of countless distress and inextricable confusion and misery had come to his knowledge from year to year, in which men both by day and night were deprived of all rest or ease, merely from their not having the firmness and moral courage to look their difficulties in the face, and consider whether the estate which they nominally possessed was their own property, or the property of their creditors, and so endeavour to come to some arrangement which would be just to one party, and beneficial to both. This measure would have been one of the most beneficial which could be passed for the Irish landlords, and that in the precise proportion as they were involved in their estates. He did not deny that persons in distressed circumstances often did refuse to look their affairs in the face, and provide for the difficulties before them; but every reasonable aid should be afforded them for this purpose. This measure would have done much in the right direction—but it had been abandoned. He then came to another measure, which he also regarded as being of considerable importance in connexion with commercial matters—he meant the Railway Bill. He could not mention this measure without exciting a smile. This was a measure of the highest importance; and it involved considerations which called for the greatest attention. This was the first instance in this country of which he was aware—indeed, he was confident that it was the first instance in this country, whatever might be the case on the Continent—in which Government proposed to interfere, and to take a large share in the administration and superintendence of large commercial transactions. He might be told of the East India Company; but that rather involved questions of territorial possessions than of commerce: he might also be referred to the Bank of England; but many particular circumstances attended the connexion of the Government with that body, and the monopoly was of a very peculiar nature. The Bank of England, with which the Government was necessarily mixed up, could not be deprived of their present privileges without the payment of 13,000,000l. or 14,000,000l. This, however, was the first time that the Government had attempted to interfere with the conveyance of passengers and the general traffic of the country, which was so common in foreign countries. This was the first time in this country that the Government endeavoured to control private con- cerns of a nature like this; but this was no reason why there should be no interference. On the contrary, he thought there should be; and he highly approved of the Bill. His noble Friend the illustrious Duke, not less than twelve years ago, observed, with his accustomed sagacity, that we had too long abstained from interfering in such matters. The reasons why the Legislature should interfere with railway enterprises, although not with other projects in which private capital was embarked, were numerous and not to be resisted. In the first place, the whole country was already scored out with a network of railways, which had entirely superseded those ancient modes of conveyance to which the public in bygone times were wont to have recourse. Then, again, it was unfortunately too true to admit of cavil, that accidents, eminently dangerous to the public safety had become of such frequent occurrence as to render the intervention of the police necessary; besides which, it should be remembered, that the Legislature had given to the railway interest in this country a monopoly which rendered it essentially imperative that there should be legislative interference. That monopoly consisted in the permission to expend millions of capital in the furtherance of their projects, and to take property compulsorily from private individuals with a view to carry out those projects—a description of monopoly which could only be conferred by the Legislature. It was clear, therefore, that the Legislature had a perfect right to interfere in the management of those concerns. When Sir Hugh Myddelton brought the New River to London, he had no such powers, and accordingly it had to take a tortuous course. When, therefore, they gave to the railway projector the invaluable power of going on in a straight line, it was clear that they conferred a power which could only be carried out by compelling persons, whether they willed it or not, to permit their lands to be traversed by the railway. Such a privilege could not be secured to any man, or to any body of men, otherwise than by the interference of the Legislature; and it was clear, therefore, that the right of the Legislature to interfere in the management of such projects was undoubted and almost unqualified. The measure which contemplated that interference—an interference which would most unquestionably have redounded to the advantage of the public—had unfortunately been put off till next Session. And why was it put off? The next Session would be the first of what would be emphatically the "Railway Parliament" of England; and if the Government had no chance of carrying their Bill this Session, on account of the opposition threatened to it, he feared the chance of its being carried next Session would be slight indeed, when for one railway man now in the Commons' House, they would have a dozen, besides many others who, though not railway proprietors themselves, would nevertheless be pledged to the railway interest, by whom they would in their turn be supported. Taking these things into consideration, he had no hope of the Railway Bill passing next Session; and he deeply lamented that it had been put off. There was another question, to which the Queen had directed the especial attention of the Legislature. Her Majesty had recommended, in Her Speech from the Throne, that measures should be taken without delay for improving the means of guarding against pestilence and disease, and generally for tending to the health of towns. In pursuance of that recommendation, and of the Addresses in answer, the Health of Towns Bill was brought forward at an early period of the Session. Now, of all the towns in England which required most urgently the operation of that measure—of all the towns which called most loudly on the Parliament to accede to the recommendations of the Royal Speech by passing such a Bill, to secure it against the fatal effects of close packing, of filth, of disease, and of pestilence—the city of London was the most prominent. The noble Lord at the head of the Woods and Forests department, however, struck the word "London" out of the Bill; and having thus acted in respect of a measure in which he was most deeply interested, how was it to be supposed that the gentlemen connected with the railway interests would not next Session withdraw themselves from the scope of the Railway Bill? But the omission of the word "London," however much he might regret it, would not constitute any reason why he (Lord Brougham) should not have voted for the Bill, had he been permitted the opportunity of doing so. But unhappily that opportunity had not been presented. The Bill, after lingering in a state of exhaustion, merged into a state of suspended animation, then had to encounter a death struggle, and ultimately went the way of all the other Bills, with the exception of those which were in principle or in detail objectionable, and which unfortunately appeared to be endowed with a pernicious vitality. Next came the Thames Conservancy Bill. It was a measure of great public importance; nay, it was of even national importance, because the navigation of that noble river, on which floated the commerce of the world, was of the utmost importance to the whole mercantile interest; but it were needless to expend further comment on it now, for it had been unfortunately withdrawn within the last few days, and now swelled the list of valuable measures abandoned and lost. Then came the Prisons Bill. In that measure he had felt the deepest interest; for if there was anything more indecorous or more at variance with right than another, it was the evil which that Bill was designed to remedy—the evil of having the Statute-book speaking one language, and the Judges in their sentences speaking another, which was in the very teeth of it. The Bill, however, was lost. It had now no other record but its insertion on the list of measures withdrawn. Then came two Bills of less importance—the Scotch Marriage Bill, and Registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths Bill, which completed the dismal catalogue of the victims which fell by the hands of their own parents— Matres, atque viri, defunctaque corpora vitâ Magnanimûm heroum, pueri, innuptæque puellaæ, Impositique rogis juvenes ante ora parentum. If he (Lord Brougham) was bid to look to the balanced state of parties, no doubt it was a consideration of much weight; but he must say that the conduct of the Ministry argued a systematic and wholesale degree of impotency on their parts which would induce in the public mind the belief that a strong Government, which was not to be much liked, but which worked effectively and determinedly, was, on the whole, to be preferred to a weak one, which did not work as well. The very worst feature of a republic had been said to be this impotency, which very often rose from divided counsels. Bishop Burnett related of William III., that he was in the habit of remarking, that he found it difficult to make up his mind as to whether a monarchy or a republic was the better form of government. "But," he added, "one thing, at all events, is certain—that anything is better than a monarchy without power." And so he (Lord Brougham) would say of a Ministry. Any Ministry was better than a Ministry without power. Anarchy and impotency incapacitated a Government from keeping its bargain with the State, which was, to give protection in exchange for allegiance. It was amongst the first principles of constitutional law, that when protection ceased, allegiance was not due; but a perfectly weak and impotent Government, which was powerless to carry a single measure, could not command the means of affording that protection which was the very condition of allegiance. He hoped that he might never live to see another such Session of Parliament as that which had just passed. He trusted that he might never live to see such a fate befall any other Bills as that which had befallen the Railway Bill, the Sale of Incumbered Estates Bill, and the Health of Towns Bill. His hopes were summed up in this:—that the result of the approaching general election would enable them to witness the gratifying spectacle of a Government—whatever Government that might be—strengthened and made self-reliant by the support of the people—a Government enshrined by its own merits in the admiration and affection of the people, and having at its command in both Houses such majorities as would enable them to legislate wisely, deliberately, and fearlessly, for the benefit of the country. Such a Government, that, if it failed in the due performance of its functions, it should be perfectly clear that that responsibility rested on the Government, and was not—as he now confessed, and painfully confessed—equally shared between the Government and the Parliament. When the Parliament was again restored to its functions, he trusted he should never again have to witness or lament over the history of such a Session—a Session disheartening and disappointing to the people; ruinous to the character of the Government; injurious even to the character of the constitution; and damaging, beyond the power of language to describe, to the reputation of this great country all over the world. The noble and learned Lord concluded by moving the following resolution:— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, assuring Her Majesty of the deep Interest which the House ever must take in whatever Subjects are graciously recommended to their Consideration by Her Majesty; That it is with great Pain the House feels obliged to admit that nearly the whole of these Subjects thus recommended, of high Importance in themselves, have not been so far successfully dealt with as to produce any legislative Measures to which Her Majesty's Royal Assent can be asked; That it is very painful to the House to reflect, that other Subjects of vast Moment which have been submitted to Parliament, have of Necessity been abandoned without anything effectual being done; That it is the earnest Hope of the House that no other Session of Parliament will pass without more being done for the Improvement of the Institutions of this country, and the Benefit of Her Majesty's Subjects, than it has been found possible to accomplish in the Session now so near its Close; That the House now, and at all Times, willingly and gratefully acknowledges Her Majesty's parental Care for the Welfare of Her Dominions.


felt, that although his noble and learned Friend, in making this Motion, and the speech by which he had prefaced it, had disclaimed any intention of making an attack upon the Government; he had, perhaps unconsciously, perhaps unwillingly—but yet most certainly—implied quite enough of blame, not only as against the Government, but the general character and proceedings of Parliament—on which also he stated that he made no attack—to render it necessary for him (the Marquess of Lansdowne) not to allow this Motion—to which he trusted their Lordships would give a direct negative—to be put without troubling the House with a few observations. The noble and learned Lord commenced his speech by stating that there had never been a Session equal to the present in the disappointment it had occasioned—in the amount of measures that had been withdrawn—in the insufficiency and mischief of the measures that had passed. Now with regard to that general description of the measures of the Session, as they consisted of and might be described as measures that had passed into law, and measures that had failed to be passed into law, and measures that had been withdrawn by their authors, there was not one word uttered by the noble and learned Lord in condemnation of the present Session, that might not be shown to apply in an equal and corresponding degree to four out of five of the Sessions of recent years. The condition in which, in one part of his speech, his noble and learned Friend had described the country now to be—namely, in the expectation of a dissolution of Parliament—had also on former occasions produced precisely the same consequences—precisely the same haste—precisely the same unwillingness, if not incapacity, to proceed with certain Bills and important measures, which excited, more or less, public opposition. But when his noble and learned Friend deprecated too ready concession to popular opinion, and described the evil thereof, he must recollect that the inevitable tendency of the measure which he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had joined with the noble and learned Lord in supporting—which was now part of the law of the land—and the effect of which was to restore to a great part of the people of this country that franchise of which by custom they had been so long unjustly deprived; to the recovery of which they were justly entitled, and by the acquisition of which he was persuaded, as well as his noble and learned Friend, that the foundations of government in this country were essentially strengthened and improved. The inevitable tendency of that measure, carried after years and years of repeated failure, was—and his noble and learned Friend must have been blind if he did not at the time perceive it—to render the Members of the other House more attentive to the wishes and feeling's of popular constituencies. The noble and learned Lord had also spoken of the withdrawal of certain measures; but this was a circumstance which had not occurred in the present year for the first time; but Session after Session had witnessed the withdrawal of measures—a withdrawal which his noble and learned Friend stated to be peculiar to this Session. The proposition for the sanitary improvement of towns, which his noble and learned Friend seemed to think was first brought forward in the present year, and afterwards sacrificed, had nevertheless undergone that process of being brought forward and sacrificed before. However, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) maintained that in the present Session the question had been materially advanced in public opinion. And when the noble and learned Lord so complacently dwelt on those shades of Bills, and on those nania regina to which he had referred, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) begged to say that, notwithstanding the withdrawal of a certain number of Bills, if they were founded in justice and in the solid interests of the country, they were useful even in their destruction, because they left seeds behind them which never failed to fructify; and the time would come when they would be adopted by Parliament. These Bills would then come into operation, after repeated discussion, in a more perfect and mature state, and would be better fitted for their purpose by finding the public prepared to receive them. He agreed with his hon. and learned Friend, and admitted the manliness of his declaration, that it was only by again and again stating in that House and elsewhere opinions which were unpopular, that their unpopularity could be gradually subdued, and that more intelligent views with respect to public exigencies and improvements became prevalent. Thus it happened, that after the repetition of arguments and opinions applied to Bills that had failed, those arguments and opinions began to make an impression on the public, and ultimately had their effect in carrying the desired measures to a successful issue. His noble and learned Friend seemed to think that Government had nothing to do but to propose Bills and carry them. Now he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) believed that there never had been and never would be a Government so strong in this country as to be enabled at once to subdue public opinion out of doors; and, in spite of the feeling existing in the country, to carry in one Session great and important measures on their first proposal. What had been the history of all those great changes in which his noble and learned Friend himself had borne a part, but a struggle in the first instance against public opinion, which had gradually been brought to conviction by repeated arguments and discussions, involving, however, the loss of Session after Session, and Bill after Bill? He could point out measure after measure, supported by men of the greatest ability, which had of necessity undergone this delay. The monopoly of the East India Company had been gradually subdued, against which for half a century Government after Government had struggled. In the course of that struggle one Government was overturned, and difficulties were imposed upon another; but ultimately, to the great advantage of the country, the monopoly was extinguished. Yet his noble and learned Friend, with as much justice as he taunted the present Government, might have attacked preceding Governments for not carrying that measure sooner. What also was the history of the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, and of Catholic Emancipation? By the repeated discussions with respect to those measures public opinion became enlightened, and ultimately they were successfully carried. It was by long and continued discussions that those measures had been carried; and so, in like manner, a number of those ghosts of Bills—as his noble and learned Friend had styled them—would ultimately become the law of the land. He would now make a few observations on what had fallen from his noble and learned Friend with respect to the actual legislation of the present Session. His noble and learned Friend had omitted from his catalogue a great number of Bills of no small importance which had passed during the Session, without attracting a great deal of discussion. He did not agree with his noble and learned Friend in measuring the importance of Bills or questions by the length of the speeches made either on one side or the other. There were certain Bills, which, though not so attractive for debate as other Bills, yet when they came to estimate and put a value on the proceedings of Parliament, would be found to tell as much as any of those Bills which had been subject to more popular discussion. Referring to a list of the Bills passed this Session, he found that some Bills had been carried, which, he was. informed by those who understood the nature of them better than himself, had made a most valuable change in the tenure of land in Scotland. He alluded to the Transference of Lands Bill, the Service of Heirs Bill, and the Burgage Tenure Bill. Were they to condemn those Bills as being good for nothing, not on account of their expected operation, but because their passage through Parliament was not accompanied by long debates? Many other Bills had been passed, which no one could deny were important, on account of the provisions they contained. In this class of Bills he placed the whole series of measures connected with the support of the people of Ireland, and the removal of the famine which had afflicted that country. His noble and learned Friend had dwelt on those measures as deserving the reprobation of that House; but let the House recollect that they were the only measures offered for abating one of the greatest calamities that had ever happened to the population of that country. Though his noble and learned Friend thought those measures so mischievous, their Lordships had, nevertheless, never throughout the discussions on them had the benefit of learning from his noble and learned Friend what were the measures he would have applied for the purpose of relieving the distress in Ireland. Surely his noble and learned Friend would not have allowed misery, fever, and starvation to stalk through the land without making an effort to check their progress? It was, therefore, going too far on the part of his noble and learned Friend, when no other measures had been proposed, to place those measures which had been actually adopted by Parliament not to the credit but to the debit side of the account. Their Lordships, he had no doubt, would admit the importance of having passed those measures; but they could not be discussed and carried without displacing other measures; and it was mainly owing to the constant attention of Parliament in passing those Bills which were essentially necessary for the service of Ireland, that an impracticability was experienced in introducing or carrying successfully forward many other important measures. His noble and learned Friend had taken occasion to condemn what he called the "repudiation" doctrine in reference to the money advanced to Ireland, and had expressed his apprehensions that no part of the money so advanced would be recovered. He said, that from experience they had no right to draw such a conclusion. So far from such a doctrine having been acted upon in Ireland, in a great many instances, if not in all, the sums advanced by Parliament to Ireland had been faithfully repaid with interest. He thought it was therefore hard that his noble and learned Friend should make a charge against Ireland of insolvency and repudiation, when, up to the present time, the people of Ireland had evinced a remarkable eagerness to repay the sums advanced. He had the satisfaction to state, that his noble and learned Friend was mistaken as to the amount of persons receiving relief in Ireland. The number had greatly diminished; and when his noble and learned Friend stated that which in some respects was true, that the tendency of eleemosynary measures was to pervert in some degree the habits of a population, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) was gratified to inform his noble and learned Friend that such had not been the case in the present instance to the extent he apprehended; because in the last month, or the last few weeks, during which that relief to which his noble and learned Friend had alluded had been diminished, instead of there being an increase of outrages, there had been in each county of Ireland, as tested during the present assizes, the most remarkable diminution of outrage, especially of outrage against property. The Bills then in reference to Ireland were essential, he had almost said, for the salvation of Ireland. There were passed in the present Session Bills relating to the importation of corn, to the navigation laws, and to the use of sugar in distilleries and breweries. His noble and learned Friend might say, that these were temporary measures, but the latter were not; and what he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) said was, even though temporary Bills, they were calculated to mitigate the great calamity which had visited the country. These were in themselves great measures; and, as such, this Session, in which they were passed, deserved to be remembered with credit and honour for having acted industriously and successfully to increase the supply of food. The passing of these measures might well excuse both the Government and the Parliament for the omission or adjournment of other measures of not such immediate urgency.


made some observations in reply, after which the Motion was put and negatived.

House adjourned.

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